Defining historical fiction is extremely tricky, as Sarah Johnson knows well: readers, she writes, may be “forced to sort through tales of modern suburban angst, lurid contemporary thrillers, or generic bodice rippers to find the works that match a compelling story with an informed view of the past.”
She’s well qualified to talk about the subject as the author of Historical Fiction: A Guide to the Genre, as well as being the American editor for Historical Novels Review, one of two journals published by the Historical Novel Society.
A couple of years ago she produced a list of twenty influential historical novels written over the past 60 years or more, and between them spanning world history from prehistoric Europe to 20th-century New York.
Obviously, there are bound to be missing favourites – for me, Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard for a start – but it’s a fantastic roll call of la creme de la creme.
This month’s Bookmark magazine contains the second instalment, Great Historical Fiction, vol II – the only drawback being that you have to be a subscriber to see the article! With luck, the editors won’t keep us waiting too long before posting it on the website …