Thursday, 23 May 2019

Preview of "Destiny's tide" by J.D. Davies: a town disappearing beneath the waves and the disturbing life in Henry the 8's England

16th century England: Dunwich is a town in decline - figuratively and literally. Once a town that rivalled London strong winter storms at the beginning of the small Ice Age have blocked the harbour by dumping shingle and the changing sea current is now eating away the cliffs the town is built on. Of the many prosperous churches several have already crumbled and vanished under the waves. But with King Harry dissolving the monasteries the income from the Iceland Fisheries has also disappeared. With his father in the leper hospital and his wife dead Jack Stannard has to manage their shipping industry and surviving not only Big Harry's wars in Scotland and France but also scheming neighbouring villages. 

I have to admit it took me a very long time to start to identify with the main characters in the story. But what the book makes so very interesting is that it feels like we as a reader time travel. The writer states that he has been teaching Tudor history for many years and that shows in all the details. 

This is a story not of mighty kings but of the civilians: the greyfriar who looses his livelihood as a monk and is forced to pick up his sword as a soldier once again, the beggar who must have once been educated and prosperous but now sits begging in the street blind, the child who thinks her new stepmother must be a witch because as old as she is (I believe 26) she still has all her teeth.

It also illustrates the big changes that happened in those days. Ships are at first fighting with arrows and boarders but later on the first cannon is introduced. While the mighty orders like the Benedictines were given a pension, later on the Franciscans were just evicted what meant old monks died in the gutter and not only abbeys but also schools and hospitals were closed. The common folks saw their church rituals changed bit by bit like removing dooms and introducing English liturgy. That close look of day to day life in that era makes this novel so interesting. 

And the more I read about Henry the 8th the more I think he was a sociopath. Like how he executed someone for treason in such a gruesome way that the father of that person who was wrongly convicted lost his mind.



Publishing date June 27th 2019

A roadtrip through Afghanistan and Iran in 1978 lead to a detective story in 2007: Review of "Vanished" by N.V. Baker



Cassie is travelling with her boyfriend from Bangkok to Afghanistan in 1978. En route she exchanges letters with a Phd student in the States who is a few years older than she is. In Kabul they meet an American and a Canadian, both young men who also plan to go to Iran. (Then called Persia and not speaking Arabic - the only slips I noticed).

Thirty years later the pen pal is a professor and rediscovers those letter while packing his office to move buildings. He had till then always assumed she ended her friendship with him but on the brink of a divorce he finds out someone had done that for him. Curious he googles her and finds out she vanished. (And we are still reading her adventures in 1978 and are none the wiser but are looking out for clues).

The book is an interesting roadstory - I even told my Afghan refugee students the words in Dari I learned from it. The other storyline is about a middle aged scientist who turns detective.

Can really recommend it.