Month: July 2017

Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Book Review: Gilt by Katherine Longshore

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Release date: May 15, 2012

Pages: 398

Summary: Before Catherine Howard became the queen of England, she was a chambermaid with big dreams. Her best friend, Kitty, did everything in her power to make sure those dreams come true. So when King Henry chooses Cat to be his next wife, Kitty is summoned to serve her best friend at court. But serving the queen comes with a price—Kitty must bear many secrets, for court life is full of deception and lies.

My thoughts: Wow! Gilt completely blew me away. I was expecting a bit of a dense read (historical novels often feature writing that is a bit slower-going), but Katherine Longshore managed to make this account of Catherine Howard’s reign a quick read. Longshore’s writing is reflective of the time period, but it’s simple and easy to read. Those daunted by a large page count have nothing to worry about, especially considering how addicting the story is. It’s nearly impossible to put Gilt down once you’ve started; it’s as if you’ve been sucked into the Tudor court yourself, and, like all the courtiers, you must know what will ultimately happen to the queen.

Gilt is narrated by Kitty, but the story focuses more on Catherine. This is because Cat has what we call a “big personality”: she steals the spotlight from everyone she comes near. Kitty remains a shadow for most of the novel, but that’s okay, because having two boisterous characters in one book might be a bit too much. Kitty’s loyalty is her best quality, and her discreteness comes in second. I admired her dedication to the incredibly selfish Catherine; were I in her place, I would have found a new best friend. Katherine Longshore does a fantastic job of crafting a character (a main character, at that) who we love to hate. I could not stand Catherine, but I found her unyielding belief in her own supremacy fascinating. This girl needs a serious reality check, but it’s kind of fun to watch a character because of her own demise (is that weird?). I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that the two main characters in Gilt are such dynamic and believable people—I admire Katherine Longshore’s ability to elicit emotions through them!

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, give Gilt a try! It will feed your need for scandal! (Seriously. I got a little giddy over how much under-the-table stuff was going on in the King’s court! Wowza!) Gilt isn’t just about drama, though: it’s about choices—good or bad—and how they lock you into certain situations. It’s about the inevitability of fun coming to an end. Though Catherine’s are coming true, her visible happiness may only be surface-deep. The simultaneous complexity and pure fun of Gilt is fantastic. Highly recommended!

5/5 stars

For those who like: historical fiction, court drama, overconfident heroines.

Hipster Central: The Changing Face of Neukölln in Berlin

How does it look like?

Rents are rising, but Berlin is still very cheap by European standards, and so a huge number of young people from other parts of Germany are relocating there, as well as a lot of foreigners, and as they arrive, the city changes.

This is most obvious in the district of Neukölln, which is popular with Turkish migrants and is now the center of the slightly grungy hipster population of Berlin. There are a huge number of migrants in this part of the city, and more than 40% of the population is of a non-German origin.

Since the Berlin Wall came down, gentrification has washed over the German capital like a wave. Previously working class neighborhoods have been embraced by families and young professionals, permanently changing the face of large parts of the city, sometimes for the better, and sometimes… well, not.

Neukölln was directly on the flight path for Tempelhof Airport (site of the Berlin Airlift), and the jets would practically scrape the rooftops as they landed. The airport closed in 2008 and was converted into a park, and so many parts of Neukölln suddenly found themselves living next to one of the largest inner-city parks in the world… which of course contributes to rent going skywards, as the jets no longer do.

Neukölln has become a magnet for the young people who wear skinny jeans, old man style glasses and call themselves artists. Yes… hipsters.

The influx of people with a relatively high disposable income has done wonders for the nightlife, with a number of bars and entertainment venues springing up, seemingly catered to that hipster Berlin feeling, with cheap drinks and eclectic furnishings. There are a number of these places around Emserstraße and in the streets surrounding Schillerpromenade.

One of the most famous bars in the area is Villa Neukölln (Hermannstraße 233), which was built on the site of a luxurious old villa, which was demolished and turned into a Turkish carpet store (naturally), before opening as a bar. This is the definition of Neukölln hipster; with old couches, rugs and a laid back vibe. They’ve recently constructed a stage and host many bands and live performances.

Another venue that seems to be rather attractive to the skinny jean clad Neuköllners is the Agora Collective (Located at 50 Mittelweg). Agora is an arts co-op space, which features a restaurant/bar, gallery, film screenings and a co-working space where the young artists/writers/designers can rent a desk, thus giving them some semblance of an office. Agora squarely targets the English speakers of Berlin, and their website is entirely in English.

While some of the long-established locals might grumble at the way their neighborhood is changing, bar owners will no doubt be pleased at having a group of people that keeps their establishments busy 7 nights a week. And those who run one of the many 24-hour kebab shops in Neukölln are delighted at having a steady stream of clientele who need a salty snack as they stumble home at 4am.