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Hysterical for the Historical

Hysterical for the Historical

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There are many times I've thought about starting a column on reading historical fiction. Basically, if there's a heaving bosom and an impending beheading — I'm hooked.

I'm not kidding when I say that I've probably read about fifteen different retellings of the age-old Henry VIII—Anne Boleyn—Catherine of Arragon triangle. I literally never get sick of it. I've got every book that Jean Plaidy ever wrote (oh yes, I'm more about books than shoes even), all of Philippa Gregory's outstanding novels, the entire collection of Anya Seton, and countless other books of burnings, beheadings, and reformations.

One of my favorite writers of just plain history is Alison Weir — there is a joke in my family about everybody buying her books for me again and again — she makes it come alive. So when she came out with her first book of fiction last year, Innocent Traitor, a fictional rendering of the Lady Jane Grey story — I devoured the galley. She's got a new book of fiction now, all about Elizabeth the First's rocky road to monarchy — and yes, I've read it, too. It's marvelous. She makes one really great supposition — a wonderful historical guess — that explains so much about a woman I really wish I had known. We're talking to her today about writing Tudor history — and rewriting it.

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