Historical fiction – tidbits from Annabel Lyon

The Sweet GirlIn September, Annabel Lyon, author of The Golden Mean and its sequel, The Sweet Girl, explained the challenge of writing historical fiction. I thought I’d share a few tidbits that spoke to me.

Lyon took pictures on a research trip to Greece that made their way into her novels —

pictures of museum artifacts that only a mother could love: fifth century BC barbecue tongs, tweezers, an ancient child’s sippy cup complete with handle, strainer and spout … a dove-shell hair clip, thorny burnet … and an enormous and terrifying speculum in a case of ancient medical instruments.

She says —

There’s something irresistible about the Classical world … something about those primal tales of war and lust and family dysfunction draws us back again and again.

and later reminds us —

The past is a foreign country.

I took this to mean that writers of historical fiction have to work hard to understand and respect the norms, values and behaviours of the ‘country’ you inhabit.

Towards the end of her article, Annabel Lyon writes —

Things I love about historical fiction: the mundane, the everyday, the familiar; themes that resonate with the present; characters who sound like you could have an intelligent conversation with them.

Interesting advice to ponder.

4 thoughts on “Historical fiction – tidbits from Annabel Lyon”

  1. I wonder what Aristotle would say about the present-day situation in Greece: five straight years of recession, a contracting economy, unemployment at a whopping 26%, one in three living below the poverty line, grandparents providing for grandchildren.

    Perhaps the Greeks should listen to the words of Socrates:
    “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature”

  2. These are some really great extracts. Your take on the line that the past is a foreign country is something I totally agree on, and why I think Hilary Mantel is so clever. One of the things that I love about studying history are when I read diaries of individuals who lived long before but express the same concerns that we have today.

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