For this April’s GMBG I have not adhered to my usual draconian rules. This month I haven’t gifted the book in question to anyone, but I did lend them my copy a few months ago. I think that considering a) we live in exceptional times and b) it’s my party and I will cry if I want to, this slight deviation from the straight and narrow is acceptable. And the pairing seemed appropriate. Any letters of complaint can be sent to my agent.
First the benefactor. The person in question is my mum, Peggy. As long as I can remember she has been an avid reader. Many years ago, when she was temporarily bedridden after a back operation, my Dad would choose her library books for her. One day I accompanied him on his mission. As he chatted to the librarian I began to study the available books, pulling them out and carefully considering them, reading inside the dust cover, weighing up if they would be appropriate. Joining me in my quest my dad enquired “What are you up to?”, “Finding some books for mum, of course”, “You don’t do it like that, watch me!” and he proceeded to randomly pull six books off the shelves, returning to the librarian for stamping and more chat. “Oh”. She never complained about his selection, although I have always wondered if it was a case of “beggars can’t be choosers”. At the moment she is self-isolating, alone but chipper as always.
I don’t remember learning to read and recently I asked Peggy if she had taught me. She seemed unsure. “Well I would read to you and then afterwards you would read the same book to your little brother. I was never sure if you were making it up or you had memorised the words”. Whichever, I could read by the time I started school, at barely 4 years old, and haven’t let up since.
Now for the book, Julian of Norwich, A Very Brief History by Janina Ramirez. I was first tempted by this book because of the author, not the subject. Dr Ramirez is a cultural historian, with a PhD in the art, literature and culture of Anglo Saxon England. She a brilliant presenter of programmes on both art and history. But she is not the stereotypical academic, more gothademic, with her long black hair, wearing stacked platform biker boots and heavy black eyeliner. She is ace.
This book is about the 14th century anchorite* Julian of Norwich. In 1390, she was bricked up in a cell in Norwich Cathedral until her death in 1413. Yes, “she”. Julian was a she, probably a noble woman, although it is far from certain exactly who. It was here that she wrote her book Revelations of Divine Love. Janina’s book is intriguing, discussing who Julian might have been, why someone would want to cut themselves off from society in such a way and what was occurring whilst she was interred. It also explains how her book differed from previous religious writings. Julian’s emphasis was on love and hope as opposed to guilt or punishment. Love and hope, much better options.
As Julian wrote, over 600 years ago:
All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.
*An anchorite is a religious recluse.