Saturday, April 30, 2016

Books read in April 2016


1. Moonlight Over Paris by Jennifer Robson
2. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
3. Step Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton
4. Purity by Jonathan Franzen


1. Salvation in Death
2. Ritual in Death
3. Promises in Death
4. Kindred in Death
5. Missing in Death

Monday, April 18, 2016

Downton AU fanfiction bunny, free for the taking (Salt of Sorrel is Eaten, Everyone Dies)

In the very first episode of Downton Abbey, there's a scene in which Daisy almost sends a dish of poisonous cleaning product (which the internet tells me is salt of sorrel) up to the dinner table instead of a dish of garnish (which the internet tells me is chopped egg).  Disaster is averted at the last minute ("I'll never do anything simple again, I swear it, not till I die!"), but what if it wasn't?

It would be interesting to see an AU where the salt of sorrel goes up onto the dining table, and some or all of the Crawleys are poisoned and die, depending on feasibility (How lethal is it? How fast-acting is it? Given that people are served food in a certain order, is it plausible for everyone to ingest the poison or would the last people to be served notice something is amiss?) and plot requirements.  (Yes, one or more of the servants would probably be charged with murder and sentenced to death and I don't mean to minimize the seriousness of that for them, but what happens afterwards is where the potential for an interesting story lies.)

For example, suppose all the Crawleys die. Matthew then inherits an empty manor house with a full complement of servants.  What does he do with it?  How does he do right by all the people who depend on the house for their livelihood?

Or suppose only Robert dies.  Matthew inherits a manor house that is currently home to four women he's never met.  He might be inclined to leave it alone and just let them live out their lives while he goes back to lawyering in Manchester. Is that feasible or would he have to be at Downton? Of course, Mary would probably still be highly incentivized to try to marry him. How would that play out? How would he feel about the attentions of a woman who's completely at his mercy for her livelihood?

Suppose only Robert lives. He's in mourning, of course. But he no longer has to worry about securing his daughters' future by marrying one of them to his heir. Would he be incentivized to remarry, even in his grief, so he could have a chance of having a son?  Until such time (if any) as he has a son, what would his relationship with Matthew be like? 

Suppose only Sybil lives. She's still a minor (i.e. not "out") at the beginning of the series. Can she stay at Downton? Would she have to go to America and live with her grandparents there? Or live in London with Lady Rosamund? (Or was Lady Rosamund at this dinner?) The internet suggests that during that era, someone her age could get married with parental consent. I don't know what happens if they don't have parents. I also don't know if Sybil would have it in her to try to win Matthew's affections just because he now owns her home, but desperation leads people to do strange things.  Or would she just run off with the chauffeur?

Suppose only Edith and Sybil live. Edith is a legal adult, she may well be able to have custody of Sybil. What kind of person will she grow into without her glorious war of sisterly rivalry?  She may want to try to marry Matthew to secure her and her sister's livelihood, or, if not, to marry someone else. One thing I noticed throughout the series is that, prior to being left at the altar by Sir Anthony, Edith was actually quite diligent at (what would have been in that setting and era) her job of finding a suitable husband. She took all the right steps, put herself out there, offered and accepted invitations to appropriate activities with appropriate people - she just never ended up getting married.  It would have been the Edwardian equivalent of a newly orphaned young adult diligently trying to find a job to support herself and her minor sibling so they don't have to be separated.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Things They Should Make Far Easier For Me To Find: humorous children's books from other languages and cultures

My fairy goddaughter (currently 4 years old) has a fantastic sense of humour! When she was 1.5 years old, she glommed right onto Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, and it's only gotten better from there.

She recently announced that she wants to learn French, so I was looking for age-appropriate French reading material, ideally with some element of humour.  However, what kept falling into my hands most readily was French translations of Dr. Seuss or Robert Munsch - French translations of humorous stories originally written in English. Surely comparable humorous children's stories have been written in French, but the arrangement of brick-and-mortar and online bookstores is such that it's not as easy for me to find them.  (I think I found one, but after further googling I'm beginning to suspect that the French name featured prominently on the cover of the book was that of the illustrator, and the book was really written originally in English.)

During previous book shopping trips for my fairy goddaughter and my baby cousins, I've noticed displays featuring stories from other cultures. (I didn't bother to check if they were translations of existing stories from other cultures, or stories written in English that are set in other cultures.)  I gravitated towards these displays because I like the idea of introducing other cultures and to the notion that there's an unimaginably massive range of people and ways of life in the world, but I was disappointed to find that all the multicultural stories were serious.  They were stories with A Moral, or they were so focused on portraying the beauty and dignity of the culture that they were verging on the Noble Savage archetype. Serious stories have their place, of course, but the current combination of personalities, relationships and developmental stages puts us more in the market for fun and humour at the moment, and I don't see why that should be incompatible with exposing the younglings to the fact of other cultures.

Other languages and other cultures must have their own humorous children's stories. I wish the curation of bookstores made these fall into my hands as easily as humorous English-language children's stories.