One of my favorite ways to experience history is through the historical fiction novel. While all of the details of the story are not technically rooted in historical fact, you get really get a sense of the spirit of the story and the people who populate it, and you get to read an exciting novel, not a dry history book (I do admit a complete literary bias in this respect). The best historical novelists write an afterword that detail where the creative liberties were taken in the story, which are not intended to alter historical facts, but rather to fill in gaps where information is lacking. Some historical fictions are more fiction than others, but in each one you get a sense of the inner being of an historical character that you cannot get otherwise. The following is a list of my favorite historical fictions.
The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George With a childhood love of Cleopatra, Margaret George sifts through all of the historical documentation about Cleopatra and constructs an historical novel that has very little embellishment. The love and passion for Cleopatra with which this novel was written comes across in every page and I finished this novel with a new found love and devotion for Cleopatra.
Most interesting to me was the re-claiming of Cleopatra’s character as a strong powerful woman, not the deceitful, conniving seductress that she has so famously been portrayed to be. Also quite interesting was the revelation that Julius Caesar was Cleopatra’s true love, not Mark Anthony. While Cleopatra and Antony were lovers, their relationship only began after the demise of Caesar and while it seems Cleopatra did love Antony, it was not nearly as intimate a relationship as she had with Caesar. [Read more...]