Whoever came up with the idea of mixing a biography and a novel together in the same book was a genius. Most people like to read a good novel now and then; the ones who don't like to read biographies (presumably because they're "more real"). A biographical novel gives both factions what they want, and probably makes both the biography part and the novel part more interesting.
The best books in this genre don't include spurious content, nor will they dwell so heavily on historical facts that the narrative is lost. It's a balancing act, and most writers err one way or the other, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth reading.
Quite the opposite, in fact. A well-researched biographical novel in some ways makes better reading than a straight biography, because the author is able to provide a sense of place and culture more organically. Certainly, having a biographical novel that has too much history and not enough fiction is the better way to go.
If you're using the book to learn, that is. One of the benefits of the fiction-heavy narratives is that they offer entertainment that isn't wholly escapist or irrelevant. If you're reading a novel based on the life of Robert E. Lee, for instance, you're almost sure to get something worthwhile out of it, even if half the book is just made-up dialogue.
Like our other biography genre categories, this one is meant primarily to help you narrow your search. We have a lot of biographies, and finding the one that best suits your needs can be time-consuming and frustrating. Use the links on the lefthand sidebar to filter by type of person, genre, and time period.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Did you find this review helpful?