Hello and welcome to Tag Tuesday in which
I discuss The Historical Fiction Page 112 Tag.
The original Page 112 tag was created by Shawn the Book Maniac:
I will include a link to his channel in the show notes below.
I was tagged by Brian of Bookish: I will also include a link to his channel in the show
notes. Before I start, I recommend that you turn
on the sub-titles if you want to follow along with the reading.
I am going to read a section from or around page 112 from each of three historical novels,
rank them in order of preference and then reveal what they are at the end.
Historical Novel number one: Each of the speakers fell in love with his
theory, and to tell the truth, both had taken a hair or two of the dog that had bitten their
master to the brain; so their voices presently rose so high, that the green sot began to
growl instead of snoring. In their heat they did not notice this.
Ere long the argument took a turn that sooner or later was pretty sure to enliven a discussion
in that age. Hans, holding the bridle with his right hand, gave Ulric a sound cuff with
his left; Ulric returned it with interest, his right hand being free; and at it they
went, ding dong, over the horses mane, pommeling one another, and jagging the poor beast, till
he ran backward, and trode with iron heel upon a promontory of the green lord, he, like
the toad stung by Ithurial’s spear, started up howling, with one hand clapped to the smart
and the other tugging at his hilt. The servants, amazed with terror, let the horse go; he galloped
off whinnying, the men in pursuit of him crying out with fear, and the green noble after them,
volleying curses, his naked sword in his hand, and his body rebounding from hedge to hedge
in his headlong but zigzag career down the narrow lane. “In which hurtling,” Gerard
turned his back on them all, and went calmly south, glad to have saved the four farthings
he had got ready for trinkgeld, but far too heavy hearted even to smile at their drunken
extravagance. The word ‘Green’ appears three times in
this passage ‘green sot’ ‘green lord’ and green noble’ and he is likened to a
green toad touched by Ithurial’s Spear which is an allusion to Milton’s Paradise Lost.
The spear of the angel Ithuriel, the slightest touch of which exposed deceit. Hence, when
Satan squatted like a toad “close to the ear of Eve,” Ithuriel only touched the creature
with his spear, and it resumed the form of Satan.
The two servants had taken a hair of the dog, which is a reference to alcohol and it had
bitten their master to the brain and he began to growl like a dog instead of snoring, then
he began howling like a dog. The word ‘jagging’ is an interesting one.
Jag can mean a drinking bout, but also to jab sharply, to prick.
The green lord tugged at his hilt, obviously to withdraw his sword, but I have no idea
what ‘one hand clapped to the smart’, means. I have never heard this phrase before.
And Google came up empty. So, if anyone knows what it means, please leave a comment below.
The final interesting expression is trinkgeld. It refers to a tip or gratuity or in this
case it may have been tribute money. Or humorously drink money. Geld means to castrate a horse.
The whole of this passage is shot through with humorous and subtle allusions to drink,
dogs and horses. My opinion is that it is a highly accomplished piece of writing.
Historical Novel number two: Father then came from the fields, a large
axe carried over one shoulder. He had been stockpiling wood, and his shirt was soaked
through with sweat, his hair hanging damp and limp around his neck.
He saw Uncle’s horse and hurried his pace to the house. He gave me a glance but did
not pause to set down the axe at the door frame as was his habit. As he passed through
the door, the head of the axe caught the wood, cutting a deep gash in the frame. He had been
inside for the span of a few breaths when all talking within ceased. Soon Uncle rushed
out the door, stumbling over me in his haste to leave.
I followed him calling out, ‘Uncle, please stay awhile. Uncle, please don’t go,’
but he did not turn to answer me. I had had no time to gather up a present for Margaret.
What would she think of me when her father returned to her empty-handed? I had not plied
my fingers to sewing as I had promised, for the needle she had given me was gone, stolen
by Mercy, and I could do no patching without it. The only needle left to me was a coarse
one made of bone that was used to mend our woollens. Uncle mounted Bucephalus and snapped
sharply at the reins. I ran at his boot heel, panting out, ‘Tell Margaret…tell Margaret…’
But soon he outpaced me, and as I reached for the stirrup, I cried, ‘I am not like
my mother…I am not like her.’ I watched him on the road until Mother called
for me, but I dragged my heels until she appeared at the door, her eyebrows forming a line of
warning beneath the furrows in her brow. When I came into the kitchen, I saw Father’s
axe lying heavily on the table, the sharpened edge of the head pointing to the place where
Uncle had stood. The first thing I observed from this extract
is that the writing is very simple and uncomplicated. The axe pointing towards the Uncle seems an
ominous element as it indicates that there is some friction between her father and uncle.
Also, she was anxious to tell her uncle that she was not like her mother in some way. Historical Novel number Three:
‘Orchid, I can’t cope anymore. Take my son, will you? You will be doing me a great
favour. But you must be extremely careful with his demon-possessed spirit. It will take
away your peace. His trick is to cry around the clock. No one here gets any sleep! Orchid,
take my trouble. Strangle this son of a demon if you have to!’
‘Rong, I won’t take him because you want to abandon him. Tsai-t’ien is your son,
and he deserves your love. Let me tell you, Rong, the only thing I regret is that I wasn’t
able to love Tung Chih enough – ‘ ‘Oh, Mulan, the heroine!? Rong cried.
Awakened by his mother, Tsai-t’ien opened his eyes. A moment later he broke into a muted
cry. As if disgusted, Rong turned away from him
and returned to her chair. I picked up Tsai-t’ien and held him. Gently
I rubbed his back. He smelled of urine. Rong came and grabbed her son from me. She
threw him back onto the bed and said, ‘See, you offer him a penny, he demands a dollar!’
‘Rong, he is only three years old.’ ‘No, he is a three-hundred-year-old! A master
of torture. He pretends to be crying but he is having fun.’
An overwhelming anger and sadness came over me. I felt that I couldn’t stay in that
room. I started walking toward the door. Rong followed behind. ‘Orchid, wait a minute.’
I stopped and looked back. She gripped the boy’s nose with her fingers.
Tsai-t’ien began to scream, struggling for air.
Rong pressed. ‘Cry, cry, cry! What do you want?’
Tsai-t’ien tried to break away, but his mother wouldn’t let go.
‘Do you want me to kill you? So that you will shut up? Do you?’ Rong put her hands
around Tsai-t’ien’s neck until he began to choke. She laughed hysterically.
Well, this is certainly dramatic. Here is a woman who wants either to kill her son or
to give him away. Who is she and who is Orchid? And why does she want to kill her son? I think all three books are intriguing each
in their own way – none of them is weak. My ranking based on the literary quality and
interest is number one, then number three and finally number two.
Here are the three Historical novels: Historical Novel Number One is The Cloister
and the Hearth by Charles Reade, which is a tale of the Middle Ages. Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle thought that it was the greatest historical novel ever written. When I read it, I thoroughly
enjoyed it and I intend to read it again. The Cloister and the Hearth was published
in 1861, and is set in the 15th century. It relates the story revolving about the travels
of a young scribe and illuminator, Gerard Eliassoen, through several European countries.
The Cloister and the Hearth often describes the events, people and their practices in
minute detail. Its main theme is the struggle between man’s obligations to family and to
Church. Historical Novel Number Two is The Heretic’s
Daughter by Kathleen Kent. Martha Carrier was hanged on August 19th 1692
in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal to admit to being a witch, going to
her death rather than joining the ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby
spared execution. Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright
and wilful, openly challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. In this startling
novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover, near Salem. Her father is
a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical but with a secret history. Her mother is a
herbalist, tough but loving, and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other,
Sarah and her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that Martha
understands her daughter like no other. When Martha is accused of witchcraft, and the whisperings
in the community escalate, she makes her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case
is taken to court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves, the
vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family, along with other innocents,
are starved and deprived of any decency, battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer
willpower their mother has taught them. Historical Novel Number Three is The Last
Empress by Anchee Min. At the end of the nineteenth century, China
is rocked by foreign attacks and local rebellions. The only constant is the power wielded by
one woman, Tzu Hsi, also known as Empress Orchid, who must face the perilous condition
of her empire and devastating personal losses. In this sequel to the bestselling “Empress
Orchid”, Anchee Min brings to life one of the most important figures in Chinese history,
a very human leader who sacrifices all she has to protect both those she loves and her
doomed empire. Everyone who has a Booktube channel is automatically