How historical fiction makes the past come alive (and 12 must-read examples)

When it comes to book genres, historical fiction can be a bit ambiguous.

Historical fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past, often during a significant time period.

Historical fiction can involve a mix of fictional characters with well-known historical figures.

Broadcaster and arts journalist Karabo Kgoleng explains that the genre can add colour to historical events, change perceptions and "invade" existing narratives.

There are people who say its creative lying.

Karabo Kgoleng, broadcaster and arts journalist

Kgoleng quips that historical fiction makes readers more curious about historical events which would otherwise be seen as "dry" or "boring".

She advises that the genre requires in-depth research and can have a major influence on popular culture.

Some examples of historical fiction include:

  • Dancing the Death Drill by Fred Khumalo
  • Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
  • Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Bodies Politic by Michiel Heyns
  • Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
  • The Slave Book by Rayda Jacobs
  • An Imperfect Blessing by Nadia Davids
  • Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta
  • The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Karabo Kgoleng describes and reviews some popular historical fiction novels while also engaging with listeners.

Take a listen:

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