Sunday, February 27, 2011

from the first word

Mere sentences in to reading C.J. Sansom's Heartstone, I was back in Henry VIII's London with Matthew Shardlake, the hunchback lawyer and solver of mysteries. Queen Catherine Parr has asked Shardlake to pursue the case of a former servant's son (now dead of a suicide?) who had filed a complaint in the Court of Wards against the adoptive family of the children he once tutored. When the Queen asks for a favor, one says yes so Shardlake takes the case even though he has no experience in the courts dealing with the orphaned children of the weatlhier classes. Shardlake is also investigating the mysterious background of a woman he has befriended--she is an inmate at Bedlam, the notorious "hospital" for the insane. Then there is the matter of the devalued currency caused by Henry raising taxes to fund a war against France, the impending birth of the child of Shardlake's assistance Barak (a former street ruffian) and his wife whose first child was stillborn. Shardlake is also dealing with the retired military man/martinet who has become his steward and bullies the other servants in Shardlake's home. This is just part of a complex and fascinating story filled with complex and interesting characters and unexpected twists and turns in the plot.

I am not a mystery fan but I devour the Shardlake stories. Matthew Shardlake is an intelligent and entertaining companion, very human and very frail (his hunchback gives him constant pain and he is often negligent of his back-strengthening exercises...sound familiar to anyone?). I can see the sights, smell the smells and feel the heat and humidity, unpleasant at the best of times but made more uncomfortable by the heavy robes and gowns required by the lawyer's trade. I resent any time when I'm not curled up in my chair or stretched out on my daybed, nose poked deep into the adventures of Matthew Shardlake.

I think I'll go spend some time with him right now!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

the carrot dangling in front of my nose

My friend and traveling buddy JN has been dropping suggestions about a trip to Italy as in "take care of your knee, Carol, so we can go to Italy." Well, I took care of my knee and we are now starting to plan a trip to Italy in 2012. Being me, I have been out buying travel guides--I love travel guides and have oodles of them, some for places I've never been and will probably never see. Planning the trip is almost as much fun as taking the trip. Needless to say, I am one of those travelers with a long, long list of places I want to go and things I want to see and foods I want to eat...especially chocolate.

Frommers came out with a new series called day by day which is full of color picture, maps and little personal tidbits about the country/city it describes. I picked up the book about Italy and have been dipping into it whenever I have a few minutes. I now know a bit about soccer mania and famed players, a few words I need to know--arbitro is referee, portiere is goalkeeper (actually doorman); about the fashion industry in Milan (those of you who know me know what a fashionista/trendsetter I am...Ha!); about the Roman emperors Hall of Shame, featuring Caligula among others. This is just the kind of travel guide I love...lots of trivia and details which I can bore JN with when we're traveling. Isn't she lucky?

Fodors has started a new series called See It which is very similar but includes personal walking tours and things you need to notice for specific locations like Tivoli and Villa d'Este. Much more casual and personal than other travel guides. Also perfect for a few minutes of daydreaming whenever I can sit quietly for a little while.

From the reading I've done so far, I know I want to spend more time in Florence and the surrounding region (have to see David since he is on my life list). I need to see the Sistine Chapel (life list again) which will probably cause me to burst into tears...JN is used to that happening when we travel...with joy and disbelief (you should have seen me when I first saw the Taj Mahal...sobbing and was wonderful). JN longs for Venice which sounds great to me--credit card and Venetian glass are a perfect combination, don't you think?