• Diana Wallace


Women’s historical novels have been critically dismissed or, perhaps worse, ignored because they have been perceived as nostalgic, escapist, irrelevant or simply as ‘trash’. In fact, as I have shown, the genre encompasses an extraordinarily wide variety of forms — from Georgette Heyer’s romances to Pat Barker’s re-imagining of the trenches of the First World War. Moreover, the shapes taken by the woman’s historical novel across the century have shifted back and forward across the ‘low-brow’/‘high-brow’ binary, from Baroness Orczy’s swashbucklers through to the postmodern histories of Rose Tremain, Jeanette Winterson and A.S. Byatt. In the 1960s and 1970s, the form was strongly associated with women’s popular fiction in ways which probably account for the fact that it is still to a certain extent, in Melvyn Bragg’s phrase, ‘the genre that dare not speak its name’. Yet in the 1990s it became a high-brow genre again, invigorated by a new self-reflexiveness about the constructed nature of history.


Twentieth Century Gender Study Late Twentieth Century Political Prisoner Woman Writer 
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© Diana Wallace 2005

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  • Diana Wallace

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