Hear the real voices

September 8, 2006

Ruth Scurr (Opinion, September 1) should acknowledge that the historical novel frequently masquerades as a form of "history by association", implicitly aligning itself to historical fact in a conscious, if unacknowledged, combination of the factual and fictional. Rather than bringing us closer to history, the fragile distinction between fact and fiction is blurred further by the historical novel in its hybridised "pick-'n'-mix" approach to historical fact.

The historical novel enjoys the dangerous ability to dominate, compromise or in many cases exclude the ordinary voices of historical witness.

In her quest to popularise history, Scurr should note that the articulation of voices through oral or "people's" histories offers a far more accessible and illuminating route into the past than competing, fictional narratives could ever hope to craft.

Katy Shaw

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