Dan Jones, The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors, (London: Faber & Faber, 2015)
Dan Jones’ muscular account begins with Catherine de Valois’ marriage to Henry V in 1420, and ends in 1541, with the brutal execution of Margaret Pole (at 67) by Henry VIII; the final remnant of the Plantagenet dynasty to be mopped up by the Tudors.
I’ve been known to use A Clockwork Orange as a way of accessing Shakespeare: if you can decipher Burgess’s prose in that, my reasoning goes, Shakespeare should hold few terrors for you – simply apply the same skills. That’s a dazzling novel. So I approached A Dead Man in Deptfordwith some excitement and expectation, stoked by one of the most visually arresting book covers I’ve seen in years.
This second Hew Cullan mystery begins two years after the events of the first.It is 1581: Hew has returned to St Andrews on the death of his father, a man rendered a stranger to him through time and distance.
Today marks the day when the undeniably mighty Armada, reeling from a night attack by fireships and blocked from retreating down the Channel, was pummelled by English ships and scattered northwards by storms. Unable to regroup, they tried – and many failed – to get home the hard way, via Scotland and Ireland.
Dying in 1587, just as Shakespeare probably got going, Mary Queen of Scots has been a peripheral figure in my reading, writing and teaching over the past few years.Perhaps unjustly.In her book, ‘Elizabeth & Mary:Cousins, Rivals, Queens’, Jane Dunn fascinatingly posits that one queen can only be defined by contrast to her rival.
As comfortable middle age approaches, he’s broadly minding his own business, apart from the desire to perhaps go on a few more foreign holidays. Sure, he’s a little eccentric, and keeps a more eclectic circle of friends and acquaintances than many. But fundamentally a ‘nice, well-spoken gentle-hobbit‘, as Gaffer Gamgee might say. Looking forward to not much more than another 50-60 years of smoking his pipe on the doorstep of Bag End; hiking through the Shire at night; writing; and keeping out of the way of those dreadful oiks, the Sackville-Bagginses.
Adventures? No thank you.
All is well, until that meddling magician, Gandalf arrives …