Good textbook on culture history, showing how the discipline has evolved in the last few decades. Has relatively little actual methodology, but it feaGood textbook on culture history, showing how the discipline has evolved in the last few decades. Has relatively little actual methodology, but it features many key works and thinkers so you can easily learn what to read next....more
I don't often read historical fiction, but when I do, I read novels like The Owl Killers - books backed up with solid research, featuring issues thatI don't often read historical fiction, but when I do, I read novels like The Owl Killers - books backed up with solid research, featuring issues that are just as relevant today as they were in times past.
A group of beguines, women who dedicate their lives to charity and religion without making lasting vows, settles in a small village in England called Ulewick. There they are not welcomed by the villagers, who still cling to the their old heathen ways, terrorized by the anonymous Owl Masters.
The Owl Killers is set in the fourteenth century, which is not a very popular choice for historical fiction. Maitland seems to feel really passionate about the middle ages, and it makes my aspiring-historian heart happy to see how she truly captures the day to day life for villagers in the fourteenth century. The way they interact with each other, how they work, the clash of religion and tradition - it all fits. She weaves themes of feminism, abuse, self-determinism and freedom into this setting in a way that feels natural for the time. Instead of enforcing twenty-first century ideals on the setting, she uses the questions that rises from the material itself.
The book is narrated by five characters, and one of the main themes is that of misunderstanding. Maitland uses the multiple points of view to enlighten the character dynamics from different sides, showing how disagreements and emotions are fuelled by ignorance. I really enjoyed this technique. On the other hand, the biggest weakness of the book lies in the characterization. While the characters do all have their own wishes and dreams and fears, somehow they never truly come to life. Maybe the chapters are too short for this, or maybe the technical skill to write life-like characters is absent, but none of them quite jumped off the page.
In a way The Owl Killers asks the reader to fill in the blanks. Not every event is shown from every perspective, and often the point of view that is not shown is a key one. Because of this, this novel is one which gained a life of its own within my subconscious, and I found myself thinking of the book throughout the days I spent reading it, and even some days after....more
I enjoyed this steampunk rendition of Frankenstein, but ultimately the story left me as cold as the monster's corpse.
Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy. HI enjoyed this steampunk rendition of Frankenstein, but ultimately the story left me as cold as the monster's corpse.
Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy. He knows how to use clockwork parts to make mechanical limbs for people. When his brother dies, he does the incredible - he brings Oliver back to life. But Oliver is no longer who he used to be.
Set in an alternate version of nineteenth century Geneva, This Monstrous Thing is loosely inspired on the real-life Mary Shelley and the publication of Frankenstein. In Ms Lee's re-imagining, Frankenstein is based on Alasdair, who resurrects his brother in an act of desperation. Additionally, there is a tension between the populace of Geneva and the people who have mechanical limbs. They are seen as less than human, abominations, monstrous. If they would find out about Oliver, who is more mechanical than human, they would kill him.
I highly commend the author for integrating the Frankenstein source material in a creative way. While it leans on the same themes of the creation of life and its ethical implications, the book tells its own story, with fresh characters and a different outlook. It tries to tie in with debates on shunning of those seen as less than others. While I thought the underlying societal tensions were well written, I didn't think there was much reason for why exactly the Genevan peoples would hate people with mechanical limbs so much. There were some vague religious connotations, but it needed more motivation to be truly believable that people would act this way. Especially because the surrounding towns never seemed to be so averse to clockwork.
The core of the story of This Monstrous Thing is the tension between Alasdair, his brother, and Dr. Geisler, a scientist obsessed with bringing people back from the dead. I can't say much about the plot, except that it features much running around by Alasdair.
While there were many elements in the story that I enjoyed - including the lack of romance between Alasdair and Clemence, the assistant of Dr. Geisler - in other ways This Monstrous Thing never stood out. While the setting is historical, the language definitely is not. At one point (in my ARC at least), one of the characters responds by saying "No shit.". It features an old broken down castle and Geneva and clockwork, however, the setting never truly came to life. The interactions between Alasdair and Oliver were interesting, but there weren't enough of them to make them profound.
I can't put my finger on anything that is offensively bad in this book, but neither is there anything that truly surprised me in its awesomeness. This Monstrous Thing is a fun read - which can also easily be read if you haven't read Frankenstein....more