What Books Can Teach Us

Someone asked at my Glasgow talk what relevance historical fiction has to today’s world. Then yesterday happened. I live in London, I had friends and relatives in London.

The thing is – this has been happening in this city for well over 400 years. Different sets of people, different outcomes, but still the same events.

Other cities, and other people face almost impossible times too, and have done and met them with resilience and grace and courage, and will continue to do so.

Stories may seem silly to us at this time. But I’d argue we need stories more than ever at difficult times. Not just as an escape, although they can be vital for that. But because we read these stories set long ago, or in the future, or in a different world, or about someone totally different from us, and yet we see ourselves reflected. They will have the same concerns and worries as us, as well as the same joys and delights. They will talk and think and feel about the same things we do. And perhaps they can react in a way we can’t allow ourselves to. If we dare not cry, they will cry for us.

Fact is all very interesting, but we need fiction to make us feel. And once we can see how they, someone else, anyone else gets through, we can learn from them, and take their lessons and apply to our lives.

This is history right now. People will write about this in the future. They will set books in our era, and the readers of the futures – if the writers get it right – will look at us and see themselves, and know they can get through their lives too.

The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad


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