- Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington
- The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America by John F. Kasson
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
In August I read 51 books.
Picture books, early readers:
It was brought home to him for the first time not only what a useless thing the murder of the boys would have been, but what a silly thing. And if there was anything that Richard of Gloucester was not, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was silly. (137)
"Of course I'm only a policeman," Grant said. "Perhaps I never moved in the right circles. It may be that I've met only nice people. Where would one have to go to meet a woman who became matey with the murderer of her two boys?"
"Greece, I should think," Marta said. "Ancient Greece."
"I can't remember a sample even there."
"Or a lunatic asylum, perhaps. Was there any sign of idiocy about Elizabeth Woodville?"
"Not that anyone ever noticed. And she was Queen for twenty years or so."
"Yes of course. It's the height of absurdity. It belongs to Ruthless Rhymes, not to sober history. That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history like a peepshow; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background."
"Perhaps when you are grubbing about with tattered records you haven't time to learn about people. I don't mean about the people in the records, but just about People. Flesh and blood. And how they react to circumstances." (151)
The Great Drawing Room, crammed full of courtiers, lay at the heart of the Georgian royal palace. Here the king mingled most evenings with his guests, signalling welcome with a nod and displeasure with a blank stare or, worse, a turned back. The winners and the losers of the Georgian age could calculate precisely how high they’d climbed – or how far they’d fallen – by the warmth of their reception at court. High-heeled and elegant shoes crushed into the floorboards of the drawing room the reputations of those who’d dropped out of favour, while those whose status was on the rise stood firmly in possession of their few square inches of space.I found Lucy Worsley's The Courtiers to be fascinating! The book focuses on the reigns of George I and George II of England. The book provides a behind-the-scenes look at court life during those decades. The author was inspired by the portraits found in the King's Grand Staircase.
In this book, we’ll meet kings and queens, but also many of the people who worked to meet their most intimate needs. The Georgian royal household was staggeringly vast and complicated. The highest ranking of its members, the courtiers proper, were the ladies- and gentlemen-in-waiting.The author does a great job in sharing primary accounts of the times. These accounts can be very gossipy. One definitely gets a sense of who's who, who all the celebrities of the times were. Worsley gives us a glimpse of all of society really. I appreciated the focus on personalities. History is so interesting, so entertaining, when the focus is on individual people.
Beneath them in status were about 950 other royal servants, organised into a byzantine web of departments ranging from hairdressing to rat-catching, and extending right down to the four ‘necessary women’ who cleaned the palace and emptied the ‘necessaries’ or chamber pots.
If you want to know what these people looked like, you need only visit Kensington Palace. There, in the 1720s, the artist William Kent painted portraits of forty-five royal servants that look down upon palace visitors from the walls and ceiling of the King’s Grand Staircase.
Kensington Palace itself had existed long before the Hanoverian dynasty arrived in Britain to replace the Stuarts in 1714, yet it was also the one royal home that George I and his son really transformed and made their own. The servants there witnessed romance and violence, intrigue and infighting, and almost unimaginable acts of hatred and cruelty between members of the same family. I often find myself climbing the King’s Grand Staircase during the course of my working day, and the faces of the people populating it have always fascinated me. I’ve spent many hours studying them, wondering who they all were, and curiosity finally compelled me to try to find out. When I first began investigating their identities, I was surprised to discover that some of the names traditionally attached to the characters were wrong, while other obvious connections had been overlooked. My efforts to unearth each sitter’s true story led me on a much longer and more exciting journey than I’d expected, through caches of court papers in London, Windsor, Oxford and Suffolk. I found myself examining paintings at Buckingham Palace, gardens in Germany, and hitching lifts from kind strangers in rural Hertfordshire. My adventures both in and outside the archives led eventually to this book. I’ve selected the stories of just seven of them to illuminate the strange phenomenon of the Georgian court and to give a new perspective upon the lives of the kings, queens and princes inhabiting the rarefied court stratosphere above their heads.
"Are you prepared to be the complete Watson?" he asked. "Watson?" "Do-you-follow-me-Watson; that one. Are you prepared to have quite obvious things explained to you, to ask futile questions, to give me chances of scoring off you, to make brilliant discoveries of your own two or three days after I have made them myself all that kind of thing? Because it all helps." "My dear Tony," said Bill delightedly, "need you ask?" Antony said nothing, and Bill went on happily to himself, "I perceive from the strawberry-mark on your shirt-front that you had strawberries for dessert. Holmes, you astonish me. Tut, tut, you know my methods. Where is the tobacco? The tobacco is in the Persian slipper. Can I leave my practice for a week? I can."
"I say," he said, almost pleadingly, "don't tell me that you can see into people's pockets and all that sort of thing as well." Antony laughed and denied it cheerfully. "Then how do you know?" "You're the perfect Watson, Bill. You take to it quite naturally. Properly speaking, I oughtn't to explain till the last chapter, but I always think that that's so unfair. So here goes. Of course, I don't really know that he's got it, but I do know that he had it. I know that when I came on him this afternoon, he had just locked the door and put the key in his pocket."
"Good man," said Antony at the end of it. "You are the most perfect Watson that ever lived. Bill, my lad," he went on dramatically, rising and taking Bill's hand in both of his, "There is nothing that you and I could not accomplish together, if we gave our minds to it." "Silly old ass." "That's what you always say when I'm being serious. Well, anyway, thanks awfully. You really saved us this time."
"Of course it's very hampering being a detective, when you don't know anything about detecting, and when nobody knows that you're doing detection, and you can't have people up to cross-examine them, and you have neither the energy nor the means to make proper inquiries; and, in short, when you're doing the whole thing in a thoroughly amateur, haphazard way."© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
And what did Will Belton think about his cousin, insured as he was thus supposed to be against the dangers of love? He, also, lay awake for awhile that night, thinking over this new friendship. Or rather he thought of it walking about his room, and looking out at the bright harvest moon;—for with him to be in bed was to be asleep. He sat himself down, and he walked about, and he leaned out of the window into the cool night air; and he made some comparisons in his mind, and certain calculations; and he thought of his present home, and of his sister, and of his future prospects as they were concerned with the old place at which he was now staying; and he portrayed to himself, in his mind, Clara's head and face and figure and feet;—and he resolved that she should be his wife. He had never seen a girl who seemed to suit him so well. Though he had only been with her for a day, he swore to himself that he knew he could love her. Nay;—he swore to himself that he did love her. Then,—when he had quite made up his mind, he tumbled into his bed and was asleep in five minutes.
"But, my dear, why should not he fall in love with you? It would be the most proper, and also the most convenient thing in the world."© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
"I hate talking of falling in love;—as though a woman has nothing else to think of whenever she sees a man."
"A woman has nothing else to think of."
"I have,—a great deal else. And so has he."
"It's quite out of the question on his part, then?" "Quite out of the question. I'm sure he likes me. I can see it in his face, and hear it in his voice, and am so happy that it is so. But it isn't in the way that you mean. Heaven knows that I may want a friend some of these days, and I feel that I may trust to him. His feelings to me will be always those of a brother." "Perhaps so. I have seen that fraternal love before under similar circumstances, and it has always ended in the same way."
"I hope it won't end in any way between us."
"But the joke is that this suspicion, as you call it,—which makes you so indignant,—is simply a suggestion that a thing should happen which, of all things in the world, would be the best for both of you."
We meet the Winwood family early on in The Convenient Marriage. We spy on them (in a way) as Mrs. Maulfrey comes to call--or should I say get the juicy gossip on the latest news in the family. Elizabeth, the oldest sister is upset and rightfully so. Her mother, Lady Winwood, has just agreed to an engagement between her and the rich Earl Rule. The problem? Elizabeth is in love with a poor (at least relatively speaking) soldier, a Mr. Edward Heron. Charlotte, the middle sister, doesn't see what the big deal is. After all, in her way of thinking marriage doesn't amount to much. She has no interest--so she claims--in becoming someone's wife. But the youngest sister, Horatia feels her sister's pain. And she's determined--though she stutters or stammers and has thick eyebrows--to do something to solve this dilemma. She gives Mr. Heron her word that she will not let their hearts be broken. Her plan is quite bold and quite wonderful. By that I mean it is deliciously entertaining. The first few chapters of this one are so full of promise. Especially the second and third chapters. If there was an award for the best-ever-second-chapter-in-a-book, I'd nominate The Convenient Marriage.From my second review:
However, the book soon settles down. As you can probably guess from the title, it is about a marriage--a husband and wife. Marcus Drelincourt (a.k.a. The Earl, or Marcus, or simply 'Rule') and his wife, Horatia (or Horry). And since the marriage occurs early in the book--by page sixty--the reader knows that there must be some drama in the works. And indeed there is. There's the former (and somewhat still current) mistress who's jealous and spiteful, Lady Massey. There's the cousin-who-would-inherit-it-all-if-only-Rule-would-hurry-up-and-die, Mr. Crosby Drelincourt, a cousin. And the villainous and cold-hearted Lord Lethbridge. All three of these people add to the drama--each in their own little way. All want to get revenge on Rule. All want to see the happy little couple become miserable. And oh the plotting that goes on that tries to break up this pair!
Horatia's closest friend is her brother, Pelham. Though he's a bit of a gambler--and often an unlucky one at that--he's got a good heart. I don't know if it was Heyer's intent to make him so likable, so enjoyable, but I just really liked him in spite of his flaws. He truly had his sister's best interests at heart. And she does need someone to look out for her with all the villains roaming about the town (or should that be ton) out for revenge.
None of the characters in The Convenient Marriage are perfect. All are flawed in one way or another. But the relationships are genuinely enjoyable, and are quite well done. The atmosphere of The Convenient Marriage--much like Heyer's other novels--is so rich, so detailed, so luxuriously drawn. The society. The fashion. The wit. The charm. The dangers of being unique in a world where conformity reigns. The delicate balance between being respectable, being boring, and being the Talk or Toast of the ton.
Listening to the novel (abridged though it may be) gave me a greater appreciation for Georgette Heyer. Why? While I've always appreciated Heyer's dialogue--it being a chance for her characters to be witty, charming, or romantic--I appreciate it even more having heard it performed. The wit seems funnier. The action scenes even more dramatic. The love scenes even more romantic. I wouldn't have thought it possible for one narrator to convey the chemistry between two characters--but with Armitage narrating it works really well.© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews