". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Reading Wednesday - The Mystic Marriage by Heather Rose Jones - No Spoilers

I'm not going to say much about this novel because someone else already has, and done an excellent job, here.

I admired, enjoyed, admired and liked The Mystic Marriage (2015). It's a Ruritanian - alternate European history fantasy of alchemy and romance in what is either the period between Napoleón's escape from Elba and Waterloo, or right after it, since there don't seem to be any wars going on during the period of this novel.  The reason I foreground the question of chronology is that my favorite part is the opening.  Antuniet Chazillen, one of the four protagonists has escaped from Prague to Heidelburg, and needs to escape her pursuers again, which sends her back to the capitol of Alpennia, her family's home country. She is able to take a coach, it seems across boundaries, with little or no trouble, which, while not necessarily that troublesome in peace, would certainly be troublesome during the time of Napoleón's wars.

What I admired was the author's way with the names of people, families, and place.  They were consistent throughout, and felt plausible to an imaginary language surrounded by the languages of what had been the Austro-Hungarian and the Polish empire as well, before the coalition of Russia, Prussia and Austria ate it up.  Contributing to the admiration

What I enjoyed the most were those four protagonists, each on with agency, each one with a purpose in life, who do not necessarily begin as friends, but who all know each other due to this also being a novel of manners, thus family and social connections are not only plot points but help define characters strengths, weaknesses and growth.  The only drawback to this sort of thing, if you, as I do, like this sort of thing, is that the novel plays out mostly within the elite classes, and that leaves out most of a society.  This tends also to tend to sense of claustrophobia after a while.  These four protagonists are pairs, or at least two of them are a pair-in-making.  How these two become a pair is why the alchemical term, "Mystic Marriage" (or Sacred Marriage) makes for such a splendid title.  On the mundane level too, this is a romance that goes beyond "romance." Via the process of becoming a pair, the 'coniunctio', the so-called social butterfly's own life-work is revealed through the heat and pain of true love's transformation, and the other becomes a fuller person with capacity for living -- meaning that the two become greater together than by themselves. I do like that sort of thing in a novel, in which true love is revealed to be something even more than the best sex that has ever taken place in the history of the world.  But I also admire it greatly because one can't just decide to write this. It literally emerges out of the marriage of the writer's heat and pain in collaboration with the elements her talent has chosen to put into the crucible of the process of writing.

Nevertheless, the potential claustrophobia is kept to a minimum, due muchly to the character of Jeanne Vicomtesse de Cherdillac, who is what I liked the most in The Mystic Marriage. Interestingly Jeanne's classified as a social butterfly, while the other three have the status of women with a working profession: Antuniet is an alchemist, Margerit Sovitre is thaumaturgist to the Queen Regent, and Baronness Barbara Saveze is a weapons master. In the first novel, Barbara was an armin, i.e. a bodyguard.

So, in the course of reading The Mystic Marriage we realize this is a second novel in what is called the Alpennia series.  I have not read the first one, Daughter of Mystery, thus I am in an excellent position to say that the reader does not need to have read it first in order to understand and thoroughly enjoy the second one.

Yesterday I saw two copies of The Mystic Marriage on the New Books shelves in one of my local public library branches.

The author talks of her books

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