I love history, but I baulk at sitting down in the evening and working my way through history texts. I had a grandfather who relaxed by reading encyclopedias, but I obviously didn’t inherit the gene. Instead I prefer to start any delving into history by reading some good historical fiction. This often tweaks my interest in particular areas and sends me to dig around in the non-fiction.
Being a detective fiction buff ,I picked up Edmund Bohan’s series set in early Christchurch as soon as I spotted it. These well researched little books featuring Inspector O’Rorke are an easy read and it’s lots of fun following the Inspector around the city as it existed in second half of the nineteenth century.
They’re a bit romantic for my taste, but they’re absorbing whodunnits and they introduced me to parts of our history I knew nothing about. A Present for the Czar for example is set during the great Russian invasion scare of 1885. Never heard of it? Me neither. Here’s what Te Ara has to say about it:
The Russian scare of 1885 grew out of Anglo–Russian rivalry in Afghanistan and led to the building of major fortifications along New Zealand’s coast.
Rocking Horse Road, set in New Brighton in the early 1980s doesn’t qualify as history to me because I was there, but it will for a lot of others and it is also a good crime read. Next on my list of old favourites is the Oracles and Miracles series by Steven Eldred-Grigg, which follows a working class family through 30s and 40s Christchurch and which gave me the social and political context for my own mother’s recollections of that time.
Next on my list to read are
- Consequences by Canterbury author Carol Thomas
- Into the Dream Country by Mary Stapylton-Smith
- Past Perfect by Karen Zelas which is partially set in early Akaroa
- Come Rain Come Shine by Alan de Malmanche, set in Lyttelton in the 30s and 40s
Do you have any favourite historical New Zealand fiction?