The Historical Novel
The New Critical Idiom is a series of short introductory guides to literary criticism published by Routledge. There are over 50 titles in the series, ranging from Allegory through Irony to The Unconscious. If they are all as good as The Historical Novel, I must read some more.
De Groot’s book is only 200 pages – 182 excluding the paratext of Glossary, Bibliography, etc. Even so it is amazingly comprehensive, covering the history of the historical novel since Walter Scott, genre fiction, literary fiction, postmodernism and the different varieties of alternative and revisionist history and conspiracy fiction. The bibliography lists over 250 authors. Obviously it is a highly condensed work which merits reading more than once. Fortunately there is a useful glossary.
The main theme is the paradox of historical fiction, fictional but striving to be authentic, even if it challenges our certainties about the past. You may not agree with all de Groot’s ideas, but anybody who is interested enough to read Historical Novels Review will enjoy and profit from reading this guide.