Corpus bones*, I loved this book.
My friend Laura recommended it to me years ago, and, as usual, I bought it right away but just never got around to reading it.
It is so good, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself.
Written in the form of a diary, this book is set in late-13th century England and details the daily trials and tribulations (and occasional joys) of Birdy, the fourteen-year-old daughter of an uncouth but somewhat powerful minor noble of the time. Whether discussing the parasites that plague her, the maidenly occupations that annoy her, or the forthcoming marriage that disgusts her, she is a feisty, hopeful yet strangely pragmatic soul, who rails against her inevitable fate but is aware that she has little say in the course her life will take.
The book does not shy away from some of the less pleasant aspects of Medieval life, nor does it romanticize the period. it is funny, it is immersive, it is upsetting and thought-provoking. One of my favourite parts of the book is how Birdy often denotes her days often by the feast days of saints (England was solidly Catholic at this time), and gives a rather acerbic commentary on the reason for their sainthood. She’s a free-thinker in a time when such was discouraged, especially in the “gentler sex,” and she makes one wonder exactly how many of the girls and women who have disappeared from history — history — might have been just as charming, intelligent and resilient as Catherine, called Birdy.
It was a pleasure to meet her. And I very much hope she ended up with her happily ever after.
* “Corpus bones” is a favourite exclamation of Birdy’s, which I am assuming Cushman gleaned from Chaucer. I very much appreciate this kind of period-specific detail. I was less enamoured of all the fleas, which I know is era-appropriate, but ew.
TBR DAY 280: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
GENRE: YA, Historical Fiction
TIME ON THE TBR: 5 years.
PURCHASED FROM: Amazon.