Friday, March 8, 2013

Read in the time period? Or not?


Hi,

First of all I apologize for not being up to date on my blog writing as other areas of my life seem to have taken over.

Second, I have a question for you - really, it is about your point of view on historical novels. So, here it is....

When you read historical novels do you read it as present day or do you take in the time period of which it is written?

Now, before you go and scratch your head asking yourself: Why would I even pose such a question? Because if you are an avid historical reader then you place yourself in that time period. But I have found that not all readers do so.

I just finished a book called Seasons by Elizabeth Byler Younts. (click here to read more on Amazon about Seasons.) This book was not a very long book but it addressed: An Amish girl's journey. This story is based on a real story. The granddaughter thoughtfully, and emotionally but into words her grandmothers story. With that being said, the grandmother was born in 1926 and started taking over household responsibilities as no more than a child. 

Are you wondering yet what might my point be? Of course everyone has their opinion but I just want to address this review. 

  • This girls mother had to give away some of her children because of the poverty they were living in yet she continued to still get pregnant and have more kids. I finally had to stop reading. This young girl was suffering so and her mother didn't care enough to stop having more children so there would be MORE suffering.
Doesn't this reader realize that the Amish didn't believe in birth control. It wasn't to make life more difficult but they were living out their beliefs. And if the reader would have kept reading she would have felt the love that was exchanged between mother and daughter. Yes, it is a hard world at times but this reader let in her personal beliefs to give this author a one star review. 

And then you have this two star review:
  • A very sad story told in the voice of a child. I found it depressing and vague. It reminded me of Little House on the Prairie but not nearly as interesting.
Hello dear reader, Little House on the Prairie is a television show where reality can be written in as the writer sees fit. Seasons is a book based on the true life of a family. 

I shake my head because, to me, it is common sense to read a historical novel in the context of its time era. 

And then there is the comments expressed about my very own book, Journey to Freedom, which is set in the civil war. 

  • One reader told me she rated it down because I did not tell her that the book had Christianity in it. 
  • Another reader said that she rated it down because I had too many characters in it. 
  • And another reader said that the fire and brimstone talk did the book no favors. 
Well, I can only tell you my side of this...

My publisher is the one who didn't want to put on the back of the book - in its blurb - that this was a Christian novel. As a first time author, I went along with them. Actually I didn't even think it would make a difference but it did to at least one person. 

As for too many characters, maybe the reader is right. I mean I didn't follow any "rules" when I wrote Journey to Freedom as romance authors follow. In fact, I didn't want this to be deemed a "romance" novel, but instead a novel of adventure and discovery. Did I succeed? The reader has to be the judge of that. 

And as for the "fire and brimstone" - Let's remember the time period we are talking about. Prior to, During and Shortly After the American Civil War. This country was built on Christianity and therefore, this was not unpopular nor uncommon to see/hear. 

Unfortunately, these readers were not one hundred percent satisfied with Journey to Freedom but I am okay with that. Not everyone is going to like what I write. 

Going back to the topic……What do you say? Do you read in the time period or not? 

And if you are curious, here is my review of Seasons:

5 Stars:
There is no easy life when you take the road of the Amish ways. The main character was born in 1926, so you take the time period into consideration and their way of life and what you get is a life of hardships that few of us will ever encounter. This story touched me deeply as I read about the hardships endured and overcome in her life.

The writing is excellent. Point of view shifts were clearly defined. It held my attention allowing me to, on occasion, laugh and, shortly thereafter, have my eyes fill with tears.

I liked how even when things are at their worst, something good could be found. What I was disappointed about was the gaps in between time periods; the lack of transition was a minor distraction to me. But I would like to know what happened in between.

With this being a true story I did enjoy how the author respected the persons in the book - through the good and the bad.

Well done.

6 comments:

  1. Sounds a fascinating book. I'm just about to begin another historical children's novel, love writing them, and yes, my subject was medieval history. Now moving into the 14th century for the next book.

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    1. Thanks Carole for stopping by. I would definitely recommend Seasons and it is only 2.99 on kindle. Do you find as you write in your historical genres that some readers base their opinions off of present day instead of the actual time period?

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  2. I read them from the point of view of the time, as best as I'm able to grasp it. Do remember that the Little House books were someone's real life story, though the television show bore little resemblance to the books I admit.

    I once had someone say they couldn't review my first novel because of the religious theme. Well it was set in 14th century Europe. Everyone was Catholic. Not having at least a few religious characters would have been anachronistic. It was rather kind I suppose to not review it rather than bashing it on those grounds. But it was annoying. Oh well. Not everyone knows history or religion, let alone the history of religion and the religion in history. At any rate, you are not alone, K.

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    1. Thanks Kate - Television shows and movies hardly ever represent the true thing as they are after the ratings and all american bottom line.

      I can empathize with you about the religious themes. You are right, 14th century- that was the way of life. I am not an expert and I am sure to make mistakes but I don't downgrade a book on my opinion but on the facts of the book. Quality, good writing, grammatical, dialogue, point of view shifts, etc.

      In fact, I just reviewed a book by Paula Martin, Dream of Paris, where I didn't agree with how one of her characters were but it was because of my own personal perspective. I still gave her book a 5 star because she did a great job putting it all together.

      You hang in there too Kate and thanks for stopping by and commenting. I sure do appreciate it!

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  3. Aloha, K-Trina. Good post! Some reviews can be puzzling, for sure. As a reader, I open up a book hoping to learn something and rely on the characters to walk me though. A well-written story can wrap up nicely so a reader new to the author's work will come away feeling that the story was resolved in a satisfactory way. In historicals, for instance, I've read hundreds of books enough to know that I shouldn't expect characters to take daily baths, although in ancient Roman civilization, bathing was a daily event. A lot depends on the reader, too, how much they read, if they've ever traveled to some of the countries they're reading about or been exposed to the book's theme or genre in other aspects of their lives. Readers new to a genre might not understand why things were done, or said, a certain way. But some authors are great at conveying, through their characters thoughts, actions, background, why this was so. By the same token, some readers are simply going to dismiss themes and characters they don't agree with, and that can be as disappointing for the author, too.

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  4. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us Lalani! You have made some very good points. :)

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