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Past Meets Present at Clandon Park

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Today I am taking the challenge set by Becky of It Caught My Eye in Portugal to compare a photograph of the past with a recent one I have taken myself.

I have lived near to Clandon Park for 37 years and although I didn’t particularly admire the appearance of the outside architecture, I always felt at home walking around this National Trust property.  Inside as well as the Marble Entrance Hall, there were beautifully decorated rooms full of enchanting china.

When I first saw the smoke and flames of the house fire which caused so much destruction I was very sad and my more recent photos show that although the shell remains, the roof and much of the interior has been destroyed.  Now the NT are looking for an architect to oversee its rebuilding.  I am looking forward to a hopeful future for the House.

Clandon

 

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Please visit some of Becky’s #PastMeetsPresent Pages and maybe join in yourself.

Return to the Little French Guest House (La Cour des roses #2) by Helen Pollard #FridayRead #bookreview

Blue skies, new love, and a glass of Bordeaux . . . what could possibly go wrong?

Return

In January, I decided to chase away the winter blues by reading Helen Pollard’s “Little French Guesthouse.”  Now on a sunny Spring break I have picked up “Return to the Little French Guest House.” It was a delight to join heroine Emmy as she began her new job as Rupert’s right hand woman.  Filled with enthusiasm and great ideas she relished the task of putting the Guest House on the map, starting her own online business and developing her budding relationship with charming Anglo-French solicitor, Alain.  But it is not all plain sailing.  A critical review by a vindictive travel blogger instigates cancellations, a major booking for a large family was never recorded by Rupert’s wife, Gloria, and both she and Emmy’s ex-partner Nathan are still causing trouble.

However Emmy does manage to spend time with new friend Sophie visiting chateaux and nearby towns and she becomes closer to Rupert’s friends, especially Jonathan, who is beginning to feel his advancing age.  It is a warm community, always willing to help each other out and most of the guests enjoy their holidays immensely.  Once Alain returns from Paris, he and Emmy grow closer but will their previous relationships cause them grief?

There are some very humorous scenes occurring in the guest house and delightful repartee around Rupert’s dinner table.  Combining these scenes with lovely descriptive passages and the romantic experiences of a likeable heroine, make this an entertaining follow-up not to be missed by those who read the first book.

You can find Return to the Little French Guest House at Amazon UK

My review of the original Little French Guest House is here

Helen Pollard

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies #Bookreview #TuesdayBookBlog

Separation

This is a story about the separation of mothers and daughters told from opposite sides of the world by Lydia, a young mother abandoned in Malaya in 1955 and her daughter Emma lonely and unloved in England. Initially the main story is of Lydia’s journey during the Malayan Emergency through the dangers of jungle roads where insurgents may kill or kidnap locals or colonials alike. With little money, she searches for her missing husband and daughters gaining help from a mysterious stranger. Her story includes love and tragedy against the background of the steaming heat and lush growth of the countryside.

Lydia’s story is told in the third person, but we have no doubt about her feelings and emotions. Emma describes events in her own words. She is an independent eleven year old, traumatised by the sudden move to cold, drab England after her happy childhood in the tropics. No-one will tell her where her mother is and she misses her terribly. In addition she has to deal with an abusive adult and a harsh boarding school.

I identified strongly with this story, remembering 1950s England and having spent some of my teenage years in Malaya and Singapore. The authenticity of the settings is striking, but what captivates the reader is the passion and drama of the plot. There are mysteries to solve, scores to settle and happiness to hope for.

Dinah Jefferies is a talented writer who is able to give context and characterisation to a moving, thrilling plot. This was a book I read late into the night, not wanting to put it down. Highly recommended.

The Separation is available on Amazon here

D Jefferies

Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. In 1985, the sudden death of her fourteen year old son changed the course of her life, and deeply influenced her writing. Dinah drew on that experience, and on her own childhood spent in Malaya during the 1950s to write her debut novel, The Separation.

Now living in Gloucestershire with her husband and their Norfolk terrier, she spends her days writing, with time off with her grandchildren.

The Little French Guest House by Helen Pollard #TuesdayBookBlog

 

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The Little French Guesthouse is recommended as a perfect feel good summer holiday read and I am sure it would be, but it is also a warming ray of sunshine to read on dull winter days. Starting dramatically when the heroine Emmy finds her partner, Nathan, in flagrante with the wife of the guest house owner, we are plunged into her dilemma as she deals with the fall out. As Nathan runs off with Gloria, Emmy decides to stay on at the guest house helping Rupert, the owner, to deal with new guests.

The hard work and beautiful sunshine help Emmy to come to terms with her predicament and she soon makes friends with locals and ex-pats in the area. Surprisingly, her love life also improves as she encounters muscular, handsome Ryan, the gardener and Alain, a slightly annoying but intriguing accountant. She dreads returning to England where she will have to sort out the mess of working and owning a flat with love-rat, Nathan.

In many ways, this is an ideal read in January as we share Emmy’s experience of deciding where her life should go now. She is 31, her relationship has broken down and she has been in a rut. But she can’t stay on holiday for ever. Decisions about her career and future must be made. Inevitably I will soon be dipping into the follow up book Return to the Little French Guesthouse.

The Little French Guest House is available at Amazon UK  and Amazon US

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Do Not Wash Hands In Plates by Barb Taub

If you have ever visited Barb Taub’s blog http://barbtaub.com/ you will know that she is the master of intelligent humorous writing so I knew when I downloaded this book that I was likely to be sniggering and quoting passages to my husband all the way through.  I was right.

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Do Not Wash Hands In Plates is summarised in the extension to the title: Elephant frenzy, parathas, temples, palaces, monkeys…and the kindness of Indian strangers, and that really is what it’s all about! In a warm witty account, Barb describes her travels around India accompanied by long term friends Janine and Jaya.

With the aid of Jaya’s vast extended family and a variety of fearless drivers, the three companions navigate the horrendous traffic and manage to visit some wonderful locations, despite the visit of the American President constantly causing temples and palaces to be closed. Every sentence is filled with humour and warmth, as Janine and Jaya nurse Barb through Delhi Belly and Indian bureaucracy.

There are so many quotable sentences. As an American living in Britain, Barb has learnt that,
“In the UK rules are inviolate and graven in stone. Rules in India are more like guidelines.”
When in danger of missing their plane, Jaya leads them straight past the long queue to the front,
“In the States people would have stopped us. In the UK we would have at least been speared by laser-focused glares and possibly even aggrieved throat-clearing,”
But as Jaya so often remarked, “In India people are so kind.”

Food is an important part of this book, since hospitality is paramount in India. I confess I had to google to discover the difference between parathas, roti, naan and chapatis and now I am anxious to do a taste test. The exotic, colourful, frenetic places they visited are beguiling but no visit to India could be so entertaining without Barb and her friends accompanying you!

Taj

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