I live in a cold part of the world, so you might think that at this time of the year I’d be looking for escape in stories set in the tropics. But I find the books that bring me joy in the winter tend to be set in this season, in the Middle Ages in Europe.
One of them is Connie Willis’s 1992 time-travel novel, Doomsday Book. Another is Umberto Eco’s first novel, The Name of the Rose, published in 1980.
I say “books”, but one of them is a play: The Lion in Winter, by James Goldman, published in 1966. The 1968 film version, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn, is one of the best movies ever made. (There’s also a later version with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close, two fine actors, but it can’t hold a candle to the first). The published play makes excellent reading; every line of dialogue is perfect, and the stage directions bring an extra joy you can’t get without reading the original. [Read more…]