Historical Fiction Genre Discussion

For November 2015, we will be reading a Historical Fiction novel.
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Historical Fiction Genre Discussion

Post by kio » 02 Nov 2015, 16:28

Historical fiction is defined as "a genre of literature comprising narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages." Most librarians consider it to be 50 years in the past, but we won't get too technical, if it's around past events or has a historical feel, it probably works.

Here are the questions I thought we could discuss, but feel free to add some of your own to the discussion: What was the name of the book you read? How many stars would you give it and why? What genres (ex. Historical and Fantasy) would you say it fits? How does it fit in those genres? What are some characteristics that you see in the book that seem unique to the genre? Would you recommend the book?

There are no right or wrong answers. The goal here is to see what makes these genres these genres, what might be some of the appeal factors with relation to the books we've picked, and, overall, getting to know the genre more in-depth in a fun way.
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Post by gali » 02 Nov 2015, 22:45

I have read a few books in this genre, but will name just the two last ones. Both books are highly recommended.

"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Klinewhich - a Historical fiction and a great book. This is the story of two orphans and their developing relationship: 17-yr-old Molly and 91-yr-old Vivian. The story involves a real period in American history, between 1854 and 1929, in which homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent by trains to the Midwest for adoption and most ended out as laborers. I liked the combination of fiction and historical details and loved the book. 4 stars!

Another book is "For the Love of Suzanne" (I posted a review about it here) also has some historical details in it. It focuses on the plight of Native Americans, namely the Chiricahua Apache, during the late 1800s. It is a mix of genres (western time-traveler romance with a paranormal twist and some history background). I loved this one as well and rated it 4 stars!
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Post by DennisK » 03 Nov 2015, 00:10

gali wrote:I have read a few books in this genre, but will name just the two last ones. Both books are highly recommended.

"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Klinewhich - a Historical fiction and a great book. This is the story of two orphans and their developing relationship: 17-yr-old Molly and 91-yr-old Vivian. The story involves a real period in American history, between 1854 and 1929, in which homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent by trains to the Midwest for adoption and most ended out as laborers. I liked the combination of fiction and historical details and loved the book. 4 stars!
Thanks for mentioning this part of our history, gali – I've heard about this practice in a song, or perhaps from a story teller – can't remember as it was such a long time ago. I'm adding it to my read list.
,

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Post by gali » 03 Nov 2015, 00:13

DennisK wrote:
gali wrote:I have read a few books in this genre, but will name just the two last ones. Both books are highly recommended.

"Orphan Train" by Christina Baker Klinewhich - a Historical fiction and a great book. This is the story of two orphans and their developing relationship: 17-yr-old Molly and 91-yr-old Vivian. The story involves a real period in American history, between 1854 and 1929, in which homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent by trains to the Midwest for adoption and most ended out as laborers. I liked the combination of fiction and historical details and loved the book. 4 stars!
Thanks for mentioning this part of our history, gali – I've heard about this practice in a song, or perhaps from a story teller – can't remember as it was such a long time ago. I'm adding it to my read list.
,
You are most welcome and enjoy! I nominated this book for the March Book of the Month. :)
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Topcho » 03 Nov 2015, 10:07

I decided on my book for this challenge yesterday. It ended up being something completely different of what I talked in the previous topic during the last days of October. I hope it fits the theme. I picked The Dark Knight by Kinley MacGregor. Well... it is a romance novel and I don't expect it to be extremely accurate. But November will be a hard month with the Nanowrimo going on and studying - and for all the years in university, I figured out that I can't simply stop reading books because Ihave other word to do :D This is why I picked a historical romance of this type. Kinley Macgregor's novels are very light and fast to read, judging from the rest of the series so far.
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Post by DennisK » 03 Nov 2015, 17:26

Samoa-A Historical Novel by J. Robert Shaffer
Near where I live, there use to be an old ,what I believe to be, a horse drawn hay rake. Along the axial connecting the two large iron wheels was a string of steel thongs that could easily pierce the human body. Perched slightly forward of them was a single seat. Nothing protective existed between the thongs and the seat. From the axial, was a boom that would have been connected to the horse's harness. Sitting on this machine, I tried to get some sense of what it was like to be a farmer during the times that it was used. Horses are not like a motor – they have their own brains, and like all living creatures, we have our good days and our bad. Sitting there on my perch, I could do better than just imagine what it would be like - I could feel it. That is what I look for in a well written historical novel. I want to experience how it felt to live during the time of its story. History, to me, is more than just dates. It is even more than some concept of cause and effect. It should be a human experience. I want to feel it in my gut, and in doing so, it is like lengthening my life by extending it back into time. Of course, I haven't read an author who could transport me, body and soul, back in time, but if I can gain some tidbit of what it was like – something to which I can relate; then the book will be well worth the read. This was my expectation when I loaded this book into my Nook.
The first thing I would like to point out is that Shaffer added to his book a chapter by chapter account of what, and who was real, and what was fiction. Bookmarking this section made it easy to refer back to it while reading the story. I can't compliment him enough for taking the time to do that. Shaffer uses a style that is similar to a play where the actor leaves the character to talk to the audience – he will leave the narrative by the use of italicized font. One would think this my be confusing, but it is done in such a way that it flows with the narrative without problems.
I think the book's first part is its best. Its story starts about 3000 years ago. After migrations from New Guinea, and subsequently from the Fiji Islands, our islanders have been living on an island for many generations. There is a persistent drought and the island is no longer able to support its population. This is how the story begins. What can a people do when on an island that can no longer support its population? Do they succumb to disease and famine - have a war to deplete the population, or as our islanders do, leave? Guided by legends passed from generation to generation, it is decided to build a boat to sail some of its population to another island. The legends told them to always sail toward the rising sun, and during the night, use the stars we currently call Orion's belt. That, and identifying and observing the path of migrating birds, they were able to populate the islands of Samoa and eventually all of Polynesia. This was done more than a thousand years before 'civilized' man dared to venture beyond the sight of land.
I have the thought that the more steps you can make into the past, the further into the future you can see. While reading this adventure, I marveled at how the people of that starving island sacrificed their precious resources to build and equip that boat - and say goodbye to those who would leave forever. Today, there are plans to send people to Mars, and I can't help but see similarities between our two points in time: They were on an island surrounded by a vast, and an, apparently, unending ocean. Today, we are on an island-planet surrounded by a vast, and for all practical purposes, unending space. We are at the beginning of an exploration that will try our resources, and our courage – just as it must have been for them.
The story progresses to a time when Europe's missionaries arrived to “de-heathenize” the natives – influenza being the catalyst. The story continues through German, English and U.S. colonization efforts – all of which is colored in greed, prejudice and brutality. There were some favorable characters – a whole chapter was given to Robert Louis Stevenson,s life in Samoa. I found nothing enlightening, nor inspiring in this book's last half. Instead of being a story about the Samoan people, much of the story was about European people in Samoa. For me, this was a disappointment. I view it as a missed opportunity as Polynesian people are unique because they learned to survive on small specks of land surrounded by a vast ocean. Today, we live on a small speck of dust surrounded by a vast universe, and we are now learning its limitation. All of our recorded history are of a people who's civilizations grew within large continents. To expand, all we had to do was start walking! Never-the-less, the European influence on Polynesia was undeniably overpowering, and I can understand why Shaffer wrote it as such.
In that this novel covers such a long period of time, it is an epic story – much like James Michener's stories. The narrative was a bit choppy – as though it had undergone considerable editing to bring its size down to a readable 600-plus pages. I did gain a new perspective, but it is not a book that I would reread. The book wasn’t so much riveting as it was enlightening – at least the first half of the book. I would grade it 2 out of 4.

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Post by gali » 03 Nov 2015, 22:55

DennisK wrote:Samoa-A Historical Novel by J. Robert Shaffer
Near where I live, there use to be an old ,what I believe to be, a horse drawn hay rake. Along the axial connecting the two large iron wheels was a string of steel thongs that could easily pierce the human body. Perched slightly forward of them was a single seat. Nothing protective existed between the thongs and the seat. From the axial, was a boom that would have been connected to the horse's harness. Sitting on this machine, I tried to get some sense of what it was like to be a farmer during the times that it was used. Horses are not like a motor – they have their own brains, and like all living creatures, we have our good days and our bad. Sitting there on my perch, I could do better than just imagine what it would be like - I could feel it. That is what I look for in a well written historical novel. I want to experience how it felt to live during the time of its story. History, to me, is more than just dates. It is even more than some concept of cause and effect. It should be a human experience. I want to feel it in my gut, and in doing so, it is like lengthening my life by extending it back into time. Of course, I haven't read an author who could transport me, body and soul, back in time, but if I can gain some tidbit of what it was like – something to which I can relate; then the book will be well worth the read. This was my expectation when I loaded this book into my Nook.
The first thing I would like to point out is that Shaffer added to his book a chapter by chapter account of what, and who was real, and what was fiction. Bookmarking this section made it easy to refer back to it while reading the story. I can't compliment him enough for taking the time to do that. Shaffer uses a style that is similar to a play where the actor leaves the character to talk to the audience – he will leave the narrative by the use of italicized font. One would think this my be confusing, but it is done in such a way that it flows with the narrative without problems.
I think the book's first part is its best. Its story starts about 3000 years ago. After migrations from New Guinea, and subsequently from the Fiji Islands, our islanders have been living on an island for many generations. There is a persistent drought and the island is no longer able to support its population. This is how the story begins. What can a people do when on an island that can no longer support its population? Do they succumb to disease and famine - have a war to deplete the population, or as our islanders do, leave? Guided by legends passed from generation to generation, it is decided to build a boat to sail some of its population to another island. The legends told them to always sail toward the rising sun, and during the night, use the stars we currently call Orion's belt. That, and identifying and observing the path of migrating birds, they were able to populate the islands of Samoa and eventually all of Polynesia. This was done more than a thousand years before 'civilized' man dared to venture beyond the sight of land.
I have the thought that the more steps you can make into the past, the further into the future you can see. While reading this adventure, I marveled at how the people of that starving island sacrificed their precious resources to build and equip that boat - and say goodbye to those who would leave forever. Today, there are plans to send people to Mars, and I can't help but see similarities between our two points in time: They were on an island surrounded by a vast, and an, apparently, unending ocean. Today, we are on an island-planet surrounded by a vast, and for all practical purposes, unending space. We are at the beginning of an exploration that will try our resources, and our courage – just as it must have been for them.
The story progresses to a time when Europe's missionaries arrived to “de-heathenize” the natives – influenza being the catalyst. The story continues through German, English and U.S. colonization efforts – all of which is colored in greed, prejudice and brutality. There were some favorable characters – a whole chapter was given to Robert Louis Stevenson,s life in Samoa. I found nothing enlightening, nor inspiring in this book's last half. Instead of being a story about the Samoan people, much of the story was about European people in Samoa. For me, this was a disappointment. I view it as a missed opportunity as Polynesian people are unique because they learned to survive on small specks of land surrounded by a vast ocean. Today, we live on a small speck of dust surrounded by a vast universe, and we are now learning its limitation. All of our recorded history are of a people who's civilizations grew within large continents. To expand, all we had to do was start walking! Never-the-less, the European influence on Polynesia was undeniably overpowering, and I can understand why Shaffer wrote it as such.
In that this novel covers such a long period of time, it is an epic story – much like James Michener's stories. The narrative was a bit choppy – as though it had undergone considerable editing to bring its size down to a readable 600-plus pages. I did gain a new perspective, but it is not a book that I would reread. The book wasn’t so much riveting as it was enlightening – at least the first half of the book. I would grade it 2 out of 4.
Thank you for the nice review. :)

Too bad the book failed to deliver.
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Gravy » 04 Nov 2015, 02:48

I started my November book a few days ago. I went with The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff. As of right now I am about a quarter of the way through it.
It's set in Copenhagen Denmark in the 1920's, and is a novelization of the true story of artist Lili Elbe who was born Einar Wegener.

I'm enjoying it quite a lot :D
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Post by Ryan » 04 Nov 2015, 06:38

I started 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' yesterday and I'm enjoying that too. Whether or not I'll finish it by the end of the month, however, is unknown :roll:
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Post by gali » 04 Nov 2015, 06:40

ryanj1 wrote:I started 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' yesterday and I'm enjoying that too. Whether or not I'll finish it by the end of the month, however, is unknown :roll:
I am glad you enjoy it so far. I loved the book and may re-read it again some time.
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Ryan » 04 Nov 2015, 09:29

gali wrote:
ryanj1 wrote:I started 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' yesterday and I'm enjoying that too. Whether or not I'll finish it by the end of the month, however, is unknown :roll:
I am glad you enjoy it so far. I loved the book and may re-read it again some time.
No time like the present 8)
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Post by gali » 04 Nov 2015, 09:31

ryanj1 wrote:
gali wrote:
ryanj1 wrote:I started 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame' yesterday and I'm enjoying that too. Whether or not I'll finish it by the end of the month, however, is unknown :roll:
I am glad you enjoy it so far. I loved the book and may re-read it again some time.
No time like the present 8)
Too many books, too little time... :wink:
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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Post by Ryan » 04 Nov 2015, 14:44

gali wrote:Too many books, too little time... :wink:
I know exactly what you mean :roll: :(
"Reason is intelligence taking exercise. Imagination is intelligence with an erection" -- Victor Hugo.

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Post by herquilarh » 05 Nov 2015, 04:12

Exodus by Leon Vris.
I stumbled upon this book while searching online for books to read to pass the time and i must say it was an excellent read. The book is set around the era of israeli independence,it tells a compelling story of how israel came to be an independent state. While there are some places in the book that can be termed as boring,the action packed scenes more than make up for them. Leon Vris draws you into the lifes of the characters and they dont let go. He also talks about how mass murders of jews were carried out during the holocaust describing in detail methods which were used.
All in all exodus is a great book and i highly recommend it for anyone wanting to read historical fiction

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Post by gali » 05 Nov 2015, 05:30

herquilarh wrote:Exodus by Leon Vris.
I stumbled upon this book while searching online for books to read to pass the time and i must say it was an excellent read. The book is set around the era of israeli independence,it tells a compelling story of how israel came to be an independent state. While there are some places in the book that can be termed as boring,the action packed scenes more than make up for them. Leon Vris draws you into the lifes of the characters and they dont let go. He also talks about how mass murders of jews were carried out during the holocaust describing in detail methods which were used.
All in all exodus is a great book and i highly recommend it for anyone wanting to read historical fiction
A great book indeed! There was also such a movie. :)
In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you." (Mortimer J. Adler)

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