The game is afoot!


By now, dear readers, you have ferreted out one of my dirty little secrets, namely my  love of Betty Neels and Georgette Heyer romances. Well, I think it’s time that I owned up to another – I am a Sherlock Holmes purist!

SherlockWhat? You don’t read the myriad of spin offs and ‘sequels? Yes, I read a few, notably Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Percent Solution and one or two others. Didn’t care for most of them.  (The Seven Percent Solution was a partial exception.) Don’t you watch “Elementary,” “Sherlock,” etc.?  No, sorry, I don’t. I watched the BBC productions with Jeremy Brett and enjoyed it, but that’s it. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing, it’s hard to beat the well-crafted ‘little problems’ of Doyle’s original stories. Second, later writers often try to change the character of Holmes – make him more like the rest of us and less like Holmes.

So, why this article? Well, I finally decided to read a book by Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.  Now, mind you, I had certain reservations about the whole thing, because it introduced a new type if character and slant to the story -a young, FEMALE person!  After all, Holmes as delineated by Dr. Watson (via Doyle) is, if not a misogynist, then within a hairsbreadth of being one.  He is irascible, pendantic, and intolerant of ‘lesser minds.’  Thankfully, Ms King neither tries to change the backstory nor the character of Holmes – she works within them.  Of course, she tweaks a few things, but does it very well — she attributes the changes to Watson’s and Doyle’s ‘literary license!’  Neatly done!  (And I will not divulge anymore, so as not to spoil your fun!)

What of the book itself?  Well, I found it easy to read, without being simplistic, well written and engaging, with a well developed plot, i.e., mystery (naturally).  Holmes is still Holmes.

The character of Mary Russell is very believable to me, as I have experienced somewhat of her dilemma  — an modern Amercan woman in the midst of English culture and tradition.  Often a case of ‘sticking out like a sore thumb!’  Our attitudes, thought processes, and what we consider ‘normal’ are often seen by our British cousins as odd, boorish, rude, or just plain strange! So, I like Mary Russell!  A lot.

The only character I had a problem with was King’s portrayal of Dr. Watson.  While it is a sympathetic rendering, she does tend to overdo his ‘bumbling’ nature — to my mind, a man who served his country well and honorably in the Army can’t be as inept as she sometimes implies.  Of course, that view of Watson could be ascribed to the main character, the young Mary Watson.  After all, at age 18 or so, how good are any of us at judging another’s character well?

My conclusion?  Well, my dear Watsons, I will continue to read this series, since series it is indeed, and report back from time to time.  Never fear!  The game is still afoot!



Wordy Wednesday



You are about to learn another of my guilty pleasures!  You already know about Jane Austen as well as Star Trek.  Well, in addition to these, I take great pleasure in reading, and rereading, Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels!  There, I’ve said it.

Ms Heyer’s Regency novels among the best researched stories about the period that I have encountered.  I like reading about the clothing, the manners, and the customs of that time period. More gracious and gentile than ours, but with many more constraints and strictures placed on individuals, particularly those of the lower ranks of the peerage.  The very elite could usually behave with much more license than those lower on the status scale, while the working classes had more pressing problems to deal with, like earning a living!

In her novel, Bath Tangle, Ms Heyer introduces us to a very well-born young woman, Lady Serena, the daughter of an earl (the third highest rank in the British Peerage. Because of the changes in her circumstances brought about by her father’s death, Serena and her step-mother, Fanny (who is in fact 3 years younger than Serena), go to Bath to live for a while.  There, Serena meets a Major Hector Kirby, who had tried to court her 6 or 7 years prior to the opening of our story.  The match was refused by Serena’s father as ‘unequal,’ as the then-Mr. Kirby was the younger son of a mere gentleman’s family – in other words, no rank or title.

But, it is neither in truth Serena nor Hector that interest us – it is Mrs. Kirkby, Hector’s widowed mother.  She is described as “a valetudinarian of retiring habits and timid disposition.”  I must confess, when I read this, I was trying to imagine what sort of high academic achievement Mrs. Kirkby had acquired!  Then I reread the sentence!  Oh, not valedictorian!  Valetudinarian!  What?

Naturally, I had to look up such a delicious sounding word.  So I am please to share with you, dear readers, this word for Wordy Wednesday!

First from  Valetudinarian:  Noun= 1. an invalid.  2.  a person who is excessively concerned about his or her poor health or ailments.  Adjective= 3. in poor health; sickly; invalid.  4. excessively concerned about one’s poor health or ailments.  5. of, relating to, or characterized by invalidism

Sounds like a hypochondriac, right?  Let’s see what World Wide Words has to say:  “A valetudinarian is unduly anxious about his health. The everyday word for this condition might be thought to be hypochondriac, but there’s a subtle difference: the hypochondriac thinks he’s always ill, but the valetudinarian takes great care to ensure he never is.”   Ah, so!
And for all you Latin fans out there: The word is from Latin valetudinarius, in ill health. (World Wide Words.)  The things you learn in books!

Dear Miss Austen

Writing with Ink,

Writing with Ink,

My dear Miss Austen,

I pray you will forgive any familiarity in addressing you thusly, but I feel as though I know you, although ‘as through a glass darkly.’  You see, I am a devout fan of your writing that I presume to write to tell you just how ardently I admire you.  Yes, I understand you sought to remain unknown for your world considers it most unseemly for a mere woman to write – simply scandalous!  But I wish to assure you that your writing has had more influence that these small minds could ever conceived!

On my part, dear Miss Austen, I have learned about the dangers in judging either by one’s own prejudices or by another’s appearance.  Oftimes, I have learned the lesson in looking backwards, but learned it I have.  You have also taught me of the value of kindness and loyalty; of the difficulty of adhering to a moral standard when the world around you scorns such standards; of the importance of friendship, oh, and so many more lessons that I find myself unable to fully express them all!

May I also say that your words have shown those of us living in a less gracious time a glimpse into how to act with more civility and courtesy (even while your rather pointed barbs at conceit leave us with sides aching with laughter!)  I believe that one reason that we are still so devoted to reading and talking about your writing is that we long to experience some of this same civility in our own interactions.

In closing, I just want to thank you once more for your wonderful words and characters, Miss Austen!  Rest assured your novels will continue to be read as long as there are people of good sense and good taste.

Most sincerely,

Your devoted reader

Jane and Friends

A discussion began during Blogging 101 last month between Sarah Hemsley and myself about, naturally, Jane Austen.  In one of her comments, Sarah asked me Do you have a favourite Austen novel? That was actually a difficult question to answer.

My go-to read when I need a ‘dose of Jane’ (to quote D. E. Stevenson in one of her Mrs. Tim books) is Pride and Prejudice.  However, I sometimes head over to visit with Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, and there are occasions when only the much under-valued Fanny Price will do. You see, all these characters become friends over the course of time.  The ever-so-sensible Mr. Knightley would be a wonderful person to seek out if one were in need of advice. Do you need a good laugh?  Then try a quarter of an hour in Mr. Collins’ company (I cannot recommend anymore, lest you begin to worry about your sanity.)  Do you need a gentle and loyal friend?  Then most definitely it’s Anne Elliot for you!

In any case, I am going to also start rereading Emma in anticipation of Sarah’s online celebration of the 200th anniversary of it’s publication.  I encourage you to join the discussion when it begins in December.

The places I’ve been to

image from Open book | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

image from Open book | Flickr – Photo Sharing!

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul –
by Emily Dickinson
To paraphrase the John Denver song, “the places I’ve been to, the stories books tell.”  I’ve been to India, Morocco, Egypt; to Polynesia, Hawaii, Alaska.  I’ve seen the rice paddies of China, the red stones of Petra, the falls at Iguazu. I’ve sailed before the wind on a man-of-war, orbited Vulcan, cycled the lanes of Holland and trekked with Lewis and Clark!
Oh, how did I manage all that, you ask?  It’s easy and cheap – I read a book.  From The Far Pavilions to Spock’s World, I’ve done it all.  Authors open new worlds to their readers, new and exciting places to explore!  How else would we get to experience the beauty of Narnia, or stark landscape of alien worlds without books?
Have you ever gotten so lost in a book that you forgot to put it down?  I have.  Have you ever decided, ‘I’ll read one chapter.’ and your next thought is, ‘Oh, wow, I finished the whole book!”  I would love to hear your experiences in reading:  what moves you, what are your favorite places to ‘visit,’ which characters’ company do you seek out time and again?
“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are” is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.”
François Mauriac