If only I had more time to read. It is my one major regret despite being my eternal New Year’s resolution but the pressures of running my own business leave me with little leisure time.
OK, that feels like a big fat lie; I have plenty of time for Netflix. However, I maintain that by the time I sit down after a full day, I can only take in passive entertainment! So I wish I had more time to read. I write more than I read and want nothing more than to redress this balance.
When I do read, my nose is stuck in something factual. I have read the great fictions – Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, Winnie the Pooh – but I am far more excited by tales from history. I read an awful lot of historical biographies, my favourites being written by Antonia Fraser or vintage out of print finds online or in charity shops. What I adore most about old history books is how the historian’s reading of events cannot help but be influenced by their own surroundings. My many books about the life of Charles II span the Victorian to the modern day and, whatever the reading, I come away loving him that little bit more!
My guilty pleasure is historical fiction. I have a beautiful book told from the point of view of Charles’ wife, Catherine of Braganza and one from the point of view of his son James, Duke of Monmouth. These are peripheral characters in history but hugely important and wildly interesting to me.
The works of Philippa Gregory take a similar approach; in books such as The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, the protagonists are the women behind the history we know of Kings and wars fought by men. Because there is so little written about these women, Philippa had to carry out serious historical research for her fictions. The resulting work is stunning. My belief is that the events in our history are riveting enough to stand alone as narrative, embellished only by beautiful prose and imagination enough to devise conversions not thought important enough to have been recorded.
Watching the BBC adaptation of The White Queen (a drama comprised of this book as well as The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter) in a post Game of Thrones world, one could be forgiven for finding the plot entirely unbelievable. Kings are deposed as quickly as they are crowned, coats turning in a heartbeat, but this is what really happened. In fact, GOT owes a huge debt to The Cousins’ War for many a plot twist!
Philippa’s dedication to historical accuracy is something that I admire greatly. Her writing and her methods inspire me as much as the complex female characters in her books. With each new release, I promise myself a little more of that illusive time to sit and read them! I was lucky enough to attend a talk that Philippa held on the release of her book The King’s Curse and she was a fascinating speaker. I would love to bake her a cake, have her round for dinner, crack open a bottle of something lovely and talk all night.
To find such an authority on women’s history with this kind of talent for bringing so many characters to life, is a rather wonderful thing and entirely deserving of cake. Perhaps a little Lemon Drizzle on this cold and bright morning.
I wish you all the most wonderful week ahead. May you all be as inspired to create on a Monday morning as I am feeling right now.