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[personal profile] raven
Thank you all again for the congratulations you left on my last post(s). I say this so often, but I never stop being surprised at the warmth and kindness of you all.

Wedding planning has begun, though it really does seem like a rehearsal for all the rest of my life in that everything about weddings is culturally dictated, and if you happen to hail from more than one then congratulations, it’s time to feel really bad about yourself. (This is exaggeration. Kinda.) There are some small delights about wedding planning though: reading through all the poetry you ever heard of to try and find a reading, and not finding one, but feeling washed clean and translucent with joy because hey, you just re-read all the poetry you ever knew; discovering that the General Register Office for Scotland has many obscure requirements for a marriage but operates in the warm shadow of Scottish marriage reform; learning that your mother-in-law can, without fuss and fanfare, cast precious metal.

(I am not really sorry that I don’t do family law, mostly because I hear from people who do that it involves cowering under meeting room tables as clients’ chairs are thrown, but that said I find the law concerning births, marriages and deaths an oddly poetic area. Like any area of law where the public intersects with the private, it has to tread softly, and has that fascinating side-effect where purely legal text is transformed into something rare and poetic. (Witness this sentence from the GRO website: where no name was recorded for the still-born child at the time of registration, a name can be added at the request of the parents. There’s a whole novel to be written based on that sad little registrars’ note.) On that topic, people have used Goodridge v Massachusetts as a wedding reading, and I think that’s lovely, but appropriative in my case. Back to the drawing board.)

Life continues, otherwise. I have about a month left in the current job, with no word on where they’re putting me in September, and there’s a chance I may be responsible for a first-year trainee which bothers me greatly (I am a year into my training, which doesn’t seem long enough for me to have any sort of responsibility for anyone else); Shim passed his driving test first time (hurrah! I no longer have to drive anywhere okay that might be a lie, also I love my little green car); and, very excitingly indeed, the South African Siren is coming to see me! I have missed her so – for new readers, she was my dearest friend for the time I lived abroad, and I haven’t seen her in more than a year – and she will be HERE and we will have COCKTAILS and yes.

And in the meantime, I have been getting really, really excited about the Olympics. I’m not at all interested in sport for four years and then suddenly I really really am. I mean I watched Ruta Meilutye win the women’s 100m breaststroke and teared up (she is so cute! Look at her Lithuanian flag nail polish and total disbelief at her own success! Even the reporter gives up on getting anything sensible out of her and says, “Well done, darling!”) and then I watched the drama in the men’s team gymnastics (silver! No, bronze! Oh, the poor Ukrainians) and then I was done and properly hooked. So now I am watching anything that’s on when I get home from work, which approach got me there just in time to see Gabrielle Douglas win the women’s all-around gymnastics. Somehow watching a sixteen-year-old black woman smile shyly while The Star-Spangled Banner is played in her honour before the eyes of the entire world brings out the sniffly idealist in me. I love the Olympics. On Sunday Shim and I are going to see the inaugural women’s boxing. It is the coolest.

When I am not watching the Olympics, I’m reading again, which is nice. I just finished Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein - a purportedly YA novel (purportedly! I was harrowed!) about two friends, a Scottish aristocrat and a mill girl from Stockport, in the Second World War. And I’m going to say now that this is a wonderful book and you should all read it but practically everything about it is a spoiler.

Other reviews of it - [personal profile] skygiants? –[personal profile] musesfool? - that I’ve seen have pointed out something I was subconsciously aware of – that Verity with her wit, her bottomless charm, her competence, her blonde and aristocratic beauty, is a female version of the character archetype best expressed by Lord Peter Wimsey. And it’s amazing how much I love that. I mean – I do. I didn’t know until I had it in my hands that I wanted this, the beautiful charming aristocratic hero who is a woman, and her story is her own.

Does Maddie become Harriet, then? I don’t really think so. But she is the one who does the bravest thing in the novel – brave like standing trial for murder. For Yuletide this year I would absolutely love something Maddie’s Jewish heritage and how that affects how she deals with Julie’s death. If I had any personal knowledge of Jewish custom and tradition I’d want to write it myself. Or maybe something about Maddie, Jamie and Esme Beaufort-Stuart? Oh, this novel, this novel, I put it down just utterly broken. It’s so good, and its women are characterised with such deftness and skill that it shows up in sharp relief how godawful most writing about women is. Maddie and Julie are so real, so fleshed-out, so frightened and so brave and so competent – god, writers and publishers, give me competence! Give me women who are fabulous at what they do! (I feel so often that people – by which I mean mainstream producers of fiction and media, who are mostly men – genuinely believe that it’s unrealistic and contrived for a woman to be talented, competent and respected in her field without having some sort of secret weakness or tragic romantic backstory (I love narratives where this is subverted, though: there’s Amy Pond, who always seems to skirt close to this line – I like the the way “Amy’s Choice” deconstructs it, but then it seems to come back in full force later; and Dana Whitaker, oh Dana, whose whole arc is about discovering that there is no reason to be ashamed of her talent and brilliance, there is no there there.)

And maybe the Machiavellian Intelligence Officer is meant to be Lord Peter Wimsey anyway? Something about the writing suggested that to me, and then Maddie picked “John de Balliol” as her pseudonym for him and I was like… yeah. But oh this book. I am filling this box with these half-baked inanities because I want to talk about it, but it so completely did me in that I can’t even do the thing with the words. Oh, this book.

Next up: The Scottish Prisoner, the latest Lord John Grey book, out in paperback. I have it, but haven’t started yet because to be honest I am afraid this is going to be a Jamie Fraser book (I was suspicious after she dropped “Lord John and” from the title!). And what I love about the Lord John books is that they are not Jamie Fraser books. Urgh.

Tomorrow, to London. Right now I just ate my whole weight in barbecued tofu and things are okay.
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