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Books we’ve read

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain – a review

The red flower for this Valentine’s Day piece is the scarlet poppy on the front of the Virago anniversary edition of Testament of Youth. First published in 1933 by Victor Gollancz, it became a great success both in the UK and the USA, and  familiar to a later generation when reissued in 1978 and a … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Miscellaneous, Strong Women, World War One | Leave a comment

Ordinary lives – made interesting

‘Family history worth its salt asks big questions about economic forces, political decisions, local government, urban history, social policy, as well as the character of individuals and the fate of their families.’ So says Alison Light and her book certainly does that.  In fact it is easy to lose track of her ancestors as she … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read | 2 Comments

A Dog’s Life by Michael Holroyd – a review.

This is a fictionalised account of Holroyd’s eccentric family, detailing 24 hours in the lives of the inhabitants of the house called ‘This’ll do’. It’s a study of old age, and of a middle class family in reduced circumstances struggling to cope with the post-war world of the early 50s. Best known for his biographies … Continue reading »

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Mr Punch’s History of the Great War

Of all the books I’ve acquired from relatives over the years one of my favourites is Mr. Punch’s History of the Great War.  Published in 1919 by Cassell and Company and edited by Charles L Graves (1856-1944) it uses extracts from Punch magazine to “provide a mirror of varying moods, month by month, but reflecting … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, World War One | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Engineering dynasties – The Lighthouse Stevensons

  I have just finished reading Bella Bathurst’s “The Lighthouse Stevensons”, the story of the family of engineers who built Scotland’s lighthouses.  The book was our reading group’s choice for June and I began reading it as an well written, engrossing family story but then started to find it an unexpected source of material, both … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Zeppelin Nights

Jerry White is a social historian and Visiting Professor of London History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is perhaps best known for his trilogy of histories of London in the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. His latest book, Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War was published by Bodley Head on 1st May … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, World War One | 2 Comments

Ammonites and Leaping Fish, by Penelope Lively

Published by Penguin/Fig Tree in 2013, this memoir is sub-titled ‘A life in Time’ by its distinguished author. She describes it as not exactly a memoir, ‘Rather, it is the view from old age.’ As well as being a fascinating read for anyone who is familiar with the writer’s work, it would also be helpful … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Legacies, Strong Women | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Twelve Years a Slave and The last Runaway

The film, Twelve Years a Slave, directed by the artist and Turner prize winner Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, is a powerful portrayal of the kidnap and enslavement of the educated and successful black musician Solomon Northup in 1841. Abducted, and and torn from his family and comfortable life in New York State, he … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Journeys, Men of God, and of Commerce | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Mrs Chapone’s Advice

In this season of New Year resolutions, there is usually an explosion of self-help books, instructing us how to keep fit, healthy and happy.  It so happens that I have just started to peruse a self-help book from the 18th century, having reached the appropriate date in my ‘shitty first draft’ . One of the … Continue reading »

Categories: 18th Century, 19th Century, Books we've read | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

On Persephone’s Island

On Persephone’s Island, a Sicilian Journal, by Mary Taylor Simeti, published by Vintage Departures, 1995. This is an absorbing and evocative book for summer reading, especially if you are planning to visit Sicily. Simeti, born and brought up in New York, arrived in Sicily as a young graduate in October 1962, planning to work at … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Journeys | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment