Historical fiction is usually a quieter read than paranormal, dsytopian or fantasy. But that doesn't mean it can't transport you to another land and leave you breathless.
I just finished Jennifer Donnelly's A NORTHERN LIGHT, a Printz Honor book, and a while back I read Kirby Larson's HATTIE BIG SKY, a Newbury Honor book.
They are lovely, nuanced stories that are not without traumas. One of the things that intrigued me was that the authors had been drawn to write these novels by real-life events. Kirby Larson's tale grew from a family story about a great-grandmother who homesteaded by herself. Jennifer Donnelly, too, had family stories handed down from relatives who lived in the Adirondacks--the site of a murder that made sensational news in 1906.
Both authors also researched historic documents so the books are filled with authentic detail and a sense of having walked in the shoes of those who came before us. My editions include bibliographies of works the authors read to better know the time and place of their stories.
I'm going to give you teasers. A bit of blurb and sample to perhaps lure you into these fine books.
For most of her life, sixteen-year-old Hattie Brooks has been shuttled from one distant relative to another. Tired of being Hattie Here-and-There, she summons the courage to leave Iowa and move all by herself to Vida, Montana, to prove up her late uncle's homestead claim. (from back cover)
One minuscule step at a time, I battled toward the barn, praying for help: "Lord, I can't do this alone." But no help came. It was up to me. I drew in an icy, ragged breath. I couldn't fail. Couldn't lose my way. Or lose my cow. That thought propelled me forward the last few steps. Finally, finally, I reached the barn, gasping and sobbing for air. My face was raw. I tasted the salt of blood trickling down my cheeks.
A NORTHERN LIGHT is set in 1906 against the backdrop of the murder that inspired Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. Donnelly's novel puts a teenager trying to escape a hardscrabble life in the middle of the mystery surrounding another girl's death.
It was dry and remarkably warm for the start of April, and I was tired and dirty and dripping with sweat. The muscles in my arms ached and my hands were raw from guiding the plow and I was just as mad as a hornet. Pa had kept me home from school again. . .
Can't resist another sample:
I sat slumped on my milking stool, knowing that the last chance I had to go to Barnard was on its way into the till of some bartender. Knowing that my uncle was off on a three-day spree. Or four. Or five. Or however many days it took to spend a hundred dollars. It was a hard and hopeless thing.
So, yeah. We learn a lot about our present by delving into our past. Hope you pick these books up if you haven't read them yet.