It's been a busy week at work (that's only going to get intensify over the next couple of months) with some mixed news in it, but we went to Stamford yesterday which was as charming as ever (very beautiful in a particularly English way, obviously a lot of money around which is reassuring given how depressed Leicester is and bustling on a Saturday with lots of excellent cafes to visit). Today I've made Christmas pudding and started a Christmas Schnapps and a quince liqueur. I have my doubts about the quince concoction. My track record with anything quince-based other than jelly is not great - but we'll see.
I've also had the annual lecture from dad about keeping Christmas for December - he hates it, but likes the cake and the puddings, and knows perfectly well that they don't appear without some kind of effort. Even if they didn't need time to mature this is my window for making before work really does get too crazy to have the energy for it, so I plan on enjoying this bit whilst I can.
Reading wise I've finally finished Rosie Andrews' debut 'The Leviathan' which I got as a proof back in January. At the time I'd read one historic novel too many and didn't make much progress with this one, but it is a perfect Autumn into Winter book. Most of the action takes place in a bleak Norfolk January against the backdrop of the English civil war, though it occasionally skips forward to 1703 where the elderly protagonist is retelling the events of his youth.
The dark nights, lashing winds, rain, and snow that Rosie describes are probably the thing I liked most about this book - the weather is very much part of the character of the book and a foreshadowing of what's awoken. More than that though I felt like I could almost smell the snow on the wind and feel the cold whilst I was reading and from that everything else fell into place.
Thomas is returning home, injured in action, and has just missed Christmas day in his puritan household. He's troubled by a letter from his younger sister which is making some fairly wild accusations against one of the servants, and more troubled when he arrives home to find his horse increasingly uneasy, the sheep dead in the field, and his father struck down with a stroke. He's also very aware that his sister's accusations could bring suspicion back to their own door so his first priority is to protect her.
He's initially sceptical, has lost his faith in god, and considers witchcraft to be superstitious nonsense, but things get stranger, something is undoubtedly amiss and then the poet John Milton gets involved, when I read the blurb I wasn't sure how this would work, but it's done well. His presence serves mostly to remind us of 17th-century ideas and ideals - a world that hadn't yet been entirely mapped.
Altogether this is a tense and atmospheric book with big ideas that come off well. It also made me want to actually read Milton and Hobbes which is a feat in itself. Highly recommended.