On the morning of December 15th, a day of bleak skies heralding snow, a box-cart rattled into Bolt Court and drew up outside Number 8.
This novel may possibly have had a greater impact on me if I knew anything about the life and times of Samuel Johnson apart from the fact that he wrote a dictionary, and of course that the Life of Samuel Johnson was written by Boswell. But I’ve never read it, and so am unfamiliar with Johnson, apart from the broadest of strokes. But while I may be lacking some of that knowledge I still really enjoyed this book.
We see a much different Johnson here than the one I’ve heard of, not a lot of genius showing, more depression and self-absorption.
The Queeney of the title is a child for much of the book, her mother and father have, in many ways, taken Johnson into their family and it is through this family, the Thrale’s that we see Johnson.
There are also letters interspersed with the story, Queeney’s written in adulthood to a cousin looking for information about Johnson. But the main part of the book is not specifically from Queeney’s POV, and this allows us to learn how wrong a lot of what Queeney thought about her mother Hester, was wrong.
This is an amusing little book, full of lines that’ll make you smile. Easy to read, and full of insights and interesting sentences. However, I never really got a sense of time from the book. The characters could have been from any era, not just that of Georgian England. Still, well worth a read.
Crushed, it had none the less occurred to her how curious it was that, in order to express themselves, great men constantly relied on the thoughts of those long dead.
‘The word was villainous,’ Johnson said, ‘and it was not the word that was difficult, merely that my lips refused to shape it.’