A few weeks ago I was at a Barnes and Noble with a good friend. Being my friend, he let me talk books for a while before pursuing his own interests. One of the first things we can upon was a historical fiction table display.
Despite the content of this blog I am a huge historical fiction nerd. I can handle Fantasy, may occasionally dabble in Sci-Fi, Mysteries and Thrillers are okay. Historical Fiction is my escapism. I love medieval fiction from around Europe, America from almost any age. I’m pretty open to most places in time. Except one.
I cannot read World War II fiction.
It isn’t that I haven’t tried these stories. I’ve read dozens. I’ve even loved some. However there is something to be said about WWII books, and it is that they are universally sad. The facts of the war never change, and the stories being put out today are almost always about lesser known or entirely fictional people during that time. No new insight into the politics of the situation, no new message. Just a lot of “people were really resilient in the face of extreme awfulness.”
Part of my love with Historical Fiction as a genre is that I get to learn something new, either from the text in front of me, or due to curiosity sparked by it. I don’t get that with this World War II trend. I’ve read the history books, learned about the important players, and watched the very long Ken Burns Documentary. I’ve cried over The Diary of Anne Frank and felt impossibly small in a world that could let such awful things happen.
I am by no means a scholar of the late 1930’s and 40’s, but I know enough to get by. That knowledge, for now, is enough for me.
So when I was at Barnes and Noble and saw this Historical Fiction display my heart dropped. Within seconds I could see what it truly was – a table for World War II stories. I pointed at all of the titles I had heard of before, and it was quite a lot. All about World War II, mostly about France, as we seem to have moved away from Poland and the horrors of the Holocaust and into the trend of French Distruction over the last few years. The books that weren’t readily known to me also wound up being about the same era. On a table of 50 books only 3 were about another place or time.
So I am left here pursuing goodreads and looking at my own backlog. If I want to continue to enjoy the type of escapism I get from historical fiction it feels like I’ll have to look, well, to the past. Gregory doesn’t appear to be coming out with any more Tudor novels, and while there are a few good revolutionary war titles a year, they are often now geared at a YA audience. Not that this is inherently bad, it just also takes away the deep dive I crave.