Lots of talk of isolation and books these days. What sorts of titles should be making it big right now? Historical fiction is the mainstay. Anything but the now and the truth, please. For me, the genre that seems most important is beer. But I am hardly a bellwether.
The genre could continue to flourish through troubled times, some commentators think, because it can help to anchor anxious readers with its strong sense of place and often quite traditional storytelling structure. “I think there could be more appetite for more classical storytelling and an emphasis on story and building other worlds, particularly past worlds,” says Emma Paterson, literary agent at Aitken Alexander. “There is a comfort in a beginning, middle and end.” Immersive and expansive historical backgrounds also provide much-needed escape: despite the arguable differences in literary merit between The Mirror and The Light and aforementioned WW2 hit Forever Amber, there are also parallels between these 900+page doorstop novels and their level of detail. Just as Mantel is known for the zeal of her historical research, so Winsor reportedly read 365 books on the Restoration ahead of Forever Amber, during her husband’s five-year wartime absence.