Paul Ashton ed. – If It’s Not True It Should Be

Halstead Press, Australia, 2024
Cover design Kerry Klinner

Approaches to the telling and imagining of history in fiction works are broached in this highly accessible slim volume of essays.

Canberra authors Stephanie Owen Reeder and Peter Stanley are included in the collection, along with Claire Hallifax, Stephanie Lee-Ling Ho, Alison Lloyd, Sarah Luke, Sophie Masson, Felicity Pulman, Philippa Werry and Paul Ashton with Pauline O’Loughlin.

There are 10 essays covering many aspects of historical fiction, a genre apt to raise the ire of critics who claim history is about facts not speculation. However, the market defies them as historical fiction continues to grow in popularity.

One of the many reasons for writing in this field is that the recording of history has been notoriously constrained by gender and class, thus leaving many untold stories that could give a different perspective on our past – and hence inform our present. The place of women and girls is just one such lack.

Writers of historical fiction research and delve into things they think it matters to know, specifically divergent views of well-known events. Amongst other benefits to readers of all ages is the reminder that point of view is important in all things.

Surely this is something that should make the list of essential knowledge, the capacity to read and interpret information rather than merely accept its veracity.

The book is highly recommended for its readability, varied essay topics and insightful content by the contributors, esteemed and successful writers in the field of historical fiction. Their enthusiasm for the lure of the story and the hunt for fascinating vestiges of our history is infectious.

Thank you to Stephanie Owen Reeder for my copy.