Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thursday Threads

Happy Thursday! This week's Thursday Threads question is:

Do you prefer novels about real historical figures or fictional characters?

Here are our responses--please share your response in the comments section!

Kelly: I think it really depends for me. I have enjoyed books that deal with both; so I am constantly reading both. I feel like I am drawn more to the setting than the characters in many cases, though. If it is WWI, WWII, Canadian history, the 1920’s etc I will jump at the chance regardless of whether the people in the book were real people. But then there are also historical figures I am more drawn to than others. So, basically I look at each book separately and go from there.

Ana: I like both but if it's a well known historical figure I would rather read about them as secondary characters. I prefer to read fictional accounts about what might have been, about the loopholes in history. By now, some people are just too well known for that. I love books that grab the lesser known historical figures and imagine what their life must have been.

Marg: I had to actually think about this answer for a while. The truth is that I don't mind either type of story, but if I HAD to only choose one, then I would have to go with real historical figures. The main reason is because often we know a little bit about the famous people and the fiction helps to build a picture around what we already know. Having said that, it is very easy for said historical figures to be over exposed and written about too much!

Julie: Like Marg, I had to really think about the answer. I am happy to read either, but I think historical figures is my preference.  I don't like reading which is based on a historical figure which then turns into a fictional account. As an historian, I would rather read about a historical person & then perhaps provide some evidence which might support an historical hypothesis.

Nanette: I like (and am willing to read) both. I love biographical fiction, especially biographical fiction about royalty, and I think it takes a lot of skill to take the historical record, with all of its detail (and its inconsistencies) and turn it into a compelling novel while staying true to the known facts.


  1. If it's fiction then fore some reason I prefer historical characters though I enjoy if, from time to time, a historical character pops up.
    For example, one of my favourite historical novel is 'Ninety-Three' by Victor Hugo and my favourite part of that novel is when the author writes about a meeting between three historical characters: Danton, Marat and Robespierre.

  2. I probably prefer fictional characters, but enjoy both. With fictional characters the writer has more liberties and can tell about the ordinary life. I don't have much interest for the royalty, except perhaps for some more excentric characters. Also with the most famous people it might be hard to have enough suspense in the story, since it's already known what is going to happen. But of course there are always other aspects one might enjoy.

  3. I do enjoy both, but my interest (like Kelly's) is often the setting (place and/or time period) first, characters second. Reading is travel in time and space, and I guess I've got a good case of wanderlust :) I also have always loved learning about the life of regular folk, the history of daily life, so I guess my preferences skew a bit that way too.

  4. I'll happily read both, but my preference tends to be for historical novels about real historical figures. I'm big into reading about major historical events, so I like to read about the figures that would have participated in them. Like others, I love books which have a strong sense of time and place, I guess I just prefer to see that time and place presented from the viewpoints of those historical figures whose actions most shaped them.

  5. I do enjoy both, but like Ana, I prefer to read about the historical person as a secondary character. A great many historical fiction novels seem to focus on just a few well known characters. I now try to find historical novels that include a real historical figure, but not a well known figure.