Historical fiction has it all
One of the reasons I like historical fiction is the variety within the genre. You can find adventure, romance, humor, and realism in a historical novel.
All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky starts at a dark point in Jack’s life. He has just lost both of his parents, and he is stuck in the middle of the Dust Bowl by himself. You might think after the first couple of pages that you are in for a real downer of a novel, but it quickly changes pace when Jack meets Jane and Tony, two orphans who are set on getting out of Oklahoma and seeing the world. The tone becomes one of a folksy adventure as the three kids find themselves in all sorts of sticky situations. Jack tells the story, but Jane emerges as the real heroine as she talks her way into and out of trouble.
On the Volcano has as much adventure as All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky, but it trades in the “folksy” for gritty realism. This stark look at frontier life in the mid-1800’s begins with soon-to-be sixteen-year-old Katie begging to accompany her father on one of his very infrequent trips to town. Katie’s parents moved to their very isolated location on the edge of a volcano in the Pacific Northwest before she was born, and while she is happy there, she is curious about town life. That is just the beginning of a rugged adventure in which Katie emerges as a strong young woman who knows her own mind.
Then there are the historical novels that open up a new bit of history for readers. This is what Queen of Hearts did for me. Set in Canada during World War II before the arrival of antibiotics, Queen of Hearts takes readers into a tuberculosis sanatorium through the eyes of teenager Marie-Claire as she adjusts to her new life as a TB patient and fights her way back to “real” life outside of the sanatorium. Historical details about TB and life in a sanatorium are woven into the story in a way that gives this unusual setting a life of its own. Marie-Claire’s isolation from her family and the larger world are at the heart of the novel, and the devastation of the disease feels real in a way that reading dry facts in a health book can’t touch. I, personally, really enjoyed this story and wanted more when it ended. I think it will have wide appeal to fans of historical fiction in middle and high school.
Other historical novels offer up a bit of the paranormal, the multicultural, or even the mysterious. There is something for everyone, it seems, within the fictional past.
All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale. September 2011.
On the Volcano by James Nelson. April 2011.
Queen of Hearts by Martha Brooks. August 2011.