Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Read in 2012 - 19: Netherwood

This is the 2nd book of the small pile Mary gave me when my sister and I went to see the family in England back in May, as mentioned here (plus, if you are interested, there are several blog entries from our week there under the label "Travelling").
"Netherwood" by Jane Sanderson was a good read throughout, although in some cases, I was left with the feeling that I would have liked for the author to explore more of certain character's lives; but, as I gather from the (very nicely done) author's website, there is to be a sequel out in September, so my curiosity may be satisfied then.

The story itself sounds simple enough: Young woman from the humblest of backgrounds meets tragic events that could turn her life this way or that - she decides to fight, and with the help of loyal friends and powerful allies, works her way up to become a successful business woman, finding true love (who would have guessed!) along the way.

What gives "Netherwood" its special appeal to me is that it is set in South Yorkshire, in a small mining town near Barnsley, an area I know well, because it is were my late husband's family come from (in fact, Steve proposed to me in a pub in Barnsley).
I can hear the character's voices, picture the small houses and smell the cooking.
Yes, there is plenty of cooking and baking going on in the book - and some of the recipes are at the end of the book as well as on the website.

Most of the time, I can relate to what the characters do and how they feel; places and people are described in a manner that makes it easy to visualize them, and the flow and pace of the story is neither too complicated nor too fast, but makes for a relaxing read.

I learnt many new and was reminded of old words by the book. Some examples are batch of parkin, knur and spell, laikin, bramleys, filly, britches, pleached hornbeam, attar of roses, and obeisance. Someone's thirst is slaked (never heard that expression before), and Gibson Girls are mentioned. The countess "peals with laughter" at a party, and that made me realise I have no idea how anyone's laughter can be compared to the sound of pealing. Can you? A young man "unfolds himself from the stone balustrade on which he was artfully draped", and can't you just picture that? (Needless to say, that particular young man is quite full of himself and doesn't care much about anyone else but His Lordship.)
Sometimes the way speech is written as dialect can get a bit in the way of reading. Not because I wouldn't understand it (I do), but because of all the 's for dropped letters. An example:
"Aye, well, if Percy Medlicott 'its t'knut, it's a blasted miracle," said Arthur. " 'E's t'only fella I know who calls 'imself an expert at a game 'e can't play."
And that is pretty much how every sentence uttered by the humble Yorkshire miners and their families looks like, and how Eve Williams, the heroine, talks.
So, a bit less of the ', and the book would have been even more pleasurable to read. Yes, I do understand the author used this way of dialect writing to add to the atmosphere, but it wasn't always necessary, I think.
Very good editing; I didn't find any typos or inconsistencies.

And I am probably going to try to make drop scones - they sound easy enough, even for someone like me :-)
Let me finish with a picture of Yorkshire puddings straight from the oven:
Steve made these often for us on Sundays, and I know how to make them, too. Next time, I'll make sure to take new pictures and post the recipe Steve got from Mary.

11 comments:

  1. Hello Meike:
    A book which is set in an area known to one always, we feel, holds a special fascination and this is clearly the case for you with this novel set in South Yorkshire.

    We have not heard the expression 'slaking' one's thirst for many years. Perhaps it is Yorkshire dialect, or certainly peculiar to the North of England.

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    1. It certainly was interesting to have such a vivid reminder of what it was like for the miners and their families back then, knowing that Steve's grandfather was one of the many who finished school on a Friday, aged 15, and went down the pit on Monday.

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  2. Dialect can be tricky. My small granddaughter is stuck in The Secret Garden for just that reason.

    Drop scones are a dodfle!

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    1. Sorry. That should be " doddle". I'd hate to cause further confusion!

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    2. I had to look up "doddle", Frances - so, thank you for letting me learn yet another new word :-)
      The Secret Garden is one of my favourite books, but when I was a kid, it was available at the school library only in German, and so I have never read it in English and can't say how much it is affected by dialect.

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  3. I find it rather hard to read anything in dialect, and don't care for it much. But yes drop scones are really easy, be sure the pan is very hot before you put the first spoons of batter in. They need to cook fairly fast. I often put raisins in. People do love them with butter..

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    1. Thank you, Jenny! So I can use just a normal pan? Because the recipe says "grease a griddle", and to my knowledge, I don't own a griddle... and don't know what kind of grease to best use for drop scones.

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  4. I think in English the peal of laughter is being compared to the peal of the bells ie a burst of laughter and a burst of ringing. I think that schallendes Lachen might be the equivilent in German but I could be mistaken.

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    1. Yes, Graham, I know what it means literally (that it compares laughter to the peal of bells) - I just think laughter sounds completely unlike the sound of any bells I have ever heard. And "schallendes Gel├Ąchter" is just quite loud, certainly not what Her Ladyship would be doing in the presence of her dinner party guests and servants ;-)

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    2. I did wonder simply because in English laughter is so often referred to as a peal or peals of laughter that I've always accepted that it sounds that way. It's always good to have our conceptions challenged so to speak. It makes us think.

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    3. There is a similar expression in German: someone (usually a woman) has a "glockenhelles Lachen", literally "laughter as light as a bell". Now, that makes even less sense - since when are bells "light"?!

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