Sunday morning, and I’m propped up in bed with my coffee and laptop (indulged by Capt. Bob.) Today is my day to write in bed, following Laura Hildebrand’s example (though I have no chronic fatigue that keeps me abed, just a hangover.) The words burst forth in fits and starts, it feels turning on the faucet to find the pipes are filled with air. Ah, be patient, the flow will become steadier as the pressure increases.
While I sit with fingers on keyboard my eyes wander to the bookshelf for inspiration and I spy The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh; A woman in World History by Linda Colley.
Adam gave me this book shortly after the publication of my first novel Star-Crossed (Knopf; 2006). I was at once completely engaged by the story and the broad, encompassing perspective. I pull it off from the shelf and now am re-reading it, and marveling again at both the subject Elizabeth Marsh as well as the biographer.
“Biography, it has been said, is like a net that catches and brings to the surface an individual life. But a net is only a set of holes tied together by string, so some things slip through,” says Linda Colley on pg. 16. Which makes writing an engaging biography a challenge. Colley succeeds admirably.
The travels and adventures of Elizabeth Marsh is just my cup of tea – a nonfiction book that is as readable as historical fiction — in which Elizabeth, the possibly bi-racial and largely self-educated daughter of a shipwright of the Royal Navy (a child of the lower decks), travels widely, spends time in a Moroccan prison and become the first woman to publish in English on Morocco. She goes on to travel extensively inIndia, she marries, has children, undergoes a mastectomy (without anesthesia in those days), but is never the victim.
Like so many other remarkable women whose names we’ll never know, Elizabethnot only lived in the mid-18th century world, she also influenced the world, observed the world, and wrote her observations. She is one more remarkable woman you never heard of.
The Patricia MacPherson Nautical Adventure Series is a work of fiction but women such as Elizabeth Marsh were very real and they are my inspiration, as well as biographers such as Linda Colley. When I’m not writing about remarkable women, I’m reading about them – the women and the men they loved, influenced, ruled, married, or gave birth to.