Saturday, May 13, 2006
As usual, I was fascinated with the historical details. Politics hasn't changed much over the centuries. It is amazing how inept some rulers can be, sending their soldiers into unnecessary wars ill prepared (in this case with no food supplies or tents), and how people behind the scenes are the ones with the real power.
The Holland tulip business was described, with rare bulbs being worth their wieght in gold. A whole market economy grew up around them with trades and futures, and when it crashed, it really crashed, but obviously Holland has continued trading in tulip bulbs up to this day.
I continue to enjoy the glimpses into the private lives - the choosing of mates, the courtship (or early betrothal), their lives together. Tradescant's wife would relate to today's wives, whose husbands have a demanding job and have to travel a lot.
I'm glad there is a sequel to this, which I hope to get to soon.
As always, there were so many things that fascinated me about the historical facts and lives of the people of those times, which Gregory brings forth in such rich detail. Among them - Queen Isabella was an amazing woman, warrior and leader in her time. I need to read more on the conflict between the Spanish and the Moors. The Moors had a higher level of knowledge in healing and probably other things, which the Spanish lost when the pushed the Moors out of Spain. (When Katherine is forced to ask a Moor doctor for help to bear a healthy child, she has to fight an inner battle to accept his help.) When descendants of royalty are betrothed in their cradles, it leads to a strange non-courtship and husband - wife relations. The whole process of public bedding on the wedding night seemed strange. This can be a very ackward time for the couple, as Gregory shows in both this book and Earthly Joys. The importance of virginity and consumation of marriage is incredibly important in those days and a key to Katharine's story. The importance of bearing an heir, a male heir, is so great, that it is considered the main, if not only responsibility of the queen of England.
I liked that Katherine had learned the organization of war campaigns from her parents, so when Henry is ready to take off and do battle, she prepares the supplies needed, trains the soldiers, get the ships ready, etc. And while he is in France, she does her own battle with the Scots, defeats them, but doesn't destroy them and creates an alliance instead, insuring peace (at least for a while.) This is in sharp contrast the totally unprepared campaign described in Earthly Joys, where the King and Lord Buckinham set sail totally unprepared, without supplies, with great delays, at the wrong time of year, etc.
The book ends with Katherine walking into the court room proud and tall, though we all know that this is where Henry VIII will get permission to divorce her, and her life will change profoundly, but Gregory leaves her in that state of hope. (Listened May 2006)
The Da Vinci Code is a work of fiction - not accurate historical fiction that I often like, but an alternative historical fiction. What if... Jesus was married and had a bloodline preserved to this day? I don't care if it is true, I like the speculation. And to deny that Christianity is patriarchal - mostly from the church leaders throughout the centuries is ludicrous. It is not enough to have the Christ's mother mentioned occasionally. I understood her power while visiting the Cloisters (in NY) while pregnant and looking at all the Madonna paintings and sculptures. I was very drawn to them and understood how important she was to women, as very little else speaks to women directly. I don't remember her emphasized in the Lutheran church in which I was raised. The "sacred feminine" is important and mostly denied by Christianity, even persecuted. Looks like I will have to look further for discussions of The Da Vinci Code. (May 2006)
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I read (listened to) this book when it first became popular and promised myself I would buy it when it came out in paperback. Well, I ended up spending as much, or even more than I would for the hardback, but I got the illustrated version - and love it. I am always frustrated when books talk of paintings or architecture and I would like a visual to see what the characters are seeing. This was perfect for an illustrated edition, as it mentions so many works of art and architecture. For example, I had seen pictures of the new I.M. Pei pyramid addition to the Louvre, but to see the inverse pyramid in the lower courtyard helped me visualize the after hours activities in the Louvre described in the book. When I first read the book, I went looking for the Leonardo Da Vinci paintings mentioned, especially the Last Supper. I also have a wondrous childhood memory of going to see the Mona Lisa in some museum in
Though I remembered the basic plot, I still enjoyed all the twists and turns in Brown's book. I am also very sympathetic to the basic premise, that the feminine or "sacred feminine" as Brown calls it, was squelched by the male leaders in Christianity. I don't care very much if Jesus was married or if some of his descendents are still alive today, but I am angry at all the women that were persecuted by the church, and how so many natural processes became sinful.
One thought that converged in my mind while simultaneously reading this and the Constant Princess (to be entered into the blog soon), where a Spanish princess is forced to receive treatment from a Moor doctor, who knows so much more than the English or Spanish about herbs and natural healing. When the Spanish forced the Moors out of their land, they also lost that knowledge and many became sick. So too the church fought so hard against the wise women throughout the lands, and later the "medical profession" fought against midwives, thus losing a wealth of knowledge about healing that we are trying to regain today.
I liked the characters of Robert Langdon, that tweedy academic, and Sophie Noveu, the French cryptologist who is the granddaughter of Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the Louvre. Sauniere is killed in the prologue and leaves a series of cryptic messages for his granddaughter to decipher, with the help of Langdon. It is an exciting mystery novel, so that I could even tolerate it when it started getting too preachy.
This book has created lots of controversy. We even had a discussion with one of the critics, a religion professor at our university. I actually read one of the criticisms (see next entry), but found I really didn't care for the arguments. Some are faith based, so if you don't believe in the basic premise, the criticism doesn't make sense. I liked the speculation in the book. This is a work of fiction, so it is not expected to reflect all truth. I think am intrigued enough to do some more reading on this.
(Finished reading 5/1/06)