Short Historical fiction books

Historical fiction: the long and the short of it | Books

Helen Simpson
Britain's finest short-story writer ... Helen Simpson. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

"Novels arise out of the shortcomings of history, " said Novalis, the 18th-century author and philosopher who forms the subject of (and, indeed, supplies the epigraph for) Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower. But what of short stories? We're all familiar with the doorstopping historical novel, but what of its pithier, pocket-sized counterpart?

According to Brad Hooper's Short Story Readers' Advisory (ALA Editions, 2000), the historical short story simply doesn't exist:

"Why? Who knows. It just seems that the short story is thought of by readers and editors alike as most suitable for reflecting contemporary life, or life as it was lived in the very recent past."

A somewhat flimsy argument and, as it turns out, a somewhat inaccurate one. This year marks the fourth anniversary of the Short Histories Historical Short-fiction Prize, run by Fish Publishing in conjunction with the Historical Novel Society. Boasting a top award of £1, 000, it would suggest that at least some editors and readers take the form rather more seriously. And so, let's not forget, have some pretty illustrious writers too. Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic Young Goodman Brown (1835) transported readers to the Salem of the 17th century; more recently Fitzgerald herself, in her collection The Means of Escape, travelled to locations including 1850s Hobart and 1880s Brittany. Meanwhile our finest short story writer, Helen Simpson, in Good Friday, 1663, brought her characteristic sensuousness and sharp wit to the Somerset of the day.

Fitzgerald and Simpson's fictions, as the disclaimer goes, bear only coincidental resemblance to persons living or dead. But in her 2002 collection, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Emma Donoghue found inspiration in fact. Brilliantly animating a number of actual historical incidents (including the titular, 18th-century medical mystery), her tales perfectly illustrate Novalis's dictum, making real situations that would otherwise have existed as mere notes in the margin of history.

Yet there's no denying that the historical tale is, if not quite the unicorn Hooper suggests, then certainly a lesser spotted species. So, are the prejudices of readers and editors really to blame? Certainly, fans of historical novels - and I include myself here - love them for their layering of detail, their scope, sweep and imaginative capaciousness. As Donoghue, Simpson and Fitzgerald prove, however, these things are not necessarily dependent on a high page count. Indeed, I'd argue that Donoghue demonstrates the virtue of concision when it comes to fictionalising history: the brevity of her stories prevent us from becoming comfortable in the past; even as we live with her characters, we feel the tenuousness of the connection, the impossibility of ever understanding more than a fraction of life as it once was.

Source: www.theguardian.com


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Form books just recently finished

2013-01-14 12:55:55 by Coppernob

I absolutely loved the Historical Fiction duo of "Wolf Hall" and "Bring up the Dead Bodies"
Mantel does such a good job of giving us Thomas Cromwell's point of view.
Just finished an unusual and surprisingly good japanese crime novel called "The Devotion of Suspect X" If you like a novel with an excellent sting in the tail I can strongly recommend it.
A couple of very british short stories (ok one is a book but is a very quick read)
An Uncommon Reader by Allan Bennet
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
They both scream quaint Englishisms and will give you a nice warm feeling inside that comes...

Oh a few others!

2003-12-28 23:00:27 by teatime

There's one called Nellie Bly about the woman reporter...not really fiction (just as Little House isn't really historical fiction...more autobiography)...but it's short and interesting. All of a Kind Family may count as historical fiction, it really isn't about a war or a great historical event, but it is a very excellent view of life 1in NYC in the early century...great series of books! It's not historical fiction, but a true story, but for general reading, the book One Thousand Paper Cranes; The Story of Sadako and the Children's Peace Statue is a great one.
Oh, another: Snow Treasure (WWII---about kids who save gold from Nazi discovery for Norway)
The House of Sixty Fathers is a good one

News From Paraguay

2005-01-06 18:06:35 by oneofeach

The National Book Award winner by Lily Tuck. Pretty interesting, especially if you - like me - enjoy South American history. (historical fiction to be exact).
This is another one of those books that manages to describe the most horrible events in the most matter-of-fact, even genteel terms, that it reminds you of how life for so many people is short, mean, and brutal.

B's

2010-01-26 14:01:36 by BBUK

1) What are you reading at present? Victorian Cemeteries,a short history of cemeteries and what we find in them
2) How often do you give up reading a book before you get to the end? Only if it's boring or badly written. Doesn't happen too often,mostly with fiction from the library
3) Do you borrow from a library often? Yes,usually have a couple of books out
4) What genre of book do you most enjoy reading - travel writing,romance,horror,sci-fi or what? Travel writing,historical mysteries i.e. set in the past,queer history and queer biographies


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