In my (meager) spare time I’ve turned to historical fiction as something I can read between breaks and as bedtime reading. I’ve read a few historical books in the past, such as Gone With the Wind, The Perilous Gard, Fever 1793…I don’t know if A Tree Grows in Brooklyn can be counted as historical fiction. I especially like books with main characters as heroines, or girls with noble standing, such as those in Carolyn Meyer’s books; she writes about feminine powers such as Catherine d’Medici and Queen Elizabeth I (I read these two books last year, when my interest about them was piqued in Euro), but Carolyn Meyer’s books aren’t extremely well-written, and don’t cast a vivid setting. I guess I’ve only dabbled in historical fiction. I haven’t read the “classics” such as Memoirs of a Geisha, or To Kill a Mockingbird. But I have read two history-capturing and adequately written books. They are
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? and Standing in the Light.
- Dear America books, and
- what my little sister got from the library,
but they weren’t watered down for younger ages or anything. The Dear America books are all in diary-form; the two I read weren’t impeccably good writing, but they captured the setting of the time and the narrator’s voice. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? records a teenage girl’s worries as her brother fights at Khe-Sanh in the Vietnam War. After reading this, I wanted to know about the Vietnam War. The other book related the capture of a girl by the Lenape Indians during the French and Indian War. I was drawn in by the compelling way Indians view nature and life, and I saw the war from their point of view.
What I like about these books is that they have a summary about the time period in the back of the book. I learned about the Walking Purchase – or more aptly, the Extravagant Day’s Walk, when colonists cheated Indians in a “treaty” of acquiring the amount of land they could walk in a day and a half. The colonists cleared the forests and employed fast runners to “walk” the distance, and got sixty miles, instead of thirty. If told to me in a history class, I would have been passably interested, dulled down by the notes and facts we’d have to take along with that information. But since this information was accompanied by a narrative, by a girl with a voice and emotions, I wanted to know more about the events that surrounded her story. If the fundamental purpose of a historical fiction is to pique the reader’s interest for that time period, then these books have succeeded.