The History of the Port of London by Peter Stone #FridayReads #SocialHistory

A Vast Emporium of All Nations

Port

The River Thames has been integral to the prosperity of London since Roman times. Explorers sailed away on voyages of discovery to distant lands. Colonies were established and a great empire grew. Funding their ships and cargoes helped make the City of London into the world’s leading financial center. In the 19th century a vast network of docks was created for ever-larger ships, behind high, prison-like walls that kept them secret from all those who did not toil within. Sail made way for steam as goods were dispatched to every corner of the world. In the 19th century London was the world’s greatest port city. In the Second World War the Port of London became Hitler’s prime target. It paid a heavy price but soon recovered. Yet by the end of the 20th century the docks had been transformed into Docklands, a new financial center.

The History of the Port of London: A Vast Emporium of Nations is the fascinating story of the rise and fall and revival of the commercial river. The only book to tell the whole story and bring it right up to date, it charts the foundation, growth and evolution of the port and explains why for centuries it has been so important to Britain’s prosperity. This book will appeal to those interested in London’s history, maritime and industrial heritage, the Docklands and East End of London, and the River Thames.

As a descendent of the families of Lightermen and Barge builders on the River Thames I am fascinated by the rise and fall of trade and shipping in London through the ages.  The 18th and 19th century river particularly fascinates me and Peter Stone’s meticulous research and vivid description of the changes from “a sea of masts” through the emergence of steam power, gave me a vivid picture of this crowded, industrious scene.  The author himself has generations of Thames watermen as his ancestors, giving him the authority and enthusiasm to bring this social history to life.  From the original Roman settlement, where tidal access made communication with Europe easy, to the modern day importance of Canary Wharf and the fast-moving clippers this easily read, true story is a “must have” for those interested in London or history.

The History of the Port of London at Amazon UK

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A Daughter’s Promise #NewRelease by Ann Bennett #TuesdayBookBlog

Daughter'sPromise

A daughter’s promise to her dying father, uncovers wartime secrets that cast dark shadows over three generations of one family.

In 2015, 90-year old Grace Summers receives some old sketches – the work of her deceased husband, Jack. One sketch is of a beautiful Indian woman in a street in Kuala Lumpur. This brings back bitter-sweet memories of the 1940s, when Grace met and married Jack, whose world had been torn apart by his time as a prisoner of war in Burma.

In 1988, Grace’s daughter, Louise, embarks on a journey to Burma to fulfil a promise she made to Jack on his death-bed. She meets a young Burmese man, Zeya, an activist, and gets caught up in pro-democracy demonstrations, with tragic consequences.

In 2015, Louise and her daughter Eve, retrace Louise’s steps to Myanmar, to research Jack’s wartime experiences and to search for the girl in his sketch. But they are unprepared for the long-buried secrets their journey will unearth…

Once again, Ann Bennett has written a moving story set in the East, where past history resonates through a family.  In her competent hands, an accurate description of the turbulent history of Burma plays out in a tale of sadness and secrets.

In A Daughter’s Promise three women’s lives have been affected by the tragic life of Jack Summers who was imprisoned by the Japanese army and made to work on the notorious Burma railway during the second world war.  Grace looks back to the days when she nursed Jack on his return to England and found herself falling in love with him.  Their daughter, Louise recollects her terrifying visit to Burma during pro-democracy demonstrations in 1988 and the secrets she has kept ever since, while grand-daughter Eve, finding herself at a crisis in her life, is determined to make her own journey to present day Myanmar in order to discover what happened to her grandfather.

The relationships between the generations are sensitively explored and we share their investigation into the mystery of the beautiful Indian woman whom Jack had painted.  At first the reader might find Jack irresponsible but as the contents of his wartime diary are revealed, the true horror of his experiences and his selfless actions to help others, engage our sympathy.  And from this tragic background comes the germ of happiness for Eve and Louise.  A captivating story of 20th century love and suffering, which is well worth reading.

A Daughter’s Promise is available this week on Amazon UK

My Review of The Foundling’s Daughter by Ann Bennett

The Work of Art: A Regency Romance by Mimi Matthews #RBRT #NewRelease

work of art

An Uncommon Beauty…

Hidden away in rural Devonshire, Phyllida Satterthwaite has always been considered more odd than beautiful. But in London, her oddity has made her a sensation. Far worse, it’s caught the eye of the sinister Duke of Moreland—a notorious art collector obsessed with acquiring one-of-a-kind treasures. To escape the duke’s clutches, she’s going to need a little help.

An Unlikely Hero…

Captain Arthur Heywood’s days of heroism are long past. Grievously injured in the Peninsular War, he can no longer walk unaided, let alone shoot a pistol. What use can he possibly be to a damsel in distress? He has nothing left to offer except his good name.
Can a marriage of convenience save Philly from the vengeful duke? Or will life with Arthur put her—and her heart—in more danger than ever?

Phyllida Satterthwaite is presented to us surrounded by a cacophony of misbehaving dogs, all of whom she owns and cares about. Insisting on bringing them to the London home of her uncle Edgar Townsend, she must soon find a husband to provide for her, now she is penniless.  It is apparent that she puts animals before people and she seems unaware of her beauty, only thinking herself odd because of her mismatched eye colours.  But for one person, the Duke of Moreland, she is a work of art, which he wishes to add to his collection.

It might have gone according to Townsend’s plan had it not been for the noble actions of Captain Arthur Heywood, but what use is he, so badly injured from the battle of Albuera that he can hardly walk. Yet Arthur and Philly are drawn together because they don’t fit into the artificial society of Regency London.  Arthur fears a terrible fate will befall Philly and he is prepared to use his wealth, and power to keep her safe.  But can there be a happy ending?  Arthur is damaged, physically and mentally, while Philly is an innocent, gentle girl who longs for independence and a safe place to look after her animals.

As with all Miss Matthews’ novels, it is the conversations between hero and heroine which catch the imagination. As love grows, problems increase. Philly is still in danger and Arthur is not fit enough to protect her.  There are credible misunderstandings and a complex plot but the intimacy of this delightful couple is such a pleasure to read.

The Work of Art can be pre-ordered on Amazon Uk for delivery on July 24th

You read my review of The Lost Letter, a Victorian romance by Mimi Matthews here

Passionate Travellers by Trish Nicholson #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Passionate

Accompanying these 21 passionate travellers on their personal quests, we discover what drove them, and share their incredible journeys through deserts, mountains, jungles and seas to every continent, spanning 2,000 years of history from 480 BCE to the 1930s. These are true stories of daring adventure, courage, cunning, even murder and, above everything, sheer determination against all odds.

Most of these eight women and thirteen men were ordinary people transformed by their journeys. They travelled from Africa, China, Persia, Russia, and the Mediterranean as well as from Europe and America. Their backgrounds were diverse, including: poet, artist, invalid, slave, pilgrim, doctor, missionary, scholar, diplomat, dilettante, storyteller, and anarchistic opera singer.

Not all survived. Many have been forgotten. Who now knows that Octavie Coudreau, stranded in a canoe on the Amazon in 1899 with her dead husband, continued to chart the river? That Thomas Stevens was the first person to cycle around the world on a penny-farthing? And why was an English parlour maid abandoned on the Trans-Siberian railway and arrested by Stalin’s secret police?

With painstaking research and powerful storytelling, the author, herself a world-traveller, has created an intimate experience of each traveller’s journey and recaptured a vanished world. A compelling travel read and a treat for history lovers.

My Review

Recounting the story of 21 epic journeys, made by a panoply of individuals through known time, is quite a challenge.  How should they be sorted?  Do they share a common purpose?  Can we learn from their experiences?  Trish Nicholson had chosen to group the journeys according to the geographical region they visited, with each section introduced by a Perspective giving the reader a picture of the area’s context within society at the time of the travellers described. Each person had different reasons to set out; curiosity, greed, a mission, a need for challenge, but all were surprised. The sketch maps of each journey are a great asset, however knowledgeable (or not) you may be of the 21st century world.

This is a book of choices. Do you seek out the names which are familiar, such as Herodotus, Mungo Park or Robert Louis Stevenson, do you choose to follow the brave journeys of the women who endured discomfort to find new experiences or do you read from the beginning to the end?  All approaches are rewarding, but I admit to skipping first to some of my favourites such as Gladys Aylward, whom I’ve admired since childhood, and Marianne North, whose accurate, beautiful drawings of plants are on show at Kew gardens.  Then I discovered amazing journeys made by strangers to me. Ida Pfeiffer’s suffering in order to see most of Iceland, Stevenson’s fascinating tour of the islands of the Pacific Ocean and the anarchic Alexandra David-Neel’s determination to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, all filled me with awe and admiration, even though many of these people would not be easy companions.

I shall be buying Passionate Travellers as a present for friends who love journeys or who find people intriguing. Its fluent prose and detailed account of the world of the past are irresistible.

Passionate Travellers can be found on Amazon UK

My Review of A Biography of Story, a Brief History of Humanity by Trish Nicholson

The Sinclair Betrayal: A Jayne Sinclair Genealogical Mystery by M J Lee #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Sinclair Betrayal

Jayne Sinclair is back and this time she’s investigating her own family history.
For years, Jayne has avoided researching the past of her own family. There are just too many secrets she would prefer to stay hidden. Then she is forced to face up to the biggest secret of all; her father is still alive. Even worse, he is in prison for the cold-blooded killing of an old civil servant. A killing supposedly motivated by the betrayal and death of his mother decades before.

Was he guilty or innocent? And who betrayed his mother?

Jayne uses all her genealogical and police skills to investigate the world of the Special Operations Executive and of secrets hidden in the dark days of World War 2. A world that leads her into a battle with herself, her conscience and her own family.

This is not the first Jayne Sinclair Genealogical mystery but the first I have read. It appealed to me because the wartime drama dealt with the story of British agents undercover in France while the research made by Jayne in the present day showed that investigation can reveal dark family secrets. The plotting is excellent, and we learn a great deal about the possibilities of following leads, but I found both female characters rather lacking in substance. Monique Massat, Jane’s grandmother represents the heroines of the SOE and her sad story reflects the tragedy of war. This story could make an exciting on-screen drama and I shall be seeking out other volumes in this series.

The Sinclair Betrayal can be found on Amazon UK

M J Lee

M J Lee

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.

He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, researching his family history, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.

 

The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook #DualTime #Romance #mystery

Forgotten

This dual time novel appealed to me because it is centred on the abandoned village of Tyneham on Warbarrow Bay in Dorset. In December 1943 all the villagers, including the lord of the manor, had to leave their houses and village to live elsewhere for the duration of the war so that troops could practice for D-day.  What they didn’t realise was that they could never return home.  Today the ruined village can sometimes be visited, and this is where our 21st century heroine, Melissa meets celebrated historian, Guy Cameron.

Melissa’s relationship with her uncaring boyfriend, Liam is breaking down, so helping Guy to investigate the disappearance of Lady Veronica after she left Tyneham in the 1940s is a welcome distraction.  The two learn that Anna, Guy’s grandmother was lady’s maid to Veronica, but she is reluctant to tell them very much of her past.  Alongside this thread we enter Lady Veronica’s unhappy life with her unpleasant husband Sir Albert.  Both stories include tension and misunderstanding, and you can’t help rooting for both Melissa and Veronica.  This first novel by Lorna Cook promises more intriguing books to follow.

Lorna cook

Lorna Cook

Lorna Cook writes dual-timeline stories that blend secrets of the past with the present.
She lives by the sea with her husband, two small daughters and a demanding dog called Socks.

The Forgotten Village can be found on Amazon UK

 

Hope by Terry Tyler #NewRelease #DystopianBritain #BookReview

 

Hope

Hope takes us to an alternative UK in 2028. Just 5 years earlier, shiny new Prime Minister, Guy Morrisey, had been elected, part of Brand Morrissey, with his wife Mona, a fitness guru, and two clean living photogenic children. Now we meet Lila Stone, whose earnings come mainly from her social comment and review blog, content with the lifestyle she shares with her flatmates, Nick, a successful online journalist and Kendall, a sweet curvaceous girl. But slowly things begin to fall apart. Queues outside food banks become longer each day, Nutricorp, a company started by Mona’s father, is becoming increasingly powerful and Mona’s project to make ordinary folk #FitForWork attacks their confidence and even their livelihood.

Lila’s childhood as a foster child has made her independent, and she is determined to help those in need, but she is reluctant to seek help for herself. Gradually she, Nick and Kendall find their comfortable life moving to “Just Getting By” and then “Totally Fucked”. Will they end up entering one of the villages for those who fail to support themselves, called Hope?

The frightening thing about this novel is that it is not so different to the world we live in now. The toxic effect of social media on well-being and how easily powerful factions can distort facts is present in our society and with the slightest shift we could be in Lila’s place. Another really powerful dystopian novel by Terry Tyler which could so easily become our reality.

Hope can be found on Amazon UK

My review of Terry Tyler’s other haunting picture of Britain’s future Tipping Point