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20 August 2010 @ 04:32 pm
lazy hazy crazy days  
Well, except for the last adjective. It's not exactly crazy around these parts.

I decided that yesterday needed to be another no-internet day, so instead I read a children's historical novel, Alchemy and Meggy Swann. This is the first book I've read by Karen Cushman, even though I always meant to read Catherine, Called Birdy, way back during one of my "service assignments" in high school (I don't know how I lucked out and got school library duty that year, although it is also true that several of my classmates thought the librarian was mean and snappish), and nearly bought Matilda Bone once (only I wasn't entirely sure I wasn't holding onto it because of the Trina Schart Hyman cover, so I didn't).

Anyway. None of that has anything to do with anything. I did quite like the book--and I'm actually somewhat picky about books set in Elizabethan London, though you might not know it. Because my brain is mush today, and I know I won't do the book justice, here's the page for the book on the author's website:
http://www.karencushman.com/books/alchemy.html

One of the things I liked about the book, though, was that it wasn't a rollicking adventure story, but instead a slower examination of Meggy's life in London, and how she begins to come to terms with it. The plot is the sort that in another novel might have involved a lot of sneaking around and derring-do, but here it's...I don't want to say it's an afterthought, but it's not the main event.

I've been reading a fair amount of children's/YA historical fiction of late, in part because it exists in almost total opposition to the "famous person fiction" I'm not that interested in. For the most part, the protagonists are the unrecoverable people--the sorts of people who don't show up in the historical record, or make the most fleeting of appearances. I can understand why people would want to read about, say, Elizabeth I or Anne Boleyn, to imagine that they can know these historical figures from the inside out, but I relish fiction's ability to shine some sort of light on people who aren't already the subject of biographies and films, and fiction for younger readers seems far more likely to do that, much of the time.

Oddly, I also seem to find that historical fiction for younger readers is more likely to try to recreate some flavor of the language of the period--though I haven't done any sort of survey, so I could be completely wrong about that. But I'm thinking about books like Gary Blackwood's Shakespeare Stealer series, or Alchemy and Meggy Swann. I find that interesting, since young readers are probably far less likely to know what words like "belike" and "gorget" mean, but the authors seem more willing to trust that the readers will work them out from context.
 
 
 
Magistrix Texan: Cat + book = <3erstwhiletexan on August 21st, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)

Catherine, Called Birdy is one of my all time favorite books - it has stuck with me since I was very wee and I absolutely adore it! Definitely pick it up if you get a chance. :D

tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on August 21st, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
I remember reading the first few pages--when I was supposed to have been shelving books, hah--and I enjoyed them, so I'm not quite sure why I didn't check it out. Guilt, probably. :) Anyway, I'll definitely look into it!
Jay the Nerd Kid - Elitist Internet Royaltybewarethespork on August 21st, 2010 06:08 am (UTC)
I liked both Catherine, Called Birdy and Matilda Bone when I read them in high school, though obviously I have nothing near your knowledge of the time period in which they were set, so I wouldn't know anything about historical inaccuracy.

Out of curiosity, if you like children's historical fiction, have you tried Kevin Crossley-Holland's Arthur trilogy? I'm forever trying to find people who've read them, but I never seem to have any luck.
tempestsarekind: pilgrimagetempestsarekind on August 21st, 2010 09:31 pm (UTC)
Ha, I know next to nothing about the medieval period! (It is why I have an "i would make a terrible medievalist" tag--every so often I wind up teaching Chaucer or something in a survey course, which requires me to perpetrate fraud on innocent undergraduates, but that's about as far as it goes.) I always mean to do something about this, but sadly my brain is a sieve for all but the most useless information. :(

I haven't read those--though I remember beginning the first one, once upon a time! I think I put it back because I already had more books in my arms than I could carry or read, and then never quite got around to it again. (This happens a lot, it seems. It's a wonder I ever get anything read at all, since sometimes I have to check a book out two or three times before I actually read it all the way through.) But I'll have to put them (back) on the list.

Edited at 2010-08-21 09:33 pm (UTC)