Reading Phases: Colonial Fiction

Salem, May 2011

I go through reading phases. A few months ago I couldn’t get enough fantasy fiction. Then, I moved on to dystopian fiction. Most recently, I’m wrapped up in historical fiction, especially fiction about colonial Massachusetts. I’ve read Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks followed by The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning.

Caleb’s Crossing is set in Martha’s Vineyard during the 17th century. The novel is narrated by Bethia Mayfield, a teenage girl who forms a friendship with a Native American boy named Cheeshah-teaumuc, renamed Caleb. His character is based on the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Bethia learns her own lessons from her friendship, causing her to reflect on the norms of her society. As usual, Brooks’ prose is lovely and haunting; her plot tragic and compelling.

The Widow’s War takes place a century later in the village of Satucket, Massachusetts. The protagonist, Lyddie Berry, becomes widowed and decides to fight for property rights during a time period when women were financially dependent on men. While I thought Lyddie’s character seemed less authentic than Bethia’s, I enjoyed her strength and perseverance. I plan to read the rest of Gunning’s historical novels.

Next on my list is The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. I’m impatiently waiting for my interlibrary loan.

I’m interested in colonial Massachusetts because I took a trip to Salem with my two best friends in May. This was my first trip to Salem. Good times. Salem was filled with hokey tourist shops, but the architecture and history were fascinating.

Overall, I think I like historical fiction because it provides an escape from the contemporary world, and I feel like I’m furthering my education. There’s also the “I’m so glad I don’t to go through that” factor. I’d like to live in certain eras for a couple of weeks, but I’m glad I have the freedoms that I do.

So, what reading phase are you in?