Sometimes fiction fleshes out the facts so that it all becomes more real.
That's certainly true of Ann Rinaldi's historical fiction.
And, she tells you which is which in the Author's Note at the end of the book: it's true that ... which led me to imagine that .... I love that!
Here are few of my notes from two recent reads:
Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family
From sibling rivalry to first love, the horrid conditions of the prisons to the only alternative (in that day) of confining Mrs. Henry to a basement apartment. Rinaldi paints the gripping tragedy of the Henry family as they lose their wife/mother to mental illness. Nowadays, things may have turned out much different. But then, it was laudanum and confinement. Mrs. Henry dies shortly before Patrick Henry's famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech, and Rinaldi wonders, did he borrow the line from his wife, who upon not receiving liberty from her straightdress found her only relief in death. There are warm spots, but it's not what I'd call a "fun" read. However, knowing the biblical pronouncement that "it is better to go to a funeral than a party," I highly recommend this book as an introduction to a time period and a sober rending of one family's reality.
Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley
Again, this one gave an eye-opening accounting of the sickening reality of slavery, starting with Phillis (named after the ship she was transported to America on) witnessing the horrors of the passage. Pampered throughout her time in Boston, Phillis is educated and given every encouragement as she begins to write. She would become famous, and yet the author wonders, by pampering her during her years as a slave, did they adequately prepare her for life on her own? Have you ever wondered the same about present generations: does the pampering not really pay off? I wish Rinaldi had included a few of Wheatley's poem, just for authenticity. But I thoroughly enjoyed being acquainted (again) with a time period and unique cast of characters.
Keep Ann Rinaldi on your radar. These may not be new releases, but as introductions to historical time periods, places, and people, these are timeless works worth reading.
Read any great historical fiction recently? I'd love to hear your author suggestions...