Friday, April 29, 2011

In Which I Confess Some Issues...

I like historical fiction the same way I like coffee: in theory. As an idea, both are fantastic. Coffee brings to mind keys clacking on a keyboard, books being written, people coming together and having conversations. However, it tastes like bitter. Historical fiction brings to mind history only interesting and full of people whose lives I actually want to know about. In reality, however, I frequently end up lagging through the book, either giving up or having to force myself to keep reading.

The problem is not that these books aren't good. Oftentimes they're written incredibly well, with interesting characters. The problem is the fact that I get bored easily. The plots of historical fiction are often slow-moving, with language that makes for a slower read than I generally like. It's sometimes a struggle for me to stay interested in a novel that takes me a week or longer to get through.

With most books (contemporary, memoirs, science fiction, dystopian, etc...) it takes anywhere from one to forty pages for the story to grab me. With historical it's not unusual for me to keep pushing through the 100 page mark and still -- despite me knowing it's a good book with great characters and plot and I should be interested by now! -- not really be into the story.


So, all of you fans of historical fiction -- enlighten me, please. What is the draw? And even more than that can you please recommend some great books for me? Also: what genre do you have problems with, despite really wanting to like it?


  1. I majored in history in college, and even I have trouble with many historical fiction books. What I've found works for me is determining what particular time period or era interests me and starting there. Even fans of historical fiction have a preferred era to read about (for me it's the 20s and 30s), you know? That being said, I don't read a ton of historical fiction.

    I have a hard time with most science fiction. I really want to like it, and I recognize that there's a lot of great sci-fi out there, but it's difficult for me to actually pick up a sci-fi title and even harder to stick with it.

    I wish I had some titles to recommend to you, but I don't.

  2. I only like SOME historical fiction, and I love history. As a teen, I loved books like Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi (American Revolution), The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Puritans), and Moccasin Trail (Wild West) and Mara: Daughter of the Nile (Ancient Egypt) by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. But I liked all those books more for the characters themselves than for the specific time they were set in, and I guess that's the point (for me, at least). Having the story in another time period sets up plot points that couldn't otherwise exist, like slavery or war or arranged marriage, and sure it explores the mindsets of the day and age and whatnot, but otherwise it's not about the time period. It's about the characters and how they relate to each other.

    That should be true for any good book.

  3. I used to gobble up historical fiction in college. I love Phillippa Gregory's Boleyn series. They made a film of the first book The Other Boleyn Girl.

    But I just read a review of an Eve Edwards books today which sounds like the YA Philippa Gregory.

    My problem is Sci-fi - which my husband likes and is always recommending but I just find it blah.

  4. Clementine Bojangles
    Yeah, maybe it's that I haven't found a historical period I just love reading about. Certain people/events really interest me and maybe if I found a book specifically focused on, say, the invention of the airplane or something I'm seriously interested in, I'd be more inclined to really enjoy it.

    I agree; maybe part of my problem is I just don't connect with the characters of historical fiction the way I do other characters. That said, I'll have to look up some of the titles you mention. When I *do* end up loving a historical fic book it's usually a MG one, strangely enough.

    Ah, I'll have to look up the Boleyn books as that's one part of history I have read a bit about and am interested in. And I'll look up Eve Edwards as well.

    AS FAR AS SCI-FI, Clemmy and Alexa -
    I love sci-fi movies and television and am interested in reading more but a lot of it is just too hardcore for me. I think it's getting to be a big thing in YA (which I adore) and I keep waiting for a sci-fi book to be published that just totally blows me away but it hasn't happened yet. The one that's come closest (and that's published already) is Beth Revis' Across the Universe -- it didn't totally blow me away but I love the society and problems set up and have a really good feeing about the trilogy as a whole. And although Wither is technically dystopian, I love the sci-fi elements present and think DeStefano pulled them off really well.