Why I Love Historical Fiction

I read a lot, over a hundred books a year. I come from a family of big readers but I have really turned it up a notch in the last few years. I can thank TV and movies being so boring and unoriginal that I have given up watching.

I love historical fiction. I cannot get enough of it. Anything that takes place in the 18th or 19th century, and even up to the early 20th century is just literary crack to me.

The reason that I love historical fiction so much is because it helps me find balance in my life. No matter how incredibly crappy my day is, I cannot complain about anything compared to someone 50, 100 or even 200 years ago. I am eternally grateful to live in an era of human rights, minimum wage laws and antibiotics. For sure things aren’t perfect. Our complicated lives are stressful and there is still much injustice in the world, but really, if you are reading this on the internet, you’ve got it mighty good.

We, I say we because I am also guilty of such thinking, are so spoiled and ungrateful. I know people don’t want to hear it but we really have very little to complain about. Oh but we do complain. We can’t wifi at the coffee shop, traffic is bad, there’s nothing on TV, Frank does not love me anymore. Blah blah blah blah blah blah.

Historical fiction has that wonderful ability to humble me and brings me down to earth. Let’s face it, in the past, if a person were lucky enough to have regular employment, the job was dangerous, physically demanding, and included long hours with little time off. And forget about a vacation. If your boss was pissed off at his wife, he could fire you for no reason except that the Mrs. burned his toast or the maid refused his advances in the pantry this morning.

Suffice to say we’ve come a long way. But have we not lost something? Today minor, trivial things make us angry, no wait, mad, as in insane, and not just a little mad but epic meltdown mad. You know like the bus was two minutes late and the vending machine ran out of Mars bars and I really really really wanted a Mars bar and there are no friggin’ Mars bars and why is life so hard and OMFG it sucks!

A long time ago people suffered real hardships, they often worked hard, still went to bed hungry and retired for the night in some sort of cold, damp, and crowded shelter. And then they got up and did it all over again. Sometimes it was just basic human survival and sometimes it was to provide for a family. Either way, there was a considerable amount of mental toughness to live this way.

Naturally I don’t think we need to return to this lifestyle but I do think there is a lesson buried somewhere in how the fictional characters of Alice the maid or David the labourer lived their lives. The storylines in historical fiction always remind me of the quiet dignity of people who perhaps were not always happy but were at least grateful. I will always admire the Alices and Davids because they were wise enough to realize the value of a hot meal and a warm bed.

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3 thoughts on “Why I Love Historical Fiction

  1. We have forgotten how to be grateful for what we have and not whine about what we don’t have. We are in a time where simple illness can be cured or healed but in the late 19th and early 20th century some very simple infections killed us, we need to take a moment and realize we are richer than we think and should stop grabbing for more.

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