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#Bookreview The Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary (@penswordbooks) Remembering the forgotten in history with plenty of ‘dark’ humour #Britishhistory

Hi all:

I have promised you I’d read and review this book when it came out, and here it is.

The Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

The Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

‘Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.’ – Benjamin Disraeli

Today we are aware of the habits, thoughts and feelings of the rich, because historians write about them endlessly. The poor are largely ignored and, as a result, their contributions to our modern world are forgotten.

Here, skilled raconteur TERRY DEARY takes us back through the centuries with a poignant but humorous look at how life treated the ordinary people who scratched out a living at the very bottom of society. Born into poverty, their world was one of foul food, terrible toilets, danger, disease and death – the last usually premature.

Wryly told tales of deprivation, exploitation, sickness, mortality, warfare and religious oppression all fill these pages. Discover the story of the teacher turned child-catcher who rounded up local waifs and strays before putting them to work. Read all about the agricultural workers who escaped the clutches of the Black Death only to be thwarted by lordly landowners. Follow as hundreds of children descend into the inky depths of hazardous coal mines.

On the flip side of this darkness, discover how cash-strapped citizens used animal droppings for house building, how sparrow’s brains were incorporated into aphrodisiacal brews, and how extra money was made by mixing tea with dried elder leaves. Courtship, marriage, sport, entertainment, education and, occasionally, achievement briefly illuminated the drudgery; these were the milestones that brought meaning to ordinary lives.

The oppressed and disempowered have lived on the very outskirts of recorded history, suffering, sacrificing and struggling to survive. The greatest insult is that they are forgotten; buried often with no gravestone to mark their passing and no history book to celebrate their efforts. Until now. The Peasants’ Revolting Lives explores and celebrates the lives of those who endured against the odds. From medieval miseries to the idiosyncrasies of being a twenty-first-century peasant, tragedy and comedy sit side by side in these tales of survival and endurance in the face of hardship.

https://www.amazon.com/Peasants-Revolting-Lives-Terry-Deary/dp/1526745615/

https://www.amazon.com/Peasants-Revolting-Lives-Terry-Deary-ebook/dp/B0881TX28Y/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peasants-Revolting-Lives-Terry-Deary-ebook/dp/B0881TX28Y/

https://www.amazon.es/Peasants-Revolting-Lives-Terry-Deary-ebook/dp/B0881TX28Y/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Peasants-Revolting-Lives-Paperback/p/17657

Picture of author Terry Deary
Author Terry Deary

About the author:

Terry Deary is an actor, TV presenter and author. He has written 325 books, both non-fiction and fiction, for children and adults. His famous Horrible Histories books have sold over 35 million copies in 45 languages since their launch in 1993 and have appeared as an award-winning television series, theatre tours and a movie. He has also written fifty professional plays, the TV series Terry Deary’s Twisted Tales and has designed museum exhibitions based on themes from his books. He was born in Sunderland in 1946 and as a young lad helped out in his father’s butcher’s shop, which he credits as having imbued him with a sound work ethic. The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives is his second book for adults for Pen & Sword, after The Peasants’ Revolting… Crimes (2019).

http://www.terry-deary.com/

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early paperback copy of this book, which I freely chose to read and review.

A while back I read and reviewed Deary’s book The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes (you can read my review here) and mentioned I was looking forward to this one as well. And it does not disappoint. Although Deary is better known for his books for children (the Horrible Histories series), his very personal style is also well suited to adults, and this book is proof of it. His sharp wit and strong opinions take no prisoners, and there is nobody sacred or spared when Deary starts dissecting the history and society of Britain since the Middle Ages (and many of his reflections reach the present as well).

This book is a companion of the previous one, although they can be read separately. As was the case with the previous book, Deary explains in the introduction that people tend to idealise past historical eras, based on the version of events traditional histories and historians have created, always centred on the lives of kings, nobles and the rich and powerful upper crust. As he observes, the lives of the top 1% (or whatever the equivalent percentage was in the different periods) have always been pleasant and exciting compared to that of the peasants, but in some historical periods, life for those at the bottom of society’s pyramid was ‘revolting’ to say the least. Tellingly, the subtitle of the book is ‘Stories of the worst of times lived by the underclasses of Britain’, and to make matters worse, the efforts and the hard work of those individuals are not acknowledged by official historical narratives.  And, no matter how much humour Deary introduces in the book (and it’s quite dark at times), he is in earnest when he dedicates the book to them.

Deary follows a similar structure in this book, with an introduction, ten chapters that cover different general subject (the main topics discussed in each chapter follow a chronological order, but relevant, and sometimes less relevant, references to other eras are also included): work, entertainment, courtship, sickness, housing, religion, food, sport, warfare, and education, there is a very apt epilogue (comparing Lord Nelson to another naval hero, Jack Crawford, from Deary’s native Sunderland, a man of humble origins whom almost nobody knows about), and an index, for those looking for specific information.

Deary has a talent for finding the perfect quote, and although I was familiar with a few of the ones he uses, he manages to make them shine and finds some true gems totally new to me. He manages to create a clear picture of life in different historical periods without getting lost in lengthy descriptions and can turn little-known historical events into memorable nuggets of information in only a few words.

If the last book dealt with “crimes”, this time he focuses on life as it was for a large part of the population, picks up certain events like the peasants’ revolts (there have been many over the years, and although the protagonists have been different, the reasons behind them, and the consequences for the less powerful hardly change), but also talks about general subjects, like health, education, even housing (he has plenty of fun talking about the materials used in construction), football (it has often been banned; and it’s not surprising, to be honest), Ireland, children’s work, the police force… As I have said, this is a book for adults, and some of the content can be quite disturbing, so I don’t recommend it for those looking for a light and gentle read.

Despite the witticisms and the great quotes (and I have marked far too many to mention), this is a book intended as a sincere homage to those who are often left out of most conventional History texts. It is informative, entertaining, fun, and also poignant at times. Although the author’s style and his sense of humour might not suit everybody (I’d suggest readers try a sample to see how they like it before purchasing it), I recommend it to anybody interested in reading a different kind of British History (in particular, although much of the information would be relevant to European History in general), and are not looking for a fact and data-heavy academic tome, but rather for a memorable peek at those parts of the population often forgotten in official chronicles.

As Deary says:

The poor, the ignored and the forgotten, struggle to squeeze onto the shelves. Yet some of those peasants did something the ‘great’ and the good would have failed to do if their roles had been reversed. They survived.

You and I might not last a week in the world of a peasant. A week without our takeaways, our underfloor heating, our antibiotics…and, of course, our smartphones.

Just for a change, and just for a while, consider the life of the peasant rather than the life of a king or a conqueror.

You may be inspired by the courage and fortitude of our fellow humans.’

Amen.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and feel free to like, share, comment, click, and always remember to keep reading, reviewing, smiling, and to remain safe. 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE NAPOLEONIC WARS: AS ILLUSTRATED BY J J JENKINS by J J Jenkins (@penswordbooks) . A great collectable and beautiful reproduction of a fine book

Hi all:

I bring you something pretty different today. I don’t know why, but I could not resist this book (perhaps because I’m fascinated by antiques…)

Cover of the Napoleonic Wars as illustrated by J.J. Jenkins
The Napoleonic Wars As Illustrated by J J Jenkins

The Napoleonic Wars: As Illustrated by J J Jenkins by J J Jenkins.

Originally published as Martial Achievements of Great Britain and Her Allies From 1799 to 1815 this is one of the most magnificent of all period art books to have been produced. The text is pure British propaganda but is overshadowed by the rarity of the art work. Includes 54 stunning color plates including a great Wellington portrait, his coat of arms and a list of subscribers to the Martial Achievements. This is one of the finest books of its type ever produced and an absolute must for the collector of British or Napoleonic military art and literature.

https://www.amazon.com/Napoleonic-Wars-As-Illustrated-Jenkins/dp/1526717891/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Napoleonic-Wars-As-Illustrated-Jenkins/dp/1526717891/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Napoleonic-Wars-Hardback/p/15638

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft of Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I was checking the publisher’s catalogue and read the comments about this book, that was a reproduction of the original version, and although I’m no expert in military campaigns or Napoleon (although I suspect, like most people, I’m intrigued by that fascinating historical figure) I felt this was the book to get on the subject. I love art, and a book full of illustrations of the period sounded like a must-have. And I was right.

The book, as some of the reviewers have commented, is all the better for being a straight reproduction, without added comments or attempts at bringing it up to date or explaining and contextualising it. It is old-fashioned, but gloriously so. Oh, it isn’t politically correct either, and I’m not sure any French nationals with strong feelings about Napoleon would appreciate the comments, which, as the description says, are pure British propaganda. A lot of the book centres on the campaign in Spain, for evident reasons, and the book is dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, and I think it is a great example of what books of the period on this subject would have been like, and I’m sure its original quality is reflected in the current edition.

I particularly enjoyed the illustrations, which have something of the naïveté of a talented and skilled amateur (they reminded me of the notebooks people kept in the XVIII and XIX century when they were travelling that often included watercolours or pencil drawings of the places they visited). The written accounts of the battles and episodes are aggrandising and do not go into deep analysis, but include war dispatches, lists of some of the fallen and wounded, easy-to-read descriptions of the events (how accurate is another matter), and also letters that at times can bring the real people to life for us. As a small example, the chapter “The Death of Moreau, 28th August 1813” includes a letter General Moreau addressed to his wife, three days after his wounding:

My dear Love, — At the battle of Dresden, three days ago, I had both legs carried off by a cannon-ball. That scoundrel Buonaparte is always fortunate. The amputation was performed as well as possible. Though the army has made a retrograde movement, it is not at all consequence of defeat, but from a want of ensemble, and in order to get nearer General Blücher. Excuse my hasty writing. I love and embrace thee with my whole heart. I charge Rappatel to finish. (Jenkins, 2018, pp. 117-8).

I recommend this book to anybody interested in military history, particularly in the Napoleonic campaigns, in art of the era, or who simply enjoy books from the XIX century and would like to have an excellent quality replica of a book of the era. This is a collectable for those who love books as artworks and it brings to life an era past but not forgotten. It would make a fabulous gift as well.

Jenkins, J.J. (2018, originally published 1815). The Napoleonic Wars as illustrated by J.J. Jenkins. Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Military.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for this treat, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Rosie's Book Review Team

#RBRT Bookreview LA PETITE BOULAIN by G. Lawrence (@TudorTweep) Anne Boleyn in her own words as you’ve never read her before #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

As I promised, although I’m hoping to have news about other things and my own writing very soon, in the meantime I’m reading as much as I can and I have a review of a fabulous book for you. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to Terry Tyler for the suggestion.

La Petite Boulain by G Lawrence
La Petite Boulain by G. Lawrence

La Petite Boulain (Above all Others; The Lady Anne Book 1) by G. Lawrence

May 1536, London… a fallen queen sits waiting in the Tower of London, condemned to death by her husband. As Death looms before her, Anne Boleyn, second queen of Henry VIII looks back on her life…from the very beginning.
Daughter of a courtier, servant to queens… she rose higher than any thought possible, and fell lower than any could imagine.

Following the path of the young Mistress Boleyn, or La Petite Boulain, through the events of the first years of the reign of Henry VIII, to the glittering courts of Burgundy and France, Book One of “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” tracks the life of the young Lady Anne, showing how she became the scintillating woman who eventually, would capture the heart of a king.

La Petite Boulain is the first book in the series “Above All Others; The Lady Anne” on the life of Anne Boleyn by G.Lawrence.

Links:

http://amzn.to/28SFEFa

http://amzn.to/28SFLR9

My review:

I write this review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Thanks to Rosie Amber and to Gemma Lawrence for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been reading more historical novels of recent and I appreciate the mix of skills their authors require. There has to be a lot of research for the novel to be grounded sufficiently in the era and not seem a total flight of fancy. But ensuring that this research is seamlessly weaved into the story and avoiding the risk of turning it into a textbook requires talent, inspiration, art and a passion for the topic. And La Petite Boulain has all those and more.

I’m Spanish and although I’ve lived in the UK for many years I wouldn’t say that my knowledge of English history is deep or detailed. Like most people the entire world over, I’m more familiar with the Tudors and their historical period than with any others, thanks to the fascination they have always held for historians, writers, and movie and television scriptwriters. I would guess that most of us have read or watched something about Henry VIII and Elizabeth I at the very least. And we’ve heard of Anne Boleyn.  We might even have an opinion about her.

Since I started writing reviews and blogging about books I’ve come across many books about Anne Boleyn. What prompted me to read this one was a recommendation by one of the reviewers in Rosie’s team that I know is very knowledgeable on the subject (thanks once more, Terry ) and the fact that this book looks at Anne not solely regarding her relationship with Henry VIII. The story is told in the first person, by Anne, who is waiting at the Tower to be beheaded (I’m sure this is no spoiler for anybody), and as a way of keeping calm and passing away the time without falling into despair (more so as she’s surrounded by hostile women sent to spy on her), she goes back in time and remembers her life from childhood. This is the first book in the series, and it takes us from childhood to the time when Anne returns back to England after spending several years away, most recently at the French court, when she’s already a young woman.

The book is beautifully written, with detailed (but not boring or drawn-out) descriptions of clothing, places, people and customs. The language and expressions are appropriate to the era without being overcomplicated or slowing down the story. We see Anne as she sees herself, a lucky girl who’s been born into a good family, with a caring, affectionate and accomplished mother, a father somewhat distant and cold, more interested in politics and the advancement of the family’s fortunes than in the feelings of their members, an older sister (Mary) who is the prettiest one, but less clever and freer with her morals (she’s a more sensuous creature), and a younger brother, George, whom she has much in common with.

We follow her amazement and wonder at historical events, such as the coronation of Henry VIII, when she takes a fancy to the young king, and see her education, first at home, and then at different European Courts, initially at Mechelen  and then in France. The book captures well the innocence of a young girl arrived at a European court, who thinks everybody is beautiful, clever and brilliant, although even at that age she is a keen observer and a quick learner. She’s also good at noticing the power relations and getting closer to influencers and people who can teach her the most.

As she grows, she starts to notice and observe the underbelly and the hypocrisy of the society she lives in, and she also becomes a critical thinker, questioning organised religion and reading what were at the time considered dangerous tracks (Martin Luther). She is shocked by some behaviours she sees, including those of her family members, and by the clear difference in the way women are treated in comparison to the men, no matter how high their position in life, but she is determined to absorb knowledge and learn as much as she can, to ensure that she will not just be at the whim of those around her.

I enjoyed the historical detail, the reflections on events and historical figures of the era, but above all, the way the story is told, that takes the readers into Anne’s confidence and makes them experience with her both wonderful and terrible events, helping make her a real and understandable human being, rather than a cardboard figurine out of historical volume . La petite Boulain is an absolute pleasure to read, and despite knowing the story, I can’t wait to for the next book in the series.

Thanks so much to Rosie Amber for her fabulous team, thanks to Gemma Lawrence for this wonderful book, thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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