Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Historical Fiction Is Back

James Frain, who played Thomas Cromwell in 'The Tudors'

According to the daily Mail, and probably other higher brow newspapers I don't read - The shortlist for the Booker Prize was unveiled on 8th September, and an historical novel by a Derbyshire born author, Hilary Mantel is the hottest favourite to win.

Wolf Hall, is the story of Thomas Cromwell, adviser to Henry VIII, and set in and around the Tudor court. Literary experts [whoever they are] say its success has proved the rising popularity of historical fiction. Janine Cook, fiction buyer for Waterstone's, said: 'Historical fiction is huge at the moment. It's fantastic to see it get the recognition it deserves.' [hear hear from this blogger]

A Ladbrokes spokesman said: 'There's only one novel in town as far as punters are concerned. 'Mantel has attracted more money than the rest of the field combined.' The winner will be announced at London's Guildhall on October 6.

That's got to be good news for us all, not for the prize perhaps, but in showing the publishers historical fiction is not 'difficult to place', which is the reason I have been getting for so few novels being accepted.

Here is an excerpt from the -extremely long- review in The Guardian

'In Wolf Hall, Mantel persuasively depicts this beefy pen-pusher and backstairs manoeuvrer as one of the most appealing - and, in his own way, enlightened - characters of the period. Taking off from the scant evidence concerning his early life, she imagines a miserable childhood for him as the son of a violent, drunken blacksmith in Putney. Already displaying toughness, intelligence and a gift for languages, he runs away to the continent as a boy of 15 or so (his date of birth isn't known, and in the novel he doesn't know it himself).

The first half of the novel, built around Wolsey's fall from power, details Cromwell's domestic setup at Austin Friars and introduces the major players in Tudor politics. Without clobbering the reader with the weight of her research, Mantel works up a 16th-century world in which only a joker would call for cherries in April or lettuce in December, and where hearing an unlicensed preacher is an illicit thrill on a par with risking syphilis.'

I love the phrase, 'Without clobbering the reader with the weight of her research'. I'll remember that. And one other thing - Wolf Hall is written in the present tense!

Read the whole review here


N. Gemini Sasson said...

Well, THAT'scertainly good news! Thanks for spreading some sunshine, Anita. BTW, absolutely loved the last line of your post.

Augustina Peach said...

My celebration would be a little more joyful if the story were about a period other than Tudor England. Still, it's good to see historical fiction is back on the radar!

Anita Davison said...

I agree about the Tudor era, it does seem to be a bit overplayed at the moment. However, Ms Mantel has been working on this novel for five years, so in a way she picked the right time.

Diane Scott Lewis said...

Let's hear it for Historical Fiction. Everyone keeps telling me it just isn't selling, only the romance subgenre. I think half the agents aren't paying attention.

Betty said...

On Oct. 6th I'll be checking out the winner of the Booker Prize as I really enjoy historical fiction. I'm putting The Guardian on my TBR list as it sounds interesting. I'm currently reading a historical fiction book by Lloyd Lofthouse called My Splendid Concubine. It's based on a real love story that took place in China during the nineteenth century and during the Opium Wars. This novel explores the clash between cultural differences. I'm learning alot about the Chinese culture!

Glynis said...

That is wonderful news for me, I am writing my first and it falls into Historical Romance (with a twist)genre. Personally I think the readers of Historical Romance are still there, they are waiting for the books to be published! ;0