Friday, October 28, 2011

Historical Fiction: Should it be history or fiction?

I have been re-reading Herman Wouk's The Winds of War this past week. For fans of historical fiction, there is usually a great argument about whether the story should contain more history or more fiction. Should it be character driven or plot driven? Without doubt, Wouk's epic story (followed by War and Remembrance) has both elements. For the history buff, he chronicles political events leading up to the start of WWII, extensively using excerpts, even whole chapters, from a fictional memoir written by a German general sometime after the war ends. I suspect that many readers who prefer the character driven bits will skim through, if not skip, this review of historical facts. As an author of both political thrillers and historical fiction, I found them much more fascinating than I did the first time I read this book over twenty years ago.

Yet the history lesson Wouk provides lends color to the Henry family, the primary group through whom the author tells the story. When Navy Captain Pug Henry finds himself in Berlin, London, Washington D.C. and even Moscow, his interaction with world leaders seems all the more credible given the knowledge the reader possesses from earlier information in this marvelous story.

Without reservation, I recommend this epic tome to every serious reader, but especially to those who enjoy this period of world events. Five Stars to Mr. Wouk.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds good. As a historian and author, I think any book calling itself historical fiction must be true to the facts, the period and the mind-set of the people. If you play with the facts (eg WW2 ended in 1950 or something) it becomes alternative history. I think the concept of using a memoir is great. Soldiers did that and I, for one, would read this one critically, since it's the period I studied.


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