Reading is entertainment but it can also be education – new words, myth that turns out to be reality and vice versa. Here are just a few of the things I learned from the books I read this week. Click on the title of the book to read my review.
A Woman’s Lot by Carolyn Hughes transported me to a Hampshire village in the 14th century. I was intrigued by the reference to ‘frankpledge’ and was keen to learn more. It turns out ‘frankpledge’ was a system of joint suretyship common in England throughout the Early Middle Ages. A sort of supercharged ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ scheme, it involved the compulsory sharing of responsibility amongst those belonging to a ‘tithing’, a unit of ten men. The members of each tithing were responsible for producing any member of the tithing suspected of a crime before a court. If the person did not appear, the entire group could be fined. Women, clergy, the richer freemen and males under 12 years of age were exempt.
The same book gave me my second fascinating fact, namely the ingredients of that oft-mentioned foodstuff in historical fiction set in medieval times: pottage. The term for a thick soup or stew, pottage was made by boiling vegetables, grains, herbs and, if available, meat or fish. A staple food for many centuries, it consisted of whatever ingredients were available and was often kept over the fire for a period of days. What wasn’t eaten would have more ingredients added to it. Personally, it sounds like it would have been a pretty unappetising ‘mush’ by that time!
Source: MedievalPlus Blog
I reviewed a lovely little book this week, The Shady Side of Town: Reading’s Trees by Adrian Lawson and Geoff Sawers. (Yes, I know I’m cheating a bit as this is non-fiction. I ran out of fiction books for this week!) It had particular interest for me because I live in Reading and the book is published by local publisher, Two Rivers Press. One of the trees mentioned was new to me: the Wild Service Tree or Sorbus torminalis. The detail that really caught my eye was that, before the introduction of hops, the fruit of the tree were used to flavour beer. Apparently the fruits are edible but are too astringent to eat until they are over-ripe and bletted, or left to start to decay (as with medlars). The fruit of Sorbus torminalis were also traditionally used as a herbal remedy for colic – but please don’t try it!
In After the Party by Cressida Connolly part of the story line takes place in The Isle of Man during the Second World War. I was fascinated, and not a little appalled, to learn that thousands of people were interned there without trial during the War. The internees included political detainees and those suspected of being spies but also innocent refugees fleeing Nazi Germany and the occupied countries, including Jewish refugees escaping persecution. Initially men and women were held separately, including married couples who were only able to correspond by letter, but eventually a mixed camp was established.
Source: BBC New Website
My final fact was inspired by the historical fiction novel, Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat which I reviewed earlier today. Set around the time of the French Revolution, one of the scenes in the book sees the heroine, Victoire, attend a salon at which one of the other ladies is reclining in a milk bath. Now, I don’t know about you, but I associate milk baths with Cleopatra. However, it transpires wealthy aristocratic ladies in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries also indulged in the practice believing it a way to preserve youthful looks. Sometimes, the milk was recycled afterwards for consumption (ugh!).
Source: Our Everyday Life Blog
What did you learn from your reading this week?