Sunday, October 20, 2013

Trafficked/ The Ruby Ring

I was watching The View and Barbara Walters interviewed a woman, without showing her face.  Her story was horrific and compelling, and I knew I had to read her book.  This book was graphic, heart wrenching, emotional, tragic and wonderful all at different times.  I read it so fast because I was shocked and had to read more.  Her name in the book is Sophie, and she is an educated British woman.  She came from a home with several other siblings, a loving mother, and an emotionally abusive father.  He didn't want any of his children and would tear them down at any opportunity.  From this, Sophie learned to not trust men and also was insecure about herself.  She took great care with her appearance, often neurotic about it.  Her mother eventually left him and remarried, but the scars were already deep for each child.  Especially one of her brothers, who kept trying to please his father even when he knew it was hopeless.  Sophie had a good job and often went out clubbing with her friend.  One night she met a man named Kas; he kept watching her intently and tried to ask her out.  She denied him several times, but they kept running into each other.

They became friends and would talk often over the phone, and he would listen to all her problems.  Sophie ended up dating and living with a guy named Erion.  When she first mentioned him, Kas got very upset on the phone.  That was the first time Sophie noticed anything in his demeanor other than friendliness.  She supposed it meant he liked her too, and they didn't talk for a little while.  Erion and Sophie lived together for years, and broke it off to get back together again.  Sophie's treatment by her father had made her kind of a wreck in relationships.  She would test Erion to the breaking point, until he couldn't take it anymore.  He found out he was being deported, and one of Erion's friends asked her to marry him so he could stay.  She found she couldn't, and ended up in the hospital for a twisted stomach and needed surgery.  From that point on, her life would change forever....

Kas was still in touch with Sophie, and offered after she got back from a family vacation after her surgery, to go with him to Italy.  Just days after being on vacation, Kas started to beat her.  He told her he owed a drug dealer a lot of money, and that she would work it off for him.  He told her she was going to be a whore on the streets, and proceeded to tell her what to wear, what to do, everything.  He said he would kill her younger brothers and dump her body in the water if she didn't do what he said.  Sophie was numb with shock and fear, not believing this transformation in her friend.  For the next six months, Sophie would work on the streets for Kas.  On average she was with 18-36 men a night, and beat repeatedly by Kas.  She got to the point she couldn't eat much anymore, and got to about 92 pounds.  She was arrested a few times for prostitution, but was always released.  She did everything Kas asked her to, but nothing pleased him.  She was able to phone home regularly to keep things normal, and was forced what to say.  By some miracle, she landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.  She was able to phone her mom with a secret password, and her parents flew in.  Sophie kept this from Kas, and was able to keep up the pretense long enough to return home with her parents.

The rest of the story is no less compelling- Kas returns to find her, and it shows what Sophie does to pick up her life and move on.  It is inspiring, tragic and stunning.  I was horrified at the widespread abuse of human trafficking statistics; I sure hope people can have an ending like Sophie where they can escape and move on with their lives.  Better yet, I hope it never happens to anyone, anywhere.  An inspiring true story.

This book is set in Rome in 1520, and follows Raphael Sanzio, the beloved painter of Pope Leo X and Cardinals and princes around the world.  This is a story of love between an artist and an unlikely woman.  Raphael has many commissions to complete, always with deadlines and not enough time or apprentices to finish the work.  He was trained by his father and had a God-given talent.  Raphael was in the elite part of Roman society, sought out from nobility and cardinals to paint their legacy for them.  Since the men of the church could not have children, at least not recognized ones, their legacy was what they could leave behind.  Paintings, art work- Raphael could paint that for them.  He had one project he was still struggling to find the right model for- a Madonna for the mother of Christ in the Sistine Chapel.  Raphael had searched for four years, and one day, he finally found the woman he sought.  Her name was Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter from the humble neighborhood of Trastevere.  It took several attempts for her to agree to be painted, and mostly at the urging from her family.  He paid her well, and quickly fell in love with her.  Margherita rose swiftly in society, becoming his mistress and lover.

The Pope quickly became distressed at this love affair, as did Cardinal Bibbiena who had helped introduced Raphael to the Pope.  Raphael owed him much, especially because he was betrothed to his niece Maria.  As of yet, he had not married her nor did he want to.  But if he snubbed her, he would anger Bibbiena and thus the Pope as well.  He relied on their patronage to keep him famous and in work.  Raphael was certainly well off, but he had his apprentices to think of too.  As their love deepens and they spend all their time together, Raphael's work gets farther and farther behind.  A plot is put underway where Margherita is kidnapped.  It takes him about a month to be told the truth of what happened.  The hope was, with her gone, he would marry Marie and finish his projects on time.  Instead, Raphael became so morose he could not work and things only got worse.  The Pope and Bibbiena saw it was good for him to have her, so they told him the truth.  It took years for him to recover and begin his work in earnest again.

Raphael bought Margherita her own home, where she lived lavishly and had servants.  He maintained his own residence to keep up the facade of propriety.  He continued to paint her in many of his works, and did some of her nude or nearly so.  He told the Pope he would forgive him only if he allowed them to marry.  Raphael pleaded with Marie to cancel their betrothal, which she refused to do, even knowing he could never love her like she loved him.  She died young, and that released him to propose to Margherita.  But still the Pope dragged his feet, and would not let them marry.  Margherita is given a ruby ring, with a story attached to it, and Raphael paints her with the ring on as an engagement gift.  Raphael continues to work feverishly, hardly sleeping or eating.  His work is piling in and he struggles to keep up.  His friend Da Vinci has gone to live at the French court, and his rival Michelangelo has left for Florence to find other work.  It seems he has all the commissions and not enough time.  He soon fell ill, and died at the pinnacle of his career at a young age.

Margherita was abandoned by her friends, her own family who said she'd sully their bakery name if she returned, and was shunned by society for being the whore of Raphael.  Many said it was her fault he died and couldn't complete his paintings.  Giulio Romano, an apprentice and close friend of them both, helped Raphael's dying wish to see her safe.  Since no one would marry them, he took Margherita to a nearby convent, Sant'Apollonia, to live out the rest of her life.  She would be safe there.  He destroyed any paintings of her nude, to protect her, and spread the rumor that Raphael had repented of her on his deathbed.  So instead of being the victor, Margherita was the vanquished.  She tried to attend his funeral but was spotted and ran out.  History seems to have written over her; Cardinal Bibbiena had his niece Marie buried next to Raphael  at the Pantheon, and not Margherita as they had both wished.  Her name was found on the convent's list of names, but that is all.  I find it a tragic love story, but I enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Unfaithful Wife: A Novel of Kenry VIII's Fifth Wife

If you know me, I know a lot about the Tudors.  I have ready exhaustively about them, but I'm always up for a different viewpoint on someone.  This book caught my eye and so I gave it a go.  This book focuses in on King Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard.  She was raised with her step-Grandmother Agnes, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk.  She had an aristocratic pedigree because of her parents, her father being a Howard and being cousins with Anne Boleyn.  She was raised by her step-grandmother because of having so many siblings and her father not being wealthy.  Her mother had died when she was young, also complicating things.  Catherine's step-grandmother was apparently lax in having so many charges at her homes in Lambeth and Chesworth House, so this is where Catherine's beginnings came about.  She had a music teacher, Henry Manox, that taught her on the piano.  It wasn't long before he talked her into doing other things.  This was very common at the house; the older girls would bribe their nurse to give them the keys to an adjoining chamber, where they would invite men in to play cards and flirt.

As Henry became more demanding, Catherine asked her Grandmother to send him away and she did.  She met a Francis Dereham next, and they soon fell in love and pledged marriage to each other as well as their troth.  They also exchanged rings, which in the old laws of hand fasting they were now considered man and wife.  Katherine slept with Francis and was often companions in that chamber with her friend Joan and her boy.  Grandmother Agnes was mostly oblivious or blind to what was going on, and this continued for some time.  Catherine tried to help her father when she could, as he had lots of debts and no good positions.  She was left with no funds or good clothing either.  That soon changed when King Henry asked Thomas Norfolk, her uncle, to bring several lovely ladies to court for him to meet.  Catherine was one of the woman chosen, and they had dresses hastily made and were sent to court to meet the King.  He was quite taken with Catherine early on, singling her out for attention and some words.  Apparently he had taken her mother as a lover when she was married to her first husband, and saw a likeness in Catherine. 

The King was working on remarrying, following the death of Jane Seymour who gave him a son Edward.  Thomas Cromwell, his secretary, was trying to get him to marry Anna of Cleves for the alliance.  When Catherine returned with the ladies, her Grandmother and Thomas Howard began singling her out for attention.  They had noticed the King's affection towards her, and wanted her to work that to her advantage.  Francis said he was fine sharing her, because it could be beneficial for him as well.  That hurt Catherine's feelings, and she wasn't quite sure how she felt.  The King invited her several more times, and invited her to view his palace of Non such being built.  Many dresses were ordered to be made for her, and she was suddenly treated very well by everyone in the household.  Henry Manox, in vengeance, left a note that Catherine was sleeping with Francis and that they were betrothed.  Her Grandmother found them together in the chamber, and sent Francis away immediately.  She whipped, beat and left Catherine locked up for several days to starve.  She finally let her out when Catherine begged for forgiveness.  Her Grandmother was very worried as was Norfolk.  The King liked his woman innocent and unsullied.  Her cousin Anne Boleyn had been beheaded, a Queen, for treason against the King. 

With this example before her, Catherine was worried.  But Francis apparently was married with children, and had left for Ireland.  She felt betrayed and very sad, and also starved and tired.  While the King continued to see her, he was finally forced to agree to marry this Anne of Cleves.  Disappointed but searching for the best outcome regardless, she was sent to serve as one of her ladies in waiting to still be near the King.  Even a mistress would provide great benefits to her family.  Her father passed away during this time also, and Catherine was even more mournful.  She was now an orphan with an uncertain future.  She watched as Anna married King Henry, much to his consternation at finally meeting her and seeing her face.  She was very tall, broad shouldered, and her face was pockmarked and her voice deep.  It wasn't long after the wedding though that King Henry was seeking for an annulment.  Catherine had become the King's mistress, and he found comfort in her company.  His leg sore often ailed him and made him irritable, and his heavy bulk was certainly not appealing to her.  She did as she was bid, and Anne of Cleves became the King's sister and was granted a mansion and servants nearby court. 

It wasn't long before Catherine was married to the King, all of it down hastily.  At this time she met a Thomas Culpepper, one of the King's courtiers.  They were attracted to each other and started meeting in secret.  Lady Rochford, widow of George Boleyn, was helpful to her in planning these meetings.  Over the course of less than a few years, Catherine was unable to produce a child.  She pretended a few pregnancies and miscarriages, and the King grew angry with her.  His son Edward was often sick and was only three years old.  His son by Bessie Blount had died young also, so his fear was constant for a living male heir.  Francis Dereham returned to court and demanded she appoint him as her secretary.  He had information against her which would keep her quiet.  Catherine was in a very precarious position- having an affair with Culpepper, while trying to conceive the King's child and unable to.  At the same time Francis and Joan Bulmer were from her childhood in Lambeth and had many secrets against her.  It wasn't long before the truth came out about her adultery and sullied past, and many of her Howard relations were imprisoned in the Tower.  Catherine was stripped of her title as Queen, her many lands and incomes and jewels and clothing.  She was ultimately beheaded along with Lady Rochford, although in the book it doesn't mention Rochford's death.

My Thoughts:  I knew of Catherine's fate, which was much like Anne her cousin.  Catherine Howard has been portrayed as stupid in other books, which does make sense considering the risks she took to have an affair with Culpepper.  I think she believed King Henry would die soon, leaving her able to marry Culpepper.  Her relationships with Manox and Dereham are more understandable, but also costly to her to have a past like that when married to a King.  And a jealous one at that.  Besides her affair, Catherine was also unable to produce a child for the King.  This led to her downfall the fastest and led to her being charged with treason against the King and the crown.   Parliament passed a bill of attainder that made it treason, and punishable by death, for a queen to fail to disclose her sexual history to the king within twenty days of their marriage, or to incite someone to commit adultery with her.  This solved the matter of Catherine's supposed precontract and made her unequivocally guilty.  Culpepper was beheaded and Dereham was hung, drawn and quartered.  I find a lot of her story sad, because of her upbringing and not having parents around.  I think it made sense her beginnings of wantonness because of the other girls around her and the laxity of her Grandmother.  Once a girl is bade to become the King's mistress of queen, she really has no choice.  I think she found true love in Tom Culpepper, and abandoned all common sense or fear.  Even if she hadn't had an affair, she would have likely been done away with anyway because of not producing a child for the King.  Of course it was the woman's fault, not the man's back then.  I enjoyed the book and the author's viewpoints.  I don't know if Catherine's mother had really been the King's mistress or not, but it explained why he became attracted to her.  Anna of Cleves was friends with the King until his death, maintaining the title of the King's Sister.  Perhaps she was one of the most fortunate of his wives.