The Next Together

I went looking for books that “seemed to be similar” to Green Darkness by Anya Seton. This, I mean books about sweethearts who lost each other in one time period, were reincarnated, and found each other in another time.

I found The Next Together by Lauren James.

The Next Together followed two sweethearts, Katherine and Matthew, as they lived through four time periods: The Siege of Carlisle, England, during the Jacobite rising in 1745; The Crimean War in 1854; a British government conspiracy in June 2019; and a second British government conspiracy in 2039.

Several times, Katherine and Matthew parted in tragedy and found each other in the next life.

In my opinion, The Next Together qualified as: Young Adult (for mature teenagers), Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Historical Fiction. The book referenced sex and included a few off-color jokes. The book did not include graphic sex scenes.

I actually gave the book a not-great rating on one of the book rating websites. However, I blog about this book tonight because you might disagree with my reasons for the harsh rating.

I rated the book unfavorably for two reasons:

Reason #1: The Next Together ended with several loose ends. I can’t elaborate more without giving away spoilers. However, after I finished the book, I learned from reading the book’s other ratings that at least one sequel exists. This was not at all evident to me from the promotional material that I saw when I purchased the book. I saw absolutely nothing on the book’s jacket or opening pages that this was the first book in a set. I’m not happy that the book ended with loose ends and that I need to purchase at least one additional book in order to read a resolution. If I wanted to read a series, then I would have actively searched for a series.

Let me explain something: back in high school, I read the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Giver ended with no clear resolution. I finished the book feeling annoyed and confused. I wondered if somebody tore the final pages out of the school library’s copy. Up until then, Lois Lowry was one of my absolute favorite authors. I discovered YEARS later that The Giver was actually the first book in a four-book series. Absolutely nothing on The Giver‘s jacket alerted me to this. We didn’t have the internet back then at my high school, so I couldn’t find this out via a Google search. I guess that I’m still slightly ticked off about this.

Reason #2: One of the protagonists concluded that society was better off because the Jacobite rising for Scottish independence ended the way that it did in 1745. I’m an American. I didn’t study the Jacobite rising in high school or college. I don’t have an opinion on the Jacobite rising. However, I’m under the impression that the issue of Scottish independence is still a touchy subject across the pond. I felt as if this author forced her own opinion on readers, especially the Young Adult readers.

Diana Gabaldon’s The Outlander series also explored the Jacobite risings. So did Sir Walter Scott’s The Waverly Novels. So, you probably don’t agree with my reason #2.

By the way, the book listed a copyright of 2015. So, the author wrote this book prior to the 2016 United Kingdom Brexit vote, the 2016 United States presidential election, and the 2019 United Kingdom Conservative Party leadership election. Be assured that the protagonists made NO statements about Donald Trump, Brexit, or Boris Johnson.

Let me know if you read The Next Together.

Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austen

Once upon a time, I followed my husband Jonathan on his business travel to London. We rented a car. We drove to Tintern Abbey, in Wales, on the River Wye.

Well, Jonathan drove our British rental car on the left side of the road. Jonathan maneuvered the traffic circles (roundabouts). I navigated.

Here’s the first road sign that we saw after we crossed the line into Wales. Note that the first three lines of this sign are in Welsh and the final three lines are in English:

PAN FYDD

GOLAU COCH

ARHOSWCH YM

WHEN RED LIGHT

SHOWS WAIT

HERE

We almost didn’t tour Tintern Abbey.

The government runs this landmark as a day-use attraction, so it closes before the sun sets. The staff ends ticket sales 30 minutes before the attraction closes for the day. We got lost and then we arrived at Tintern Abbey about an hour before it closed.

But we made it!

Cistercian monks established and maintained Tintern Abbey between 1131- 1536. Tintern Abbey closed in 1536 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Here are some of the things that happened:

1.) The monarchs in England used to be Roman Catholic.

2.) The Protestant Reformation began in Saxony (Germany) in 1517.

3.) Henry VIII of England wanted to end his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon in 1533 so that he could marry Anne Boleyn.

4.) Henry VIII rejected papal supremacy. Parliament passed a law establishing Henry as the head of the Church of England.

5.) In the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Henry closed all of the monasteries, including Tintern Abbey.

6.) Henry’s agents stripped the monastic property of anything and everything valuable, including the lead roof.

(In Anya Seton’s novel Green Darkness, one of the main characters lived as an English monk in a different Catholic monastery. Henry VIII also closed this monastery during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The novel detailed how Henry VIII’s officials plundered that monastery of its valuables and banished the monks. At least one of these monks fled to France. Many of them remained in England but hid from the Protestants during the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI. The King’s officials grew their own wealth by closing the monasteries. See my prior blog post about Anya Seton.)

The band Iron Maiden filmed their music video for “Can I Play with Madness” partly at Tintern Abbey.

Jane Austen shouts-out to Tintern Abbey in her novel Mansfield Park.

Wikipedia taught me that Allen Ginsburg tripped on acid here in 1967 and then wrote his poem Wales Visitation.

William Wordsworth also wrote a poem about Tintern Abbey.

The Wye Valley Railway established a station near the Abbey in 1876. Though prior tourists visited Tintern by boat, fashionable Victorians could now access it by train.

We left the Abbey and grabbed dinner at a local pub. Other patrons spoke Welsh to each other.

We drove through the rural darkness back to London.

Watch for my upcoming blog posts about my adventures in travel.

Ancient Henge and Modern Pagans

Today is May 1. May Day. The ancient festival of Beltane.

Ancient residents of Northern Europe celebrated May 1 as a spring festival. My ancient ancestors most likely celebrated on May Day.

In Anya Seton‘s historical fiction novel Katherine, the serfs living on the English protagonist’s estate snuck off and observed Beltane. A nobleman discovered them and ended the party. The powerful men in this novel forbid Beltane since it wasn’t a “Christian” holiday. They labeled Beltane as “pagan.”

In honor of May Day, I blog today about a place in England that predated Christianity in England. Modern-day Pagans (Contemporary Pagans / Neopagans) still gather at this landmark to observe their own beliefs. I blog today about Avebury.

My husband Jonathan travelled to London for business a few times. I took vacation days from my own job, purchased plane tickets, and squatted in his hotel room so that I could blog about England.

Jonathan had a weekend “off,” so we rented a British car. We drove several hours out of London and visited rural England.

My cousin R. previously lived in the United Kingdom for a year. We asked R. for sightseeing recs. Cousin R. told us about Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England.

Avebury Henge, a Neolithic henge monument, encircles a section of the village of Avebury. A ditch surrounds the henge.

UNESCO classifies this as part of its “Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites” World Heritage site.

We decided through our research that Avebury was more accessible to us than Stonehenge from our hotel “base” in London. We had limited “free” time during our trip. So, we skipped Stonehenge in favor of Avebury.

To our delight, Avebury and its attractions charged no admission. We found it uncrowded, too!

Visitors can even shop inside the henge.

Sheep graze among the Avebury Henge.

In fact, I watched a sheep rub itself against the henge stones.

Look at the below photo. Some of the henge stones show long-term wear at sheep level.

We explored the actual village of Avebury:

Here is the Parish Church of St. James in Avebury. To be clear, this IS a currently operating Christian (Anglican) church. I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

St. James dates from approximately 100o A.D. The Normans possibly altered the church after the Norman Invasion in 1066 A.D.

The residents on this land now called Avebury once celebrated such pre-Christian rites as Beltane. The status quo maintained Beltane as a festival.

Then, the (Roman Catholic) Church brought Christianity to Avebury. The status quo no longer maintained the pre-Christian beliefs and festivals. The status quo maintained Roman Catholicism.

Then, in the 1500’s, Henry VIII established the (Protestant) Church of England. Henry dissolved the Roman Catholic monasteries. His supporters prosecuted practicing Catholics. Henry VIII died. Henry’s son Edward VI maintained Protestantism as the status quo in England. Edward VI died.

Henry’s daughter, Mary I, then became Queen. She reinstated Roman Catholicism and persecuted Protestants. Mary I died.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth I became queen. The status quo changed again, this time in favor of Protestants.

(This actually provides much of the setting for Anya Seton‘s time travel / reincarnation novel Green Darkness.)

In 1561, Elizabeth I ordered that all churches destroy their rood screens. (The rood screen separated a church’s chancel from its nave.) Unknown parties disassembled the rood screen at St. James and hid it behind a false wall. Church inhabitants discovered the rood screen in 1810. St. James parishioners restored the screen and reinstalled it by the end of the 1800’s.

Here is St. James’ churchyard:

Again, I include St. James in the middle of this blog post because it sits in the village of Avebury.

The rest of this post details landmarks several miles outside of Avebury. We had to drive to these these places. They are “associated sites” included in the official Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites UNESCO World Heritage Site:

West Kennet Long Barrow:

This neolithic tomb contained the remains of over 40 individuals.

We parked and walked up a hill in order to view West Kennet Long Barrow. Partway up this hill we came upon a tree filled with ribbons. Unknown visitors tied various items to many of the ribbons.

Here is the inside of West Kennet Long Barrow. Earlier visitors lit candles inside the barrow before we entered it.

Silbury Hill:

This prehistoric artificial mound is the largest one in Europe.

Thank you for letting me share my adventures with you!

Check back for my upcoming blog post about Tintern Abbey, Iron Maiden, and Jane Austin.

(Note: Henry VIII closed Tintern Abbey in 1536 when he replaced Roman Catholicism with Protestantism as the status quo.)

Happy Beltane!

Anya Seton and Reincarnation

This is a book report on Green Darkness by Anya Seton.

Anya Seton (1904 – 1990) wrote several historical fiction novels about real-life and fictional protagonists. My high school library, my college library, and my Grandma Gaffron’s library all carried her books. Philippa Gregory wrote forwards to new editions of several Seton novels.

I read Dragonwyck first.

Perhaps our high school librarian set it out as one of her recommended books. Dragonwyck told the fictional tale of a poor young farm woman in New York State who married a rich man who knew President Martin Van Buren. She learned that the rich husband actually poisoned his first wife and intended to kill her as well. Dragonwyck has the same gothic plot as movies (such as The Babysitter’s Seduction starring Kerri Russell) and at least one Mary Higgins Clark book (A Cry in the Night).

Then I read Seton’s novel Katherine because I saw it on a list of the “best historical fiction that aspiring writers should read.”

Katherine fictionalized Katherine Swynford’s life in the 1300’s. Katherine grew up in a convent after her father (a knight) died serving the King of England and the Black Death killed her grandparents. Her sister Philippa married Geoffrey Chaucer. Katherine married John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster after his first wife died of the Black Death and his second wife also died of something horrible. Katherine’s stepson, Henry, overthrew his own cousin Richard II from the throne of England. Henry became Henry IV of England.

Next, I read My Theodosia.

My Theodosia fictionalized the life of Theodosia Burr, daughter of Aaron Burr. This is the same Theodosia who inspired the song Dear Theodosia in the Hamilton musical. In real life, Theodosia Burr married a future governor of South Carolina and she moved to his plantation. She ended up “lost at sea” at the age of 29. She was a passenger on a boat that disappeared in the Atlantic Ocean in 1813. (Just a note of caution: My Theodosia‘s story line and language turned racist after Theodosia moved to the plantation.)

Finally, I read Green Darkness.

Now, I consider Green Darkness (published in 1972) as a cross between fantasy and historical fiction. The story “begins” in the year 1970. A fictional American – Celia Marsdon – moves to England with her British husband, Richard.

Richard grew up in his family’s ancestral seat in Sussex, but he hated his childhood there. Richard still decides to move back home after his father’s death. Big mistake.

The Marsdons show up in Sussex on Halloween. They stop first at the ruins of Chowdry House, a real-life Tudor mansion that burned down in the 1700’s. Celia insists that she remembers being in that mansion before it burned. The Marsdons watch bonfire lights in the rural darkness. They meet business associates at the real-life, ancient Spread Eagle Inn. During drinks, somebody jokes about Halloween and its “wormy dead” which “rise from their graves.” The business associates tell Celia a ghost story about a “black monk” (a Benedictine monk) who haunts the area. Celia slips out of the inn to look for the ghost monk. Celia finds the ghost monk and chases it. (Just like every episode of Scooby Doo!) Richard finds Celia and gets angry.

The Marsdons “settle” into Richard’s ancestral home. Their marital problems continue. Richard plays the song “Celia, Wanton and Fair” over and over on his record player.

Celia tours a famous “real” landmark, Ightham Mote, with her mother. They learn that renovation crews recently found a skeleton walled up in the estate’s main house. Celia suffers vague flashbacks to prior events there and she falls ill.

The Marsdon newlyweds hold a dinner party for a bunch of people that they barely know. However, all of the guests at the party actually seem “familiar” to Celia. Celia suffers a medical emergency that night.

As Celia recovers in a hospital, her mother brings to her bedside a physician / Hindu teacher. Under this doctor’s “guidance” Celia recalls memories from her prior life as Celia de Bohun in the 1500’s in Sussex.

The story goes back to the 1500’s for about 500 pages.

Celia’s husband from 1970, Richard Marsdon, is a Catholic Benedictine monk named Stephen Marsdon in the 1500’s.

Brother Stephen Marsdon lives in an English monastery until Henry VIII closes it through the Dissolution of the Monasteries. I imagine that Stephen’s monastery resembled Tintern Abbey. (I will blog about Tintern Abbey next.) Stephen flees to France, but later returns to Sussex.

I need to mention that Celia de Bohun’s aunt, Ursula, is obsessed with predictions and divinations. Aunt Ursula hires a famous mystic to tell Celia’s fortune. The mystic predicts Celia’s early and violent death.

For the next several hundred pages, Celia de Bohun and Stephen Marsdon fall in love as they dodge the wrath of the Tudor monarchs.

As you probably guessed, Stephen Marsdon and Celia de Bohun leave behind “unfinished business” in the 1500’s that Richard and Celia Marsden resolve in 1970.

Celia Marsdon wakes from her trance in 1970 and she realizes that the guests from her dinner party were all reincarnated from people that she knew as Celia de Bohun in the 1500’s.

The two Celia’s, Richard, and Stephen are all fictional, as are all of the guests from the 1970’s dinner party. However, several of the characters that Celia de Bohun met in the 1500’s are real historical figures. The “ghost monk” that Celia Marsdon chased on Halloween is based on the “real” ghost story about the Black Monk of Pontefract.

Green Darkness spans about 600 pages. In my opinion, Seton should have cut this down to 300 pages. The story goes off on many side plots (tangents) that have nothing to do with Celia and Richard’s “unfinished business.” I suspect that Seton plugged unused material from her other books into this, her final finished novel.

I laughed when Celia de Bohun mentions Katherine Swynford’s famous marriage to John of Gaunt two centuries earlier. (John of Gaunt’s son, Henry IV, married Mary de Bohun in 1380. I suspect that the author intended that the fictional Celia de Bohun of the 1500’s belonged to the same de Bohun family.)

If I ever return to the United Kingdom, I might visit these real places listed in Green Darkness: the Chowdry Castle ruins, the Spread Eagle Inn, and Ightham Mote.

In Green Darkness, some of the characters who mistreat and abuse others in the 1500’s pay dearly for it in 1970. Similarly, kindly Aunt Ursula suffers in the 1500’s but during the 1970’s dinner party she is rich and beautiful.

It’s important to be nice to people. Karma exists.

Anya Seton passed away in 1990. Hypothetically, if she was born into another life in 1991, she would now be 28 years old in her new life. Perhaps Anya Seton lives on in the body of another writer.

General Braddock and the Tower of London Beefeater

“Are any of you from Pennsylvania?”

My husband Jonathan and I visited London a few years ago. We spent our first full day at the Tower of London.  Our ticket included a tour given by a Yeoman Warder, known colloquially as a Beefeater.

The Yeoman Warders – Beefeaters – are the ceremonial guardians of the Tower of London. In olden days, when food was scarce, they held a position of such high importance and honor that they were given beef to eat. Thus the name.

When Jonathan and I toured the Tower, the Beefeater assigned to our tour asked our group whether any of us were from Pennsylvania.  The Beefeater identified himself as a member of the Coldstream Guards. Then he specifically mentioned the Pennsylvania grave of Major General Edward Braddock.

General Braddock commanded the British forces that attempted to seize Fort Duquesne –  the future site of Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh –  from the French in 1755. You see, this is where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River merge at “The Point” to form the Ohio River. Braddock’s expedition from Virginia and Maryland into present-day Pennsylvania occurred near the beginning of the French and Indian War. George Washington served as an aide de camp.

The French and their Native American allies defeated Braddock’s men in the Battle of Monongahela.  Braddock died from his battle wounds during the retreat. Braddock’s men buried him in the middle of the road (in present day Fayette County) so that the opposing army would not locate and defile his grave. George Washington was there.

General Braddock belonged to the Coldstream Guards.

Generations later, road workers recovered Braddock’s body and reburied it a few feet away. You see, the road under which Braddock’s men buried him became the National Road in the 1800’s. We now call it US Route 40.

The Coldstream Guards erected a monument at Braddock’s grave in 1913.

After Jonathan and I returned from London, we visited and photographed the Coldstream Guard’s monument to Braddock’s grave. I posted at the top of this entry a close-up of the marker.

Now, the story of Braddock’s failed expedition to Pittsburgh in 1755 fascinated me when I was a kid. My dad told me stories about how Braddock’s army camped very close to what later became my great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ home in Westmoreland County.

Now, the lore also says that Braddock’s army carried gold intended for the soldiers’ payroll. The men weren’t paid until after the battle ended so that only the survivors received pay.

Anyway, per this myth, the British buried this gold the night before the battle.  They supposedly hid it under a very specific tree on the banks of the Youghiogheny River. The French attacked. Perhaps everyone who buried the gold was captured or killed. In the confusion of the retreat,  the gold remains in the Pennsylvania earth.

I find it curious that Pennsylvanians uncovered Braddock’s body about two centuries ago, yet there’s no sign of this gold.

Here are some more photos that I took the day that we visited Braddock’s grave along Route 40, near Fort Necessity, in Fayette County:

Here is a close-up of the Coldstream Guards’ regimental badge on the Braddock monument:

We actually visited London twice: in September 2008 and September 2009.  In 2008, we toured the Tower of London. In 2009, I viewed the Changing of the Horse Guards and also the Changing of the Queen’s Guard. Here are some photos that I took of these events. I believe that Coldstream Guards possibly participated in these ceremonies. However, I am a clueless Yank. So, if I am incorrect about any of this, please enlighten me in the comments.

And finally, since at least one guard in the Tower of London speaks about General Braddock to American tourists, here are some photos from inside of the Tower. I watched a bride arrive for her wedding at the chapel inside the Tower where Anne Boleyn is buried. I took these the same day that we met the Beefeater who served in the Coldstream Guards, in September 2008: