Buzzfeed: When the Apricots Bloom a Top Historical Fiction Novel for 2021
Thank you to Buzzfeed for rating When the Apricots Bloom as one of the best historical fiction novels to curl up with in 2021! It's an honor, and also raises the interesting question of what does or doesn't qualify as historical fiction - or any other genre for that matter? When asked, I usually say that When the Apricots Bloom is a mix of suspense and women's fiction - although I have to admit, the last one rankles me a little. After all, if the main characters were men, I doubt it would be called 'men's fiction'. But Buzzfeed isn't alone in placing When the Apricots Bloom as historical fiction. Several reviewers have described it so, noting that the story takes place amid the backdrop of a pivotal moment in time - in Baghdad almost 20 years ago, just prior to the Iraq war, under the rule of the dictator Saddam Hussein.
However, I doubt this would meet the criteria of the Historical Novel Society which defines the genre as works "written at least fifty years after the events described". Perhaps the learned society would give me a little leeway, due to the fact that the novel also draws on Iraq's amazingly rich heritage and the pivotal role the country has played in shaping world events, dating all the way back to Mesopotamia. The novel also harkens back to a very different place and time - and one that no longer exists, so perhaps for that reason, it might qualify as historical fiction.
When I lived in Iraq in 2002 and 2003, Iraq was cut off from the outside world. Ordinary citizens had no internet access, no mobile phones, and no tv channels except state-run propaganda. Landline phones worked only sporadically. Now mobile phones and WIFI enable Iraqis to stay in touch with each other and with the outside world. But not all changes are positive. Iraqi women, especially those in Baghdad, once enjoyed more legal rights than any others in the Middle East. Wearing a headscarf was a woman's choice - and only one of my Iraqi friends did so. Unfortunately, that has changed, and many women no longer feel safe leaving home without a head-covering.
All across the world, societies are changing at a pace that would have seemed unbelievable just a generation ago. Given this, perhaps Buzzfeed is right to rethink the criteria for historical fiction. What do you think? Do we need to rethink how we classify genres? And in 20 years, will our lives today seem like ancient history?