Sunday, February 26, 2006

Historical fiction

Earlier this week, Semicolon wrote about historical fiction. I’ve tried to reach way back in my brain and remember the first historical fiction book I ever read. But I can’t remember. And if I read it pre-homeschooling years, I probably didn’t even know what historical fiction was.

Nevertheless, I finished A Parcel of Patterns (Jill Patton Walch) this afternoon. It is a work of historical fiction about life among a small group of people living and dying with the Plague in England during 1665-65. Based on the skeleton of fact, Walch adds flesh and blood to the bring realism to this tragedy. To prime myself for the next book on the nightstand, I picked up Jeff Shaara’ The Last Full Measure, the end of the Civil War trilogy to read the preface and credits. As I’ve learned to do, I try to always first read “To the Reader.” I’ve found the few minutes it takes to read these prefaces so helpful and informative. Often these words clear up confusion that will result or give a glimpse of why the author wrote the book.

Jeff Shaara wrote something about this topic of history and historical fiction:

“This is neither a history book nor a biography, but a story told from the points of view of the characters themselves, through their own eyes and their own experiences. In many ways these are ordinary people caught up in extraordinary time. These particular characters stand apart because each, in his own way, rose to a higher level, not just as a war hero, but as a man of character and dignity and honor. To some these characteristics are quaint and out of date. To many others they are qualities that our modern world is sorely missing.”
“It is the job of the historian to tell us what happened, to provide the dates and places and numbers, all the necessary ingredients of textbooks. It is the job of the storyteller to bring out the thoughts, the words, the souls of these fascinating characters, to tell us why they should be remembered and respected and even enjoyed. While this is a novel, it is not false history. The time line, the events, and the language are as accurate as I could make them."
Jeff Shaara, just like David McCullough, understands how to bring history to people.

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