Joining the Facebook book groups has been one of the more interesting things that has ever happened to me. Another is actually reading the reviews on Goodreads. Both have reviled to me there are as many genre of readers as there are books.
It is fascinating to see discussions of certain books come up. One of them is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It is almost trendy with a certain segment of the population to hate on the book. First off it is a critical and a commercial success. I won’t say it is one of the best World War II books I have read but it is near the top of my list.
Now both the Goodreads influencers and the contrarians in the Facebook group fit into a category I think of as false intellectuals. I think of them this way probably because I was an English major and I have found that most English majors are like me. If it is written it is art. I can find beauty and poetry in a travel brochure if you ask me.
So just because a book is popular fiction doesn’t mean it isn’t art. So many of the descriptions in The Nightingale shook me to the core. It was a book about the cruelty of man. Stories of occupied France and what the average person went through are few and far between if you ask me. That is why I like historical fiction.
In history books history is told from the top down. If regular people are mentioned at all it is as innocent bystanders or collateral damage or as victims. It is never as unique human beings trying to live their lives during chaotic and troubling times. To me, this view of history is far more interesting than the typical top down chess board view of history.
I found great value in The Nightingale. I can’t say if it is high literature or not. What I do know is that I would teach it if I were an English teacher. It might not be A Farewell to Arms but then again it might. That is for time and tide to decide not me.
Maybe that is also why English majors are more forgiving and include everything under the category of art. We understand that Shakespeare was writing crude plays for the lower class of society in his time. And Dickens was the weekly sitcom of his time. A lot of what we think of today as high literature is nearly what time has decided to keep around.