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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

...of friendship and love, of power and pettiness!

Roses in the Tempest: A Tale of Tudor England by Jeri Westerson  

Jeri Westerson does it again! Another wonderful piece of writing. A novel that looks at the other side of Henry VIII's destruction of places of religion, the pettiness and politics involved. The real hardship for those religious folks who had been cloistered for many years and then torn from all they knew and  forced back into a society that they had been apart from for so long.
Partly also a love story, of love known too late. A story of women as bargaining chips in the building of  power and political alliances, and of enduring friendship. Isabella Launder is a woman of courage with a will of steel, daughter of a local yeoman farmer.
Sir Thomas Gifford is at first the arrogant courtier who is her friend, then a would be lover, would be husband, and lastly a long term supporter and friend.
I had little idea that some nunneries were so small. This one contained only four women and their servants and confessor. Neither did I realize that the roofs of the buildings were pulled off to stop the exiled from returning. (All those roofless religious ruins I've visited in England come even more alive for me after reading this.) Certainly at the end of the novel we see the spitefulness of the newly come to power at work.
The turning out of these women brought tears to my eyes, particularly as you remember the struggles they had to adjust to each other and grow together as a community. What a time of fear for these folk, fear of their future and welcome outside the walls they had long called home.
I loved the title: Roses in the Tempest. The allusion fittingly recalls and sums up so much. When I re-looked at the title, I thought about it for a time, and then simply said, 'Ah, Yes! ' And then I contemplated some more about roses, about the Tudor Rose, Henry and the religious tempest of the times that swept through England, the emotional tempest that their relationship brings to Thomas and Isabella, the simple pleasure of the rose growing strongly and surviving in Isabella garden, of Isabella's strength and fragility, and so much more. 
I keep humming, 'Where have all the flowers gone, longtime passing, longtime ago,' as I think about this work. At some level the line from that song resonates for me with the fate of the religious at this time and the questions this novel brings into focus.
This time in English history of wholesale destruction of an important way of life comes alive under Westerson's magical pen.

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