Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Thinking About Historical Fiction

Wonderful Wednesdays is a new meme hosted at Tiny Library. Sam says it's "about spotlighting and recommending some of our most loved books, even if we haven't read them recently.  Each week will have a different genre or theme."

This week's theme is historical fiction.

I enjoy historical fiction and have a developed a special fondness for novels set in Tudor England. When thinking about a couple of my favorites, I was struck by the wide range of styles this category encompasses. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory both deal with Henry VIII's reign, but I'd be hard pressed to list other similarities. They are very different in both approach and purpose.

When I read Wolf Hall earlier this year (my thoughts), I referred to it as historical fiction for the historian. It is slow moving, involved, well-researched, and packed with historical detail. Mantel's award-winning novel focuses on Thomas Cromwell.

Gregory's novel, as the title suggests, deals primarily with Anne Boleyn's sister, Mary. Read in pre-blogging days, The Other Boleyn Girl was a real page-turner. It presented the steamier aspects of Henry's conquests and life at court. I read it in just two or three days, but Wolf Hall required two or three weeks to complete. Both books held my interest, but served to satisfy very different historical fiction moods.

Are you a fan of historical fiction? Do you have a favorite novel set in Tudor England? Visit Sam at Tiny Library for links to other posts on this topic.


  1. I love historical fiction but don't read enough of it! I read To Defy A King earlier this year and really liked it. I think I'll have to join a historical fiction challenge next year so I can make sure I read some.

  2. Thanks so much for taking part!

    Philippa Gregory is my historical fiction guilty pleasure - I love The Other Boleyn Girl too, book and film. I have the Constant Princess sitting waiting to be read and can't wait to get to it!

    I had a mixed reaction to Wolf Hall though. I thought it impressively researched but the story didn't captivate me. Thomas Cromwell was written so perfectly though.

  3. I've got both on my TBR list, actually. But I'm not so sure I will read The Other Boleyn Girl ( I saw two different adaptations of it ) after reading Philippa Gregory's The White Queen :-/
    I'm going to borrow Wolf Hall, first.

  4. All books that I loved! But my favourite Tudor novel has to be Margaret George's The Autobiography of Henry VIII

  5. I have not read much in the Tudor period. I find myself gravitating towards more recent European history, 1800 onwards, Britiah, Spanish, French etc.

  6. I have Wolf Hall on my TBR list. It's the kind of book I usually love, but I have to find the time for it!

  7. I have had Wolf Hall on my TBR list for a while now-hopefully I will get to it in 2012-

  8. I think historical fiction has easily become one of my all-time favorite genres. I have yet to read a Gregory book but I certainly want to and I even have a few on my bookshelves. Wolf Hall is one that I've debated about adding to my TBR list...I will have to think about that one just because of its size!!

  9. Oh, I've only read half of The Other Boleyn Girl, but never finished it. School started, or something like that, to get in my way. I've always wanted to read Wolf Hall, though. Perhaps I'll turn to that before finishing Boleyn.

  10. Linda - I don't seem to read as much historical fiction as I'd like either... a challenge may be just the thing!

    Sam - Hurray for guilty pleasures! I haven't read anything else by Philippa Gregory, but I sure would like to.

    Maria Grazia - Wolf Hall definitely requires more concentration, but is well worth it.

    FleurFisher - I can't tell you how many times I've had Margaret George's book in my hands! The size always seems to put me off, but I just know I'd love it...

    Joanne P - I love European History 1800's and on, too. Just seem to find myself fixated on Henry VIII lately.

    Susan - Choose your time carefully. Wolf Hall is not a quick read, but it is very good!

    Mel U - I think Wolf Hall is a book you would enjoy.

    Staci - Wolf Hall is definitely daunting... not a romp like Gregory's novel. They are really at opposite ends of the HF spectrum.

    Bellezza - Just be sure to choose the book to fit your reading mood. Wolf Hall is much more serious, while Gregory seems to be a guilty pleasure.

  11. I love historical fiction and am open to all reads. Not just about kings and queens but about ordinary people in interesting times!

  12. I do enjoy historical fiction when I read it, it's just that I shy away from it too much for some reason. I bought Wolf Hall when it first came out and it seemed a bit intimidating when i picked it up....LOL I need to find just the right time for it.

  13. I liked the Other Boleyn Girl too. I have Wolf Hall on my list, but I just haven't gotten to it yet.

    Yay for you new header -- I've been waiting for the fall look. :)

  14. I enjoy historical fiction but probably more the WOLF HALL variety. I'm amazed though at how much you HF fans know about the history behind the fiction! I would need a master's to keep up!

  15. I haven't yet read either of those novels, but did read 'Dissolution' by C J Sansome earlier this year. This is a really good who-done-it with a well researched atmospheric background of the dissolution of the monesteries in Henry VIIIs time.

  16. Mystica - I agree! Ordinary people can be just as interesting to read about as kings and queens.

    Diane - Wolf Hall is definitely intimidating.... no distractions allowed.

    Beth F - Thanks. I took the photo on our dock Sunday morning - it was a perfect fall day!

    Marie - History was never my strong suit, but I sure learned a lot from Wolf Hall.

    Michelle Ann - Oh, thanks! I haven't heard of that one... going to look it up now.

  17. When it comes to the Tudor era I could escape to an island with a suitcase full of Alison Weir's books. I prefer her non-fiction though. She writes it in such a page-turning sort of way that has me absolutely riveted!

    Your new header is beautiful and a little "Ooh" came out when I saw it.

  18. I haven't read either of those, though I do have Wolf Hall and a different Gregory novel on my TBR shelves. I do really enjoy historical fiction, even if I don't read it as often as I'd like. My favorite historical fiction is the kind that sticks closely to the facts but breathes life into historic figures, so that I'm learning while I'm enjoying a story.

  19. I love historical fiction and have read so many great novels since starting my blog. One of my favorites though is The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George. You should give it a try - it is excellent!

    I love the photo you're using in your header right now. How beautiful!

  20. Darlene - Alison Weir has been on my authors to read list for ages... a suitcase full of books and a desert island sounds perfect!

    Erin - I don't read nearly as much historical fiction as I'd like either. Like you, I prefer the author doesn't stray too far from the facts.

    Darlene - Oh yes, Margaret George!! I have come so close to buying The Autobiography of Henry VIII many times, but always get intimidated by it's size. That could be a perfect vacation book...


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