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Romeo+JulietSo it’s all been a bit quiet here at Bride of the Book God apart from the occasional meme (thank you Thursday Thunks) and a little bit of book buying, but not much reading going on I’m afraid. Work is very busy at the moment and I must admit that my daily commute has turned into standing (almost inevitable these days) with my iPod jammed in my ears vegetating to (admittedly good) music as a means of setting me up for or unwinding from the day. I will try to do better, especially as I am behind in various challenges….

However, all of this doesn’t mean that interesting things haven’t been happening; lots of movie-going (as covered here). There is also football (St Mirren narrowly avoiding relegation on goal difference), TV (catching up with Heroes and eagerly awaiting the season finale of Fringe which is on tonight), and theatre which is where we come to yesterday’s big treat.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Sadler’s Wells here in London to see the Northern Ballet Theatre’s performance of Romeo and Juliet, set to Prokofiev of course (one of my favourites) as part of their 40th anniversary tour. I have a love-hate relationship with some of Shakespeare’s plays and R+J is definitely one of them – why don’t they just run away I cry to myself every time I see it. But I think it really, really works as a ballet because the heightened emotional stuff is more convincingly portrayed in dance – to my mind at least. I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle and had a little cry at the end, being hopelessly sentimental as I am.

But I really do have to get back to that tbr pile….

bookshopYesterday, in honour of the Bank Holiday, I went on the first book spending spree that I’ve had in a long time. I haven’t been writing much about new books simply because I haven’t really been buying any; the Book God’s largesse at Christmas and my birthday at the end of January satisfied my cravings, and I was determined to make inroads into the tbr pile which now resembles nothing so much as the Great Pyramid.

But yesterday was a public holiday close to payday, and I found myself in a book shop and just had to succumb.

The spoils were:

  • The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen – following on from my recent post I just had to get the next one in the series, possibly to hold for August Crime Month
  • Henry by David Starkey – my love for the sixteenth century is well-known and I’ve been watching Starkey’s series on TV so this was a bit of a no-brainer
  • Bloomsbury Ballerina by Judith Mackrell – this has been on my wishlist for ages, snaffled now that it’s out in paperback; and
  • A Literature of Their Own by Elaine Showalter – British women writers from Charlotte Bronte to Doris Lessing – ’nuff said.

Not a bad haul for someone who really wasn’t intending to get anything at all – well, maybe Henry was always in the cards, the others were a bonus!

im-a-weekly-geekThe Weekly Geeks topic is historical fiction, with an interesting choice of questions to consider. But the more I contemplated it,  the more I realised that it’s not quite as straightforward an issue to comment on as I had thought.

My relationship to historical fiction has changed over the years; in my teens I really enjoyed Jean Plaidy (especially her series on (surprise, surprise) Mary Queen of Scots and Catherine de Medici), but as I studied more history (that’s what my degree is, after all) I pulled away from reading fiction set in the period I was most interested in – the sixteenth century. And that’s because the little things, the niggly not quite right stuff, the playing about with the facts for dramatic purposes began to annoy me more and more.

So most of the historical fiction I read is in the crime genre, particularly the Victorian period and even more particularly anything vaguely reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes.

But if you asked me to pick the one historical novel that really impressed me and that I have gone back to more than once, then I would have to say Katherine by Anya Seton. A huge, sprawling, romantic blockbuster of a novel which had a huge impact, and I say that as someone who doesn’t do romance at all. I first read it when I was fifteen and fell in love then and there with John of Gaunt, and nothing I’ve learned about him since has changed my mind.

The Awful End of Prince William the Silent by Lisa Jardine describes the events leading up to the assassination of William and the repercussions of his death within the Low Countries and across Europe. It brings together two of my favourite things – crime and history – and does so in a really accessible way.

You don’t need to know anything about the political situation on the continent at that time as the author gives one of the best synopses I have ever read. So you get an understanding of why the Low Countries were in revolt against Spain, why Philip II felt the need to put a price on William’s head, and why someone might want to take up that challenge even though they knew it meant a certain and deeply unpleasant death for them. You also learn the impact this crime had on the rulers of Europe, Particularly Elizabeth II, and the growing fear of handguns. For as Lisa Jardine says, this crime wouldn’t have been possible without the invention of a pistol that could be loaded and primed in advance, concealed about the person and produced at the right moment to deadly effect.

What I found particularly interesting about this book are the parallels that are drawn with the present day. The 16th century assassin is compared to 21st century suicide bombers, who are almost impossible to stop because they have no concern for their own survival. The repressive measures taken by the English government in particular, trying to stop the wrong type of person from entering the country because of the fear that the Queen might be killed, and the lengths the intelligence services at the time went to to keep tabs on people also have a resonance in today’s fight against terror. And of course the murder of a celebrity and what that can mean to their ongoing reputation is also touched upon.

I thought this was an excellent introduction to the subject, and had the bonus of some original documents in the appendices which really fleshed out the background. Highly recommended.

Updated – I was so intent on trying to articulate what I thought about this book that I forgot to mention it was my fifth and final read for the Non-Fiction Five Challenge.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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