Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Historical Novels: Past Perfect

My thoughts, posted to the Word Wenches blog, regarding historicals:

I grew up with Margaret Evans Price's Myth's and Enchantment Tales. Before I could read I drank in the pictures: fiery gods, willowy nymphs in tunics with flowing hair. I was a kid with a pixie cut, glasses, and two missing front teeth. But I became those willowy nymphs. I needed to feel like a willowy nymph.

It got even better when I could actually read the stories that went with the pictures!

Later, I discovered Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and others. And I wasn't just Psyche or Andromeda anymore. I was a governess in a castle, and a sassy saloon girl, and a debutante, despite the cat-eye glasses and short hair.

And then a terrible thing happened! Middle school, high school, college, and The Classics. Don't get me wrong, they were great books and I learned a lot. But I wouldn't have picked up Lord of the Flies or Heart of Darkness out of choice. And somehow, in those school classes, it became impressed upon me that The Classics Were the Only Books Worth Reading.

And I forgot what it felt like to be a nymph or a saloon girl.

Life, good life, continued, with marriage and kids and a reading urge filled by newspapers and magazine articles.

And then, after watching Timothy Dalton, I mean Rochester, plead with Jane Eyre not to leave him, I had to read the book. I discovered Mr. Darcy way too late in life. Why had I never found Jane Austen's books before? And, hey? Aren't they classics? I say they are.

I've had a lot of reading to catch up on! And there are a lot of modern authors (Word Wenches included) whom I consider classic.

Side benefit: I'm an avid genealogist, and there is nothing I like better than to find my ancestors and have a living, breathing model of life that makes them more than a name on a page for me. I understand who they are and who I am as part of their legacy; historicals have given that to me.

I'm reading a historical right now. And my good life is even better!

Illustration of As the dragon came near, Perseus darted downward like an eagle by Margaret Evans Price, from the book Myths and Enchantment Tales, also by Margaret Evans Price. Also published under A Child's Book of Myths, and A Children's Treasury of Mythology.

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