In Praise of Historical Fiction

It may shock some of my readers, who are inclined to think highly of me (whether I deserve it or not), but I am not a fan of history.

I never have been.

While I looked with fascination at the fashions of bygone eras, was interested in olden modes of speech or transportation, and often envied historical skills in handiwork, I cared nothing for all the names and dates and circumstances and conflicts that make up the study of history.

I occasionally feigned interest in history so as to take interest in my brother (an avid history buff). But frankly? I didn’t understand the hoopla.

Oh, I played lip service to the value of history. You know, the whole “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and “if I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants” and all that.

But really, I’ve never been a fan of history.

At least, not until a few months ago when I picked up a copy of Bodie Thoene’s Vienna Prelude.

There I read of Adolf Hitler’s “peaceful” annexation of Austria, of Herman Goring and Winston Churchill, of the SA, the SS, and the Gestapo.

I continued reading and learned of Kristallnacht, of Nazi concentration camps, of the traitorous appeasement prize Britain awarded Nazi Germany by handing over Czechoslovakia. I learned of the narrow passage connecting Poland to the sea–and separating Germany from Germany. I learned of the pogroms and of the falsehood fabricated to justify the invasion of Poland.

I started to wonder what was true and what was fiction, so involved was I in the story unfolding in novel after novel.

I no longer cared only about the protagonists. I started to care about the whole story–the story behind and below and around the one created in the imagination of the author.

I became a fan of history.

Now I begin my journey into history, fueled by the fiction of an author who cares about fact.

My life, my outlook has been indelibly changed.

Such is the power of good historical fiction.