Lost Voices of the Edwardians by Max Arthur #amreading #bookreview

Edwardians

I am a sucker for any book about the Victorians or Edwardians so when I spotted Max Arthur’s book in a charity shop I immediately bought it.  It is a compilation of testimony from people who grew up or lived during the Edwardian era, 1901-1910.  The memories of mostly ordinary people have been transcribed as small snippets in chapter themes such as childhood, work, suffragettes and military.  There is an index at the back if you wish to look up subjects such as The House of Commons or chicken pox.

One young lady describes how she was approached by a pleasant lady asking for guidance in reaching Waterloo station. She was then persuaded to accompany the woman to her home in Gray’s Inn Road.  Being joined along the road by two men, the younger one took the young lady aside to say, “Little girl, she’s no fit companion for you, come along, here’s your bus,” and he hailed one.  She never forgot her saviour!

I was also intrigued by the school stories, of shoeless children being caned and other children proud of the thorough education they had been given by strict but fair teachers.  A good book to keep by the bedside for reading at odd moments.  And there are others; Lost Voices of the Royal Air Force and Forgotten Voices of the Great War.

You can find the books of Max Arthur at Amazon

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The Wind Singer by William Nicholson #BookReview #YA

Wind Singer

William Nicholson was the playwright who wrote “Shadowlands” and “Gladiator” so it may surprise you to read that The Wind Singer is a children’s book (or at least young adults). It is a dystopian fantasy, centred on Kestrel and Bowman Hath, twin sister and brother who live in the city of Aramanth with their mother, father and baby sister. In Aramanth everyone is ranked and housed according to their success or otherwise in examinations. From the first toddler test to check whether a baby can identify colours and is out of nappies to the advanced tests for the father of the family.

The Hath family live in the Orange sector which we would identify as being for blue-collar workers although they are obviously intellectually superior but don’t toe the line. Kestrel is strong and independent and always protects her sensitive, fey, twin brother Bowman. The whole Hath family are closely tied by love and are torn apart by a mistake made by Kestrel. She and her brother realise that the city will only become whole and normal if they can find the missing part of the Wind-Singer a strange tower erected by another race thousands of years before. Their quest takes them on a long journey accompanied by Mumpo, a very simple boy who loves Kestrel. Their journey, bravery and adventures make up the rest of the story. It sounds predictable but it is a compelling read and this is both a complete story in its own right and part one of a trilogy with very different, more demanding events in the next two books.

I think this is essential reading for today’s constantly tested young people, especially the children of competitive parents, but it is also a very enjoyable read for any adult who enjoys a fantasy read.

The Wind Singer at Amazon UK

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity by Trish Nicholson #BookReview

Bio of Story

Dedicated, “to all who love Story whoever you are,” this book encompasses storytelling since communication began and covers most corners of the globe.  Story is personified, weaving through History, influencing events, and what happens affects the nature of stories.

From early Creation stories of Africa and Australia, we move through legend, myth, saga and fable.  As words begin to be written down, words confer authority and as we all know, history is written by the victors.  Common themes of the wisdom of animals, of good versus evil, of disguise and mistaken identity recur but there are also specific features only present in one era.

Trish Nicholson gives us tantalising details of the lives of so many tellers of tales, but as she says, “Teasing out strands of the old storytellers’ lives is like following a thread through the Cretan labyrinth; the “Minotaur” we discover at the other end may turn out to be a goat rather than a bull.”  The lives of Chaucer and Boccaccio are compared and the similarities and differences in their work marked.  Similarly, she shows us how Sir Walter Scott and James Fennimore Cooper reflected their era and their environment in using the tales told by the indigenous people of their countries.

My favourite chapter tells us about Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, the talented sister of the King of France.  Her life was varied and eventful, surrounded by poets and writers. A politically astute woman, she was widely respected and a skilled mediator. She spent time translating parts of the New Testament and more relevantly, writing stories. When her collection of tales was published posthumously in 1558, some of her humorous stories were considered of an unsuitable bawdy nature for a woman so some were edited and credited to a man.

“A Biography of Story” is no boring book of literary criticism, since the author is herself a storyteller.  She narrates significant stories to her readers, highlighting the essential strands of each literary era so that the book can be dipped into, using the clear descriptive chapter summaries or the comprehensive index.  But perhaps, like me, you would rather start at the beginning and enjoy reading the entire delightful text.

A Last Thought from the Book

The story is our escort; without it we are blind

Chinua Achebe

 

A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity is available at Amazon UK

 

Trish Nicholson

Trish Nicholson

I have scribbled in various forms since childhood. Twice I turned from the beginnings of a writing career to dive into something else: the first time to work overseas on rural aid and development projects; the second time, in 2000, when I emigrated to New Zealand. Writing has claimed me again and I’m not planning to go anywhere else this time.

My mother’s side of the family are Scots (Clarks and MacAndrews), and being born in the Isle of Man, and of Manx stock, makes me part Celtic and part Nordic. I believe my paternal family name, Taggart, is a Manx Gaelic term for ‘priest’ or ‘healer’; as most of my forbears were parsons, this seems fitting. Later, like lots of young people, I left the Island to seek tertiary education and never found my way back.

In 2017 I revisited the island for the first time in 30 years as part of a speaking/book tour with A Biography of Story. You can read about the trip and a bit of family history on the blog post: ‘Story Visits the Island of Stories’.

I have lived in many places in Britain: southeast England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, and the Highlands of Scotland where I lived and worked for 12 years. It is from Scotland that I went to work overseas; first in Papua New Guinea, then in the Philippines, where I completed also a doctoral degree in social anthropology. Research in Vietnam and Australia – on indigenous tourism – and many other trips, to South America and Africa, and especially unforgettable treks in Bhutan, Tibet and Nepal, brought me eventually back to England, and the decision to settle in New Zealand.

My home is in the ‘winterless’ Far North, where native trees grow even more in winter than summer because they have more moisture. No ‘off-season’ for garden work here – no splendid lacy icicles either, but I have photographs to remind me of those.

The Long Journey Home by Wendy Robertson #BookReview

Long Journey

The arrival of the Japanese army in 1942 marked the end of colonial life in Singapore.  The pre-war round of parties, games of tennis and servants, disappeared overnight as the British women and children attempted to escape by ship, while their menfolk were unable to defend the island and were quickly imprisoned in Changi jail.  Meanwhile many of the Chinese population were murdered or tortured.

Ten-year-old Sylvie has had a privileged life despite her mother’s coldness.  Tutored by Virginia Chen, a Eurasian graduate in her late 20s, she is able to meet many other people in the multiracial city.  When her father takes his family to the docks to board one of the last ships, an aerial attack causes confusion and she is left behind.  Eventually finding Virginia, the two of them try to survive the rest of the war together.

This thrilling and very credible story relates the horror, comradeship and continuing racial tension.  The deep friendship between Virginia and Sylvie helps them to endure the hunger and cruelty but peace threatens to divide them forever.  There is a hint of romance for Virginia and we wonder whether Sylvie will ever see her beloved father again and there are some pleasing family connections to be discovered.

I have read many other books about the fall of Singapore, since so many true stories of endurance and suffering can be told, but this was a book I could not put down and the stratas of social behaviour and need for racial equality make it a novel worth reading in the 21st century.

Wendy Robertson

W Robertson

Scatty and disorganised about most things except my writing and reading I drift through life in search of the next idea, the wonderful next story. I have been living this life for the last twenty years after a career in teaching up to degree level. I embraced teaching as a creative enterprise but was always a writer who happened to teach, publishing three books while I was still working as well as some short stories and journalism. After that I surrendered to the writing goddess and published a range of novels and short stories as well as the occasional article.

Oh, and I have a Master’s Degree in Education. Some of those insights thread through the novels too, I suppose.

I have written spasmodically about my life in my short volume A Life In Short Pieces, and in The Romancer: A Writer’s Tale.

I’m fascinated by creativity history, identity, imagination, equality and myth. Recently, on looking through my novels I realise that – although not with any conscious purpose – these themes seem to be threaded through my writing.

In the middle of my writing career I spent five years as Writer in Residence in a women’s prison. This was a life-changing experience for me – broadening my view, deepening my empathy and my understanding of the whole of society. One outcome of that experience was my novel Paulie’s Web This, while fictional, tells some truths about the varied lives of many of the interesting and wise women I met in prison.

The Long Journey Home is available here

Fury (A Kate Redman Mystery) by Celina Grace #NewRelease #BookReview

Fury

Kate Redman has recently been promoted to Detective Inspector, but she has a new female boss who appears to be undermining her.  Still with the same friendly team at Abbeyford police station she is unsure of what she wants out of her relationship with Anderton.  Soon they are all too busy investigating two murders to be able to worry about their private lives.

Anxious to make her mark in her new role, Kate uses her intuition to find connections between the murders and soon she is travelling to the other end of the country in search of a suspect.  This is an excellent stand-alone murder mystery with very human characters involved in up-to-date predicaments, but it is particularly rewarding for previous readers of the Kate Redman Mysteries to see how she is maturing and assuming responsibility as a policewoman.

Other familiar characters deal with the responsibilities of parenthood and coping with life outside the police force and the blend of relationships and  crime make for a great read.

Fury is available on Amazon UK

Read my reviews of earlier novels in the series by Celina Grace:-

Imago  and  Siren

Celina Grace blogs on http://indieauthorschool.com/blog/

 

Just an Odd Job Girl by Sally Cronin #TuesdayBookBlog #Review

Odd Job Girl

Imogen has reached the milestone of 50, but her world has fallen apart.  After over 20 years of marriage to Peter, he has abandoned her for a younger model.  Thrown out of her lovely home, she has downsized and is hibernating.  After turning to comfort eating, she has gained several pounds so has decided to make a new start by looking for a job.  She hasn’t worked since marrying Peter, so she approaches an agency.  There she meets Andrew who listens to her; something Peter never did.

 

Talking to him about her work experiences unleashes a multitude of memories and we as readers are able to share in the variety of occupations of her youth.  This isn’t a depressing story about loss or wasted years, it is a lively, amusing account of work in a hotel, funeral directors and the catering world. It shows a woman’s worth, gained from all the challenges of life experiences.  By going back through her memories, Imogen rediscovers her confidence and is ready to face the world anew.

Sally Cronin

Sally G Cronin

Sally Cronin is a successful author, well known for Smorgasboarda blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general.

Just an Odd Job Girl can be purchased on Amazon UK or Amazon US

 

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd #BookReview

London Eye

I recently discovered the books of Siobhan Dowd, sadly after she died.  Written as a young adult adventure, “The London Eye Mystery” is exactly the sort of book I would have bought for my school Library or classroom.

 

Written in the words of Ted, who lives with his parents and elder sister Kat in London, it describes the mysterious disappearance of his cousin Salim from a capsule on the London Eye and how he and Kat try to find him.  Ted’s approach is unusual, because he has Asperger’s syndrome and he has a particular knowledge and interest in meteorology. Thus, he works logically through all possibilities, even the absurd, such as spontaneous combustion, using climatic vocabulary, for instance The Eye of the Hurricane and The Coriolis Effect, to analyse events.

 

Ted and Kat put their sibling rivalry aside to find their cousin.  Kat tells Ted that he is genius and he learns that she is able to read body language which he does not understand. Ted’s navigation of the underground and his experience of the crowded Earl’s Court exhibition centre, highlight the fears such places can induce for many people but how feelings can be overcome when it really matters.  A great book for 10 or 11-year-olds but I really enjoyed it too.

Siobhan Dowd

Siobhan Dowd was born to Irish parents and brought up in London. She spent much of her youth visiting the family cottage in Aglish, County Waterford and later the family home in Wicklow Town.
She attended a Catholic grammar school in south London and then gained a degree in Classics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. After a short stint in publishing, she joined the writer’s organization PEN, initially as a researcher for its Writers in Prison Committee.

She went on to be Program Director of PEN American Center’s Freedom-to-Write Committee in New York City. Her work here included founding and leading the Rushdie Defense Committee USA and traveling to Indonesia and Guatemala to investigate local human rights conditions for writers. During her seven-year spell in New York, Siobhan was named one of the “top 100 Irish-Americans” by Irish-America Magazine and AerLingus, for her global anti-censorship work.

On her return to the UK, Siobhan co-founded English PEN’s readers and writers programme, which takes authors into schools in socially deprived areas, as well as prisons, young offender’s institutions and community projects.

During 2004, Siobhan served as Deputy Commissioner for Children’s Rights in Oxfordshire, working with local government to ensure that statutory services affecting children’s lives conform with UN protocols.
Siobhan has an MA with Distinction in Gender and Ethnic Studies at Greenwich University, has authored short stories, columns and articles, and edited two anthologies.

In May 2007, Siobhan was named one of “25 authors of the future” by Waterstones Books as part of the latter’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

Siobhan died on 21st August 2007 aged 47. She had been receiving treatment for advanced breast cancer for 3 years, and did not go gentle into that good night.