Just my two cents :). I´m really looking forward to be reading some more non-fiction.
“I can’t see success at the end of the road,” said Archbishop Ralph. “I think the result will be what the result of impartiality always is. No one will like us, and everyone will condemn us.”
“I know that, so does His Holiness. But we can do nothing else. And there is nothing to prevent our praying in private for the speedy downfall of Il Duce and Der Führer, is there?”
“Do you really think there will be war?”
“I cannot see any possibility of avoiding it.”
His Eminence’s cat stalked out of the sunny corner where it had been sleeping, and jumped upon the scarlet shimmering lap a little awkwardly, for it was old.
“Ah, Sheba! Say hello to your old friend Ralph, whom you used to prefer to me.”
The satanic yellow eyes regarded Archbishop Ralph haughtily, and closed. Both men laughed.
Even though this book is mostly known as a romance novel, there is a lot more to it than a soppy love story. I love the discussions of church politics. Now that I have read McCulloch's First Man in Rome, I get a how skilled she was in packing a lot of information into dialogues rather than hitting the reader over the head with long explanations.
So, yeah, soppy love story and all but it also has bite, fun, smarts to it.
The only thing right now is that it feels kinda weird reading this at the same time as a book about Pope Francis...
“Perfection in anything,” she said, “is unbearably dull. Myself, I prefer a touch of imperfection.” He laughed, looking at her in admiration tinged with envy. She was a remarkable woman.
Mary Carson is such a great character. She stands out and I love how McCulloch shows her having fun with Ralph:
So from the pedestal of her age and her position Mary Carson felt quite safe in enjoying Father Ralph; she liked matching her wits against a brain as intelligent as her own, she liked outguessing him because she was never sure she actually did outguess him.
“Getting back to what you were saying about Gilly not being the epicentre of the Archbishop Papal Legate’s map,” she said, settling deeply into her chair, “what do you think would shake that reverend gentleman sufficiently to make Gilly the pivot of his world?”
The priest smiled ruefully. “Impossible to say. A coup of some sort? The sudden saving of a thousand souls, a sudden capacity to heal the lame and the blind . . . But the age of miracles is past.”
“Oh, come now, I doubt that! It’s just that He’s altered His technique. These days He uses money.”
“What a cynic you are! Maybe that’s why I like you so much, Mrs. Carson.”
“My name is Mary. Please call me Mary.”
And, of course, Ralph having a bit fun with Mary Carson:
“At this minute I’m minus a head stockman.”
“Five in the past year. It’s getting hard to find a decent man.”
“Well, rumour hath it you’re not exactly a generous or a considerate employer.”
“Oh, impudent!” she gasped, laughing. “Who bought you a brand new Daimler so you wouldn’t have to ride?”
“Ah, but look how hard I pray for you!”
"Until 1776 over a thousand British petty felons were shipped each year to Virginia and the Carolinas, sold into an indentured servitude no better than slavery. British justice of the time was grim and unflinching; murder, arson, the mysterious crime of “impersonating Egyptians” and larceny to the tune of more than a shilling were punished on the gallows. Petty crime meant transportation to the Americas for the term of the felon’s natural life."
Well, I learn something new every day. The phrase "impersonating Egyptians" caught my eye and I had to look it up. Apparently, the phrase refers to "gypsies" and "vagabonds" and essentially just poor people, who had been criminalised under the vagrancy laws.
The 1744 Vagrancy Act listed the following who could be prosecuted under the law:
- Patent gatherers, gatherers of alms under pretence of loss by fire, or other casualty
"There is little evidence that strolling players and Gypsies were prosecuted with any regularity under the Vagrancy Acts, but prostitutes, seasonal workers, street pedlars and aggressive beggars certainly were. The inclusion of a separate provision for the punishment of individuals who simply threatened to desert their families, also ensured that almost anyone lacking property or position might be prosecuted under the title of a vagrant." (Source: London Lives 1690 to 1800)