Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Sunday, April 28, 2013

A beautiful bundle of birthday books sweeter than cake

I celebrated my forty fifth birthday late last week and amongst the great gifts I received(with much thanks to my wonderful family and friends) were a number of my favorite items,books. Since as they say a book is a present you can open again and again,I thought it would be nice to re-open a few of them with all of you.

As expected,some of the books were Jane Austen related such as Syrie James' The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. I'm reading the P.D. James first,mainly because I really haven't read her before and want to make up for lost time there.

DCTP takes place six years after the main events of Pride and Prejudice,with Elizabeth and Darcy comfortably settled in his family homestead as well as the prospects for Georgianna to receive more than one promising offer of marriage being very good indeed.

This period of calm is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of Lydia,who hysterically claims that her no account husband Wickam has been shot by his good friend Denny somewhere on the grounds of Pemberley. Upon investigating the matter,Mr. Darcy and his cousin Col. Fitzwilliam(who happens to be one of Georgianna's potential suitors) discover that things are not as quite as they seem,even for the devious likes of Wickam.

 Jane Austen mystery stories do have a strong following and I've enjoyed the series penned by Carrie Bebis(The Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries) but for such a renowned author in this genre to be taking on Austen like this,I was eager to take a look despite the mixed reviews. I'll most  likely post my full thoughts on the book after finishing it yet so far,it is delightfully diverting:

 My nonfiction gifts included a collection of author essays,Why We Write,and a book that has become a must-have for Downton Abbey fans.

 Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is written by the current lady of the manor,Fiona,the Countess of Carnavon,who offers her estate as the central location for the popular PBS drama. It relates the history of the fifth Countess,whose life and times are rather similar to the back story of Lady Cora Crawley,an American heiress who married an English nobleman in need of a fortune to sustain his family holdings.

Highclere Castle is full of rich history,such as the Earl's partaking in the Egyptian exploration that lead to the discovery of King Tut and the house being opened to wounded soldiers during WWI. This will be a nice read to tide me over until season four of Downton arrives on our shores:

For some time now,I have been dipping into Les Miserables as part of my morning reading ritual and making excellent progress with this massive tome. In part,I think that is due to reading an edition translated by Norman Denny,who really knows how to make such a long literary journey move faster without bypassing any of the lovely scenery prose along the way.

French literature has never been my thing,with the only exceptions being Madame Bovary and Cousin Bette(Balzac strikes me as one of those rowdy relatives you meet at a family reunion who is more than happy to share a few family secrets after a drink or two).

Encouraged by my steady pace with Le Miz,one of my birthday books this year is The Three Musketeers,with Alexandre  Dumas being translated by Richard Pevear. I am familiar with the story,due to the various film versions(plus a couple of child friendly editions back in the day) but would really like to sink my mental teeth into one of the big man's major tales of derring-do. Granted,it'll be awhile since I still have a ways to go with Le Miz but when I'm done,D,artagnon and friends will be waiting for me:

 Philippa Gregory is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction and for my birthday,I was fortunate enough to get the first three titles in her new series of royal family titles known as The Cousin's War(aka the War of the Roses).  

The White Queen is focused on Elizabeth Woodville,whose marriage to Edward the Fifth was one of the sparks that set off the infamous rivalry between the houses of York and Lancaster and who was the mother of the two young princes set to the Tower.

The mantle is taken up in The Red Queen by Margaret Beaufort,who is married at thirteen and becomes a mother and a widow by fourteen.

 Despite the political manipulations that force her into two other loveless marriages, Margaret makes her primary goal in life the placing of her son Henry upon the throne of England at all costs.

The torch is then passed slightly back in time for The Lady of the Rivers, where the psychic gifts of Jacquetta are exploited by her future husband,the Duke of Bedford,who has Joan of Arc executed.

Jacquetta believes that her second sight comes from being a descendant of the river goddess Melusina but even she could not see the outcome of her second marriage to Richard Woodville or the impact of the Cousin's War upon her daughter Elizabeth.

The next book after that one is The Kingmaker's Daughter,which I'll be ready for by the fall at this rate,and while I do prefer the Tudors over the Plantagenet clan,these books should be rip roaring fun:

Well,I do have a lot to take in here,in addition to some of my other reading,yet this is definitely more of a pleasure than a chore by far. Books do make wonderful gifts that keep on giving and I'm thankful that many of my loved ones enjoy giving them to me:

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