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So here we are, another birthday; I am 48 today, and can remember when that seemed impossibly old! No matter, I’m still 17 inside my head and have had a lovely birthday weekend, only slightly spoiled by Andy Murray’s failure to won the Australian Open.
I always try to do something special around my birthday, and this year it was a trip to the theatre to see War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, and recommended by my good friend the Silvery Dude. It’s a simple story of a farm horse sold to the army and sent to serve in World War One; what makes it exceptional is the puppetry used to bring the horses (and other animals - I became particualrly fond of the goose) to life on stage. Really enormously clever and so convincing in movement that I pretty much forgot they weren’t real. There is a DVD about the making of the production which is apparently well worth watching.
And of course with birthdays go presents and the Book God was generous as always and gave me several books:
- Howard’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill – because I love books about books
- Seeing Redd by Frank Beddor – because all things Alice in Wonderland are significant at the moment
- Anything Goes by Lucy Moore – a biography of the Roaring Twenties
- Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton – dragons!
And now that the major project that I’ve been working so hard on since last February looks like its nearing fruition, I think 2010 might turn out to be quite a good year…..
So I was trying to think how best to describe Bryan Talbot’s Grandville; hummed and hawed about steampunk, alternative history, anthropomorphic animals, played about with a few sentences but couldn’t get it quite right.
And then I thought “wonder what it say on the back of the book?” And that sort of solved my problem for me, cos what the blurb says is:
Inspired by the work of the nineteenth-century French illustrator Gerard, who worked under the nom-de-plume JJ Grandville, and the seminal science fiction illustrator Robida - not to mention Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Rupert the Bear and Quentin Tarantino – Grandville is a steampunk masterpiece in which Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard stalks a gang of ruthless killers through the streets of belle époque Paris.
And you know it would be very difficult to improve on that as a description; the only thing I can add is how wonderful the artwork is, how convincing the animals as characters are, what an interesting perspective it takes on terrorism, and that it’really is quite enjoyably violent in places. There’s a reference to a “hairless breed of chimpanzee that evolved in the town of Angouleme,” menial workers known as “doughfaces” , obviously humans, which adds a little bit of depth to the world Talbt has invented.
I absolutely loved this, devoured it in a sitting as you do, and can recommend it to anyone interested in Bryan Talbot’s work.
This is my first read for the Graphic Novel Challenge 2010.
So I had such great plans for reviewing this fascinating book. There are pencilled notes and pages turned down because of quotes or references that I didn’t want to have to go looking for later. And I’ve been pondering what I want to say since I finished the book at the end of last year.
And that’s turned out to be my problem – there is just so much that could be said about this book that I don’t actually know where to start.
Divorced, Beheaded, Survived is Karen Lindsey’s feminist reinterpretation of Henry VIII’s wives, but it also takes into account the lives of his mother, sisters, daughters and some of the other significant women at court to paint a picture of what it was like to be a woman in the Tudor era.
And as you might expect it wasn’t easy, even for those in the privileged position that many of these women held.
In her introduction, Lindsey talks about what drew her to the subject, and the realisation that the modern topic of sexual harassment in the workplace could be relevant here. After all, if you consider being lady-in-waiting to the Queen as a job, then the unwelcome attentions of the King were very much in the harassment mould. And certainly over time the focus of largely male historians has been on poor old Henry having all these wanton young women thrust at him, and under those circumstances what’s a man to do?
The fact that most of these women were positioned at court by their ambitious families hoping that their girl would catch Henry’s eye and attract a good marriage as a former mistress of the King has been, if not overlooked, then certainly not given the prominence by earlier historians that it perhaps should have. But one of the great benefits of women’s studies is that their voices are heard, however faintly.
Those of you who visit here regularly will know that the sixteenth century is the period of history that holds my attention the most, and that is largely because of the women who were prominent in the period – Mary, Queen of Scots, Catherine de Medici, Mary Tudor and my great heroine Elizabeth I. So I found this book totally captivating and thought-provoking. It has given me a new insight inot the life of Catherine of Aragon, and made me want to find out more about Anne of Cleves, who really was the survivor of the bunch.
And lord, if I didn’t know before what a monster Henry was, I certainly do now!
I can’t recommend this too highly if you are at all interested in this period, or court politics, or women’s lives in general. There is much to think about.
And this is my first read for the Women Unbound Challenge.
I absolutely must, though, because I want to share my thoughts about:
- The film variously referred to as Dances With Smurfs or Smurfahontas but which I think of as a great big moving Roger Dean poster
- The very last episodes of Dr Who with David Tennant, and the preview of the new series
- The feminist reinterpretation of the six wives of Henry VIII one
- The steampunk thriller graphic novel with the lead character who is a badger one
- The what-the-seventies-were-really-like one
- The what-happened-in-the-zombie-world-war one
- The great-big-shiny-hard-SF-exploding-suns-sci-fi one
Because they are all really good in very different ways.
So I signed up for this last year, read one book that wasn’t even on my reading list, and then it all fell to pieces. However, I’m determined to have another punt at a subject I’m really interested in (and nearly studied after I left university). And it’s the same reading list as last time…
- Duncan Grant: A Biography by Frances Spalding
- The Underpainter by Jane Urquhart
- Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Painter and Poet by Jan Marsh
- Aubrey Beardsley: A Biography by Matthew Sturgis
- William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis by Angela Thirlwell
- The Holland Park Circle: Artists and Victorian Society by Caroline Dakers
Which puts me in the Fascinated category, so let’s see how that works out.