Book Review: Dickon’s Diaries (With Giveaway)

We present this review on this, the 565th anniversary of the birth of Richard Plantagenet,

Duke of Gloucester and,

Dei Gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae et Dominus Hiberniae

by the Grace of God, King Richard III of England and France and Lord of Ireland.

800px-King_Richard_III
Late 16th-century portrait, housed in the National Portrait Gallery, London. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third
by Joanne Larner and Susan Lamb

See below for details about winning a free, signed copy of Dickon’s Diaries!

A few years ago I had opportunity to see a bit of social media shenanigans in which a well-known image of King Richard III was shopped to include the monarch wearing a Santa hat. It was Christmas, after all, though one person was not amused and demanded it be removed for the king to keep his dignity, wintry wonder or not.

But why should it be undignified? Can a person not stand tall while simultaneously engaging in mirth, something that will bring pleasure to others? One of the reasons I didn’t see it quite the way the lady who doth protest is because in my estimation it was drawing Richard into our activity, sharing our joy with him by him becoming “one of us” for the moment.

Joanne Larner and Susan Lamb do similar in Dickon’s Diaries, though I would add that the effect is greater because their inclusion moves in both directions. While Christmas in Richard’s time was not observed in the way we do now, keeping a diary or some sort of recordkeeping encompasses all ages. Moreover, all people have some thoughts they generally keep to themselves or within a circle of confidantes, so the concept would not be completely unknown to people then or now.

As the title gives away, Dickon’s Diaries presents a year in the life of Richard III; the book takes us through Sprynge, Summer, Autumne and Wynter, all of which encompass their attendant activities and a group of modern ladies quite fond of the king, who heretofore had shared his words of wisdom on Ye Book of Faces, and now “hath wryttn down alle Oure thoughts and anecdotes for your pleasure.” See? Even the king wills it. For our enjoyment he draws us in to share his modern experiences and bids us read on.

Dickon’s Diaries is an entertaining, light-hearted look at a medieval king who, via a bridge spanning time, engages in modern activities and responds to them, often hilariously. The Dames who dote on him make their appearances, showing affection and often providing explanation and links between what he knows of the world and that presented to him in this modern age. With a fondness for Jaffa cakes, a Capp of Chino on occasion and a growing collection of “My Little Destrier” (chronically missing a difficult-to-acquire prize piece on Ye-Bay, the “Murderous Mustang”), Richard makes his way with aplomb from episode to episode, documenting each and even advising others in an “agony uncle” column established for that purpose.

Shortly before a cake-baking competition, one nervous subject, Miss Cilla Goose, writes in for a solution to her nail-biting habit, especially given that her Grace will be judge. Assuring Miss Goose of his impartiality, Dickon then directs her to a local nail spa, where its proprietor will ensure that her nails “verily do shine and sparkle.” In his post script: “We suggest thou maketh a fruite cake—Oure currant favourite. (Didst thou see what We did there?)”

One of the best elements of the book is within its nuance, in that its wit is diversified and even subtle at times. The women who often surround him occasionally appear themselves as subject of his comments, wound into self-deprecating humor that keeps the king likeable while still able to pull off the occasional conceit. Catching sight of a particular Dame in the stands at a tournament, he bows and asks her favor. “Of course, she swooned. (We doth have this effect on alle female creatures, with the exception of Oure wyff.)”

The king is indeed hotheaded, silly or serious at times; wrapped within these (and other) emotions and elsewhere through the book are historical references that range from the obvious –

“Nay, manne! ‘Tis not the rhymes! Thou didst say: ‘Roses are redd!’ Surely thou didth meaneth ‘Roses are whyte’! Now get thee hence and changeth this treasonous verse forthwith!”

—to the artful:

‘Twas a few weeks ago that We didst consult Our box of lights [computer] … Then, lo, We didst espy a sett of changes of apparell for [My Little Destrier] also. Ye knowest fulle welle that destriers canst be caparisoned in Oure coloures and Oure standard; welle, now can ye buyeth various different cognizants, useful for ye Stanleys, We suppose, who hath always been known for changynge their coates! (Smirks.)

The narrative is also cunningly sprinkled with Shakespearean references, telling given the real playwright’s relationship to Richard Plantagenet as his protagonist. After the long-suffering Lovell devises an entertainment plan to shake off the winter blues, an “interesting manne” shows up, stating that he “is within this tent to writeth a goodly storie of us, but the musick shall bother him not, for he is a tadd hard of hearynge.” This opens up for readers to imagine or concoct a variety of comical possibilities as to how the bard got it so wrong.

As the event opens the “welcomynge speech … read[s] thus”:

Now is the winter of Oure Dis-co-tecke, made glorious summer with sandwiches of pork, and crisps, subtleties and fancies.”

Before starting the book, I’d wondered if I would have difficulty reading extended amounts of dialect, but this proved not to be a worry. The fancy font most of the book is written in may appear to be problematic when first starting out, but one gets used to it rather quickly, and it is large enough to be reader friendly. Speaking of friendly, the aforementioned woman on the social media would be happy to know (one would hope) that Richard always does maintain his dignity, even if he must engage in a series of frowns, glowers and shakes of his head in disbelief to get his point across.

Of course, we don’t know precisely what the real Richard was like in his own time. Would he have laughed at ribald jokes or seen the sparkle in silly word play? Would he be amused at the authors’ portrayal of Shakespeare, who disparaged him in a manner that echoed through the centuries? Since he was found in 2012 – within the book a topic addressed to which he queries the ability of a nation to lose its king, and the authors treat with perfect balance of the comic as well as reverence within jest – a number of “certainties” have been debunked. So why not the possibility that he had a rollicking sense of humor as well!?

If joking around for some doesn’t include modern words used within medieval speech or activities, or medieval English employed not exactly in the way it would have been in the fifteenth century, well, there’s a reason for that. Especially given the rowing over where to re-inter the king, as the authors mention in their end notes, there certainly seemed room for a bit of cheer, and that’s what this is meant to be: a light-hearted expression of Richard presenting the possibility that, indeed, he too liked to get away from the stress at times and have a bit of laughter and merriment. The diaries never claim to be what they are not, and what they are not is not its aim.

Sometimes naughty, occasionally fantastical, always clever and filled with exuberant energy, Dickon’s Diaries is the anecdote for a rough day or object of an evening’s pleasurable reading. Anyone who even periodically enjoys social media funniness, those interested in Richard III or even the uninitiated would get a great kick out of the diaries, since the “prior knowledge” involved in some of the jokes tend to be the sort most know about already (e.g. Shakespeare). Its narrative brings everybody into the moment because we all find ourselves in the midst of hilarious misunderstandings and funny fusion of cultural habits familiar and foreign, even when they are from our own time.

Despite its lack of strict adherence to period speech, the authors most definitely show themselves in a variety of ways to be keen observers of language, and we are given ample opportunity to verily bathe in the freewheeling frolics within the narrative as well as dialogue. Additionally, what the characters seem to be thinking and feeling shows up in illustrator Riikka Nikko’s drawings wholly, and the impression of them entices us into events depicted. One gets an inkling not just for the characters’ experiences, but also the environment in the actual moment, the sense of what is happening and a feel of involvement within it all. I actually would have loved to see more of these pictures included and hope that in the second volume there will be.

Dickon’s Diaries is a whirling, laugh-out-loud experience of a read that is easily re-enacted, given its light hilarity and easily digestible segments (chapters within each season). Filled with flavor, fun and individuals – some of whom are real, including writers and musicians! – readers will want to get to know even more, and can participate in on Ye Book of Faces or even within their own experimentation. With a place for everyone, Richard comes to us and we to him; together we can stand and celebrate the best parts of life.

Now readeth ye on!

*********

Would you like to win a free, autographed paperback copy of Dickon’s Diaries? Of course you would! Simply comment below – even a quickie hello works! – and you are automatically entered into the drawing, which will occur in three weeks. Please make sure we have a way to contact you! Alternately, you may comment at the pinned post in the blog’s page on Ye Book of Faces, located here

*********

Click here to see my review of Richard Liveth Yet: A Historical Novel Set in the Present Day,

and for my review of Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country, click here.

Stay tuned for my review of Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change

About the authors …

Joanne Larner was born in London and moved to Rayleigh in Essex (UK) in 2001. She has wanted to write a novel since the age of thirteen and finally managed it in 2015. She was helped by two things: National Novel Writing Month and Richard III. Richard was her inspiration and she became fascinated by him when she saw the Channel 4 documentary The King in the Car Park in February 2013. She researched his life and times and read countless novels, but became fed up because they all ended the same way – with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.

So she decided to write a different type of Richard story and added a time travel element. The rest is (literally) history. She found his character seemed to write itself and with NaNoWriMo giving her the impetus to actually DO it, she succeeded. After she began writing the story that was in her head, she found that there was far too much material for one book and, in fact, it finally turned into a trilogy consisting of Richard Liveth Yet (Book I); Richard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change. The final installment takes place mainly in Richard’s time and Joanne found that many actual historical elements seemed to match serendipitously with her requirements. For example, the characters who were contemporary to Richard, the date of Joana’s death, the fact that Lorenzo’s wife, Clarice, had twins that didn’t survive the birth, etc.

In the event you simply cannot wait for the drawing and possibly win a free signed copy of one of Joanne’s books, you may purchase Richard Liveth Yet (Book I) at Blurb, Amazon or Amazon UKRichard Liveth Yet (Book II): A Foreign Country at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK and Richard Liveth Yet (Book III): Hearts Never Change at Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK.  Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third is available on Blurb, Amazon and Amazon UK. The pair will again team up for a second volume, and Joanne  is working on another Richard book, which will be called Distant Echoes and will involve a fictional technology, Richard’s DNA and his story in his own words. Joanne is pleased to add that she has recently had a story published in The Box Under the Bed: An Anthology of Scary Stories from 20 Authors, available at Amazon and Amazon UK.

To follow Joanne Larner and her writing, sign up or follow her at Facebook, Twitter and her blog.

Susan Lamb writes …

I am a staunch Ricardian, I love to visit places associated with Richard III, and I’m convinced that he was not responsible for the disappearance of the boys in the tower. I also love reading, I’m a passionate supporter of the Redwings horses too, and the Greyhounds. I live in the West Midlands with my husband Ray, my mom, and not forgetting Beauty the Greyhound.

Dickon’s Diaries came into being because originally I wrote (and still do) a Facebook page called “Dickon for His Dames,” where I write as him. I was talking to Joanne one day, and both Joanne and myself felt that too much was written about the seriousness, duty, and cares of his life, and we wanted to inject  a little humour into an otherwise sad story as we felt that too much was written about his ultimate demise. So our book started there, and it’s not making fun of him at all, far from it, we’re having fun with him and not at his expense, unlike some other books we’ve seen.

So, Muddleham is a euphemism of Middleham,  a kind of alternative universe, a little like Brigadoon I guess! Where he lives happily with his wife Anne, son Edward and Lovell, his trusty sidekick. His dames who visit him are all more than a little in love with him! White Syrie his horse has a mind of his own, and his staff and neighbours adore him, especially the buxom baker lady. Edward gets into many scrapes with the blacksmith’s son, and his essay for school left a lot to be desired! We are currently working on book two, where Anne will voice her opinions occasionally, so will Lovell, and there will be a lot more fun to come!

*********

A copy of Dickon’s Diaries – A Yeare in the Lyff of King Richard the Third was provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review. 

*********

Author photo courtesy Joanne R. Larner

********* 

Illustrations used with the gracious permission of Riikka Nikko

*********

 

Advertisements