Sunday, October 9, 2011

Comparing three historical books

I just noticed that the last three books I read were historical fiction. So, being into historical fiction writing myself, I thought it'd be prudent of me to take a moment and reflect on the differences and similarities with these three books.
The books are (in order of my reading them):
*Shane Peacock's Eye of the Crow
*Karen Bass's Run like Jäger
*Adele Dueck's Racing Home

Similarities:

I picked up all three at the recent CANSCAIP event in Lumsden.

All three are by Canadian authors. Peacock comes from Ontario, Bass from Alberta, and Dueck from Saskatchewan.

All three books are published by Canadian publishers. Peacock by Tundra in Toronto and the other two are published by Coteau in Regina.

All three books have a male protagonist. Peacock's book features a thirteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes. Running like Jäger has seventeen-year-old Karl. And in Racing Home the main character is twelve-year-old Erik.

All three are told as third person narrative - except for the excerpts in Bass's book where Herr Brandt shares his stories. These are told as first person.

Differences:
As you can imagine, there are many, many differences. I'll just mention the obvious.
*Peacock's story happens in 1867, in London, England.
*Bass's is set in mostly two places - Berlin and through-out WWII battle scenes - with a focus on the eastern front; and in two time periods - now and during WWII.
*Dueck's is set on the Saskatchewan prairie around 1908/9.

But in the end all three stories solve an external mystery, while learning something about themselves. Not all the mysteries were as obvious as solving a crime, like in the Peacock book. Bass's book attempts to solve the mystery of what it really was like to be a German during the war. And in Dueck's book, the external mystery to be solved is quite minor, while the emphasis is on a much deeper, inner issue. As the reader, I closed each book feeling richer because of learning something about a place and time different than my own; but also richer, because I was privy to a character's development. All three were people books - character-driven.

Aren't we all so curious about why people do things? Writers get to dig into people's psyche and try to figure out the secrets behind the actions. Whether it's fantasy, contemporary, or historical - story is like math. This plus this equals this. Oh, dear. I'm off on a tangent. Time to go.

P.S. One more similarity - all three are highly recommended!

2 comments:

Barrie said...

These books sound good. I'll have to check them out. Thanks for the similarities and differences list!

Jodi Carmichael said...

I love the recommendations. I just finished another one of Karen's books, Drummer Girl. A compelling read from start to finish. Three cheers for Canadian authors!