The only books I generally check out of the library – for myself – are “walk-by grabs.” This means I grab the book off the shelf while chasing two preschoolers to the kids’ section.
Using this precarious selection method, I ended up with a cookbook titled Skinny Italian.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been living in two worlds: my usual world, of course, the one with the two lively preschoolers, and another world, the one of 15th century England, with its restless struggles for not only a kingdom’s power but its respect.
Many a night I escaped into this second world of Philippa Gregory’s The White Princess, but it is historical fiction rather than escapist literature. For one, this second world is much more stressful than my own world and not really a situation in which I’d want to live: A nice girl, with whom I can somehow relate even though she is born a princess, falls in love with a king (who I think may have also been her uncle but I’m still not totally clear on this), is forced to marry the new king who killed the king/lover/uncle, ends up loving the new king and having his children, and then has to worry about an invasion by her long-lost brother. Because kings with little support still have no intention of giving up their power, it’s really a no-win situation for her – either her husband dies or her brother dies.
“What mystery we lose when we figure things out…”
Imagine that in your possession is an unopened, nearly century-old letter that traveled on the first transatlantic flight. You have reason to believe it may contain historical information about a famous figure, and it almost surely contains a historical detail relevant to your own family. If you open the letter, you lower its (potential) monetary value. If you leave it unopened or sell it, you might never know what details, significant or not, of your own history, it may or may not contain. What would you do? Threading together three historical events, Colum McCann has written another beautiful novel. (Though his Let the Great World Spin remains my favorite, and is one I plan to re-read and blog on in the future.)