I love “curating” my vacation reading list; it’s one of my favourite things about traveling. In Mexico, I had a fair bit of reading time, what with the kids’ naps and (relatively) early bedtimes. I ended up packing 3 books, which turned out to be at least 1 short of ideal. I ran out of reading material with about 2 days (and a plane ride) to go, but the luggage weight restrictions would have made it impossible for me to lug more stuff with me. This is where something like a Kindle would have come in handy, but I am hopelessly old-fashioned when it comes to books, so never mind.
Part of the reason why I made it through my chosen books quickly is that 2 of them were fast, snappy reads. Cover Her Face is one of the shorter PD James novels; the whodunit was ok, but I wasn’t really fond of any of the characters involved or the way in which the victim (a young, unwed mother) was portrayed, so I speed-read my way through the book to get to the reveal. In retrospect, I felt the murderer was really obvious. To sum up, not my favourite James mystery. The other mystery I brought along was Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood, another Phryne Fisher mystery. I enjoyed the theatre setting, which reminded me of some of my fave Ngaio Marsh novels. The ending was a bit weak, but it was still an enjoyable read overall. Another slim volume, however, which didn’t last me long.
My favourite book of the trip was, hands down, the biography of Queen Victoria by Julia Baird. It was informative and entertaining in equal measure, and my only quibble is that I wish it included more photographs of the royal family. I love historical photographs. After I finished the book, I was dying to read more about Victoria’s extended family so I spent some time surfing Wikipedia on my phone (thank goodness for fast, free WiFi). As soon as I got home, I dug out a couple of books from my library to re-read — Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold M. Packard and Born To Rule: Five Reigning Consorts, Granddaughters of Queen Victoria by Julia Gelardi. I’ve also been scouring Amazon for more titles to round out my Victorian collection, but have been coming up short. I got a biography of Bertie (King Edward VII) coming my way, but if you guys have other recc’s, let me know.
Speaking of Victoria … the last episode of series 1 of the ITV/PBS show aired the day after I got back from Mexico and, to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. I mean, we all knew that Victoria was going to make it through (a) any assassination attempt, and (b) childbirth (she survived both a number of times), so there wasn’t any real tension going on. Nor was there any real development in the Victoria-Albert relationship, which is my current obsession. Having read the Victoria biography, there is SO much material to be mined in that relationship, and I feel like the show is only scratching the surface. Sigh. Anyway, as predicted, the Skerrett/Francatelli romance hit the skids and I will admit that I was a little bit sad about that. On to series 2, please!
[Fun fact: did you know that Victoria ordered that all men in the British army should grow mustachios because she loved the way Albert’s looked? Talk about queenly prerogative — though not without precedent. Peter the Great of Russia went around cutting off the traditional long beards of his (male) courtiers as part of a campaign to “westernize” his court.]
Moving on to things I read online, this Reddit thread discussing an article criticizing the minimalist movement was probably more thought-provoking than the article itself (which, as pointed out by commenters, missed the distinction between minimalism as a lifestyle versus minimalism as an aesthetic).
I also spent some time this week re-reading Anne Helen Petersen’s Classic Hollywood Scandals archives on Hairpin. If you’ve never read them before, do yourself a favour and savour her excellent writing and analysis.