Notes of a Naive Traveler: Nepal and Thailand by Jennifer S Alderson #BookReview #Travel

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After reading Down and Out in Kathmandu, the first fictional adventure of Zelda Richardson, I was eager to learn more about the incredible country of Nepal and author, Jennifer S Alderson’s experiences as a volunteer teacher. Jennifer was indeed a naïve traveler, who had left her family and secure job in Seattle to live with locals, deep in the Asian countryside, with little modern comforts.

Written in late 1999, this is a frank, spontaneous journal, augmented by messages home to friends and family. Beautiful word pictures are created of the lush countryside and fascinating shrines but we are also given details of the dirt, lack of hygiene and cultural clashes. So many interesting customs and festivals are included but we are also informed of how menstruating women are prevented from preparing food or even eating with their family for the first few days of their period.

Some of the places visited are so remote that few westerners are likely to see them. Jennifer describes a holy site up in the hills behind the house where she is staying, which is called Budhanilkantha. She finds an enormous sleeping statue of Vishnu reclining on a bed of snakes. There are also shrines to Ganesh, Shiva and other gods. Returning from this journey, she is stricken with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, as a result of a few sips of unboiled water.

Interspersed with the accounts of the killing of a goat and demands for donations from her host, Jennifer also enjoyed some thrilling expeditions where she proves herself to be fearless, but it is with some relief that she leaves for Thailand, at last able to have privacy. I was not surprised to read that Thailand is much more westernised and modern than Nepal, but after leaving Bangkok, Jennifer finds paradise in Koh Tao on the East coast and Krabi on the west coast.

This travel memoir is a great read, whether you have some experience of the East or not and it should be required reading for anyone contemplating volunteering in a different part of the world.

You can find Notes of a Naive Traveler on Amazon UK or Amazon US

Who Killed Constable Cock?: A Victorian True Crime Murder Case by Angela Buckley #BookRelease

Who Killed

 The mystery of who killed Constable Cock is Angela Buckley’s second Victorian Supersleuth Investigation. It describes a murder which occurred on the night of August 1st 1876 in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy. While patrolling his beat, Constable Cock was suddenly shot in the chest and although there were witnesses close by no-one could tell where the bullet came from.

Using newspaper reports and evidence presented in court, Angela has pieced together what happened. Although only 21, Nicholas Cock had already lived a varied life and was an extremely conscientious police officer. This had caused to him have enemies and Superintendent Brent of the Manchester Constabulary believed he knew the culprit. But proving guilt was not so easy. Reading this book gives us a window into Victorian life, meeting respectable people, burglars and the unfortunate. The availability of firearms made a policeman, bearing only a staff, vulnerable but provided clues as to whom the perpetrator might be.

The delight of Angela Buckley’s books are the aptly worded chapter titles, such as “A Murder of a Dastardly Character,” and each are followed by well-chosen quotes as in Chapter 4:

“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” from Great Expectations.

Every aspect of the investigation is described and once the case is complete using thorough, though mainly circumstantial evidence, it would seem there was nothing more to report but there is an incredible twist in the tale. In a revelation which would be difficult to believe in fiction, we meet the colourful character of Charlie Peace and the case is turned upon its head.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in social history but also those who enjoy a good detective story with a fascinating conclusion.

Castles, Customs and Kings edited by Debra Brown #FridayBookShare~ @ShelleyWilson72

#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

I have long enjoyed http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.co.uk/ where a talented group of authors of historical fiction share their research.  The book I would like to share with you today, is the first of two anthologies sharing a selection of its blog posts.

My choice of first line and favourite scene are from

The Power of a Red Dress by Anne O’Brien

First Line:  Red, the colour of festivity and enjoyment, the colour of youth and beauty.  Of seduction.  The colour of sin……

Recruit fans by adding the blurb

A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From the first English word to Tudor ladies-in-waiting, from Regency dining and dress to Victorian crime and technology, immerse yourself in the lore of Great Britain. Read the history behind the fiction and discover the true tales surrounding England’s castles, customs, and kings.

Introduce the main character –The Wife of Bath was deceitful, entertaining and successful

Delightful Design

castles

Audience appeal: Those with a natural curiosity about history

Your Favourite Scene

When my fourth husband lay upon his bier,
I wept enough and made but sorry cheer,
As wives must always, for it’s custom’s grace,
And with my kerchief covered up my face,
But since I was provided with a mate
I really wept but little, I may state.

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

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Primary Sources from the 20th century: Reviews of “Notes on Voyage” and “Zeppelin Letters” by David Ransom

David Ransom is an amateur historian with specialist interests which have drawn him towards fascinating sources.  These two books reveal a diary and the letters of people who were alive in interesting times.

notes-on-voyage

Notes on Voyage is the diary of John Lynn and his family as they travel to Australia in 1911 to start a new life.  David Ransom has put the diary in its historical context and gives us information about the Lynn family, but it is John Lynn’s voice who speaks to us through his adventure.

The long voyage round South Africa, not stopping until they first reached Australia, must have been very wearing.  I have made this voyage myself, but with stops en route to relieve the monotony.  But the passengers and crew came up with many ideas to occupy themselves such as chess, music and football.  They watched flying fish and battleships and on the hottest nights slept on deck or indulged in pillow fights.  They endured a frightening hurricane and a mutiny by some of the crew.

This book is an opportunity to share the experiences of a hopeful and likeable family as they bravely set out over a hundred years ago.

zeppelin

Zeppelin Letters takes us to the Home Front during World War One, as we share the experiences of Londoners of the time, through the letters they wrote. We read of the horror and fear when the Zeppelins, and later planes, came to bomb the city and gain understanding of the difficulties people had, finding food and going about their everyday lives. I was surprised to discover how much disruptive and fatal bombing there was during a war when there were no air-raid shelters.

 
The letter writers were Maud Norris, George Vernon Hatch and Irene Magraw. Maud wrote to her brother, who was in New Zealand; George Hatch worked in an office during the day and volunteered at a searchlight station for the Civil Defence; Irene, who was married to a clergyman, wrote chatty letters to her mother.

 
Irene’s letters, including details about her little dog, Smut, and baby Betty are the liveliest to read, but the combination of different viewpoints alongside official reports give a vivid picture of the dramatic events from 1915 to 1917. This is a must read for anyone interested in social history and particularly of wartime London. I very much enjoyed it.

Notes on Voyage can be found here and  Zeppelin Letters is also available at Amazon UK

David Ransom

ransom

David Ransom was born in Brighton, UK. He served an apprenticeship as a compositor in the days of hot metal printing, trained as a Monotype keyboard operator, and eventually moved on to Apple computers and magazine design.

He has always had a fascination with history and has a varied collection of miscellaneous items related to Pitcairn Island, the New Zealand Shipping Company, and the history of photography. Occasionally some of these areas come together, and it is as a result of these fortunate links that he aims to produce books for the Kindle.

His next book will cover the New Zealand Shipping Company’s “Remuera” and its connection with Pitcairn Island.

#FridayBookShare The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

#FridayBookShare is a game created by Shelley Wilson to help search for an ideal read.

Anyone can have a go – all you need to do is answer the following questions based on the book you are currently reading/finished reading this week and use the hashtag #FridayBookShare

First line of the book.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Introduce the main character using only three words.

Delightful design (add the cover image of the book).

Audience appeal (who would enjoy reading this book?)

Your favourite line/scene.

I recently received The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson, as a gift from a stranger, through an anonymous book sharing scheme.  Many years ago I loved reading Notes from a Small Island about Bill’s first impressions of Britain, but what does he think now?

First Line – “One of the things that happens when you get older is that you discover lots of new ways to hurt yourself.”

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb

Twenty years ago, Bill Bryson went on a trip around Britain to celebrate the green and kindly island that had become his adopted country. The hilarious book that resulted, Notes from a Small Island, was taken to the nation’s heart and became the bestselling travel book ever, and was also voted in a BBC poll the book that best represents Britain.Now, to mark the twentieth anniversary of that modern classic, Bryson makes a brand-new journey round Britain to see what has changed.

Following (but not too closely) a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, by way of places that many people never get to at all, Bryson sets out to rediscover the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly unique country that he thought he knew but doesn’t altogether recognize any more. Yet, despite Britain’s occasional failings and more or less eternal bewilderments, Bill Bryson is still pleased to call our rainy island home. And not just because of the cream teas, a noble history, and an extra day off at Christmas.

Once again, with his matchless homing instinct for the funniest and quirkiest, his unerring eye for the idiotic, the endearing, the ridiculous and the scandalous, Bryson gives us an acute and perceptive insight into all that is best and worst about Britain today.

Introduce the main character  Witty, indomitable, Bill. 

Delightful Design

Little D

Audience appeal  Anyone who enjoys reading Bryson’s humorous observations.  Anyone from Britain, anyone who has visited Britain or anyone who intends visiting.

Your favourite line/scene  –In order to become a British citizen Bryson had to pass a knowledge test, so he sent for a study guide:-

The study guide is an interesting book, nicely modest, a little vacuous at times, but with its heart in the right place.  Britain, you learn, is a country that cherishes fair play, is rather good at art and literature, values good manners, and has often shown itself to be commendably inventive, especially around things that run on steam.  The people are a generally decent lot who garden, go for walks in the country, eat roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on sundays (unless they are Scottish in which case they may go for haggis).  They holiday at the seaside, obey the Green Cross Code, queue patiently, vote sensibly, respect the police, venerate the monarch, and practise moderation in all things.  Occasionally they go to a public house to drink two units or fewer of good English ale and to have a game of pool or skittles. (You sometimes feel that the people who wrote the guidebook should get out more.)

 

If you want to join in, then answer the F.R.I.D.A.Y questions and use the Friday Book Share meme. Tag Shelley (@ShelleyWilson72) in, so she can read what you have added, too.

Amelia Dyer and the Baby Farm Murders by Angela Buckley

Amelia Dyer

We cannot help being fascinated by true life crimes and how they are solved.  This sensational tale has been thoroughly researched and told in an easily read style which gives us a realistic picture of late 19th century life.

 

Unmarried mothers at that time, not only suffered deep shame but would also lose their jobs and probably end up in the workhouse.  The alternatives were to do away with their baby or to find a baby farm.  Middle aged women like Amelia Dyer advertised for babies, whom, for a fee they would take care of.  Frequently these babies would be sold on to another, although some women genuinely wanted a child as a companion and helpmate.  To provide anonymity for the mother (and also the baby farmer) the baby was often handed over in a large railway station.

 

Amelia Dyer first took in babies while living in the Bristol area before eventually moving to Caversham near Reading.  Despite being admitted more than once into a mental asylum she kept under the radar until a shocking discovery was made under the Clappers footbridge across the River Thames.  The body of a child was found wrapped up in brown paper.

 

Angela Buckley’s book describes how events unfolded as the Reading police searched for the perpetrator.  From newspaper accounts, letters and the trial details, the sad lives of many children and the events surrounding Amelia Dyer’s actions are revealed in a compelling story.  We also become acquainted with Granny, a simple soul who helped look after the babies and Arthur Ernest Palmer, Amelia’s enigmatic son-in-law.

 

This is the first of Angela Buckley’s new historical true crime series, Victorian Supersleuth Investigates, promising more revealing stories in the future.

1890 Caversham

Caversham Bridge in 1890

You can read my review of Angela Buckley’s earlier book The Real Sherlock Holmes, the Hidden history of Jerome Caminada here.

Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss by Alison Ripley Cubitt

Castles

Castles in the air is a book of two halves. It tells us the life story of Alison’s mother Molly; the first half mainly using Molly’s own letters to a dear older friend, Steve and the second half a combination of Alison’s memories and her mother’s diaries.

I chose this book because I wanted to read about Molly’s experiences before and during the war as a teenager living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon and Mombasa and also her life as an expat in Malaya during the Emergency. I especially enjoyed Molly’s father’s log of their trip out to Hong Kong through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal as it reminded me of my 6-week voyage to Singapore when I was 15.

Despite periods of boredom and hard times, keeping ahead of the Japanese invasion with very little money, the early period of Molly’s life is full of interest, but her married life is not so easy and despite, or maybe because of sheer hard work, both Molly and her husband endure considerable unhappiness.

In this memoir, Alison is frank and honest, exposing the rifts and suffering in her family life while also showing clearly how much her mother loved her and did her best for all three children. There are so many “if onlys” in Molly’s life which could have made it so much better or so much worse. An interesting read.