Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Musings: My Obsession With the Past

It's only recently I've discovered my favourite genre is Christian historical romance. Today I'll share with you my journey to finding it.

I've always loved history.  I loved studying it at school - I particularly enjoyed ancient history, and was quite miffed when my school didn't offer medieval history the year I would have been able to take it.  Actually, I still long to go back to uni and study history.  In a way, I'm a walking contradiction.  I'm fascinated with the way people lived in the past and would love to travel back in time and live in a simpler and more chivalrous period, yet I'm equally as fascinated and thrilled by the computers and technology of our current age.  I ended up choosing the latter as my career path because I figured it was more practical!

Where I had hoped to find a
quaint old shopfront building
Another historical avenue for me was researching my family history.  I can't quite remember how it all began.  I know my dad was interested in our family history, and I think he got this interest from my grandmother.  But it was probably a Year 10 assignment in history to do our family history what really kick started me.  For years after that I was deeply involved with research, and found that the wonderful conveniences of our internet age was a great aid for digging in the past.  I found and came into contact with countless distant relatives around the world.  And I was never content with "who" and "what" ... I always wanted to know "why?"  It wasn't enough that my great-great-grandfather came out to Australia in 1873.  I wanted to know WHY he did.  (Though that particularly question, despite the family rumours of navy service and 'black sheep', remains unanswered.)  And then I wanted to see and imagine how they lived.  I visited old addresses where the family used to live.  I visited the church where my great-grandfather was Christened, and was later quite moved when I ended up attending a wedding in that very same church.  I even went to the UK and attempted to find the drapery shop the family owned in London.  Unfortunately in that case, all I found was a big office block.  I was very disappointed.

In my endeavours to understand and imagine what life was like for my ancestors here in Australia and in the UK, I turned to history books.  I asked for Simon Schama's books and DVDs "A History of Britain" for Christmas from my family one year.  When I finished my very last university exam, I walked right over to the bookshop and bought "The Kings and Queens of England" for myself as a celebratory gift.  (Yes, nerd alert - who finishes 4 years of study by buying something else to "study"?).

Still got the discounted sticker on it!
Then one day I was cruising through a shopping centre and the newsagents had a table out the front with discounted books.  I picked up this interesting looking hardback by an author I had never heard of.  It was $34.95 down to $5.95.  As if I was going to pass that up.  That book was "The Forest" by Edward Rutherfurd, and became the first historical fiction I'd ever read.  And I LOVED it.  I was captivated by the way Edward picked a location and created a story about it over hundreds of years.  The book is set in "The New Forest", a region in southern England, and starts it's story in 1099.  Each chapter tells a different story set in the same region, but in a progressive time period, with the final chapter set in the year 2000 - present day.  The characters are fictitious, but Edward tries - as he states in his preface, "to set their stories amongst people and events that either did exist or might have done."  And not only that, all the characters throughout the time periods are connected by a family tree.  This is the formula with which Edward Rutherfurd writes his epic novels, and I enjoyed it so much bought and read two of his others - "London" and "Sarum" before I totally lost myself in the IT world for several years.  Both books I thoroughly enjoyed as well, but I have a soft spot for London due to my family heritage, and so I was particularly fascinated with his book set in that city.

Sharon Penman was the next historical author I discovered, when a friend lent me "The Sunne in Splendour" to read.  I've mentioned this book a few times (see my review), and it's certainly one of my favourite books.  It's about the brothers Edward IV and Richard III of England.  I became a little fascinated with the period after that and I hunted down a few other books set in the same time.  It was then I discovered that there were historical novels out there that weren't so focused on historical accuracy but more on entertainment.  Although I love and admire Penman and Rutherfurd's detail, my brain was a little weary by this point in my life (from working in IT of course) so the lighter historicals were a welcome change.

Well, after a while I wasn't reading much at all since I spent long days at work staring at a computer screen.  It wasn't until I stopped working to have my children that I started picking up books again.  I was still quite exhausted but wanted something to do during feeding and just needed to have a non-baby related activity! (Note: the exhaustion is still here ... lol ... but the need for non-child related mental stimulation is stronger than ever!). I was looking for something new to read, and that's when Jess put the Stonewycke Trilogy into my hands.  It was the first Christian fiction I'd ever read, and a historical one at that. I did enjoy it, and that put me on a quest for more Christian historical fiction.  

It didn't take me long to find Christian historical romance after that! This has become my golden trifecta. That's not to say it's the only thing I'll read - not by a long shot.  I enjoy chick-lit, contemporary romance and YA.  And there's still many historical fiction authors in the secular realm I'd like to try out. All I'm saying is that it's been a bit of a long journey, but I am now able to pinpoint my favourite genre.

2 comments:

  1. Hey, Helen, I came over here to say thanks for following my Inspirational Historical Fiction Index, and what do you know, this post is exactly why I set that thing up, my perfect genre is Christian Historical Romance too, and I just don't think there is enough of it! :) But now having set up the index, I see there is more than I thought. Some get better marketing than others I guess, so I'm hoping my site will level the playing field.

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  2. Your site is a great idea Melissa. I'll try and find some more titles written by Aussies for you - ones that are available on Amazon anyway. A lot aren't.

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