here’s what I read last week. Enjoy!
A Triple Knot by Emma Campion
Joan, the Fair Maid of Kent, is best known for marrying Edward, the Black Prince. What few know, is that she had been married twice before, to Thomas Holland and William Montacute. At the same time. Yep, she was a bigamist. That’s the story told in The Triple Knot. When the book begins Joan is just a 10 years old with a fiery, rebellious bent. Her cousin Edward is already smitten with her and determined to make her his Queen when they grow up. But his parents, King Edward III and Queen Philippa of Hainault, have other ideas. Joan is not important enough to marry the heir to the English throne, but, thanks to her royal blood, she can still be used to make an alliance with a foreign prince or duke that will guarantee Edward the support he needs to reclaim the French throne. But Joan doesn’t like her relatives’ machinations and her choice of husband, and decides to take matter into her own hands by marrying the man she loves, Thomas Holland.
The couple decides to keep the marriage secret for a while. Both their families and the king are against it, and so Joan is forced to marry a man chosen for her by her family: William Montacute. Joan, remaining faithful to Thomas, refuses to be a true wife to William. But it is Thomas that will fight for years to have his marriage to Joan recognized as valid and lawful. Joan, despite her fiery temperament, spends most of her time at home sewing and waiting for the Pope to finally make a decision about her marriage. This will disappoint those who love their heroines to take matters into their own hands, and makes the story proceed quite slowly too. Nothing eventful happens for most of it, really. On the other hand, as a woman living in Medieval England, there really wasn’t much else that Joan could have done. So, even if this choice wasn’t the most exciting, I think it is the most accurate.
Campion did her research really well. The world Joan lived in is minutely described and you can see it come to life just before your eyes. She seamlessly weaves into the narration important events that happened during her lifetime, such as the pestilence, and the King’s selfishness in going home after a war while leaving his troops stranded, to fend for themselves in a hostile country. She also did a great job at portraying the relationships between all the different characters. They are all very rounded, especially Joan. She matures from a child into a young woman who, despite all the machinations other people contrive to keep them apart, always remains steadfast to the man she loves.
Although somewhat slow, I did enjoy the book a lot. Until the end. I don’t want to spoil it for those who aren’t familiar with Joan’s story and want to discover it by themselves, so suffice it to say that I think her decisions at the end of the book seem quite rash and don’t really made much sense to me.
Overall, I’d recommend A Triple Knot to those interested in a good romance without bodice-ripping moments and to fans of this era. But if you’re into books full of plots, machinations, and independent heroines, I think this one will disappoint you. Despite its faults, though, I enjoyed discovering more about Joan and I now have a new found admiration and respect for her.
Available at: amazon
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m not sure you can call this a book, it is so short! But it is definitely a must read, especially for all those who believe that these days women have nothing to complain about and that feminists are embittered women who can’t find anyone to marry, refuse to wear makeup or even just use deodorant, and hate men. That’s not what being a feminist means, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi reminds us in this adaptation of her much-viewed Tedx talk. No, being a feminist means believing that women shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their gender.
Too many people believe that that, at least in the Western world, doesn’t happen anymore. But while it is true that a lot of countries have granted civil, political, and economical rights to women, they still face discrimination every day. We don’t see it because it has become normal. It is normal to dress girls in pink and boys in blue. It is normal for working mothers to start doing household chores as soon as they return home while their working husbands relax on the sofa. It’s normal to tell women they have to be pretty, docile, and not too ambitious if they want to find a husband and assume there’s something wrong with them if they haven’t married by the time they’re 35, while a middle-aged single bachelor simply hasn’t found the right person yet. It’s less normal, but still accepted, for a girl to like masculine things, but it isn’t ok for a boy to like feminine things. And the list goes on and no.
In this short talk, the author points out many instances in which women are still discriminating against all over the world, and points out how our expectations of gender are shaped by the society we live in and therefore can, and should, be changed. In the past, when the world was much more violent than it is today, physical strength was the most important attribute for survival. Therefore, men ruled. But the world has evolved a lot since then. Now, intelligence, knowledge and creativity are so much more important than strength, and these qualities are possessed equally by both genders. Yet, our perceptions of gender are still based on old traditions and haven’t evolved much with time. It’s time we change this. It’s time we evolve with the times too.
These are just some of the arguments Chimamanda touches on in this talk. She writes in a clear and concise manner, often drawing on her past experiences to make her points. The tone is at times, understandably angry, but mostly hopeful. Angry that so many injustices are still going on today, but hopeful that we, both men and women, have the potential to change the world for the better. We just need to educate ourselves and our children differently. We can start by reading, or listening, to this talk.
Available at: amazon
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life (Before 25): Change Your Developing Mind for Real World Success by Jesse Payne
Did you know that our brain isn’t fully developed until we reach 25? And that the area that develops last is the prefrontal cortex, the one involved in decision making and moderating social behaviours? This helps explains why so many teenagers and young adults are so willing to take unnecessary risks and often make the wrong decisions.
This also means that so many of what we call character’s faults, such as reckless, stubbornness, inability to see someone’s else point of view, and depression to name a few, are simply physiological issues of the brain. When some areas are too active or undeveloped, people start behaving in ways that are bad for them and others. Therefore, telling them to get a grip or grow up, or making them feel ashamed, isn’t going to work.
However, this doesn’t mean that people are powerless and cannot change their behaviour. On the contrary, knowing that there is a biological cause for their issues can give people hope and a treatment. After explaining how our brains work, Payne shares a few techniques that people can use to take control of their brains and heal. He suggests a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, exercise, and a healthy diet. He also recommends you avoid substances that are toxic to the brain and can dehydrate it and impair its normal functioning. Payne also explains how we can deal with people who suffer from issues such as depression and anxiety, or bosses and parents that are too stubborn and demand that things be done only their way, or with folks that constantly make bad choices, or are simply disorganized. Once you understand how their brains work, you’ll be able to adapt your behaviour to theirs, so that we can all avoid conflicts and stress, and live a better life.
Although the book is aimed at people under 25, everyone can use this information to change their brains. It’s just that if you’re older, your brain won’t be as malleable and it will be harder for you to do so. But it is possible. And while it is true that the solutions provided here aren’t groundbreaking and mostly, such as exercising, drinking healthily, and avoiding drugs, are things we should be doing anyway, the insights the book provides give you a new understanding of the impact they have on the brain, and thus on our ability to make the right choices and be successful in whatever we want to do in life. It will also make you feel differently about those irresponsible, lazy, or obdurate people that are in your life. Once you understand why they act they way they do, you’ll be better predisposed towards them and know how to deal with them.
Oh, and don’t think that just because this book explains how the brain works, it is boring, dull, and full of complicated words you’ll never be able to understand. The opposite is true. Payne writes in a clear, straightforward, and colloquial manner. He’s really passionate about the brain and explaining to people how it works so that they too, like him, can change their lives for the better. Highly recommended.
Available at: amazon
Did you read these books or are you planning to?
Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains an affiliate link