“We are not to do evil, that good may come,”

is a line from the Elizabeth Gaskell book ‘Ruth’. I finished it yesterday and this is the line that sticks with me.

The novel is about a young orphan girl, Ruth (working as a dressmaker’s apprentice).

ballroom photo
Photo by State Library of Queensland, Australia

 

She meets a wealthy aristocratic young man, Mr Bellingham, at a ball where she must mend rips and tears in the dresses of the the young ladies who attend. Her employer, Mrs Mason, is a tough, strict lady, and when Mrs Mason sees Ruth walking with Mr Bellingham she tells the young girl never to return. Cast-off like a cast-off, Ruth allows herself to be persuaded to go away with Mr Bellingham and is, consequently, ruined.

When Bellingham falls ill in a Welsh Inn and his mother arrives to take him home, Ruth is once more cast-off – and pregnant, but this time a Dissident Minister and his sister, Mr and Miss Benson, take pity on her and persuade her to return with them, under the guise of new widow.

Mr Benson is concerned not just with the law of the land, but also with what Jesus would do, and is persuaded by his sister to let the townsfolk believe Ruth is a widowed relation of theirs and thus the deception begins. Once the truth is out, the effects are, at first, devastating for Ruth and her son, Leonard, and the Minister wonders if they should have spoken the truth from the outset.

When politics comes to the town, and one man suggests using the weaknesses of other men to forward their own purposes, Benson says: “We are not to do evil, that good may come,”.

This stuck with me, and reminded me of that saying “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind.” I’ve never liked this saying and believe there is always a way of doing things that does not have to be cruel.

When we shrug and tell ourselves, “you’ve got to be cruel to be kind”, we are justifying the means.

Yet there is the question of the greater good. Should we agree to the bombing of a city to kill lots of militants when we know innocents will be killed?

Can cruel means ever be justified?

“We are not to do evil, that good may come,”.

Can good results ever come from evil deeds?

It’s all to easy to think the end justifies the means sometimes, but does it?

Certainly got me thinking.

Louise

Book Musings: The Girl In The Photograph, by Kate Riordan.

I’ve been on holiday! And while on holiday without wifi I managed to catch up on some reading – and found a new author in the process. Kate Riordan.

Kate Riordan Girl in the Photograph

I must mention that the book is published in the UK under ‘The Girl in the Photograph’ and in the US and Canada as ‘Fiercombe Manor’.

I’m not usually a fan of books that flip between two different time periods, even though these two were only 1932 and 1898, but when I ‘looked inside’ on Amazon I was immediately hooked by the first couple of lines – in a Prologue no less. So much for those who declare prologues to be essentially evil. Beautifully written prose:

“Fiercombe is a place of secrets. They fret among the uppermost branches of the beech trees and brood at the cold bottom of the stream that cleaves the valley in two.”

I adore writing like this, always have. Some might say, ” How can secrets fret?”, but I’m not one of those, and anyway, by the end of the novel you understand. So I downloaded and settled in to enjoy, and was not disappointed.

I’m not going to write a summary of the novel, you can read that on Amazon, but I will say that I think the way the lives of Alice and Elizabeth are told and interwoven is beautiful. I loved the parallels drawn between the two women and found I identified a great deal with Elizabeth, who Alice gets to know through a diary and smidgens of information dropped by the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. I understood Elizabeth, and why she did what she did at the end.

And, another thing – I never felt annoyed when the author switched to the other woman. There are times when, in some books I have read, that the switch between pov’s or time periods has irritated me. Yes, there is such a thing as tension and keeping the reader guessing, but there’s also telling a story and using the natural curiosity of the reader to lead them into the next point of view. I thought Ms Riordan did that wonderfully.

The only thing I wanted to understand better was why Tom Stanton was attracted to Alice, but it’s quite possible I missed something in my haste to find out what happened.

This is the kind of novel I will read again, not just because I know I must have missed things, but also because this the kind of novel that leaves something with me. I’ve already downloaded Birdcage Walk. Can’t wait.

 

Tag: You’re It!

Tag, You’re It!

Arrggh, I’m it. What is it?

Ah, a blog hop.

Blog Hop? What’s that? Bunnies jumping over logs in the forest? I think I have far too many of the chocolate variety in my house at the moment…

I had no idea what a blog hop was, but soon found out, and thought it a great idea from writer Alexis A. Hunter.

I was tagged by multitalented author B L Draper who lives in northern Australia where she is a sustainability teacher by day; and a writer by night. She has had stories published in Youth Imagination Magazine and Spellbound, amongst others, and hopes to one day publish her novel before she’s too old and senile to enjoy it. Visit B L Draper’s blog and read one of her wonderful short stories here.

 

So now it’s my turn to hop around and answer some questions about my writing process. (Writing process? What’s that? Not sure I have one…)

What am I working on?

Ah. This I can answer. I am polishing my first historical romance – ‘The Traitor’s Legacy’, as well as working on a second novel that may also work as a sequel, and a short story about 14th century highwaymen known as ‘The Ryfelours.’ I will be publishing this short story on my blog as soon as it has been through the Scribophile wringer.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t know if I have a particular genre. My very first novel was about a girl winning a trip into space. Another novel (which will never see the light of day) was set in the first part of the 20th century. Some of my vignettes are present-day, while others are set in the past. I have always loved historical because I learn so much about what life was really like for women in those times and how they bore their particular crosses, or affected change in their hard lives.

Why do I write what I write?

In ‘The Traitor’s Legacy’, one of the questions I ask is: ‘How much can a woman endure before she realizes fundamental aspects of her character need to change?’ I am interested in what makes us who we are as people, what kind of trials shape our characters and how this affects our lives.

I think this is one of the keys in understanding relationships. If we can see how our attitudes and characteristics affect others, and our relationship with others, then we have the power to affect change. It’s something I find very interesting and may explore further.

I chose the 13th century because it was a fascinating time of upheaval in England when King Henry II was imprisoned and the first idea of ‘parliament’ was bandied around.

Although it’s early days, my second novel seems to be asking the question: ‘How far will a mother go to protect her daughter from an unscrupulous man?’ I am curious to see where this leads. I thought I knew where the novel was going, but when I edited a chapter, it re-wrote itself in a different direction.

I write because it’s a way of legitimizing a compulsion to escape reality at every available opportunity, and delve into someone else’s head.

How does my writing process work?

I am usually in bed when inspiration comes. My brain will decide it certainly doesn’t want to sleep – even though my body is tired from housework, taking the kids out on their bikes, and teaching English. So this is when I start thinking.

My ‘Glass-Half-Full’ vignette came like this. Sometimes I will remember key words so I can write it out the following day, sometimes I will sigh, put the light on and scribble for around half an hour. I get precious few quiet moments in the day, so I need this time to let my mind wander.

If I have no desire to write, I won’t, I’ll bake instead. So for the sake of my waistline, it’s imperative I allow myself the luxury of daydreaming. Sometimes I will purposefully not write for a few days, allow the frustrations or ideas to bubble and then I can explode it onto the page. Not all of this makes the cut, I’m happy to say.
I have tagged two very different, but equally exciting, authors to talk about themselves for the next hop:

Belinda Mellor is the very talented author of the fantasy novel, ‘Silvana – The Greening’, which had some great reviews on Amazon. I loved reading this, it’s the kind of book you can read over and over and discover something new. Her second novel in the series, ‘Silvana – Midsummer’, will be out in November. Belinda’s gentle and deft writing skills swiftly draw you into her world and you will find yourself reluctant to leave her characters because they wind themselves into you like fresh new shoots, and before you realize it, nothing can drag you away.

Belinda is also working on some short stories set in the same world.
Discover more about the fascinating world of the Silvana
Belinda’s facebook page

 

Another author whose work I enjoy very much is Demi Hungerford, who is currently writing several Regency Romances. I am excited by her work because the stories are unusual, and some of her character’s pop off the page with life. A snapshot of Demi:

I am married, my husband taught me so much about relationships, romance, and life. My goals include getting my first Regency Romance polished and submitted to an agent by the end of August. I love to read, I love to be read to, so I listen to audio books during my daily commute. Also my husband and I raise hookbills and some finches. We are down-sizing the flock and putting as many birds in ‘easier to maintain’ aviaries due to economic concerns and wanting more time for writing.
For a sneak peek at her latest novel
For her fascinating and humorous blog about birds

 

Belinda and Demi – Tag: You’re It!