Awards and historicals

AscansmHi, here's Jo thinking about awards and historicals.

The wider literary world doesn't take romance novels seriously, and historical romance perhaps lies at the bottom of that particular pile. The term "bodice rippers" was created to ridicule the books, but I haveSweet-savage to admit that it arose in the — to me — dark days of the rape sagas, when clothes were ripped from well-endowed heroines, who apparently were severely inhibited (corset too tight?) and needed violence to realize she wanted to orgasm with the guy. 

But on to awards.

The long list has just been announced for the Orange Prize  for fiction by women. Chair Joanna Trollop was quoted in the Guardian as saying, "Yes, there are a fair number of historical novels, but they vary hugely from a gay cabaret artist in Berlin in the second world war to Island-of-wings-cover-imagea preacher going off to deal with lost souls on a Hebridean island in the 1830s."

It's the "but" that interests me. It's as if historical fiction being on the list needs some apology.

This is the long list, and I admit, I haven't read any of them. Have you? Comments?

  • Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (Quercus) – Swedish; 1st Novel
  • On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (Serpent's Tail) – Irish; 3rd Novel
  • The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen (The Clerkenwell Press) – American; 4th Novel
  • The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (Picador) – Irish; 7th Novel
  • Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Serpent's Tail) – Canadian; 2nd Novel
  • The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright (Jonathan Cape) – Irish; 5th Novel
  • The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (Headline Review) – British; 5th Novel
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (Quercus) – American; 4th Novel
  • Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding (Bloomsbury) – British; 3rd Novel
  • Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (Faber & Faber) – British; 2nd Novel
  • The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – British; 2nd Novel
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy (Jonathan Cape) – British; 6th Novel Song-of-Achilles
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker) – American; 1st Novel
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Bloomsbury) – American; 1st Novel
  • Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick (Atlantic Books) – American; 7th Novel
  • State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury) – American; 6th Novel
  • There but for the by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton) – British; 5th Novel
  • The Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard (Alma Books) – British; 2nd Novel
  • Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (Chatto & Windus) – British; 1st Novel
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman (William Heinemann) – American; 1st Novel

I don't count Second World War as historical, given that so many living people were around at the time, so I think this is the "astonishing" collection of historicals.

Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles, the love story of Achilles and Patroclus.

Karin Altenberg's Island of Wings, a marriage tested by St Kilda in the 1830s

TidesStella Tillyard's Tides of War, a marriage tested by the Peninsular war

Three love stories — not so very far from historical romance on the spectrum. What some would say sets them apart is roots deep in reality. Achilles and Patroclus is based on such reality as we have about Ancient Greece. Island of Wings apparently draws on the diaries of a minister of the time. Stella Tillyard is a well known Georgian historian and I gather her novel is notable for period detail.

Historical romances, perhaps by definition, do not use real protagonists, but many are notable for accurate period detail. The balance is probably different, however, for the historical romance author gets bonus points for using her period knowledge unobtrusively, whereas the historical novelist gets them almost by weight. That is not snarky, or even a criticism. Different readers look for different ingredients in fiction and it's lovely to see the ingredients used well and appropriately.

There have been award-winning historical novels that aren't love stories, so is the above list a fluke, or is it something to do with we women writers who so often find human love relationships the most fascinating part of history? Or is that true?

HighlandstormsHere's another award. The UK Romantic Novelists Association just had its award ceremony and the winner for historical is Highland Storms by Christina Courtenay

Follow the link for more details and an excerpt.

You can also see the short list here, and perhaps find some new, interesting reading.

 

What do you think about the acceptability of historicals in the literary world? Is it a matter of real or almost-real protagonists, the weight of factual detail, or is it mostly presentation — titles and covers? My enquiring mind wants to know.

Cheers,

Jo

 

 

 

 

90 thoughts on “Awards and historicals”

  1. I kinda take umbrage at your comment that WWII isn’t historical… a great many of that generation are already gone.. I found the books by Herman Wouk both historical and there was romance.. But I always enjoy the blog… so don’t stop!!

    Reply
  2. I kinda take umbrage at your comment that WWII isn’t historical… a great many of that generation are already gone.. I found the books by Herman Wouk both historical and there was romance.. But I always enjoy the blog… so don’t stop!!

    Reply
  3. I kinda take umbrage at your comment that WWII isn’t historical… a great many of that generation are already gone.. I found the books by Herman Wouk both historical and there was romance.. But I always enjoy the blog… so don’t stop!!

    Reply
  4. I kinda take umbrage at your comment that WWII isn’t historical… a great many of that generation are already gone.. I found the books by Herman Wouk both historical and there was romance.. But I always enjoy the blog… so don’t stop!!

    Reply
  5. I kinda take umbrage at your comment that WWII isn’t historical… a great many of that generation are already gone.. I found the books by Herman Wouk both historical and there was romance.. But I always enjoy the blog… so don’t stop!!

    Reply
  6. LOL Well, I agree that WWII isn’t historical simply because I don’t like the idea that my lifetime is part of history, not current events!
    As to your question, I like my historical romances to be thoroughly grounded in real history. I can on occasion enjoy books where the only “history” is the long dresses and a trip to Almack’s, but I greatly prefer books where the story and the characters conform to the reality of the setting.
    (When people sneer at historical novels, I remind them that War and Peace is a historical novel.)

    Reply
  7. LOL Well, I agree that WWII isn’t historical simply because I don’t like the idea that my lifetime is part of history, not current events!
    As to your question, I like my historical romances to be thoroughly grounded in real history. I can on occasion enjoy books where the only “history” is the long dresses and a trip to Almack’s, but I greatly prefer books where the story and the characters conform to the reality of the setting.
    (When people sneer at historical novels, I remind them that War and Peace is a historical novel.)

    Reply
  8. LOL Well, I agree that WWII isn’t historical simply because I don’t like the idea that my lifetime is part of history, not current events!
    As to your question, I like my historical romances to be thoroughly grounded in real history. I can on occasion enjoy books where the only “history” is the long dresses and a trip to Almack’s, but I greatly prefer books where the story and the characters conform to the reality of the setting.
    (When people sneer at historical novels, I remind them that War and Peace is a historical novel.)

    Reply
  9. LOL Well, I agree that WWII isn’t historical simply because I don’t like the idea that my lifetime is part of history, not current events!
    As to your question, I like my historical romances to be thoroughly grounded in real history. I can on occasion enjoy books where the only “history” is the long dresses and a trip to Almack’s, but I greatly prefer books where the story and the characters conform to the reality of the setting.
    (When people sneer at historical novels, I remind them that War and Peace is a historical novel.)

    Reply
  10. LOL Well, I agree that WWII isn’t historical simply because I don’t like the idea that my lifetime is part of history, not current events!
    As to your question, I like my historical romances to be thoroughly grounded in real history. I can on occasion enjoy books where the only “history” is the long dresses and a trip to Almack’s, but I greatly prefer books where the story and the characters conform to the reality of the setting.
    (When people sneer at historical novels, I remind them that War and Peace is a historical novel.)

    Reply
  11. This is an interesting question, Jo. I think that there are fewer readers of historical novels than contemporaries because it requires more imagination into historical worlds. So perhaps the literary establishment is dubious about the merit of historical novels because members of it have more trouble entering into those worlds? I must ponder this.
    As a reader, I like historical novels to be grounded in some degree of reality and I like some detail for sure. But for me, the characters and plot matter more than masses of detail. (But whether the history is heavy or light, I want it to be reasonably accurate.)

    Reply
  12. This is an interesting question, Jo. I think that there are fewer readers of historical novels than contemporaries because it requires more imagination into historical worlds. So perhaps the literary establishment is dubious about the merit of historical novels because members of it have more trouble entering into those worlds? I must ponder this.
    As a reader, I like historical novels to be grounded in some degree of reality and I like some detail for sure. But for me, the characters and plot matter more than masses of detail. (But whether the history is heavy or light, I want it to be reasonably accurate.)

    Reply
  13. This is an interesting question, Jo. I think that there are fewer readers of historical novels than contemporaries because it requires more imagination into historical worlds. So perhaps the literary establishment is dubious about the merit of historical novels because members of it have more trouble entering into those worlds? I must ponder this.
    As a reader, I like historical novels to be grounded in some degree of reality and I like some detail for sure. But for me, the characters and plot matter more than masses of detail. (But whether the history is heavy or light, I want it to be reasonably accurate.)

    Reply
  14. This is an interesting question, Jo. I think that there are fewer readers of historical novels than contemporaries because it requires more imagination into historical worlds. So perhaps the literary establishment is dubious about the merit of historical novels because members of it have more trouble entering into those worlds? I must ponder this.
    As a reader, I like historical novels to be grounded in some degree of reality and I like some detail for sure. But for me, the characters and plot matter more than masses of detail. (But whether the history is heavy or light, I want it to be reasonably accurate.)

    Reply
  15. This is an interesting question, Jo. I think that there are fewer readers of historical novels than contemporaries because it requires more imagination into historical worlds. So perhaps the literary establishment is dubious about the merit of historical novels because members of it have more trouble entering into those worlds? I must ponder this.
    As a reader, I like historical novels to be grounded in some degree of reality and I like some detail for sure. But for me, the characters and plot matter more than masses of detail. (But whether the history is heavy or light, I want it to be reasonably accurate.)

    Reply
  16. I think the “bodice ripper” moniker arose because the books were written by women with women audiences in mind (and were published in MMPB, which before the 90s, was the place for lurid, LCD pulp fiction). After all, what really separates Sweet Savage Love from Forever Amber, or even the novels of Frank Yerby?
    Fannie Hurst, Anya Seton, Faith Baldwin, etc wrote romance novels and “women’s fiction”, but were widely read by all audiences and were prominent in the mainstream. Yet somehow, with the publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwess and Rosemary Rogers, and the rise of the modern-day romance genre, anything to do with romance and sex and passion and lustiness was a “bodice ripper” or “formulaic Harlequin romance”. I have a few theories about this, mostly arising from the common insult of “sexually frustrated housewives” and the post-women’s lib era, but I’ll leave it at that.
    As for the “but” from Joanna Trollop, perhaps it’s because historical novels published in Britain were mostly of the Catherine Cookson, clogs-and-shawls variety? Or it could be because of articles written in the past by a few historians denigrating the “trend” for well-bred and attractive women winning prizes for their so-called superficial women’s historical fiction and non-fiction (i.e. Amanda Foreman’s celebrated bio of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). It just seems to me that women must always apologize for being interested in women’s issues via their writing, and in order to be accepted as “serious” writers, they must eschew anything sentimental and apologize for the few women novelists who are successful in spite of their romantic novels.

    Reply
  17. I think the “bodice ripper” moniker arose because the books were written by women with women audiences in mind (and were published in MMPB, which before the 90s, was the place for lurid, LCD pulp fiction). After all, what really separates Sweet Savage Love from Forever Amber, or even the novels of Frank Yerby?
    Fannie Hurst, Anya Seton, Faith Baldwin, etc wrote romance novels and “women’s fiction”, but were widely read by all audiences and were prominent in the mainstream. Yet somehow, with the publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwess and Rosemary Rogers, and the rise of the modern-day romance genre, anything to do with romance and sex and passion and lustiness was a “bodice ripper” or “formulaic Harlequin romance”. I have a few theories about this, mostly arising from the common insult of “sexually frustrated housewives” and the post-women’s lib era, but I’ll leave it at that.
    As for the “but” from Joanna Trollop, perhaps it’s because historical novels published in Britain were mostly of the Catherine Cookson, clogs-and-shawls variety? Or it could be because of articles written in the past by a few historians denigrating the “trend” for well-bred and attractive women winning prizes for their so-called superficial women’s historical fiction and non-fiction (i.e. Amanda Foreman’s celebrated bio of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). It just seems to me that women must always apologize for being interested in women’s issues via their writing, and in order to be accepted as “serious” writers, they must eschew anything sentimental and apologize for the few women novelists who are successful in spite of their romantic novels.

    Reply
  18. I think the “bodice ripper” moniker arose because the books were written by women with women audiences in mind (and were published in MMPB, which before the 90s, was the place for lurid, LCD pulp fiction). After all, what really separates Sweet Savage Love from Forever Amber, or even the novels of Frank Yerby?
    Fannie Hurst, Anya Seton, Faith Baldwin, etc wrote romance novels and “women’s fiction”, but were widely read by all audiences and were prominent in the mainstream. Yet somehow, with the publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwess and Rosemary Rogers, and the rise of the modern-day romance genre, anything to do with romance and sex and passion and lustiness was a “bodice ripper” or “formulaic Harlequin romance”. I have a few theories about this, mostly arising from the common insult of “sexually frustrated housewives” and the post-women’s lib era, but I’ll leave it at that.
    As for the “but” from Joanna Trollop, perhaps it’s because historical novels published in Britain were mostly of the Catherine Cookson, clogs-and-shawls variety? Or it could be because of articles written in the past by a few historians denigrating the “trend” for well-bred and attractive women winning prizes for their so-called superficial women’s historical fiction and non-fiction (i.e. Amanda Foreman’s celebrated bio of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). It just seems to me that women must always apologize for being interested in women’s issues via their writing, and in order to be accepted as “serious” writers, they must eschew anything sentimental and apologize for the few women novelists who are successful in spite of their romantic novels.

    Reply
  19. I think the “bodice ripper” moniker arose because the books were written by women with women audiences in mind (and were published in MMPB, which before the 90s, was the place for lurid, LCD pulp fiction). After all, what really separates Sweet Savage Love from Forever Amber, or even the novels of Frank Yerby?
    Fannie Hurst, Anya Seton, Faith Baldwin, etc wrote romance novels and “women’s fiction”, but were widely read by all audiences and were prominent in the mainstream. Yet somehow, with the publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwess and Rosemary Rogers, and the rise of the modern-day romance genre, anything to do with romance and sex and passion and lustiness was a “bodice ripper” or “formulaic Harlequin romance”. I have a few theories about this, mostly arising from the common insult of “sexually frustrated housewives” and the post-women’s lib era, but I’ll leave it at that.
    As for the “but” from Joanna Trollop, perhaps it’s because historical novels published in Britain were mostly of the Catherine Cookson, clogs-and-shawls variety? Or it could be because of articles written in the past by a few historians denigrating the “trend” for well-bred and attractive women winning prizes for their so-called superficial women’s historical fiction and non-fiction (i.e. Amanda Foreman’s celebrated bio of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). It just seems to me that women must always apologize for being interested in women’s issues via their writing, and in order to be accepted as “serious” writers, they must eschew anything sentimental and apologize for the few women novelists who are successful in spite of their romantic novels.

    Reply
  20. I think the “bodice ripper” moniker arose because the books were written by women with women audiences in mind (and were published in MMPB, which before the 90s, was the place for lurid, LCD pulp fiction). After all, what really separates Sweet Savage Love from Forever Amber, or even the novels of Frank Yerby?
    Fannie Hurst, Anya Seton, Faith Baldwin, etc wrote romance novels and “women’s fiction”, but were widely read by all audiences and were prominent in the mainstream. Yet somehow, with the publication of Kathleen E. Woodiwess and Rosemary Rogers, and the rise of the modern-day romance genre, anything to do with romance and sex and passion and lustiness was a “bodice ripper” or “formulaic Harlequin romance”. I have a few theories about this, mostly arising from the common insult of “sexually frustrated housewives” and the post-women’s lib era, but I’ll leave it at that.
    As for the “but” from Joanna Trollop, perhaps it’s because historical novels published in Britain were mostly of the Catherine Cookson, clogs-and-shawls variety? Or it could be because of articles written in the past by a few historians denigrating the “trend” for well-bred and attractive women winning prizes for their so-called superficial women’s historical fiction and non-fiction (i.e. Amanda Foreman’s celebrated bio of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire). It just seems to me that women must always apologize for being interested in women’s issues via their writing, and in order to be accepted as “serious” writers, they must eschew anything sentimental and apologize for the few women novelists who are successful in spite of their romantic novels.

    Reply
  21. I think that historicals still have the reputation of not being proper literature. I think some of the best books i have ever read come in this catagory such as Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett and her House of Niccolo Series and Sharon Penman’s Sunne In Splendour about Richard111. The writing is as good as, if better than some books which are considered proper literature
    Maybe I am Biased , but !!

    Reply
  22. I think that historicals still have the reputation of not being proper literature. I think some of the best books i have ever read come in this catagory such as Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett and her House of Niccolo Series and Sharon Penman’s Sunne In Splendour about Richard111. The writing is as good as, if better than some books which are considered proper literature
    Maybe I am Biased , but !!

    Reply
  23. I think that historicals still have the reputation of not being proper literature. I think some of the best books i have ever read come in this catagory such as Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett and her House of Niccolo Series and Sharon Penman’s Sunne In Splendour about Richard111. The writing is as good as, if better than some books which are considered proper literature
    Maybe I am Biased , but !!

    Reply
  24. I think that historicals still have the reputation of not being proper literature. I think some of the best books i have ever read come in this catagory such as Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett and her House of Niccolo Series and Sharon Penman’s Sunne In Splendour about Richard111. The writing is as good as, if better than some books which are considered proper literature
    Maybe I am Biased , but !!

    Reply
  25. I think that historicals still have the reputation of not being proper literature. I think some of the best books i have ever read come in this catagory such as Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett and her House of Niccolo Series and Sharon Penman’s Sunne In Splendour about Richard111. The writing is as good as, if better than some books which are considered proper literature
    Maybe I am Biased , but !!

    Reply
  26. Jo here. Cate, sorry about the umbrage, but I really do feel that “historical” applies to periods where nearly everyone who was there is dead. It does leave a bit of a space between. I’ve heard that called the nostalgia period, but that doesn’t entirely work for me.
    Thanks for sticking with the blog!
    Jo

    Reply
  27. Jo here. Cate, sorry about the umbrage, but I really do feel that “historical” applies to periods where nearly everyone who was there is dead. It does leave a bit of a space between. I’ve heard that called the nostalgia period, but that doesn’t entirely work for me.
    Thanks for sticking with the blog!
    Jo

    Reply
  28. Jo here. Cate, sorry about the umbrage, but I really do feel that “historical” applies to periods where nearly everyone who was there is dead. It does leave a bit of a space between. I’ve heard that called the nostalgia period, but that doesn’t entirely work for me.
    Thanks for sticking with the blog!
    Jo

    Reply
  29. Jo here. Cate, sorry about the umbrage, but I really do feel that “historical” applies to periods where nearly everyone who was there is dead. It does leave a bit of a space between. I’ve heard that called the nostalgia period, but that doesn’t entirely work for me.
    Thanks for sticking with the blog!
    Jo

    Reply
  30. Jo here. Cate, sorry about the umbrage, but I really do feel that “historical” applies to periods where nearly everyone who was there is dead. It does leave a bit of a space between. I’ve heard that called the nostalgia period, but that doesn’t entirely work for me.
    Thanks for sticking with the blog!
    Jo

    Reply
  31. Good points, Evangeline, about the inherent sexism in all this. Men who write historicals often have a love interest, but they rarely give it weight, whereas in fact many dramas in history have been triggered by love, lust, and the human mating urge.
    Jo

    Reply
  32. Good points, Evangeline, about the inherent sexism in all this. Men who write historicals often have a love interest, but they rarely give it weight, whereas in fact many dramas in history have been triggered by love, lust, and the human mating urge.
    Jo

    Reply
  33. Good points, Evangeline, about the inherent sexism in all this. Men who write historicals often have a love interest, but they rarely give it weight, whereas in fact many dramas in history have been triggered by love, lust, and the human mating urge.
    Jo

    Reply
  34. Good points, Evangeline, about the inherent sexism in all this. Men who write historicals often have a love interest, but they rarely give it weight, whereas in fact many dramas in history have been triggered by love, lust, and the human mating urge.
    Jo

    Reply
  35. Good points, Evangeline, about the inherent sexism in all this. Men who write historicals often have a love interest, but they rarely give it weight, whereas in fact many dramas in history have been triggered by love, lust, and the human mating urge.
    Jo

    Reply
  36. Jo, I am embarrassed to say that while O recognize a lot of the names on the Orange Prize short list, I have yet to read one.(I ill try to remedy that soon._ And the RNA list looked very interesting too. Having seen the Palio last summer, the book based on that event is particularly intriguing.
    I need to have pretty accurate historical fact to keep me involved in a story—I’m not a fanatic stickler, mind you. I’m willing to see rules and conventions bent a bit. But actual places and events need to be depicted without glaring mistakes.
    Perhaps historical fiction isn’t taken as serious;y as other literature because to some readers it’s too much let make-believe stories, with a world that isn’t familiar. Naturally I disagree and love how a good author can let me learn about an era, while crafting compelling characters and emotional tension.

    Reply
  37. Jo, I am embarrassed to say that while O recognize a lot of the names on the Orange Prize short list, I have yet to read one.(I ill try to remedy that soon._ And the RNA list looked very interesting too. Having seen the Palio last summer, the book based on that event is particularly intriguing.
    I need to have pretty accurate historical fact to keep me involved in a story—I’m not a fanatic stickler, mind you. I’m willing to see rules and conventions bent a bit. But actual places and events need to be depicted without glaring mistakes.
    Perhaps historical fiction isn’t taken as serious;y as other literature because to some readers it’s too much let make-believe stories, with a world that isn’t familiar. Naturally I disagree and love how a good author can let me learn about an era, while crafting compelling characters and emotional tension.

    Reply
  38. Jo, I am embarrassed to say that while O recognize a lot of the names on the Orange Prize short list, I have yet to read one.(I ill try to remedy that soon._ And the RNA list looked very interesting too. Having seen the Palio last summer, the book based on that event is particularly intriguing.
    I need to have pretty accurate historical fact to keep me involved in a story—I’m not a fanatic stickler, mind you. I’m willing to see rules and conventions bent a bit. But actual places and events need to be depicted without glaring mistakes.
    Perhaps historical fiction isn’t taken as serious;y as other literature because to some readers it’s too much let make-believe stories, with a world that isn’t familiar. Naturally I disagree and love how a good author can let me learn about an era, while crafting compelling characters and emotional tension.

    Reply
  39. Jo, I am embarrassed to say that while O recognize a lot of the names on the Orange Prize short list, I have yet to read one.(I ill try to remedy that soon._ And the RNA list looked very interesting too. Having seen the Palio last summer, the book based on that event is particularly intriguing.
    I need to have pretty accurate historical fact to keep me involved in a story—I’m not a fanatic stickler, mind you. I’m willing to see rules and conventions bent a bit. But actual places and events need to be depicted without glaring mistakes.
    Perhaps historical fiction isn’t taken as serious;y as other literature because to some readers it’s too much let make-believe stories, with a world that isn’t familiar. Naturally I disagree and love how a good author can let me learn about an era, while crafting compelling characters and emotional tension.

    Reply
  40. Jo, I am embarrassed to say that while O recognize a lot of the names on the Orange Prize short list, I have yet to read one.(I ill try to remedy that soon._ And the RNA list looked very interesting too. Having seen the Palio last summer, the book based on that event is particularly intriguing.
    I need to have pretty accurate historical fact to keep me involved in a story—I’m not a fanatic stickler, mind you. I’m willing to see rules and conventions bent a bit. But actual places and events need to be depicted without glaring mistakes.
    Perhaps historical fiction isn’t taken as serious;y as other literature because to some readers it’s too much let make-believe stories, with a world that isn’t familiar. Naturally I disagree and love how a good author can let me learn about an era, while crafting compelling characters and emotional tension.

    Reply
  41. Interesting list. I recognized one or two names but have read none of them.
    There were a number of “romantic” books writen during and after WWll that portrayed war in all its ugliness. Some may say its “glory”.
    I don’t see it that way. I’m an olde WWll vet that likes to read historicals.

    Reply
  42. Interesting list. I recognized one or two names but have read none of them.
    There were a number of “romantic” books writen during and after WWll that portrayed war in all its ugliness. Some may say its “glory”.
    I don’t see it that way. I’m an olde WWll vet that likes to read historicals.

    Reply
  43. Interesting list. I recognized one or two names but have read none of them.
    There were a number of “romantic” books writen during and after WWll that portrayed war in all its ugliness. Some may say its “glory”.
    I don’t see it that way. I’m an olde WWll vet that likes to read historicals.

    Reply
  44. Interesting list. I recognized one or two names but have read none of them.
    There were a number of “romantic” books writen during and after WWll that portrayed war in all its ugliness. Some may say its “glory”.
    I don’t see it that way. I’m an olde WWll vet that likes to read historicals.

    Reply
  45. Interesting list. I recognized one or two names but have read none of them.
    There were a number of “romantic” books writen during and after WWll that portrayed war in all its ugliness. Some may say its “glory”.
    I don’t see it that way. I’m an olde WWll vet that likes to read historicals.

    Reply
  46. I’ve only read one book on the list, Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. I consider it more historical fiction than historical romance. I think historical romance should definitely be considered for literary awards. In my opinion, the character development in historical romance is far superior to that in some (not all) historical fiction.

    Reply
  47. I’ve only read one book on the list, Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. I consider it more historical fiction than historical romance. I think historical romance should definitely be considered for literary awards. In my opinion, the character development in historical romance is far superior to that in some (not all) historical fiction.

    Reply
  48. I’ve only read one book on the list, Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. I consider it more historical fiction than historical romance. I think historical romance should definitely be considered for literary awards. In my opinion, the character development in historical romance is far superior to that in some (not all) historical fiction.

    Reply
  49. I’ve only read one book on the list, Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. I consider it more historical fiction than historical romance. I think historical romance should definitely be considered for literary awards. In my opinion, the character development in historical romance is far superior to that in some (not all) historical fiction.

    Reply
  50. I’ve only read one book on the list, Tides of War by Stella Tillyard. I consider it more historical fiction than historical romance. I think historical romance should definitely be considered for literary awards. In my opinion, the character development in historical romance is far superior to that in some (not all) historical fiction.

    Reply
  51. I haven’t read any of them, either, Jo, and I also found interesting implications in that ‘but’. As if there were a proper proportion of historical to other, and this list has exceeded it.
    I’m with you on WW2 not being historical – I don’t regard any period within living memory as properly historical, though I do know that some publishers of historical romance will accept WW2 stories.
    Mary Jo I don’t think that ‘literary’ readers would be put off by historical settings because of any perceived difficulty — it seems to me that many of them relish difficulty in their reading, prefer it, even.
    It’s been my experience, however, that a lot of people who say they don’t like historical novels haven’t actually read many, or any. I’ve often have people tell me with great surprise that they read my book and really enjoyed it, and that it’s the first historical they’ve read. It’s as thought they expected it to be hard and boring and as dry as some of the history books they remember from school.
    Perhaps that’s where that ‘but’ comes from. It’s historical but it’s good.

    Reply
  52. I haven’t read any of them, either, Jo, and I also found interesting implications in that ‘but’. As if there were a proper proportion of historical to other, and this list has exceeded it.
    I’m with you on WW2 not being historical – I don’t regard any period within living memory as properly historical, though I do know that some publishers of historical romance will accept WW2 stories.
    Mary Jo I don’t think that ‘literary’ readers would be put off by historical settings because of any perceived difficulty — it seems to me that many of them relish difficulty in their reading, prefer it, even.
    It’s been my experience, however, that a lot of people who say they don’t like historical novels haven’t actually read many, or any. I’ve often have people tell me with great surprise that they read my book and really enjoyed it, and that it’s the first historical they’ve read. It’s as thought they expected it to be hard and boring and as dry as some of the history books they remember from school.
    Perhaps that’s where that ‘but’ comes from. It’s historical but it’s good.

    Reply
  53. I haven’t read any of them, either, Jo, and I also found interesting implications in that ‘but’. As if there were a proper proportion of historical to other, and this list has exceeded it.
    I’m with you on WW2 not being historical – I don’t regard any period within living memory as properly historical, though I do know that some publishers of historical romance will accept WW2 stories.
    Mary Jo I don’t think that ‘literary’ readers would be put off by historical settings because of any perceived difficulty — it seems to me that many of them relish difficulty in their reading, prefer it, even.
    It’s been my experience, however, that a lot of people who say they don’t like historical novels haven’t actually read many, or any. I’ve often have people tell me with great surprise that they read my book and really enjoyed it, and that it’s the first historical they’ve read. It’s as thought they expected it to be hard and boring and as dry as some of the history books they remember from school.
    Perhaps that’s where that ‘but’ comes from. It’s historical but it’s good.

    Reply
  54. I haven’t read any of them, either, Jo, and I also found interesting implications in that ‘but’. As if there were a proper proportion of historical to other, and this list has exceeded it.
    I’m with you on WW2 not being historical – I don’t regard any period within living memory as properly historical, though I do know that some publishers of historical romance will accept WW2 stories.
    Mary Jo I don’t think that ‘literary’ readers would be put off by historical settings because of any perceived difficulty — it seems to me that many of them relish difficulty in their reading, prefer it, even.
    It’s been my experience, however, that a lot of people who say they don’t like historical novels haven’t actually read many, or any. I’ve often have people tell me with great surprise that they read my book and really enjoyed it, and that it’s the first historical they’ve read. It’s as thought they expected it to be hard and boring and as dry as some of the history books they remember from school.
    Perhaps that’s where that ‘but’ comes from. It’s historical but it’s good.

    Reply
  55. I haven’t read any of them, either, Jo, and I also found interesting implications in that ‘but’. As if there were a proper proportion of historical to other, and this list has exceeded it.
    I’m with you on WW2 not being historical – I don’t regard any period within living memory as properly historical, though I do know that some publishers of historical romance will accept WW2 stories.
    Mary Jo I don’t think that ‘literary’ readers would be put off by historical settings because of any perceived difficulty — it seems to me that many of them relish difficulty in their reading, prefer it, even.
    It’s been my experience, however, that a lot of people who say they don’t like historical novels haven’t actually read many, or any. I’ve often have people tell me with great surprise that they read my book and really enjoyed it, and that it’s the first historical they’ve read. It’s as thought they expected it to be hard and boring and as dry as some of the history books they remember from school.
    Perhaps that’s where that ‘but’ comes from. It’s historical but it’s good.

    Reply
  56. Just popping back to add something more: I think a lot of people think historical novels are about history, whereas to me, they’ve always been about people, and people are always fascinating.

    Reply
  57. Just popping back to add something more: I think a lot of people think historical novels are about history, whereas to me, they’ve always been about people, and people are always fascinating.

    Reply
  58. Just popping back to add something more: I think a lot of people think historical novels are about history, whereas to me, they’ve always been about people, and people are always fascinating.

    Reply
  59. Just popping back to add something more: I think a lot of people think historical novels are about history, whereas to me, they’ve always been about people, and people are always fascinating.

    Reply
  60. Just popping back to add something more: I think a lot of people think historical novels are about history, whereas to me, they’ve always been about people, and people are always fascinating.

    Reply
  61. A very thought-provoking post indeed, Jo, thank you. I have been intending to pick up the Stella Tilyard book as I have enjoyed her non-fiction and thought that it sounded a very interesting book. I have read the Christina Courtenay (and of course she is a HWW!) and I enjoy her writing very much indeed.
    For me the pleasure of both reading and writing historical romance comes from both the characters and the history. I love my research and hope that I use it sparingly but well in the books to give a depth of history that is fascinating rather than dry. That’s the aim, anyway! But I completely agree that it is all about the characters and the storytelling in any novel.
    Unfortunately in the UK at least, historical fiction is still seen as a “guilty pleasure.” I read an article to that effect by a historical novelist in a national newspaper recently and it really made me see red, as though there was a need to apologise for enjoying it. I genuinely don’t understand why. Surely the literary snobs would revel in the fact that history is an academic subject!
    As for historical romance, I’m afraid it is still tarred with the romance brush in the eyes of literary readers. Their loss, I feel.

    Reply
  62. A very thought-provoking post indeed, Jo, thank you. I have been intending to pick up the Stella Tilyard book as I have enjoyed her non-fiction and thought that it sounded a very interesting book. I have read the Christina Courtenay (and of course she is a HWW!) and I enjoy her writing very much indeed.
    For me the pleasure of both reading and writing historical romance comes from both the characters and the history. I love my research and hope that I use it sparingly but well in the books to give a depth of history that is fascinating rather than dry. That’s the aim, anyway! But I completely agree that it is all about the characters and the storytelling in any novel.
    Unfortunately in the UK at least, historical fiction is still seen as a “guilty pleasure.” I read an article to that effect by a historical novelist in a national newspaper recently and it really made me see red, as though there was a need to apologise for enjoying it. I genuinely don’t understand why. Surely the literary snobs would revel in the fact that history is an academic subject!
    As for historical romance, I’m afraid it is still tarred with the romance brush in the eyes of literary readers. Their loss, I feel.

    Reply
  63. A very thought-provoking post indeed, Jo, thank you. I have been intending to pick up the Stella Tilyard book as I have enjoyed her non-fiction and thought that it sounded a very interesting book. I have read the Christina Courtenay (and of course she is a HWW!) and I enjoy her writing very much indeed.
    For me the pleasure of both reading and writing historical romance comes from both the characters and the history. I love my research and hope that I use it sparingly but well in the books to give a depth of history that is fascinating rather than dry. That’s the aim, anyway! But I completely agree that it is all about the characters and the storytelling in any novel.
    Unfortunately in the UK at least, historical fiction is still seen as a “guilty pleasure.” I read an article to that effect by a historical novelist in a national newspaper recently and it really made me see red, as though there was a need to apologise for enjoying it. I genuinely don’t understand why. Surely the literary snobs would revel in the fact that history is an academic subject!
    As for historical romance, I’m afraid it is still tarred with the romance brush in the eyes of literary readers. Their loss, I feel.

    Reply
  64. A very thought-provoking post indeed, Jo, thank you. I have been intending to pick up the Stella Tilyard book as I have enjoyed her non-fiction and thought that it sounded a very interesting book. I have read the Christina Courtenay (and of course she is a HWW!) and I enjoy her writing very much indeed.
    For me the pleasure of both reading and writing historical romance comes from both the characters and the history. I love my research and hope that I use it sparingly but well in the books to give a depth of history that is fascinating rather than dry. That’s the aim, anyway! But I completely agree that it is all about the characters and the storytelling in any novel.
    Unfortunately in the UK at least, historical fiction is still seen as a “guilty pleasure.” I read an article to that effect by a historical novelist in a national newspaper recently and it really made me see red, as though there was a need to apologise for enjoying it. I genuinely don’t understand why. Surely the literary snobs would revel in the fact that history is an academic subject!
    As for historical romance, I’m afraid it is still tarred with the romance brush in the eyes of literary readers. Their loss, I feel.

    Reply
  65. A very thought-provoking post indeed, Jo, thank you. I have been intending to pick up the Stella Tilyard book as I have enjoyed her non-fiction and thought that it sounded a very interesting book. I have read the Christina Courtenay (and of course she is a HWW!) and I enjoy her writing very much indeed.
    For me the pleasure of both reading and writing historical romance comes from both the characters and the history. I love my research and hope that I use it sparingly but well in the books to give a depth of history that is fascinating rather than dry. That’s the aim, anyway! But I completely agree that it is all about the characters and the storytelling in any novel.
    Unfortunately in the UK at least, historical fiction is still seen as a “guilty pleasure.” I read an article to that effect by a historical novelist in a national newspaper recently and it really made me see red, as though there was a need to apologise for enjoying it. I genuinely don’t understand why. Surely the literary snobs would revel in the fact that history is an academic subject!
    As for historical romance, I’m afraid it is still tarred with the romance brush in the eyes of literary readers. Their loss, I feel.

    Reply
  66. It’s been a mad week and I’ve only just seen your post, Jo, but thank you very much for mentioning me and my novel! (And thank you to Nicola as well!)
    As you say, there are two distinctly different groups of readers – those who want lots of historical facts and those who just want a really good story with accurate background details that are not obtrusive. Personally, I prefer the latter and I have read (and enjoyed) all the novels on the RNA shortlist, but not those for the Orange prize. The Altenberg and Tilyard ones sound interesting though, so I might give them a try!
    Novels that concentrate more on historical fact seem to be considered more “literary”, while historical romance is often looked down upon. But the two can be combined – A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession” for example won the Booker prize and although it is definitely very literary in style, it’s a hugely satisfying romance too (well, two actually, since it’s a time slip).
    Like Anne, I have had surprised comments from people who have read my books and say they’d never realised they would enjoy historical novels. Let’s hope we can continue to win over the readers and erase the prejudices!

    Reply
  67. It’s been a mad week and I’ve only just seen your post, Jo, but thank you very much for mentioning me and my novel! (And thank you to Nicola as well!)
    As you say, there are two distinctly different groups of readers – those who want lots of historical facts and those who just want a really good story with accurate background details that are not obtrusive. Personally, I prefer the latter and I have read (and enjoyed) all the novels on the RNA shortlist, but not those for the Orange prize. The Altenberg and Tilyard ones sound interesting though, so I might give them a try!
    Novels that concentrate more on historical fact seem to be considered more “literary”, while historical romance is often looked down upon. But the two can be combined – A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession” for example won the Booker prize and although it is definitely very literary in style, it’s a hugely satisfying romance too (well, two actually, since it’s a time slip).
    Like Anne, I have had surprised comments from people who have read my books and say they’d never realised they would enjoy historical novels. Let’s hope we can continue to win over the readers and erase the prejudices!

    Reply
  68. It’s been a mad week and I’ve only just seen your post, Jo, but thank you very much for mentioning me and my novel! (And thank you to Nicola as well!)
    As you say, there are two distinctly different groups of readers – those who want lots of historical facts and those who just want a really good story with accurate background details that are not obtrusive. Personally, I prefer the latter and I have read (and enjoyed) all the novels on the RNA shortlist, but not those for the Orange prize. The Altenberg and Tilyard ones sound interesting though, so I might give them a try!
    Novels that concentrate more on historical fact seem to be considered more “literary”, while historical romance is often looked down upon. But the two can be combined – A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession” for example won the Booker prize and although it is definitely very literary in style, it’s a hugely satisfying romance too (well, two actually, since it’s a time slip).
    Like Anne, I have had surprised comments from people who have read my books and say they’d never realised they would enjoy historical novels. Let’s hope we can continue to win over the readers and erase the prejudices!

    Reply
  69. It’s been a mad week and I’ve only just seen your post, Jo, but thank you very much for mentioning me and my novel! (And thank you to Nicola as well!)
    As you say, there are two distinctly different groups of readers – those who want lots of historical facts and those who just want a really good story with accurate background details that are not obtrusive. Personally, I prefer the latter and I have read (and enjoyed) all the novels on the RNA shortlist, but not those for the Orange prize. The Altenberg and Tilyard ones sound interesting though, so I might give them a try!
    Novels that concentrate more on historical fact seem to be considered more “literary”, while historical romance is often looked down upon. But the two can be combined – A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession” for example won the Booker prize and although it is definitely very literary in style, it’s a hugely satisfying romance too (well, two actually, since it’s a time slip).
    Like Anne, I have had surprised comments from people who have read my books and say they’d never realised they would enjoy historical novels. Let’s hope we can continue to win over the readers and erase the prejudices!

    Reply
  70. It’s been a mad week and I’ve only just seen your post, Jo, but thank you very much for mentioning me and my novel! (And thank you to Nicola as well!)
    As you say, there are two distinctly different groups of readers – those who want lots of historical facts and those who just want a really good story with accurate background details that are not obtrusive. Personally, I prefer the latter and I have read (and enjoyed) all the novels on the RNA shortlist, but not those for the Orange prize. The Altenberg and Tilyard ones sound interesting though, so I might give them a try!
    Novels that concentrate more on historical fact seem to be considered more “literary”, while historical romance is often looked down upon. But the two can be combined – A.S. Byatt’s novel “Possession” for example won the Booker prize and although it is definitely very literary in style, it’s a hugely satisfying romance too (well, two actually, since it’s a time slip).
    Like Anne, I have had surprised comments from people who have read my books and say they’d never realised they would enjoy historical novels. Let’s hope we can continue to win over the readers and erase the prejudices!

    Reply
  71. I’ve read The Night Circus and part of Tides of War. The Night Circus is actually somewhat historical, in that it takes place over a period from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, though it’s light on history, focusing more on the magical aspect. It’s also a romance, and I highly recommend it. (It’s written in present tense, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally, I’ve always like the sense of immediacy present tense gives.)
    As for Tides of War, I have to admit, the history was a little too much for me in that one. I tried reading it, but I kept putting it down, and never really got interested in the story. I’ve read some of Stella Tillyard’s nonfiction, and honestly, I enjoyed them more. Eventually, I had to return it to the library before I’d read much of it.
    As for historical fiction, I’ve always liked it. I generally view fiction as a type of escape from day to day life, and correspondingly, I’ve tended to read historical fiction and high fantasy. I’ve always liked the sense of exploring new worlds, which both allow. But then, I’ve always been rather imaginative, and I suppose not everyone is.

    Reply
  72. I’ve read The Night Circus and part of Tides of War. The Night Circus is actually somewhat historical, in that it takes place over a period from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, though it’s light on history, focusing more on the magical aspect. It’s also a romance, and I highly recommend it. (It’s written in present tense, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally, I’ve always like the sense of immediacy present tense gives.)
    As for Tides of War, I have to admit, the history was a little too much for me in that one. I tried reading it, but I kept putting it down, and never really got interested in the story. I’ve read some of Stella Tillyard’s nonfiction, and honestly, I enjoyed them more. Eventually, I had to return it to the library before I’d read much of it.
    As for historical fiction, I’ve always liked it. I generally view fiction as a type of escape from day to day life, and correspondingly, I’ve tended to read historical fiction and high fantasy. I’ve always liked the sense of exploring new worlds, which both allow. But then, I’ve always been rather imaginative, and I suppose not everyone is.

    Reply
  73. I’ve read The Night Circus and part of Tides of War. The Night Circus is actually somewhat historical, in that it takes place over a period from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, though it’s light on history, focusing more on the magical aspect. It’s also a romance, and I highly recommend it. (It’s written in present tense, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally, I’ve always like the sense of immediacy present tense gives.)
    As for Tides of War, I have to admit, the history was a little too much for me in that one. I tried reading it, but I kept putting it down, and never really got interested in the story. I’ve read some of Stella Tillyard’s nonfiction, and honestly, I enjoyed them more. Eventually, I had to return it to the library before I’d read much of it.
    As for historical fiction, I’ve always liked it. I generally view fiction as a type of escape from day to day life, and correspondingly, I’ve tended to read historical fiction and high fantasy. I’ve always liked the sense of exploring new worlds, which both allow. But then, I’ve always been rather imaginative, and I suppose not everyone is.

    Reply
  74. I’ve read The Night Circus and part of Tides of War. The Night Circus is actually somewhat historical, in that it takes place over a period from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, though it’s light on history, focusing more on the magical aspect. It’s also a romance, and I highly recommend it. (It’s written in present tense, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally, I’ve always like the sense of immediacy present tense gives.)
    As for Tides of War, I have to admit, the history was a little too much for me in that one. I tried reading it, but I kept putting it down, and never really got interested in the story. I’ve read some of Stella Tillyard’s nonfiction, and honestly, I enjoyed them more. Eventually, I had to return it to the library before I’d read much of it.
    As for historical fiction, I’ve always liked it. I generally view fiction as a type of escape from day to day life, and correspondingly, I’ve tended to read historical fiction and high fantasy. I’ve always liked the sense of exploring new worlds, which both allow. But then, I’ve always been rather imaginative, and I suppose not everyone is.

    Reply
  75. I’ve read The Night Circus and part of Tides of War. The Night Circus is actually somewhat historical, in that it takes place over a period from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, though it’s light on history, focusing more on the magical aspect. It’s also a romance, and I highly recommend it. (It’s written in present tense, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but personally, I’ve always like the sense of immediacy present tense gives.)
    As for Tides of War, I have to admit, the history was a little too much for me in that one. I tried reading it, but I kept putting it down, and never really got interested in the story. I’ve read some of Stella Tillyard’s nonfiction, and honestly, I enjoyed them more. Eventually, I had to return it to the library before I’d read much of it.
    As for historical fiction, I’ve always liked it. I generally view fiction as a type of escape from day to day life, and correspondingly, I’ve tended to read historical fiction and high fantasy. I’ve always liked the sense of exploring new worlds, which both allow. But then, I’ve always been rather imaginative, and I suppose not everyone is.

    Reply
  76. Historical books (fiction or non) written by men are full of detail but seldom touch on the personal. Historical books (fiction or non) written by women nearly always include the personal. I realize that is a generalization. Paris 1919 is written by a woman. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is written by a man and is all personal. There is a wonderful speculation about how indigestion affects a soldier’s aim. It ends with the statement “History is lunch.” – I have a wither-hearted neighbor who “never reads fiction” – she read a biography of Mark Twain but she’s never read any of his novels.

    Reply
  77. Historical books (fiction or non) written by men are full of detail but seldom touch on the personal. Historical books (fiction or non) written by women nearly always include the personal. I realize that is a generalization. Paris 1919 is written by a woman. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is written by a man and is all personal. There is a wonderful speculation about how indigestion affects a soldier’s aim. It ends with the statement “History is lunch.” – I have a wither-hearted neighbor who “never reads fiction” – she read a biography of Mark Twain but she’s never read any of his novels.

    Reply
  78. Historical books (fiction or non) written by men are full of detail but seldom touch on the personal. Historical books (fiction or non) written by women nearly always include the personal. I realize that is a generalization. Paris 1919 is written by a woman. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is written by a man and is all personal. There is a wonderful speculation about how indigestion affects a soldier’s aim. It ends with the statement “History is lunch.” – I have a wither-hearted neighbor who “never reads fiction” – she read a biography of Mark Twain but she’s never read any of his novels.

    Reply
  79. Historical books (fiction or non) written by men are full of detail but seldom touch on the personal. Historical books (fiction or non) written by women nearly always include the personal. I realize that is a generalization. Paris 1919 is written by a woman. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is written by a man and is all personal. There is a wonderful speculation about how indigestion affects a soldier’s aim. It ends with the statement “History is lunch.” – I have a wither-hearted neighbor who “never reads fiction” – she read a biography of Mark Twain but she’s never read any of his novels.

    Reply
  80. Historical books (fiction or non) written by men are full of detail but seldom touch on the personal. Historical books (fiction or non) written by women nearly always include the personal. I realize that is a generalization. Paris 1919 is written by a woman. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is written by a man and is all personal. There is a wonderful speculation about how indigestion affects a soldier’s aim. It ends with the statement “History is lunch.” – I have a wither-hearted neighbor who “never reads fiction” – she read a biography of Mark Twain but she’s never read any of his novels.

    Reply

Leave a Comment