Way back in the day, when I was still a little Annemieke, I would read a lot of historical children books. A lot of those touched on the second world war like Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw. Back then it was a very common topic and genre for my age, and a topic that was focused on a lot in history in primary and high school.
As I got older however I completely turned away from historical fiction. I lost interest in reading for a while. That was one reason. I also discovered fantasy. I found that genre that I could completely dive into. But is that the reason why I have pushed historical fiction away and why it has become a genre out of my comfort zone?
No, I don’t think so.
I Question My Intelligence
Now this might seem like a weird header to you all but I do sometimes question my own intelligence when I read. It is one of the reasons why Sci-fi can be a hard read, and specifically hard sci-fi. The technical bits can be harder to grasp for me as science was not my subject in high school. And that was an understatement.
History however was one of my subjects (along with English, surprise). I used to be pretty good at history, understanding why people did things back in those days. That was my strength more than remembering dates. But as I read historical fiction now, and especially when it comes to those written by American authors, I realize how much of certain periods I’ve already forgotten about or that I might not have learned enough about. Even when it sometimes comes down to the history of my own country, I find it hard to remember things.
And then I feel stupid.
There I said it. Historical fiction often makes me feel stupid.
Which is stupid because by reading historical fiction I can actually learn things. I cannot know all the history. I did not continue on after high school with anything history related so it only makes sense that I would not keep on remembering things. Our brains do tend to need repetition to retain things.
Not Books to Hide From the Real World
Another reason why I am less inclined to pick up historical fiction is how confronting it can be. I always learned that we can learn from our own history and mistakes. I always believed that as I was younger. And yet here we are. We don’t seem to have learned that much at all. Sure we are more technological advanced. But when it comes to prejudice, racism, aggression, ethics and so on. Yeah not that much. We have a long way to go but we seem to have forgotten about our history. Where we already have made these mistakes.
Added on to that is that historical fiction often are emotional reads. They punch you in the feels. Every bloody time. And I know that fantasy can do the same. But historical fiction, that is so much closer to home.
And so those kind of books cannot make me hide from the real world now that I have lost my idealism that we have not often learned from our mistakes in the past as a society. And I need to hide from the real world. Books are my portal into another world.
Historical (Fantasy) Fiction I Have Enjoyed
Having said that, there have been books that I have enjoyed (3 stars and up) that are historical fiction to a point. Some are set a decade ago, others have elements of fantasy.
Winter in Wartime / The Book Thief / The Museum of Extraordinary Things / The Night Circus / The Golem and the Djinni / The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue / Pride and Prejudice / Perfume: the Story of a Murderer / The Blazing Star / Stalking Jack the Ripper / The Girl from Everywhere duology / The Infernal Devices / The Ring of Solomon / Sherlock Holmes