Since I last wrote, we've been to the beach -- twice even -- and been canoeing, and driven across the White Mountains and gone to Shelburne Museum. Alas, however, I am without the magic software that lets me make my pictures small enough to upload. Thus, you'll have to wait for a full report until I return home.
I can, however, give reports on my recent reading.
I'm still not entirely sure what made me select Dark to Mortal Eyes by Eric Wilson (448 pages, WaterBrook Press (May 18, 2004)) from my library shelves. I'm not into "Christian Fiction", as they call it, but the story blurb must have intrigued me. It was, in the end, an interesting thriller of sorts with lots of well-used chess references and an plot that twists through a woman scorned waiting a generation to exact her vengeance on the child and grandchild of one person in Nazi Germany who showed her any gentleness at all. She was clearly twisted. And she used a combination of some supernatural evil thing (clearly fueled by her hatred) and an old Nazi poison gas to wreak havoc while tossing in a kidnapping in the middle. All of this burbles under the story of a young woman who was given up for adoption at birth and now seeks to meet her birth mother, some 22 years later, and a police officer, who was a kid in the hospital the day that child was born, who has some issues of his own to work through. In the end, it's clear that the author wants us to believe that the good guys make it through my turning to God. It's not too overdone though, so even those of us not particularly attuned to the idea that your life will turn around if only you accept your savior can enjoy the ending. In fact, in some ways it seems as though that part was added in to Christianize an already decent piece of horror fiction.
I cant quite recommend it. It has an interesting plot, but it moves awfully slowly (or seems to). It covers a lot of ground in its 443 pages, but the language sometimes seems to bog it down. Were I editing it, I'd have offered some changes to let it read a bit faster... but then, I'm not the editor, and I'm sure that whoever Eric's editor was had reasons for his choices as well.
Over the past week I've also been reading The Princes of Ireland, by Edward Rutherford (800 pages, Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 2005)). I started it in Maine, and was unable to finish before we left (imagine that). I had to relinquish it to the Skidompha Library and wait to get into the Fletcher Free Library to obtain a copy to finish. There was just no way I was going to haul this book back home on the plane. The Fletcher Free library does a neat thing: it allows visitors to the area to obtain library cards! I will have to share this idea with my own local library when I get home.
Any way, back to the Princes of Ireland. I really enjoyed this book, and recommend it without hesitation, despite its heft. How much of that is because I love tales of old Ireland, and Irish mythology (which plays a bit of a role in the very beginning) I don't know. But Rutherford took me through 1100 years of Irish history (okay, Dublin's history) using tales of people (real or imagined) in ways that made them all seem real and live and interesting.
This book, like his others I believe, follows a few families through generations to tell you the history of the Dublin region. Though I know this is a work of fiction, I also know that it is based on a lot of historical research, and where he could be truly accurate, Rutherford was. The action rarely strays far from Dublin, but you hear news, as those who lived in that region would have, of other parts of Ireland, and of England, over the years. We watch as the people of the area around Dublin (and almost certainly the rest of Ireland) go from "pagan" to Christian, under the gentle guidance of Patrick, to devoutly Catholic (the section in which we meet the book of Kells is delightful - and reminds us that while England and Europe were struggling through their "Dark Ages", Ireland was keeping art, literature and faith alive and well), to having Protestant practices forced upon them when Henry's men start burning relics in bonfires in town, and punish with death those who will not yield their loyalty to the pope in favor of Henry as leader of their church.
I particularly enjoyed learning about the differences between what and Irishman mean by an oath of fealty and what Englishman meant in the 10th and 11th centuries. In some ways, it makes me wonder whether a whole lot of history would have been different had folks not let that go without saying. Frankly, I like the Irish meaning better, but then this book was written from the Irish viewpoint. Perhaps I'll try his book Sarum to get what may well have the English viewpoint (if that one doesn't London surely will. On the other hand, perhaps I should continue the Irish view with The Rebels of Ireland, which takes up where the Princes left off. It is interesting to read history from the side I've not heard before.
And finally, I read Od Magic by Patricia McKillip (320 pp, Ace Trade; Reprint edition (June 6, 2006)). This was the book that I brought along with us because I anticipated that all three of us would enjoy it. Compared to the other two, it's deliciously light. It is the story of a young man, all but a hermit, with a remarkable talent for gardening and for making curative things out of plants, who is invited to become the "magical" gardener for Od's School of Magic in the main city of Numis. As it turns out, this gardener has a lot of natural magical talent of his own, though he doesn't realize it. As it also turns out, the school of magic that was originally set up to teach and enlighten those with magical talents, has come to be one that restricts them so that magic is only used precisely the way the king wants it to be. Toss in a feisty princess who is betrothed to a man she doesn't particularly like and a mysterious magician who makes delightful illusions, and you have a lovey fantasy that works well.
That being more than you were prepared for, and all I have time for right now (I do have vacation activities calling me you know), I'll stop with this. Next up: movies and likely music, possibly knitting, and a report on a great museum.