Historical Fiction Books
Historical Fiction Of South Africa By Doug Hawkins
Of the entire genre’ of novels, historical fiction is unique in that they deal in both fictional and factual characters and events. An historical fiction book transports the reader to a world that existed decades or centuries ago or even millennia depending on the author’s subject matter. How did they live, what did they do, what caused that war, what were the political outcomes of illicit love affairs? Fact is very often stranger than fiction.
Using the skills of a writer the history novelist turns dull historical facts and events into an adventure in which the reader is drawn into the lives of actual people, interwoven with fictional characters to spice it up. The effect is to bring history alive. Heroes and villains of the past are transformed into fascinating characters taking the reader out of the hurly burly of the modern world into a time long gone. Even those of us who view history to be a dull subject full of nothing but dates and events find themselves becoming increasingly fascinated. As a well-researched historical fiction book progresses the reader grows to enjoy an historical character and simultaneously discovers a stimulating learning process without having to plough through all those boring dates.
Are Historical fiction books mere fantasy?
History favours the victor. There is always the risk that the history novelist could manipulate the facts in the misguided belief that it makes the story more enjoyable to the reader. This is dishonourable. The great challenge facing the historic fiction book writer therefore is to conduct extensive research on the subject to ensure the accuracy of the novel, and then to write it in such a manner that with a minimum of licence the reader escapes the boundaries of academia whilst enjoying a good story and a satisfying learning process at the same time.
Every country is rich in history. When I was a school boy in my country South Africa we learned in the history books about Napoleon, the Battle of Trafalgar and a few other aspects of European history. The only facet of South African history we were taught covered an event known as ‘The Great Trek’, the movement of 19th century Dutch-speaking settlers from the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of the continent into the interior to escape British colonial rule. But South Africans are a multi-cultural nation. Our citizens are a kaleidoscope of settlers from African, Asian and European origins. Where did they all come from? The history books did not cover this. I am uncertain whether historical fiction books did either as I had not read any at the time. I became bored with European history because it had nothing to do with me except that my forebears came from somewhere there. It was nothing but dates of events and other things.
Today we know that our first people in the Southern Africa region were the San dating back twenty seven thousand years. African folk arrived overland from the north between 300 and 800 A.D. and were well settled as far south as the Eastern Cape by the 11th century. The great civilisations of Mapungubwe and Zimba-Zimabwe, from where the name of the present Republic of Zimbabwe is derived were founded between the 13th and 14th centuries. This was almost three hundred years before the first Europeans braved unknown oceans and mythical monsters to sail around the tip of the ‘dark continent’. Their actual settlement only started in 1652. Forebears of our Asian peoples arrived in the third quarter of the nineteenth century as labourers on British colonial sugar cane farms.
Inevitably this milieu of peoples clashed. The San felt that the land belonged to all. African kings subdued weaker nations and jealously guarded their domains. Europeans sought to carve out their own lands with the concept of individual rights of ownership. Inborn differences between the groups were immense. Societal, cultural, technological differences and religious prejudice to name but a few all served to stir the pots of suspicion and mistrust. Politics, war, greed, prejudice, illusions of racial superiority based on religious beliefs and practises were mixed into the cauldron to finally churn out the political boundaries of the modern countries of southern Africa. As a result the history of the region is peppered with characters from villains to heroes of all races and creeds. Their legacies lie upon the land creating a fertile ground for the professional historian and South African history fiction writers alike.
The Aim Of An Historic Fiction Book
The primary goal of a novelist is to entertain. In the same way that an artist paints a picture on canvas the novelist paints a picture with words, transporting the reader out of life’s everyday routine and into the world of the characters he/she creates.
With a passion to learn everything that history can teach us about humankind sahistorynovelist focuses on South African historical fiction books, exploring the region to bring you the reader into our fascinating world.