History – the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.
There’s no doubt that contemporary and fantasy are my go-to book. I never want to limit myself to one particular genre so I’ll read anything and everything that interests me. I’ve not read many historic fiction books but the ones I have read have all been hits. As always, I have to be in the right mood to read historical fiction, but every time I’ve immersed myself in that genre I’ve always enjoyed it. So here are the reasons I should take the time to read more historical fiction titles.
Fun fact, I am a history graduate. Over the three years I studied history I explored all kinds of different historic periods and events. We are taught the facts, we read the accounts and then we have to deconstruct that evidence and analyse it until there’s nothing left. We had to look at every side of the coin, meaning we had to remain impartial and use the evidence we collected to form our own conclusion. It was easy to shut off the emotional components of the events.
However, historical fiction allows us to connect with the emotion in history. Why? Because we explore the humanity in these books. Take a setting like the World Wars and I could spew a ton of facts about them. However, take a character and place them in such a horrifying setting and follow their journey from beginning to end and you are faced with the harsh reality of War. You get to see them struggle through all the horrors and hardships but you also get to see their resilience. You get to know the character and connect with them and that brings out the emotional component that’s often overlooked when looking at history.
Historical fiction also has that freedom to explore topics that are often overlooked in history. They can take a topic and bring it to the forefront of a discussion. History is a broad topic and we are constantly discovering new evidence and learning about new events. Books provide and opportunity to shine a light on these overlooked historic events. For example, Salt to the Sea explores the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This was one of the biggest maritime tragedies ever recorded yet so little is mentioned about it. Not once did I hear about this events when I was learning about World War II. This book highlights the scope of the tragedy with a total of over 9000 fatalities with half of that number made up of innocent children. It’s a harrowing tragedy and one that deserves to have a spotlight. There’s always a learning curve that comes with historical fiction and that’s possibly the aspect that draws me in to the genre most.
There are no limits to historical fiction. You can take any event in time and have the liberty to explore those events from a wide range of perspectives. Within this you can also take the time to tackle the big “what ifs.” There’s something terrifying and fascinating about reading an alternate historical timeline whilst know that that could have been our reality. The variety of events and perspectives also gives us a chance to delve into that psychological component of history. No character is the same and with that we get to explore just how morally ambiguous the choices and actions of these characters are. It highlights the grey areas of history. Instead of drawing battle lines, we get an insight into the mentality of characters on all sides of the spectrum and how their circumstances shaped their paths in history.
Historical Fiction Recommendations
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Highlights the overlooked tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Multiple POV. Fast Paced.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death. World War II setting. Highlights the horrors of war.
All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry
Implied colonial American setting. Second prose narrative. Highlights the loneliness of being ostracized from a community. A journey to find ones voice.
Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Set during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Strong female friendships. Chinese-American protagonist.
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Alternate historical narrative. Hitler wins the war. Exploration of identity.
Those are the reasons I need to read more historical fiction.
Why do you read historical fiction?
What are your historical fiction recommendations?