Paint the Town “Read”

Chapter 3: Historical Fiction — The Legacies We Leave Behind

 

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

– Anais Nin

 

History is much, much more than the facts and figures crammed into thick textbooks with small fonts, read cover to cover in a class that is often the epitome of a snooze fest. There is a more human side to this narrative hidden behind the data and statistics — the actual stories of strength, love, courage and heartbreak, accounts of the indomitable human spirit and our persistence through the darkest of times. This is exactly what historical fiction does, it adds a humane touch to the happenings of the past.

 

Whether you hope to build a legacy through words, kind deeds, grand ambition, or a strong familial line, the truth is, we don’t always know how history will look back on us. All we can do is put our best selves forward, and hope that our integrity and values will resonate long after we are gone. Historical fiction endeavours to understand this human need to leave behind a legacy that stands the test of time and continues to be echoed in the contemporary world.

The most notable trait of this genre is the setting. Works are often set against the known backdrops of an authentic period, real places from the past and major world events that shaped the previous centuries. The genre often reflects upon the mistakes and triumphs of those who came before us, showing a more personalised version of events we might have previously read or heard about, making these individual stories more resonant and emotional. That is what makes this genre so beautiful — the fact that authors take an already existing timeline and set up their own world with a myriad of characters, personalities and plotlines.

 

George R.R. Martin once said that while he loved historical fiction, his only issue with it was that we already know what is going to happen. It is a dramatic irony of sorts. But here’s the real magic, the characters do not know what the future holds for them and yet, continue to persevere and forge ahead in their pursuits. As readers, we find joy in these simple acts and understand what truly makes us human a little better.

 

 

To sum up, historical fiction is an intimate doorway to the past which gives us a perspective on our own modern lives and helps us connect better with the story, which we are continuing ourselves. It creates a personal attachment with history that may lead us to one day repeat or avoid it.

So put on some throwback tunes, dig out the old photo albums and grab a historical fiction title — it’s time to take a trip down memory lane.

 

– Bhavya Nayak, Delhi Public School, Noida

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