The Sunday Salon – Truth Test for Historical Fiction

Historical fiction makes up a good portion of my reading lists (TBR and read) and I’ve been thinking about something lately — when I’m reading historical fiction, do I have a truth test?  Do I want it to be historically accurate or am I all right with some vague historical descriptions and or the lives of real individuals trifled with?  In answer to that last part of the question, the answer is obviously yes or I wouldn’t be reading any historical fiction at all.

While I’m familiar with general facts about history (I’m not a history buff but I would like to think I could pass an 8th grade history test, hopefully… J), one of the major reasons I read this genre is my interest in time periods I don’t know anything about.  Don’t worry, I’m not implying I get my historical facts from fiction; it’s the people and places driving a story I find interesting.  Usually after finishing a book I’ll look up all the people, places, and time period, mostly to put a face to a person and place.  I’ve never felt betrayed on finding out an author took liberties with his/her characters’ lives.  I’m reading fiction after all!  Standards have to be set low on the historical bar when that’s the case.

For some, and I would imagine history buffs mostly, I can see this genre being a problem.  In some ways, I think my interest in historical fiction fills a craving of mine to learn about different places and times.  I hungrily devour facts after finishing a story but prior to reading many books, I don’t think I would have researched information about the time, not to say my historical fiction reading drives my historical interests, but sometimes I do find I have a curiosity about certain subjects after reading about a time period I’m unfamiliar with.  I may not have learned a load of facts from the actual reading but after I do.

I also think this drives my non-fiction reading.  Many non-fiction books get added to my list thanks to a historical fiction read and some research after.

Thoughts on this: Do you prefer your historical fiction to be accurate or are you OK with minor changes for the sake of fiction/entertainment?

Happy Sunday.  I’m off to, well, let’s face it, to stay in the air conditioning all day.  I think it’s supposed to be another three digit degree day here…


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