Saturday, July 3, 2010

Week 27: In Search of London and a children's book



In Search of London, by H. V. Morton

I am so glad my mom found this book for me. H. V. Morton is the latest addition to my list of all-time favorite writers, and I must find more of what he wrote. Morton was a popular writer and broadcaster who won fame as a young man when he scooped the discovery of King Tut's tomb in 1922. He did quite a bit of travel writing, and I plan to read the rest of it.

In In Search of London, Morton simply wanders around the great sights of London narrating history and fascinating little tidbits of information. He ranges from the City to the West End to Hampton Court. He visits the Romans, the Cavaliers, and everyone else. There are stories about Nelson, scholars, pensioners, Madame Tussaud (who had a much more interesting life than most of the people she modelled), and Anne Boleyn. The book dates from 1951; Elizabeth is a princess and London is recovering from the war, with burned-out shells of buildings still standing and rationing yet in force.

If you are an Anglophile at all, this book is a must-read. It's wonderful for keeping at your bedside to dip into every evening, so you can prolong it as long as possible. The main trouble with it is that it makes you long to visit London--and, as my mom said, preferably the London of about 1930.



Alchemy and Meggy Swann, by Karen Cushman

Cushman's new historical novel is well worth reading. I always enjoy her books, though I usually don't much care for historical fiction; her characters are actual natives of their time, with realistic lives. Far too much historical fiction stars a spunky heroine with modern sensibilities, who finds her adventure by disguising herself as a boy and running off to play Shakespeare's Puck. Or something like that, anyway. Cushman writes about ordinary girls--often down on their luck--who overcome their problems with wit and tenacity, in a completely realistic way.

Oh yes, the plot. Meggy is a girl who is sent to London to live with her father, an alchemist whom she has never met. He wants an unpaid servant and is dismayed to find her female and crippled. She is left almost to herself to get around the city, make friends, and figure out how to work (and eat). Then she has to face a moral dilemma and build a life for herself.

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