History is amazing. A study of the past helps us to understand who we are today. But historical fiction can take us that one step further. A good novel can speculate on how people felt about things: their values and priorities, their dreams and desires.
What did they really believe in - those swaggering Tudors or sombre Victorians? How did they organise themselves and uphold their laws? How did they reward people? How did they punish them? What exactly did they get up to after dark, those outrageous fops and demireps of Georgian England? And what anxieties, what peculiar secrets might they have laboured under, those elegant, tightly laced denizens of the Belle Époque?
We might not be able to answer these questions with perfect accuracy. But that is not what counts. It is the asking that is important - the setting out of all the different options, all the different ways that people can be. It is a key that liberates the imagination from the narrow chambers of the ‘here and now.’ And every time we open a history book or read a good story we hold that key in our hands.