Historical fiction can be an effective way for anyone trying to get basic knowledge of a period. When facts are revealed as a story they are easier to understand and remember. A great introduction to the beginning years of Queen Victoria’s reign is the novel Victoria by Daisy Godwin. Victoria inherited the throne when she was only eighteen years old. Although she knew she would be queen, she had been given very little exposure to the politics of reigning. Her widowed mother insisted that she was protecting her by keeping Victoria almost secluded. Victoria’s diaries and court observations are used as sources that show us someone who would now be defined as a rebellious teenager. At the very beginning of her reign she asserted herself by distancing herself from her mother and making her own choice as to the name she wished to be known by. She did commit several political missteps and the author depicted the known facts in a very plausible manner, giving Victoria what would seem like understandable motivations. My occasional dissatisfaction with historical fiction is when an author seems to place contemporary values in a different era and that did not happen in this novel.
Philippa Gregory is an outstanding writer of historical fiction. Her most recent novel Three Sisters, Three Queens is the story of Henry VIII’s two sisters, Margaret and Mary, and his first wife, Katherine. Although at times they had real affection for each other, they were often in conflict for control and precedence. Margaret, the oldest Tudor sister, was at court when Katherine came to England to become Henry’s brother’s wife. Marriage was a political function, so Margaret was there to witness the loss of status Katherine faced when her first husband died and her later elevation when she became Henry’s wife. Even though Margaret had hoped to marry someone else, she was sent to Scotland to become King James’ wife. Her treatment by Gregory is what makes an absorbing novel. Although the major highlights of Margret’s life are well known, her motivations are open to interpretation. She was widowed when Scotland rebelled against Henry. Margret’s marriage was supposed to have been a peaceful link, but she basically had to spend her life trying to protect her son’s birthright. A good historical novel humanizes figures which help the reader better understand and remember the events the characters were a part of.