Sunday, December 12, 2010

Overheard at Table 1: The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphries

One of the best books I've read all year . . .
and I've been reading like a mad dog, lemme tellya!
This one is incredible! Here's the synopsis real quick: these are forty short pieces, about two to five pages long, each one set at each time the River Thames has frozen over during the recorded history of London. This starts back in the twelfth century, and just goes forward, sometimes a generation or two, sometimes with a hundred years between stories, sometimes one year after another.
Each story is told from the point of view of a different type of character - sometimes a Queen, sometimes a cobbler, one of my favorites was from the person who looses the royal dogs on the rabbits, one was set during the plague year, it talks about the fairs that were held on the frozen river.
It's partly a character study, and partly a history lesson. Personally, I think that's when literature really rises above just simply telling a story, when it can actually encompass history, make it come alive.
And I know it sounds silly to say this, but it's absolutely true - when I was reading this book (and lemme tellya I was reading it at the tail end of this summer!), I actually could feel the chill of the ice, I could almost see my breath coming out in little puffs of steam, I could taste the moisture which was frozen in the air.
And that - is good writing.

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