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16 January 2011 @ 10:28 pm
another year, another glomp: #1, #2, #3  
The Regency Companion, Sharon Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin

This is the out-of-print reference book that cost me one hundred and thirty euro. It is interesting and informative, but I expected it to be written a little more ... factually. For no good reason the authors adopted the tone of a Heyer novel in their writing. References are messy and often repeated, such as Brummell's parting shot to Prinny (granted, 'Alvanley, who's your fat friend?' is one for the ages) or descriptions of Prinny's marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert. Still, if I was ever to write that Regency (gay) romance, this is the book I'd turn to.

World Without End, Ken Follett

Mediaeval Eastenders was how I described this book to the people who asked me about it as I sat reading it in the res. I was not being over-literal in that description, I assure you. Like a soap, it features a limited number of characters – not very interesting in their own right - who break up and get together again, cheat and lie, sell each other out and generally carry on in a way real people don't. There are a few scenes equivalent to the plane crashing into the pub in Emmerdale (at least I think it was Emmerdale). In short, it was extremely trashy, which is why it kept me so amused at work.

The four principle characters, Ralph and his brother Merthin, Caris and her friend Gwenda, witness a dude called Thomas kill two king's messengers in the forest. They keep this a secret all their lives - in fact, Merthin is the only one who remembers it in the end. (The plague will do that to you.) The secret Thomas hides is ... that Edward II didn't actually die in the assassination attempt by his queen. He just went off somewhere. By the end of the book Edward III is old himself and Edward II certainly dead. I don't know if this is a pet theory of historians or what, but I could see absolutely no reason for its inclusion in the story.

Ralph shoots Gwenda's dog in the first meet-cute, setting the stage for his life of raping, murdering and going to war. He is utterly reprehensible and also the most accurate portrayal, I imagine, of the pre-Renaissance man. In the end he is killed by his illegitimate son in a scene that is as abrupt as it is puzzling.

Gwenda falls for the hunk of the village, a peasant called Wulfric who's unfortunately in love with the beautiful Annet. Circumstances transpire to rob Wulfric of his lands and thus of Annet's interest in him. Gwenda capitalises on this and ends up marrying him, but there are endless scenes where Annet shows she still holds sway over him. Yet at the end, when their children end up marrying, Annet breaks down and weeps over how much Wulfric loves Gwenda. THAT'S GREAT, BUT MAYBE YOU COULD HAVE SHOWED ME THIS? I still believe Wulfric would have Annet back in a second if he could. Nothing Follett actually wrote convinced me otherwise.

So far, so soap. IT GETS BETTER. Caris and Merthin fall in love (offscreen; a bit like the Duckworths, I think we're meant to leave their origin story buried in the mists of time). She is troubled by very twenty-first century notions of women's lib and how she'll become Merthin's possession when they marry, which leads her to have an abortion, be denounced as a witch, join a convent, become an effective plague doctor, and eventually renounce her vows and marry him after all. I'm pretty sure Stacey Slater did most of that.

But there was something unpleasant about Griselda's grin, Caris thought; almost as if she were laughing at Caris for being a virgin herself.


"There must be something we can do!"
"She's in God's hands, now. You could pray."
"That's not what I meant by doing something."

I did like how Caris questioned the Church. However, between that and her sensible infection control measures, she Mary Sue'd herself to death. I'm sure the reason anyone survived the Black Death is that a few doctors copped to the mechanism of infection (without necessarily understanding it). I'm also very glad that people did proclaim heresy and begin the centuries-long process of renouncing religion, otherwise I'd be tied to a stake right now. But all of that in one person? It takes the law of conservation of characters to the extreme.

"I believe that what I do becomes a part of me," she said. "When I'm brave and strong, and care for children and the sick and the poor, I become a better person. And when I'm cruel, or cowardly, or tell lies, or get drunk, I turn into someone less worthy, and I can't respect myself. That's the divine retribution I believe in."
He looked at her thoughtfully. "I wish I'd met you twenty years ago."

Caris/Tam forever!

but he returned surprisingly quickly, like he had been bounced off the wall of that great city like a football.

Here I was thinking football was invented in the Industrial Revolution.

Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, Carolyn Turgeon

This book tells the story of Lil, fairy godmother to Cinderella, who took Cinderella’s place at the ball and was forever banished from fairyland for so doing. I'm surprised it didn't stain my hands lilac, the prose was just that purple (and interwoven with people saying 'It’ll be okay', which was so incongruous it made me weep). As the conclusion approached and some explanations for how New York grew up on the site of a silver palace (I know WHUT) hovered on the horizon, it transpired that Lil was just a forgetful human old lady with some grief, dissociation and possibly schizophrenic issues. Switching genres so suddenly did poor justice to both fairytales and tales of mental health and read as nothing more than a quick-fix cop out.. Extremely disappointing.

Also, I don't know if this writer has either a) seen pale skin or b) gone to the hairdresser's, ever. If skin was 'translucent,' we'd be walking slabs of raw beef. If hairdressers left rings on every finger while they styled you, you'd be sueing them for CUTTING YOUR SCALP and their rings would also rot off with the chemicals. Turgeon also kept harping on about how great the fifties were. Sure, I love the fashion and the hairstyles, but I would NOT like to have been a woman back then. My generation's the only one so far that's been halfway decent to women, even if the skirts leave something to be desired.
Current Mood: busybusy
The Goddamn Wolf Womanslythwolf on January 16th, 2011 11:24 pm (UTC)
Actually, skin is translucent. It lets light through. That's why it shows up when you blush and you can see the veins in the backs of your hands. Translucent =/= transparent.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 20th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
WHOA, was that ever an attack of the dumbs on my part. (Still, it's a hackneyed and 'I don't think it means what you want it to mean' description - I stand by that!)
nishatalitha: with laptopnishatalitha on January 17th, 2011 07:41 am (UTC)
Fully agree with you about the last one. I finished it (but only because it was short and the only book I had with me). I was expecting a fairytale or a story about Lil as a forgetful human women, not a fairly ineffective mix of the two.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on January 20th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC)
It was really terrible. And the fairies themselves, if taken on their own merits, were so stupid - a fairy lake where they write the fates of humans is just so paint-by-numbers fantasy. :/