If you’ve been reading this blog for a little while I’m sure that you’ve picked up on two of my greatest interests – reading and history. So I get the best of both worlds when I read historical fiction. With Christmas only a few days away (and with so many historical fiction books on my wish list) I want to try to explain historical fiction, why I read it and why I love it.
Firstly, what is it? Historical fiction is an entire genre devoted to creating stories about the past. Most historical fiction incorporates real people (often in passing although many books have been written with famous people as the protagonist), real places and real events as the story unfolds and usually leaves the reader with a greater understanding of those who have gone before us.
The first reason I read it is to learn and reading about unfamiliar situations has this unavoidable side-effect. Amongst this learning there is so much variety, you are not constrained to a particular time or country, you can find historical fiction set in virtually any era and country you wish. I recently finished reading a book set in 17th century Europe before picking up the latest book in a series set in 1970s Australia. I learn about the facts (people, places and dates) and the abstracts (the ideas which worked and the ideas which failed) of the past.
The second reason I read it is to relate. In the world of historical fiction I’ve found many people who are like me in the way we think and in what we do. Perhaps I just need to read more widely, but the connection I get to the characters in historical fiction is something I rarely find anywhere else. I meet people who are struggling with being different and standing out in their worlds and it makes me not feel so alone.
I guess I also read historical fiction to find hope for the world. To know that the world has changed through time and that it will continue to change as the years go by. But at the same time historical fiction warns me of the things which still need to change because the world is still far from perfect. Some of my favourite books are the ones which have made me think about my world. Am I making the same mistakes as those in the past? Or have I learnt better?
I love historical fiction because I learn, I connect and I’m challenged by what I read. Some people love it, others hate it but for me it’s something I love and so I’ll keep reading it.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas wherever in the world you are and if you’re looking for me, I’ll probably be curled up with a new (to me at least) historical fiction book.
P.S. Here’s a post by a different blogger on their top 10 historical fiction books. I haven’t read them all but the ones on the list which I’ve read I have really enjoyed. So if you wanted to try something new, have a look.
P.P.S. If you enjoy historical fiction for a different reason, please tell me why in the comments below. Or tell me about your favourite historical fiction book(s) that you think everyone should have read.