Children’s Historical Fiction: My childhood favourites

I was inspired to write this post whilst watching the lovely Ashleigh at A Frolic Through Fiction‘s video on her favourite childhood books. Filled with nostalgia, I began to think back over some of my own childhood favourites – and with this came the realisation that my interest in historical fiction developed at a very young age.

Today I’m going to share with you two of my all-time-favourite children’s historical fiction novels which helped ignite the passion for the genre I have today. Both are set during the Second World War; both contain unforgettable protagonists; and both introduced me as a child to some of the hardships of the period in a relatable and sensitive way.

Without further ado, let’s get in to the books…

Back Home by Michelle Magorian

Back Home

Most people will know Michelle Magorian as the author of Goodnight, Mister Tom – a novel I also loved – but my first taste of her writing was Back Home, the story of Rusty, who is returning to the UK in 1945 after being evacuated to America during the war.

This book was gifted to me for my ninth birthday, and I instantly fell in love with it. Rusty was a main character I could relate to so easily – at the time I was being bullied in school, so Rusty’s sense of being an outsider was something I was very familiar with. She’s such a strong and determined protagonist, and I remember finding her really inspiring.

In addition to offering young readers an insight into what life in Britain was like in the aftermath of the Second World War, Back Home also deals with issues relating to growing up. Rusty is twelve years old, just entering adolescence, so it’s also a great coming-of-age story for children to read. Basically, it’s an all-round great book!

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips

Ah, Michael Morpurgo. From a very young age I discovered that his novels had the power to move me to tears. Private Peaceful, set during the First World War, is one such example – and another is this, a beautiful Second World War novel about one wilful girl and her wandering cat.

This story is set in the seaside village of Slapton in Devon, where twelve-year-old Lily and her neighbours are forced to evacuate from so that practice landings for D-Day can take place. Tips the cat is a central character – which instantly had me sold – as is Adie, the American soldier whose acquaintance Lily makes.

Both heartbreaking and uplifting, this story taught me a lot about the part Slapton citizens had to play in D-Day, whilst also featuring some very memorable characters and an adorable ending.

 

I hope you enjoyed this nostalgia-filled look at some of my very first historical fiction favourites! I’d love to know if you read historical fiction as a child, and if so, do share some of your own favourite books 🙂

 

Advertisements

Review: The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

This book is such a difficult one to review. The hype surrounding its release has been unreal – and after hearing the author discussing it on the radio, my expectations reached new heights.

But alas, this was unfortunately to be one of those horrible times where the book did not live up to the hype for me.

Although slow to get going, Imogen Hermes Gowar’s prose is absolutely stunning, drawing me instantly into late 18th century London. And this is not Georgian period as we know it from Jane Austen’s novels. It is as if the author has pulled back the curtain on that era of glittering glamour, unveiling its seedy underbelly. The author’s attention to historical accuracy is impressive; the extensive research put in really pays off, creating a piece of sumptuous period writing brimming with rich details of dress, food and decor.

Unfortunately, what the novel lacks for me is development, both in terms of plot and characters. The premise was promising: our main female protagonist, Angelica Neal, is a courtesan, instantly coming across as a morally grey and not entirely likeable character. On the flip side there’s Mr Jonah Hancock, a character made intriguing by the deep sense of loss in his life, and the question of what lengths he will go to in order to fill this void.

Neither of the characters, I felt, were really developed to their full potential. At a certain point in the latter half of the novel, one single thread of the plot took over and dominated the rest of the book, at the expense of any further character development. And I think it is worth mentioning that this plot point which ends up becoming dominant is one of magical realism.

I hadn’t expected magical realism upon beginning this book; perhaps foolishly, given the word “Mermaid” in the title, but I had thought this was pure historical fiction. Perhaps if I had been expecting magical realism, I would have enjoyed the end of the book more – but at the time of reading, I found it unnecessary, and felt it detracted from some of the novel’s strengths.

For me, the story meandered away to an unsatisfying conclusion, leaving many loose threads. Again, perhaps my expectations were misguided, but I had also hoped, based on Imogen Hermes Gowar’s radio discussion, to find a compelling look at how the life of a courtesan could give the opportunity for financial independence. Instead I read a story of women who were submissive and dependent on men, which was a shame.

All this being said, Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut has been received very well by critics, so if a slower novel with mystical speculation and beautiful writing is something you enjoy, then do consider giving it a go. In terms of my preferences, it was too slow and lacking in character development for me to love it.