Ever-fixed mark (Part 4)

Oct. 23rd, 2017 09:17 am
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If 'twas not quite a truth universally acknowledged that when Lady Bexbury set her hand to contriving some matter, 'twould in due course come about, sure, thought Hannah, as the carriage took them from the railway station to Yeomans, it should be.

Oh, indeed, had taken a while before she and Flora might go live there. There had been the necessary work upon the house to complete: for although it had been in the finest modern style when General Yeomans had had it built, since then there had been yet further domestic improvements that one might desire.

There had been her parents to persuade, though that had been less of a difficulty than Hannah had anticipated. There had even been made over to her a nice little allowance from the proceeds of the jam factory.

But indeed, Flora’s beloved Tiger had been beforehand of any objections: had seen what straits Mrs Veriker was like to be reduced to upon her husband’s death, had taken the thought that an older and entire respectable lady in the establishment would do a deal to silence any hints of scandal in two such young ladies setting up a household, and there they were provided with a lady that would provide any necessary chaperonage, and had experience of domestic management. Julius, indeed, was quite envious that a lady of such extensive botanical knowledge would be living with them.

The gardens, said Lady Bexbury, looking out of the window, were very fine indeed when the Ulrichs were here: Mrs Ulrichs had most exceeding fine notions in gardening. But I daresay, once you are settled, you might desire advice of Julius.

Might we obtain it afore he goes to Nitherholme, said Hannah.

Indeed, said Flora, all we should require is a little advice upon how we might go on. But she looked a little – troubled? Yet after all, this was embarking upon a new enterprize for them, even Flora might well be somewhat daunted at what they went about.

But the house itself was entirely furbished and ready to inhabit, although there were still boxes of books to be unpacked in the fine room they had had made ready for a library, a task to which Hannah found herself greatly looking forward.

Is this not entirely charming a drawing-room? remarked Mrs Veriker, pouring tea. Such a splendid view of the gardens and the fountain. Sure I am sorry that we never met General Yeomans, for he seems a fellow that had excellent taste.

He was quite the finest of old fellows, said Lady Bexbury with a wistful expression. Sure one may still hear Sir Barton Wallace tell tales of the excellent bachelor parties he used to hold here; 'twould have been long ago, afore he married dear Susannah. Had two Hindoo servants that were entire devoted to him.

Was’t not, said Hannah, one of 'em, that was the cook, that taught Mama all her fine Hindoo receipts?

'Twas so – is’t not an age since any gave a tiffin party? – and after the General’s death went open an eating house about the docks.

Flora laughed and said that sure while they were on the Grand Tour there might have been daily tiffin parties and they would not have known.

Indeed, said Hannah, His Lordship gave several, and there were a couple at least at Offgrange House.

Sure I am a foolish Clorinda! She looked around the room again. Well, my dears, I hope that you will be happy here. I confide that 'twould be prudent for you to go sit in the Yeomans pew of a Sunday, to look well with the village. While the parson is by no means so learned a fellow as Mr Lucas, that had the living before he was preferred to that fine rectory by Tony Offgrange, is give out a good conscientious shepherd to his flock, has a wife that runs a Sunday-school and does good works among the poor, a thriving family – I daresay he will call and so will she.

We should wish, said Flora, to do all that was proper and not create scandal; but I hope we will not get caught up in working-parties and mothers’ meetings and so on.

Hannah looked at her and wondered whether Flora, that ever loved to be up and doing, would entirely avoid such affairs. Was there a school? A dispensary? A reading-room? improvements to the water-supply? plans on hand for almshouses or model cottages? Flora was a Ferraby, and was there a need for any of these, Hannah was in no doubt she would turn her hand to it.

By the time it came round Sunday, and they went to church, they were already settling into a pleasing round of activity. Mrs Veriker was editing various essays of her late husband’s for publication – Lord Offgrange had promised a preface, so very kind. Hannah had begun on the rational arrangement of the library, distracted from time to time by books that she wished to put by for perusal as soon as might be. Flora had embarked upon an ambitious plan of study, that required a deal of letters being sent to ask for recommendations of what she should read and orders to booksellers. They took healthful exercize walking in the gardens and the parkland.

The Vicar had come to call and so had his wife, and cards had been left by several ladies of the locality.

Dearest Flora, 'twould look particular and cause gossip, did we not go and return calls in proper fashion. Is’t not so, Verrie?

Mrs Veriker looked up from the household books. Oh, indeed we must, country places like this. Have I not heard dear Martha Samuels complain upon the necessity a thousand times?

I wonder might we keep hens, mused Flora, for when I read her little book upon her chickens I quite longed to do so.

She sure makes them sound a deal more fascinating than one supposes, said Hannah, but I am like to think that in a place like this, might be taken ill did we not buy our eggs from the local farms.

I daresay 'tis the diplomatic course.

The post was brought in. Hannah opened her letter from Julius and said, O, 'tis entire settled that they go to Nitherholme very shortly: but he asks may he come visit, along with Lord Sallington?

Flora looked up, a little colour coming to her cheeks. Why, she said, that would be quite entire agreeable, could not be the slightest objection to a visit from your brother and his friend, could there?

Indeed that would be pleasant, said Mrs Veriker, should greatly enjoy some converse with the younger Mr Roberts.

And, went on Flora, we might ask him about the gardens – I do not think we would wish to go into any ambitious schemes, but I should like to keep 'em up. And my letter, she added, is from Josh, that considers that he has learnt all he may of veterinary science from studying at the colleges in London and Edinburgh, and purposes go to make somewhat of a Grand Tour of the continental schools, and would wish pay us a visit afore he goes. But will go about the family and come here, I surmize, at the end of those rounds.

That will be delightful, said Hannah, feeling herself blush a little. Sure, she was not in love with anyone at all, but she had ever had a fondness for Josh, that had been so exceeding kindly a boy towards the nursery-set. And more recently she had observed him with his menagerie, and the cats of the household, and indeed stray dogs in the street, and seen how gentle his touch, how soothing to fractious or nervous creatures, and wondered how those hands might feel upon her.

Ever-fixed mark (Part 3)

Oct. 22nd, 2017 10:44 am
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[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Next morning Hannah went into the hothouses to cut some flowers to replace a bloom here and there in the vases that went droop, and discovered her brother Julius about some matter of tending pots.

He smiled at her. What, not up and about with Miss Flora?

I daresay she sleeps in, to recover from her journey.

Indeed the Channel crossing will knock one up! But – he turned around with a serious expression upon his face – has she said aught about Beauf – Sallington’s – suit to her?

Not yet.

Only – he sighed – there is some notion of the Duke’s that Beauf might set up his own establishment at Nitherholme, and he was saying, did he do so, might I not go with him and do somewhat about the gardens, that were never particular tended to, save for the herb garden when Lady Jane resided there, and have been much neglected since then, one could have a free hand in doing the thing, 'tis not like Qualling or the grounds of Mulcaster House, so there would not be established gardeners jealous of their place and saying, has always been done thus and so –

Oh, Julius, surely you would love that!

Also, Julius went on with a longing look, 'tis moorland country thereabouts, and I confide would be an almost untrodden field for the botanist –

Sure all sounds entire ideal –

- but one must suppose that his plans would be different did he intend to go marry.

One had to know Julius extreme well to know that he was most extreme concerned about this matter. Indeed it would be a considerable advancement for him, and Hannah knew how great a friendship there had ever been 'twixt him and Lord Sallington. Certainly he might fear that marriage would cause a breach – but was it Flora, that had been part of the same nursery-set? how could that create a gulph?

And then she looked at her brother and wondered. Had she not had particular opportunity to observe the very fine manly affection that existed 'twixt His Lordship and Mr MacDonald?

Why, she said, I daresay Flora will tell me soon enough.

In the afternoon she climbed once more to their meeting place, where Flora was already sitting, clasping her arms about her knees in her old way. Hannah went to squeeze in beside her.

Dearest Hannah Clorinda, said Flora, sure there is a thing I am almost frighted to ask you: but has there been with you any matter of falling in love?

Hannah laughed. Fie, who should I go fall in love with?

Why, how should I know, being away so long?

Hannah looked sideways at Flora. Well, she said, resisting the desire to teaze, I will confess that I have the greatest admiration and, 'tis true to say, affection, towards His Lordship and Mr MacDonald, that are both always so very kind to me. But they are quite out of my sphere, and naught that I would go pine for – and indeed, sure I take the entire apprehension that 'twould be a very foolish thing to set my girlish hopes upon 'em.

You were ever a sensible creature, sighed Flora. For I find myself – found myself, mayhap I will discover that matters are different when we are no longer under the Italian sun, or strolling in balmy moonlight and a little smoky glow from the burning mountain – somewhat unexpected smitten.

She sighed once more. We encountered Quintus and his friends in Venice and it perchanced I saw a good deal of Beauf, and then we went our ways, and then we met once more in Naples, and I found myself in a considerable liking to him, and indeed he to me, and there was a mention of marriage, but I said that perchance we were beguiled by the exceeding romantic setting –

- but 'twas not just that concern that halted me from saying yes to his offer.

She looked down at her hands pressing together. O, dear, Hannah, I like him most extremely, but I greatly dislike the thought of being a duchess. For one sees his stepmother, a most excellent learned lady, that I daresay would greatly prefer to spend a deal more time in her study than her duties of rank permit, and does not complain, but will sometimes let little things drop – will come in from some occasion and say she has been about duchessing, with a twist of her mouth.

And then, my dearest Tiger - she looked sideways at Hannah, who kept her face entirely straight – why, what may I call her? She would not have me call her mama, says 'tis a title she would not steal from Mama, so 'tis a pet name ‘twixt the two of us. But she says, that one should ever think when contemplating marriage that the duties of marriage will include matters to do with one’s husband’s station or profession, if only by behaving proper to that – that is, does one marry a clergyman there is a deal of proper behaviour expected in the matter of church attendance and parish duties &C, almost to act the ancillary curate, and if one marries a doctor one does not gossip upon his patients any more than he would, and must not complain is he called out at all hours to some urgent case.

She leant her head upon Hannah’s shoulder. And said, sure one may see married couples that are entire partners, like unto Mama and Papa, or the Wallaces, or the Samuels, or as 'twas with the Verikers – oh, that was sad news – but indeed, she says, a woman does not always realize in advance what will come to her, but must adapt to circumstances.

And however fond and kind a husband may be, 'tis quite out of the common that he will go encourage her ambitions as Mr Lucas does, that insists that Mrs Lucas has her own study in the rectory. That she confides he would do even was there not the matter of her fortune in the balance.

She fell silent.

Also, she said at length, I like Beauf most extremely, but I have found that I am also given to finding other fellows agreeable, if only for a while. I daresay, she went on, you have read, or mayhap heard, the marriage service? That I confide is not in particular different among Methodists from what pertains in the Established Church – sure one hears that the Quakers do the matter differently –

Dearest Flora, 'tis unlike you to babble.

- and while there is a deal of matter in’t that one could mostly happily swear to, there are some things… even more than the forsaking all others, there is that dread word obey. And Tiger says I should mind what a deal of rights the law and custom assign to husbands, and how little to wives. Sure, she said, a woman – or her prudent advisors – may tie up any fortune she has, but there has to be that forethought took, and even then, there are husbands will endeavour come around their wives by persuasion or even violence.

Hannah sighed. Indeed 'tis so.

But the thing that I always come at, Flora continued, squeezing Hannah, is that I would not wish to be parted from you. And sure I find it hard to come at any way one might marry and still have one’s dearest friend about one. I suppose you might come be my companion, but – she planted a kiss upon Hannah’s head – I should dislike to put you in that position of dependency -

Oh, she cried, but I am a selfish fool! Doubtless you have your own plans and ambitions –

Why, said Hannah, I confide that although I lead a most exceeding pleasant existence here, undertaking the flowers for the house and tending to the library, 'tis not a course I may continue entirely indefinitely. And latterly I was discoursing of the matter to Mr MacDonald, and he advanced the thought that I might go make a living by my pen -

Why, my darling, indeed you might. For Mr MacDonald had most thoughtful laid by for us copies of The Intelligencer, marked up with matters of particular interest, and Tiger was most prepossessed by those pieces of yours on historical ladies.

Hannah felt herself blushing all over. But sure I did not see quite how I might come at that.

Flora clasped her knees again and rocked a little in the old wonted fashion when she was thinking something over.

At length she said, hesitantly, you know that Tiger has a fine property in Surrey -

O yes, Yeomans, 'twas where Mama met Papa –

Say you so! – 'twas let for many years to the Ulrichs, very fine people, some connexion of the Samuels, but at present stands empty, and she does not go seek new tenants until certain repairs and refurbishments are made. And it comes to me, might we not ask her could we go live there, and devote our lives to study and writing and doing somewhat about the parlous condition of womanhood - for I apprehend that 'tis not an entire out of the common thing, for two ladies to live together and pursue their interests, like Lady Emily Merrett and Miss Fenster at Attervale –

- but are they not somewhat older ladies, past their marriageable years?

O, now, but I have heard that Lady Emily was one of the belles of the Season when they first went there, her suitors were entire desolated.

O, said Hannah, longingly, surely that would be excellent fine, but I confide that there would be objections -

O, poo, to objections! said Flora. Do I go convoke with Tiger upon the business I daresay she will come at some way it might be contrived.

Hannah clutched Flora’s hand. O, Flora! I should like it of all things.

My FemslashEx story

Oct. 21st, 2017 05:18 pm
rachelmanija: (Buffy: I kind of love you)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
I had tons of fun with FemslashEx, and highly recommend browsing the archive.

My recipient was [personal profile] iknowcommawrite aka Scioscribe, who wrote me two lovely Treats last Yuletide! FemslashEx allows prompts for original fiction, and this is the prompt I wrote for:

Female Revolutionary/Princess

Class issues, identity porn, loyalty kink, and compromised principles: hell yeah. I think ideally I would like this one in a fantasy world, but I’m open to other possibilities. I’d love to see about any variation on this I could think of. Is the revolutionary undercover in the palace, getting ready to overthrow the monarchy while falling for the princess? Is the princess on the run from the revolution, disguising herself, and falling in amongst the rebels? Do either of them begin to rethink their principles or their policies? Is the revolutionary agitating in the open, and the princess is intrigued by her radical ideas? Other things I’m totally here for: wearing a crown while being thoroughly debauched by a revolutionary, hurt/comfort, kneeling, undressing from gowns and corsets, and virgin princess/experienced revolutionary.

Isn't that great? I found it very inspiring.

I wrote Burn, an epistolatory exercise in Ultimate Identity Porn. The revolutionary hides her face to conceal her identity. The princess silences her voice to preserve her purity. They know each other. And they don't...

(no subject)

Oct. 21st, 2017 08:55 am
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[personal profile] skygiants
After reading Ann Leckie's new book Provenance I went on Twitter and asked what you call a screwball plot if it isn't necessarily a comedy.

Like, Provenance, while frequently funny, is not a non-serious book -- it concerns itself with classism, wildly unhealthy family relationships, interstellar warmongering, fetishization of cultural artifacts, and inhumane conditions of incarceration, not to mention murder -- but the structure of the plot is very classic screwball. Misunderstandings! Mistaken identities! Brilliant[ly ill-advised] schemes colliding with each other and blowing up in everybody's face! The faint air of Yakety Sax playing frequently in the background!

Honestly it feels a lot like Ann Leckie channeling Lois McMaster Bujold, with less intense character dynamics but also fewer moments of side-eye.

Our Heroine Ingray Aughskold is the foster daughter of an elected official who has been locked in competition with her foster-brother since they were both small for the eventual goal of inheriting their mother's position. Ingray comes from a public orphanage, while her asshole abrother is the son of a wealthy family, which gives him an edge that Ingray has never quite been able to best.

CUE: Brilliant[ly ill-advised] scheme! Ingray decides to attempt to break a fellow political foster-kid, Pahlad Budrakim, out of Compassionate Removal (i.e. terrible jail) in order to learn the location of the highly important cultural artifacts which Pahlad has hypothetically stolen.

Complication: Pahlad is possibly not Pahlad, and is certainly not inclined to be cooperative.
Complication 2: The space captain who Ingray hired to get them back home is wanted for theft by an alien ambassador, who Does Not Understand Humans, and whom everyone is panicked about offending due to some Very Important Alien Treaties.
Complication 3: Meanwhile, what Ingray's mother would actually like her to be doing with her time is shepherding around some other ambassadors, human ones from a different planet, who want to do politically-motivated excavations in a local nature preserve
Complication 4: Also, someone is about to get murdered!
Complication 5: And the cop in the case has a crush on Ingray!
Complication 6: And MANY OF THE HIGHLY IMPORTANT CULTURAL ARTIFACTS HAVE DISPUTED PROVENANCE AND IT'S VERY DISTRESSING (for everyone but me, because the minute I heard that title I was like 'this had better be about cultural heritage' and LO AND BEHOLD)

((...though I did want to see a little more documented archival paperwork and process surrounding the question of the authenticity of the artifacts, but I mean, ignore me, it's good, it's fine.))

My favorite character was definitely possibly-Pahlad, with their bitter cynicism and constant challenges to everyone else to do better; wanting More Pahlad all the time was probably my biggest complaint about the book.

My other favorite character was the almost entirely useless Radch ambassador, who just did not want to be there that day. Everything about the treatment of the Radch in this book delights me. "So weird to hear this totally clueless woman speaking with the accent we're used to hearing from villains on the TV!" You definitely don't need to have read the Imperial Radch books to enjoy Provenance, but I suspect it does probably make the few Radch cameos five times funnier.

Ever-fixed mark (Part 2)

Oct. 21st, 2017 10:17 am
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So, much later, Hannah climbed up to the deserted attic of the west wing of Raxdell House, and out onto the flat part of the roof 'twixt chimney-stacks, to find Flora already there, changed out of her finery into one of her old schoolroom dresses.

O, Hannah, she said a little tearfully, I thought you might not come.

Why should I not come?

Sure I am a foolish creature, but I have been hearing so much about how you go take care of the library, and are quite entire Mr MacDonald’s pupil in philosophy and a deal of other matters, sure you become the blue-stocking, while I have been about the frivolity of travel.

'Tis not what your letters led me to apprehend, said Hannah, sitting down upon a ledge and patting the place beside her. Was a deal of good thinking about what you saw and society and politics and history, 'twas no account of balls and flirtations and parties of pleasure.

Why, will not deny that there were plenty of those as well, said Flora, sitting down beside Hannah and putting her arm around her as she had ever been wont. But sure I should have liked to have you there, though indeed I now apprehend why there was such a to-do when I proposed you should come.

She looked down at her feet and sighed. I have learnt a deal of matters about things that concern me and those close to me. She fell silent.

Some considerable while later she said, but I would desire disclose 'em to you, my other self, 'tis why I wished come here where we may be quite private and none may overhear.

You need not, said Hannah, is't some matter of family secrets (had she not once heard some spiteful gossip that Flora was a cuckoo in the nest, no child of Josiah Ferraby’s but of some adventure of his wife’s? She did not believe it – was there not the finest fondness 'twixt the pair of 'em, did not Flora greatly resemble her father – but mayhap she was mistook.)

No, indeed I must - 'tis a very beautiful thing – indeed I feel myself proud - She stood up and looked about her. Sure I am foolish – none ever comes into those attics save to spring-clean once a year, and 'tis not the time for the chimneys to be swept.

Why, said Hannah, one may see through the skylight, grimy though 'tis, that the attic is quite entire deserted - there is no reason for any to come nigh -

I know, I am foolish, but the secret is not all mine to disclose.

Come sit down, then, and whisper in my ear as we were wont.

Flora gave a little smile and came to sit down again. She put her arm back around Hannah and leant towards her. I am Aunty Clorinda’s child, she whispered.

Hannah turned her head. Why, now one had heard it, one saw that Flora was very much of Lady Bexbury’s colouring, and none of the other Ferrabys was so fair. And sure Lady Bexbury had always manifested the very greatest fondness for her god-daughter –

But – she began in a low voice – who –

Oh, indeed Papa is my father. 'Tis somewhat of a long story, but it came about that poor Mama was very poorly indeed after being brought to bed with Quintus – and was advised that she should have no more – and very greatly yearned even so – and when it happened that Aunty Clorinda, that was not at that time Marchioness of Bexbury, went with child, she loved Mama so much, and thought that she would make a much better mother than she would, and I should be in a family with loving brothers and sisters, that she gave me to her –

Hannah frowned a little. But one could see that Lady Bexbury and the elder Ferrabys had quite the finest affection between them, that Lady Bexbury and Lady Ferraby were an entire model of fine female friendship –

- but indeed, part of the plan for this Grand Tour was that so she and I might spend some time alone together, and that she might tell me all this – though sure she had some hesitation, 'twas not until we were come unto Naples that she brought herself to come out with it. And – o, I do not know, mayhap 'tis possible your own mama has told you somewhat of how matters were before Aunty Clorinda married the Marquess? – but indeed I could see why she might suppose it the better course.

I was a deal put about at first, Flora went on, but then I thought what a fine upbringing I had, how much I love Mama and Papa, and how loving Aunty Clorinda always showed to me and to the others, would come romp in the nursery when we were little &C.

Hannah smiled. Would come be your tiger, and your wombatt. She squeezed Flora and Flora squeezed back.

But – o, there is more that happened, and things I should wish talk over with you, but sure I do not wish to drown you. Might we convoke here again in a day or so?

One did not often hear Flora so hesitant in making a request. Hannah kissed her friend, her other self, and said, tomorrow, do you wish.

And, said Flora, I should wish to hear all that you have been about.

Hannah smiled and said, sure ‘twas arranging flowers, and keeping the library in order, and a deal of reading. Little enough to tell.

'Tis not what I hear! – that Mr MacDonald goes lecture at the college in Gower Street, and that he practises over what he will say with you, sure, my darling, you are entirely acquiring a university education.

Hannah felt herself blushing. Why, I do not think the matter is beyond the feminine intellect; and indeed we have much fine talk of history and philosophy and the progress of the natural sciences.

We must speak further of this, said Flora in her old downright manner, but indeed I must go dress, for the entire family comes dine, save of course for Josh

Do I not know it! Mama is entirely about seeing that everyone’s favourite dish is served.

Hannah watched Flora scamper away, climbing down entirely in her old hoyden-girl fashion and not as if she was a fine young lady of fashion that had travelled and was being (was Julius right in so thinking) being wooed by a duke’s son.

She sighed, and more slowly made the descent herself.

Ever-fixed mark (Part 1)

Oct. 20th, 2017 09:02 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Raxdell House was positively humming with excited anticipation.

Hannah Clorinda Roberts looked beyond the flowers she was arranging in a vase on the windowsill, out of the window. It was a lovely late spring day. Her father and her brother Julius were about the gardens – as if anything needed doing to improve upon their perfection.

She stepped back, looked at the flowers, and stepped forward again to make a slight adjustment to one of the lilies.

There were footsteps coming down the stairs.

Why, Hannah, do you have fresh flowers at every landing? Excellent fine they are too.

Gervase Reveley, Viscount Raxdell, her parent’s employer, smiled down at her. You must be glad at Flora’s return, he said.

Hannah bobbed and smiled and nodded, although she was not sure – was she glad? Flora had been away so very many months, must have had so many experiences during her Grand Tour: could it be the same between them? Flora had wanted Hannah to accompany her, but there had been – difficulties.

Lord Raxdell proceeded down the next flight, still an athletic figure although his dark hair was now lightly frosted, as Hannah watched him go.

She knew how very – out of the common – her situation was. The child of servants, even were they not merely upper servants, but the renowned cook Seraphine and the greatly esteemed horticulturalist Elisha Roberts. A sufficient degree of African ancestry to be counted, she reckoned, as quadroon and the same proportion of less-marked French ancestry. Yet her place in this household – more like some dependent relative held in great affection. Educated alongside the Ferraby children, the dear companion of their beloved cherished youngest, Flora.

Hannah made a final scrutiny of the flowers, shrugged, and went to the place that would always calm and soothe her spirits, the library. She did not need to take out a book and read: just being there made her feel – in the right place. Which was, she thought, somewhat incongruous. And yet, it was her place. It was the place where she undertook the useful task of making sure the books were where they were supposed to be, of keeping the volumes of the catalogue up to date: and where she had learnt the skills of finding things out, where to look things up, and writing things down.

Mr MacDonald was already there: he looked up, his habitually severe expression softening at the sight of her. Hannah – you look quite the calmest creature in this house today.

She sighed. 'Tis a delusion, she said. I am as agitated as any, that is why I come here to address myself to work.

I am in much the same state, he confessed, and also find it answers to be out from underfoot, while there is a deal of domestic activity in train.

Indeed there is, as if all was not already in order. But I daresay 'tis even worse at Lady Bexbury’s own house.

Oh, indubitably. Anyone would suppose she was one of those sticklers that will most immediate note the one speck of dust or the single spot that is not properly polished.

Hannah frowned. Is it not – not for her, or rather, 'tis done not because she would in the least complain but to provide the appropriate setting? (She had spent quite a lot of time in the past months considering over the phenomenon that was Lady Bexbury and her effect upon her intimates and her wider circles.)

Mr MacDonald broke into one of his rare and delightful grins and said, Sure you hit it off! We all undertake things to express our welcome, in our own particular fashion – for my part, I have a deal of books and journals that I have kept by for her, Gervase – His Lordship – has made sure that that Melusine has been given exercize as well as being well-groomed, Mrs Ferraby makes sure all is swept and garnished, your mother prepares her favourite dishes, your father and Julius ensure the gardens look their best – how else may all show how very pleased they are to have her back?

But, he said, I daresay your own particular feeling is for Flora’s return?

She sat down, and clasped her hands before her upon the library table, and swallowed against the lump in her throat. I daresay, she said at length, she will have changed.

There was a moment’s silence. And have you yourself stayed entire the same? asked Mr MacDonald.

Oh, said Hannah. Of course she had changed. Just because she had stayed in the same place did not mean she had remained frozen as Flora had left her. There had been these hours in the library, the conversations and arguments – she had been acquiring an education that, did she consider upon the matter, and think of what she had been told of Oxford and Cambridge, was very likely superior to that acquired by many that could write BA after their names.

He cleared his throat, removed and polished his spectacles, replaced them, and said, I shall greatly miss our convocations – sure you have an excellent mind and the finest apprehension.

Hannah felt tears come to her eyes. Why, she said, must they cease? There is still so much I have to learn.

'Tis the like case with all: happy are those that know it. Sure I do not think you will give up study – but you and Flora were ever the inseparables. It must make some difference.

Hannah wrinkled her nose. O, Flora will be going about in Society, and being presented, and there will be suitors, I doubt not, both for her own merits and as a daughter of a wealthy and influential family. 'Tis a world where I may not follow her. I am sure I shall still have many hours to give to the library. But mayhap I should be thinking about finding a place - though indeed I am educated beyond my station. Oh, I daresay I might go out as a governess, though there must be few families would want one of my dark complexion –

Are there not, said Mr MacDonald, families of a like heritage that have gone prosper in the world and would desire educate their daughters to their own new station –

Oh, belike! Yet I do not feel in myself any desire to be a governess – sure one hears it may be a hard and miserable life, I confide that few are in that happy condition Mrs Lowndes enjoyed, but also I do not have that paedogogic inclination that she manifests.

Have you never thought that you might earn a living by your pen?

What!

Have you not already published articles and criticism in The Intelligencer? I assure you, Mr Lowndes does not make space in his pages out of charity.

Oh, but –

He smiled and said, For if our virtues did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike, as if we had them not.

I mind, said Hannah, that the gentleman to whom that exhortation was expressed showed one of very corrupted virtue.

Does not mean that the sentiment itself is wrong.

Well, said Hannah at length, I will think on’t. For sure I would rather teach through words in print than before a classroom.

Entire my own sentiment!

But indeed, she went on, there is a deal of different 'twixt placing an occasional piece in The Intelligencer, and earning a living by one’s pen.

Mr MacDonald looked thoughtful. I daresay you will have heard of that very enlightened course of action that Mr – I mean, Sir Josiah, as we must now style him – undertook, concerning settling an allowance on his daughters as well as his sons, rather than laying the money by to swell some husband’s purse –

Even, said Hannah with a little quirk of her lips, did Bess and Meg go marry almost precipitate!

Even so, they were not obliged to do so, and in their matrimonial ventures, were able to follow their hearts. But what I come at, and mayhap 'tis entire interfering of me, is that besides the very fine places your parents have here, they have that interest in the factory that makes pickles and preserves from Seraphine and Euphemia’s receipts, were able send Julius about that Grand Tour with his friends, pay the premium to apprentice Joseph to an apothecary, I apprehend that there is some likelihood that Daniel will be educated for the ministry –

Hannah wrinkled her nose. May be just some boyish notion, she said.

- why should they not provide you with a competence that might support you while you went build up a connexion for your writing? I am sure they would do the like were you a boy.

But I am not a boy.

(She doubted that her brothers received anything like the exhortations and warnings about beguilement that her mother had addressed to her, ever since she came to womanhood. She was suddenly not to go help Josh Ferraby in his menagerie, must not do this or that. It was exceeding tiresome, and she had supposed that some fear of foreign seducers lay behind Seraphine’s determined refusal of Flora’s pleas to Hannah to accompany her upon her Grand Tour.)

She could see that Mr MacDonald was about to begin perorate upon the topic of the inequitable treatment of women, but at that moment one of the footmen entered to say, Lady Bexbury and Miss Ferraby’s carriage just comes in to the stableyard.

Oh! cried Hannah, I daresay all are drawn up ready to greet 'em; let us go at once.

Indeed let us go most expeditious.

All were already greeting the arrivals as they emerged from the carriage: Flora embracing her parents, followed by Lady Bexbury embracing Lady Ferraby and shaking hands with Sir Josiah, taking both of His Lordship’s hands and smiling up into his face.

As Flora moved to make her curtesy to His Lordship, and then to embrace Mrs Lowndes, she was looking around her with a little frown.

O, she cried, picking her skirts and quite running across the yard, Hannah, Hannah, o, I have missed you so, I thought mayhap you were away.

Merely lingering in the library, said Hannah, feeling her spectacles misting. Oh, Flora, you are looking exceeding well.

Sure I am glad to hear it, for we had quite the horridest Channel crossing.

And so fine dressed!

Why, am I in company with Lady Bexbury, do not wish to look like a poor relation or hired companion. But, o, Hannah, I have such a deal to tell you.

What, more than was in those fat letters you sent me?

Indeed there were matters I did not wish to put into letters, but to tell you to your face.

Hannah looked at Flora. She minded that Julius had remarked that when he and his friends had run into Lady Bexbury and Flora upon their travels, Lord Sallington had seemed considerable taken with Flora. Was a fine match in prospect, with the likelihood of some day being a Duchess?

Flora looked around. Lady Ferraby was already beginning to urge them indoors where a collation had been laid. Why, must go do the dutiful first, but might we not foregather in the old secret place upon the roof, later?

Hannah nodded. So, whatever it was, was not yet something that Flora wished to announce publicly.

My long-delayed trip

Oct. 19th, 2017 11:12 am
rachelmanija: (Default)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Two years ago, I meant to go to Japan in November. And then I had the most horrible two years of my entire life, and the trip was shelved.

I'm going to Japan in November! I'll be there for two weeks, divided between Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka. The last is a city further south than I've been before, with some very pretty day trips.

I'm going to use AirBnb, which I also haven't used before, but it looks pretty great. I have two lovely apartments all to myself for cheaper than a hotel room would be, and one room in a house with a lady who cooks breakfast, has a friendly toy poodle named Piccolo, and says understatedly, "I am a former hotelier who worked in the five star hotel. I think I can assist you well during your stay."

Any of you done anything fun in Japan?

Randomly on a Thursday

Oct. 19th, 2017 05:49 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

1.

intheairtonyc 2017-10-19

Two days ago Joe and I got on a plane and flew to New York City for a little bite of the Big Apple

2.

sockatthemet 2017-10-19 meatthemet 2017-10-19 lookdownguggenheim 2017-10-19

He had work and me too, but we still had the time to make the most of it. We went to the park, and the Met, and the Guggenheim. (I have no idea why those pictures are blurry, they aren’t before I upload them but I don’t have time to figure it out.)

3.

knitthroughguggenheim 2017-10-19

I knit all of those places because I’m me.  Nobody minded.  As a matter of fact I wasn’t even the only knitter at the Met wandering around with a sock in hand.  (I think it was a sock.)

4. They were on their way to Rhinebeck, which I am not.

5. I know. I’m bummed about it too, but this year I had a conflict, and I’ll be at Knit East.  It will be the first time in more than a decade that I won’t be with my usual crew, but duty calls, and Knit East is awesome, and there will be a whole bunch of amazing knitters there too. Life is long.  Next year will be Rhinebeck, with my wool as my witness.

6. The only problem remains that I usually buy a years worth of soap there, so I’m going to need a solution. (Makes note to self, arranging cross-border soap mule.)

7.

headed home 2017-10-19

I’m on my way home now, with a quick turnaround to St. John in the morning. I’m literally putting down one suitcase, sleeping, and picking up one I pre-packed before I left.

8.

closed 2017-10-19

I almost went to a yarn store in NYC, but it was closed for a class. (One knitting teacher to another – I’d never interrupt your class. Not for anything.)

10.

peas 2017-10-19

I ate at Dirt Candy. It was amazing. I had a tiny grilled pea taco. (And a lot of other stuff too.)

what a good dog

Oct. 19th, 2017 12:17 am
rushthatspeaks: (feferi: do something adorable)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
A dog who wouldn't leave his flock of goats came safe and sound through the California wildfires, having managed to keep safe all the goats and, because this was not already impressive enough, several baby deer.

(no subject)

Oct. 18th, 2017 07:40 pm
skygiants: (wife of bath)
[personal profile] skygiants
I didn't deliberately read up on seventeenth-century English history history in preparation for A Skinful of Shadows; it was just a fortunate coincidence that I'd just finished Aphra Behn: A Secret Life right beforehand (thanks to [personal profile] saramily, who came into possession of the book and shoved it into my hands.)

The thing about the English Civil War and everything that surrounds it is that it's remarkably difficult to pick a team, from the modern perspective. On the one side, you've got Puritans and repressive morality and NO PLAYS OR GOOD TIMES FOR ANYONE, but also democracy and egalitarianism and a rejection of the divine right of kings and the aristocracy! On the other side, you've got GLORY IN THE DIVINELY ORDAINED KING AND THE PERFECTION OF THE ESTABLISHED SOCIAL ORDER, but also people can have a good time every once in a while and make sex jokes if they feel like it.

Anyway, one fact that seems pretty certain about Aphra Behn is that she grew up during the Interregnum and wrote during the Restoration, and was very much on Team Divine Kings Are Great. Would Puritans let a woman write saucy plays for the stage? NO SIRREE, NOT AT ALL, three cheers for the monarchy and the dissolute aristocracy!

There aren't all that many facts that are certain about Aphra Behn, especially her early years -- the first several chapters of this book involve a lot of posed hypotheticals about who she might have been, how she might have got her start, and who might have recruited her into the spying business. It does seem fairly certain she was a spy: code name Astrea, Agent 160. (Me, to [personal profile] aamcnamara, after seeing Or last month: "I don't know that I buy all that Agent 160 business, there's no way that was something they did in the 1660s!" I apologize for doubting you, Liz Duffy Adams.)

Admittedly she was the kind of spy who spent most of her spy mission stuck in a hotel in Antwerp writing irritated letters back to King Charles' intelligence bureaucracy, explaining that she would happily continue with her spying mission and do all the things they wished her to do if only they would send her enough money to PAY HER DANG HOTEL BILL. (They did not.)

Besides her unpaid expense reports, most of what is known about Aphra Behn comes from her context and her publications, and the things she wrote in them -- only some of which can absolutely definitively be traced to her at all; several of her short stories and novellas are disputed, including one of the ones I found most interesting, "Love-Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister." This early three-volume novel is extremely thinly-veiled RPF about a wildly trashy historical trial involving King Charles' illegitimate son, his best friend, the best friend's wife, and the best friend's sister-in-law. All of these people then went on to be involved in a major rebellion, which the second and third volume of "Love-Letters" cheerfully fictionalizes basically as it was happening, in the real world.

One of the first English novels ever written by a woman [if it was indeed written by Aphra Behn], and arguably the first novel written EVER, and it's basically one of Chuck Tingle's political satires. This is kind of amazing to me.

OK, but back to things we think we're fairly sure we do know about Aphra Behn! She wrote a lot about herself talking, and about men judging her for how much she talked; she wrote a lot of things that were extremely homoerotic; she also wrote a lot about impotence; she was often short on money; she cheerfully stole other people's plots, then got mad when people accused her of stealing other people's plots; she rarely wrote anything that was traditionally romantic, and most of her work seems to have an extremely wicked bite to it. She did not read Latin, which did not stop her from contributing to volumes of translations of things from Latin. She was almost certainly not a member of the nobility, but she believed in divine right, and divine order, and divine King Charles, even though it seems likely from her writing that she did not believe personally in religion, or God, and the King probably never did pay her bills. An extremely interesting and contradictory person, living in an interesting and contradictory time.

And now I think I need to go find a good biography of Nell Gwyn - she's barely relevant to this biography (Aphra Behn dedicated a play to her, but there's no other information available about their relationship) and yet Janet Todd cannot resist throwing in a couple of her favorite historical Nell Gwyn one-liners and they're all SO GOOD.

Fibre in your diet

Oct. 17th, 2017 08:01 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Socktober is still a thing over here. I had a brief dalliance with the beginnings of a shawl at Knit City, but it didn’t quite take hold, though it might have stood a chance but for Megan. My mum loved clothes shopping and did heaps of it for all of us, so I was trying to be a good grandmother, and asked her what Elliot needed. She answered that he could use a sleeper or two, and that she likes the ones with feet. I went shopping, and had trouble finding footed ones that would fit him. (Being of average weight for his age but of a rather diminutive stature, our wee lad is a bit of a square.) I bought the one footed one I could find, and two that didn’t have feet, and forked them over to Meg. When I did, she mentioned that the reason she likes the footed ones is because his little feet get so cold at night and then she said maybe he needed more booties or socks or something like that and I felt a feeling that must be exactly like the way sharks feel when they pour the buckets of chum in the water.

I went the knitter equivalent of bananas. It was all I could think of. Babies are enough to set me off, but the thought of a cold baby who could only be saved by knitting? Lunatic. I was a lunatic with wool. My grandson had cold feet and I was unstoppable. Hours later:

littleblueonestoo 2017-10-17 greenalldone 2017-10-17

One pair with ribbed cuffs and a stockinette foot, and another pair where I kept the ribbing going on the top of the sock, and gave way to stockinette on only the bottom. (No pattern, though you can find lots on Ravelry if you look – wait, I did it for you. These ones by Kate Atherley look perfect.) The good news is that not only are his feet warm, they fit just fine:

greensockson 2017-10-17

Maybe a little big, but he’s growing fast, and they are apparently delicious.

greenoneisgoodtoo 2017-10-17 delicioussocks 2017-10-17

The green ones especially.

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[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

They walked slowly back towards the villa in silence. Lady Bexbury was conversing of novels with a well-looking fellow of middle years, that to Beauf’s astonishment spoke English with a somewhat Cockney accent though he was as bronzed as any Neapolitan. She made introductions and Beauf apprehended that this was Traversini’s dear companion. Should be entire ecstatic, said Lady Bexbury, would you stay to dine the e’en. Although Beauf felt that all he wanted to do was to return to Naples and brood in his room, or if Julius was around, tell him what had passed, he could not refuse.

Sure it was a very fine dinner, especial had they not been expecting any company. When they had finished, and night had fallen, Lady Bexbury offered that the sight of fireflies among the olive trees was most exceeding pretty, why did Flora not take His Lordship to see 'em? Flora bit her lip, then smiled and said, sure 'tis indeed the prettiest thing, let us go view 'em. And somehow, as they walked towards the olive grove, their hands found one another. Over there, said Flora, that quite menacing red glow? 'Tis the burning mountain Vesuvius: here are lesser fires.

She gestured towards the little sparks of light darting among the olive trees. Indeed 'twas a most exquisite pretty sight. He turned towards Flora and saw his own pleasure mirrored on her face. Mayhap it was the romantic setting; mayhap the excellent wine they had drunk had somewhat to do with it; but he put his arms around her and kissed her as no decent man should kiss a respectable young women before they had reached an understanding. And Flora kissed him back as no respectable young woman should kiss a man that had not already spoke to her papa.

At length they drew away from one another. Beauf began stammering an apology: oh, fie, said Flora, you must have apprehended that I too was quite overcome. She looked down at the ground. 'Twas most exceeding pleasant, I liked it quite extremely, should greatly desire to do it again: but, dearest Beauf, 'twould not be right. I hope, said Beauf, I should not take advantage of your kindness - Flora looked up with a bewitching smile and said, sure I have the greatest confidence in your honour. But m – my godmother has conveyed to me certain matters concerning the sexes –

And, said Flora, drawing herself up and looking like a small Valkyrie, I daresay there are those would condemn her for sullying my maiden innocence or some such nonsense, but I find myself in entire agreement with her that 'tis a shocking thing the way young women are kept in ignorance of matters so very material to their lives and happiness. Why, said Beauf, I fancy my stepmother would be in agreement with such arguments. And when one goes ponder over the topic, 'twould at least be prudent were young women given some warning concerning how some men carry on.

Flora gave another of her enchanting smiles and said, but she avers that young women should also be informed about their own natures: and that they should know that they may find that there is a traitor within the citadel that undermines their resistance to a siege. Beauf looked at her and considered upon this – was it a confession? – that she too felt ardours that might lead them into most improper conduct together. Indeed, Flora said more soberly, I come to an apprehension of her meaning. But she says, too, that does not always import for better for worse &C.

We had better, said Flora, be returning to the villa. She sighed. Flora, said Beauf, dearest Flora, at least say that I may speak again, when we are back in Town and not beguiled by romantic surroundings. She sighed again. You may, dearest Beauf: perchance we may find that 'twas entirely a glamour and you may go find one more apt to duchessing than I. I do not think so, he said. In all our travels have seen none that moves me as much as you. Flora made a little noise, almost a sob, and then turned towards the villa.

The coachman was mayhap a little displeased at being routed out from the kitchen and flirtatious conversation with the buxom Giulia, no hag-like sorceress. But he went ready the horses, and Beauf took his leave of Lady Bexbury and Alf, bowed over Flora’s hand. As he mounted to the carriage, and it began to drive away, he glimpsed, through a window, the fleeting sight of Flora kneeling by her godmother’s chair, her head in her lap, Lady Bexbury stroking the golden curls. Beauf thought that he would have welcomed an attack by banditti as a distraction from his troubled thoughts.

There were no untoward happenings on the road back to Naples. At their lodgings, he found Julius alone – he had not expected Bobbie to be in, but Quintus had regular habits. Is a dinner of some medical club or such, said Julius, seeing Beauf look around, that Quintus was invited to. But, dear friend, you look troubled. Oh, Julius, sighed Beauf, going to sit beside him upon the chaise-longue, indeed I am troubled, for Flora – was’t another woman I would say, goes play the coquette, but 'tis not Flora’s way – Julius put an arm around Beauf in the old way.

Beauf rested his head upon Julius’ shoulder, thinking of all the times they had comforted one another. He was blessed in having such a friend. Surely marriage, especially marriage to Flora, whose own dearest friend was Julius’ sister Hannah, would not come between? Julius remarked that he was going to see a very fine garden the morrow, would Beauf care to come? Indeed he had not seen so much of Julius lately, would be most agreeable to spend time in one another’s company. That would be exceeding pleasant, he said, do you desire my company. How not, said Julius, smiling.

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[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

No doubt Lady Bexbury apprehended something of his reason for the visit: very shortly she said, I daresay you have come see Flora. At present I confide she goes walk in the olive groves – Alone? cried Beauf. La, she is as safe here as she would be at home. There will be none to come trouble her: 'tis most exceeding useful to have a cook in the place that is give out a strega and able to cast heavy curses upon trespassers &C, even is Giulia not so powerful a one as Guiseppina, that was her aunt, used to be.

Beauf blinked: he would have liked to know more of the matter – surely Lady Bexbury did not believe in witchcraft? 'Tis a useful superstition, she said smiling. But away to the olive groves – she waved in their direction. He bowed over his hand and went where she pointed. Sure olive trees were a very picturesque sight – he wondered whether there were artists had painted them – but even more delightful was the sight of Flora Ferraby, in a becoming light gown, a wide-brimmed hat upon her head, carrying a parasol. Why, Beauf! she cried, almost running towards him. Such a pleasure.

Flora dropped her parasol and clasped his hands in hers. Sure 'tis good to see you, she said. And are the others here as well? They remain at Naples, he said, looking down at her: perchance she had neglected one day to carry her parasol or put on her hat, for she was a little browned by the sun: however unfashionable, 'twas exceeding becoming. But, she said, tell me all of what you have been at, for Quintus’ letters only recount such and such an operation he saw, or some anatomical demonstration he attended. We have been here some while.

So, finding her hand remaining in his, he walked with her among the olive trees and told her of their adventures since Venice. But, he said, did she not go about a good deal in Society at Naples? He had been surprized to hear no reports of the bella signorina Ferraby and sighings over her. La, said Flora, we live here most agreeable quiet, sure I became somewhat jaded with the pursuit of pleasure, and sure these Italians are excessive amorous and given to jealousy, 'tis exceeding tiresome when they brangle over whether I go favour one more than another.

But is it not a little dull? Beauf asked. As I collect you have no great interest in painting water-colours, that one might well wish to undertake in such fine scenery did one have the skill. Indeed 'tis not, said Flora. My dear – my godmother is quite the finest company, there is an excellent fine library with a deal of English books in the place, Marcello is entire happy to escort me on excursions to classical antiquities &C – fie, I suppose I should say Signor Traversini, but I catch the habit of informality from Her Ladyship’s old acquaintance of him.

Also, she went on, there is excellent fine conversation of an e’en: Marcello and Alf are quite the greatest friends of Mr MacDonald, in constant correspondence, sure 'tis good serious discourse such as I have been feeling the want of. For from early years I was used to hear Papa and Mama and their company talk of matters in Parliament, and questions of business, and it feels home-like. And oh, have you heard? Papa goes be knighted. Entire well-deserved, said Beauf, my father the Duke holds him in quite the greatest esteem. Oh, 'tis an entire mutual esteem, said Flora.

Beauf looked down at Flora. He had seen more beautiful women, women with all the feminine arts of flirtation, but none of them had affected him as Flora did. Oh Flora, he said, I find myself in an ever-increasing fondness for you, sure I cannot suppose my father would make a deal of a fuss whosoever my choice lighted upon, he is not that kind, but I confide he would welcome a closer union with your family, there could be no objection, indeed I hazard 'twould delight my stepmother. Dear Flora, I should be honoured would you be my wife.

Flora dropped her head and gazed at the ground, and let her hand slip out of his. Oh Beauf, she said after what seemed like an exceeding lengthy silence, sure I am entire aware of the great honour you do me, and indeed I find myself in great liking towards you. But, she said, and then paused again. I know, she began again, that 'tis considered quite the highest achievement of a young lady to attach a fellow of your rank; but – oh, dearest Beauf – 'tis that matter of rank and being a Duchess in due course, gives me pause.

Why, you could not but adorn such a position, cried Beauf. Indeed, replied Flora, I hope that did it come to it I should do all that was proper: but I am in some concern that I should find it most immense tedious. There are duties and responsibilities, and sure I think some of 'em I could contrive to quite well. But I think of all the doing the polite, and making agreeable, and sure I do not attain to have my – godmother’s capacity to smile upon bores and laugh at weak jests, I entire lack her skills of diplomacy.

I see, said Beauf, that I have come about the matter very abrupt – 'twas not thus that I meant to proceed, but it has been on my mind ever since Venice, that I have seen no woman that I like so much as you and that I should desire to be wedlocked with. Flora gave him a wistful little smile and said that sure they were still yet young and perchance 'twas an entire glamour cast by these romantic parts, and mayhap did they go look at one another on a chill foggy day in Town, 'twould be another tale.

(no subject)

Oct. 14th, 2017 02:40 pm
skygiants: Mosca Mye, from the cover of Fly Trap (the fly in the butter)
[personal profile] skygiants
I was resigned to waiting until October 17th for A Skinful of Shadows to come out in the US. However, [personal profile] izilen, horrified at both the long wait after the UK publication and the clear inferiority of the US cover, acquired a copy on my behalf and mailed it over the ocean -- after first warning me it was the darkest Frances Hardinge book yet.

Having now read it, I don't know that it's actually that much creepier than the first third of Cuckoo Song, or the bits of Lie Tree where Faith in her deepest self-loathing slithers snakelike through the island purposefully destroying everything she touches. It definitely has a higher body count -- a much higher body count -- but I mean it's a book about a.) ghosts and b.) the English Civil War so maybe that's to be expected ...?

Like many of Hardinge's books, it features:
- a ferocious underestimated girl struggling to hold onto a sense of self in a world that wishes her to have no such thing
- a recognition that the people you love and who believe that they love you will sometimes betray you, sometimes for reasons they believe are good and sometimes not
- a ruthless and terrible female antagonist whom the heroine cannot help but respect and admire
- a struggling journey up out of solitude towards a coalition built of necessity with the least likely individuals
- including an undead bear
- admittedly this is the first Hardinge book to include an undead bear
- it is also the first Hardinge book about literal ghosts, a lot of ghosts, a lot of very unpleasant and sinister ghosts but also some ghosts for whom I have a very deep affection, including the very bearlike bear.

I also have a great deal of affection for Makepeace - the illegitimate scion of a very old noble family that is quite confident it will be able to chew her up and spit her out, and finds itself repeatedly mistaken. I don't think I love her yet quite as much as Trista or Faith or Mosca, but that's what I said about Faith right after I read The Lie Tree, too, and LOOK AT ME NOW.
coffeeandink: (Default)
[personal profile] coffeeandink
These are very gossipy shallow reactions, but maybe I will get back into the swing of posting, who knows.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend S03E01 )

Jane the Virgin S04E01 )

Duma Key, by Stephen King

Oct. 14th, 2017 11:39 am
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
[personal profile] rachelmanija
Of all the new-to-me books by Stephen King that I’ve read in the last year, this and the middle Dark Tower books are the ones I’ve re-read the most. I’ve re-read Duma Key three times in the last two years, and I can tell it’s a book I’ll keep coming back to. Here’s the first page:

How to draw a picture


Start with a blank surface. It doesn't have to be paper or canvas, but I feel it should be white. We call it white because we need a word, but its true name is nothing. Black is the absence of light, but white is the absence of memory, the color of can't remember.

How do we remember to remember? That's a question I've asked myself often since my time on Duma Key, often in the small hours of the morning, looking up into the absence of light, remembering absent friends. Sometimes in those little hours I think about the horizon. You have to establish the horizon. You have to mark the white. A simple enough act, you might say, but any act that re-makes the world is heroic. Or so I’ve come to believe.

Imagine a little girl, hardly more than a baby. She fell from a carriage almost ninety years ago, struck her head on a stone, and forgot everything. Not just her name; everything! And then one day she recalled just enough to pick up a pencil and make that first hesitant mark across the white. A horizon-line, sure. But also a slot for blackness to pour through.

Still, imagine that small hand lifting the pencil ... hesitating ... and then marking the white. Imagine the courage of that first effort to re-establish the world by picturing it. I will always love that little girl, in spite of all she has cost me. I must. I have no choice. Pictures are magic, as you know.


On the one hand, this is my favorite prose passage in the book. On the other hand, the entire book has that same atmosphere and themes: the magic of art, the bleakness of loss, the terror of opening a door into darkness, human empathy and connections, and, always, how making a mark on paper is both simple and difficult, the dividing line between nothing and everything.

Unusually for Stephen King, Duma Key is set in on the Florida coast – an incredibly vivid and atmospheric Florida, which becomes enough of a character in its own right to make the book a very satisfying sea-soaked, sunset-lit Gothic.

I am pleased to say that this is one of the least gross King books I’ve read, bar a rotting ghost or two. It’s also one of the scariest, in a very classic “terrify by keeping the scary stuff mostly off-page” manner. The Big Bad is never quite seen directly, and is one of King’s creepiest and most mythically archetypal figures.

It’s also one of King’s most heartbreaking books. Almost all the characters are really likable, and if not likable, than still very human. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon opens with, The world had teeth and it could bite you with them any time it wanted. Duma Key is about the beauty and magic and redemption of the world, but also about the teeth.

It begins with a wealthy self-made man, Edgar Freemantle, getting into an absolutely horrific accident while visiting one of his job sites. He loses an arm and gets some brain damage; he’s barely out of the hospital before his marriage has ended, his life as he knew it has ended, and he’s on the brink of suicide.

After some talks with his psychiatrist, he ends up taking up art, which he’d enjoyed as a boy but never pursued, and moving to a cabin in the Florida Keys. There he meets a chatty guy, Wireman, who’s the caretaker for Elizabeth, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s – both of whom have pasts which slowly, heartbreakingly unfold over the course of the book. Edgar finds that painting is his new passion and genuine talent… but his paintings are odd. Eerie. And they can change things…

The first half of the book follows Edgar as he recovers from his accidents, explores his new talent and gains critical and commercial success, and loses some old friends and gains some new ones. The emotional and physical recovery from the accident and its fallout (which doesn't mean he'll ever be the same as he was before) was incredibly well-done and vivid. I don't know if it was technically correct, but it felt very believable.

In classic Gothic fashion, there’s creepy stuff going on simultaneously, but it’s comparatively subtle. I found this part of the book hugely enjoyable even though tons of scenes are just Edgar painting or eating sandwiches and shooting the breeze with Wireman. On the one hand, it probably could have been shorter. On the other hand, I could have happily gone on reading just that part forever.

And then the creepy stuff gets less subtle. A lot less subtle.

This has an unusual story arc. I’m putting that and other huge spoilers behind a cut, but I’ll also mention that even for King, the book has some very tragic aspects— ones which he’s explored before, but there’s one I’ll rot13.com (feed into the site to reveal) because it’s a specific thing that people may want to avoid. Gur cebgntbavfg’f qnhtugre vf xvyyrq. Fur’f na nqhyg ohg n lbhat bar (n pbyyrtr fghqrag) naq irel yvxnoyr, naq vg’f gur ovttrfg bs frireny thg-chapurf va gur fgbel. Nyfb, n qbt vf uvg ol n pne naq qvrf.

If that’s not a dealbreaker, I suggest not reading the rest of the spoilers because even though if I’d sat down and tried to figure out where the story was going, I probably could have, the experience of reading it feels unpredictable; you can guess the outlines but a lot of the details are unexpected.

Read more... )
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Julius had always been there, from the days of the Raxdell House nursery-set. It had been Julius to whom he had disclosed, weeping, how very dreadful he had found his early days at Eton. They had shared boyish explorations of their changing bodies. But that was – according to the way of boys, was it not? not continued into maturity. And yet: had not his father spoken to him of the exceeding cruelty of the law regarding the carnal commerce of man with man? And the terrible popular prejudices that affected the ability to alter that law? So there were fellows –

It was somewhere between a joke and a proverb among their circle that, did you find yourself in puzzlement about anything that was a matter to do with people and the relations between them, the person to apply to for enlightenment was Lady Bexbury. If she did not see at once what was ado, she had an uncanny capacity to find out. He should ask her, when next he went to take tea at their lodgings: but preferably when Flora was elsewhere. Even if Flora had often snorted about the ridiculous desire of Society to keep young women entire innocent.

La, said Lady Bexbury, pouring Beauf tea, sure I have known Marcello this age, was a protégé of the late Marquess my husband, had him educated &C. And indeed he is of the disposition, that is what we say for fellows that incline to their own sex – though there are some that will incline to both - but he would not do any harm to a fellow; has a dear companion that remains at their villa near Naples. Would not force himself upon one unwilling. 'Tis entire the case that such fellows may manifest quite the finest mutual affection.

What Beauf could not ask Lady Bexbury – not yet, it might come to it – was why he, himself, should feel something very like unto jealousy at how very impressed Julius showed with Marcello Traversini? Perchance it was because he had always supposed himself Julius’ preferred friend just as Julius was his. But lately it seemed that Julius was ever about some expedition with the Italian, showing little interest in the various doings of Beauf and the others. But, he thought, we all go our own ways: sure Quintus has the entrée to dissections &C, that one would not wish to attend.

As a result of these puzzlings, Beauf had not made any declaration to Flora by the time all came to depart from Venice. Their paths lay in different directions, but all would remeet in due course in Naples. Julius showed some inclination to go with Lady Bexbury’s party, but then minded that he had the entrée to see certain gardens, and introductions to horticulturalists and botanists that 'twould be uncivil to cut. Beauf recollected what his stepmother would say about sorting her thoughts and giving matters time and determined to see how time and absence affected his feelings for Flora.

Although there were further adventures and escapades while travelling south, Beauf did not find himself forgetting Flora or dismissing their time together in Venice as a mere flirtation, inspired by the romantic spirit of the place. Rather he found himself considering that there were entire prudential arguments for the match. While the Ferrabys were not of aristocratic stock, they were wealthy, very well-thought-of, widely received in Society: Lord Nuttenford had had no objections to Harry’s suit to his youngest sister. They were quite the greatest friends of his own parents. His stepmother would delight in such a lively intelligent daughter-in-law.

It almost came to a quarrel one day betwixt Beauf and Bobbie, when the latter remarked thoughtfully that not only did one confide that Miss Ferraby would come exceeding well-dowered, surely Lady Bexbury was likely to do something very handsome for her god-daughter. They might have come to blows but that Quintus offered to take Bobbie to see some collection of medical curiosities to which he had the entrée, and Julius drew Beauf aside to walk in a fine garden that Traversini’s recommendation had opened to him. Beauf fumed to the sympathetic ear about how very vulgar Bobbie sometimes showed.

The quarrel was made up: one could not keep up a quarrel with Bobbie, he was too easy-going, but nonetheless Beauf felt somewhat of a reserve towards him for his remarks. Even had Flora herself commented so very disdainfully on Bobbie’s conversation, or lack of it. Indeed he could not imagine her inclining to him however fine a dancer she thought him. He was in some mind to endeavour to sound out the matter with Quintus, who might know somewhat of his sister’s mind, but something held him back. It was too early to put the matter into definite words.

At last they came to Naples. Beauf found himself chafing against the reception they received into Society there, the necessity to go do the polite, the asking after parents and family and old friends in Bella Londra. Sure ‘twas all most exceeding hospitable and kind, but yet he found himself in a considerable impatience to go visit Lady Bexbury at the late Marquess’s fine villa, without making it into a general excursion. Bobbie had already found a congenial set to frolic with, Quintus had savants of medicine to discourse with; and Traversini had come to welcome Julius to the city.

But in due course he was able to take a carriage out of the city and along through exceeding fine views of the bay and the volcano, to the very fine villa Bexbury. On his arrival he found Lady Bexbury reclining in a chair upon the terrace, scribbling at somewhat on her traveling desk. He dared say that she was still obliged to keep a hand upon the various philanthropic enterprizes she was associated in. La, Lord Sallington! she cried. Entire delightful! Come have some refreshment. Even in his impatience to see Flora, he could not resist that famed charm.

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