Category Archives: Historical fiction

Mid-August and Hunkered Down

Birdwatching and watching the birdwatchers. Plus, smoky air!

We are well into mid-August and the usual heat of summer has been replaced by the especially miserable record-breaking heat, drought, fire, and smoky air. We do all our errands in the early morning, occasionally picking up a cup of coffee at Starbucks and then hanging out at Fern Hill Wetlands watching the birds and the birdwatchers. Then, it’s home to hunker down as the heat of the day builds up and the air becomes worse. And I must add that the hunkering down is also part of our daily protection plan for my husband’s compromised immune system during this time of raging variants!

So, all that sounds pretty grim, but the nice thing about it all is that we are getting a lot of reading done, are enjoying watching our current K-drama during the day instead of after dinner, and are having fun trying out new recipes. Adjust and Adapt!

Woman Reading, by Henri Ottmann

Books read and enjoyed in the last few weeks:

A Song for Lonely Wolves, by Lee Evie. The first book in a new mystery/detective series that takes place during the Joseon Dynasty in Korean history. The main character is a talented young female detective during a period of time when women were not valued. A very interesting historical fiction mystery. I’m looking forward to reading on in the series when the new books come out.

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Notes on Grief is a short book by Chimamanga Ngozi Adichie about the death of her father during the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown last year. (He did not die of Covid.) It is a beautifully written account of his sudden death and the grief that followed, complicated by the restrictions of the pandemic. “I am writing about my father in the past tense, and I cannot believe I am writing about my father in the past tense.”  It is a deeply personal, yet completely universal, story, and I appreciated her honesty and her sharing her grief with us. I wrote down many quotes from this book because I know they will give me strength later on.   “Grief was the celebration of love, those who could feel real grief were lucky to have loved.”

My emotions are like a roller coaster these days, since my husband’s diagnosis. We have days that are “mostly normal” and days where waves of sadness hit us hard. So after reading Notes on Grief, I decided to return to the kind and gentle world of Miss Read’s Fairacre. I picked up the 15th volume in the series, Village Centenary, and read it through in a short few days. It was an absolute delight, and exactly what my soul needed. In this book, the village celebrates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the village school. Most of the residents of Fairacre went to the school, and the town comes together to honor the old school with a wonderful celebration at the end of the year. “There was no doubt about it, Fairacre School was the heart of our village, and memories of their own schooldays quickened the adults’ response to this tribute to its hundred years.”  What a lovely series, and this was one of my favorites of the ones I’ve read so far.

We are currently enjoying watching the South Korean drama, Bossam: Steal the Fate. It’s a highly entertaining series about a man of the Joseon Dynasty who mistakenly kidnaps the widowed daughter of the king. Bossam” was a “customary remarriage procedure” during that period of time. “A widow could not remarry. A single man or widower would kidnap the widow and marry her. Some of the kidnappings were agreed upon in advance and others were by force.” So a man could be hired to do the kidnapping, but things went awry with this particular job!  It is both humorous and serious, with wonderful acting, costuming, and filming — just a fun and very addictive historical drama.

Aside from reading and watching historical South Korean dramas, keeping my garden alive in the heat this summer has been a full-time job. I have to get it all watered before the heat builds up, so I start early and finish before noon. Fortunately, my zinnias like the heat!

 

 

Currently Reading: The Living Reed

“The year was 4214 after Tangun of Korea, and 1881 after Jesus of Judea.” So begins Pearl S. Buck’s The Living Reed, an epic historical novel seen through the eyes of four generations of Korean aristocracy.”

I am completely caught up in Pearl S. Buck’s, The Living Reed: A Novel of Korea. Her writing is so elegant, and her storytelling carries you away. That’s why I love reading her novels.

Hamnet

 

If I had to write a one-word review of Maggie O’Farrell’s book, Hamnet, I would simply say “Wow.”  I would write more if I could stop crying, but I was powerfully moved by this story, and it’s going to stay with me for a long time. And it’s okay to cry.

It is a story about grief…so beautifully described, so honestly told. It is the story of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and his death at age 11. It was a devastating death for his family, as such a loss would be for any family, and the author includes you as one who feels the loss intensely.

How were they to know that Hamnet was the pin holding them together? That without him they would all fragment and fall apart, like a cup shattered on the floor?

Read it. The writing is mesmerizing, beautiful, gripping, profound. But be prepared to cry, because you become totally immersed in the emotional honesty of this world created by Maggie O’Farrell. And then read Shakespeare’s Hamlet again, from a new vantage point, which is what I am going to do now.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”

My husband’s copy of Hamlet…with post-it notes

 

Victoria

victoria

Hubby and I are enjoying watching  the new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria. I gave my mother the book for Christmas, and she liked it a lot. After watching the first episode of the series, I decided I needed to read the book, also. Daisy Goodwin‘s story of the young Queen Victoria is a lot of fun. Definitely recommended! If you are enjoying the series, you will also find this book to be a very enjoyable read!

victoria-book

Poldark

Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark

Oh yes! Poldark weekend has arrived! I’d never read any of the Poldark saga books, by Winston Graham, although they’ve been on my TBR list for a long time (along with many other books about or that take place in Cornwall!). But I decided to read the first one in the series, Ross Poldark, A Novel of Cornwall 1783-1787, before the new Masterpiece Theater version begins this weekend. I enjoyed the book, fell a little in love with the character of Ross Poldark, and am looking forward to watching the show and that gorgeous Aidan Turner on Sunday evening!