Historical Fictions

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This chapter offers a survey of historical fictions by women between 1945 and 1974. Despite critical neglect of this genre, Wallace argues that these years are extremely rich in historical fictions ranging from ‘serious’ historical novels by writers like Naomi Mitchison and H.F.M Prescott to ‘popular’ fiction by Jean Plaidy and Norah Lofts. The chapter focuses on five exemplary types of fiction: the biographical historical novel, often centralising royal Tudor women such as Elizabeth I, associated with Margaret Irwin; the regency romance as established by Georgette Heyer; the Marxist-realist novels of Sylvia Townsend Warner; Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea as a Modernist version of the Gothic romance; and Mary Renault’s radical rewriting of classical history to foreground a notion of gender as performative and fluid.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave History of British Women’s Writing
Subtitle of host publication 1945-1975
EditorsClare Hanson, Susan Watkins
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-47736-1
ISBN (Print)978-1137477354
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave History of Women's Writing


  • Twentieth-century literature
  • women's writing
  • historical fiction
  • historical novel
  • biographical historical novel
  • the regency romance
  • Marxist-realist novels
  • Modernist version of the Gothic romance
  • radical rewriting of classical history


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