When I was on vacation last week, I talked about the idea of writing historical fiction with 1Mom (see About Me #7 to decipher this code). While part of me finds the idea appealing — I like history, I like fiction, put the two together — another bit of me is semi-appalled at the idea. I think this comes from thinking about the sort of cranked-out historical fiction that gives both history and fiction a bad name. This week I’m going to have a look at anything that resembles historical fiction that popped up on my read-more-than-three-times list. That should give me a better idea of what historical fiction that I really like looks like. So come along for the ride.
The Twilight of Courage by Bodie and Brock Thoene is about the beginning of WW2. I have read this book three times, but the last reading was a little over 11 years ago. This means that lately I have not had the desire to pick it up. I’ve found the Thoenes quite interesting at first read, but the books just don’t hold up under re-reading. I found the Zion Covenant series, which is linked to ToC, interesting on a first read, and was willing to read them again. Then I read my comments on the second reading — I was not impressed at all. This is not generally a good sign — if books don’t stand a second reading, they are generally not that well done.
If I read my notes correctly, and if memory serves, Thoene & Thoene don’t have a single point-of-view character. The novel jumps from thread to thread around Europe, picking up and, at times, linking the stories of a variety of characters. This sort of story-telling can get a bit disjointed and, if one is not careful, can confuse the reader. Confusing the reader is not helpful.
I like books set in WW2 — not sure why, but I’ve read a lot of them. Of course, it is the quintessential spy/war setting for the second half of the 20th C, so it does get used a lot as a backdrop. I made a note that Thoene & Thoene use real people (Churchill) as characters in their works, and I wasn’t fond of the way that was done. I’ve seen the use of historical people in other novels that didn’t set my teeth on edge — I’m not sure what didn’t work here, but there was something off.
To sum up: at one time I liked the sort of books the Thoenes write, but I’m not sure they are literature, let alone great literature. The books tend toward the stuff that sets off warning bells in my head and make me not want to write historical fiction.