Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett: A review

 


Back in 2010, I read and enjoyed The Pillars of the Earth. (Here's a link to my Goodreads review.) When I saw this book was billed as a prequel to that novel, I was intrigued and added it to my reading list. Follett has also written two sequels to that first novel which I have yet to read. I'll get to them one of these days. 

Reading a Follett historical novel takes a commitment of time. Pillars was just over 1000 pages long and this current book is just a bit less than 1000. Moreover, the narrative encompasses multiple alternating storylines and a mind-boggling cast of characters from all levels of society. In this instance, the society is late tenth century and early eleventh century England in a place that would evolve over time into the town of Knightsbridge. Follett recreates this period with all of its hazards and physical realities and the competing influences of religion and politics. The time period covered is just ten years but it is a jam-packed ten years full of subplots involving the book's socially diverse cast of characters.

The narrative is straightforward and linear and quite enthralling in its granular details of life in that period. It is appallingly full of the most awful human conduct from rape, murder, infanticide, arson, to almost any betrayal the human imagination could come up with.  But the story is absolutely mesmerizing and it moves quickly because the reader can't wait to see what happens next.

The story begins with a Viking raid on the coastal village of Combe where young Edgar, the protagonist, and his family live. They are a family of boatbuilders and when the raid comes the father tries to defend their work and he is killed. The rest of the family, a mother and three sons survive, and after the raid, are forced to move to the rural backwater of Dreng's Ferry. It is at Dreng's Ferry that Edgar begins to develop his remarkable skills as a builder, continuing the theme of this series which focuses on design, construction methods, and building.

At Dreng's Ferry, Edgar meets a monk named Brother Aldred who has intellectual ambitions that parallel Edgar's pragmatic ones. They become allies.

Another subplot concerns a French noblewoman from Cherbourg named Lady Ragna. When an English ealdorman named Wilwulf comes to Cherbourg to meet with her father, Ragna falls in love with him and he becomes obsessed with her. He subsequently asks for her hand in marriage and the father agrees. Thus, Ragna moves to an England that is very different and less socially advanced than French society. The marriage turns out to be ultimately disastrous and it brings Ragna in contact with Wilwulf's despicable brothers, one of whom, Wynstan, is a thoroughly corrupt bishop and perhaps the most evil character in the story. 

But Ragna also eventually meets the honorable Edgar and their attraction is instant but unacknowledged, and another layer is added to this already many-layered story.  

Follett's Knightsbridge series of books traces the building of a civilization with all its structures, beliefs, customs, and laws by tracking the slow evolution over centuries of the town of Knightsbridge. His style of writing is very accessible and makes for swift reading even of a 1000-page tome. If this period of history fascinates you as it does me, you could do worse than immerse yourself for a few days in this world.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poetry Sunday: Falling Leaves and Early Snow by Kenneth Rexroth

The leaves are falling or have already fallen and I've heard rumors of snow in the more northerly climes. Around here we are still easing slowly through autumn with occasional returns to summer-like days. But it's almost December and we usually get our first frost sometime around the middle of the month. And on the long nights, the owls cry in the sifting darkness, and the moon has a sheen like a glacier. 

Falling Leaves and Early Snow

by Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
“They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine.”
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.
 
In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.

This week in birds - #428

 A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

I freely admit that my sparrow identification skills are poor. I'm not 100% sure of this bird's identity so I won't label it. (Maybe you can help me out?) I photographed it in winter at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Coast a few years and it has languished unidentified in my files. Here's another view:


 *~*~*~*

President-elect Biden has named John Kerry, one of the architects of the Paris climate accord, as his special presidential envoy on climate change and has indicated that it will be a cabinet-level position. Moreover, Biden has said that he intends that the fight against climate change will be an integral part of each of the executive branch agencies' mission in his administration.

*~*~*~*

Meanwhile, the current administration continues attempting to weaken rules regarding clean water and air, and career civil servants in the Environmental Protection Agency are stalling and delaying the actions wherever they can.

*~*~*~*

General Motors which had gone along with the current administration's effort to strip California of its ability to set stricter fuel economy laws has dropped its support of that idea and has said it will cooperate with the incoming administration.

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Pelicans, plovers, and a host of other coastal nesting birds in North Carolina have had a very successful breeding season this year. Much of that is due to the pandemic that kept humans away from their nesting areas.

*~*~*~*

Juan Fernández Archipelago National Park in Chile is home to a wealth of species found nowhere else on Earth, where the proportion of endemic plants surpasses even the more celebrated Galápagos Islands. But the continued survival of these endemic species depends upon invasive species being eradicated.

*~*~*~*

Mauritius is engaged in what seems to be an entirely wrong-headed culling of an endangered fruit bat that exists nowhere else on Earth. The action is being taken at the behest of farmers and the public seeking to protect the fruit industry, but the culprits that despoil the fruit are more likely birds than bats.

*~*~*~*

Concerns about climate change are having a deleterious effect on the world's birthrate. People worried about the climate crisis are deciding not to have children because of fears that their offspring would have to struggle through a climate apocalypse, according to the first academic study of the issue.

*~*~*~*

Blackburnian Warbler image by Ian Davies.

A new study estimates that up to 1.5 billion birds like this Blackburnian Warbler have been saved during the last 40 years in the United States thanks to the enactment of the Clean Air Act which helped to clean out the pollution of the air. 

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Do animals actually use those wildlife corridors that are constructed to help them avoid highways? Well, yes they do. Trail camera footage from Utah proves it.

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The Army Corps of Engineers has denied a permit for Pebble Mine in Alaska, which would have been one of the world's largest gold and copper mines right in the middle of the pristine tundra. Regulators found it to be "contrary to the public interest."

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The term "lame duck" is used to refer to an outgoing administration. An ornithologist explains how the term relates to actual ducks.

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A recent study has found that just 14% of the local plant genera support more than 90% of Lepidoptera diversity and thus serve as keystone plants throughout the United States.

*~*~*~*

The current administration is rushing to try to transfer ownership to a mining company with ties to the destruction of an Aboriginal site in Australia of land in Arizona that is considered holy by local Native American tribes.

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Herring Gulls have a wide variety of plumage colorations which can make identifying them a challenge.

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A new study confirms that even small ships can cause serious injuries in collisions with North Atlantic right whales.

*~*~*~*

If you watch many major league baseball games, you may have seen how gulls will frequently gather and start to swoop into the stadiums in coastal cities as the game nears the ninth inning. Clever birds are waiting to clean up the scraps of food. A study at the University of Bristol of Lesser Black-backed Gulls has confirmed that the gulls adapt their foraging behavior to human time schedules when beneficial and that this trait helps them survive in cities.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Poetry Sunday: The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats

This is one of William Butler Yeats' most famous poems. I have featured it here before, but it seems especially appropriate to these times when "Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned..." So here it is again.

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats   

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart: A review


 Imagine how all of those publishing houses that rejected Douglas Stuart's debut novel must have felt after Grove Press finally took a flyer on it, published it, and subsequently it was nominated for practically every literary award in the world. A bit chagrined I would imagine. And now the book has won perhaps the most prestigious of those awards, the Booker Prize for Fiction. All the accolades are well-deserved in my opinion. It is an amazing work of art.  

The action of the novel takes place in the 1980s and 1990s in Glasgow. It is the coming-of-age story of young Hugh (Shuggie) Bain. The child Shuggie lives with his parents and older step-brother and step-sister and for a while with his maternal grandparents as well. But that doesn't last long. The father moves his family out to a council house in a poor neighborhood and then he abandons them. The sister marries and moves to South Africa. The brother stays on for a few years but then his mother tosses him out and Shuggie is left alone with her.

Agnes is a beautiful woman who takes a lot of pride in her appearance and keeping her house neat, but she has a serious problem. She is an alcoholic and from the time we meet her, the trajectory of her life, except for one blessed year, is all downward. She is repeatedly betrayed and abused by the men in her life and she never seems to learn. At one point, with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous, she does manage to get sober and stay sober for a year. It is a glorious time for her sons and at the end of that year, they throw her a one-year birthday party, but then the current man in her life who she had dreams of settling down with goaded her into taking a drink. Once she starts she can't stop and her fate is sealed by that lapse.

Throughout all her struggles and her downward spiral, the one constant in Agnes' life is Shuggie. The child adores her and tries to take care of her for just about ten years of his young life, from the time he is five until he's fifteen. At the time he is five, Shuggie already recognizes that he is different from other boys. He is not interested in the things that interest them. He is effeminate and likes playing with dolls. At school, he is bullied unmercifully. He has no friends to speak of. His best friends are his mother and his brother who does his best to look out for and protect Shuggie even after his mother throws him out of the house.

This book's narrative is raw and rich in descriptions of bodies and physical sensations. It is told in Glaswegian prose that is full of slang and often rendered phonetically. That can make it a challenging read, but once one gets into the almost musical rhythm of the book, the unique language only enhances the story and makes it more visceral. 

This is a story of squalor and heartbreak where things continually go from bad to worse to worst, and honestly, it can be excruciating to read, but the thing that redeems it and makes it just about bearable is the constancy of Shuggie's love and care for his mother. The characters that Stuart describes are often monstrous in their actions; it was really hard for me to find sympathy for any of them except Shuggie and his brother. But Stuart describes all of them lovingly. Their behavior may be monstrous, but they are not monsters. They are people who have been damaged and broken by life. 

Through all the years of one disastrous mistake and one wrong turn after another, Shuggie never stops believing that his mother can get better if only he can find the right way to help her. And he never stops trying.

It was only in the author's afterword that I learned that the novel is actually based on his own life and finally I understood why the story seemed so personal and heartfelt. His mother was an alcoholic and his brother tried to keep him safe. He credits them with the inspiration for his writing. 

The starkness of this study of family dysfunction and parental alcoholism and its impact on the children who are forced to live through it will break the heart of anyone who has one. But Shuggie Bain's steadfast love in the face of unremitting disappointment is the bright shining light that pierces the gloom of that tunnel. He is a character that you will love and long remember. I'm very glad his story has won the Booker Prize.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars  

Friday, November 20, 2020

This week in birds - #427

 A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:

The Rufous Hummingbirds have arrived. We usually have one or two of the little birds that spend the winter in our yard. That's why we keep our nectar feeders hanging and filled all year round.

*~*~*~*

The global pandemic and global climate change are two problems that are not completely unrelated. Here is an explanation of that and some thoughts on how a Biden administration might tackle both.

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The current administration is rushing to try to auction off leases to drill for oil and gas in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden takes office. Conservationists are planning ways to continue their fight to protect the refuge in court, hoping to be able to stall the actions until after the January inauguration.

*~*~*~*

What will happen to border wall construction after the change in administrations? Border advocates and conservation groups are hoping that it and many of the onerous immigration actions of the past four years will be quickly reversed.

*~*~*~*

Here's an exploration of the trauma and possibly irreversible damage that has occurred along the Texas border because of the wrongheaded wall construction.

*~*~*~*

Photo courtesy of The Audubon.

The winter irruptions of White-breasted Nuthatches are often disguised because the little birds are already resident in many of the areas to which they migrate.

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U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are expected to drop by 9.2% this year to the lowest level since 1983. This is a result of the lower economic activity due to the global pandemic. That is somewhat offset however by the massive western wildfires.

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A famed scientist who played a key role in saving Galapagos tortoises and other species has some advice for the next generation of biologists.

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A previously unknown primate, the Popa langur, has been discovered by scientists in Myanmar, and, of course, it is already critically endangered.

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Remember the hungry caterpillar? Well, it turns out hungry caterpillars can be quite aggressive with each other when food is scarce.

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A tiny Northern Saw-whet Owl was found hiding in the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. The bird was dehydrated and was taken to a wildlife rehab facility to be nursed back to health. Of course, they named him Rockefeller.

*~*~*~*

Maryland is to begin a sediment dredging and reuse project behind the Conowingo Dam which is famous primarily for its large population of Bald Eagles.

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Bolivia has approved the Barba Azul Nature Reserve as a private natural heritage preserve that will be a sanctuary for the endangered Blue-throated Macaw.

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Florida coral reefs have lost nearly 98% of their coral and the prospects for their survival are dire.

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A new marine sanctuary in the waters around Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean will become the fourth largest such sanctuary in the world.

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Some scientists argue that wolves are essential in curbing Chronic Wasting Disease that afflicts deer because they pick off the weaker animals. (I remember this as a part of the plot of Nevada Barr's Winter Study featuring Ranger Anna Pigeon.)

*~*~*~*

The diversity of bird species to be found in urban areas is determined by the availability of food, particularly prey species of insects.

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Margaret Renkl writes about how we have shaped the world that has produced the COVID-19 virus and how animals suffer because of it. But neither can humans escape their accountability for the world we have created.



Sunday, November 15, 2020

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - November 2020

The color palette of November in my zone 9a garden in Southeast Texas runs from yellow to red-orange with very few contrasting or complementary colors.

Let's start with yellowbells, Esperanza.

Cape honeysuckle is still going strong.

The cosmos that I planted in the spring has reseeded itself and is now blooming once again.

The anisacanthus blooms are not very showy but pollinators of all kinds love them.

Tropical jatropha.

Hamelia patens, hummingbird bush.

Tithonia, Mexican sunflower.

Firespike.

Cestrum.

Turk's cap.

Even the fungi get in on the orange action.
 
And so do the butterflies.
Monarch on milkweed.

Queen on milkweed.

The Meyer lemons are ready to be picked.

The Mandarin oranges are weighing down their limbs.

And the Satsuma tree has its most prolific crop of oranges ever.

Linking up with Carol of May Dreams Gardens for this monthly meme. Thank you for visiting. Happy Bloom Day.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Poetry Sunday: Thanksgiving by Edgar Albert Guest

Remembrance of Thanksgivings past.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday of the year. I remember Thanksgivings at my parents' house when everyone would crowd in and we would all enjoy a great meal together and spend the afternoon visiting and catching up. Those days were a lot like Edgar Albert Guest described in this folksy poem. Thanksgiving this year will be a lot different, a lot quieter, but we will be no less thankful.  

 Thanksgiving

by Edgar Albert Guest
Gettin’ together to smile an’ rejoice,
An’ eatin’ an’ laughin’ with folks of your choice;
An’ kissin’ the girls an’ declarin’ that they
Are growin’ more beautiful day after day;
Chattin’ an’ braggin’ a bit with the men,
Buildin’ the old family circle again;
Livin’ the wholesome an’ old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother’s a little bit grayer, that’s all.
Father’s a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an’ to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin’ our stories as women an’ men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we’re grateful an’ glad to be there.
Home from the east land an’ home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an’ best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We’ve come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an’ be frank,
Forgettin’ position an’ station an’ rank.

Give me the end of the year an’ its fun
When most of the plannin’ an’ toilin’ is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin’ with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An’ I’ll put soul in my Thanksgivin’ prayers.

Friday, November 13, 2020

This week in birds - #426

 A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment:


The Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets have arrived. When I stepped out onto my back porch and patio on Monday morning I found that the redbud tree next to the patio was full of a mixed flock of the little birds. There were at least twenty of them and I've continued to see and hear them throughout the week.

*~*~*~*

President-elect Biden has plans to make the fight against climate change a government-wide effort that engages every department of the executive branch. So it won't be all down to the Environmental Protection Agency but will involve everyone from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of State.

*~*~*~*

Here is The Audubon's take on what a Biden presidency could mean for birds and other wildlife.

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Meanwhile, the damage by the current administration continues. This week it removed the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment, the federal government’s premier contribution to climate knowledge and the foundation for regulations to combat global warming, and he is expected to be replaced by a climate change denier. Thus, the administration has signaled that it intends to continue impeding climate science and policy in its remaining time in office.

*~*~*~*

A bird needs a healthy growth of feathers to be able to successfully migrate and so it would be extremely inconvenient if the yearly molt occurred at the time the bird needs to be on its way. A new study shows the relationship between the timing of the molt and migration

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As insect populations continue to decline, the overlap between birds, bats, and dragonflies in consuming those populations becomes more problematic.

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Minks are the only animal known to both be able to catch coronavirus and to transmit it to humans. Consequently, millions of the animals on mink farms have been culled for fear of spreading the virus.

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Thanks to the efforts of the Yurok Tribe, California Condors will soon be returning to the Pacific Northwest.

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Tropical Storm Theta this week became the Atlantic basin's record-breaking 29th named storm of the year. Twelve of those named storms, including six hurricanes, have come ashore in the U.S. and that is also a record. These hurricanes are staying stronger for longer periods after landfall, increasing the potential for damage to inland areas.

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An iceberg that broke apart from Antarctica in 2017 and has been drifting ever since could pose a threat to the continent's wildlife.

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Even in relatively pristine forests declines in bird populations are being observed. The causes of the declines are not necessarily obvious.

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Based on decades of tracking records, it can be clearly seen that climate change is affecting the migratory habits of Arctic wildlife as diverse as Golden Eagles and caribou.

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The wildfires that afflict the West each year are emerging as a threat to water quality all across the area.

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An experiment allowed primates to choose the kinds of noises they would hear. Somewhat surprisingly, monkeys chose to listen to traffic sounds. It is speculated that the rumbling vehicles mimic elements of their own communications.

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Light pollution has been shown to induce birds to nest earlier, in some cases too early for the insect populations that they need to feed their young ones.

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Here's how poo analysis might contribute to the effort to save endangered species.

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Katherine the great white shark who has a Twitter following has resurfaced along the East Coast and tweeted to her followers after a silence of eighteen months.

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This 100-year-old fig tree in Kenya has been saved thanks to public outrage and protests. The tree was slated to be removed to make way for a new expressway, but environmentalists rebelled against that decision and the government has now agreed to protect the tree and redirect the road. The moral of the story: Never give up and never doubt the power of your voice. Where there is life there is hope.





Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: A review

 

The Pull of the Stars. Or as the Italians say la influenza delle stelle

Influenza. The time is late October, early November 1918. The world is suffering through the influenza pandemic that would eventually kill an estimated 3 to 6 percent of the human race, more than died in World War I. That Great War is winding down and soon an Armistice will silence the guns. But that other war, the one against the pandemic, is heating up. The combatants in that war are medical personnel like Julia Power, a 29-year-old soon to be 30-year-old midwife working at a crowded and understaffed Dublin hospital. Julia is unmarried and shares a house with her younger brother who came back from the war shell-shocked and mute. He has not spoken since his return, but, other than that, he functions well in caring for the house and raising some vegetables for their table while his sister works.

The staff shortages at the hospital have left Julia as the only nurse on duty overnight in the "fever/maternity" ward, a makeshift section in one room with three beds designated for influenza patients who are pregnant. Almost all the action of this novel takes place in that claustrophobic room as Julia struggles to care for her patients using the few treatments available, which mostly consist of whisky and chloroform.

Doctors are scarce and only called on in the direst need, but the administrators of the hospital, in their desperation, at least have the good sense to call in Dr. Kathleen Lynn, a rare female doctor in the city. She is also a wanted criminal, hunted by the Dublin police for her role in Sinn Fein's 1916 uprising. Dr. Lynn is actually a historical figure and a brilliant doctor.

In her time of greatest need, Julia also receives another helper, a young volunteer named Bridie Sweeney. Bridie has led a life of poverty and abuse, beginning with her placement in one of Ireland's notorious orphanages. They were so neglectful of her well-being that she didn't even know when her birthday was. She thought she was around twenty-two. But a life that could have turned her cynical and brutal had instead given her a tender and caring nature and although she had no medical knowledge, she was a quick learner and an eager worker. She quickly made herself indispensable to Julia.

Together, these three very different but capable women deal with one crisis after another; things such as life-threatening hemorrhages, multiple premature labors (an apparent side effect of that influenza strain), sudden skyrocketing fevers, convulsions, and a rapid case of influenza that progresses to cyanosis in a few hours. During all this, there are also babies to deliver and try to keep alive. A good day in the ward is when no one dies. Those days are rare.

In focusing so narrowly on this one room and its occupants, the patients and their carers, Donoghue is able to present an exceptional amount of detail about the lives of these women. The patients who labor and deliver there have mostly led lives that have been ruled by poverty, misogyny, and abuse. The women are expected to be constantly pregnant. There was apparently a common saying that, "She doesn't love him unless she gives him 12." By the time these women are in their mid-twenties, their bodies are beset by all the stresses that such constant bearing produces. It is harrowing to read about.

Dr. Lynn at one point criticizes the government for the high rates of poverty and infant mortality. Julia responds that she doesn't have time for politics. To which Dr. Lynn replies, "Oh, but everything's politics, don't you know?"

As we all try to live through our current pandemic which has so many parallels to that one a hundred years ago, I have to agree with Dr. Lynn. Still today the burden of the disease falls most heavily on groups that have been mistreated and neglected by society and by virtue of that are perhaps least well-equipped to fight it off. The more things change the more they remain the same.

Emma Donoghue's account of the 1918 pandemic is brilliantly written and kept me turning those pages, wanting to know what would happen next. The parallels between that time and 2020 really are uncanny.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Poetry Sunday repost: Democracy by Leonard Cohen

I was listening to Leonard Cohen's music on Saturday when my daughter reminded me that it had been exactly four years since we lost him. We lost a lot of things that year.

It seemed appropriate to me somehow that the anniversary of his death should come on the day that this year's messy, frustrating, seemingly interminable presidential election was called in favor of Joe Biden and so there was only one choice for me when I considered what I would post for Poetry Sunday. This is a repost from a little more than a year ago. The words seem even more prophetic today.

Sail on, sail on

O mighty Ship of State!

To the Shores of Need

Past the Reefs of Greed

Through the Squalls of Hate

Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

Most especially through the "squalls of hate. "

~~~

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Poetry Sunday: Democracy by Leonard Cohen

Offered without comment except to say I can only hope, because "I love the country but I can't stand the scene".

Democracy

lyrics by Leonard Cohen 

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.
From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.


It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.
It's coming from the silence on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.
It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Sail on, sail on ...

I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.