This month’s post is inspired by last week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic which asked for ‘reasons to love x’, with x being a favourite book, character, author etc. Although I didn’t participate, I started thinking about the reasons I love reading historical fiction…and I have listed six of them below. I briefly mentioned some of these things in my very first Historical Musings post last year (Do you read historical fiction?) but I have expanded on them and added to them here.
1. It provides the perfect opportunity to learn about other times and places.
I haven’t formally studied history since I left school, but I’m a firm believer in voluntary, lifelong learning – and what could be more enjoyable than learning through fiction? When I read a good historical fiction novel, I am left with the feeling that not only have I been entertained by a great story, I’ve also learned something new. If a subject particularly interests me, I sometimes look for a non-fiction book so that I can add to my knowledge with some factual information, but in most cases my initial introduction to a new historical period or historical figure has been through fiction.
Which leads me on to my second reason…
2. I find it much easier to retain facts gained through reading fiction rather than non-fiction.
For some reason, no matter how hard I try and no matter how fascinating the subject, I always seem to struggle to stay interested when I’m reading non-fiction. By the time I reach the end of the book I find I’ve forgotten a lot of the information I’ve just read. I am much more likely to remember names, dates and facts if they are given to me in the form of historical fiction.
3. It’s a great way of escaping from modern life for a while.
Although I do sometimes like to read contemporary fiction, I am usually much happier reading books set in the past (both classics and historical fiction). I live in 2016, so I like my reading to take me somewhere different! Reading historical fiction can be a thoroughly immersive experience. I love books where the author has clearly gone to a lot of effort to create a complete and believable historical world – and yet the very best authors make it seem so effortless! I know it’s a cliché, but I really do like to feel as though I’ve stepped into a time machine and been transported back in time.
4. Understanding the past can help us to understand the present – and maybe even the future.
Just because a novel is set in the past doesn’t mean it can’t incorporate themes which are universal and timeless. When I read Robert Harris’s Cicero trilogy recently, I was struck by the subtle parallels he drew between modern politics and the politics of the Roman Republic, while novels such as Harvest by Jim Crace and Gutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie show the effects of progress and the conflict between new technology and traditional methods, things which are still relevant today.
5. There’s so much variety!
Historical mysteries, historical romances, historical adventure novels, quick and light reads, long and challenging reads, books set in Ancient Greece, books set at the Tudor court…the term ‘historical fiction’ encompasses such a wide range of different types of book that it’s always possible to find something to suit your mood.
6. I love to see how different authors portray the past and how they tackle some of history’s greatest mysteries and controversies.
Some people may wonder why I enjoy reading about the same topics over and over again. Well, no two books are exactly the same and every author has a different opinion and a different way of interpreting the same historical people and events. Only by reading as much as possible can you begin to put together a balanced picture and to feel sufficiently well informed to start forming your own views.
Now it’s your turn! If you also enjoy reading historical fiction, can you think of any more reasons to add to the six I’ve listed above?