This was a long, slow read, but still a feast for history nerds (like me), covering many aspects of life in Europe in the 1300s -- the social strata,...moreThis was a long, slow read, but still a feast for history nerds (like me), covering many aspects of life in Europe in the 1300s -- the social strata, the status of women, oppression, insurrections and uprisings, religious schisms, economics, politics, etc.
Mostly, though, it was about war: funding for war, preparations for war, waging of war and ramifications of war, which is hardly surprising since it was the time of the Hundred Years' War but, still, I was pretty war-weary by the end of the book. And with such a huge cast of characters, I sometimes had trouble keeping up with who was who, which is probably more of a failing on my part than the author's.
The most shocking thing I learned was about the pogroms against European Jews, blamed for epidemics of the Black Plague, who were forced to wear yellow badges on their clothing -- 600 years before the rise of Nazi Germany.
The most surprising thing I learned was that there were Free Love communes in 14th-century Europe!(less)
I was raised in the KJV-only tradition, and can remember my dad in the late 1960s looking askance at teenagers and young adults in our congregation bu...moreI was raised in the KJV-only tradition, and can remember my dad in the late 1960s looking askance at teenagers and young adults in our congregation burying their noses in Good News for Modern Man. I made a number of attempts to read the KJV in my youth, and might have made it all the way through once. As beautiful as the language is, I couldn't really make heads or tails of it.
It was many, many years later that my husband finally lured me into tasting the forbidden fruit of the NIV. And, hallelujah! The heavens opened and the angels sang! Finally, instead of laboring over what was to my mind a florid, overwrought text, it was all laid out clearly and simply before me. A pure pleasure to read, although, yes, my suspicious little mind insisted on laying out the KJV and NIV side by side on my first read-through. Now my most often-used Bible is an NASB wide-margin edition heavily annotated from my studies with FF Bruce, Alfred Edersheim, and Eusebius.
I tell you all this because I thought I had left the KJV far behind me, but after reading this book I'm tempted to give it another go.
God's Secretaries contains very little information on the actual work of creating the KJV, as so few in-process records have survived. What it does instead is to paint a picture of the environment in which the KJV was conceived and executed. England has passed through the violent paroxysms of the Reformation, old Queen Elizabeth has finally died, James of Presbyterian Scotland has taken the throne, and the Puritans have begun splitting off from the Church of England. Nicolson gives insight into the tenor of the times and the personalities and motivations of many of the men brought together to create this new, definitive English translation. Also, he does a very good job of explaining the lasting success of the KJV and selling it as far superior to any modern translation:
The Jacobean translation process was richly and densely social. Endless conversation and consultation flowed across the final judging committee, testing the translation not by sight but by ear. This Bible was appointed to be read in churches... and so its meaning had to be carried on a heard rhythm, it had to appeal to what T. S. Eliot later called 'the auditory imagination,' that 'feeling for syllable and rhythm, penetrating far below the conscious levels of thought and feeling, invigorating every word.'(less)
On the whole, this book would be a lot more interesting to a Wagner fan, or at least an opera lover. I can't claim to be either; I go for Baroque.
Of m...moreOn the whole, this book would be a lot more interesting to a Wagner fan, or at least an opera lover. I can't claim to be either; I go for Baroque.
Of much more interest to me was what was going on in the background of the Wagner family's story, and often in the foreground as well: a history of Germany beginning with the Franco-Prussian War and the founding of a united Germany in 1871, through WWI, the Weimar Republic, the rise of Hitler's Third Reich and WWII, denazification, the Iron Curtain and, finally, reunification.
Hitler was an intimate family friend from the 1920s onward and there's a good bit of material about him in that role, as well as various family members' antisemitism and involvement with the Nazis.(less)