Sunday, May 27, 2012

Recommending A Great New Historical Novel

The story of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, and their struggle to unite the various parts of Spain into one country is legendary; and C.W. Gortner's amazing version, written in the first person POV of the queen herself, makes for a first class historical novel, "The Queen's Vow."

Gortner's writing in this epic novel is magnificent. I had previously read his "The Tudor Secret" which I liked very much, but he has grown as a writer since that fine book. Even minor characters come magnificently alive under the author's skilled hand. His descriptions of that hot, sere land are outstanding.

According to Gortner's version, Ferdinand and Isabella are a true love match. They are only teen agers when they marry, but together they face campaigns to conquer first, the Portuguese encroachment on their lands, and later the Moslems who controlled much of Spain's coastline. Although we despair some of the results of their choices, still the reader can sympathize with every momentous decision the young couple and their advisors are forced to make.

Ferdinand is portrayed as a fearless yet compassionate leader and Isabella a beautiful, enlightened woman centuries ahead of her time in many ways. Admittedly, though, the novel ends before she begins her infamous persecution of Jews and non-Catholics. But there are hints given as to why she may have thought it necessary.

To me, this novel puts Gortner right up there with Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Remember Momma


This is a repeat of a previous blog, but it applies just as much this year.

Moms tend to get special recognition in the month of May; although they definitely deserve it all year long. While my mother passed away 25 years ago, there is hardly a week goes by that I don’t think about some of the wonderful times we had together. The fact that she was a teacher gave her a special understanding about children, I think. During my teen years, many of my girlfriends would come over to our house to ask my mother questions about things they were reluctant to speak to their own parents about. In those days, mothers didn’t need to work as much as they do today, so she was always there with milk and cookies and good advice.

She was a very spiritual woman and a firm believer in the Bible. She taught me to love and respect our Creator. Even so, she had a wonderful sense of humour and could see the fun in almost any situation. 

By the time I married, my mother was a widow, so my husband and I built a house on half of her one acre of land. We lived next door to each for the next twenty years. It was a wonderful arrangement and she never overstayed her welcome or came between my husband and me. In fact, if she happened to be at our place when he drove in from work, she would “sneak” out the back door before he came in the front. “I don’t want him to get tired of me,” she would say.

I remember early in our marriage, when I was particularly angry with him about something, I went over to her house for a cup of tea. When I started to complain about him, she was displeased. “You are fortunate to have such a man,” she stated. “And I don’t EVER want to hear another word against him.” She never did.

In her later years, my mother loved to travel. She had no qualms about going off on her own and even undertook a three-week tour to the orient all by herself. By the time she turned eighty, however, I started to worry about her traipsing around the world alone, and my husband suggested that I go with her on a few trips.

She was born in Scotland but left when she was ten years old and had never been back to her homeland. We went together and what a joy it was to see her delight as we walked down the High Street of her small village with her pointing out where everything should be. It was amazing that in the seventy years since she left, very little had changed. 

She lived to be 85 and, because we were right next door, never had to leave her own house. I’ve always been glad that I gave her that privilege. In the spring of 1986, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given only a few months to live. I wanted to be the one to look after her so I resigned from my job as a tour planner and moved into her house. We were together until the week before she died when she needed more care than I could give.

I’m so happy that I had all those wonderful years with my mother and I’m very grateful that she gave me the odd spanking when I needed discipline. I learned obedience and respect; things that are sadly lacking in many young people today.