Strange Bedfellows

Certain books have been known to make me sleepy. It isn't that they're boring, just the opposite. They require a degree of concentration that at the end of a long day blissfully banishes work from my mind and makes my eyes sag. Paul Johnson's History of the American People and History of Christianity did this brilliantly. So did The Reformation and The Closing of the Western Mind. I love these books, enjoyed every page but I knew that twenty pages or so and the Cappodocian Fathers or Zwinglianism would send me to dreamland.

Now it's Eric Hobsbawm's turn to play Ambien in a bookcover. He's up to the task. Give him a dense topic like, say, the fiscal health of the French government under Louis XVI and I'm gone after two pages. At this rate I'll finish the book sometime in 2009. The Age of Revolution is more economic history than history. It's also more socialist view of economic history. Not that Hobsbawm forgets his duties. He's not a polemicist, thankfully.

If I want to be bored rather than drained I couldn't do any better than Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl. After ten pages I knew I'd be skipping my way through this book. It's not that Gregory plays fast and loose with history - this is historical fiction, after all - nor is it that her dialogue screams anachronism! with every line. (Early on, Mary Boleyn says of Anne "I thought she'd marry a French count or somebody." Somebody?) I don't expect Elizabethan English here but "You can't be more a virgin than me."?

So far George Boleyn has introduced his sisters to the concept of tampons (no joke), Mary has experienced post-partum depression and all three young Boleyns have moaned about the fact that their family is using them to advance their interests. This is about as authentic to the Tudor period as my computer. It's enough to turn me against novelized treatments of real people. Oh wait, I'm already against that. But that copy of Fatal Majesty that's been sitting unread on my shelves for eight years is headed for the donation pile for certain after this.

No comments: