Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “historicals”

Shakespeare Celeb: Birthday Condolences


Image result for shakespeare's 400th birthday

One of those learned Shakespeare facts to pull out to impress students is that he died on his birthday. They think that fact is weird and cool. I used to think Mark Twain died on his birthday as well. Turns out I was wrong. He came into the world with Halley’s Comet and left when it reappeared. Now, that is a weird and cool fact that gets my attention.

According to Mental Floss, there is a phenomena known as The Birthday Effect.  Apparently a person has a 14 percent higher chance of dying on his or her birthday. The Swiss did a study in 2012, so it must be true. This probably isn’t a planned event, at least it’s hoped not. That would be a terrible closure to a birthday party. It’s conjectured that Shakespeare partied a bit too “merrily” with his chums and succumbed to a fever. Watch out for combining ale and pickled herring. Or at least check the expiration date on the herring.

Image result for pickled herring

April 23, 1616. This is both Shakespeare’s birthday and day of passing, making him 403 years old. There isn’t much of a to-do at 403, but his 400th birthday was a world wide event. Stopping to think about it, if you celebrate his birthday you are also celebrating his death. I don’t think Hallmark makes a birthday condolence card. Yet. On a lighter consideration, Shakespeare does share this Birthday Effect with some other notables. Maybe this is a condolence of sorts, that he shares his birthday/deathday with a few other famous folk:

Raphael–painter

corrie ten boom

Corrie Ten Boom-Holocaust survivor

Grant Wood-painter of the American Gothic

Ingrid Bergman–actress

Movie Musings: The Crown


Oh, those royals. They are always in the news. From wedding bliss to adorable Charlotte pics they somehow beguile us. At least they beguile me.

Maybe my interest, bordering on fascination, with the royals stems from my Bardinator status, that compelling need to embrace the world of Shakespeare. Part of Shakespeare’s world is Queen Elizabeth I. Without Good Queen Bess’s nod of approval to Shakespeare’s acting troupe, the world might not have been influenced by his wordsmithing.

Becoming smitten with QEI wasn’t difficult-wow, whatta monarch. Patron of the arts, survivor of parental malpractice, as well as sibling rivalry to a dangerous maximum, she led troops against the Spanish Armada, turned down marriage for the good of her country, and ruled the most powerful country at a time when women were considered property. And yes, I have watched the adaptations of her life. My pick is Helen Mirren.

I also pick Helen for her portrayal of the current Elizabeth. It’s always been risky to present suppositions of living persons, especially ones as iconic as Britain’s current monarch: Elizabeth II. Yet, Mirren’s portrayal provided sensitivity and respect which is credit to her abilities as an actress.

This is why it was with difficulty I finally succumbed to watching The Crown. First of all, Buckingham palace isn’t known for leaking royal tidbits, so I sensed there would be much embellishment about presenting the private moments of Elizabeth as she began her long and unexpected reign.

My verdict? Stunning production. Five stars for the lavish attention to details to create impressive time period background. Four stars for acting in totality. Matt Smith stepping from Doctor Who into Prince Philip barely toned down his man-child persona and comes across as a sulking bad boy. Claire Foy, an unknown to me, interprets her role as the young queen being perpetually surprised, or that’s what her subdued reaction to the antics of husband, sister, and world events registers as: a demure deer caught in the headlights. Then again, she doesn’t have much to go on. It must be awkward to represent someone so well-known but so unknowable.

In rating the storyline, the first season drops down to a two out of five stars. So much drama. Too much in the way of soap opera hysterics. Clandestine love affairs, political intrigue, marriage trauma–it became mundane watching the script try to spice up gathered intel on the Windsors. I felt like I was watching a lavish gossip magazine story: all glitter, without substance.

As much as there is not like about season one, I am queuing for my turn for the library’s copy of season two. I am still wondering why. Then again, there is something about those royals.

Are any of you royal watchers?

Author Snapshot: D.E.Stevenson


As we know authors wax and wane in popularity. Books that eager readers  once  grabbed off the shelves now forlornly gather dust, or go out of print or end up in the free bin. That’s why it’s exciting when an author can rekindle interest and prove she still holds staying power forty years after her death and last book was published. The author? D.E. Stevenson. Her devotees are known as “Dessies.”

  Some fine facts:

  • Dorothy Emily Stevenson was a related to THE Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Educated by a governess and denied college because her father didn’t want an educated woman in the family.
  • She published nearly fifty books in her career.
  • At the height of her career, her books sold in the millions internationally.
  • A granddaughter discovered a couple of manuscripts in the attic in 2011 and they were immediately snapped up and published.
  • Being Scottish, most of her plots center around Scotland and England, with WWI and WWII’s affect on its people often being a main theme. 
  • Her books gave clear insights into the lives of those who called the countryside their home.
  • Adept at characterization, her books often overflowed and intermingled with one another.
  • Died in 1973, yet beginning in 2009, her books are slowing being reissued.

A snippet from a BBC article

Members of Stevenson’s family are amazed by her enduring popularity. Her daughter, Rosemary Swallow, remembers how her mother worked.

“She would sit down on the sofa, put her legs up and light a cigarette,” she said.

“She had a special writing board, a wooden board covered in green baize and she would just carry on writing whatever was going on around her.

“She was very, very good at character writing. There’s no rude sex or anything like that, just a good yarn with a beginning, a middle and an end.”

On a personal note: 

I discovered her books about twenty years ago when working at a public library. A friend and co-worker knew I preferred “gentle” reads and suggested Stevenson. I read everything the library owned, and even ventured into the scary overflow storage basement to retrieve forgotten copies. 

Currently I’m on a mission to read all her titles. The writing is solid, with its intriguing plots involving mysteries, light romance, and brilliant characterization. When I’m feeling a bit lost due to stress from a long week, I find myself again by reading a Stevenson novel.  

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