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Thursday, June 21, 2018

On Midwinter’s Day : Some rereads and a download!

I have just finished rereading The Devil’s Novice by Ellis Peters. Like all her other Brother Cadfael novels, it features a sweet young couple, of course, and Brother Cadfael as wise mentor as well as sleuth. Usually, he examines a dead body in forensic detail, but for reasons you’ll find once you start reading, that isn’t possible in this one. A cleric disappears on his way to an important meeting, after spending the night at a local manor house. Soon after, a young man is brought by his father to the abbey at Shrewsbury as a novice. He seems keen to join the monastic life, but starts screaming in his sleep, terrifying all the other novices... it has been so long since I read this that I’d forgotten whodunnit, so it’s nice to read it like a new book, yet with the comfort of the familiar characters and setting. I love this series - despite Shrewsbury being a sort of mediaeval Midsomer, it’s gentle, and has characters you care about.

I’ve started rereading Peter’s Room by Antonia Forest. Despite being the fifth in a series, it stands alone quite happily - I’ve never read any of the others and remember enjoying it the first time. I’m just reading how the Peter of the title, a fourteen year old boy, has discovered a cluttered old room in a building on the farm the family has inherited from a relative, and is setting it up to be his den. There have been family members there for centuries so he has found some fascinating historical documents among the junk. It’s really about the Bronte sisters’ personal stories about Gondal, a world created well before they wrote their classic novels. The kids’ discussions about this are very interesting stuff. Anyway, I’m enjoying the reread and have just discovered that it’s one of a whole lot of old children’s books being reprinted by a British small press, Girls Gone By, and that author Michelle Cooper, who recently did a guest post on this blog, is also reading it!

I’ve just Started rereading Lord Of The Rings in ebook. I’ve just started the chapter in which the hobbits arrive at Bree, where they will have dinner at the Prancing Pony inn and first meet Aragorn! Yay! Amazing how many adventures they have already had, so short a way into the book. When you’ve read this book several times, you start to pick up things you didn’t notice the first time. And I do like the Bree chapter, not only for Strider. Tolkien liked his English cooking, which most of us assume is stodgy, but the supper the hobbits enjoy really isn’t stodgy at all. In fact, I find the descriptions mouthwatering.

Now for the download. I’ve recently read a post that mentions Geoffrey Trease, a children’s historical  novelist who was writing about the same time as C.S Lewis. I remember loving his books when I was reading them years ago. He wrote about every era from Ancient Greece to the early 20th century and his heroines were always strong and interesting. His first novel, interestingly, was a leftist interpretation of the story of Robin Hood, in which Robin rallies the peasants against the rich. I once heard someone point out a hammer and sickle in the crowd in one of the illoes!

But the one I downloaded is Cue For Treason, set in Elizabeth I’s England. it involves a boy running from a local lord who is after him for helping knock down a wall(the notorious enclosures of that era), a girl running from an unwanted marriage and disguised as a boy and Shakespeare’s company. Oh, and a plot against the Queen... I bought it in audiobook and the reader is Clive Mantle. Clive Mantle played Little John in Robin Of Sherwood. In fact, he  seems to have made a career of playing lower-class characters, so out of curiosity I checked his bio. Son of a well-off family who went to boarding school, it seems. (And Patrick Stewart, who talks like someone who has been to boarding school, one of the elites, was the son of a very UN-elite Yorkshire family who left school at fifteen...)

Anyway,  Clive Mantle reads well, though his reading voice is lighter than the deep rumble he used in Robin Of Sherwood. And by the way, he is a graduate of RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. You have to be pretty good to get into that

I will be lying bs k in bed tonight and enjoying listening to it in the dark! 


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue - I enjoy the Cadfael stories once in a while - they certainly give the feel of medieval times. I've noted Geoffrey Trease - and will look him up in the library ... enjoy your reads - cheers Hilary

Sharon Himsl said...

This is a good list and you mention some I have never heard of. Which ones are you listening to in audio format? You mention the last one and I have wondered if that would be a way to increase my reading. I have so much "have to" reading in current teen market that I find I really miss the classics, and these are enticing.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Hilary, chances are your library has the Trease books in the children’s section, assuming they haven’t long ago been weeded. Kids don’t read much straight historical fiction these days(in my library, Jackie French was much borrowed, as were Morris Gleitzman’s Once books). Only a few seem to be still in print, but if you can’t get them any other way, buy the ones in print, then go to AbeBooks for second hand. They are well worth it!

Hi Sharon! I’m currently “reading” Geoffrey McSkimming’s Xylophones Above Zarundi, read amusingly by the author and set in his Cairo Jim universe, and Cue For Treason by Geoffrey Trease, read by Clive Mantle of Robin Of Sherwood fame. If you decide to get the Brother Cadfael books in audiobook, I believe they are read by Derek Jacobi, who played the role of Brother Cadfael on TV and delighted the author herself, who said she would always see him as her hero after that. Audiobooks are a nice way to enjoy books, meaning you can read in the car, if you drive(I don’t) or even while you do the housework.

Sharon Himsl said...

Ooh...I may try this. Thanks!

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hope you enjoy whichever audiobook you download!

AJ Blythe said...

Love Brother Cadfael books. I still have some to read on my bookshelf (my Mum passed her copies to me).

Sue Bursztynski said...

Whereas I read it first. When my mother and I went to Shrewsbury on our trip overseas, she was kicking herself for not having read them. She read and loved them after coming home.