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Greetings, dear readers.  I know it’s been a long while since I’ve written anything but it’s been a rough year.

I decided to write tonight because I just finished a book, and have been pondering it since finishing.  The book is called The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, by Gil McNeil. I don’t usually purchase books by unfamiliar authors and never buy paperbacks if I can help it – I tend to borrow them from the local library – but I went into Barnes & Noble on Saturday to buy Jan Karon’s latest in hardcover, and bought this on a whim, based on the title. Being a knitter myself, it intrigued me.

The plot and characters were well written and well-developed. The basic plot involves a 30-something woman who is married to a foreign correspondent for a British news station. We meet Jo on moving day, when she can’t find the tea kettle, and packed the list that shows what box it is in. We also meet her two young boys and Jo’s best friend Ellen, a well-known newscaster, who saves the day by enticing the movers to pop out for coffee.  We learn that Jo’s husband recently earned a big promotion, but after he shares this news with Jo, he also informs her he wants a divorce because he’s having an affair.  An argument ensues, Nick storms out, and crashes his car. Not only that, we find out he took out a second mortgage on their house, making it impossible for Jo to afford to continue living in London.  Instead, she moves to a seaside town near her grandmother, and takes over her Gran’s yarn store, which Gran has given her.

The book details Jo’s transition as she begins a new and unexpected life.  We meet many interesting characters in the town – the stiff and disapproving shop assistant, Elsie; the warm-hearted and loyal new friend, Constanza; the local big-time movie star, Grace.  Ms McNeil has a fine touch of revealing the personalities and traits of these and the many other people who inhabit Jo’s world.  I was often reminded of the complex characters we met in Maeve Binchy’s novels.

But one thing I find hard to deal with is Ms McNeil’s constant use of expletives and foul language.  I have spent a good deal of time in England, among a similar class of people as in this novel, and have never heard them speak this way.  certainly with all the myriad of words in the English language, Ms McNeil could find another way to express herself without using the f-word on every page, or using the name of the Lord as a curse word.  Take a page out of Shakespeare, and get a bit more creative if you must curse, Gil!  She makes her characters sound as if they are all truck drivers and stevedores by the way they speak.

In conclusion, I liked the story, and would enjoy learning more about Jo McKenzie and her life, but, I think I will forgo reading any sequels until Ms McNeil cleans up her language.

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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

from en.wikipedia.com

from en.wikipedia.com

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 Dictionary.com:  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!
#etymology

Dear Miss Austen

Writing with Ink, Fotor.com

Writing with Ink, Fotor.com

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.