Isn’t research a joy?

Most writers would agree that diving down the rabbit hole can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, almost, I might say, irresistible. Sometimes it’s difficult to climb out. Who knows what nuggets of gold you might find along the next path (or with the next click if you want to be literal.)

But researching a different time can be challenging, and more so when dealing with a different country. Aside from discovering such subjects as fauna and flora, weather, food and clothing, cities and buildings and more, I found myself looking up some weird and difficult subjects. Here are just a few examples of what I have dug deep for while writing my latest book set mostly in Austria in the mid to late 19th century.

Gonorrhea – symptoms and remedies.

Cigarette lighters and matches – surprisingly, lighters were invented before matches.

A bakery in Prague.

A bakery in Bad Ischl

Suicide in Vienna – which had the reputation of being the suicide capital of Europe at the time.

Viennese newspapers and their political leanings.

Types of carriages and bicycles

Don’t rush out and buy the book because I have put it on hold for the time being as I have no discipline and an idea for another book popped into my head and I just had to start it, didn’t I?

On another note, Digging into the Past is on the top 45 list at Feedspot. Check it out.

The Carpet Weaver of Usak by Kathryn Gauci

Great story well told

There are two villages in Anatolia. Pinarbaşi is Turkish, Stravrodromi is Greek. The only thing that divides them is a road. Their people live together in complete harmony. In reading about the relationship between the two villages, I got a sense that the march of time had left them behind. Mention of a caravanserai, camel trains, goat-herders, and the excitement produced in the women by a chiming clock, all suggest a simple people living simple lives according to a simple ethic: Help your neighbours; they are your family. They could as easily (apart from the clock) belong to biblical times.

The lifeblood of the two villages is the carpet weaving industry. Aspasia, a gentle, curious woman weaves exquisite carpets. Her husband Christophoros, a proud, hardworking and generous man works in Uşak for a carpet company. They are an adoring couple, whose language is spiced with tender endearments. They long for a child.

Then a bullet fired in faraway Sarajevo changes everything. In the villages, no one knows where Sarajevo is or who Archduke Franz-Ferdinand is or why war has been declared. The young men are summoned to fight, the Ottomans side with Germany and Austria, the Greeks with Russia and the allies. They march away and many are never heard from again. The war also impacts the carpet industry as the women are called upon to turn their skills to making blankets. Production is reduced but even so, carpets stockpile. After the war, further hardship for the two villages begins, testing friendships in the struggle for survival.

There is great depth to this book. The author invites us to look at our lives with all our sophisticated toys and gadgets and ask if we are any happier than women who thrilled at the chiming of a clock. The horrors of war, the ruin and devastation it brings to ordinary people, is juxtaposed by the birth of a child and the hope it brings; and also with a delightful description of Anatolia in spring

In keeping with the characters, the writing is simple and concise, with no dramatic flourishes or superfluity. I expected to enjoy this book and I did. It’s a story of love, friendship, courage, loss and war, superbly told, set during an epic and tragic event I suspect few know about. I didn’t. I have no faults to pick except that there were a few grammatical errors or typos.

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