Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Tales

It seems that this is the time of year when there is a lot of knitting to be done in a relatively short period of time. For some knitters, the way through all of this is intensive TV viewing. For me, though, the path is made easier with audiobooks, and this year I've returned to two old favourites with delicious Xmas scenes. Both are by Elizabeth Peters, a remarkable lady, who died just last August. She lived in Maryland and about ten years ago, when we were living in the area, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the Barnes and Noble in Bethesda. Her Amelia Peabody books, as well as her Vicky Bliss series, got me through some stressful years when Bill was travelling the globe and I was managing the household (through 9-11 and the DC sniper among other harrowing times) on my own. In fact, there is a connection between the two series, which she revealed in her last book, "The Laughter of Dead Kings". While the Amelia books are written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, there are moments, particularly in "He Shall Thunder in the Sky", that are quite poignant. The Emerson's holiday celebrations in Cairo of 1914, during the first winter of the Great War, are bittersweet, and the strain of maintaining good cheer is painfully evident. However, the humour is wonderful too, especially when Emerson gives his beloved Peabody a rather unique Xmas gift. "A sword umbrella! Oh Emerson, I have always wanted one!...I rose to my feet, kicking the elegant flounces of my gown aside. En garde!"
These books are among the few that are made even more enjoyable when narrated, at least when done so by the incomparable Barbara Rosenblatt, who over many years managed to take the voice of Ramses from childhood through his emergence as a fully grown man. How she does all the voices and accents of the numerous characters is quite beyond my comprehension! In an interview with both Peters/Mertz and Rosenblatt on NPR, it came to light that Peters eventually came to hear Rosenblatt's characterizations as she was writing. The two had become inextricably intertwined.
Rosenblatt does an equally stunning job with the Vicky Bliss series. Like the Amelia books, they began as an apparent one-off, then morphed in a slightly different direction as Vicky's art thief/lover, John Tregarth, a.k.a. Sir John Smythe entered in the second volume. However, it is the touching Xmas eve Vicky and John spend in the fourth book, "Trojan Gold", huddling for warmth on a mountainside in Bavaria, nibbling on remnants of gingerbread and heating water for tea in a broken flowerpot, that I enjoy listening to most at this time of year.
Both He Shall Thunder in the Sky and Trojan Gold (narrated by Ms. Rosenblatt, of course) are available as unabridged audiobooks. I couldn't possibly get my knitting done without my Audible.com subscription.
Here are a few suitably wintry scenes from Kingston.


Hard to believe that winter hasn't yet officially arrived.


  1. Yup, the DC sniper, 9-11, and you forgot the ricin mail, and seems to me there was some world scare about something else, radiation (?), I think I remember someone asking for some medicine that was suppose to stop the onset of radiation poisoning. Or maybe a flu vaccine no one could get...

    It seems so long ago, like a lifetime ago.

  2. It looks very festive there! Merry Christmas to you & yours.