Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Founding

I'm a sucker for book series. I love for the story to not be over when I finish the book, to be able to keep on going with familiar characters in the next book and have a longer relationship with them. It started as a child. Baby-Sitters' Club. Sweet Valley Twins. Nancy Drew. The Boxcar Children. Later on it became Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Narnia. Why do kids get to have all the fun? It seems like kids books and romance novels are the only ones who have series. (Sidenote: I love Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series. Except they made me actually start reading romance novels. She's excellent though. Plus she went to Harvard so she's at least got a little more credibility.)Anyway, I was very excited when I discovered a British historical series during my last trip to Half Price Books. It starts during the 1400s, during the Wars of the Roses, so it even fit the timeframe of my current reading plan! I just finished the first in the series, The Founding, which sets the stage for the start of the Morland dynasty. Although the Morlands are fictional, many real-life figures appear in the book, most notably Richard Duke of York and his sons, especially Richard who became Richard III. All of the characters are well developed and intriguing, and the story is well written. You care about the Morlands and their story, but it connects heavily to real history and causes you to learn the history better as well. You also see how historical events affected regular citizens. One of my favorite aspects of the book though centers around the future Richard III. In him she creates this wonderful, sympathetic character that you really start to fall for. That was so interesting because everything else I've read about him just paints him as this evil man with no redeeming qualities. I know not to simply trust Shakespeare's portrayal of him, but it's effective and is mirrored in everything else I had read about him. I was curious how the main character, Eleanor, was going to handle learning about his role in the death of the two princes, but then she threw a wrench in that by making it seem as though Richard wasn't the one who committed those murders and is broken up about it. I was shocked at that twist and wondered if she was just going with an alternate history or if this was a legitimate view of what might have happened. I turned to my Traveller's Guide to English History and learned that there is a legitimate argument for this view, although it's the minority opinion. I wish things like this were covered in history class! (And maybe they are in England, it's not like we learned about this time period here in the U.S., but we don't have this type of discussion about anything.) Why don't teachers bring up both sides of an issue and have students argue the various sides? It's the issue of history being written by those who win. Richard III lost, so it's necessary for Henry VII to label him a murderer and usurper so Henry can claim to be righting Richard's wrong. In the U.S., the South is portrayed as a bunch of backward racists only fighting to keep their slaves. It can't possibly be that they were fighting for state's rights or anything that might have a valid point. Why don't we learn about the British side of things in the Revolutionary War? It would be interesting to see how that's portrayed in a British textbook. Why does history always have to be presented as pure fact? Yes, there are facts to learn, but what's more important is learning WHY things happened. It doesn't really matter what the exact date of a battle was, what matters is why people were fighting. But history class is usually just an exercise in memory, memorizing dates and names, not actually thinking about anything.

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