2015 Another Year of Reading

a year of reading40 books in 2015 – not as many as 2014, but still a decent number.

As with 2014, some were superb, others I did not finish. Most were historical fiction; a few were non-fiction. I read several in my capacity as book reviewer for the Historical Novel Society and the Washington Independent Review of Books, and a few for feature articles in HNS.

I suspect I’m a ‘hard marker’. Here’s the rating system I used last year: LR = light, enjoyable read; GR = good, several caveats; ER = excellent, few caveats; OR = outstanding; DNF = did not finish; NMT = not my type.

The following are from January 2015 to May. I’ve included links to blog posts and reviews where appropriate. I’ll share the balance in a few days.

Jan Penelope Fitzgerald Hermione Lee DNF Biography – far too much detail
Firebird Susanna Kearsley GR Loved The Winter Sea, but I think Kearsley needs to try a new theme
Sisters of Heart and Snow Margaret Dilloway GR HNS feature; the tale of a female samurai; too much present day not enough history
Writing Historical Fiction Marina Oliver GR Much of the advice is very basic
Historical Fiction Writing Myfanwy Cook GR Lots of good advice, research ideas and useful reference sites
Feb The Glory of Life Michael Kumpfmuller GR WIRO book review; last years of Franz Kafka; rich in detail, light on drama
The Heroes Welcome Louisa Young ER HNS Review; A novel about the effects of WWI; highly recommended
Mar The Foundling’s War Michel Deon GR A look at WWII France; present tense and omniscient narrator detract from story
Hell and Good Company Richard Rhodes ER HNS review; non-fiction on Spanish Civil War
All the Light We Cannot See – Pulitzer prize 2015 Anthony Doerr OR A five star IMHO; could not put this WWII novel down
The Wild Girl Kate Forsyth GR A story about the brothers Grimm; pacing slow in parts
Apr The Sandcastle Girls Chris Bojalian GR Book club; blending of past and present did not work for me
The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent Susan Elia MacNeal LR Set during WWII; light mystery
Writing Historical Fiction Katharine McMahon ER A short, straight forward read with some excellent advice
The Historical Novel – post 1 and post 2 Jerome de Groot ER Have read this twice; Traces the roots and impact of historical fiction
Write Away Elizabeth George ER A second read of this book on the craft of writing
The Dinner Herman Koch NMT Book club; not one sympathetic character
The Stranger Harlan Corben LR Audiobook – tense mystery
May Cairo Olen Steinhauer LR Complicated mystery set in Cairo
Pompeii Robert Harris OR Superb story of Pompeii’s destruction
The First Five Pages (a second reading) Noah Lukeman ER Great practical advice for writers
Scent of Triumph Jan Moran NMT Book review; far too melodramatic
The Secret Life of Violet Grant Beatriz Williams ER Great voice; strong blend of present day and past
Personal Lee Child LR Audiobook; good mystery for a long drive

Two outstanding reads, seven excellent ones.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

10 Thoughts on the Purpose of Historical Fiction

A second reading of Jerome de Groot’s The Historical Novel offers insights on the purposes of historical fiction beyond entertainment.

Quotation Marks“History itself [and therefore historical fiction] possesses interest for us more as the unfolding of certain moral and mental developments than as the mere enumeration of facts.”

Historical fiction offers an “analysis of recognizable human character within a specific set of circumstances,” such that we can “re-experience the social and human motives which led men [and women] to think, feel and act as they did in historical reality.”

Historical fiction develops an “awareness that the events of history have an impact on the contemporary.”

Historical fiction gives “the reader insight into the mind of a member of a past society” and therefore induces empathy and a “live connection between then and now.”

The historical novel allows us “to contemplate social change.” We see change in hindsight, “which then allows the individual to reflect upon their contemporary circumstance.” Similarly, historical fiction can trace the “path of religious and political change.”

The historical novel educates readers about the past. It might even be used “by teachers to supplement their classes.” This “educational element of historical fiction means that the reader approaches wishing to learn more about something unknown.”

“One of the major elements of the historical novel has been as an expression of national character and self-definition.” It allows us to explore the ways “nations, and therefore national identity, are constructed.”

Historical fiction “offered women readers the imaginative space to create different, more inclusive versions of history.” Historical fiction can “report from places made marginal [by history] and present a dissident or dissenting account of the past.”

Historical fiction allows us to “understand the extremes of human behaviour.” The novel can explore “various ways of facing, understanding and living with the horrific events in the past.”

Historical fiction helps us retain the past.

Noble purposes indeed. Something to think about the next time you enjoy historical fiction.

NOTE: some of these quotes were themselves quoted by de Groot while others are de Groot’s words.

FOR MORE INSIGHTS ON HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.

Mary can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.