Tess’ Book Review: Tess of The D’ubervilles (author Thomas Hardy)

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Being names Tess truly means that I am obliged to have read “Tess of the D’ubervilles” by Thomas Hardy at some point of my life. Whether one is familiar with this classic tale or not some very interesting questions can be considered namely, what was the point of no return for Tess?

Was it when her father became convinced that he was the descendant of a Norman knight? Or when Tess caused the death of her family’s only horse thereby forcing her to work for the Duberville (or Stoke) family?

In modern times many would consider the working conditions that Tess endured with Alec Duberville as sexual harassment. But this young woman not only had to endure giving birth to a child of rape, but also watching him die.

A new life emerges for Tess upon becoming a dairymaid. But can anyone, particularly a woman, ever escape their past? Was Tess wrong not to tell Angel about her past? Should we fault her for trying to be happy and marrying her true love? Or should we place some shame on Angel? Was he the real hypocrite for concealing his past relationship but rejecting Tess for what she endured? Would things have been different if Angel came to his senses earlier?

But as we know in life money can be a serious game changer. Perhaps Tess would have waited for Angel to come around if it were not for her and her family’s severe financial straits. There was only two choices in Tess’ mind. Hold onto your last shred of integrity and starve, or let go of your pride and help you and your family survive.

Is that why she agreed to become Alec’s mistress? Did she truly believe that she had lost Angel forever? If that was the case one could understand why Angel’s sudden arrival would cause her to be so mentally disturbed that she would resort to murdering Alec Durberville.

Was this the point of no return for Tess? That is what makes this classic tale so controversial because there are so many viewpoints and opinions one can form. But for my final thought I have to say that the person who has the most to mourn is Angel. He was the product of his time, his upbringing, and his own weaknesses. And sadly he came out the loser on all accounts!

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“Margaret Tudor-And The Female Double Standard” By Tesse O’Gorman

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The expression “double standard” means a rule or principle that is unfairly applied in different ways to different peoples or groups”. Does this apply in the case of Margaret Tudor and her brother Henry the 8th? You be the judge.

Marriage

Many people are familiar with the many wives of Henry the 8th, but we must not forget one simple fact. Henry had the freedom to choose each woman he married. Margaret’s first marriage was arranged while she was still a child and her personal feelings had nothing to do with the decision. And years later when she married a man of her own choosing it was such a political nightmare that it cost her the privilege of supervising her own sons.

Divorce

When Margaret sought to divorce her 2nd husband Archibald Douglas it was Henry the 8th and public opinion that was decidedly against her. She was constantly harassed for making the same decision that Henry himself would make when he wanted to divorce Katherine of Aragon. The female double standard was even present when Margaret sought to divorce her 3rd husband Henry Stewart only to be thwarted by her own son James King of Scotland.

 

Family Life

Despite her royal blood and privilege Margaret still had to endure the mistresses and the presence of her husband’s illegitimate children in all 3 of her marriages. While her own brother Henry the 8th was so powerful that he could behead his wife for so much as a rumor of infidelity. But that is not to say that the double standard never worked in Margaret’s favor.

  • Because she was a woman no one seriously blamed her for her husband’s attack on the English in 1513. Despite the fact that her marriage to the Scottish King was designed to prevent all such attacks.
  • Even though it was challenging Margaret was still granted her divorce in 1527 to her 2nd husband while the was never granted to Henry the 8th.
  • And to a degree Margaret had the last laugh when her great grandson James the 6th also became James the 1st of England when Elizabeth the 1st died childless.

No one can deny that Margaret’s life course was directly affected because she was a royal female instead of a royal male. And while it is true that some may discern a double standard upon comparing her life to that of her brother’s no one can claim that she let being a female prevent her from living a life full of passion much the same as her brother!

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“Katherine of Aragon-The What If Queen” by Tesse O’Gorman

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Many would agree that the question “what if?” is painfully negative and should generally be avoided. But the fact is human beings have the unique ability to reflect and meditate. Therefore, for this simple reason I will comment on a few “what if?”scenarios regarding England’s famous Queen Katherine of Aragon.

1). What if Prince Arthur never died? No doubt Katherine’s life would have been vastly different because Arthur was a completely different personality to that of Henry the 8th. But it is also important to consider that Katherine’s mother in law Queen Elizabeth of York probably would not have died early trying to give birth to another heir. This means that 16 year year old Katherine would likely have been encouraged to be an even more quiet and submissive queen following her mother in law’s footsteps.

Further, even if Katherine ended up losing many children in death as was the case with Henry it is more likely Arthur would have named Mary Tudor as his heir instead of divorcing Katherine.

2). What if Katherine went back to Spain after Arthur died? Katherine likely would have married again but this time to a lower ranking European royal family. The fact was she was still a prize due to her parentage and youth. But now being a widow it would have likely diminished her value on the royal marriage market. Not to mention the on-going issues regarding her dowry.

 3). What if Katherine gave birth to a son prior to Arthur’s death? Realistically this is the only situation that would have given Katherine any measure of security in England. Her future prospects rested heavily on giving birth to a royal heir. But ironically even this situation may still have lead her into a marriage with Henry the 8th.

Because Henry may not have wanted to live in the shadow of his young nephew as he had already done so with his older brother Arthur. He may have wanted to marry Katherine in order to rule England through his young nephew. And to have his own son with Katherine as his heir in the event Arthur’s son died early. Needless, to say things may still have gotten very complicated.

4). What if Katherine agreed to divorce Henry the 8th? Quite simply, Henry may never have broken from Rome. Which means an entire series of major world events may have been severely altered. I feel that this is the biggest “what if?” of all especially when we consider how the decision of one woman, and a foreigner at that, had the ability to transform world events.

That is why I feel that asking the question “what if?” is not engaging in hopeless speculation, but truly understanding how decisions and events have not only affected our past, but can even help determine our future!

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“Spotlight on: The Royal Mistress” by Tesse O’Gorman

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The definition of the word mistress is  “a relatively long term female lover and companion who is not married to her partner. Especially when her partner is himself married.”

While this was a position many young women in Medieval times would have been honored to receive young Ida De Tosney was not among them. As a well born but orphaned child she was greatly privileged upon becoming the ward of King Henry the 2nd of England. But such privilege came with a heavy price in her early teens when she caught the attention of the King and thereby became his latest mistress.

In order to attain the King’s favor Ida had no choice but to surrender her own will and conscience.  Her only true joy from this union came with the birth of her son William. But even so she was acutely aware of the challenges her son would face because of his illegitimate birth. As a young woman who knew that she could be a discarded mistress at any moment Ida took a chance at a new life by bravely arranging her own marriage with the King’s approval.

Ida wisely saw beyond the trappings of the royal court and was content with a more humble lifestyle upon her marriage to Roger Bigod the future Earl of Norfolk. But Ida would always bear the emotional scars of this decision because leaving her son William behind was the price she had to pay to be a respectable married woman. No matter how many children she would have with Roger she would always inwardly mourn the loss of her firstborn. Nevertheless, Ida and Roger’s union was one of mutual love and respect that flourished despite the demands of his being in the King’s service.

The life story of Ida De Tosney is eye opening and insightful regarding the grim reality of being a royal mistress. But it also highlights how one woman could still make a life for herself despite her vulnerable circumstances. Naturally every woman wants to be a Queen over being a royal mistress. However, one could still argue that the final outcome of the life of Ida De Tosney was more satisfying and content than that even of the actual Queen of England Eleanor of Aquitaine!

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” A Woman’s Worth” by Tesse O’Gorman (based off info from Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick)

Feeling valued and respected is a natural desire of all human beings whether male or female. However history bears witness to the fact that achieving this goal is a larger obstacle for women. So the question is: when is a woman most valuable? Let’s examine a few highlights from the life of Empress Matilda to help answer that question.

When Matilda was born to Henry the 1st of England in 1102 she was at an immediate disadvantage. This was because she was born female in a land where only males were seriously considered  in the line of succession. But she did prove valuable to her father when she moved to Germany as a child and married the future Holy Roman Emperor Henry the 5th. However her usefulness in Germany was cut short in 1125 when her husband died and the couple was childless.

Nevertheless, Matilda became a vital key to to securing the succession when her bother William Adelin died in 1120. As King Henry’s only living legitimate descendant Matilda was nominated as the king’s heir and also married to Geoffrey on Anjou to protect Normandy’s southern borders. At this point many would consider Matilda despite being a woman as a valuable individual.  However, this was proved incorrect when King Henry died in 1135 and the throne was taken by her cousin Stephen of Blois, not Matilda herself.

Even though Matilda did achieve some military success in England, namely capturing King Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 she was never crowned Queen due to the bitter opposition from London’s crowds. Despite being a legitimate royal descendant, a former German Empress, and being nominated as her father’s heir Matilda was still just a woman in their eyes. The war with her cousin King Stephen degenerated into stalemate and Matilda never became Queen of England. 20170907_092558 (1) Continue reading

“3 Things Money Can’t Buy” by Prentesse O’Gorman

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“The American Heiress” by Daisy Goodwin is undoubtedly a page turning novel that enlightens it’s readers to many timeless lessons. But I have narrowed my conclusions to 3 things that money (even in abundance) can’t buy.

1). History. By that I mean a well respected, long standing family reputation that goes back for many generations. Mrs. Cash did not take particular pride being the daughter of an American civil war soldier and found that despite her wealth she could not establish such a pedigree for her daughter. Therefore marriage was the only option for young Cora to become properly connected with English society.

In fact, it was the lack of a hereditary title that was the true weakness that the English could expose from the proud Mrs Cash. Inevitably Mrs. Cash was envious of the English families who could carry themselves with dignity knowing that they and their ancestors were regarded as people of substance. While it was true that wealth put Mrs. Cash’s daughter in a position to marry into English society. One must admit that it was only his priceless DNA that qualified the cash strapped Duke of Wareham to marry the beautiful American Heiress.

2). Loyalty. Some would argue that loyalty can be bought. But that was not the case for Cora Cash the new Duchess of Wareham. Despite the fact that it was her inheritance that kept the estate running there was not a single member of her English staff who had any regard for her.

The combination of a title and wealth still did not prevent Cora from being the victim of vicious gossip and treacherous acquaintances. And the one form of loyalty that emerged from Cora’s American maid Bertha was largely borne out of pity and duty. When it comes to the quality of loyalty there simply are no short cuts and money alone can not create its existence.

3). True Love. Love is not a recipe that only requires the proper ingredients applied in the correct amounts. If that were the case Cora and Ivo’s marriage would have been perfect from the start. Both young, both attractive, and each had qualities the other lacked. But the fact was that despite Cora’s money being essential for the future of Lulworth estate it was actually one of the initial barriers that prevented them from truly falling in love with each other.

His pride and her eagerness to please were at odds with each other and being wealthy did not shield them from their personal differences. They were on a collision course to separation and divorce until they broke down and did the one thing they most avoided. Communicate.

Yes, only when they honestly shared their past and current feelings did they truly become rich!

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“The Female Players of the Wars of the Roses” by Tess O’Gorman

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20170803_190052There is no lack of historical research regarding the male personalities that contributed to England’s notorious “War of the Roses”. And while the female characters are frequently mentioned they are generally never regarded as the main characters that dramatically affected the outcome of the Cousin’s War. Allow me to highlight 4 pivotal women and why I believe that they are all a fair match to their male counterparts.

1). Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) the controversial wife of Henry the 6th is the only woman on non-English decent featured. And I believe her French ancestry was a real hurdle that she could never truly overcome. She embraced England as her adopted homeland. She gave England a male heir (albeit after nearly a decade) and she tirelessly fought for the birthright of her son Edward Prince of Wales.

There have been queens who have done far less to benefit England and yet were also hated significantly less. The fact was her mentally weak husband and her French decent were factors that would always paint Margaret as the villain and scapegoat irregardless of the course that she took. But when Margaret organized an army that attacked Richard Duke of York (the King’s legal heir) at Sandal Castle she started a series of events that all lead to the famous reign of Edward the 4th.

2). Elizabeth Woodville (1437-1492). The consequences of Edward the 4th’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville has produced a never ending series of hindsight regrets. Many felt that by not marrying a foreign princess Edward missed out on a foreign alliance that would have strengthened war torn England. This was a key element that Elizabeth Woodville could never provide. Furthermore,  marriage to a French Princess such as Bona of Savoy would have prevented a very large family of virtual commoners having access to the royal court. The fact could not be ignored that The Woodville family was highly ambitious, sought many royal favors, and quite simply they were a huge irritant to the existing nobles.

And one noble in particular that was dangerous to provoke was Richard Neville Earl of Warwick also known as the “Kingmaker”. It was he who convinced Edward the 4th’s younger brother George Duke of Clarence to join him on his many treasonous revolts until his own life was taken at the Battle of Barnet. One can only assume that Edward the 4th was willing to take all these risks out of true love. But the consequences of his marrying one of his own subjects clearly explains why this not the pattern set by his kingly predecessors.

3). Margaret Beaufort-Tudor (1443-1509) is the only woman featured who was never crowned Queen of England at any point of her life. But only she and her daughter in law gave birth to men who would actually become the King of England. Margaret’s rise to fame was largely due to her immense wealth, smart marriages, and most of all her indomitable spirit. She believed that she could accomplish the unthinkable and place her half English, quarter Welsh, and quarter French son with barely a trickle of maternal royal blood on the throne.

And but for the controversial reign of Richard the 3rd this would have never been possible. Margaret wisely appealed to the one person who would hate the new king as much as she did. Elizabeth Woodville, the dowager Queen of England, whose two sons were allegedly killed by the order of their uncle and King, Richard the 3rd. Margaret had money, and a small but growing army of disgruntled subjects. But she needed one more thing to place her son Henry Tudor on the throne. A brilliant marriage!

4). Elizabeth of York (1466-1503). Even the biggest Tudor fan has to agree that marriage to Elizabeth of York was one of the single most powerful deeds Henry the 7th could have ever done to secure his throne. Being the eldest daughter and child of Edward the 4th meant that Henry the 7th won loyalty from York supporters and subjects loyal to Edward the 4th. Unlike her dynamic mother in law Elizabeth of York influenced the Wars of the Roses to come to their end not by brilliant political maneuvering. She did this by living up to her role as wife of Henry the 7th, and mother to 4 Tudor children who lived to adulthood.

Nevertheless, Elizabeth was loyal to her roles to a fault when she died an early death at only 37 years old trying to produce another Tudor male heir after the sudden death of her eldest son Arthur. But Elizabeth’s quiet role was so influential that many believe that her 2nd son Henry the 8th loved his 3rd wife Jane Seymour most due to her personality being so reminiscent of his beloved mother Elizabeth of York.

The four women feature in the Wars of the Roses ( 2 named Margaret & 2 named Elizabeth) all played a major part in the outcome of these conflicts. A French female consort, a seductive woman of minor nobility, a feisty heiress, and a royal princess all left a major imprint on history. And while none of them fought a single battle history would have never run the same course without them!

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“Books I Have Read in The Last Few Months” by Tesse O’Gorman

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Reflecting on my book choices over the last few months has been very insightful. I feel that these talented authors have truly expanded my thinking on a variety of subjects. Allow me to explain………

“House Rules” by Jodi Picoult. Not only are readers given a raw honest look into the world of a family with an autistic family member, but we are also inside the head of 18 year old Jacob as he tries to decipher the complicated world around him. The lesson I drew the most from this book is the vital need for a family support group, and the dire consequences that can result when one does not exist.

“Daniel Isn’t Talking” by Marti Leinbach. I would advise readers to read this book first and then “House Rules” as this book takes us into the lives of a family with a newly diagnosed autistic child. Written from a completely different angle this book is a tale of self discovery. Young Daniel’s diagnosis forces the entire family to discover that in reality Daniel wasn’t the only individual who struggled with the art of communication.

“Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. I would advise readers to read this book with an open mind despite the recent movie adaption. Look for the insight given to the day to day struggles of a quadriplegic medically and emotionally, and how the caregivers can be among the most selfless yet controlling individuals that can exist.

“After You” by Jojo Moyes. Admittedly this book does not have the same impact as the predecessor “Me Before You.” But I would still recommend reading it for closure after the emotional journey of “Me Before You.” This book gives a realistic follow up of each character and will leave you ready to move on and face the future.

“Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. This book also has a movie adaption and yet still shines as a very powerful work of fiction. The book is fast moving as the disease progresses and robs Alice of her fulfilling life. Yet it explains in a powerful way that Alice is definitely still the same dynamic woman she always was despite her growing limitations.

“Fingal O’Reilly Irish Doctor” by Patrick Taylor. This author has a unique way of writing his Irish Country series in such a way that you can read any book in the series and still be thoroughly entertained. But if you have read any of the previous books you will find the author answers many of the questions we may have asked: Why did Fingal and Kitty break up? What motivates Fingal to be so passionate as a GP despite opportunities to specialize? And what kind of people were Fingal’s parents? This book is a treat to read like the rest of the series along with being one of the most insightful.

The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak. (Please read my full book review on this book in my previous post)

“Brooklyn” by Colm Toibin. I first saw the premiere for this movie when I was in Ireland November of 2015 so naturally I viewed the movie first. But this book is truly a fine read. The author has artfully captured the insecurities, emotions, and triumphs of a young woman growing into womanhood. We also receive  cautionary lessons about being true to yourself and not striving to be a mere people pleaser. This book is a beautiful blend of cultures and truly the definition of a coming of age book.

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“3 Life Lessons the Book Thief Provides” (by Marcus Zusak)

20170525_144333There are countless lessons that can be drawn from the pages of 2006 bestseller novel “the Book Thief.” I feel that anyone who merely dismisses the book as the story of a hungry, illiterate girl who has such a desire to read that she steals books has truly missed the defining principles of this book. Allow me to share 3 of them.

How To Be Loyal…..

Imagine that someone has just saved your life. Naturally we would say to that person “If there is anything that you need just ask”. If you were Hans Hubermann you would not have to make good on that promise until 20 years later. However, this would involve hiding a Jewish young man in your basement during the height of Nazi Germany. Your loyalty would put your family at risk, your reputation, and of course your own life. Hans was a man loyal to a fault. And the depth of his loyalty not only defines this book, but defines what humanity is supposed to represent.

How To Fight….

The best part of Max Vandenburg’s fighting career is the fact that he loses most of his fights. In hindsight this was his strength because he never fell into complacency. Max bravely fought every person and every obstacle he faced. This included childhood bullies, Antisemitism,  and his fight for self respect.

One of the most powerful fights that Max engages in is his fight against Adolph Hitler in his dreams. Being in his comfort zone he used the boxing ring of his dreams not only to fight Hitler but the entire racist system that lead him to seek refuge in the Hubermann’s basement. As the book progresses Max finds himself being forced to a Nazi concentration camp. But his feisty combative desire to live is no doubt why he is still standing in his corner of the ring at the end of the war.

How To Steal….

Liesel Meminger’s character reveals powerful lessons regarding when and what one can rightfully steal. While she spent a fair amount of time stealing literal food during the war, her true character is defined by stealing books, words, and experiences. The first book stolen forever captures the last time she was together with her mother and brother. Books stolen from the mayor’s house provide comfort and support during air raids. But the theft of a book banned by the Nazi’s is when Liesel stole the right to think for herself and not let wartime propaganda define her.

Together with Max she truly steals words directly from Hitler by painting over the hate and intolerance of “Mein Kampf” and writing their own stories. Writing her own story is literally what saved Liesel’s life and made her discover that the ability to tell your own story is something beautiful that can be created despite any ugliness life can present. I can not call Liesel a thief the the true sense of the word because no such word defines what it means to steal something that is already yours!

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“Real Life Review: Katherine Howard -Those Who Undermine”

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20170503_163629Katherine Howard is a very familiar name to anyone knowledgeable about the 6 wives of Henry the 8th. Katherine is best known for being the 5th wife, the teenager, and the 2nd of Henry’s wives beheaded for allegedly being unfaithful to the King (the first being her 1st cousin Anne Boleyn). While many would agree that her numerous romantic relationships was her downfall, I would have to disagree. Because having multiple lovers, while not recommended, is not a crime even in Tudor times.

Katherine Howard’s true error in judgement lies in the events prior to her hasty marriage to Henry the 8th. 1540 was an eventful year for the Tudor court when King Henry married the German Anne of Cleves. As Henry’s 4th wife it has to be said that Anne was the most ill prepared of all his wives combined. To Anne’s utter disadvantage she was completely ignorant regarding English culture and customs. In fact, she could not even speak the English language fluently. And having no family and no true connections in England meant that Anne’s only assistance would come from her ladies in waiting. And that is exactly the position that Katherine Howard held.

I believe the most costly mistake of Katherine’s life was to undermine Anne of Cleves. The literal definition of undermining is: to dig a hole underneath something making it likely to collapse. This was actually done in the past by invaders to fortified castles walls to expose weaknesses and allow them to conquer their enemies. This aptly describes Katherine’s actions toward Anne of Cleves in a figurative manner. By taking advantage of Anne’s ignorance, alleged lack of beauty, and inability to communicate Katherine set herself up as King Henry’s 5th wife without remorse.

Admittedly it is highly unlikely King Henry would have fallen in love with Anne of Cleves despite any efforts on Katherine’s part. But this calculated act of sabotage on Katherine’s part truly did undermine Anne’s brief marriage. And while we must take into consideration the influence of Katherine’s power hungry family Katherine still should have known that her dubious reputation alone should rule her out as a future queen.

Tragically she inevitably set herself on a collision course with disaster. And it Tudor times that could only mean one thing: a date with the Executioner’s Block!

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Spotlight on an Author: George Eliot’s “Nom de Plume”.

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20170426_113527Using a “Nom de Plume” or a pen name is still a common practice in modern times. There are some writers who simply prefer another name to their own, while others may choose to do so for privacy reasons.  However, it is important to note that in the past a female writer would have found that using a male pen name would have been vital in order to achieve literary success.

Mary Ann Evans (Cross) despite her immense talent failed to publish any novels but George Eliot is the well known author of seven novels. While it was a fact that by the late 1850’s some female authors were being published under their own names Mary Ann Evans still chose to use a pen name. This was mainly because she was determined to avoid the stereotype that women were primarily interested in writing lighthearted romance novels.

It make one consider that if her novels which bear male names such as Adam Bede, Silas Marner, or Daniel Deronda would be diminished in any way if they were published using her female birth name? Possibly, but the point is Mary Ann Evans was convinced that by becoming George Eliot she could be taken seriously as a writer.

Another notable detail about the writing career of Mary Ann Evans was the fact that she was born in 1819, but did not pursue her literary inclinations until 1849 after the death of her father. Considering that her own father did not support her writing career in his lifetime, should we be surprised that she felt no other man would do so without the aid of a pen name?

Nevertheless, whether today’s modern writers choose to use a pen name or not all can emulate the legacy of of Mary Ann Evans by letting their writing skills do the talking. Because strong, sincere writing transcends all obstacles real or imagined.  Hopefully going forward future writers can use a “Nom de Plume” not as a shield but as yet another means of expression for a talented creative soul!

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