Monday, 16 November 2009

Historical fiction

There are certain authors who remain close to your heart long after others have arrived and stolen the genre for their own benefit.

For me, Jean Plaidy is one such writer. I discovered her at school and the library there will bear witness to my love, as each sign out card probably has my name on it at least five times.

Born Eleanor Hibbert in 1906, she started writing in the 30s, but wasn't published (under her maiden name of Burford) until 1941. Her pseudonym of Jean Plaidy was first used in 1945 until her final novel in 1993 - the year of her death. She had six other pseudonyms (including Victoria Holt and Philippa Carr) and over the span of sixty years, she wrote almost 200 books. She died at sea, somewhere between Greece and Port Said, Egypt - which seems almost fitting for someone who spent much of her writing life moving about various historical periods.

The reason I love Jean Plaidy, is because she creates the world of the time she is writing about so fully that you can't help be entranced. You feel the danger Henry VIII's wives are in; you understand the boredom Victoria feels as she is kept sequestered by her mother; the idea that Catherine de Medici could poison those closest to her is very real.

Before I realised that some of my favourite Plaidy's were written in the 80s and early 90s, I was going to say she was dated. That more modern historical authors like Philippa Gregory managed to get deeper beneath the skin of those times. But it's not actually true. Something continues to sparkle about Plaidy's writing and she will forever remain a favourite.

So - I have thirty of her books on my shelves, and I think I'm going to dive back into the worlds she writes about. Now to decide - Tudor, Georgian or Victorian era first?


Phillip McSween said...

Hey, if you like to read, check my novel out:

Elaine said...

I used to stun my history teacher at school with some esoteric fact about kings and queens and battles and wars and successions etc and whenever she asked how I used to know this, I would smile seraphically and say JEAN PLAIDY! I read the lot.

GeraniumCat said...

I was a Jean Plaidy fan at school too. And I knew Victoria Holt was Philippa Carr (I read both then too), but I had no idea she was Jean Plaidy as well - isn't that interesting! I found quite a few in the local secondhand bookshop a couple of weeks ago, and thought I might try them again.

Elaine said...

Another useless bit of trivia - she also wrote historical romances under the name of ellalice tate. This bit of knowledge has come in handy at the odd quiz night!