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Monday, September 10, 2012

Why I Read Historical Fiction

In a recent survey, 80% of people who called themselves avid readers listed historical novels as one of their top 3 favorite types of books to read. I wasn’t really surprised, since historical fiction, especially historical romance fiction, is my favorite genre. But it got me thinking; why the broad appeal?

First, historical novels provide a fantastic escape. When life gets stressful, the first thing I want to do is pick up a book. When I read a historical novel, I am transported to another place and time, to a setting so completely different from my reality, that it feels like a vacation without the hassle and expense of travel. Immersing myself into someone else’s life and seeing them triumph over all gives me a lift that lasts long after I close the book. Total escapism can and does happen with modern-day novels, but the less the book contains about present-day issues, the better an escape it provides. Plus, historical fiction lends itself to lovelier, more lyrical writing that modern day or futuristic novels often lack.

Second, historical novels appeal to the closet history buff. Most authors pride themselves on careful research—myself included—so we put a great deal of effort into getting our facts straight. I know an attorney who loves learning about the Napoleonic Wars and has an entire wall in his library devoted to books—both fiction and nonfiction—about that particular war. I have other friends who adore Jane Austen era novels, so they devour any books set in the Jane Austen Era or the Regency Era. As a Regency romance author, I continue to extensively research English history, particularly the early 1800’s, so I can create a virtual trip through time. Having my facts straight is not just a pretty backdrop for my stories; the manners and mores of society helped shape people who lived in that time, both those who embraced customs of the time, and those who challenged them.

Third, historical novels help teach others about a particular time in history.  



Rosemary Gemmell said...

That's a very good summary of why historical fiction is so popular! I sometimes like escaping from the realities of modern day life.

Leah Weller said...

I love reading it because I feel such a deep inner pull to my soul to the past. My favorite is the medieval era, the Plantagenet reign specifically, but enjoy reading up through the Regency period. I could spend all my waking hours soaking up history, but sadly I have to work and eat, LOL!

Neil Poirer said...

“When I read a historical novel, I am transported to another place and time”-- This is what I love about reading historical novels. It’s like you are given an opportunity to go back in time to witness the important events that shaped our history. And as you go, you discover a lot of things, the real life stories of those who came before. It’s as if you’re also there, experiencing firsthand -- human history in the making.