Lots of people love dramatic reconstructions
They say such reconstructions bring history to life, much like the reenactments often performed at historic sites in Summer. Some even say the same of historical novels, as they too fill in the parts the textbooks leave out.
What’s not to like about dramatic reconstructions?
The historian and presenter, Mary Beard, among others. She says many are of poor quality. I have seen some that were, but I found others very good. However, that is not her main point. She is concerned that reconstructions fix images in the mind. Therefore, you tend to think that is how things were, not just how they might have been. That is obviously misleading when you think about it, because they show only one version of how things might have been. I fear she may be right, but perhaps it is a price worth paying to make history more interesting and easier to relate to. What do you think?
Are novels as misleading as reconstructions?
I don’t think so. I hope readers know they are reading fiction and that even the historical background in a novel is likely to be only that author’s view of how it was. Most readers probably also realise that we usually adjust the history in places for dramatic effect. Personally, I try to admit to such adjustments in the historical notes I include in my books, but I might not remember to mention them all. A novel is not a textbook.
How can you avoid being misled by reconstructions ?
I think the best solution is to watch plenty of them! If you see several versions of the same story, you will be able to see how historians – and TV producers – differ. Be critical, in a good way. I don’t even mind if you read other historical novels to compare with mine. As I do.
Enjoy historical documentaries and historical fiction. If you haven’t read Highwaypersons yet, here’s the link to Book I, Debts and Duties
And here’s the link to Book II, The King’s Justice.
Book III, Stallion Man will be out in the New Year.