Friday, May 02, 2008

Why Write Historicals?

Watching this programme - which I thought superbly written and acted - made me realise why I love writing historical fiction, and why I have set my recent books in the late C18th. A few years ago I read that as writers we all have favourite themes which we explore in various ways through our books. Often these themes are rooted in our own life experience, but so buried that we aren't even aware of them. Looking back over my own books I saw immediately that this is certainly true for me. My theme is women's autonomy, or lack of it. Many of today's young women have no idea how circumscribed life was in the past. Women exchanged a father's protection for ownership by a husband in marriage arrangements that frequently involved property. For all women marriage conferred status. The stupidest woman, provided she had a husband, could consider herself superior to her far more intelligent sister who, either through accident or design, remained unmarried. And society colluded. Men ran the world (so the theory went) women supervised the home and raised children. Tough luck on women who wanted more, women who had talent and a driving need to express it. Writing or painting as a hobby was acceptable, provided it didn't take up too much time or interfere with wifely duties. Fathers, husbands and brothers might mismanage or gamble away family security, but a woman wanting to earn money from her talent? What was the world coming to?
Miss Austen Regrets... perfectly expressed the choice Jane felt she had been forced to make and what it had cost her.

Jane Jackson.

Devil's Prize Robert Hale. Jan 2008

1 comment:

Jan Jones said...

I agree, Jane. It would be interesting to trace back when the whole "what's mine is mine, what's yours is mine too" ethos started.

It makes for good historical heroines, though. They HAVE to be strong, because they are working against the system from word one.