In times so long ago begins our play…

Our house is wrapped up in a ball of nerves. State exams are looming large and each of my two examinees is stewing in their own particular brine of combined panic and determination.

To escape the fumes, the smaller girls and I have been gallivanting more than usual. Last Saturday we donned our glad rags and went to a junior Proms concert at City Hall. The Cork Youth Orchestra played a jolly selection of sing-a-long pops songs ( mostly ABBA), hits from musicals (mostly Annie) and movie soundtracks.

‘The Star Wars part was the best, Mum, wasn’t it?’ reminisced Small Girl this morning as I plaited her hair, ‘because they had storm troopers and everything?’
‘Uh huh, yes.’ I’m not a big talker until that first coffee hits the basal ganglia.
‘And it was brilliant when they mixed in the Harry Potter music too. I like the really old Harry Potter music.’
‘Because Harry Potter came first, didn’t it Mum, because books always come before films,  don’t they?’ and it dawned on me that things that happened before you were born are all muddled together in a difficult to grasp and somehow irrelevant long ago, even if you are only five.
‘Well, yes, the Harry Potter books came before the Harry Potter films but the Star Wars  films were made before that. The first Star Wars film was made a long time ago, when I was exactly your age.’
‘In a galaxy far far away?’ This girl, she makes me laugh.

That’s a rather long preamble (and it might get longer yet) into the book I want to tell you about. I’ve read that book purchasers are amongst the most brand loyal of all consumers. When we find an author we like, we will stick with them, preferring to invest our money and time in a sure thing than risk giving an unknown author a chance. Are you like that? I am, absolutely. Tracy Chevalier (The Virgin Blue, Girl With a Pearl Earring) is an author whose books I would buy without hesitation so I was very excited when I saw that she was involved in the Hogarth Shakespeare Project and doubly pleased that her chosen (or is it assigned?) Shakespearean play was Othello.

I studied Othello for my Leaving Certificate (ah, the whiff of exam pickle returns) so I know it. I mean, I’m no scholar but I got it, you know? I had a wonderful teacher, the kind they make movies about. She took Othello apart and put it back together again until it all made sense and, what’s more, it made sense of everything (if there is someone reading this who can send my love and gratitude to Bean Uí Chinnéide, please do).

Othello, text.

We journeyed to Dublin on a bus so that we could see a black man play Othello. I might even have finished that last sentence at ‘see a black man’ full stop. Mind you, we didn’t dwell on the racism angle because Othello is about so much more than that. It’s about being different and courageous with it, being different and even proud of it. It’s about fear of the unknown and how we act to quell that fear. It’s about control, power, mind games, beauty, nobility, truth…it is dark and it is brilliant.

Just as dark and illuminating is New Boy. Tracy Chevalier has set her retelling of Othello a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Othello in a school playground of the 1970s. How flipping genius is that? Read my full (and marginally less rambling) review here.

By the way, for those who would have preferred Star Wars in iambic pentameter, this is amusing:

Now, I must go and attend to another pot of pickle. As a direct result of my solemn oath to be a true and honest tester of recipes, there is a fizzing jar of fermenting cabbage waiting to be ‘burped’…more on that anon.

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6 thoughts on “In times so long ago begins our play…

  1. Hello Lynda — I have started, and deleted, at least a half dozen comments in the several months that I’ve been reading your blog. (I am the weirdest of combinations: highly introverted, and yet (go figure) also *somehow* in possession of my own blog (of the oftentimes ranty if-I-don’t-get-these-words-out-I will-implode variety.)) As it turns out, it’s your mention of iambic pentameter that will finally coax me out of the woodwork. I’m wondering — have you, or your two younger girls, come across Maryrose Wood’s The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series? This is (IMO) a delightful middle-grade mystery set in the Victorian era, one which is filled with all sorts of lovely and laugh-out-loud asides, including a bit of poetry (hence the iambic pentameter). I’ve been reading it aloud to my 12-year-old son (who, thank goodness, still asks me to read to him) and we’ve both been LOVING it. I’m a *cough*housewife*cough*, too, and one of the things I’ve loved most about raising my three children (now 20,18, and 12) has been reading to and alongside them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marian. Thank you for reading and I am really pleased that you commented. Introverted bloggers aren’t as rare as you’d think…it seems to be a pretty effective, if slightly dangerous, release valve.
      Yous sound like the kind of person I could trust so I went ahead and ordered the first of that series from Amazon last night. There’s little better than knowing a good book is in the post!
      Please, let me know how I can reach your blog. Warm wishes, Lynda.


      1. Oh, I do hope you like it! The series has gotten wonderful reviews on Goodreads, although someone did complain (and I could see her point) that the first book was little more than a set-up for the following books.

        I will put the link to my blog on this comment, even though it scares me to do so! My husband has remarked that my reticence to actually be read is nothing short of bizarre. The fact is that while you (and Sam, and several others) do a beautiful job of chronicling your lives lived, I somehow can’t seem to focus on anything but the hows and whys, which I suspect rarely makes for fun reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ok, I’ll bear in mind that it’s the first of a series. You’ve really piqued my interest now!
        Your husband sounds like mine. To be honest, I still shock myself but that publish button if flipping addictive. Yes, it is cathartic and yes, there is probably some element of danger to it too but, do you know what, I’ve been writing here for exactly two years and I have NEVER felt more alive. A friend gave me some good advice. She said, imagine the best and the worst of possible outcomes. Would the best make you happy? Could you live with the worst? It’s likely to turn out somewhere between the two. Give it a shot.


  2. Inspirational teachers are as rare as hens’ teeth. My daughter and middle son have one in their English teacher and I thank our lucky stars. Good luck to your two examinees – hope you’re all keeping cool. Another hat doffing to you on your marvellous book review. x

    Liked by 1 person

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