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Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Green Darkness - Anya Seton Rating: 3 stars out of five, but only because I still love the memoryThe Book Report: The book description says:This unforgettable story of undying love combines mysticism, suspense, mystery, and romance into a web of good and evil that stretches from 16th-century England to the present day. Richard Marsdon marries a young American woman named Celia, brings her to live at his English estate, and all seems to be going well. But now Richard has become withdrawn, and Celia is constantly haunted by a vague dread. When she suffers a breakdown and wavers between life and death, a wise doctor realizes that only by forcing Celia to relive her past can he enable her to escape her illness. Celia travels back 400 years in time to her past life as a beautiful but doomed servant. Through her eyes, we see the England of the Tudors, torn by religious strife, and experience all the pageantry, lustiness, and cruelty of the age. As in other historical romance titles by this author, the past comes alive in this flamboyant classic novel. My Review: My sister used to have a book store. She, our mother, and I all spent the summer of 1973, damn near 40 years ago now, reading this book. We'd been stealing it back and forth from each other until finally she gave Mama and me our own copies so she could read it in peace. We did a sort of group read on the book, and oh my heck how we liked it! I was a teenager then. I wasn't an inexperienced reader, but I was completely suckered in by anything to do with reincarnation. Mama was just getting the Jeebus infection that ate her sense of humor, compassion, and decency...all oddly enough while sexually abusing her teenaged son, funny how often religion masks corruption...and my sister was in one of the periodic hellish patches that have punctuated her road through life.We all resonated with the travails of the characters, trying to work out their manifold interconnections and karmic debts. The book's very Gothicness was deeply appealing to each of us for our own reasons, and gave us hours and hours of fun things to talk about. For that, a whole star in grateful memory.Rereading this at fifty-two was probably a mistake. The writing is very much what one would expect of an historical novelist whose career began in the 1940s. She was renowned in the day for her meticulous research, and yet says in her Preface (p. vi of the 1973 Houghton Mifflin hardcover I got from the liberry), “Source books make for tedious listing, but for the Tudor period {of Green Darkness} I have tried to consult all the pertinent ones.” Imagine someone, even a novelist, trying to get away with that now! There would be calumnious mutterings and sulphrous aspersions cast on the character and the ability of such an author. As if it matters in a work of fiction.The humid Gothic atmosphere of lust and love denied, the surrendered to, then disastrously brought to a close, was a little hard on my older self. I like romantic stories just fine, but the moralizing you can keep. And there is a deal of moralizing! Whee dawggie! The gay characters are ugly...as within, so without, and Seton clearly has the attitude of her day towards gay men...the lusty lower-class wenches get their bastards and get turned out, the Catholic Church and its hypocrisy suffer agonies at the hands of the vile Protestant politicians...Seton was raised a Theosophist...good people turn hard and cold when given property to protect...the Exotic Hindu Doctor who understands Modern Medicine but Knows How to Be In Touch With the Spirits, oof!...oh, the lot!So not so much on the attitude. I get it, and in those days I absorbed it because it was the way my family thought, but how I wish I could go back to 1973 and smack this book out of my young hands! Along with Stranger in a Strange Land, its misogyny and homophobia leached right into my brain and lodged there. Never made me one whit less gay, just made me feel terrible about it, like the culture's messages continue to do to young and impressionable kids to this day.But the fact that the lady wrote this, her next-to-last book, when she was nearing seventy and had only just been divorced from her husband of nigh on forty years, and was beginning her long decline into ill health, makes Green Darkness a poignant re-read for me. Her life was unraveling, and mine was too (what little there was of it at that point); I think both my mother and my sister felt the same way. I suspect some resonance of that bound all of us to this book and spoke to each of us about its unhappy people in unhappy lives. There is, in the best romantic tradition, a happy ending. But I for one have never believed it.