Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Maitland and The Company of Liars: A novel of the plague

I had just finished The Swallows of Kabul and still had a long flight to go. Fortunately, I was in the Johannisburg airport, with it’s truly wonderful bookstore, and came across The Company of Liars: a novel of the plague. Well, it isn’t exactly a novel of the plague. The story opens in 1348, a year in which le morte bleu hit the British Isles, only later to be called the plague. The author captures the times, the filth, the lack of bathing, the superstitions, the ways of life.

The plot centers around a group who wanders through the island, just trying to stay alive. The spreading plague impacts on their wandering, but to call this a novel of the plague is just not accurate. The plague is the reason for the journey, but the journey is the center of the novel, not the plague.

Before I started reading the book, I read the Historical Notes in the back, and that is where I came across the most interesting information in the entire book:

The 1348 plague was only the latest in a series of disasters to hit Britain. The period between 1290 and 1348 had seen a rapid and drastic climate change which was so noticeable that the Pope ordered special prayers to be said daily in every church. Eyewitness accounts claimed that 1348 was a particularly bad year, for it rained every day from Midsummer’s Day to Christmas Day. Climate change brought about crop failure, liver fluke in sheep and murrain in cattle, as well as causing widespread flooding which virtually wiped out the salt industry on the east coast. This, combined with a population explosion, meant that as many people died from starvation as from the plague itself.

Interestingly, the book will not be released in the US until September 2008. The cover shown is nothing like the cover of the book I bought.

American issue cover:

Cover on book bought in Johannisburg:


I like the cover of mine better.

Some reviewers call this book “enthralling” or “gripping.” I wans’t all that enthralled or gripped, but it did make good airplane reading. I learned a lot about the grim brutality of life in 1348, but as I told AdventureMan, this is more a book about a slice of time than a book with a great plot. The plot isn’t that great, it is the historical detail that is interesting, and fiction just makes it more easily absorbed. (my opinion)

July 4, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Cultural, Family Issues, Fiction, Food, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Relationships, Social Issues | , | 3 Comments

Electricity Bills Certificate?

Back in May, we saw the following in the Kuwait Times:

“the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) has decided to ask all expatriates before exiting the country – whether on holiday or permanently – to obtain a certificate of clearance from the ministry. The certificate is only valid for one month. If the expat doesn’t have it, he will be returning from the airport the same day . . . “

School is out, people have fled the heat in droves, even with the atrocious airline prices. Has anyone heard of this policy being implemented? I haven’t heard of anyone being halted from travelling because of an unpaid bill, nor did anyone look us up when we were departing on holiday.

July 4, 2008 Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions | 10 Comments