The traditional definition of the historical fiction genre is “fiction set in the past” where the author is writing from research rather than personal experience.
one reads the nonfiction work of Robert Louis Stevenson along with the novels and short stories, a more complete portrait emerges of the author than that of the romantic vagabond one usually associates with his best-known fiction. The Stevenson of the nonfiction prose is a writer involved in the issues of his craft, his milieu, and his soul. Moreover, one can see the record of his maturation in critical essays, political tracts, biographies, and letters to family and friends. What Stevenson lacks, especially for the tastes of this age, is specificity and expertise: he has not the depth of such writers as , , or . But he was a shrewd observer of humankind, and his essays reveal his lively and perspicacious mind. Though he lacked originality, he created a rapport with the reader, who senses his enthusiastic embrace of life and art. If Stevenson at first wrote like one who only skimmed the surface of experience, by the end of his life he was passionately committed to his adopted land of Samoa, to his own history, and to the creation of his fiction.
The content of fiction may take the form of the events of a story, especially in novels and short stories, spoken remarks, especially in drama, or images and symbols, especially in poetry.
If we can seldom prove the historical accuracy of biblical texts but may sometimes discover inaccuracies in it, then some might reasonably believe that the purpose of historical criticism is to disprove the historical truth of the Bible. We cannot deny that some early researchers may have been motivated in this way. Research on the life of Jesus in the 19th century, for example,was replete with scholars who wanted to prove that the Gospels were fabrications or, at least, exaggerated accounts of the life of a simple Palestinian teacher. The 19th century scholar F. C. Baur named this approach "negative criticism" and showed the serious limitations of such an agenda. He suggested instead a "positive criticism" whose agenda would the historical understanding of biblical texts against their background, and this approach has won the day among biblical scholars.
The same love for the exaggerated world of romance and adventure informs the essays "A Gossip on Romance" (1882) and "A Gossip on a Novel of Dumas's" (1887). Again Stevenson maintains that the better end of reading and writing is entertainment, a claim that led some critics to accuse him of escapism. French realists, such as Émile Zola, had begun to explore the harsher sides of reality in their fiction. To some extent English realists, , for example, and Americans, including and , agreed in practice with the tenets of realism. But the bulk of Stevenson's literary criticism is explicitly in favor of the romance. He saw himself as the literary descendant of . The best storytelling, he felt, had the ability to whisk readers away from themselves and their circumstances.
While there are many sources that can explain these events, historical fiction novels are some of the best ways to do so, as they provide insight on the subject matter, and make you feel connected to the people that have gone through it.
It was not the first time that Stevenson disappointed his father. In January 1873 Thomas Stevenson discovered some papers that seemed to suggest that the young Stevenson was an atheist. Father and son had their worst falling out. In letters to his student chums, especially to , Stevenson called himself a "damned curse" on his family. Though it is tempting to see his filial rebellion as a classic Victorian melodrama, father and son did reconcile. The episode is more important in having given the author one of the enduring themes of his fiction. It runs from "An Old Song," a short story published in an 1877 issue of the weekly , to the masterly romance (1896), left unfinished. It also threads through his nonfiction, in which it is tempered by a tone of reconciliation. For example, in written in 1877, Stevenson seems to be looking for the common bond that father and son share.
An example of a historical fiction that I have just read is The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, a story about the life of a German boy who becomes friends with a Jewish boy in a concentration camp during the holocaust....
Ahearn, Kerry. Understanding a writer "who has defeated a High Culture bias against the novel of manners by restricting himself to the supposedly barren settings of America's middle-class cultural homogeneity." 34, 1 (Spring 1988) pp 62-83 [free at jstor, click "Preview" or "Read Online"].
Stevenson attempted to justify his attack upon realism on technical grounds. In both "A Note on Realism" (1883) and (1884), Stevenson analyzes different types of fiction. The 1883 essay maintains that realism differs from romance only according to the writer's choice of style. In "A Humble Remonstrance," Stevenson answers 's claim in "The Art of Fiction" (1884) that the novel competes with life. Stevenson protests that no novel can ever hope to match life's complexity; it merely abstracts from life to produce a harmonious pattern of its own. essentially agreed: he had made the point earlier that reality was too immense to capture in art. At Bournemouth, where the Stevensons lived from 1884 to 1887, James came calling in the spring of 1885 and was mistaken for a tradesman. Gradually, however, the two men became close friends. James, in fact, was one of the few of her husband's associates whom Fanny Stevenson trusted. Watchful of her husband's health, she resented the friends who kept Stevenson up into the night.
Ship of the Hunted, by Yehuda Elberg, defines this genre as it entwines the lives of a fictional family with historical facts and elements such as life in the Warsaw ghetto, hiding to survive, and the Brichah movement of Jews out of Poland.
A Tale of Two Cities is appropriately titled, as the novel is the story of England and Revolutionary France; as a result it can be categorized as historical fiction.