Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Canadian History dull......?

Not when you read a book like "Champlain's Dream"  by David Hackett Fischer.  (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize).  It's exciting to read about the early exploration of Novia Scotia, then Acadia, the grandeur of the country and river St Lawrence, the encounters with the Indian nations and the struggle for survival in New France.  Champlain is described as being friendly towards the Indians and treating them with respect, unlike the Spanish and English colonizers further south.  He seems to have been soldier, sailor, adventurer, diplomat, peacemaker, economist, explorer, cartographer, artist, commander and gardener.  His marriage was not a happy one at first but his wife eventually came to Quebec for a while and learned enough of the Indian languages to teach the children and nurse the sick.  Early colonies were decimated by scurvy during the long, cold winter months when supplies ran out, and ships carrying provisions were not able to cross the Atlantic until spring.  There was cooperation between Indians and the French thanks mainly to Champlain's treatment of them.  They exchanged young men to be brought up in the customs of the other and to learn their language.  Champlain worked under three different rulers:  the favourable Henri IV (1589-1610), the hostile regency of Marie de Medici, and the young Louis XIII.  He also worked with the famous Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis' chief minister, but the two of them never saw eye to eye.  Recollet fathers and later Jesuit priests went out to the new colonies, to attend to the religious needs of the people and to convert the Indians.  I'm about 3/4 way through the book and enjoying it, especially since we lived in Montreal for many years, and know some of the territory mentioned. I'm also familiar with the winters!  I wish I had known more about Champlain when we lived there, but this book was only published in 2008.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hamlet, the one and only.....

I've been watching Joseph Pearce's series on Shakespeare on EWTN for a while and thought it time I saw one of the plays for myself.  When I was in Convent School in the north of England years ago we studied Shakespeare: a comedy and a tragedy each year of secondary school. In the early sixties I was lucky enough to spend a week at Stratford on Avon for two years in a row with some school friends.  There we often saw a matinee in the afternoon and another play at night.  I also remember seeing Sir Lawrence Olivier play Hamlet on film. These experiences gave me a taste for Shakespeare that has long been neglected. My quest took me to the local library and Hamlet was first on my list.  I took out the BBC version with Derek Jacobi playing Hamlet and Patrick Stewart, Claudius his uncle, and Claire Bloom, Hamlet's mother.  It was like falling in love all over again....I also took out the play in book form and that's what I'm reading now.
Favourite phrases (apart from the obvious ones):
Horatio:  "O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!"
Hamlet:  " And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
               There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
               Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Hamlet   "Forgive me this my virtue;
               For in the fatness of these pursy* times
               Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
               Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good."
It seems the times were not so far removed from our own, these words could have been written today.
*flabby, out of shape

Snowy wintery day in November

I've started this blog to keep a record of the books I read, and what better day to begin than on a dark day in November when it's cosy inside, and just the right time to curl up with a good book.  For several years I had eye problems and couldn't read at all.  Now there are so many books I would like to read - a veritable explosion - that I thought it would be good to keep track of the better ones.  My tastes tend towards Catholic writers of past and present, history, drama, poetry and health, and so much more.  There might also be a few asides because even for a confirmed bibliophile there is life outside of books, although books enrich our lives.  So to the books I'm reading now......