Writing Research: Marie Curie

One of the most enjoyable writing contests I’ve entered was a letter writing contest run by the Historical Fiction Contests profile on Wattpad about a year ago. The prompt was pretty simple: to write a love letter based on a historical romance.

There’s something I have always loved about writing letters. I think the first person aspect allows you to really get inside the character’s head, making it much easier to convey their thoughts and emotions. I was therefore so excited to see this contest prompt – and I eventually decided to write a love letter from Marie Curie to her husband Pierre.

Marie Curie is a historical figure I have always admired. As a female physics graduate, I have a great deal of respect for her remarkable achievements in science, made during a time when it was a field not many women were permitted to enter into. Until I properly started researching more about her life, however, I didn’t realise just how many other challenges she faced.

In order to carry out their work on radioactivity, Marie and Pierre Curie required a laboratory with more space. They were eventually granted an unoccupied shed at the university where Pierre worked, with a glass roof which did not entirely keep out the rain and cold. It’s almost impossible to imagine this pair of remarkable scientists rushing around with buckets to catch the drips from the ceiling, whilst working on their discovery which would eventually lead to a Nobel Prize.

Barely three years after Pierre and Marie received their Nobel Prize, Marie was struck by a terribly tragedy. As he crossed the road near Pont Neuf on the 19th April 1906, Pierre Curie was hit by a carriage and killed, leaving Marie and their two daughters, Irene (8) and Eve (1) behind.

It is said that upon receiving the news of her beloved husband’s death, Marie did not immediately weep, but went into a numb state of shock, before demanding that the body be returned to her so that she might carry out an autopsy. Later she would confess that she did not deal with her grief well – but who can blame her? Pierre had always recognised her immense talent and treated her as an equal in a world which was not welcoming to women; he had been Marie’s partner in everything they achieved.

Following Pierre’s death, Marie often wrote to him in her diary – and this is what inspired the love letter I wrote, which you can read for free here on Wattpad. It is lovely to think that she kept her husband near to her heart even after his death, and that she continued with the work they had set out to accomplish together, going on to achieve so many great things.

I hope you enjoyed reading this little snippet into the incredible life Madame Curie. I personally love learning about the lives of important people in history, and I definitely plan to write more posts like this in future!

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory

I’m trying to branch out a little from my preferred eras of 19th and 20th century historical fiction – and my first step in doing so has been to read The Constant Princess, the first novel (chronologically) in Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Court series.

I’ll be perfectly honest here – my knowledge of the Tudor era comes from what meagre amount I learnt from History lessons in primary school, and the Horrible Histories book The Terrible Tudors (any fellow Brits remember that one?). I feel it’s one of those subjects taught by necessity in British schools, as such instilling the belief in pupils that it isn’t a particularly interesting or exciting period to learn about. Nevertheless, I’d seen many positive things said about Philippa Gregory’s books, so I decided to give this novel about Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife, a try.

The story begins on a battlefield, which is where Katherine (or Infanta Catalina, as she was known then) spent much of her childhood. From the very first page I found myself drawn into this little girl’s life, fascinated to learn how she went from this rather unconventional upbringing to marrying Henry VIII. Although the story spanned a large portion of Katherine of Aragon’s life, I never felt as if the pace was too slow, as the plot was kept moving with plenty of points of intrigue along the way.

One of my greatest reservations when starting to read this book was the worry that it would be written in a dry style – but this was not the case at all. Each and every character in the book was brought to life, painting a vivid and colourful picture of the Tudor court during Henry VII’s reign. The various members of the Tudor family were written in a very believable way, with very human flaws, and I found this refreshing.

Whilst making for an engaging, enjoyable read, The Constant Princess also offered a wealth of historical context surrounding Henry VIII’s ascension to the throne, including many details I wasn’t aware of. The historical detail was woven effortlessly into the plot, without ever interrupting the pace of the story. This was a big plus point for me, because I find historical fiction authors can often labour the point a little too much when giving historical context to their novels, ending up with a style more akin to a school textbook.

This is the first of Philippa Gregory‘s novels I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last! For anyone who, like me, is apprehensive about Tudor period historical fiction, I would definitely recommend her books. The Constant Princess was a joy to read, and I cannot praise it enough.

 

 

A very bookish birthday

I recently celebrated my birthday, and it struck me that the majority of the presents I received were of a bookish nature. From novels, to notebooks, to a stationery storage box, nearly all had something to do with reading or writing – which I think says a lot about me!

One particular book I was thrilled to receive was Walking Jane Austen’s London. It maps out eight different walking routes across London, passing through some of the locations Jane Austen herself visited during her time in London, or places which feature in her novels.

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I absolutely adore Jane Austen’s novels – it was whilst watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth, because he is the only Darcy for me) that I was inspired to write my first historical fiction novel. I’ve always wanted to visit the locations mentioned in her novels, so this book will be a perfect way to do so, along with helping me to get to know some different parts of the city!

I’m sure there will be many interesting historical facts learnt along the way, which I plan on sharing with you through a series of blog posts centring around each of the walks. I hope to start with them as soon as possible, so look out for the first post in the near future!

Another of my bookish gifts was The Six Sisters series by M. C. Beaton. The series comprises of six short Regency era stories which I think will be quick, lighthearted and enjoyable reads – perfect for summer! Once I have read all six books I plan to write a review of the series as a whole, so that will be another post to look at for at some time over the next couple of months.

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I also received this gorgeous notebook by Paperblanks. They make the most incredibly beautiful notebooks, which look as though they should be nestled on a bookshelf in the library of an old country house! I already have a larger one which I currently use as my journal, but as you can imagine, it’s rather heavy, so this more portable size will definitely come in handy.

All in all, I was delighted with my bookish birthday haul – a bookish birthday is the best kind of birthday!