A sudden pile of books

 Hey everybody!  I disappeared for a while there, and I'm not quite sure what I am going to do, but I'll tell you about it.  My reading mojo disappeared; I mean, it took a long vacation and I wondered if it was coming back.  I think it had mostly to do with my husband's layoff back in January; worry took up most of my brainspace and there was not much left over.  I could read the fluffiest mysteries, and Diana Wynne Jones.  I read something like eight of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, would you believe -- I liked those when I was around 13.  But I couldn't seem to keep up with blogging, or anyone else's blogs, or read anything new or in the least challenging.  I saw the CC Spin and I just couldn't do it!  Instead I embroidered things and played too much on my phone.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband got a nice contracting gig, and I instantly felt much better.  Pretty soon my reading came back, and with renewed energy -- I read two Shakespeare plays yesterday (?!?), but I had a reason.  My Ridgeway trip is coming up and, having been unable to study up in the past few months, I'm cramming.  (We made the reservations and paid for much of the trip before the layoff, so it was kind of unstoppable.)  So with all that said, here are the books I've read in the last few days.  And I'll write the trip up here afterwards!  Wish me luck -- 

Sun Horse, Moon Horse,
by Rosemary Sutcliff:  My mom found this on her shelves; when the library discarded a bunch of Sutcliff, she brought them home.  I'd never known of this title before, but it's fantastic, and centers on the Uffington White Horse, which we now know to date from somewhere around 1000 BCE, but that's a pretty recent discovery that needed fancy soil analysis and so on.  150 years ago, it was thought to date from King Alfred's reign, and in Sutcliff's day they had moved that back to about 100 BCE.  So she spins a tale of Celtic tribes living on the chalk hills, lording it over the earlier ancient British inhabitants.  

Lubrin Dhu is the youngest son of the chief of a group of Iceni, and he grows up learning the arts of horsemanship and war.  He also loves to draw -- patterns of movement and of feeling.  When another tribe attacks and kills most of his people, Lubrin is left to be the remnant's representative to the people who have enslaved them.  He strikes a deal: if he can make a magic horse in the hillside to symbolize the other tribe's ascendancy, they will let his people go to find a new place to live.  It will be his last work of art, and he wants to make it well.

One thing that struck me about this story is how close to the bone it cuts and how differently the story would be written today.  Do you think a modern author would put in the severed head trophies and human sacrifice?  I have my doubts.  But I don't find it inappropriate or anything; it's a great story.  If you see a copy, grab it.

Shakespeare's Wild Flowers: Fairy Lore, Gardens, Herbs, Gatherers of Simples and Bee Lore, by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde:  This is a collection and explanation of Elizabethan ideas about plant life, as expressed by what must be every mention of any plant  at all in Shakespeare's works.  It's pretty exhaustive, and I will admit to kind of skimming in places!  But it's a fun read, and gave me a few hints of things to do on our trip -- for example, we're already planning to visit Temple Church in London, and I learned here that Henry VI Part I has a famous 'rival roses' scene to kick off the Wars of the Roses, which is set in the Inner Temple Garden...which we'll walk right by, so we might as well know that!  It was fun to visit Elizabethan gardens for a bit.  And so I read....

The Merry Wives of Windsor, by W. Shakespeare: My friend and I are also going to visit Windsor Castle, so I thought I'd read this comedy, which I've never read before.  It's an extremely light and bawdy comedy starring Falstaff -- legend has it that Queen Elizabeth enjoyed his character and asked for a new play in which Falstaff falls in love, and it should be finished in just a couple of weeks.  So Falstaff visits the town of Windsor, and decides he likes Mrs. Ford.  And Mrs. Page too.  The two women are best friends and decide to teach Falstaff a lesson (and incidentally jealous Mr. Ford too).  So Mrs. Ford invites Falstaff to visit her, and they have three nice doses of revenge.  As my husband commented, it's all very much like an episode of Three's Company!  

A Midsummer Night's Dream, by W. Shakespeare: since we'll be on the trail for the solstice, looking at lots of flowers and trees, it seemed only appropriate to prepare by reading a play that takes place at midsummer.  I happened to obtain a copy with Arthur Rackham illustrations a little while ago, so I read that.  Such a fun play, and with a good deal more substance than the Merry Wives.

The True History, by Lucian of Samosata (trans. by my old buddy H. W. Fowler):  Finally, an item that has nothing to do with my trip.  I saw a little blurb online that credited Lucian with writing the first identifiable science-fiction story, sort of.  I was intrigued, my husband pointed out that our kid works at the library and could bring it to me, and I read it that evening.  It's a fun piece, only about 30 pages long, and is a satire on the 'fanstastic voyage' stories that were popular in Lucian's day.  He tells of how, on a sea voyage, a terrible windstorm blew his ship all the way to the moon, where a human king reigns over strange vegetable people.  Lucian participates in the war with the people of the Sun -- both groups want to colonize the planet Lucifer -- and after a truce is reached, they all travel back to earth.  A series of dangerous islands is next, and they are eaten by a gigantic whale -- so large that there is an inhabited island in the middle of the stomach.  They eventually escape with the usual method of fire, and land upon the island of Elysuim, meeting many famous heroes.  This was actually my favorite bit because it was so funny.  

Goodness, what a long post.  I should go back to individual posts; I don't really like the riffle of reviews format, but I don't feel like I have a ton of itme.  I hope everybody is doing well and enjoying the summer!


  1. Good to see you back Jean. As usual, you have added to my booklist!

  2. Good heavens! You always find the most interesting books. I'd never heard of that Sutcliff title either and I'm a fan. The True History sounds fascinating. Glad to hear that everything is straightening out for you and your family. Your two Shakespeare plays are another reminder that I have to get back to my Shakespeare challenge. Have a wonderful summer and happy reading!

    1. Hi Cleo, great to see you! Yeah, I hadn't heard of it either. Have a lovely summer!

  3. Delighted to see your name pop up in my feed again and that things are heading in the right direction for you again.
    The Ridgeway tour sounds great - have fun xo

  4. I'm glad you're back to reading and things are looking up! I love Arthur Rackham, that Midsummer Night's Dream looks fantastic. I've actually never read or seen that one.


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