Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
My children are avid readers. We bring bags of books home from the library and op shops for them. They silently dive into other worlds and only reluctantly resurface when they have to. I used to read that way too – instead of doing what I should have been doing. The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd made me want to do the same thing! I pushed through motion sickness to continue reading on the bus, I propped the book open while I brushed my teeth, I read when I should have slept. I have blogger Anna to thank for suggesting I read this riveting book.
Glasfurd transported me to 17th-century Amsterdam (The world of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos and The Miniaturist). This time the focus was not on art but instead on philosophy. The protagonist is a young servant named Helena Jans van der Strom. Helena had a thirst for knowledge and such a desire to master writing that she took discarded quills and made ink from rendered beetroot then wrote on her body. What a terrific start! The book seller took in lodgers to keep himself in tea money (tea was very expensive and he was British). He was very excited when René Descartes came to lodge in his house.
What follows is a captivating love story between Helena, the independently-minded woman who has to work for a pittance to support her mother, and Descartes, a philosopher who changed the world. Helena and Descartes really did have a relationship and a daughter together. Glasfurd has imagined the life that Helena must have lived as an unmarried young mother in an ultra-conservative society. I am very grateful to live in Australia in the 21st century!
I cried several times in this book, and just hoped that the other commuters didn’t notice. I thought it was terrific. I won’t say any more, other than to recommend that you read it!