For those of you who visit this blog often, you might know that I have soft spot for historical fiction. Before my blogging days, I definitely didn’t really know it was a huge thing. A friend of mine introduced me to Tracy Chevalier’s work and I was hooked. She also actually helped in releasing my inner bookish side. After I read my first historical fiction book, I felt that it was nice actually nice to read something from outside your world without involving magic or dragons and the likes (a.k.a. the kind of book I was obsessed with back then).
So, next I tried to read more and more. Some were set in China, others in 17th century of England, most of them are wonderful reading experience. But, let me tell you my secrets, people. I sucked at history in school. I sucked big time. Well, my last day in high school was13 years ago now, I was young and foolish. I was also overwhelmed and I have no idea who is to blame for this. All I remember is that the teachers strongly encourage us on science and maths, while history, not so much. Like them, I used to believe that history is not a very important subject. Got good marks for history? Great! Suck at it? No big deal.
So, I was taught about history once a week. It was a very boring class and I fought with all my strength and soul not to fall asleep. During my boredom, I’d flipped up our text book and I discovered that this subject was actually pretty cool. It’s such a shame that a subject as interesting as this wasn’t admired by some people (teacher and students especially).
One of the perks of being an adult is you get to read whatever you feel like. In this case, high school boredom led me to historical fiction books. How? Well, since high school is over, I get to read any historical books I fancy. But they’re fiction, you said. Yes. That’s actually my reason, because reading text book (like my teacher used to do) is boring. I learned very little, but I was bored for hours. It’s not a rocket science to tell that this method is not effective.
So far, historical fiction novels has been my catalyst in learning more about the past. It’s not a substitute to learn from a good academic books, mind you, but I can say that if you learn it as a hobby, this can be effective and fun. I would read a book about one subject, let’s say this book Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield. If it not for the book, I’d never knew that there was a camp for Japanese people in the US after the business of Pearl Harbor. Or, maybe Empress Orchid or The Last Empress by Anchee Min. From them I learned that there were about 3000 concubines in The Forbidden City and many of them were never even summoned by the Emperor. Tragic, isn’t it?
To sum it up, in my case reading historical fiction lead to more and more digging on a particular subject on my own. At least, I would Google it to find out if it’s historically accurate, who were behind the tragedy and how it affects the people today. Almost (if not all), every country has their own dark past, and it teaches us that we are not perfect. Humans made mistakes, could hurt other people, we did things we’re not proud of. History is like a reminder not to do it again. It’s a shame that I didn’t learn it thoroughly during school days, and this wonderful life lessons I learned on my blogging days.
How about you? I would love to know how you discovered this genre. What’s the book that got you hooked? Which era/subject is your favorite read?