Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hearts and Bones

I have been stitching a bit lately (since I got the finger turban) but mostly I've been reading. The action's been going on over here. I recently finished a historical mystery novel. Not my usual thing. I'm not going to consult the OED over this, but I am pretty sure calling someone a dumb-ass in the late eighteenth century may be historically inaccurate. And that sort of thing is why I don't normally read historical fiction of any subgenre. However, I read this one and I enjoyed it in the way one enjoys gummi candy.

If you've ever read Susan Glaspell's "A Jury of Her Peers," this novel will seem familiar. (There's even the obligatory dead caged bird.)

In Hearts and Bones, the midwife-detective, Hannah Trevor, has access to evidence that the men don't. But the best part is the needlework is the most important evidence in solving the crime! Take that Monica Ferris! Margaret Lawrence has thought about embroidery in ways I can respect. At one point someone asks the midwife Hannah if she finds embroidery useless. Hannah defends it by saying when men do useless things it's called art. And the interlocutor responds, "I perceive you do some needlework yourself, Mrs. Trevor. You defend it very well." She does; she's a quilter and the title of the book refers to the quilt pattern she is currently working.

Later, Hannah writes in her diary, "Here I draw out in part the pattern of briar roses from [spoiler prevention: a person's] crewelwork, which I saw on the pocket in Mrs. Emory's room. It is a woman's kind of proof, but proof it is, and no man would think to record it." Okay, okay, it takes Glaspell's short story and beats the dead horse. Still the pattern is kind of cool, and if I didn't have WIPs out the ying I'd stitch it up as a little rememberance of a mystery that really uses needlework as the solution.

Nancy Pearl recommended this book because it is set in Maine. Maybe I just don't know Maine all that well, or 18th century Maine, but I thought this could have been set anywhere where it snows a lot.


Kendra said...

I'm with you...I highly doubt "dumb-ass" existed back then. I'm sure there were people who would fit the description of a dumb-ass, though, seeing as how dumb-ass-ness is probably a timeless notion...LOL!

Nic said...

Ohhh, I hate anachronisms in fiction.

I can accept that people don't change very much over the centuries, but language does, and it matters.

Strangely, I will give films and TV more leeway, but books have to get it spot on - probably because I spend more time with a book.

Barbara said...

You caught me on the set in Maine part. ;) Or anyplace that it snows a lot.

Redwitch said...

I can confirm that 'dumb ass' is not in the OED even today, not in it's own right at least, it's mentioned a couple of times in quotations. I just checked. What can I say I'm a librarian, just give me something to look up and I'm a 'happy bunny' (also not in).

'Dumb cluck' is in and means 'a dull or stupid person; a fool'. This sounds quite old-fashioned to me but I've heard my Mum say it on numerous occasions, usually referring to me :)

Hope your turban comes off soon!

Donna said...

Was dumb-ass hyphenated? If it was two separate words, it would be easier to accept. Thanks,for recommendation. I need to go to the library. I just finished Jane Cleland's "Consigned to Death," which is set in the seacoast of NH.

monique said...

I generally shy away from historical fiction, too (she says as she wades through the Outlander series) but I'll give this one a look-up at my library :)

Kim Ayres said...

Is the finger turban thick enough to use as a thimble, or is it worth placing a bit of thick leather over it?

njm said...

The best ananchonism I have ever seen in a novel is a scene in Pope Joan where potatoes and corn are included in a dinner, in what we would call Germany, in the 8th century.

Lelia said...

sounds like I need to look up this author at the library!!

Nice to hear your are doing some stitching again.

Lelia said...

I checked this one out from the library; however, am only on page 25!!

Did you see the buzz re. The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson. This, too, involves needlework. Picture here:

I don't really know much about this book. May have to seek it out at Barnes & Noble as the library doesn't have this one [yet]