21 January 2014

So many books, so little time

Well, the summer's half gone and I haven't accomplished one quarter of my goals.  The hallway wall paper is finished (thanks, Gillie!) although the staircase still needs doing.  The Pennsic A&S stuff is nearly finished--the book of classes went to press, but there are always additional classes left to schedule and the webpages need updating daily with changes as teachers cancel, add more classes, want to switch days/times.
On the other hand I have been able to do a lot of reading. . . .   
For you murder mystery fans I suggest checking out the Magdalene la Bâtarde series by Roberta Gellis.  there are three volumes which should be read in order: A Mortal BaneA Personal Devil, and Bone of Contention.  Magdalene is the whoremistress of the Old Priory Guesthouse in Southwark--which is what first caught my attention when I read the publisher's blurb. 
I once took a remarkable walking tour of the high points of Shakespearean London (including a death-defying stroll along a not-really-public-access walkway on the Blackfriars bridge underpass) with William P. Williams; and when we reached Southwark, William told us the story of the Bishop's Geese. 
It seems that the Bishops of Winchester have always lived in Southwark (pronounced sooth-ark) in close proximity to the Cathedral there.  And because of the laws against theaters in London, the theaters (the Globe, the Rose, the Curtain) were built outside of the city walls--many in Southwark.  Well, theaters tend to attract crowds, and crowds tend to attract sellers of all sorts of merchandise.  One of the most popular things a theatergoer in Medieval times might be able to pick up in Southwark was a "lady of the evening." And since it made sense for such ladies to have "rooms" nearby, and since Medieval bishops tended to be wealthy and own properties, the bishops of Southwark became the landlords of many medieval to early modern brothels (note that I said landlords, not pimps, though I must point out that the distinction is rather unclear historically).  The upshot of the story is that the prostitutes of Southwark were many and often under the protection of the bishops, but you don't say things like that out loud--so the euphemism for prositutes soon became "the Bishop's Geese." 
Now you see why a murder mystery set in the 12th century where the mysteries are soved by a very uncommon lady who runs a very uncommon guest house under the protection of the bishop of Winchester sounds interesting to me?
Am I going to review this book; give you the 50 cent synopsis?  Nah.  You'll have to read it for yourself.  I'll just say that if you liked Brother Cadfael or Sister Fidelma or Dame Frevisse, you'll love Magdalene la Bâtarde!  Gellis has done her research on the period, and yet manages to push the feminist envelope with her treatment of the gender issues all the while telling a darn good story with characters you can care about.  I picked up the first book on Saturday, went back for the next two on Sunday--simply devoured them and can't wait for the next one in the series.  

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