Real people and historical fiction

Sarah Johnson of Reading the Past asks, “Do historical novels require celebrities to play more than passing roles, so that readers get the opportunity to ‘meet’ them?”

My answer is no. I like biographical novels, but I also like historical novels about fictional people. I can always pick up a nonfiction book to learn more about a specific historical person or event.

However, historical nonfiction is often very dry and academic. (One of the most boring books I’ve ever read was a biography of Mozart; don’t ask me how the author managed to make him so dull.) Maybe that’s why some readers turn to fiction to learn about history. Maybe there’s a need for more entertaining — not dumbed down — historical nonfiction. Just a thought.

Mini-reviews of two historical novels

Here’s a quick look at two historical novels I’ve read recently.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett: It took me approximately forever to read this very long novel about the building of a cathedral in 12th century England. It has two well-motivated central characters: Philip, a humble prior who struggles against all obstacles to build the cathedral, and an evil earl’s son, William Hamleigh, who goes to great lengths to try to thwart Philip’s plans.

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