Do you remember when I wrote about how much I love love loved Code Name Verity? (Hey, if you don’t click here!) The fact that the people in that book were not real still makes my heart hurt. (But, good news – the companion novel Rose Under Fire was also amazing.)
Anyway, one of the things I really loved about CNV was in the author’s notes at the end, where Elizabeth Wein outlined how she struggled to come up with a way in which her characters would have had enough ink to write their stories. She researched and came up with a plausible situation based on the circumstances in which the ballpoint pen was invented.
Now, truth be told, I would not have given a second (or a first) thought as to how the characters were writing, but I love that she worked that detail in. Some readers are really into well-developed characters, and some readers prioritize the plot over the characters, but I am a reader that can get really hung up on the details. (This spills over into my life outside of reading, for better and for worse.)
I read the terrible follow-up to The Nanny Diaries, Nanny Returns, and I was really turned off by the fact that the two main characters had supposedly spent years living abroad doing international development work in Sweden, Haiti, and throughout Africa…and had their golden retriever with them everywhere they went. Right. I just finished Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, and I felt the narrator’s credibility was shot when, in describing a rural southeast Missouri town of 2000 people, she suggested that a Starbucks might be built there. Having lived in a rural southeast Kansas town 90 minutes from the nearest Starbucks, I found that to be a profoundly
stupid unrealistic statement.
Anyway, I love meticulously researched historical fiction, such as Elizabeth Wein’s. I love when I end up learning something unexpected, and when I finish a book wanting to know more about that time and place. The part I sometimes hate about historical fiction is not knowing the true story. I love reading speculative stories, like The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Alice I Have Been – but then I want to know what the full story is!
For that reason, I like reading meticulously researched non-fiction as well – I loved reading the personal accounts included in A History of the Wife. And, need I remind you again why I think Erik Larson is the bees knees for writing nonfiction that flows as smoothly as a novel – a really really gripping novel at that.
So, details. Am I the only one who gets hung up on the little things? Any amazing historical fiction recommendations?