Historical fiction

Here, in this essay by Sam Jordison, is a clear defense of a genre that needs no defense — historical fiction has always been with us, since Homer, and continues to have very wide readership. Even though some of it is no more that what Hilary Mantel described as "chick-lit with wimples."

What interested me most was this other quote from Hilary Mantel, on the special challenge for serious exploration of the past:
"The grumbling is aimed at literary fiction set in the past,
which is accused of being, by its nature, escapist. It's as if the past
is some feathered sanctuary, a nest muffled from contention and the
noise of debate, its events suffused by a pink, romantic glow. But this
is not how, in practice, modern novelists see their subject matter. If
anything, the opposite is true. A relation of past events brings you up
against events and mentalities that, should you choose to describe them,
would bring you to the borders of what your readers could bear. The
danger you have to negotiate is not the dimpled coyness of the past – it
is its obscenity."
In the Paris Commune, the most transgressive "obscenity" is not sexual, but the subversiveness of the exalted revolutionary ideals. And the terrible bloodiness of the affair, especially in that final week of May 1871, and the disturbing parallels to cruel events today. This all may surpass the borders of what readers can accept. I shall try to take my readers into that disturbing, exhilarating world, though I know many may be reluctant to go there.
Paris sous le drapeau rouge. Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. De Vieux papiers (blog)

Historical fiction can speak very clearly to the present and the past | Books | theguardian.com