Well it’s about time I started posting about what I read, seeing as that’s why I set up this blog in the first place. I’ve been meaning to do this post for about 4 days but am glad that I’ve held off (read: I’ve not bloody stopped all week) because I finished Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, the sequel to Wolf Hall. I read it all in one day – first in bed, then in the bath, then in my parents’ garden in my bikini refusing to acknowledge the sun had gone in, then on the sofa, then in the bath again. Yes, it’s been a lazy day. I don’t have many of those so they are worth noting.
Anyway. I started this weekend with Winter King by Thomas Penn about Henry VII, so it went seamlessly into Bodies which is about Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell in particular. Both books were beautifully written and about an identical period, and similar characters, yet startlingly different. Penn writes historical non-fiction; Mantel is narrating the story from Cromwell’s point of view. I enjoyed both books immensely, not only because I find this period of history particularly fascinating and I love learning more about it, but also because they were well written. Penn has great attendance to accuracy – his bibliography is a library in itself – and Mantel writes as if she were hidden behind Cromwell’s curtain. These black-eyed, stern-faced people we read about in dry text books or watch in inaccurate Hollywood films – they live, they breathe, they are. They have the same feelings and dreams and sensations and concerns as we do today (apart from that we’re not so worried about treason or being executed). It is an absolute gift to be able to give a fresh approach to a subject which has been written about countless times through the centuries, and to make these two-dimensional characters sentient beings. Henry VIII I have always dismissed as a fat, arrogant belcher, but seeing things through his perspective makes it so much more complicated. (I’m not making excuses for him incidentally, but read the book and you’ll know what I mean.) Henry VII is a dark character – Penn himself comments that even Shakespeare steered clear of writing about his reign – and I feel like, having finished this book, I have made a new – not friend exactly, but close acquaintance. I can picture him and know what he was like, not just what a gaunt, pursed-lipped shadowy figure as per his most famous portrait.
I devoured these books – partly because the library wanted them back, but also because (and particularly in the case of Bodies) I couldn’t stop. Both are highly recommended, whether you are a history scholar, or just like intrigue and pretty bad behaviour.
Next: The Thread by Victoria Hislop. I read and enjoyed The Island because it was quite well-written, it was an interesting story, and it was about my favourite place in the whole world after my grandparents’ fireside: Greece. I need to peg through this as the library want it back by Friday and I don’t think they’ll give me an extension on it, so I will let you know how I get on.
Other musings… I painted my nails brick-red this evening, then changed my mind and went for lavender. I still have the last vestiges of my summer tan and I want to wear bright and pastel colours until it fades. Dark colours are more appropriate for autumn and winter, methinks.
My gerbil Ernie died this week. His brother Eric had had major stomach surgery a fortnight ago, and my fears (and credit card) were focused towards him. He’s recovered fantastically, but poor little Ernie dipped very badly on Tuesday night, and was dead by Wednesday. I buried him in my parents’ garden today (I had to keep him in the freezer until I could drive over there, and it was unnerving me) – I do not have the build of a grave-digger, so I’ll have to get dad to redig the grave so nothing sniffs him, digs him out and strews his fur around the garden (as happened with Jettikin, when we tried an ‘eco-friendly’ coffin with her in 1989). I felt fine until as I pulled him out of the freezer bag his little tail poked out of the tissue I’d wrapped him in. Slim and small and black. When I picked him up, his tail used to whirl around like a helicopter rotor as he tried to maintain his equilibrium. Such a tiny thing, but it made my stomach hurt.
My parents’ garden contains, at a rough guess, 1 dog, 2 cats, 1 guinea pig, 2 rabbits, approx 9 gerbils, 1 gecko, numerous birds and several dozen fish. Just as well it’s not an old Indian graveyard innit. We were having a discussion about burial last week and I asked if I could have our dog and my gecko dug up and buried with me, but my parents refused saying it was not seemly. Neither was the idea of a family mausoleum. I did concede that as we can all manage about 3 days together without going mad, eternity in the same building might not be a good idea. (It was the first time I’d said the word mausoleum, and I pronounced it badly. I felt ashamed.)
You may be intrigued to know that I received my Ladybird Dracula from Amazon. The text was longer than I remembered, but the picture of Dracula bending over Mina on a bench was just as spine-chilling as it was when I was little.