The olden days – what’s the appeal?
Ever since I can remember I have been obsessed with stories set in historical periods.
The historical period didn’t really matter – as long as it was a different time and place.
My husband would say: “Is that another ‘Olden Days’ story your reading/show your watching?”.
The main attraction for me I think was the (perceived) romanticism or days gone by, kings, queens, costumes and escapism.
In more recent years I’ve leant towards historical fiction and I’m not the only one.
Historical fiction has gained some serious traction in recent years. A few of my favourites include Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth set in the Middle Ages and Fall of Giants set in World War I; Philippa Gregory’s Respectable Trade about the slave trade and her Tudor and War of the Roses series; and Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which told the story of Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell.
So what is historical fiction and why is it so appealing?
Generally speaking it is set around historical events or characters, feature language and style that evokes the time period and may confront difficult, or anachronistic, social issues through the plot.
For me the best historical fiction has well-researched facts about the events and characters and these blend seamlessly with the story and fictional elements. I accept that many characters may be invented or some of the known facts may be massaged or embellished but at its core there has to be a level of authenticity.
I love the idea of getting to know another time or place that actually existed but in an engaging and entertaining way that can sometimes only be achieved via fictional elements.
It’s important that I believe the characters could have been real people who lived in that time and could within reason have acted the way portrayed in the story.
I guess the crux of it is that I like non-fiction and history, but I’m a lazy reader and want to entertained.
Judge me if you wish but the Olden Days with a bit of artistic licence is my happy place.
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