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review 2017-11-15 16:33
The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer
The Outcasts of Time - Ian Mortimer

This novel is beautiful in its prose, fascinating in its historical detail, and emotive in its themes on humanity and the passing of time. I was first drawn in by the promise that renowned historian Ian Mortimer would be taking readers on an adventure through time. Finding that this book does that while also making thought provoking statements on the human condition, I was helpless to put it down once I started it.

The story of John of Wrayment and his brother begins in 1348 during a devastating outbreak of the plague. One would think that any time might be preferable as an escape from the fate of man during that time, but such does not prove the case through John's eyes. He sees the plague as 'a second Flood. God is clearing the land. Not with water but with pestilence.' Yet, he is even more horrified by what he discovers when he accepts a supernatural offer to live his remaining six days on earth, each 99 years further into the future than the last.

The brothers explore Exeter and its surrounding area through the ages, the cathedral where John has sculpted those he loves into the faces of angels and disciples, serving at their centering point regardless of the century. John at first finds comfort in finding the face of his wife there, but his fear and anxiety is enhanced as the statues that seemed so permanent crumble and wear away the further he gets from his own time. Out of all the changes he sees, this seems to impact him the most. The loss of his own work and what was supposed to be eternal memorial of his family.

When we think about traveling into the future, I think we expect to see progress and increased happiness. Certainly, we would think that one leaving the time of the plague would see that, but that is not what John notices. He is confused by what we would call advances. 'We worked long days and had straightforward pleasures. But now, so many things are easier - yet what does the world do? It revels in causing suffering and killing.' John is horrified at the loss of faith that he observes. 'We were far more united and accepting of God's will. In this new century, people are all divided and unsatisfied, hoping that God will smile on them personally.' 

John wishes only to do good in order to please God, but the further he gets from his own time, the more he realizes that is no longer a key goal of the people. He is also frustrated by his inability to perform a heroic deed in any era. Due to his bedraggled state and lack of possessions, he finds himself at the mercy of others rather than able to help them. 'If Christ were living in this day and age, would He not have ended up in a workhouse?'

'Every day is composed of . . . of an unpredictable horror - no, of a horrific unpredictability.'

It seems that time travel is not all it is cracked up to be.

Each day/century brings John closer to his death and he grows eager for it. Though he is disappointed in his failure to do a great deed for God, he cannot tolerate what he witnesses occurring in the world. 'Men are starting to direct things that rightly only God should control.....Men've strived to compete and outdo one another, as if nothing is the will of God and everything is the will of man.' Instead of being impressed by progress, John sees only disintegration of faith and character.

Thankfully, there are a few bright spots included in John's six day journey. He meets at least one kind person in each time, and it is these small comforts that enable him to move forward.

I was eager to discover what would happen to John once his time was up, but I will not reveal it here. I will only say that the ending was satisfying and reiterated the message that John had already taught us, 'What is important is what does not change - that mothers and wives are so happy when they hear that their sons and husbands are alive that they run around the house yelling for joy; that men do their duty in the face of great danger not purely for themselves but for all their community.'

An amazing read - my favorite of this year.

The man who has no knowledge of the past has no wisdom.

I received this book through NetGalley. Opinions are my own.

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text 2017-08-18 14:55
Reading progress update: I've read 50 out of 186 pages.
I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Vertigo) - Alexander Lernet-Holenia,Ignat Avsey

well, I don't know if it became a trendy thing and we're just suffering the wait for more translations...but apparently, by 1933, at least one Austrian knew how to write a clever, fast-paced Noir Crime novel that's hard to put down. shall finish this tonight, and doesn't look like there'll be any problem with that!

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text 2017-08-18 00:53
Reading progress update: I've read 6 out of 186 pages.
I Was Jack Mortimer (Pushkin Vertigo) - Alexander Lernet-Holenia,Ignat Avsey

this is a short novel I intend to read--completely--in one day, tomorrow. that leaves me free to start A Dance Of Blades on Saturday, as was scheduled long ago as part of a Buddy read. I could just read a graphic novel tomorrow, but, I have to be honest, now that I've been thinking of reading this book next if I had a whole Friday of reading to account for (well, okay, before and after work), I'm kinda pumped for it. it fits in due to title-similarity with Send For Paul Temple, not to mention Who Is Jake Ellis?, and besides that, I've never read a translated Austrian Crime novel from 1933! so I'm gonna sneak it in.

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text 2017-08-11 11:32
Friday Reads - August 11, 2017
Christian Seaton Duke of Danger - Carole Mortimer
Secret Agent Under Fire (Silver Valley P.D.) - Geri Krotow
The Baby Barter (Love Inspired Historical) - Patty Smith Hall
A Promise by Daylight (Hqn) - Alison DeLaine

Haven't done a Friday Reads post in a while. Today is the last day of my library's summer reading program; Tuesday is the awards party.

 

The only plans I have this weekend aside from reading is going to a Food Truck Rally and Party on base tonight (food, bouncy castles, DJ, and mom not having to cook!) and working on finalizing some PTO stuff. Our first event is on the 17th and then it is a whirlwind until winter break.

 

Here is what I want to get done this weekend and next week:

1. Christian Seaton: Duke of Danger (Dangerous Dukes #6) by Carole Mortimer - at 20% read, the heroine is a little too innocent and naïve for my taste. And there is a lot of party in his pants feelings from the hero. Down boy, you got a spy job to take care of.

 

2. Secret Agent Under Fire by Geri Krotow  - 10% read; the heroine is a little too bitchy towards the hero for no good reason but the plot centers on finding a religious cult using arson to terrorize a small Pennsylvania town and I am here for it.

 

3. The Baby Barter by Patty Smith Hall - only at 10%, but so far so good.

 

4. A Promise by Daylight by Alison DeLaine - heroine dresses like a man so she can pursue her work as a doctor; hero needs medical care after a carriage accident...but his eyes are working just fine.

 

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text 2017-08-01 22:12
England (the Southern / Central Part), from East to West and Back: Bookish Souvenirs
Jane Austen's Hampshire - Terry Townsend
The Book of Margery Kempe - Margery Kempe,Barry Windeatt
Intimate Letters of England's Queens - Margaret Sanders
1415: Henry V's Year of Glory - Ian Mortimer
Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors - Chris Skidmore
Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter - Martin Gayford
The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the Lost Hero of Science - Andrea Wulf
The House of Rothschild: Volume 2: The World's Banker: 1849-1999 - Niall Ferguson
The Malice of Unnatural Death - Michael Jecks
The Late Show - Michael Connelly

The Trip:

* Chiltern Hills and Thames Valley (to mystery lovers, aka "Midsomer County" -- though given that this is an area chock-full of quintessential(ly) English villages, it's no surprise that it also routinely provides locations for other series, such as Inspector Morse, The Vicar of Dibley, and of course, adaptations of Agatha Christie's mysteries ... Christie herself, after all, also spent her last years in this area, in a village just outside of Wallingford, where she is also buried.)

* Chawton: Jane Austen's home

* Gloucester and Malmesbury

* The Welsh Borderland: The Welsh Marches, Herefordshire, and Shropshire

* Bosworth and Leicester

* East Anglia: Norfolk, Ely, and Stour Valley (aka [John] Constable Country)

 

 

The Souvenirs:

* Jane Austen:

- Pride and Prejudice -- an imitation leather-bound miniature copy of the book's first edition

- Lady Susan -- audio version performed, inter alia, by Harriet Walter

- Teenage Writings (including, inter alia, Cassandra, Love and Freindship, and The History of England)

 

* Terry Townsend: Jane Austen's Hampshire (gorgeously illustrated hardcover)

* Hugh Thomson:

- Illustrations to Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion

- Illustrations to Mansfield Park and Emma

* Pen Vogler: Tea with Jane Austen

 

... plus other Austen-related bits, such as a playing card set featuring Hugh Thomson's illustrations for Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion, two Austen first edition refrigerator magnets, two "Austen 200" designer pens, a Chawton wallpaper design notepad, and a set of Austen-related postcards.

 


* Margery Kempe: The Book of Margery Kempe
* Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love

(have read bits of pieces of both, but never yet the whole thing(s) -- something to be remedied soonish)

* Margaret Sanders (ed.):

- Letters of England's Queens

- Letters of England's Kings

("Queens" looks decidedly more interesting, but I figured since there were both volumes there ... Unfortunately, neither contains any Plantagenet correspondence, though; they both start with the Tudors.)

* Terry Jones: Medieval Lives

* Ian Mortimer:

- The Greatest Traitor: The Life of Sir Roger Mortimer, Ruler of England 1327-1330

- 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory

* Chris Skidmore: Bosworth -- The Birth of the Tudors

* David Baldwin: Richard III

* Richard Hayman: The Tudor Reformation

* Glyn E. German: Welsh History

(The last two are decidedly more on the "outline" side, but they're useful as fast, basic references)

* Martin Gayford: Constable in Love -- the painter John Constable, that is.

* Andrea Wulf: The Invention of Nature (yeah, I know, late to the party, but anyway ... and at least I got the edition with the black cover!)

* Chris Beardshaw: 100 Plants that almost changed the World (as title and cover imply, nothing too serious, but a collection of interesting tidbits nevertheless)

* Niall Ferguson: The House of Rothschild -- The World's Banker, 1849-1999

 

 

* Michael Jecks, Knights Templar:

- The Leper's Return

- The Boy-Bishop's Glovemaker

- The Devil's Acolyte

- The Chapel of Bones

- The Butcher of St. Peter's

- The Malice of Unnatural Death

   

* Shirley McKay: Hue & Cry (a mystery set in Jacobean St. Andrews, Scotland)

 

... and finally, two present-day mystery/thrillers, just to balance off (well, not really, but anyway ...) all that history:

 

* Jo Nesbø: The Snowman

* Michael Connelly: The Late Show
 

... plus several more mugs for my collection (because I clearly don't own enough of those yet), two Celtic knot bookmarks, a Celtic knot T-shirt, a Celic knot pin, a Celtic knot designer pen (can you tell I really like Celtic knot designs?), assorted handmade soaps and lavender sachets, and assorted further postcards and sticky notes, plus in-depth guidebooks of pretty much every major place I visited (which guidebooks I sent ahead by mail before leaving England, so they're currently still en route to my home).

 

ETA:

Oh, and then there's John le Carré's The Pigeon Tunnel, which I bought at the airport right before my departure and am currently reading.  Books that you buy at the departure for a trip do qualify for a vacation book haul, don't they?

 

 


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