Historical Fatigue

In the past few days, I’ve seen several Americans go all crazy about Downton Abbey on the Internet. Here’s an example from Smart Bitches, Trashy Book. There are similar posts elsewhere.

Reading the Smart Bitches and similar posts reminded me that I still have the first episode of Downton Abbey lying around, unwatched. As well as the first episode of the most recent incarnation of Upstairs, Downstairs. I have something called Garrow’s Law lying around, which looks fantastic and yet remains as unwatched as the others. I have a boxset of the Richard Sharpe TV movies on my shelf and didn’t even open the shrink wrap. What is more, Lark Rise to Candleford just started up again at the BBC, too. And I haven’t even finished the last series yet.

It’s not just that I didn’t get around to watching all of those undoubtedly fine British costume dramas yet. Rather, whenever I have an hour or two to myself to sit down and watch a bit of British TV in the original language (when I’m with others, I mostly have to stick to the German dubbings), historical drama is very low on my list of things to watch. I keep telling myself that I’ll get around to it eventually, when I’m in the mood. But then I reach for Misfits or Hustle or Spooks or the most recent Sherlock or anything but historical drama.

It’s not just films and TV drama either. I used to love well researched historical fiction and have several unread historical novels on my shelves. But for some reason, I don’t want to read them. Now I’m very busy with the PhD related reading, so historicals – since they’re not PhD material – are rather low on the reading list. But whenever I’m taking a break from the PhD books, I find myself drawn to contemporary romances, mysteries and chick lit, but not to historicals.

I used to blame my weariness with historical fiction on the fact that particularly historical romances are often so woefully inaccurate that I’ve pretty much given up on the historical romance subgenre altogether. I used to like traditional regencies quite a bit, but traditional regencies died out and the sexed up regency historicals that replaced them just don’t do it for me. The only exceptions are writers I either know to be good or those who come highly recommended.

However, the accuracy issues that plague many of today’s historical romances and have put me off the subgenre for good do not account for my recent disinterest in historical TV drama. Because I’m certain that all of the programs mentioned above will be accurate to the last detail with regards to costuming and production design. And yet I can’t muster any interest in watching them.

I initially put my reluctance to watch Downton Abbey down to the fact that I have issues with the works of Julian Fellowes. I tried watching Gosford Park some time ago and it literally put me to sleep. But Julian Fellowes isn’t even involved in any of the other programs. What is more, I have enjoyed both the Sharpe series and Lark Rise to Candleford a whole lot in the past.

So what’s wrong with me? Have I just been burned by too many bad and inaccurate historicals that I’ve lost my taste for the good stuff as well? Has age made historical films and fiction seem less romantic to me?

One thing is clear, however. I am suffering from historical fatigue. And I’m craving stories set in the here and now, whether they’re realistic works or fantasy. Because with fantasy, I’m most drawn to urban fantasy rather than secondary world fantasy.

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9 Responses to Historical Fatigue

  1. Estara says:

    Might just be a phase – just go with it ^^. That happens with my reading, too.

    • Estara says:

      And on that note I recommend Sharon Lee’s Barnburner and Gunshy, as well as her 2010 release Carousel Tides. Yes, that’s the Lee of the Liaden universe.

      • Cora says:

        Thanks for the recommendations. Carousel Tides is definitely on my list of books to try, because I love fun fair settings and because Sharon Lee is always worth reading.

        I hadn’t heard of Barnburner yet, but it sounds intriguing. The Maine setting is another draw – I was very impressed with Maine when I visited approx. 10 years ago.

        • Estara says:

          Yay! All the books are set in Maine, but while Carousel Tides is urban fantasy…. rural urban fantasy? set in a seaside amusement park town in Maine… Barnburner and Gunshy are cozy mysteries/slice of life about a young woman having inherited a house in a small town in Maine and how she builds her life there and makes connections. Also they are set in the 80s and have the BBS online life as a major feature ^^ – fascinating.

          Barnburner and Gunshy are only available electronically now, they were chapbooks. I got them via Fictionwise.

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