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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

Review: The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion by Sioned Davies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love to read history and while these tales are not histories, they do give a perspective of what was of on the minds of early medieval readers. These are traditional Welch tales, some pre-Christian era, some related to the myths of Arthur. I found Davies translations very readable and the extensive notes were for the most part helpful in providing background and context.

The 11 stories in this collection are likely more than 1000 years old (perhaps some are much older but the written versions are in that range), and yet they are both similar to and different from modern stories. Similar in that sex and violence are common themes. Many of the fantastical elements form the basis for modern fantasy stories. Different in the way the stories are told and the expectation of what the reader will understand / accept as part of a good story. A couple of examples of that:

1. The mix of pagan, pre-Christian notions with references to the Christian God. God, for instance, in one story curses a king and his men by turning them into pigs.

2. In the "romances" in this collection, knights are constantly running about and killing people to win the hand of the "woman they love best", even to the point of killing other men to take their wives for themselves, and those wives scheming with them to do so. Perhaps an early form of "a code of chivalry" (and the medieval notion of love at first sight) when these tales were told, but certainly not a modern understanding of appropriate behavior between the sexes.

3. The understanding that children of the noble class were commonly given away to be reared by "foster parents".

I have not read the other translations that people mention in other reviews, but I enjoyed reading this enough to (at some point) seek out some of those translations.