19 May, 2011

Historical Fiction

I must admit that my education relating to history is quite lax. The only history classes I took were in junior high school, and high school and at age 14-17, History was B-O-R-I-N-G. I barely stayed awake through my classes!
Had my teacher(s) but turned me onto the joys of historical fiction though, I would have probably had a much keener interest.

I'm actually a little embarrassed of my lack of historical and geographical knowledge, which is something my husband knows and likes to poke fun of now and then.
See... for me, it was hard to think of the events as actually happening to other people. To me it was just a story told in the most boring way possible by the most bored teachers ever.
Granted, when reading historical fiction, you have to be able to discern the line between history and fiction - but for the most part, that's pretty easy.

A few years ago (before I even knew there was going to be a movie and a TV show), I picked up The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory at the library. Couldn't. Put. It. Down. I think I read it in two days. Wow. That opened my eyes to a whole new genre of reading, and I must say - I don't feel like I'm wasting my time when I read historical fiction. I'm learning as I go.

For instance, I never thought about Jews in 16th century papist England before I read the book The Queen's Fool (also by Philippa Gregory). How they ran from Spain and the inquisition, only to hide in England. Just when they thought they were safe, Queen Mary marries Prince Philip from Spain, and many Jews fled to Calais... and how almost everyone lived in fear of Queen Mary I and her awful persecutions and the burnings of heretics due to her beliefs that the laws be reinstated.

Nor did I ever think about how widespread the Ottoman Empire was or how long it lasted, not to mention would I have been able to name a Sultan from the era (Mehmed) or the folklore surrounding Dracula. These interesting tidbits, I picked up from the book The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Reading that in a textbook, I'd have never retained any of that information and though I realize that much of the history in books like this can be highly distorted, it's always fun to read. It has inspired me to take a new look at the information that I've learned in these books, to make sure I know what "really happened".

What have you been reading lately?


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