Friday, October 31, 2008

A Halloween Book

When I moved to Ohio, I was startled to find that sometimes people here don't celebrate Halloween on Oct. 31. Instead, they declare some other night to be "beggar's night" because it's before daylight savings time ends and they don't want to let children walk around in the dark, or because there's a high school football game and god forbid anything else should be happening in town, or just because. Lately, though, most of Ohio seems to have gotten with the program on when Halloween is. They've stopped calling green peppers on pizza "mangoes," too. I guess even rural parts of the country have gotten less provincial in recent years.

As if you can't tell, I'm a big believer in celebrating holidays on the day, rather than on the day "observed." And I like to experience a season thoroughly, including the books I'm reading. Well, for Halloween, I've been teaching the last act of Othello (in which Iago says he won't tell anyone why he's been so evil--as if he doesn't have a motive and just did it because he could) and listening to the audiobook of Ariana Franklin's The Serpent's Tale, which picks up a few months after the ending of her previous novel, Mistress of the Art of Death.

This new novel centers around the poisoning death of Rosamund Clifford in a tower surrounded by a serpent maze. Adelia, now living with her baby in England, and Rowley, now the Bishop of St. Alban's and trying to live up to his vow of chastity, travel to the tower to investigate and get caught up in fictionalized events involving the nuns at Godstow and the arrival of Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine. Now, I'm a fan of books about Eleanor and I named my daughter after her. But this Eleanor is way less heroic and even less fun than usual. Despite an elderly nun's effort to open Adelia's eyes to the way Eleanor is trying to subvert the misogyny of the twelfth century from within the system, Adelia's anachronistic and straightforward style cannot be thwarted. So, even though I'm rarely irritated by the way historical characters are treated in historical fiction, this one got under my skin a little. Still, it's a good story and kept me well entertained on the road. And there are plenty of dead bodies, including Rosamund's, which is prominently featured.

Even though I like holidays, I have decided not to become one of those older ladies who acquire a holiday sweater for each one. I'm wearing black today. Eleanor is wearing purple jeans and a purple blazer with a green vest and going out as the Joker tonight. Walker has a tailcoat and is going out as Napoleon (he and I are amused at this, since he's about five foot three, so short adult height). We have carved four jack-o-lanterns for our front porch. We will make sure our cats come in before it gets dark, especially Chester, who is black.

Do you think that the more history you know, the more irritated you become when fiction writers take liberties? If so, is becoming curmudgeonly inevitable if you hope to become wise?

4 comments:

Sarah said...
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Sarah said...

Glad to hear that the season is not lost on y'all back home. :) Tell your children that this displaced Ohioan loves their costume ideas and wishes she could be there to see them.

Jeanne said...

Sarah, we'll take pictures, so you can see the costumes.

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