Solstice, Hilary Mantel & a moment of clarity

And so summer has begun. Hard to tell, given the amount of sogginess around at the moment, but I’m trying to counter the gloom of cloudy skies with the thought that we aren’t going to all die of dehydration, or be the generation that began the water riots, punching our neighbours at standpipes, and wandering around with unwashed hair and armpits.

I’ve been living in the summer of 1789 recently, since I couldn’t bring myself to cart Bring Up The Bodies on holiday, but had A Place of Greater Safety on the kindle. I went to Hilary Mantel’s event at the Southbank in May, where she read from and talked about the new Cromwell book, and I came away wanting her to adopt me. Again. I’ve seen her before, and always come away feeling that she ought to be on telly every week, as an example of how to be interesting, educated and enthusiastic, without being pompous or irritating. She is a lesson to all young girls who dream of rising above their beginnings.

My thoughts about A Place of Greater Safety run thus, so far:

  • I should have had it to hand when I studied the French Revolution for A level.
  • I am nonetheless still often confused by who is doing what, where, and when. This is generally a problem with this revolution, but the book makes you feel this is just how it was as it happened, rather than trying to impose order on events like historians and the Cambridge Exam Board.
  • Hilary’s prowess at translating research into novel has improved subsequently. Not that this is a bad novel – far from it, but it is more treacly than Wolf Hall.
  • I am a little bit in love with Desmoulins.
  • I might have to counter it with something lighter halfway through.
Reading things that are good doesn’t half help when you need to encourage yourself to do some writing. Much easier than when you’ve read something atrocious and have to fling it across the room* muttering ‘and this crap got published!’, the life sapped out of you and the will to make a good sentence evaporated.
(*or just carefully delete from your e-book reading device. Not as dramatic, but less expensive in the long run.)


2 thoughts on “Solstice, Hilary Mantel & a moment of clarity

  1. I have just done the exact same thing – bought A Place of Greater Safety as I’ll wait for Bring up the Bodies until Christmas. I loved it, particularly loved the vignette’s and meanders. What to read next though? Anything light will seem a bit flimsy in comparison but I do need a bit of a break!

  2. Aha! So it wasn’t just me that felt utterly befuddled by History A-level? Good to know. Another thing confusing me right now: how midsummer can be the start of summer…

Leave a Reply