Catherine, Called Birdy
June 20, 2019 7:34 AM - by Karen Cushman - Subscribe

This is the first book to be discussed by the Nostalgic YA Book Club! Catherine, a spirited and inquisitive young woman of good family, narrates in diary form the story of her fourteenth year—the year 1290. A Newbery Honor Book.
posted by ChuraChura (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I've read it over and over and over as both an adolescent and adult. It's where, as a raised-mostly-agnostic-but-sorta-Methodist I learned a whole bunch of random Catholicism (I love the daily saints), fell in love with historical fiction and learning about life in different periods, and also I just adore Catherine's sassiness. God's thumbs!
posted by olinerd at 7:53 AM on June 20, 2019

This post (and club) were spurred by the conversation in this thread.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:05 AM on June 20, 2019

I started re-reading this last night (yay e-book I bought ages ago!) and it ages really, really well.

It's also kind of cool to see how Birdy's world is changing, if you know what to look for. That her first suitor is actually a merchant had me all flail-y and going 'the rise of the merchant class! it's here!'. (I sort of accidentally became a medievalist a few years ago as part of a job; if this is the kind of thing that excites you, I highly recommend Ian Mortimer's The Time-Traveler's Guide to Medieval England.)

Strangely, now that I'm older, I understand her longing to be able to work outside and marry who she likes and her envy of peasant life. She doesn't understand what it means to live close to the edge and owe your livlihood and safety to your feudal lord, but on the other hand...Rollo's household lives not that far from the edge either. He's only got the one daughter to get a bride-price for, and to make a part of any necessary alliances.

I'd forgotten how well the village is described, and the roads, and how people move through them.
posted by kalimac at 10:21 AM on June 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

ARGH! I remain annoyed that it ends without us learning anything about Stephen and their marriage!

Such a fun book to revisit!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:35 PM on June 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I have never read this book, and am doing so now. I love it.

"Maids should be mild and meek, swift to hear and slow to speak," said Agnes.

"Be she old or be she young, a woman's strength is in her tongue," said I.

And thus, the first recorded female battle rap.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:45 AM on June 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

I wonder if when I read this as a child, I realized how much drinking and sex was involved.

I also wonder if I had my own book of saints as a result of reading this or just a byproduct of Catholicism.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:37 PM on July 1, 2019

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