June 19, 2013

History With Hannah - Lesson 1

One thing you should know about me is that I love historical fiction. I like to think that it all started (or at least turned to love) when I first discovered the Dear America books as a little girl. Written in journal format, each book focused on a different fictional girl from the past and the time in which she lived. I adored the books, and I still have them on my shelves today. Combine that with a deep love for the American Girl doll and accompanying books, and I was made to read and love historical fiction.

With that introduction to historical fiction, who can blame me for growing up and becoming so obsessed with it? In order to share the historical fiction love, I've come up with two features to highlight my favorite genre. The first, History With Hannah, will highlight a historical fiction book (adult or young adult) that I've read recently. Instead of reviewing it, I want to focus on the historical aspect of it. One of my favorite things about the genre is that I often learn things about a new or unfamiliar (to me) time and place. So, I'll highlight for you the Who (all the book details), What (book summary), Where (setting - place), When (setting - time period) and Why (things you'll learn about in this book).

So, let's begin!

Who?
Release Date: April 2013
Pages: 432 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover

What?
Frances Irvine, left destitute in the wake of her father's sudden death, has been forced to abandon her life of wealth and privilege in London and emigrate to the Southern Cape of Africa. 1800 South Africa is a country torn apart by greed. In this remote and inhospitable land she becomes entangled with two very different men - one driven by ambition, the other by his ideals. Only when the rumor of a smallpox epidemic takes her into the dark heart of the diamond mines does she see her path to happiness. But this is a ruthless world of avarice and exploitation, where the spoils of the rich come at a terrible human cost and powerful men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Removed from civilization and disillusioned by her isolation, Frances must choose between passion and integrity, a decision that has devastating consequences.

Where?
London / South Africa

When?
1880s

Why?
1. Emigration
In The Fever Tree, the heroine emigrates to South Africa after her father dies. Her only living relations either don't want to help her or only want her if she'll work for them. Neither life is all that appealing to Frances, so she decides to leave for South Africa. She travels across the ocean in the company of other women facing similar fates - women who are hoping for a better future in a new country. Whether they marry or become nurses, they are all looking to change their fate. In The Fever Tree you'll get a glimpse at these brave women, and you'll get a small taste for the desperation they must have felt to make them take such an arduous journey.

2. Diamonds
You've probably heard about the corrupt practices surrounding diamond mining and that industry today, but this books gives you a look at its origins. It's certainly hard to read about the topic without wanting to cry at the way the native Africans are treated. Greed motivates almost every action - it's all about mining more diamonds and making more money. It's not unusual for people to make decisions that are motivated by selfishness, but nowhere is it more evident and more heightened than in an environment like this.

3. Imperialism
If you're at all familiar with South Africa's history, you probably know that it's been filled with racial tension. The suppression began long before apartheid, and in The Fever Tree you'll get to see those roots. The Dictionary of Human Geography defines imperialism as "an unequal human and territorial relationship, usually in the form of an empire, based on ideas of superiority and practices of dominance, and involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another."

Imperialism - and the attitudes that result from it - is a huge part of this book. From racist remarks to outright abuse, it's certainly heartbreaking to read about one group of people putting themselves in a position of power over another. The inequality of power between whites and blacks is not the focus of this book, but it certainly plays a key role.

4. Epidemics
Finally, there's an interesting look at the way diseases and infections spread. Similarly to when colonial settlers in America brought in diseases that decimated Native American populations, The Fever Tree introduces readers to the smallpox epidemic that swept through some these mining communities. Greed led to lies and cover-ups that resulted in death and devastation. One character is this book is a doctor who is fighting for the right - trying to shed light on the epidemic and the injustice taking place. Like the other things I've mentioned, I love getting the chance to learn about this aspect of South African history (even if it is really sad).

South African Diamond Mine in the 1870s

16 comments:

  1. I still have all my American Girl dolls to pass down to my niece. I'm not sure where the accompanying books are, which is unusual for me. I need to find those! Great post!

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    1. Yeah, I don't know what happened to my American Girl books either! I think I may have given them away at some point :(

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  2. What an aweeeesome review. I love this idea. Brava!

    I also loooved AG and learning about different time periods through them. Which was your fav?

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  3. I love historical fiction too but really need to branch out. I tend to stick to the period I studied when I was younger (English Tudor history) so I really need to branch out. I actually do have Fever Tree on my shelves - I bought it completely on a whim a couple of months ago. The emigration angle was what drew me in originally but I am really intrigued by the epidemic aspects too. Looking forward to finally getting to it!

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    1. Yeah, I tend to choose historical fiction books from the same few time periods but I'm trying to get better at branching out. Glad you picked this up on a whim - hope you enjoy it!

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  4. This new feature is going to be awesome! I have a soft spot for historical fiction too, so you can be sure I'm going to stay tuned to all future posts of this kind. (This book sounds FASCINATING by the way)

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    1. Thanks for the feature love! And this book was really good!

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  5. I love this!!! You know how I love my history and I am so excited to see all your posts on this!! History rocks. Geeks rule the world :)

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  6. Ah, I love this feature! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but it's harder to keep up with the genre since most bloggers I follower are YA exclusive. This book sounds AMAZING, and I added it to my TBR right away! That so much for sharing! :)

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    1. THIS EXACTLY! I love historical fiction (obviously) but it is really hard to keep up with the genre since so few bloggers read it (unless it's YA historical fiction). I love YA, but I also love adult fiction and am finally coming out of my YA binge over the last year or so. It's nice finding new historical fiction!

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  7. This is a GREAT feature. I love it!! I have always enjoyed historical fiction but recently I have read quite a few books that have BLOWN ME AWAY and they are historical fiction!! I like how you go into the history of everything and I am especially interested in the epidemics portion. This might be weird (and may seem off topic but it's not!!) but I love stories about old hospitals, usually because I love to learn about the lies and deceit, and "cover-ups," in regards to patient care, and so on! This one seems really interesting because you really get a sense of "power" some people had over others. So sad!

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    1. Thanks for the feature love! Based on what you've said you love in historical fiction, I really do think you'll like this book. There's definitely a coverup/lies/deception thing going on in this book!

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  8. I love this so much. I can't even tell you how much. I think you've told me enough that I want to go snatch this book up from the library right now. Why? Because I've ALWAYS loved history, just not always historical fiction. But when you put it this way, you kind of appeal to the side that I love while slipping in enough about the book to also make it interesting. BRAVO, LADY. Keep doing this!

    Also, I kind of want to read this now. If I keep going backwards on this blog, you're going to kill my to-read pile again. I know it.

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    1. THANK YOU! Seriously, I kinda want to kill your TBR. It means I'm reading some awesome sauce books AND selling you on reading them :)

      That's a win for me!

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