25 February 2011

Genre at a Glance: Historical Fiction

First of all, I would like to say 'thank you' to everyone who sent along book suggestions for my first summary for this blog. I would have liked to have started with a William Hoffman novel, The Trumpet Unblown (my brother's suggestion), but the library at UNC did not have it. Instead, I read a book that my sister suggested: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. You can read my summary here.

Second, my timing reading The Kitchen House coincided perfectly with my schedule in my Seminar in Popular Materials. Last week we read historical fiction novels, and I learned a lot about the genre that I would like to share with you.

Joyce Saricks, a recently retired Readers' Advisory librarian, wrote the main textbook for this class, The Readers' Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction (2009), which will be where I get information for this post.

Historical Fiction tells stories that are set in the past. This definition may seem obvious, so Saricks specifies that the past is "before the author's lifetime or experience" (p. 291). Most readers of this genre are sticklers for "historical accuracy and detail" - authenticity is key (p. 291). After all, if they are devoting time to the tomes that often are Historical Fiction novels, readers want to be enlightened of the time and its customs. Characters can be real or made up, but their traits must fit in with the time period. In short, Saricks states that "the goal of authors of Historical Fiction is to bring history to life in novel form" (p. 291).

I was very lucky that The Kitchen House fit in with the genre and my favorite setting - Southside Virginia!

Have you read a good Historical Fiction novel lately? Tell us about it!

1 comment:

  1. See if Chapel-Hill has YANCEY'S WAR by William Hoffman. There are some seriously hilarious scenes in this novel, as well as emotionally gripping considering the setting: World War II. Hoffman, and I say this with complete honesty, is/was (even after his death) one of the best writers in literary fiction in 20th century America. The reality is he never reached continued fame in this country because he didn't toot his own horn, but it needs to be tooted. His writing is that good. The fact he lived out his days in Charlotte Court House makes it even more amazing to me. As residents of the county, we never really realized the diamond in the rough Hoffman was.