When first reading Exit West, I assumed it was a futuristic form of historical fiction, a realistic story about two people during a time of war. But when they first walked through the door, I thought had misunderstood or the story skipped forward in time. I thought it to be a mistake by Hamid to introduce such a syfy like portal in this very probable world, that he was confusing the reader more than he should.
In Beloved, I was even more sure that I was reading historical fiction. A book about life after slavery? For sure. But then Paul D scared a ghost out of the house, Sethe was choked my mysterious fingers, and Beloved appeared and disappeared.
Although initially strange, I think that these supernatural aspects were necessary. In Exit West, the magical doors transcend all barriers and create an accelerated migration, that gives Hamid an opportunity provide commentary about these topics. In Beloved, the ghost forces Sethe to relive trauma that slavery has brought upon her, and gives Morrison a chance to give the reader a deeper understanding about living after slavery. In both books, they are very central elements, and introduce ways to bring out ideas that wouldn’t have been articulated in a nonfiction book.
Can these books, especially Beloved, still be considered historical fiction?