There are a lot of historical novels out there that do historical in different ways. Some want to tell the story of a time period or historical event and create characters that seem to serve only as a venue to convey information. Some take a story or a character that seems almost modern in thought and action and simply place it in a historical backdrop. But the ones who do it best are those that tell a compelling story about a character that is completely imbedded in his time and place in history. In other words, the story and the history are so intertwined that one cannot be separated from the other.
I read two books like this recently. Actually, I picked up the first one, William Henry is a Fine Name, which won a Christy award in 20007, on Sunday morning. (We go to church on Saturday nights.) By the time I turned out the light and went to bed, I had not only finished the book, but I was half-way through its sequel, I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which came out last month. By Monday afternoon I’d finished that one, too.
Cathy Gohlke does what a historical author should do. She tells a story. It is a story of another time and place, but, more importantly, it is the story of a character, of his growth and change. It is the kind of story that reminds us that people who lived in earlier times were just people like us, people who had moments of faith and doubt, lived through hardship and joy, and vacillated between worry and confidence. People trying to make sense internally of what was happening in their external world.
Next time you itch to be transported to another time and place, consider these books. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.