TOP TEN TUESDAY
HOSTED BY THAT ARTSY READER GIRL
KILCHURN CASTLE, SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
As I was once again looking for a historical fiction book about the Highland clearances, this top ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) topic came to me: subjects that are neglected in the historical fiction genre. We know history is written by the victors, right? And it occurs to me that there are some topics that the historical fiction market is so saturated with (the Tudors, WW II) because those are the topics that naturally lend themselves to easy research and readily available primary sources. It's a shame because there are many books yet to be written on subjects that are more obscure but oh. so. interesting. Here are my top ten time periods that I wish I could find more good fiction to read from. And yes, I can hear all the authors out there shouting..."well why don't you write one!" It's not easy, to be sure.
Let me know if you have any books to suggest on these topics or if you know of some neglected historical fiction ideas just waiting to be written about. I'd love to know what I'm missing!
1. Scottish Highlands- Yes there is Outlander and tons of Scottish romances. There are plenty of books and novels devoted to Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald. But I have found it almost impossible to find a novel that focuses on the people of the Highlands. I'd love to know more about their personal stories....the clans and their experiences from the 17th and 18th centuries. A story about how it felt to go from the height of the clan culture, through the Act of Union, General Wade's road construction, and the subsequent Jacobite risings. And not just a book that is billed a romance or war book. Rather something in the vein of Gone With the Wind for the Scots would be amazing!
2. West Indies Plantation Years- Most of the books I've found on this topic are either mysteries or experiences of the slaves and their revolts. And while I love those books and think they are worthy of reading, I'd love a book that shows the life of both slave and master with a storyline. Also, showing what life was like and how things were run. The setting of Jamaica is a particular favorite of mine and while I fully understand you can't separate the story from the brutality of the life there, I'd like a well researched novel about all aspects of the system. Too often the story is a simplistic one that doesn't give a lot of inside knowledge into the daily workings and social systems of both the owners and their slaves.
3. The Crusades: From the Middle Eastern perspective- I absolutely loved Sharon Penman's The Land Beyond the Sea. I thought it was original and detailed and tackled a rarely covered subject. I learned so much about the major players of the reign of Baldwin IV and the fall of Jerusalem. But when I finished the book I found myself fascinated with Saladin....the leader of the Muslims who brought about the fall of the Kingdom. It would be really great to read a fiction story told from his perspective and giving more insight into the world of the Crusades from the Muslim side. I had so many unanswered questions about their story.
4. Cawnpore Massacre and British India- Anne Perry wrote an amazing Christmas novel on this topic. It is called A Christmas Garland and it centers on the Cawnpore Massacre and a soldier caught up in the drama. For years I've tried to find something similar that delves into the lives of the soldiers and the Indian people who were involved. This topic, along with British India is in short supply in the historical fiction world and usually centers around a mystery or is too modern in voice for my taste. Authenticity on this period is hard to come by.
5. Cornwall and Wales- I'd love to read more about both of these places and their history. Poldark is great but is an anomaly concerning Cornwall. Wales is so neglected I struggle to find anything to reference except Sharon Penman's Welsh princes trilogy and Cadfael Chronicles. These countries are so amazing and rich in history they are just begging to be included.
6. Stories from WWI (other than Britain, Russia, and Germany)- I fully understand that any novel focusing on WWI has to include the big three. But I'm always fascinated with Austria- Hungary, Romania, France, and Italy. What were their stories? Marie of Romania is one I'd love to read more about. And although France may not have been an aristocracy anymore, I know there are amazing personal stories that would make fantastic material for a novel.
7. The Three Edwards- You can find a bazillion historical novels about Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth Tudor. But try finding a good one about any of the Edwards of the Middle Ages. It's tough! Until reading straight history books about them I had no idea how incredible their accomplishments and personal dramas were. And of course, Edward II is a hot mess so you'd think there would be a glut of stories about his reign and downfall...but there just isn't.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean- This one is baffling to me. The actual, true story of these pirates is so amazing that you'd think someone would want to research and write a book about them from a factual account. Not the swashbuckling romances or kiddie books like Treasure Island, but a real account of what it was like to live in that world. I'd love to see a solid fiction story that takes this fascinating time period and transports me there. Sort of Outlander, Pirate style.
9. East Germany during the Cold War- To be fair, I admit I haven't looked super hard for historical fiction on this topic but I do think there is an awful lot of literature about Nazi Germany and the Russian Revolution, but not so much about what lives were like once the Iron Curtain descended upon the German people. After the fall of the Berlin Wall there was more access to their stories and it would be nice to hear more about what it was like during that period.
10. The Oregon Trail- This is one of my favorite history topics and I'd love to see more historical fiction about it. Not romances or westerns but actual stories of life on the trail. Too often an author uses it as a small backdrop but doesn't really immerse you in the life of the people. John Jakes' The Seekers and Gwen Bristow's Jubilee Trail do a decent job of what I would call authentic historical detail but the books aren't completely centered around the actual Oregon Trail life.