Monday, August 24, 2015

Coming Around

Photo credit:  Giuseppe Crespi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Don't think about it - just answer.  Favorite reading genre?  What was the first answer that popped into your mind?  I can tell you that for me, it wasn't historical fiction.  But a handful of books over the last few years have gradually changed my thoughts about it.

Until recently, I just didn't gravitate toward historical fiction.  But despite not being drawn toward it, over the last couple of years I've started to appreciate it more.

The shift happened gradually, and the reason was because of a select few books that fell into my lap.  Novels that stuck with me and subtly nudged me toward choosing more books that fall into that historical fiction category.  Maybe you'll find a new favorite.  Cause ya know I love to suggest good reads!

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
I loved this book.  I couldn't get enough of the fresh off the boat scrappy Irish girl making her way in the big city story line.  I can't deny the initial draw was the title (I was born in Brooklyn) and the fact that the main character is Irish.  Brooklyn in the early 1950's and a young, working class Irish woman taking her first steps toward independence and adulthood?  Throw in a love triangle with a young Italian and the Irish boy from back home? Yes and yes. Oh - and it's been made into a movie that looks pretty good.  Comes out in November, 2015.

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
There's only one word to describe this monster of a book.  Epic!  It spans about 50 years, takes place in the Middle Ages & is almost a thousand pages, but man what a terrific read.  It follows the life and experiences of a medieval architect in England and his life long goal of building a cathedral.  It's a hefty one, but I'll recommend it to those brave souls who aren't intimidated by a book that can double as a doorstop.

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty
My favorite part about this one was the total transformation of the main character.  Readers meet her in the beginning of the book as a closed minded, Temperance movement, not immediately likable, early twenties woman.  But by the end?  It's a fabulous transformation to an open, compassionate, evolved woman who bravely followed her desire for happiness and love despite the restrictions & expectations of the rigid society she lived in.

The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
This one has been compared to The Help by Kathryn Stockett - which I haven't read yet.  The story and the characters in The Kitchen House get under your skin and stay with you.  The time period and unflinching look into the heartbreaking reality of plantation slavery in the time before the Civil War make it unavoidably heavy, but don't let that deter you from checking this one out.  It's a must-read for sure.

The House at Riverton, by Kate Morton
I'm a sucker for the "old woman looking back on her youth" narrator that this one's got going on.  It takes place via flashbacks of the main character - 98 year old Grace Bradley.  She tells the story of her time as a housemaid in the early 1920's at a grand English country house, Riverton Manor.  It's a mystery, a love story, and a terrific account of a time that's so far removed from anything close to my reality, that it sucked me in almost immediately. 

I can't leave out a little nod to one of my all time favorites, The Color Purple.  Now there's a top-notch historical fiction novel. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to watching the movie.

The book I'm reading now easily falls into this category of opening my mind toward historical fiction.  You may have heard of it, since it won the Pulitzer for fiction this year:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  It's the story of a blind girl in WWII France.  I'm digging it.

I have to say, these books have really helped me to give historical fiction more than just a passing glance.  It might just be a front runner in my book picks now.  Because truthfully, it's too damn hard to pick a favorite genre.  I heart them all.  Anyone want to join me in branching out?

Ta-ta for now.

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