Historical Fiction

Historical fiction might be my favorite genre of literature.  Obviously, everyone knows I really like the Harry Potter series, but aside from Rowling and Tolkien, I haven’t been able to get into much fantasy.  I take that back.  Children’s fantasy I really enjoy, but I tried to read Terry Brooks some years back and couldn’t get far.  I don’t really care for mysteries, aside from Sherlock Holmes stories, and I don’t read much nonfiction, either.  I’ve never read a Western.  The only horror I’ve read is Stephen King and maybe, if you consider her horror, Anne Rice.  I have read a few romances, but they don’t grab me much.  Not into sci-fi, but I do like dystopian novels.

What I like about historical fiction is that I can learn a great deal about history while I am enjoying a story.  My two favorite periods are the Middle Ages and the nineteenth century.  In addition to reading historical fiction set during those times, I also like reading literature written during those times and reflective of that time when it was the present.  For example, I am really enjoying Moby-Dick, which was both written and set in the nineteenth century.  I also loved Jane Austen’s novels.  Of course, Sherlock Holmes is a favorite — I think Arthur Conan Doyle really painted a fascinating picture of Victorian London.

If you were to sift through some of my book reviews, the first thing you’d notice is that I do read a lot of historical fiction, but also that I’m kind of picky about it.  I don’t like it, for instance, when authors throw out the rules of grammar to a noticeable degree (and not for effect), or when they don’t try to make their characters sound “period.”  Philippa Gregory is guilty of both offenses, so as much as I enjoy her plots, I can’t wade through her writing.  I really enjoyed Sena Jeter Naslund’s Ahab’s Wife, and I plan to read her Sherlock Holmes story, Sherlock in Love.

I just found out that a contemporary nonfiction account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex was written by Nathaniel Philbrick (who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize this year): In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.  I think I’m going to have to read that.  I know reading all of these nineteenth century sea novels has been fun, and I’ve heard this is a fascinating book.

What genre of literature do you like?  Why?

[tags]historical fiction, reading preferences[/tags]

2 thoughts on “Historical Fiction

  1. I'm all about historical fiction as well. I just finished The Borgia Bride and I have started Innocent Traitor. Most of the books that I read are historical fiction. Those books usually lead to me reading nonfiction so that I can learn more about the "characters".

  2. I absolutely love historical fiction too!

    Historical fiction books have vastly improved my understanding of cultural struggles in other countries. They make history come alive for the reader.

    Another very important value of historical fiction is that I believe the reader/student retains the information in a much more useful fashion. History books can be so monotonous but take that same history and tell a story and it leaves an imprint on the brain.

    Yep, I bet students that read a lot of historical fiction write great history essays for exams.

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