Inaccuracies in historical fiction – how much does it matter?

A Nevill Feast

This is a question that’s currently being discussed by members of a Facebook group – the History Police. We’re not aiming to come up with any kind of manifesto – the views and tolerance levels of the members being quite healthily varied – but for me it’s boiling down to one essential point: the gap in any given work between claims of accuracy and actual accuracy.

I decided to explore this issue using Sandra Worth’s Lady of the Roses. “Painstaking historical research,” the cover says.  “… dedication to authenticity” and “for readers who like the history in historical fiction to be accurate.” And, from the author herself: “I strive for as much accuracy as I can”(via facebook).

So far, in 152 pages of a nearly 400 page work, I’ve found 50 glaring inaccuracies. From not getting a character’s title right to shifting entire events in time to cliched, one-dimensional characters…

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