Friday, March 27, 2009

Weekly Geeks - historical fiction.

I know that I'm a little late with the Weekly Geeks' post but better late than never. Do you have a favorite book that really pulled you back in time, or perhaps gave you a special interest in that period? Include a link to a review of it on another book blog if you can find one (doesn't have to be a Weekly Geek participant).

Here’s the thing: I love historical fiction, but I do not read nearly as much of it as I probably should. Reasons for that are many. However, the main one is I love other genres just as much and I want to share my time equally with all of them. Here’s another thing: every time I do read historical fiction, I acquire a special interest in the period the book I’m reading is about or set in. That’s where my belief stems from that no matter how entertaining a book is, it can always be treated as a source of new knowledge. Every time I read anything set in a certain period of time or about a historical figure, I simultaneously check the facts on the Internet (oh, the blessings of the modern age!).
The first historical fiction book had tremendous impact on me in a sense that I was instantly pulled back into that time and that I wanted to know more. So much more that I actually wrote my Master’s thesis on it. The book was Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and the period in question was the British Empire’s colonization of Nigeria. I had known very little about that period before I read the book. My knowledge had been very general and quite superficial really. Things Fall Apart made me acquainted with the Igbo tribe, their customs, their religion and beliefs. My ignorance of that period of time started glaring at me from the pages of this book until colonization period became my obsession. I probably could write another hundred pages on this book alone but I will stop here and say only that it is one of those books that absolutely have to be read, no question about it.

The next book didn’t come along until years later. I picked it up at library exclusively because of the size. I am a freak when it comes to the size of books, the more chunky the better. Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George was tremendously thick and I swear it was inviting me to open it, start reading and get lost in it (talk about weird). And so I did. And I absolutely loved it. Ms. George is a master at writing historical fiction and all of her books I read after the first one were just as good, but as it always goes with the firsts, Mary, Queen of Scotland and the Isles holds a special place in my heart. Mary Stuart was a truly tragic figure and I think is still one of the least understood rulers. I fell in love with her and experienced every injustice done to her and every madness she put herself through as if they were my own. Now, that is a mark of a truly great writer who creates a book that has the capability to pierce right through a reader’s heart.