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Does inaccurate historical facts affect your enjoyment of historical fiction?

Libra

Active Member
I have pondered over this a long time. Not knowing history very well I enjoy the book as a story. It takes me back to places that I wonder how it would be to live at that time and I wouldn't mind some time travel every now and then:)
 

Jez

New Member
In some ways it does. If I'm trying to learn about the time period and some things in the book are inaccurate, it takes away from my enjoyment a lot. If I know that the book is inaccurate going into it, though, then I just approach it like any other fiction and it doesn't bother me too much.
 

Libra

Active Member
A while ago I read THE GREATEST KNIGHT and THE SCARLET LION by
Elizabeth Chadwick. When I was done with them I did a search on the Knight Wiliam Marsiall and I have to say that looking at the castles where the story takes place and where he walked once, made the books even more amazing.
 

angerball

Active Member
I'm not all that knowledgable when it comes to history, so I wouldn't know whether something is accurate or not. I think it depends on what the book is about. If it is just general historical fiction, about a time rather than an actual person, then I wouldn't be too bothered if it's not accurate. However, if it is specifically about people who actually existed, then yes I think I would be a bit put-out. I know it's fiction, but I would want any established facts to remain so throughout the book.
 

sparkchaser

Administrator and Stuntman
Staff member
How much it would bother me would depend on how inaccurate the transgression is. Unless the inaccuracy is integral to the storyline, then it just shows either laziness in research or lack of attention to detail by the author.
 

Jez

New Member
I'm not all that knowledgable when it comes to history, so I wouldn't know whether something is accurate or not. I think it depends on what the book is about. If it is just general historical fiction, about a time rather than an actual person, then I wouldn't be too bothered if it's not accurate. However, if it is specifically about people who actually existed, then yes I think I would be a bit put-out. I know it's fiction, but I would want any established facts to remain so throughout the book.
I pretty much agree with you, AB.
 

Leyland

New Member
Clearly 'rearranged' timelines for actual historical figures and events bother me without a reference in the author's notes regarding a good reason why history just got moved around a bit. I'd rather not read about invented siblings or children when I know an historical figure didn't have them. But distant cousins and illegitimate kin are fair game! And since no one knows what these 'real' people were thinking all the time, or conversing about, then the dialogue and first person POV can be freely imagined and written to tell a really good story.
 

silverseason

New Member
And since no one knows what these 'real' people were thinking all the time, or conversing about, then the dialogue and first person POV can be freely imagined and written to tell a really good story.

Sometimes these imaginings really make the story - and history - come alive. In a novel entitled Children of the Arbat (sorry, forget the author's name) he imagines Josef Stalin's thinking and interactions, including an exchange with his dentist. It made Stalin into a real, admittedly scarey, person and not just a cardboard figure in a photograph.

What I don't like in historical fiction are large improbabilities or coincidences. Or thoughts and language inappropriate to the times.
 

beer good

Well-Known Member
As with any factual inaccuracies, it can be done both well and poorly. I'd say that as long as the changes make sense within the story - which may or may not involve explaining why the changes have been made - I'm perfectly OK with it in fiction.

But then you have the writers who get their facts wrong simply because they don't bother doing the research. Sometimes that's just annoying but unimportant, other times it's enough to make me give up on a book. I don't think fictional works should ever be held to the same standards as non-fiction - it's all a big lie anyway - but I find that if a writer is sloppy in one regard, he/she usually is in others as well.

Silverseason said:
Or thoughts and language inappropriate to the times.
Yup, agreed. Medieval noblemen acting like extra politically correct 21st century dwellers is always a big turn-off, for instance.
 
But then you have the writers who get their facts wrong simply because they don't bother doing the research. Sometimes that's just annoying but unimportant, other times it's enough to make me give up on a book.

I agree. If I pay attention that what I know is different to what the author writes, I go and check. If the author is wrong, I don't trust any of his word any longer - and the joy of reading is lost.

I also hate when the geographical facts are erroneous.

And when an author makes his characters talk a foreign language, but with obvious mistakes (when unintended by characters actually to do so.) Oh, terrible.
 

LoeMa

Member
I studied history so I definitely prefer correct facts.
Speculations within a justified frame are okay but when they change proven facts it's unacceptable for me.
 

Robert

Active Member
Inaccuracies definitely detract from historical fiction. I want a good feel for the era being written about.
 

joderu95

New Member
How much it would bother me would depend on how inaccurate the transgression is. Unless the inaccuracy is integral to the storyline, then it just shows either laziness in research or lack of attention to detail by the author.

I agree with this statement completely. Things to consider: the importance of the fact(s) in regards to understanding history, the amount of total inaccuracies in the entire story, how much is even understood about that particular piece of history, etc.

I have a really great American History book that is written as a narrative instead of the typical tiresome textbook format. If you enjoy that type of thing it is called, surprise, America: A Narrative History by George Brown Tindall & David E. Shi.
 
For me, it really depends on the inaccuracy. I read a lot of Alexandre Dumas, who writes historical novels which sometimes switch around the chronological order of events to fit the plot, etc...but I don't really mind, because they still serve to teach me history I didn't know, and they're wonderful stories cleverly integrated into history. But I have problems with a lot of modern historical fiction that makes everything so very Hollywood: none of the characters have any sense of decorum or propriety, and really reminds me more of modern America than where the story takes place.
 

sparkchaser

Administrator and Stuntman
Staff member
For me, it really depends on the inaccuracy. I read a lot of Alexandre Dumas, who writes historical novels which sometimes switch around the chronological order of events to fit the plot, etc...but I don't really mind, because they still serve to teach me history I didn't know, and they're wonderful stories cleverly integrated into history. But I have problems with a lot of modern historical fiction that makes everything so very Hollywood: none of the characters have any sense of decorum or propriety, and really reminds me more of modern America than where the story takes place.

Ooooh. I hate that too.
 

Bluraven

Member
I prefer to read Historical Fiction that has its facts in order, but I can tolerate those that have minor inaccuracies. However, it also depends on the author's intent for misrepresenting (or, under-researching) history...i.e., if they're trying to make a theological/philosophical point which History doesn't actually support, and so they simply bend it to fit...then this is unacceptable.
 

Fantasy Moon

kickbox
As long as the story is well written, I don't really mind historical inaccuracies as much. The key word is that these books are "fiction" and artistic license is to be expected.
 

phil_t

New Member
What no reply from Stewie on this one!!

I don't dare mention the DV book in his presence, but I know nothing gets him going more than a good case of historical inaccuracy :)

Phil
 

Proofreader

New Member
If the author makes it clear that changes to historical fact are done intentionally for the purpose of the fictional narrative, I can just about accept them.

Inaccuracies in detail to me show a lack of proper research or understanding of a period - a castle in the 15th century with wisteria climbing up its walls ruins a book for me, as does over-modern language or behavioural patterns.
 
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