Friday, October 8, 2021

History and Historical Fiction

Volume 2 of Churchill's History encompasses the Tudors, the exploration and settling of the New World, the Puritans,  and Charles I and II.  I made my way through it, pausing now and then to return to historical fiction--a genre that I've always enjoyed as a painless way to learn about the past.

My paperback copy of The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton dated back to the late Fifties or early Sixties (the cover gives it away) and was falling apart so I availed myself of an ebook. It's a terrific story about the factions at work in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (and much of what would become New England) and the travails of an independent-thinking woman in this rigid society. The story--based on fact--puts living flesh on the bare bones of history.

Another novel I re-read, inspired by Churchill's History, was The Child from the Sea, Elizabeth Goudge's romantic take on Charles II's liason with Lucy Walter, mother of his (illegitimate)son, afterward the Duke of Monmouth. Goudge 's settings come alive, and so do her characters as we follow them through the reign and execution of Charles I, the dour interregnum of Parliament, and the Restoration of Charles II. Painless history--and if liberties are taken, it's in aid of making it a good story. In a foreword the author, in the best tradition of historical fiction, explains her sources and admits her suppositions. It's a delightful story, if a bit of a tear-jerker.

I realize that I've come full circle--I began (many years ago) by reading historical fiction which gave me an interest in history which has now sent me back to historical fiction. I think the two work very well together.



Barbara Rogers said...

I read the Winthrop Woman with a lot of connections to my ancestors...or at least the places in MA and CT where many of them lived. Churchill's histories are slow going for me, but I'm pretty determined. I have loved historical fiction for years, but find it difficult to find because that's the name of the genre' of all these "pulp fiction" books, the light romances set in historic places. I don't mind a bit of romance, but prefer learning about families, architecture, ships sailing around the world. Thanks for adding to my reading list!

jennyfreckles said...

You remind me to go back and reread some historical fiction (or find some new ones). Anya Seton is one of my favourite authors in that genre. Her book 'Katherine' is one of my all-time favourites.

Gwen said...

I've always been interest in history, which is a good thing since I taught it for 36 years to high schoolers. I remember reading Anya Seton's "Devil Water" back in high school, about 50 years ago, which may have nudged me toward my college major. I live about an hour away from Westover Plantation. I went on a tour once where the guide told a story of a female ghost who seems to have been the Evelyn Byrd in the novel. I remember that Seton's novel did not paint a very pleasant picture of William Byrd, his treatment of his daughter nor his treatment of his slaves.

Anvilcloud said...

I had forgotten about the genre. I have read some in the past.