Historical Novel 3

Kimberly Pleasance

Historical Novel: A novel that is set in history in an attempt to convey the correct language, events, customs, and mannerisms of the time. The novel must be written a substantial amount of time later in order to be considered historical. The work may contain a mixture of fictional and historical characters and focus on many or one historical event (Britannica). “More often it attempts to portray a broader view of a past society in which great events are reflected by their impact on the private lives of fictional individuals” (Britannica).

Example: Michael Ondaatje’s In The Skin of a Lion” is a historical novel. The book was first published in 1987 and is based on the early 1900s. The book consistently refers to historical events set in Toronto, Canada. It contains specific details of the building of structures such as the Bloor street viaduct, “It will link the east end with the centre of the city. It will carry traffic, water, and electricity across the Don Valley. It will carry trains that have not even been invented yet” (26). The novel remains dedicated to describing past historical events and includes facts throughout the book such as “… 45,000 cubic yards of earth are excavated” (26). While maintaining correct information and descriptions of past events the novel allows fictional characters to be impacted by these events. The main character is employed as a digger in the construction of the tunnel under Lake Ontario to be used for the R.C. Harris water treatment plant. It is obvious the construction of this real project has an effect on the fictional character, “exhaustion overpowers Patrick and the other tunnellers within twenty minutes, the arms aching, the chest dry.” (105).

Works Cited

“Historical Novel.” Encyclopædia Britannica eb.com.  Web. 29 Jan 2011.

Ondaatje, Michael. In The Skin Of A Lion. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987. Print.


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