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Thoughts Like Music
...original soundtrack not available...you'll thank us...
Book Reviews: 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 
21st-Jan-2008 01:20 am
done
I am really bad at writing up the books I'm getting through. As we're now on the 4th week of the year, I should have already read books 7 and 8. I'll see if I can finish them before we leave for the US.

2
Life & Death in Eden: Pitcairn Island and the Bounty Mutineers by Trevor Lummis

I've always 'known' of Pitcairn Island. Those who are religious on the island are to this day Seventh-day Adventist. I believe there's around 40 people still living on the island. Most of them can trace their ancestry back to the HMS Bounty mutineers.

A lot has been done in various media on the Bounty mutiny. However, most stories/histories end with the group headed by the recently shipless Captain Bligh.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, the only clear fact I had about the Pitcairn islanders was that they were without educational materials other than a Bible and that all the progeny of the mutineers were taught to read and write English from that one book.

I found the history that Lummis puts out to be wonderfully comprehensive and easy to follow. He talks about the motivations of the mutineers in order to set the stage but concentrates on the activities and problems of the settlers in detail.

The one fact that stands out is that within only a few years, the original group of 27 had worn each other down to 14 people: 4 men and 10 women.

Yet, from that group, they eventually evolved into an egalitarian group that carved an 'Eden' as Lummis terms it. It was ahead of England by leaps and bounds in compulsory education (they did eventually acquire more than just the Bible!) and health standards.

A very good read.

3
Moreschi: The Last Castrato by Nicolas Clapton

I first heard of the castrati because of Farinelli, as most people do.
Farinelli, while famous, is lost to us, audio-wise.

Moreschi, however, is not. I acquired a CD of the recordings done of him while I was in boarding school. They take a keen ear to hear what he might have been like as a younger, stronger singer. However, if you disengage from expectations of what a soprano 'should' sound like, you can hear somewhat of the power that castrati were described as having.

The book does much to try to make a coherent history about what is available to us about Moreschi. Unfortunately, until he was hired by the Sistine Chapel as a chorister, not much is there. So, there is a lot of assumptions. Can't fault the logic of any of them.

The politics and cattiness of the Sistine Chapel choir are just as interesting as Moreschi's interactions with them. It seems that musicians don't change from one age to the next. ;)

Socially, it is interesting to see what the Catholic church, that bastion of conservatism, made of the castrati. They were forbidden, under the prohibition against 'anyone not a man entire' in the Bible, but yet were intrinsic to the male-only musical tradition.
There seems to have been a place, gender-wise, for them, independent of the mores for male and female in the church's mindset.
I'd like to have seen more on that, but since there is next to no primary material on this, it would be all but impossible.

4
Pirate Queen: The Life of Grace O'Malley, 1530-1603 by Judith Cook

I enjoyed this, but honestly can't remember anything that really struck me.

Grace O'Malley, aka Granuaile, was a strong woman in an era of strong women in the British Isles. Married twice and mother of some children of varying loyalty, her story is full of the dashing deed that you'd expect given the title.

I suppose the one thing I'll remember is that O'Malley, a Gaelic speaker, and Queen Elizabeth I, an English speaker, were forced to speak Latin in order to communicate when they met. Awesome. Latin bringing people together. Brings a tear, I tells ya.

5
Rhett Butler's People Donald McCaig

I'd been semi-waiting for this to come out.

Unfortunately, I'm pretty disappointed.

Gone With the Wind...hmm. It's...itself. It's sort of horrible at points, in that it shows off the racism of the time. Margaret Mitchell, arguably racist herself, does a perhaps unwitting job of showing how this sort of behavior leaves a civilization in ruins.
Scarlett is the ultimate example of this: stubborn, beautiful, single-minded, hard-working, exciting, and childishly selfish and naive. In GWtW, we see how all of these combine to pit a non-industrial, badly prepared half of the country against the other half.
The South is Scarlett...a bundle of wild contradictions wrapped up in lacy gentility and tied with a bow of politeness.

Rhett Butler's People makes Rhett into a wonderful person who is just misunderstood. Someone who, if he'd just been given that goshdarn chance would have freed the slaves without bloodshed and had everyone round for pattycakes and a good reading of Thomas More's Utopia. But, also would have gotten everyone drunk and propositioned the girl who just happened to have a heart o' gold.

Meh.

6
Inquisition: The Reign of Fear by Toby Green

I honestly couldn't sum up this book.

The one thing I can say is that I'm ashamed to say that I had never thought about the fact that the Inquisition went to South America. Somehow, I'd always just mentally kept it neatly in Spain.

The descriptions of the actual setups and process of the Inquisition were very interesting and, luckily, devoid of over descriptive passages on the inevitable torture.

This probably shows how infantile I am, but everytime I picked up the book to read it, I sang a bit of Mel Brook's song: 'the Inquisition, what a show/the Inquisition, here we go/I know you're wishing that we'd go away/but the Inquisition's here and it's here to staaaaaay!'

Ahem.
comments 
21st-Jan-2008 02:32 am (UTC)
Random fact: the anniversary of the mutiny is also my birthday. And Saddam Hussein's birthday.
21st-Jan-2008 04:04 am (UTC)
They also have their own top level domain .pn

Scotland, alas, is still waiting for such international recognition!
21st-Jan-2008 09:28 am (UTC)
I'm the person who, when someone mentions 'the most significant event of 1789', thinks of the Bounty mutiny rather than the French revolution. I've not read Life and Death in Eden though. Not yet anyway.
21st-Jan-2008 01:27 pm (UTC)
In your last book post I mentioned James Robertson's The Fanatic which I thought you might like. You asked if you should add it to the list and I don't think I ever got around to answering. It's about the Scottish witch trails and about a tour guide who re-enacts them for tourists on ghost walks in modern day Scotland. It's very very clever... my main criticism of it is that a lot of it is in Edinburgh dialect (I think) so I found it quite hard to read and it took me ages!
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