Monday, August 30, 2010


1142 is the first story in Helen HumphreysThe Frozen Thames. The stories in The Frozen Thames have been described as vignettes and creative non-fiction. In recorded history, the river Thames has frozen solid forty times. The stories in Humphreys’ book are based on those occurrences. After reading the first story and then looking up this information online, it made me wonder if these could be considered short stories. Then I thought, these are stories and they are short, so yes. If anyone disagrees with me, I’ll have to wait and see.

1142 is the year. Queen Matilda of England is under siege. It has been a long seven years. The Thames is frozen. Getting and idea from her maid, Queen Matilda uses the unusually cold winter and frozen river to her advantage. What happens to Matilda after the siege? Well, that isn’t part of the story.

I feel like the story is about the river and how it is used. Matilda might be the main character, but without the frozen river, who knows how the little narrative would have ended. Helen Humphreys has a way with words that I envy. I really enjoyed the story of 1142 and look forward to reading more of this interesting book.

Side Note: Hardy Jones, author of The Americanization of Li Ming which I read for Short Story Monday two week ago stopped by my blog. I’ve never had a writer stop by my blog before! He left links to some of his other works and to his website. Check out my previous post if you’re interested.


  1. I've wanted to read Humphreys ever since her novel The Lost Garden was a contender for the first Canada Reads, yet still haven't made time for her. I've not heard of this collection though, sounds good.

  2. Regarding the freezing of the Thames in 1142, I think its fascinating how geography and local physical features have shaped history.

  3. John: I loved The Lost Garden. I read it years ago, after finishing a course on Virginia Woolf and the professor recommended it to us. It's a story I still remember and you mentioning it makes me want to read it again.

    Ahab: You're right. I don't think everything that exists around Niagara Falls would be there if the falls itself didn't exist. (For example.)