Despite having been away from my Dubai book club for nearly a year, I continue to read the books they choose. I originally joined this group because they selected books that I might not pick on my own. That was the whole reason I joined this book club in the first place: they had tastes and interests in books so wholly different from my own, and they brought me into the fold of newer books, more modern authors. (I was stuck in the classics, where I was happy, but not very fun to talk to at parties.)
Before the discussion of the book, the founder asked us via WhatsApp for topics and themes, and I’m afraid I may have overwhelmed her with the thoughts I had at that particular moment: how we become like our parents whether we want to or not, living your life in a way that makes others happy but not you (a kind of self-sacrifice), how simple objects can tear families apart, how poorly family members communicate with one another, how parental neglect can cause irreversible damage, how (not to) let go of grudges …
This is the story of Maeve and Danny as they repeat their parents’ mistakes without realizing they are doing so. Here are two people who are unable to move forward with their lives because of an object holding them back. It’s a lesson about how focusing too much on the past can prevent you from living in the present.
What I hope to remember about this book is that life is very short, and we should appreciate everyone we have around us at all times.
Though Margaret Beaufort lived through the Wars of the Roses, one of England’s most violent and turbulent eras, she has been given little credit for triumphing in a time when life was unkind to women in terms of rights and power.
Many of you are wondering, Who the heck is Margaret Beaufort? The easy answer is King Henry VII’s mother and King Henry VIII’s grandmother. Isn’t it sad she has to be remembered in terms of the men she gave life to? Isn’t it unfair? It’s far more common than you think.
The more rich and fulfilling answer is Margaret Beaufort was a woman who successfully navigated the instabilities of the power-struggles in her lifetime, working hard for the survival of her family. Margaret’s life is actually an incredible testament to what a woman could achieve in the late 1400s.
She was a major landowner, a behind-the-scenes diplomat before her son became king, she was the first woman to be given the power to settle disputes in court, she was a negotiator, she was briefly regent for Henry VIII, she was a founder of colleges at Cambridge and Oxford, she commissioned books, and she even declared a la femme sole—she had complete control over her own estates—and thus was completely independent in terms managing of her lands and income.
It’s difficult to imagine it now, but this was a momentous step for women in the middle ages. In a time when women had no say in the major decisions of their lives (she had been married three times by the time she was fifteen), Margaret must have been incredibly resourceful and smart not only to get by but also to thrive.
I was disturbed by Margaret’s portrayal in the fictionalized accounts of her I came across—reduced to the role of villain—she wasn’t a well-rounded character, instead depicted as a conniving and ruthless woman.
Although I believe there’s some truth behind every rumor, Tallis’s well-researched biography (read the notes, they’re incredible!) fills in major gaps and brings Margaret and her life into sharper focus. She’s more than a villain and also more than a religious woman in a wimple. I wonder if she was seen as the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of her time—why are there no medieval women action figures?
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.
Occasionally I give editing tips and share insights from the world of publishing.
England's Queens: The Biography
Keeping Up With the Editors
Happy Birthday, Poe!
Appreciate a Dragon Day
I Was Wrong – Or What I Learned from a Year on the SYP London Committee
Shortlist of the Best Books I Read in 2020
V for Vendetta
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Elizabeth of York: The First Tudor Queen
The Mandibles: A Family 2029–2047
The Diary of a Bookseller
The Dutch House
The Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort
Becoming a Writer
Things Fall Apart
Welcome to My Bookshelves!