Just trying to not end my sentence (or my post title) in a preposition, à la Winston Churchill. Ha. At least I thought it was Churchill who made the snarky comment to a pompous pedant whinging on about ending one’s sentences with a preposition. As one version has it, he said: “This is the type of errant pedantry up with which I will not put.” But according to this article, while Churchill may have used the awkward rephrasing, intending to be ironic, he was not the only one, nor the first. Who knew, eh?
And since I don’t usually resort to pompous pedantry unless I’m trying to be funny, let’s just say that today my post will be about nothing important. Just stuff Hubby and I have been up to. Our ongoing pandemic pastimes.
Spring in Manotick is here one day and gone the next. Today is a non-spring day. It’s cool and the skies are moody. Hubby and I just finished covering some of his early plantings in the vegetable garden. We are supposed to get snow tonight. Oh, joy. But since many of you have had the same weather, I won’t whine. We do have daffodils and hyacinths and narcissus in the garden. And the apple blossoms outside my window right now are trying very hard to come out. But not succeeding just yet.
Hubby and I have been walking, of course. The ubiquitous pandemic pastime. Good thing it’s also something we enjoy and would do anyway. But because of the stay-at-home order we are sticking fairly close to home. Not driving down to Kemptville, say, to walk the Ferguson Forest trails and stop for chip wagon hotdogs and fries on the way home. Ah well, the fries and hotdogs can wait. And will be all the more special for our having waited. Or that’s what I keep telling myself. Yesterday was a magnificent day and we ventured over to Osgoode, a village near us, to walk some of the woodland trails there. We had a great walk and spied our very first trillium of the year, and lots of dogtooth violets besides.
While we walked we talked about lots of stuff we’ve been up to. Hubby’s garden. My blog. Fashion. I know, eh? And of course, what we’ve been reading.
Hubby just finished the Peter May book Blacklight Blue, one of May’s earlier Enzo Files series. He loved it. Finding Peter May books we haven’t read is a bit of a boon for us. Now he’s reading a new Susan Hill The Benefit of Hindsight, the latest in her Simon Serrailler mystery series. We both enjoy Hill’s books.
I’m reading a book suggested by a reader a couple of weeks ago. The Hills Is Lonely by Lillian Beckwith is about an ailing teacher from the north of England who goes to the Hebrides for a rest cure. The title of the book comes from a letter written to the narrator by her potential landlady describing the peace of her village of Bruach: “Surely its that quiet here even the sheeps themselves on the hills is lonely.” In fact, it is the oddity of Morag McDugan’s phraseology as much as her description of the attractions of Bruach that persuades the narrator to forgo a lovely Kentish farmhouse for a croft in the Hebrides. Beckwith’s novel is semi-autobiographical and based on her own experiences living on the Isle of Skye, but the book is presented as fiction.
Anyway, I am enjoying life in the Hebrides with “Miss Peckwitt” immensely. Last night I stayed up reading after Hubby went to bed and had to smother my guffaws so I didn’t wake him. Beckwith’s tales of wayward sheep, broody hens, and the reaction of the crofters to the presence of an Englishwoman among them is lovely. Her style is more dated than D.E. Stevenson’s or Dorothy Whipple’s, but I am still loving this book. Beckwith’s narrator is a keen observer of island life and her self-deprecating humour is charming. It makes good pandemic reading. I am dipping into it, and also pairing it with Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime, which we are reading for book club. I’m not far enough into Noah’s book to comment on it. Except to say that these are two very, very different books, which works well for me, actually.
I recently finished If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. Hmm. Where to start talking about this book? I enjoyed it, mostly, this story about seven dedicated, talented, and passionate drama students whose lives go wildly off track in their final year of drama school. The story begins with the release of Oliver, one of the seven, from prison after ten years, and flashes back as he recounts and relives the events of that fateful last year of college which lead to his imprisonment. Ms. Rio is a really good writer. But as a former actor and Shakespearean scholar, she seems to have a slightly skewed view of how much knowledge of Shakespeare the general reading public has.
Shakespeare is not my forte. But I was an English teacher, so I taught it a lot. And luckily for me, Rio focuses on plays which I know well, ones that I taught many times, namely Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and King Lear. So, for example, the scene in the novel where the professor, Frederic, casts sensitive James as Edmund in King Lear and the students are gobsmacked makes sense to me. I think the characters overreact, but, still, I get it.
But would it make sense to a reader who doesn’t know that Edmund is the evil villain of King Lear? And would the reader who doesn’t understand the character of blameless and selfless Edgar in King Lear understand the meaning of Oliver’s quoting his lines as Edgar in certain volatile situations where he seems to feel it is his duty to make things right for the other students? I don’t mean to malign the ability of readers to understand Shakespeare’s words. I’m just questioning how easily people who haven’t read King Lear like twenty times can pick up from those words subtle parallels between the play and the plot of the novel.
And let’s talk about all the back and forth between the students whose heads literally swim with Shakespeare 24/7, and who more often than not resort to Shakespeare’s words to express themselves rather than their own. There is so much Shakespeare quoting in this novel that it’s downright annoying. And pretentious. And this from someone who has herself at times been annoying by quoting Shakespearean too much.
I refer, of course, to Hubby’s and my trip to Scotland. Where we visited every castle mentioned in Macbeth. And so many lines from the play which I had taught too many times to count kept bubbling to the surface. Like when we arrived at Castle Cawdor, and I hissed at Hubby as we approached the door, “Thou hast it now. King, Cawdor, Glamis all/ As the weird women promised, and I fear/ Thou play’dst most foully for it.” Hubby just rolled his eyes.
Then there was the day we were all alone walking around the ruins of Dunnottar Castle. I had wended my way up into the ramparts, and I stuck my head through a hole and yelled down to Hubby “Then fly, false thanes./ And mingle with the English epicures.” I think that was the moment when he said if I didn’t stop quoting from Macbeth he was going to leave me there.
I remember relating that story to my grade eleven class one day the following year, while we were studying Macbeth. And a burly kid, one of the school’s hockey players, who sat in the front row and had earlier informed me that while he “liked me and all” he hated Shakespeare, just chuckled and shook his head. “I think me and your husband would get along fine, Miss.” Ha. I love that story.
Anyway, all this is to say that I kind of liked this novel. At times. The rest of the time it annoyed me, but I kept reading to find out what happened. So I do not recommend If We Were Villains unless you love Shakespeare. Great swaths of Shakespeare. And have unlimited tolerance for the dramatics of, well, drama students. Ha. I know that I grew exasperated with the characters: so emotional, so hyperbolic about EVERYTHING. And I actually like dramatic teenagers. Usually.
So this week, Hubby and I have been pretty much sticking to our tried and true pandemic pastimes. Walking, reading, blogging, and talking about reading and blogging.
Hubby has been practicing his golf swing and I have been filming him with my phone so he can see the flaws in his swing. I even filmed him in slow motion. That was pretty cool. I was looking at the videos this morning. You know, he’s still in pretty good nick for an old guy. But don’t tell him I said that.
So what have you been up to my lovely well-read readers? Any good books you want to tell us about. Not too Shakespearean, nor too angsty either, mind.
P.S. The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a small commission.