Yesterday I suggested that authors of historical fiction need to clarify somewhere in their work how much liberty they took with the fact of whatever matter they take on. There is, however, a fascinating area of history left in a sort of no-man's land: the questions with no answers.

Did Richard III have anything to do with his nephews' disappearance from the Tower of London? Was Richard the Lionheart a homosexual? Did Lizzie Borden really "take an ax..."

Such questions are the stuff of novels, and I'm always interested in what a particular author does with the question. Sometimes it's an arrogant "I know this is what happened." Sometimes it's a tentative, "It might have been this way." When it's well done, the reader finds satisfaction, even when she disagrees. Philippa Gregory's portrayal of Anne Boleyn is well done, even though I totally disagree with it. I enjoyed the ride, then rejected her overall view.

So todays' question is (ta-da) What historical character or question would you most like to know the truth about?

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Comment by Peg Herring on February 27, 2009 at 11:21pm
Good one! Certainly touched our generation. I worry about a recurrence with another strong, idealistic President.

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