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Parallels in historical fiction to modern day events

Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012, 10:43 am
by hackcyn
I think I got the title wrong. I didn't really mean allusions as such, as that would be a deliberate anachronism. I'm thinking more of a parallel between history and the present day.

There always comes a point in reading a historical novel that you think about something in comparison with the modern world. Sometimes it's just something like the treatment of women and you consider the difference between modern freedoms and the lack of freedom women used to have. Other times it might be more like a specific event. I wish I could think of some concrete examples but I'm at a loss :p

I can't decide if I love or hate this part of the genre. In some respects it's the whole point of reading a historical novel, to be invited to consider how things have changed. On the other hand, too much of it can be overwhelming, and you wonder if the author has just decided to set a modern story in a historical background.

So what do you think when you get to that point in a book and think 'that's almost exactly like X'? Good or bad?

Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012, 12:17 pm
by donroc
While researching 17th century Spain for my novel Rocamora, I read a "lament" that theater had gone from clever plotting and great dialogue to spectacles of flying cupids, volcanic explosions and Apollo in a chariot racing across the stage. I could not resist including that in my novel as well as Spain going broke by financing the 30 Years War for the Austrian Habsburgs with its riches from the New World plus its decline in home industry by sending its raw resources to other countries to be made into finished goods that were imported at high prices. All that sound familiar? :D

Posted: Mon May 28th, 2012, 3:12 pm
by fljustice
I think authors are drawn to parallels as a way of making connections with modern readers and (sometimes) commenting on modern problems. The enduring human nature tropes of love, ambition, self-sacrifice, jealousy, loyalty, greed, generation-bashing, etc. lead readers to the conclusion that humans have changed little over time. Larger issues such as the ones donroc talks about, the "church vs. state" themes in my own work and the destruction of civilization warned of in thousands of other books all speak to that old saying, "Those who do not know their history are bound to repeat it."

So, whether it's good or bad when I come across such parallels, depends on the skill of the author in integrating their themes in an enjoyable story...or if the book is deliberately written as a fable for modern times. Obvious preaching is not fun, the telling detail or funny conversational observation that moves the plot forward is welcome.