Good history is hard to find. For example, did you know –
- At one point in human history, there may have been as few as 500 women capable of procreation. They were very popular.
- Because of the bubonic plague which first… well, plagued Europe in the sixth century, English is the dominant language in the world today.
- The hostile climate in Siberia made it possible for the eruption of modern American culture.
- Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo because it was raining.
- Had it not been for the Little Ice Age in the 15-16th centuries, we would not have Stradivarius violins today.
- In 1947, a scientist proved you could change the course of a hurricane headed to the coast of Florida by dropping two hundred pounds of dry ice into its eye. What the scientist didn’t demonstrate was that he could control the new direction, which was Savannah, Georgia, where it did about five million dollars worth of damage. The Georgians weren’t amused.
Of course you didn’t know all this. How could you? There’s a lot more history than there’s time to read it, which is why the world owes a great debt of thanks to Laura Lee for bringing into the light so much that had been hidden in mist and fog. With a dry sense of humor and a keen eye for recognizing and marrying apparently unrelated events, she has created the perfect excuse for abandoning Gibbon’s 25,000-page Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and relying on her slim volume for the truth behind much of world history.
The book brings to mind that most august and definitive history of the island of Britain, 1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings, and 2 Genuine Dates. Written by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman and published in 1930, it proved that history need not be long, complicated, or even accurate in order to be interesting.
To her credit, Ms. Lee tackles the entire world. At one point she toys with the notion of bringing the Big Bang Theory into her thesis, but, in this reviewer’s eyes, wisely backs away. That’s a black hole from which few if any historians, even of Ms. Lee’s caliber, ever return.
There are books that, like potato chips, cannot be put down. There are others that, like fine chocolate, must be savored a bit at a time. Blame It On The Rain clearly falls into the latter category. One only need pick it up to read a brief chapter (few are longer than five or six pages,) smile, and feel ennobled by the wisdom one has gained. While not a large box of chocolates, the book, if read properly, can keep one’s appetite sated for months.
There is, however, one significant flaw in the book that cannot be overlooked. Ms. Lee has been duped by Sir Thomas Moore (when he was still a lackey publicist for Henry VIII), who influenced Shakespeare into creating the pernicious lie that King Richard III of England murdered two young princes and stole the throne of England for himself. This is not true. Nor was Richard a hunchback. Nor was he a particularly bad guy. He just happened to not be of the same family as Henry VII who needed to buttress his dubious claim to the throne.
But anyone can make a mistake.
Ms. Lee does have a message within this delightful romp through the mud, rain, sleet, and snow. “If all of this history and science has taught us anything it is this: We are neither the masters of the weather nor the servants of it — we are in a marriage with it.”
We may not be masters of the weather, but Laura Lee is a master of the English language. Her writing is crisp, direct, and playful while at the same time powerful enough to bring to life some of the great horrors of human existence.