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Group Read > August group read - Conceit by Mary Novik

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message 1: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Hi, everybody!

I'm very excited that my historical novel Conceit will be an August group read. JD has made me the moderator, so here goes!

First of all, you probably want to know how to get a copy. Conceit is available in two editions:
Anchor paperback Conceit by Mary Novik
Doubleday hardcover Conceit by Mary Novik

It's available for less than $10 at on-line booksellers like,,, and

Conceit is about the wife and daughter of the English poet, John Donne, famous for saying "No man is an island" and "Never send to know for whom the bell tolls." Some people have written lovely reviews of my novel on Goodreads and I have a Goodreads author's page at Mary Novik. I think we'll enjoy talking about Conceit since it gets deeply into love, intimacy, and human relationships.

This going to be fun! Please let me know your thoughts on how we should go about discussing the novel.

Cheers, Mary

message 2: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments When JD set up the poll for the August group read, she invited the authors to describe their books. I'll post what I said about Conceit here as well to help you decide whether you'd like to read my novel:

Ok, Joy, here goes. Blush. Maybe I could start by quoting a few other people about Conceit?

Sandra Gulland said, "This is a beautifully-written historical novel, told mainly from the point-of-view of John Donne's daughter. This is the type of historical fiction I delight in, with flawlessly crafted prose, delightful details, wit, and interesting family dynamics. I highly recommend it."

Gail Anderson-Dargatz: ""Few novels truly deserve the description 'rollicking' in the way Mary Novik's Conceit does. A hearty, boiling stew of a novel, served up in rich old-fashioned story-telling. Novik lures her readers into the streets of a bawdy seventeenth-century London with a nudge and a wink and keeps them there with her infectious love of detail and character. A raunchy, hugely entertaining read that will leave you at once satiated and hungry for more."

And here's Esther Schnurnberger: "Mary Novik has created an intensely intimate and extraordinarily sensual experience of 17th century England, seen through the always wide open eyes of Pegge Donne, daughter of the famous poet John Donne. The unconventional Pegge's passion for the natural world, restless intelligence, and overwhelming desire to uncover the nature of human love are irresistible forces, and an intimate reading experience."

Conceit is my debut novel. When it was published by Doubleday, it was called “a magnificent novel of 17th-century London” by The Globe and Mail. It was chosen as a Book of the Year by both Quill & Quire and The Globe and Mail, and AbeBooks called it one of the Top Ten Hottest New Canadian Books for 2008. It was nominated for the Giller, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and was named one of Canada Reads' Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade.

If you'd like to read a synopsis, a sample of the novel, a reader's guide, and reviews, they are all available on the About Conceit page at my website,

I hope you will choose to read Conceit and that you will enjoy it! I really appreciate knowing there are people reading and enjoying my writing since I am on the long, solitary journey of writing my second novel, Muse, which is set in 14th-century Avignon.

xo Mary
Mary Novik

message 3: by Mary (last edited Jul 17, 2011 02:20PM) (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments A FUN CONTEST: What's your favourite historical novel?

While we're waiting for the discussion to begin about Conceit (see posts above), I'm curious to learn which historical novels GoodReads members enjoy. To encourage you to share the titles of your favourite historicals, I'm going to give away a signed first edition of Conceit! When the contest ends on August 15, I'll put the names of people who've entered into a hat and draw a winner.

To enter the contest, all you have to do is to post a message in this thread telling everybody (1) the title of your favourite historical novel, (2) the name of the author, (3) what you like about the book in 2-3 sentences.

The books can be historical romance, historical adventure, or more "modern" novels that are set in the past. The more variety the better, actually. I would love to learn about books that are new to me, and I think other Book Haven members will feel the same.

Feel free to comment on other people's choices if you wish. It will be fun to get into a conversation about which books we like and why. I still haven't decided whether people should be allowed to enter the contest twice if they have trouble choosing between two favourites--what do the rest of you think?

Mary Novik

message 4: by Alice (last edited Jul 18, 2011 08:20AM) (new)

Alice Watson | 2 comments Count me in!
1. Thomas B. Costain
2. The Silver Chalice
3. This is my favourite historical novel because it was the first I read. I was an impressionable teenager, and it took me away to a different time and place (1st century Roman Empire) and into the heart of a little guy, Basil the silversmith, who is employed by Luke to make a cupholder for the holy grail, the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. Incidentally, the role of Basil was played by Paul Newman in his film debut. I'd be afraid to re-read this book today, because I'm sure it would seem musty, dusty, and old-fashioned, but it set me off on a different road through life, so I will always be grateful. (P.S. Conceit seems like one of those books also, so I'm looking forward to reading it.)

message 5: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thanks for starting things off so well, Alice. This is exactly what I wanted. Yours will be the first name to go into the draw.

I think I might have read some Thomas Costain years ago as well, but I can't remember any of the titles!

message 6: by Anagha Uppal (new)

Anagha Uppal Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
This book was gripping and powerful. It definitely gave me a new perspective on love, loss and privileged life. That probably sounded so cliche, but it's quite true in this case. The book first got me interested in historical fiction and the French Revolution.

Thanks for the contest!

message 7: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thanks, Jennifer. That reminds me of an historical novel about the French Revolution that I'm very fond of, so I think it's time to post my favourite.
1. Michelle de Kretser
2. The Rose Grower
3. The novel begins with an American crashing his hot-air balloon in 1789, the year the revolution begins. As Sophie's family and Gascony village, which includes a forward-thinking young doctor, are drawn into the struggle, she tries to keep her family and herself grounded by creating a new variety of crimson rose.

message 8: by Gail (new)

Gail | 1 comments I would choose Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland. It's setting is the French court of Louis the fourteenth, who was called the Sun King. Gulland wrote the trilogy about Josephine B, the wife of Napoleon,but I enjoyed this new book even better.

message 9: by Janet (new)

Janet | 45 comments It's so hard to choose a favorite! I'm a long-time fan of Sharon Kay Penman and Isabel Allende, but here is a new favorite:

The Ninth Daughterby Barbara Hamilton
This historical mystery told in the voice of Abigail Adams gives a delightful portrait of Revolutionary Boston. I particularly enjoy that Abigail's sleuthing and spunk strike the right notes as believable for a woman of her time, without coming across as either unrealistically modern or annoyingly subdued. Also, the mystery isn't a simple period murder -- Abigail's discoveries reveal additional layers of life in the 1770s Colonies.

message 10: by Mary (last edited Jul 29, 2011 08:14AM) (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thank you, Gail and Janet. I'm looking forward to checking out The Ninth Daughter now. I've read Mistress of the Sun: A Novel by Sandra Gulland and really enjoyed it. I believe she's quite active here on GoodReads as well.

message 11: by Anne (new)

Anne McDonald | 5 comments There are so many - The Door in the Wall in grade 5, about the Plague, Eagle of the Ninth, grade 10, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf for its sense of time and place and the effects of the war on the psych, Timothy Findley's The Wars - again b/c of evovation of time and place and the effect on people.

What I'll go with finally amongst a million is still a tie - Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of NothingThe Mistress Of Nothing b/c it's of a place and time I haven't read about before and the necessity of reading betwn the lines was so necessary - the imagining of what really happened; and Timothy Findley's Famous Last WordsFamous Last Words b/c I am still intrigued 20 yrs later to find out what really happened, who was really doing what and thus I enjoyed The King's Speech so much b/c of more info and ideas about Wallace Simpson and the King who abdicated.

message 12: by Mary (last edited Jul 29, 2011 08:16AM) (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Pride and Prejudice is a perennial favourite. Impossible to dislike it! I haven't managed to read Mistress of Nothing yet, but hope to one of these fine days. I once started Famous Last Words, but put it down. What you say makes me want to take it up again. And The Wars is a classic--well-written, troubling, yet cathartic. An excellent recent novel that deals with the effects of the first world war on a survivor of the action, is Underground by June Hutton. Well worth a read and also Canadian, as I notice most of your recommendations are, Anne.

message 13: by Lilian (new)

Lilian Nattel (lilian_nattel) My current favourite (excluding Conceit which I hope to read soon) is The Golden Mean by Annabel Lyon. I liked the psychological emphasis--I could believe in the first person narrator and in his time. It was an unusual approach to a historical novel, and it worked.

message 14: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Lilian, The Golden Mean is one of my favourite novels set in the past. Often, when I was reading a scene, I'd think "Wow, only Annabel could have carried that off!" The swearing worked for me, too, although some readers didn't like it. She's an amazing writer.

For those of you tuning in now, see message 3 above for the contest for the signed first edition. Anybody who makes a comment about Conceit will also be entered for the draw!

message 15: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy  (vilette) | 27 comments Mary wrote: "A FUN CONTEST: What's your favourite historical novel?

While we're waiting for the discussion to begin about Conceit (see posts above), I'm curious to learn which historical novel..."

Hard to know what to choose, but one novel that has stayed with me is Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

The book is set in the First World War and tells the story of 2 Cree men who joined up and served as snipers in France. Waiting back at home is the aunt of one of the men who still lives in the tradition way and has rejected the culture if the white settlers. I had previously not known about the role of aboriginal servicemen in World War 2 so I learned a lot about that and about Cree culture. I listened to this book on audio CD which added to my enjoyment as the 2 narrators were excellent.

message 16: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Vorenberg | 8 comments I have enjoyed so many historical novels over the years that it is quite difficult to choose just one. So, I will go with the latest one I have read -- Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooke -- because this book lingers in your thoughts for days and weeks after it is done.

message 17: by Maia (last edited Aug 01, 2011 06:30AM) (new)

Maia | 1 comments Of all the historical novels I've read, I don't think I can choose an absolute favorite! One I really, really love is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - I've read it at least a million times. It's funny, touching, cheerful, and full of incredibly lovable characters, but it also details some of the horrors of WWII on Guernsey which I'd never heard about before. It was really interesting, but its tone is mostly cheerful and optimistic, looking forward to the wonders ahead of the world.

message 18: by Alan (new)

Alan Bradley "Mary Novik breathes new life into the dust that lies beneath "Old St. Paul's".
Like Izaak Walton and Dr. Samuel Johnson before her, she explores the life - and death - of John Donne, that curious clergyman whose effigy still stands wrapped in his shroud, even though the church that once contained it was long ago made ashes.
Her book joins the ranks of those select few authors - Peter Ackroyd, for one - whose books convey an abiding love of London, and what lies beneath."

So I wrote two years ago. Since then I have twice again visited St Paul's: once in person and once again by re-reading Mary Novik's masterful book, "Conceit". I am in awe of her writing.

Since I already treasure a signed first edition, there's no need to put my name in the draw, but congratulations to the lucky winner.

Other historical favourites? "The Golden Mean" by Annabel Lyon, "Lancet" by Garet Rogers, and "In the Company of the Courtesan" by Sarah Dunant.

Best wishes, Mary. It was great meeting you in Vancouver.

Alan Bradley

message 19: by Mariella (new)

Mariella | 1 comments My favourite historical novel is The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni.
Like all Italians, I studied this great historical novel at school and it was the first work of literature I fell in love with. Many years and many books later, it's still one of my favourites.
The language is sublime, the story is engrossing, and the historical details are very accurate.

message 20: by June (new)

June Hutton | 4 comments Good morning all. Mary, I have always been intrigued by the chapter title, “Jezebel Did Paint.” Can you explain its connection to the chapter? At first I thought it referred to Con and perhaps Bridget getting ready for Mr. Alleyn, but then I thought it could also refer to Pegge and her pursuit of Walton. Also, which of your chapter titles is your favorite?

message 21: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thanks to Dot, K.P., Maia, Mariella, and Alan for their recommendations, and to June for my first question.

I had fun coming up with titles for the chapters in Conceit. Like the title of the novel, some of them have double meanings, and some are mainly for fun, like "Jezebel Did Paint".

The historical Jezebel was a very powerful woman, but today we remember her for her use of cosmetics. We see her as a harlot or loose woman, the type of gal my Grandma used to call a "wicked painted woman". Conceit begins like Pride and Prejudice because John Donne has five marriageable daughters, Con, Lucy, Bridget, Pegge, and Betty. It's their father's job to find them good husbands. Con and Bridget curl their hair, paint one another's faces, and wear homemade perfume to help things along. Pegge is still more of a child here, but she's been reading her dad's love poems and wants to find love, not an arranged marriage.

P.S. Alan Bradley is the author of the enchanting series of novels about Flavia de Luce, which begins with The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. June Hutton is the author of Underground, which I mentioned in message 13. Anne McDonald and Lilian Nattel, who made recommendations above, are authors also. Thanks to all of you for taking time away from your writing to comment!

message 22: by June (new)

June Hutton | 4 comments Thank you, Mary. I guess I see a little of the Jezebel in Pegge in another scene, when she and Walton use an item of her clothing to catch fish. Wow. That was one sensual scene! I'll bet you know the page number. Oh, and you didn't tell us your favorite chapter title . . .

message 23: by Tom (new)

Tom | 2 comments Just joining in here. This is my first group-read; not sure how it usually works, but my plan is to spread my reading of Conceit over the next 28 days by reading about 15 pages a day. Is that what others do? I'm looking forward to reading other readers' reactions to the book, and thrilled to have Mary here to answer any questions I may have.

message 24: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie (BonnieLumley) I have never been part of a group-read before, either, but I would like to give it a try!

I read (and loved) Conceit when it was first published, but since it has been selected as this month's read, it's a great (and overdue) time to reread it. Do readers usually choose their own plan re: pacing, as Tom plans to do, or is there another option? The reason I ask is because I first read Conceit in one sitting! I welcome the chance to challenge myself to pace the reading out, and, as in Tom's comment, I look forward to readers' responses and for the opportunity to ask Mary questions.

message 25: by Dorothy (new)

Dorothy  (vilette) | 27 comments K.P. wrote: "I have enjoyed so many historical novels over the years that it is quite difficult to choose just one. So, I will go with the latest one I have read -- Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooke -- beca..."

I'm looking forward to reading this book....I loved her previous novel People of the Book and had I thought of it, I might have chosen it as my all time favourite.

message 26: by Mary (last edited Aug 02, 2011 08:07AM) (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments A big thanks to Bonnie and The Bard (what an honour that he's shown up!) for suggesting ways to do the group read of Conceit.

There are many different ways to go about it. Anne Hathaway might want to team up with the The Bard in the second-best bed, for instance. Or Christopher Marlowe might want to park in a tavern with a jug of ale and read straight through. Another approach would be to read 100 pages a week at one sitting.

Maybe it's best to let everyone do it their own way. However, could we agree to avoid spoilers on the second half (p. 209 on) until August 15? That should give most people time to read most of the novel, and after that we can really let loose and have some fun.

June asked about my favourite chapter title. Maybe I'd pick "Lighten My Darkness" (chapter 8) because it comes from a sexy portrait of John Donne that he gave to a woman. The writing on it says "Lighten My Darkness, Mistress" which always reminds me of the hippie come on, "C'mon baby, light my fire!" In his youth, Donne was a lady's man who wrote love poems to many "mistresses".

The sexy portrait is on the backgrounds page of my website: To see it, scroll down to "John Donne in the News" near the bottom.

message 27: by Jen (new)

Jen Sookfong Lee (sookfong) | 2 comments Speaking of sexy, since Conceit is so full of love and lust and all those good things, I want to know how Mary writes her love scenes. Is it something that's difficult or just plain fun for you? Writers are so often divided on whether these scenes are a blessing or a curse, kind of like love itself!

By the way, I do enjoy how Pegge's tussle with her feelings reminds me of the adolescent rush of hormonal energy we all feel when we fall in love as young teenagers. Yay for lustful confusion!

message 28: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Now there's an exciting question! I am going to have to take a bit of time thinking how to answer that one!

Thanks for popping in Jen. Jen Sookfong Lee is another writer, the author of The Better Mother and The End of East: A Novel.

message 29: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments I'm still thinking about how to answer that question! Has anybody got an easier question for me to warm up with? ha, ha

message 30: by June (last edited Aug 04, 2011 08:39AM) (new)

June Hutton | 4 comments What about food for starters? How important is food to the development of your story and to the deepening of emotions in Conceit? In other words, food is much more than just food in your writing, isn't it?

message 31: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments I love the way you phrase that, June! Food is very important in Conceit, sort of a funky drum-beat that tells us about the characters. Food often shows up in the story in quirky ways. Boys lick strawberries to make them look sweeter. Fish remind Pegge of love--there's something kinky going on there that connects to her infatuation with Izaak Walton, the fisherman

Quite a few family scenes involve food. There's one with a roast goose in which the children are drinking ale and having trouble being polite. Conceit also mentions some funny 17th-century notions of what people are allowed to eat when they're sick. Pegge only eats cucumbers and bread-in-milk.

As I turn the pages to answer this question, I'm finding food on almost every page. Pippins falling out of trees. Beef turning on a spit over an open fire. A complicated recipe for a pike cooked with garlic and a pound of butter. A pudding made by children that goes adrift in a large bowl in a marsh and is chased by crows. One of my favourites is a love-gift, a sloppy pie made with potatoes, scalded milk, and raisins that tastes of "apples burnt by a Persian sun".

Pegge is at the centre of many of these food references. She always seems to be drizzling syrup and honey over the table cloth as if she's still a child, even when she's an adult. This goes to the heart of the question: what is Pegge really like?

Now that I'm writing this, I realize that many of these are comfort foods from my own childhood. I had English grandparents and so I love old-fashioned English dishes. Now I'm beginning to wonder, though, if the foods evoke similar or different responses in readers. Maybe some of you can let me know about that!

message 32: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Since I've mentioned some of the authors who have commented, I'd like to also mention that a GoodReads reviewer is active in this thread as well. Bonnie,, has written many excellent reviews for GoodReads. She chooses interesting books and I always trust what she says about them!

I'd also like to remind everybody that the contest for the signed first edition of Conceit ends on August 15. All you have to do is to post a message in this thread telling everybody (1) the title of your favourite historical novel, (2) the name of the author, (3) what you like about the book in 2-3 sentences.

Any kind of historical novel is ok, even books that are not traditional historicals. You can also enter the contest simply by posting a comment about Conceit!

message 33: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Please count me in also! I have so many historical fiction favs but will narrow it down to my current top two:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I love the whole series because for some reason it touched me deeply, making me cry, laugh, sigh. To learn about Scotland's history, Culloden - was verra emotional.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
was my most recent historical fiction read that stayed with me weeks after reading and leading me to look for more books about Vietnam and photo-journalists. Both books have romance, so I guess that would make them historical romance fiction?

I look forward to reading Conceit, as soon as I pick up a copy :)

message 34: by Bonnie (new)

Bonnie (BonnieLumley) Thanks for your kind words, Mary. I haven't written a review for something like two years, but am thinking of getting back into it. I feel pretty rusty, though ~ sort of like when I wrote a review for Conceit, ~ except at that time I wasn't very articulate because I was new to the whole thing.

What I have noticed: when I was well into writing reviews, my reading style changed, for the better, I think. I have become a somewhat lazy reader, actually. Yes, about time to get back into review-writing. Maybe as I reread Conceit I'll consider revising that review. We'll see!

In the meantime, I am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about your wonderful book so I am hoping more readers plan to join in and be a part of this (so far) small group.

message 35: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) What stood out in Conceit--the imagery, the history, the Donne family, the Great Fire of London, and the great use of language. The breathless pace brought something new on every page.

message 36: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Welcome Kimberly, Lisa, and Asmah. Asmah (
is a GoodReads reviewer as well, and I really enjoy reading her critiques. She's a reviewer whose judgement I trust, as I do Bonnie's. They both wrote lovely reviews of Conceit, which I appreciate very much.

Yes, Bonnie--I hope you'll get back into reviewing! I'll be clicking on the "like" button frequently, if you do.

message 37: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Jen wrote: "Speaking of sexy, since Conceit is so full of love and lust and all those good things, I want to know how Mary writes her love scenes. Is it something that's difficult or just plain f..."

I'm writing up my answer to this provocative question, so should have an answer for you soon .... unless someone wants to help me avoid it by asking me another question! Bring them on!

message 38: by K.P. (new)

K.P. Vorenberg | 8 comments Received my copy of your book yesterday at long last! Now I am enjoying the read immensely . . . .

Tierra Red

message 39: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thanks for that tantalizing comment, K.P. I hope you enjoy the rest of Conceit and that you'll return to comment and ask questions. As a novelist yourself (K.P. Vorenberg, Tierra Red), you'll know which questions are easy to answer and which are difficult. I'll leave you to decide which are more fun to ask!

I suggested that we avoid spoilers on Conceit from p. 209 until August 15, but that still leaves 208 pages to be prodded, poked, excavated, and challenged during the next five days. Feel free to fire away!

message 40: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Jen, I have finally drummed up courage to answer your sex question!

To bring characters alive in a novel, it's important to show moments of intimacy--emotional intimacy, but also physical intimacy, and the furthest stage between a man and a woman is sex. These moments show the characters' yearnings and vulnerability, their needs, hopes, etc. I don't think I ever set out to write a sex scene, but if the characters are together, if no one else is around (sometimes even if they are), if they are not in the midst of a quarrel, if the air is warm and the sun is setting . . . . well, you get the idea.

For me, these scenes arrive in interesting ways, usually when I'm deepening character. For instance, in an early draft of Conceit, I said Pegge was infatuated with the fisherman Izaak Walton and assumed readers would just agree, because Pegge is in the midst of an "adolescent rush of hormonal energy", as Jen calls it. However, after reading the draft, a fellow writer challenged me: "WHY? Why is she in love with Walton? I don't get it. I mean, he's so naive that all he thinks about is fishing."

So, I had to show it.

Thanks to Paul, "Angling" (chapter 4) arrived. The scene is very erotic (I think--tell me if I'm wrong!) but not explicitly sexual. This is true of many of the intimate scenes in Conceit. People sneak into bedrooms in the dark of night, something erotic happens, evidence is found in the morning (the scent of honeysuckle, wax dripped on the bed linen, etc.), but did something actually take place or did the sleeper want it so badly that he dreamt it?

Chapter 22 is called "The Riddle" because of a scene like this. Here's a little taste:
"He certainly did not expect her to creep into his bedchamber, but that was what she was now doing, gliding through the door and standing at the foot of his bed, her flesh gleaming against the blinding moon, her hair falling over her shoulder like a raven's wing. Then he must have swooned, for he woke to the touch of fingers in his hair and a torturing nocturnal scent . . . "

When you get to this chapter, I'd love to know who you think the nocturnal wanderer is!

message 41: by Suze (new)

Suze | 3 comments A vampire? Just kidding ....

I am just beginning Conceit so will get back to you on the identity of the "noctural wanderer"!

Is this enough of a comment to get myself entered in the draw?

message 42: by Mary (last edited Aug 11, 2011 07:49AM) (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Since you've asked so cleverly, you're in the draw!

By the way, may I make a suggestion for reading Conceit? Some readers have been put off by the big words in the book, but they're there for fun--you don't have to look them up in the dictionary! Pegge's father is the poet John Donne, so these are words that the historical J.D. used, funny 17th-century lingo.

Keep in mind that the real J.D. was the first person to use the word "sex" in the modern sense, and you'll get the idea--just sit back and enjoy!

message 43: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Swift (deborahswift) | 3 comments Hello Mary and everyone, I have my copy of 'Conceit', which is next on my TBR pile, sitting on top of books by Mari Strachan and Judith Rock. I read a lot so my favourites wax and wane. I enjoy Geraldine Brook's books - already mentioned, and I've recently discovered Barbara Ewing - I've just read The Mesmerist which was a great entertainment. I'm reading The Water Garden by Lindsay Clarke right now, and it's a fabulous read though not historical - his award-winning timeslip book about Victorian Alchemy, "The Chymical Wedding" is one of my all-time top reads.The Chymical Wedding
Look forward to catching up with the discussion as we go.

message 44: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Nice to have you with us, Deborah. I hadn't heard of The Chymical Wedding, but it sounds interesting. I've entered you in the draw and hope you'll be back to ask me some difficult questions! The gloves are off on Monday and we can get into the ring with spoilers on the whole book.

message 45: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments I guess I can ask questions also, right? Here's one for The Bard
(, who wrote message 24 above. I've always wondered whether you knew John Donne. You were almost exact contemporaries, but neither of you mention one another. Was that because he was a better writer of short poems than you were? Some people actually think he wrote all your plays for you!

But wait a minute ... in this portrait of the guys at the Mermaid Tavern, isn't that Donne standing to your right? What's up with that? Did you actually know one another?

The portrait is here
Check out the fourth image from the bottom of the page.

message 46: by Tom (new)

Tom | 2 comments Of course all of the Friday Street regulars at the Mermaid knew each other: held down a hen to assist in the tearing-off of a leg, slopped Canary-wine on each others' sleeves as they did "speake our minds, amidst our meat". Not all posed tamely together, as in the portrait linked above; a better sense perhaps from: << >>

message 47: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments That's such a lively Ben Jonson poem. Fun to read. I love this part:

Digestive cheese, and fruit there sure will bee;
But that, which most doth take my Muse, and mee,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary-wine,
Which is the Mermaids, now, but shall be mine

I see the title of my new novel buried in there! This reminds me of the funny Mermaid tavern skit in the film Shakespeare in Love in which you (the Bard, played by Joseph Fiennes) are trying to think up a new scene for your play "Ethel and the Pirate's Daughter" and Christopher Marlowe says you need a catchier title, such as "Romeo and Juliet".

message 48: by Betty (new)

Betty (olderthan18) TO-NIGHT, grave sir, both my poore house, and I
Doe equally desire your companie :
Not that we thinke us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignifie our feast,
With those that come ; whose grace may make that seeme
Something, which, else, could hope for no esteeme...
--Tom's Ben Jonson poem

Perhaps the feast is the free-for-all book discussion to come; and Mary's presence, as the book's author, lends 'dignity', 'grace' and 'esteem'.

message 49: by Deborah (new)

Deborah Swift (deborahswift) | 3 comments A quick intervening question for Mary. I've started Conceit and I'm loving it. The language has a rhythm both in the prose and dialogue that is not quite modern and helps to capture the spirit of the age, along with a peppering of period words (to use a food analogy!) I wonder whether you read any of it aloud whilst you were writing or whether any of it has ever been broadcast, and which are your favourite period words from the book?

I'll have to go now and finish it, before they let loose with the spoilers!

message 50: by Mary (new)

Mary (marynovik) | 56 comments Thank you, Asmah. What a lovely comment. For those who don't know Asmah ( me introduce her as the busy moderator of two of GoodReads most interesting groups, The World's Literature and The Imprinted Life (biographies).

Also, last call to everyone out there to name your favourite historical novel OR comment on Conceit to get your name entered in the draw for a signed first edition. The contest ends August 15 at midnight!

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