Friday, 22 August 2014

Historical fact and fiction

This August, I have not been knitting, crocheting or sewing. I haven't even been to the yarn shop. I have mostly been reading!

In a charity shop in early August, I found a copy of Midnight is a Place. Re-reading that caused me to look in my boxed children's book collection, where I found the short story book A Harp of Fishbones and Go Saddle the Sea, an adventure story set mainly in Spain in the early nineteenth century.  I had always thought Go Saddle the Sea seemed not to have a proper ending, and this time, when I finished it, I looked it up on Amazon, and discovered it was part of a trilogy. In the pre-Internet age, when I first read it, I had no idea! So guess what speedily downloaded itself onto my Kindle?!



I also finished a book I started ages ago called How to be a Victorian. Yes, a book actually for grown ups! I wanted to finish it after reading Midnight is a Place, which is a fictional account of life for child factory workers in the nineteenth century. After reading this book, I am no longer surprised at the high mortality rate amongst Victorian children. Instead, I'm rather astonished that anyone ever lived to grow up. Not only were infectious diseases and dirty water rife, the food was terrible. There was no formula milk, and many women were working, so according to this book, infants were fed mostly on bread mixed with water, with a side helping of laudanum (alcohol and opiates) to keep them quiet. Suppose they didn't die from malnutrition, infection, or the effects of the opiates, dangerous factory work could easily finish them off in a few years.

That's depressing. I was glad to get back to Joan Aiken! Another charity shop foray added A Small Pinch of Weather (short stories. I especially like the ones about the Armitage children). I'm now trying to locate a copy of All but a Few that I also had as a kid. More short stories! And I'd love to read A Necklace of Raindrops, which I haven't before, and The Wolves of Willoughby Chase again. I'll keep you posted :)


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