Historical fiction in Belgium

I didn’t properly introduce myself yet. But you may already know that I live in Belgium. Why does a Belgian girl read and write about medieval historical fiction on an English blog?

This is not my first blog. For over 5 years, I’m writing on GoAnnelies. It’s a personal blog where I write about—let’s say—everything I want to talk about. Also about history and books. So why In Another Era? Well, if we take a look at the Belgian book market, you may find some clues there. Regarding popular culture, we are influenced by the Dutch and the French market, depending on the part of Belgium you live in. I live in Flanders which means translations of international books are in Dutch, mostly coming from publishers from The Netherlands.

But we do have our own writers and publishers. Especially thrillers and detectives (international thrillers are also among the best sold books—I think we just love to be scared? ;)). Some literature. And cookbooks. I’m not joking here. At our annual big book fair, more than half of the books sold are cookbooks. On national TV we have a lot of cooking programs and the cooks become as famous as any actress or singer would be. So they bundle their recipes in a book and that’s what makes them rich.

We have some older works that can be classified as historical fiction (Louis Paul Boon with Daens for example). But I can only name one Belgian contemporary author writing historical fiction (Stefan Hertmans, known from War and Turpentine). That already says a lot. It also indicates that if historical books are written they tell stories about the World Wars, as our country was heavily impacted by them (WOI brought ruin to a whole bunch of Flemish towns).

But a change is coming, not with historical fiction, but the last two years some history non-fiction books are topping our top 10 sold books for months. Bart Van Loo and Johan Op De Beeck are names that won’t say much to you but in my country they made parts of our history (Louis IVX; Napoleon; the court of Burgundy…) come alive to a broader audience. They set things in motion, and now I’m waiting for historical fiction works following the huge success of their non-fiction counterparts.

So given all that, it might not surprise you that I look to the international market for historical fiction works on the countries and periods I find interesting. And I read almost exclusively in English, as that’s the only option… Not even all of Philippa Gregory’s books (the most-known author that writes about England and the Tudor period) are translated. We do have the Wolf Hall trilogy of Hilary Mantel in our own language, but that’s merely because she won two Man Booker Prizes for it.

So last week I bought an Amazon Kindle since I was tired to add books to my ‘Want to read’-shelf on Goodreads that weren’t to be found at the local library or ordered at a book shop. And that seemed the perfect moment to start another blog. Where I can write about those books and stories that I love and hopefully reach an audience abroad that does too.

Want to follow my reading journey on Bloglovin?

What kind of books are most popular in your country?