What's the difference between history and historical fiction?

Hi GirlMoguls, it’s Rose here, with more on our November Book Club pick is Sphinx’s Princess by Esther Freisner which tells the (imagined) story of Nefertiti who was a Queen of Egypt. The author had to imagine a lot of Nefertiti’s life because not is known about her – except whom she was married to, the name of her sister and her father. We do know what she looks like because a painted bust of her was found in Egypt – it’s one of the most famous pieces of Egyptian art.

Nefertiti-bustWhile Esther did have to imagine a lot of Nefertiti’s story, she was able to rely on lots of writing about Ancient Egypt and how people lived there on a day to day life. The Egyptians were the first to invent writing – their writing was a a kind of picture or symbol language known as hieroglyphics, and they used it record lots of things – from shipping records, to weddings, births, poems and great events. So archaeologists – those who study ancient civilizations, are able to learn about how ancient Egyptians ones -and not just how the kings or Pharaohs lived.

A book like Sphinx’s Princess is called historical fiction because it takes real people and real events and tells a story about them. In some cases historical fiction sticks to pretty close to the facts of what happened – because there are a lot of written records. In that case, the author doesn’t have to make up events, but spends time imagining what the characters might have been thinking or saying that led to their actions. In other cases, the author has very little information about the facts of the person or exact events, but may know a lot about what life was like in general.

In Sphinx’s Princess, Esther has to do just that — she doesn’t know for sure the Nefertiti had bad dreams or a statue of Isis in her garden, but she does know that Ancient Egyptians believed dreams had great significance and that they believed that gods could help protect them. She also knows, based on what archaeologists have described, what an average house might look like, and whether or not it had a garden, a flat roof or if there would be statues of gods…(all of which there generally were.)

So now that we understand a bit about historical fiction and how authors can make things up within the context of known facts, we can start reading about Nefertiti and enjoy her story, without worrying too much about if it really happened or not.

Now tell us what your favorite period of history is – the time and place you’d most like to travel too if you were going back in time. Post in the comments below:


Read more about the book club here:

GirlMogul Rose
GirlMogul Rose

Posted by GirlMogul Rose

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