Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog There Will Be Consequences by Loretta Miles Tollefson A gripping novel set within a changeable, dangerous, and exciting historical period #OldNewMexico

Hi all:

I had the pleasure of getting a very early copy of a book by an author I met through Rosie’s Book Review Team and has become a big favourite of mine since. She writes historical fiction, but in this case she has written what she calls a ‘biographical novel’, where she never deviates from the historical facts and tries to give a voice to many of the historical characters involved. I was impressed by the results, and I recommend you check them for yourselves.

Cover of the novel, which includes a Native American man, a warrior, and a landscape of mountains
There Will be Consequences by Loretta Miles Tollefson

There Will be Consequences by Loretta Miles Tollefson

“It’s August 3, 1837, and rebellion has broken out in northern New Mexico. By the end of the week, Governor Albino Pérez and key members of his administration will be dead, and a governor with indigenous ancestry will be installed in Santa Fe. 

Trouble’s been brewing for over a year, fed by new laws restricting the right to vote, the threat of new taxes, and a governor who’s quicker to borrow money than distribute it. On top of that, Pérez has jailed the Santa Cruz de la Cañada alcalde for making a decision he didn’t like. The locals free the alcalde and go to war, campesinos and Pueblo warriors against the ricos of the south.   

But the rich aren’t about to give up their privileges so easily. More people will die before the violence ends.

 A deeply-researched biographical novel with implications for today, There Will be Consequences explores the events before, during, and after early August 1837 through the eyes of the people who participated in them. Twelve linked stories propel the narrative forward from the perspective of individuals as diverse as Albino Pérez, rebel governor José Angel Gonzales, Santa Fe gambler Gertrudis “Doña Tules” Barceló, Taos priest Antonio José Martinez, and that most flexible of New Mexico’s politicians, Manuel Armijo.”

 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09KVL1M7J/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09KVL1M7J/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B09KVL1M7J/

Author Loretta Miles Tollefson
      Author Loretta Miles Tollefson

About the author:

Loretta Miles Tollefson has been publishing fiction and poetry since 1975. (She’s not old–she started young!) Growing up in foothills of the Olympic Mountains in the log cabin her grandfather built and her father was born in led naturally to an interest in history and historical fiction. When she retired to the mountains of northern New Mexico, writing historical fiction set there was a logical result. The Moreno Valley Sketches books are the first in many planned books set there.

Before turning to historical fiction full time, Loretta wrote Crown of Laurel, a novel set in Seattle in the recession of the early 1980’s. Loretta holds a B.S. in Bible Education from Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. This background informs her poetry collections Mary at the Cross: Voices from the New Testament and And Then Moses Was There: Voices from the Old Testament.

In the mid-1980’s, Loretta and her husband suffered the loss of their first child in the fifth month of pregnancy. Her poetry collection But Still My Child came out of that period and is designed to help others deal with the pain of miscarriage.

Loretta holds M.A.’s in Communication and in English Literature from the University of New Mexico. Most days, you’ll find her researching New Mexico history in the 1800’s and writing furiously. She publishes short historical fiction every week at LorettaMilesTollefson.Wordpress.com.

https://www.amazon.com/Loretta-Miles-Tollefson/e/B00I47VVZ4/

 My review:

I was given access to a very early copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review.

I have read and reviewed several of the author’s series of Old New Mexico novels, which includes some interlinked stories following the same characters, and others that explore in more detail the background of one of the side-characters, as well as different types of fiction, such as short stories and microfiction. I was initially intrigued by the setting of the stories, as it is a place that I know very little about but one I’ve always been interested in, and I have come to appreciate how much one can learn from a good historical novel while at the same time enjoying the fictional side of the story.

Here, Miles Tollefson takes on a new challenge that I think many of us will identify with: you are researching a historical period or an event and cannot find a detailed and unbiased account of what happened. The author goes into her thoughts and the particular difficulties she came across when researching the August 1837 rebellion in New Mexico in her author’s note, and it is a must-read, as is this book described as a ‘biographical novel’. Although it follows the events chronologically, each chapter is told from a different point of view, by characters who were directly involved or witnessed what happened, on both sides. And she does include a big variety of voices: women, children, priests, rich owners, governors (both rebel and official), military men, rebel fighters… sometimes right in the thick of the action, and sometimes in the outskirts of it, providing an immersive experience.

There are twelve chapters that could be read as independent episodes (making it ideal for people with little time who can only manage to snatch a few minutes to read, here and there), but together create a clear and vivid picture of the historical era and the people involved in those events. By writing each chapter from a different point of view, but always in the third person and in the present tense (not something I generally like, but it gives the narrative immediacy and a sense of continuity), it has the effect of a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece has been slightly twisted this way or that, but with a bit of effort, we can find a way to make them fit. The author does a great job of putting flesh in the bones of the facts she has found and of filling in the gaps in as non-judgmental a way as possible. She explains the biases in the reporting of the events she covers in her novel, and she excels at presenting each individual and their thoughts in their own terms, rather than trying to impose her interpretation on them. It is easy to see how the conflict would have escalated, with such differing and seemingly irreconcilable opinions, positions, and points of view. Even those characters whom we might totally disagree with are shown as human beings with their reasons and motives, and it does feel at times as if you were there, willing everybody to come to an agreement and avoid the bloodshed, but also knowing that it will happen nonetheless. This is a novel that will make people think about these kinds of conflicts, and, hopefully, also understand a bit better how easy it is to escalate matters when the positions become entrenched and people are unable to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes.

Readers don’t need to worry about not having read any of the author’s novels set in New Mexico or not knowing about this historical period, as that is not necessary to enjoy this book. (Enjoy never seems to be the best word when much of the book describes painful and violent events, but I am sure readers know what I mean). This book can be read independently, although I enjoyed learning more about the historical events that feature as background in some of the author’s novels I’ve read. Miles-Toffeson also incorporates a list of character biographies at the end, a vocabulary (including Spanish and unusual English terms used in the book), and also a short bibliography for those who might want to learn more about the historical events featured here.

This is a book about a rebellion, and there are some terribly hard scenes, so I would warn readers who need to avoid explicit violence and blood-shed, as some of the chapters are very hard (even for somebody who does not have an issue with it. Knowing that this is based on real events makes it more poignant). The writing is excellent throughout, descriptive enough without going into excessive detail, and it manages to turn readers into privileged witnesses of the action, down to the protagonists’ thoughts. I am no historian, so I cannot comment in detail on the accuracy of the language and/or events described, but the dialogue and the characters jump off the page, and at times one feels like grabbing the characters, shaking them, and giving them all a piece of your mind. Remember you can always check a sample of the book to see if the style of writing suits your taste. As my copy was a very early ARC, I have decided not to share any quotes from it, but I highlighted plenty of passages, and some have left a long-lasting impression.

 I recommend this book to anybody interested in New Mexico’s story or historical fiction with a difference. I think there is much here that will interest writers who work in the same genre, as well as any reader looking for a gripping novel set within a changeable, dangerous, and exciting historical period.

Thanks to the author for providing me with an early copy of the book (and for the information about its progress), thanks to Rosie for helping me discover this author, thanks to all of you for reading, for sharing, for commenting, and always,  remember to stay safe, and to keep smiling.

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion by George WB Scott (@GeorgeWBScott) For those who love storytelling and history alike #RBRT #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I bring you a book from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and one I read based on Terry Tyler‘s recommendation. You can’t go wrong with that.

I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion
by George WB Scott

I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion by George WB Scott

Civil War Novel Sees Conflict Through New Eyes

“A deftly crafted, inherently engaging, and entertainingly riveting Civil War novel. Scott’s impressive flair for originality combined with an informative attention to historical detail, ‘I Jonathan, A Charleston Tale of the Rebellion’ is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition.” —Midwest Book Review

“Scott’s novel offers a spellbinding glimpse into Civil War Charleston, reminding us that the war touched those far removed from the battlefield.” —Caroline E. Janney, University of Virginia John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War and author of Remembering the Civil War: Reunion and the Limits of Reconciliation

Civil War Novel about a young stranger from Boston marooned in Charleston just as the Civil War begins. His relationships with working men and women, slaves, merchants, planters, spies, inventors, soldiers, sweethearts and musicians tell the story of a dynamic culture undergoing its greatest challenge.

Jonathan’s adventures include the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the last great Charleston horse race, the Great Charleston Fire of 1861, the Battle of Secessionville, visits to the North Carolina mountain homes of wealthy Low Country planters, a run through the Federal Blockade, a visit to the raucous boomtowns of Nassau and Wilmington, battles of ironclads and monitors, the Battle of Battery Wagner (made famous in the movie ”Glory”) and an encounter with a Voo-Doo conjure man. His story documents the hopes and struggles of a young man making a new life in a strange land in a time of war and change.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GH3YPJ1/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GH3YPJ1/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GH3YPJ1/

Author George WB Scott

About the author:

George WB Scott was born in Stuart, Florida where he lived until he went to college in North Carolina. He graduated from Appalachian State University and went into television news in Tennessee. He is now an independent video producer and lives in Knoxville with his wife Mary Leidig.

His childhood memoir “Growing Up In Eden” explores experiences of his youth and of Martin County during the 1960s and 1970s. It includes more than a hundred photographs, mostly taken by the author just before the 2004 hurricanes, and has a CD with a screensaver of photographs and music by Gatlinburg acoustic guitarist Bill Mize.

In autumn of 2020 he will release his first novel, “I Jonathan, a Charleston Tale of the Rebellion.” More information is available on my blog at www.southernrocket.net/i-jonathan

https://www.amazon.com/George-WB-Scott/e/B089B7LM6H/

 My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

I chose this book after reading a review by a fellow member of Rosie’s team, and, as usual, she was right. This is a great book.

As I’ve done some times before, I recommend readers to check the additional content at the end of the book. The bibliography will be of great use to anybody thinking about studying the Civil War Era in the American South, particularly in South Carolina and Charleston, but, I especially enjoyed reading the author’s note and acknowledgments, as they give a very clear idea of the process of creation of this book, and of how many people contributed to the final result. Illuminating.

I will not rehash the description of the novel, because the information that accompanies it is detailed enough, in my opinion, but I thought I’d add a few comments about the way the story is told, and what it made me think of. This is a framed story (well, a double-framed story), as the Jonathan of the story passed away in the early 1940s, and the novel is the result of the narration of his life story to a great-grand-nephew who goes to visit him to participate in the celebration of his centenary. Realising that the story should be told, and it is unlikely that Jonathan will live much longer, he decides to write it all down. Then, it seems that this written second-hand account falls into the hands of the editor of a small publishing house specialising in historical books (and/or historical fiction) and they decide to publish it. This structure made me think of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, and that wasn’t the only similarity (one only needs to think about a young man getting exposed to a completely different way of life, habits, and customs alien to him), although, of course, the anti-war sentiment also brought to my mind Apocalypse Now, Coppola’s film that adapts that novel to the Vietnam War setting. The fact that the novel —which for me has a lot in common with a bildungsroman (coming-of-age story), as it focuses mostly on the early years of the character— is told by an old man recalling his early years, also reminded me of many classics, like Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, Charlote Brönte’s Jane Eyre, or Herman Melville’s White Jacket, with the wonderful nuances of an old (or at least more mature) character looking back at his actions and recalling his feelings from youth, because there is always some nostalgia, but also reflection, self-deprecation, and even self-mockery at times. It is a way of telling a story that feels traditional but can work incredibly well, especially when the times have changed dramatically and so has the person. This is particularly well-done here, as Jonathan’s voice feels very real, his use of words and expressions of the period help give it authenticity, and his way of reporting other people’s stories and even episodes he never witnessed directly is engaging and endearing. So much for the advice to writers of always showing and never telling! In fact, Jonathan can make us feel as if we were there even when he is describing something somebody else narrated, but if you are totally opposed to telling, I’d recommend you check a sample of the novel before dismissing it. Oh, and before I forget, there are fragments of poems and songs peppered throughout the book as well (and the details of those are also provided at the back of the book).

I have mentioned the anti-war theme of this novel. This is the strongest message, and the focus is on the American Civil War, although other wars are mentioned as well. It is true that due to the use of increasingly more sophisticated weapons (we all know wars tend to push research and industry forward if nothing else), the improvements in technology (the novel mentions ironclad vessels; an early version of a submarine; and one of Jonathan’s friends, Charles, is an inventor working on all kinds of long-distance weapons), and the length of the conflict, the death toll was very high, and all the more shocking because of that. But this is not an anti-South book, as the author explains. It is a book that paints a complex picture of what the United States South, South Carolina, and Charleston, in particular, were like in that era. Although many of the events narrated are episodes of the war, battles, or the destruction brought by it to the inhabitants of the city, there are also other moments that give an idea of what peace life must have been like: the last horse racing event before the war, several big parties in the city, how the business of importing luxury goods worked (and that gets more interesting as the war advances, including a visit to Nassau as well), the lives of freed black men and their participation in business and social life (down to having their own fire-brigade), musical entertainment (of the hand of Abe, a Jewish performer with an impossible love story), voodoo, the less savoury aspects of life, the different rhythm of life in the properties and plantations in the mountains and that of the big city, and much more. All together they create a sense of what life was like, probably more effectively because the story is narrated from an outsider’s perspective, but one who is accepted and adopted into that world.

Jonathan is a northerner who ends up, due to a conjunction of strange circumstances, stranded in Charleston, and rather than going back to Boston, where he feels there is nothing for him, he stays in the South, barely surviving, at first, but later getting to the point where others even think he was a hero of the war (on the Confederate side). Jonathan never fights, though, and he abhors slavery, although he comes to appreciate many things and people he meets through his adventures. He is a bit of a Hamlet, though. He is forever hesitant, wondering what he should do, avoiding direct conflict when he can, and although he dislikes some of the things he sees around him (especially slavery, although the bad aspects of slavery are only mentioned and never discussed in much detail. For example, he helps transport some slaves being sold when their owners decided to leave the Charleston area towards the end of the war; he takes a free black to help him, but never even gives a thought to liberating them, and we never hear their stories), he lets things happen or come to him, rather than stepping forward to meet any challenges or take any firm decisions. He discovers, a bit late, that if you wait too long, the decision can be taken off your hands for good. That does apply to his personal life as well, but I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers. He is very naïve when he arrives in Charleston and suffers a terrible loss and a disappointment, but he grows and matures, and even the character observes, quite late in the novel, that only four years have passed since his arrival, and it still feels like a lifetime. He can be witty and ready to play a prank as well, though, and there were events that reminded me of Mark Twain and some of his amusing tales as well.

Apart from Jonathan, who is at first lost, undecided, and passive, we meet a fascinating catalogue of characters during the novel: wealthy and high-class families, poor construction workers, freed black men happy with their lifestyle (and others not so happy), a slave that ends up in charge of the whole property (although still a slave), inventors, tragic romantic figures, true heroes, women hiding from a terrible fate, ship captains adept at avoiding a blockade, rogue deserters, nurses (Clare Barton makes a fleeting appearance), there are surreal moments brought on by a voodoo man, and even interesting animals (perhaps).

The writing, as I have mentioned, is compelling. It is one of those stories that would keep you sitting by the campsite long into the night, and by the time you checked your watch, you wouldn’t believe how long you’d spent there. Because although this is a fairly long book, and it can be meandering at times, there is magic in the images conjured up by Jonathan’s narration, the good ones (despite the dominance of the war episodes, there are beautiful moments as well), and especially some of the battles and the desolation brought to the people and the city (the description of the Battle of Battery Wagner, and yes, I do remember Glory, is unforgettable and one of the best depictions of the never-ending madness of war I’ve come across) that makes us keep turning the pages, hoping to know how it all ends (not the war, but the life), and at the same time wishing the story would keep going and we could carry on reading.

What happens after the war is given relatively little space in the book, although there are some surprises to come, some good and some open to interpretation (I am not sure I agree with the main character’s take on a late reveal about the fate of one of the characters, but you’ll have to read the novel to know what I am talking about), but overall, I thought the ending worked very well, and there is a very touching detail that I hadn’t paid much attention to and made me like the character even more.

I would recommend this book to anybody interested in historical fiction set around the American Civil War, how it affected the South, South Carolina, and Charleston in particular. It offers an interesting perspective, friendly towards some aspects of southern culture, but critical of others. The main character is not a standard hero (rather the opposite for much of the novel), and he spends a lot of time listening to others as well, incorporating their stories into his. Perhaps I missed more of an insight into the minds of the female characters (they are interesting, strong, and stoic, but we hear very little directly from them), and I have mentioned some other minor issues before. Overall, though, this is a great novel, and one that I am sure will make many readers grab their history books and learn more about the period. I look forward to seeing what this author, new to me, will publish in the future.

In case you want to read a bit more about the author’s thoughts on his own book, you can check his own review on Goodreads, here:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3802842066

Thanks to Rosie, to Terry, and to the author for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and above all, keep safe and keep smiling. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview HOW TO SURVIVE IN ANCIENT ROME by L. J. Trafford (@traffordlj) (@penswordbooks) An enjoyable way to learn about Ancient Rome #history #AncientRome

Hi all:

I bring you a non-fiction book for those of you who’ve always dreamed of travelling back in time and visiting Imperial Rome.

How to Survive in Ancient Rome by L J Trafford

How to Survive in Ancient Rome by L J Trafford  

Imagine you were transported back in time to Ancient Rome and you had to start a new life there. How would you fit in? Where would you live? What would you eat? Where would you go to have your hair done? Who would you go to if you got ill, or if you were mugged in the street? All these questions, and many more, will be answered in this new how-to guide for time travellers. Part self-help guide, part survival guide, this lively and engaging book will help the reader deal with the many problems and new experiences that they will face, and also help them to thrive in this strange new environment.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Survive-Ancient-Rome-Trafford/dp/1526757869/

https://www.amazon.com/How-Survive-Ancient-Rome-Trafford/dp/1526757869/

https://www.amazon.es/How-Survive-Ancient-Rome-Trafford/dp/1526757869/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/How-to-Survive-in-Ancient-Rome-Paperback/p/18524

Author L. J. Trafford

About the author:

After gaining a BA Hons in Ancient History LJ Trafford toured the amphitheatres of western europe before a collision with a moped in Rome left her unable to cross the road.
Which was a shame because there was some really cool stuff on the other side.
Returning to the UK somewhat battered and certainly very bruised she spent several years working as a tour guide. A perfect introduction to writing, involving as it did, the need for entertainment and a hefty amount of invention (it’s how she got tips).
She now works in London doing something whizzy with computers.

Palatine is the first in the Four Emperors series. Book Two is Galba’s Men, and is followed by Otho’s Regret and Vitellius’ Feast
See also two short stories featuring the same characters: ‘The Wine Boy’ and ‘The Wedding’ (in the Rubicon collection)

Follow me on Twitter, if you dare! @traffordlj

https://www.amazon.co.uk/L-J-Trafford/e/B009K3ZQLQ/

 My review:

I thank Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback ARC of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I am not an expert on Ancient Rome, but you don’t need to be to enjoy this title. In fact, I think this is a great entry-level book for those who want to learn a few things about Rome but don’t have much time or/and don’t fancy having to trudge through huge History books, but would rather a light read that gives them an overview of what life was like at the time.

This book is pretty similar to many modern guide books; it offers the basic information somebody who is completely new to a place needs to survive there and not get into any trouble. It contains black and white pictures, charts, and illustrations summarising important timelines, providing examples of civil clothing and uniforms, sketches and maps, and also boxes highlighting important and curious facts under the title ‘Did you know?’ There are also an index and a bibliography for those who might want to carry on reading about the topic after this introduction.

The actual book is set in 95 CE, and I particularly enjoyed the author’s decision to introduce two narrators or guides. They can provide us with first-hand insights into the social mores and everyday life in the era: one, Hortensia, is a lady of noble birth, and she tells us how it is to be female in Ancient Rome (not fun, let me tell you, even if you are well-off), and the other one, Titus Flavius Ajax, a freedman, was formerly an imperial slave and is now secretary to the emperor. This provides us with pretty informal but eminently practical information, giving it a personal touch that is otherwise missing from most standard guides or history books.

The entire book is written in a colloquial and easy-to-read manner, full of funny and amusing touches. That does not mean it is lightweight, as the depth of knowledge of the author is clearly in evidence, and there is plenty of factual historical information included as well. But it is seamlessly incorporated into the various chapters, and it does not feel heavy or dry.

The book is divided up into chapters, each one covering one of the basic topics. There is an introduction of two chapters offering a summary of the basic history of Rome up to that point, and another one offering more detailed information about the situation in 95 CE. The other chapters discuss subjects such as social structure, family, clothing, accommodation, shopping, food and diet, entertainment, health and medicine, work, warfare, religion and beliefs, law and order, and politics. The end matter of the book includes the bibliography and index already mentions, as well as a section of acknowledgements and one of notes corresponding to each chapter. I’ve already said I’m not an expert, although I’ve read a few books set in Ancient Rome, and, like most people, watched a few movies and series, but I have to admit I learned many details I had no idea about, and I got a much clearer sense of what life was like on a day to day basis for all the people living in Rome, and not only the kings and emperors.

People who prefer to make sure they like the style of writing before going ahead with a purchase can check a sample online. Just in case, I´m sharing a few snippets here, that I found amusing/intriguing.

 ‘Most of Rome is propped up with planks to stop it falling down’ comments the poet, Juvenal, drily. Even Cicero, who presumably could afford a decent block, complained that two of his invested rental properties had collapsed.

 Demolishing this palace was a gesture by Emperor Vespasian that he was going to give back to the people, rather than taking from them. The Jewish Wars having just been settled meant that Vespasian, rather handily, had a lot of booty and a lot of slaves to build his grand edifice.

 Did you know? The Roman punishment for patricide is most bizarre. The culprit was sewn up in a leather sack with a dog, a monkey, a snake and a cockerel, then rolled into the river.

 This is an informative and entertaining book, offering quite a novel way to learn about Ancient Rome to those who aren’t fond of standard history books or prefer an informal and bite-sized approach. I recommend it to those interested in the topic and looking for a starter text, and also to people looking for a gift that combines educational value and amusement. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks fo all of you for reading, and remember to keep safe, keep laughing, and if you’ve enjoyed it, you know what to do. ♥

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family by Samantha Morris (@SMorrisAuthor )(@penswordbooks) A balanced account of two fascinating historical figures

Hi all:

I bring you a review of a book that deals with two pretty controversial (and as the title says, ‘vilified’) historical figures of the Italian Renaissance.

Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family by Samantha Morris

Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia: Brother and Sister of History’s Most Vilified Family by Samantha Morris  

Myths and rumour have shrouded the Borgia family for centuries – tales of incest, intrigue and murder have been told of them since they themselves walked the hallways of the Apostolic Palace. In particular, vicious rumour and slanderous tales have stuck to the names of two members of the infamous Borgia family – Cesare and Lucrezia, brother and sister of history’s most notorious family. But how much of it is true, and how much of it is simply rumour aimed to blacken the name of the Borgia family? In the first ever biography solely on the Borgia siblings, Samantha Morris tells the true story of these two fascinating individuals from their early lives, through their years living amongst the halls of the Vatican in Rome until their ultimate untimely deaths. Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia begins in the bustling metropolis of Rome with the siblings ultimately being used in the dynastic plans of their father, a man who would become Pope, and takes the reader through the separate, yet fascinatingly intertwined, lives of the notorious siblings. One tale, that of Cesare, ends on the battlefield of Navarre, whilst the other ends in the ducal court of Ferrara. Both Cesare and Lucrezia led lives full of intrigue and danger, lives which would attract the worst sort of rumour begun by their enemies. Drawing on both primary and secondary sources Morris brings the true story of the Borgia siblings, so often made out to be evil incarnate in other forms of media, to audiences both new to the history of the Italian Renaissance and old.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cesare-Lucrezia-Borgia-Historys-Vilified/dp/1526724405/

https://www.amazon.com/Cesare-Lucrezia-Borgia-Historys-Vilified/dp/1526724405/

https://www.amazon.es/Cesare-Lucrezia-Borgia-Historys-Vilified/dp/1526724405/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Cesare-and-Lucrezia-Borgia-Hardback/p/18006

Author Samantha Morris

About the author:

Samantha Morris studied archaeology at the University of Winchester where her interest in the history of the Italian Renaissance began. Since graduating University, her interest in the Borgia family has grown to such an extent that she is always looking for new information on the subject as well as fighting against the age-old rumours that haunt them. Her first published book is Cesare Borgia in a Nutshell, a brief biography which aims to dispel the myths surrounding a key member of the Borgia family. She runs the popular Borgia website https://theborgiabull.com/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Samantha-Morris/e/B01LZTQ39A

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, for providing me a hardback early copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I have long been fascinated by the Borgias, (Borja). Partly, I guess, because they were a Spanish family (dynasty?); partly, because the legend surrounding them (Pope Alexander VI and his even more infamous children, Cesare and Lucrezia) is so full of colour and extreme and criminal behaviours, that they sound much bigger than life, characters that if we came across them in a work of fiction we’d say they were too unbelievable. Writers of extreme thrillers and horror would have to push their creative buttons to the maximum come up with characters such as those.

I’d always wondered how much of what was said about them was true, and of that, how many of those behaviours were unusual or unexpected in the period. XV century Europe was not a particularly peaceful and enlightened place, and being powerful and rich conferred a lot more license to the individuals than it does nowadays (not that these days it is something to be ignored either, as we all know, but the social differences were abysmal at the time). When I saw Morris’s book, I couldn’t resist, and she does a great job of answering many of my doubts and trying to be as comprehensive and fair as possible when studying the lives and reputations of those two historical figures.

Morris starts (after the acknowledgements) by an introduction where she explains her interest and her reasons for writing this book, a labour of love, as she has studied the period, written other books, and keeps a regular blog about the Italian Renaissance, and the Borgias in particular. She explains that there is plenty of misinformation and rumours that have been shared and repeated, both in academic/historical sources, and also in popular literature and entertainment, and she is at pains to put this right.

She follows a chronological order in telling the lives of the Borgias, starting with a chapter on the background family history, and she then dedicates the rest of the book to the close family, focusing on the interaction of the father with his sons and daughter, but mostly on the lives of the two siblings, Cesare and Lucrezia.

The author does a great job of explaining the sources of her information, always distinguishing rumour (even when this rumour came from the era when the events took place) from fact, as far as the available sources allow. She also provides a good insight into the usual social behaviour of the era and the political struggles between the different actors, all trying their best to push their interests and ally themselves with whomever might best serve those at any given time. Betrayal is rife, allies changed at the drop of a hat, and there was much envy and prejudice against the Borgia family, as they were outsiders who had quickly risen to power in Italy, as Morris points out.

That does not mean that Pope Alexander or Cesare were harmless individuals. They schemed, they fought, and they killed, for sure, although perhaps not to the extent they were credited with, and probably not to a degree that differed from others in similar circumstances at that time. Machiavelli didn’t focus on Cesare Borgia in his book The Prince for nothing, that much is evident. Yet, in addition to his most cruel and atrocious behaviours, his reputation seems to have been darkened further by allegations and accusations unfounded and unproven. And yet, these have survived to this day.

The Lucrezia Borgia we discover in these pages is a woman who was manipulated and used by her father (and brother, to a lesser extent) as a way of gaining more influence and power (when she was very young, as was the norm at the time), who had little saying on the matter, and who later had to endure illness, traumatic losses, continuous pregnancies, miscarriages, and absent husbands, while looking after territories and properties she was left in charge of. It seems she was beloved by the inhabitants, she was good at defending the interests of her husband and the people of Ferrara, and she was pious and a fervent Catholic. She seems to have been close to her brother, but the rumours of incest seem unwarranted, and she was ill treated by her husbands, often seeking refuge in convents. The author often quotes letters and documents written by the protagonists, and I must admit I like the sound of Lucrezia, and although Cezare wasn’t a “nice and good” person by any stretch of the imagination, I can see why somebody like Machiavelli would have taken him as a subject of study. Boring, he was not.

The book also includes illustrations, a solid bibliography, and detailed notes, although this should not put people off, as the writing style is accessible, and people without specialised historical knowledge of the era will have no problem reading it. The author also talks about the depictions of the Borgias in popular culture and includes recommendations about the best and most historically accurate documentaries, movies, series, books, and novels, and this will prove very useful to those of us who want to learn more, but don’t want to waste our time with poorly sourced materials.

As I am not an expert on the subject, I cannot compare this book with others published before, but I found it a good entry point for people interested in finding out if the Borgias’ reputation is warranted, and to read about that fascinating period of history. It is a balanced account of the biography of these two figures, and I recommend it to readers who want to go beyond the titillation and excess that has surrounded their reputation.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author, for enlightening me about this family, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and above all, keep reading, and keep safe!

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham A tough look at big historical figures, corporations, and more #RBRT #Non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you a review for a non-fiction book. A pretty special one, another great offering from Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths. From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph N. Abraham, MD

Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths: From Alexander to Hitler to the Corporation by Joseph Abraham 

“I’ve always believed society to be a fundamentally rational thing, but what if it wasn’t?

What if it was built on insanity?”

—Jon Ronson, The Psychopath Test


Grand Prize Short List. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

1st Runner-Up, Legacy Nonfiction. 2021 Eric Hoffer Award

Finalist, 2021 Montaigne Medal

Winner, Current Events2019 Indie Book Awards

Finalist, Historical Non-Fiction2019 Indie Book Awards


• • •


Conquest is murder and theft.

Conquerors are vicious criminals.

Vicious criminals become kings.

Kings designed civilization.

 

We are the products of civilization.


What if, before the modern period, all civilization was true crime?

Despite our romantic traditions, monarchs were never wise, just, nor generous. The briefest review of history shows that, without exception, kings were the most vicious criminals who ever lived. They were serial killers who preyed upon nations.

 

And the only path for survival in the ancient world required unquestioningly obeying— and blindly believing— anything the king said.


• • •

 

“…the book’s scientific analysis, which spans Darwin’s concept of evolution to cutting-edge psychology, is a welcome addition to historical conversations…”

Kirkus Reviews

“…concise, compelling, and challenging exploration of how humanity became what it is.”

Publishers Weekly

“Why do we excuse an act, unforgivable if committed by an ordinary citizen, if executed or ordered by a leader?”

The Los Angeles Review of Books

“The term ‘must-read’ has been so overused. But Kings, Conquerors, Psychopaths is a must-read… must-own… and, most of all, a must-ponder.”

San Diego Jewish World

“…this may be the most important book you will ever read.”

—Robin Levin, The Death of Carthage

 

“…wide-ranging research and an unflinching eye for detail…”

—Candice Millard, New York Times best-selling author, The River of Doubt, & the Edgar Award-winning Destiny of the Republic

“This book is a must-read…”

—Carol Beggy, co-author, award-winning Boston book series; Ted Kennedy: Scenes from an Epic Life; and former reporter, Boston Globe

 

“…a stark reminder of how fragile and vulnerable to exploitation our modern democratic societies are…”

MathValues.org, Mathematical Association of America

 

“A detailed and engaging examination of our haunted past and threatening future. Read it and weep.”

—John Mack Faragher, Daniel Boone, and The American Heritage Encyclopedia of American History


“…Dr. Abraham is a true Renaissance man… this book is a must-read.”

—Jim Engster, NPR affiliate WRKF


“…an insightful, novel argument based on both a keen clinical eye, and an exhaustive review of the literature… ”

—James Fallon, The Psychopath Inside

 

“…despite often romantic images, kings and conquerors were vicious criminals— and the fact that they were psychopaths, narcissists, and sadists became whitewashed, almost in a form of mass hypnosis.”

—Joe Gandelman, journalist, and blogger at TheModerateVoice.com

 

“For those who want their minds expanded and blown: Dr. Abraham is the man.”

—Pearson Cross, Bayou to Beltway, NPR affiliate KRVS


https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation/dp/0578680599/

https://www.amazon.es/Kings-Conquerors-Psychopaths-Alexander-Corporation-ebook/dp/B08NWDKVB4/

Author Joseph N. Abraham


About the author:

Joseph N Abraham, MD is an emergency physician (Tulane ’86), research biologist, and award-winning author.

http://bookscrounger.com/about-me/

My review:

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I thank the author for providing me an ARC copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

This is an ambitious book, and one that is not an easy read, but it is a necessary one for anybody who wants to look at the history of modern civilisation through anything other than rose-tinted glasses. The author refers often to the Emperor’s New Clothes’ tale, and it is very apt, although perhaps it is not always a case of the spectators knowing what they are watching but trying to appear honest and compliant, but rather that the stories weaved around the emperor have become alive and true in the eyes of those seeing him (or reading about him in this case), or perhaps it is a combination of both, a self-delusion helped by years of whitewashing the facts or putting a romantic spin on things that are anything but romantic.

I have long held a pretty negative view of many of the famous conquerors and civilizations in history, although I must confess that I didn’t know many of the facts and figures Abraham quotes, at length, in the book, and it makes for a terrifying read at times. Although he does not cover all historical periods and all empires (I suspect it would occupy many volumes, and it would be a truly harrowing reading experience), he does a good sweep from classic times to Vietnam, not forgetting Alexander, Genghis Kahn, or the Victorians.

If you want to get a more detailed sense of what the book covers, I recommend checking the ‘look inside’ feature on your favourite store, and reading the list of contents, as that contains a good description of each chapter, but it would be too long for me to include here. As an indication, these are the titles of the chapters: Prologue: Fantasy and horror, Chapter 1: Kings (the comparison with gangster is very apt), Chapter 2: Conquerors (who are characterised as serial killers), Chapter 3: Psychopaths (where he diagnoses successful conquests and the monarchy rather than only the individuals), Chapter 4: The Breeding Program (we are all descendants of the conquerors or of the compliant victims), Chapter 5: The Noble Classes (hierarchies always work to ensure their self-preservation and dominance), Chapter 6: Privilege & the Double Standard, Chapter 7: The Authoritarian Personality (where the author looks at issues of compliance and obedience in the masses), Chapter 8: The Atrocino (if the conqueror is the Atrox, now we have the big corporations and political leaders who don’t quite reach their level, but are toxic nontheless), Chapter 9: The Modern World (prosperity and modernity arrived when the old order was questioned), Chapter 10: The Ugly Truth (the true cost of civilization), Epilogue: Response (education and early intervention can help us avoid similar excesses in the future).

I am a psychiatrist, have worked in forensic psychiatry, and was trained in using the PCL-R (The Psychopathy Checklist Review, which the author mentions). Psychopathy is not a psychiatric diagnostic as such (a diagnosis of antisocial or dissocial personality disorders would cover many of the traits that score highly on the checklist, although not all, and traits of other types of personalities can also score highly), but it is used because it gives a good indication of the risk a person might pose. The highest the score, the higher the risk. Having worked and met some people with high scores, I can say I do agree with the author’s assessment in general terms, although with the caveat that the sources of information, especially for the historical figures of ancient times, are limited and biased, so we need to take it all with a pinch of salt, but Abraham makes a good case, for sure.

I have already said that I had long thought along the same lines the author expresses in the book, and the more I read, the more examples came to my mind, even if the author didn’t mention certain names many of us might think about when we read it. (I, for one, can think of many atrocinos that grace the news very often, both in my country, Spain, and at an international level as well).

 I was intrigued by his comments about genetics and also about people who might fulfil the criteria for psychopathy (score highly in the checklist) but seem to have managed to control the most harmful aspects of their personalities. Evolutionary biology is not my area of expertise, but I felt that perhaps this aspect of the argument was less developed than some of the other ones, and I would have liked a bit more information, although I admit I would probably be in a minority here.

I also had some queries regarding his comments on compliance, because although I appreciate his overall argument, the validity of some of the psychological studies he mentions (Milgram still holds quite well, but Zimbardo’s not so much) has been questioned. (Last year I read and reviewed a book by Rutger Bregman called Humankind. A Hopeful History [you can check my review here], where the author manages to put a positive spin on human being behaviour, and he does a good job of criticizing many of the negative studies).

Regarding the format, I am not sure footnotes and endnotes work too well in e-book format (and the end notes and bibliography occupy 14% of the content), so people who want to dig into it and not miss anything might be advised to consider a paper copy. The book also includes illustrations (some of them are as harrowing as the descriptions of violence in the book, if not more), and the notes and the bibliography will help anybody interested in researching the topic in more depth.

I highlighted a lot of content, and I advise, as usual, that future readers check a sample of the book to see if it suits their taste, but I thought I’d share a few random quotes to give you a taster:

 Napoleón arrive in Egypt with a second army of scientists and historians. It is not surprising that innovation under his Empire produced far-reaching technical advances such as the modern ambulance, widespread inoculations, food canning, and others.

Napoleón was also a remorseless butcher.

 The conqueror is a thug. Rationalizing his crimes is a variation on blaming the rape victim. If she fights back, the rapist claims he is perfectly justified in torturing and murdering her. It is a variation of the exploiter’s defense: “Now see what you’ve made me do?!”

 We are always one demagogue away, we are always one angry, jaded electorate away, from letting Hitler sleep back inside the walls of civilization, assemble his brutalizers, and resume his slaughter.

 One of the reviewers commented on the USA perspective of the book, and that is true. Not that the conclusions are not relevant to all countries, but some of the solutions and further advice suggested seem tailor-made for the United States, although the overall message is easy to extrapolate and adapt to other countries as well, and the individual insight provided is priceless.

This is one of those books that make us sad as we read them, because we know full well that those who need to read them the most are unlikely to do so, but Abraham holds no false illusions and is clear that the most entrenched radicals cannot be swayed by rational argument.

 I don’t think one needs to be an academic to read and ‘enjoy’ (at an intellectual level at least) this book, but the amount of detail and the format might put some people off. Also, as I’ve said before, the book is not an easy read, and it might not be suited for those who shy away from violence or descriptions of extreme and cruel behaviour. Other than the minor personal queries, preferences, and warnings mentioned above, the book is a gripping, thought-provoking, and informative —although somewhat gruelling— read. I learned plenty of new information that disabused me even more about romanticized versions of the past, and some of the comments about politics in general (the importance of not confusing right and left-wing politics with conservatism and liberalism, for example) were right on target. Highly recommended, but be prepared to be challenged and shaken.

Thanks to the author, to Rosie and her whole team for their ongoing support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, to comment and share if you know anybody who would be interested, and to keep smiling. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness (@penswordbooks) A different perspective into women’s history #women’s history

Hi all:

I bring you one of Pen & Sword’s non-fiction titles and a pretty special one. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness

Unmarried Women of the Country Estate: Four Stories from 17th-20th Century: Genteel Women Who Did Not Marry by Charlotte Furness

As the fight for women’s rights continues, and whilst men and women alike push for gender equality around the globe, this book aims to introduce readers to four women who, in their own way, challenged and defied the societal expectations of the time in which they lived. Some chose to be writers, some were successful business women, some chose to nurture and protect, some travelled the globe, some were philanthropists. Each one made the conscious decision not to marry a man. Elizabeth Isham of Lamport Hall, Ann Robinson of Saltram, Anne Lister of Shibden Hall and Rosalie Chichester of Arlington Court. These are elite women, all connected to country houses or from noble families throughout the UK, and this book explores to what extent privilege gave them the opportunity to choose the life they wanted, thus guiding the reader to challenge their own beliefs about elite women throughout history. This book is unique in that it brings the stories of real historical women to light – some of which have never been written about before, whilst also offering an introduction to the history of marriage and societal expectations of women. Starting in 1609 and travelling chronologically up to 1949, with a chapter for each woman, this book tells their remarkable stories, revealing how strong, resilient and powerful women have always been.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Unmarried-Women-of-the-Country-Estate-Hardback/p/17955

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

https://www.amazon.es/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

https://www.amazon.com/Unmarried-Women-Country-Estate-17th-20th/dp/1526704382/

Author Charlotte Furness

About the author:

Charlotte Furness was born and raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. After completing a Bachelor Degree in English, and a Masters Degree in Country House Studies at the University of Leicester, she started a career in heritage, working for English Heritage and the trust-managed Lamport Hall. She has also worked at Harewood House, Temple Newsam House and Renishaw Hall.

Whilst working in this field, she has come across many stories which, unless told, would have been lost in the annals of time. She now works as a full-time writer and sees it as her mission to bring these forgotten stories to the attention of as many people as possible, to preserve them so that they can be enjoyed by generations to come.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Charlotte-Furness/e/B07DM3B4G3

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, for providing me a hardcover ARC copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

At a time when we are trying to recover the history and memories of women of the past, this book is a step in the right direction. It is particularly difficult to find information about working-class women, as they rarely had access to education and/or time to write their own stories. Well-off married women might have a bit more leisure and better access to education, although they are often constrained by the social roles they had to play as wives and mothers, but what about single women of means who didn’t get married? That is the question that Charlotte Furness tries to answer, not exhaustively but rather by choosing four “genteel” women who never got married, from the XVII to the XX century. As she explains, some have been subject to more research and are better known than others (although this is changing), but they also share the fact that they were attached to country states (either because they owned them or because they lived there their entire lives) and also that, luckily for us, they left plenty of written materials for us to peruse, be it letters, diaries, or even, as is the case for Rosalie Chichester, fiction and stories.

The author includes a section of acknowledgements, a note explaining her methodology, a list of plates (there are a number of black and white illustrations and photographs in the book, including portraits and photographs of the women, when available, and also of their relatives and the properties), an introduction where Furness talks about what marriage and married life was like in the periods covered, four chapters, one dedicated to each one of the women, a conclusion, a set of detailed notes (where extra information is provided), a select bibliography (for those who need to find out more), and an index.

The four women chosen are quite different, and the differences go beyond the historical period. Elizabeth Isham was deeply religious, battled with mental health difficulties (as did her mother and sister), and she clearly chose dedicating her life to her religious devotion rather than to a standard family life (there was even discussion about her marrying John Dryden at some point, so it definitely wasn’t due to a lack of prospects); Anne Robinson, stepped up and took on the duties of family life when her sister died, becoming the hostess of Saltram House for her brother-in-law and bringing up her niece and nephew; Anne Lister is a fascinating character, who always challenged the constraints of a woman’s role, took over the property and the business-side of things, and would have married her long-term companion, Ann Walker, if that had been possible at the time; while Rosalie Chichester fits more into the spinster image usually portrayed in fiction and movies: staying at home, living with her mother, involved in many local projects, looking after her animals, and leaving her property to the National Trust. But, she was also an eager traveller, kept detailed diaries, wrote fiction, and was passionate about protecting Arlington Court.

This is not a long book, but it manages to bring to life these four very different women, and, more importantly, tries to make sure we get to hear their own voices, rather than just read the interpretations others might have imposed on them. There are many things we don’t know about them, and, there is plenty more research to be done, but this is a great introduction for readers looking to learn about social history and the history of women from a different perspective.

I enjoyed learning about these four women, their lives, and their historical period, and I’d love to learn more about them. I recommend this book to people interested in women’s history, social history, also those interested in UK country properties, and, in general, readers of history looking for a different approach.

Thanks to the author and to Rosie Croft for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, and to keep reading, liking, clicking, sharing, and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview CHILDREN AT WAR 1914–1918: “IT’S MY WAR TOO!” by Vivien Newman (@worldwarwomen) (@penswordbooks) Stories that should be heard #history #non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you another non-fiction book and one I’ve particularly enjoyed (although perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t the best word):

Children at War 1914-1918 by Vivien Newman

Children at War 1914–1918: “It’s my war too!” by Vivien Newman

For most British readers, the phrase ‘children during the war’ conjures up images of the evacuees of the Second World War. Somehow, surprisingly, the children of the Great War have been largely and unjustifiably overlooked. However, this book takes readers to the heart of the Children’s War 1914-1918.

The age range covered, from birth to 17 years, as well as the richness of children’s own writings and the breadth of English, French and German primary and secondary sources, allows readers to experience wartime childhood and adolescence from multiple, multi-national standpoints. These include: British infants in the nursery; German children at school; French and Belgian youngsters living with the enemy in their occupied homelands; Australian girls and boys knitting socks for General Birdwood, (Commander-in-Chief of the Australian Imperial Force); Girl Guides working for MI5; youthful Ukrainian/Canadians wrongfully interned; German children held as Prisoners of War in Siberia; teenage deckhands on the Lusitania, not to mention the rebellious underage Cossack girl who served throughout the war on the Eastern Front, as well as the youngest living recipient of the VC. At times humorous, at others terrifying, this book totally alters perceptions of what it was like to be young in the First World War.

Readers will marvel at children’s courage, ingenuity, patriotism and pacifism and wholeheartedly agree with the child who stated, ‘What was done to us was wrong.’

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.amazon.es/Children-War-1914-1918-Its-war/dp/147382107X/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Children-at-War-19141918-Paperback/p/16545

Author Vivien Newman

About the author:

Viv has been interested in social history since primary school, when her teachers commented upon her “very many questions”.

Viv’s doctoral research on women’s poetry of the First World War uncovered a treasure trove of long-forgotten women’s poems. These widen our knowledge of women’s wartime lives, their concerns, and their contributions to the war effort and subsequent Victory.

Viv has taught women’s war poetry in both academic and non-academic settings and speak widely at history conferences (both national and international). She gives talks to a variety of audiences ranging from First World War devotees of organisations such as the Western Front Association as well as to Rotarians, Women’s Institutes and U3A.

As well as writing articles about women during the First Word War, Viv has numerous books either already or soon to be published: “We Also Served: The Forgotten Women of the First Word War” explores women’s uniformed and un-uniformed lives between 1914 and 1918. “The Tumult and the Tears” is an annotated anthology of Women’s Poetry of the First World War. “The Children’s War 1914-1919” explores British and Allied children’s wartime lives. Viv has also edited a unique wartime journal in “Nursing through Shot and Shell”.

https://www.amazon.com/Vivien-Newman/e/B00Q2TU41S

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a paperback ARC copy of this historical book that I freely chose to review.

I read a book about children during WWII from the same publisher a while back and enjoyed getting a completely different perspective on the subject (I’ve always been interested in what happened to civilians during the wars, and thankfully, the interest in the topic has resulted in more resources becoming available and more books being published in recent years). When I saw this book, I expected another excellent read. And I got it.

The author explains in her introduction that, at first, she had intended to write mostly about British children, as she was more familiar with the material and the research subject, but she came across some French books talking about the experience of French children, and once she started digging, she found other sources and people also shared with her the stories of some children that she felt she had to include. As a result, we might be reading about what British or French children were doing to try to help the war effort in one page, and then read what the German children were doing, in another. Although the messages about which side was right and which wrong were the complete opposites, the experience of war for all those children was pretty similar. It’s also true that some countries and territories were hit harder than others; there were children who never knew who would come to take over their town or village next and soon discovered that the colour of the uniform made little difference in the end.

The description of the book gives a good idea of some of the contents, and I’d find it difficult to choose my favourite chapter or anecdote. There are all kinds of stories: funny and amusing ones, inspiring ones, stories of bravery and courage well beyond the protagonists’ years, tragedies and disasters, terrifying experiences the children never forgot, tales of endurance, and many memorable images that will remain with me forever. I particularly enjoyed reading samples of children’s diaries and letters. Little Simone de Beauvoir was delightful (and you could already see the woman she’d become), and I soon became a fan of Piete, a young girl we see grow more insightful and mature as the years pass and whose compassion and anti-war feelings develop over time. She even writes a letter of condolence to the parents of the boy whose helmet her brother brought back home as a war souvenir. There were also moving accounts of the children’s war efforts from the home front, and I’d happily read a whole book about the story of the Girl Guides and how they got to work for MI5.

We see the children as victims of the war, directly (like in the sinking of the Lusitania), or indirectly (they were among the many victims of the explosion of a TNT factory in Silvertown), and also having to cope with lack of food, with unwelcome guests (having to house and share all they had with soldiers, both friends and enemies), or becoming internees in camps for immigrants from enemy nations (the story of the Internment Camps in Canada is particularly hard to read, as it has been kept under wraps and denied for many years. It highlights how easily things can change, and how those who had been encouraged to leave their homes and travel across the world with the promise of work and a warm welcome turned into enemies overnight, even those whose countries of origin were not fighting in the wrong side). Everybody can come under suspicion in dangerous times, and it’s difficult not to think of recent events while reading this text.

We have wonderful examples of the heroism of children in the home front, at work (in ships, in factories…), and also those who enlisted pretending to be older, sometimes much older than they were. There were boys, and also girls (mostly on the Eastern bloc, in Russian and Polish armies) fighting as well, and it’s impossible to read about all of them and not think about the children who still fight and die in wars and conflicts all over the world. We might feel reassured that some of the things the book narrates couldn’t happen nowadays, but unfortunately, many others could and still do.

The author includes pictures, documents, and images that help put names to faces and provide a background for some of the stories. There are also endnotes indicating the sources of the references or providing extra explanations, and a bibliography that contains books and websites, which will allow those intrigued by any of the events or individual stories to research them further.

This is a wonderful book, with heart-wrenching and inspiring moments in equal measure, and full of unforgettable characters. It’s fundamental to remember WWI, and its impact on everybody, particularly the children. We should never forget the price paid by both sides, and we must remember there is no such a thing as winning a war, only surviving it, and that applies to whole generations of people, to countries, and to the world at large. I recommend it to anybody interested in gaining a different perspective on WWI, to those researching the topic, to historians, and, in general, to anybody who wants to learn a bit more about that historical period and how it affected the youngest of the population.

Thanks to Rosie and the author for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to stay safe, and to share, click and comment if you like. And keep reading and reviewing!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH, ADVENTURER: PIRACY, POCAHONTAS AND JAMESTOWN by R E Pritchard (@penswordbooks) A no-frills account of a fascinating man and his historical period

Hi all:

I hope you’re keeping well in these difficult times. I bring you a non-fiction book full of adventures, in case you are looking for something a bit different.

Captain John Smith, Adventurer: Piracy, Pocahontas and Jamestown by R E Pritchard

Captain John Smith, Adventurer: Piracy, Pocahontas and Jamestown by R E Pritchard

Captain John Smith is best remembered for his association with Pocahontas, but this was only a small part of an extraordinary life filled with danger and adventure. As a soldier, he fought the Turks in Eastern Europe, where he beheaded three Turkish adversaries in duels. He was sold into slavery, then murdered his master to escape. He sailed under a pirate flag, was shipwrecked and marched to the gallows to be hanged, only to be reprieved at the eleventh hour. All this before he was thirty years old. He was one of the founders of the English settlement at Jamestown, where he faced considerable danger from the natives as well as from within the faction-ridden settlement itself. In fact, were it not for Smith’s leadership, the Jamestown colony would surely have failed. Yet Smith was a far more ambitious explorer and soldier of fortune than these tales suggest. This swashbuckling Elizabethan adventurer was resourceful, intelligent and outspoken, with a vision of what America could become. In this riveting book, R.E. Pritchard tells the rip-roaring story of a remarkable man who refused to give in.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Captain-John-Smith-Adventurer-Hardback/p/17659

https://www.amazon.com/Captain-John-Smith-Adventurer-Pocahontas/dp/1526773627/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Captain-John-Smith-Adventurer-Pocahontas/dp/1526773627/

https://www.amazon.es/Captain-John-Smith-Adventurer-Pocahontas/dp/1526773627/

About the author:

Born in India, R.E. Pritchard read English at Balliol College, Oxford, before becoming a lecturer at Keele University. He has published widely on a range of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century subjects, from Shakespeare’s England to the court of Charles II. He lives in West Oxfordshire.

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review. Having studied American Literature and read early historical texts, I was familiar with some selections of Smith’s writings (from A True Relation and The General History of Virginia), and we had discussed the different versions of his adventures and the mythology surrounding him in class, but I had never read anything else about him, so I took the chance when I saw this book, and it was worth it.

The book combines Smith’s own writing (his autobiographical accounts as well as his less personal ones) with research and use of relevant sources (at the end of the book there is a section of references for each chapter and further reading for those interested in a more detailed account, and also an index) to create a clear picture of the life of this amazing character. Although he might not fit into the romanticized and fictionalised figure we’re used to seeing in stories and movies, he was a fascinating man who went farther and had a clearer vision of the future than most of his contemporaries.

Pritchard does not allow himself any flights of fancy and sticks to documents and accounts of the period (Smith’s and others’) and to other author’s research to offer a chronological account of Smith’s life, with particular attention (and more space) dedicated to his American adventures. The style of those accounts is very factual, and it’s difficult not to imagine what somebody keen on embellishing and dramatizing the narrative could have done with the many assaults, attacks, kidnappings, dangerous situations, scary encounters, hopes and dreams, discoveries, betrayals, deaths, and disappointments. This makes for a less vibrant and exciting reading experience, but it also gives a more accurate idea of what the real man must have been like. This was not an individual keen on discussing personal matters, and he was not looking to offer readers a sensational narrative, but rather one that could convince others of the wealth and possibilities of the New World, and of the need to dedicate resources and investment to its exploration (and exploitation). He wanted his role to be recognised and his name to be remembered, for sure, but considering how his efforts were rewarded, it is far from surprising, and it seems that he deserved more credit than he ever got at the time.

The author allows the original texts (although he acknowledges some minor modernisation of the language to ensure its readability) to tell their story, rather than engaging in excessive comment, although he does provide necessary context and clarifications when required, in particular reminding us of the economic drive behind the expedition to America, which goes some way to explain some of the bizarre decisions taken by the powers that be back in England. (Let’s say common sense did not appear to be that common between those organising the expeditions and the practical side of things and any long-term goals seemed to be forgotten in favour of anything that could provide quick benefits).

If you are wondering about Pocahontas… She is mentioned quite a few times and despite the discrepancies in the accounts of her possible intervention on behalf of Smith (it seems that there are similar stories recorded by other adventurers who’d been similarly rescued by a young native girl, and it is suggested that perhaps it was some sort of ritual/performance some of the tribes used to greet/scare foreign guests), she is more than deserving of the attention she’s been given over the years.

The book also includes images from the original publications of Smith’s works, maps, illustrations, and portraits that help create a clearer picture of the period and the place in our minds.

I am not an expert on Smith or on early American History, but that is not necessary to enjoy this book. It is a good book for people interested in learning more about Smith and the early history of Jamestown, for amateur historians, and for those keen on researching the period (like writers of historical fiction) and obtaining good background information without having to read all the original accounts. I gained a good insight into the early years of Jamestown, and I think I got to know Smith much better than before. A no-frills account of a fascinating man and his historical period. Highly recommended.

Thanks to the author and the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, keep safe and take lots of care. 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#Bookreview LIFE IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE: FACT AND FICTION by Danièle Cybulskie (@penswordbooks) A well-informed resource and a great read #history

Hi all:

I bring you a non-fiction book about a topic we all have read and watched films and series about.

Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction by Danièle Cybulskie

Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction by Danièle Cybulskie

Have you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Middle Ages? What did people actually eat? Were they really filthy? And did they ever get to marry for love? In Medieval Europe in Fact and Fiction, you ll find fast and fun answers to all your secret questions, from eating and drinking to sex and love. Find out whether people bathed, what they did when they got sick, and what actually happened to people accused of crimes. Learn about medieval table manners, tournaments, and toothpaste, and find out if people really did poop in the moat.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Medieval-Europe-Fact-Fiction/dp/1526733455/

https://www.amazon.com/Life-Medieval-Europe-Fact-Fiction/dp/1526733455/

https://www.amazon.es/Life-Medieval-Europe-Fact-Fiction/dp/1526733455/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Life-in-Medieval-Europe-Paperback/p/16524

Author Danièle Cybulskie

About the author:

Danièle Cybulskie has been researching and writing about the Middle Ages for over a decade. She is the author of The Five-Minute Medievalist and is a featured writer at Medievalists.net. A former college professor and specialist in medieval literature and Renaissance drama, her work has been published across international magazines, spanning topics from The Hundred Years’ War to Roman togas. Her mission is to make history fun, entertaining, and engaging, as well as to draw attention to our shared human nature across the centuries.

http://www.danielecybulskie.com/

My review:

I thank Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me an ARC paperback copy of this non-fiction book that I freely chose to review.

We all have some image in our minds of the Middle Ages. We’ve read novels and/or historical texts, watched movies and TV series, visited castles, churches and cathedrals of the period, and imagined what it must have been like. Images of a king sitting at his throne, knights fighting in tournaments, princesses being courted, minstrels, big banquets, mixed with the Black Death, dirt, ignorance, religious intransigence, torture and violence. It can be difficult to disentangle truth from fiction, but the author of this book, Danièle Cybulskie, does a great job of covering a wide range of topics and dispelling many of the myths and misconceptions about the era within a fairly small volume.

The book is divided into seven chapters: A dirty little secret (about hygiene, cleanliness, and the disposal of waste); Farming, fasting, feasting (about food, diets, drinks…); the Art of love (sex, marriage, LGBTQIA, contraceptives, childhood); Nasty and brutish (about battles, combats, the justice system, torture, weapons, slavery…); the Age of faith (about religious belief, pilgrimages, convents and monasteries, Christianity and other religions); In Sickness and in health (about doctors, midwives and healers, treatments [more or less scientific], women’s medicine, Black Death…), and Couture, competition, and courtly love (about people’s clothing, entertainment, sports, games, reading materials…). The author also includes ‘a final word’ where she reminds us of how varied the life of the people in that era would have been (after all, it was a very long period, over a thousand years), and encourages us to think of them as people in their own right, as varied, individual and interesting as we are.

The text also includes a set of images, colour photographs of locations, objects, and manuscripts (many from the British Library, gorgeous), a bibliography (books, articles, and websites), a section of notes with details about the sources of information the author has used for each chapter, an index, and her personal acknowledgements.

This is an easy book to read from cover to cover, and can also be used as a general resource, to dip in and out of, for people interested in the period. It offers a good overview and plenty of information for the casual reader. I don’t think experts will find anything new here, but it is a solid entry level volume for those looking for an introduction to the history of the period, and it offers advice on other resources for those who might want to study any of the topics covered in more detail. I was particularly intrigued by the mention of the medical treatments and treatises in use, and enjoyed learning about a society that was far more varied and complex than we generally give it credit for.

Here a brief quote from the chapter on the age of faith, commenting on the role of convents on some women’s lives.

Convents were places in which women’s learning was encouraged too, so that they could better understand holy texts. For many women who did not wish for a life of marriage and children, convents were a sanctuary in which they could spend their days learning and discussing theology… For these women, many of whom would have been literate, having lifelong access to a convent’s library must’ve seemed a heavenly option, indeed. (80-1)

In sum, this is a great book for people interested in Medieval Europe who are not looking for a historical text full of dates, battles, and royal dynasties, but rather want to get a sense of what everyday life would have been like. A good resource for writers, amateur historians looking for further information, and a gift for those who enjoy a balanced and well-informed account of a historical period most of us don’t know as well as we think.

Thanks to Rosie Croft, Pen & Sword, and the author, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to keep safe, and like, share, and click if you find it interesting. Keep smiling and take care.

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview Battle of Britain Broadcaster: Charles Gardner, Radio Pioneer and WWII Pilot by Robert Gardner (@penswordbooks) For radio, aircraft and WWII enthusiasts

Hi all:

I bring you a book that appealed to me for a variety of reasons. I hope you find it interesting as well.

Battle of Britain Broadcaster. Charles Gardner Radio Pioneer and WWII Pilot by Robert Gardner

Battle of Britain Broadcaster: Charles Gardner, Radio Pioneer and WWII Pilot by Robert Gardner

In 1936 Charles Gardner joined the BBC as a sub-editor in its news department. Shortly afterwards, he was joined by Richard Dimbleby and together they became the very first BBC news correspondents. They covered everything from shipwrecks to fires, floods to air raid precautions and, in Garner’s’ case, new aircraft. Their exploits became legendary and they laid down the first principles of news broadcasting – of integrity and impartiality – still followed today. With the outbreak of war Charles Gardner became one of the first BBC war correspondents and was posted to France to cover the RAF’s AASF (Advanced Air Strike Force). He made numerous broadcasts interviewing many fighter pilots after engagements with the Germans and recalling stories of raids, bomb attacks and eventually the Blitzkrieg when they all were evacuated from France. When he got home he wrote a book AASF which was one of the first books on the Second World War to be published. In late 1940 he was commissioned in the RAF as a pilot and flew Catalina flying boats of Coastal Command. After support missions over the Atlantic protecting supply convoys from America, his squadron was deployed to Ceylon which was under threat from the Japanese navy. Gardner was at the controls when he was the first to sight the Japanese fleet and report back its position. Gardner was later recruited by Lord Mountbatten, to help report the exploits of the British 14th Army in Burma. He both broadcast and filed countless reports of their astonishing bravery in beating the Japanese in jungle conditions and monsoon weather. After the war, Gardner became the BBC air correspondent from 1946-1953. As such, he became known as The Voice of the Air,’ witnessing and recording the greatest days in British aviation history. But Perhaps he will best be remembered for his 1940 eye-witness account of an air battle over the English Channel when German dive bombers unsuccessfully attacked a British convoy but were driven off by RAF fighters. At the time it caused a national controversy. Some complained about his commentary being like a football match,’ and not an air battle where men’s lives were at stake. That broadcast is still played frequently today.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Battle-Britain-Broadcaster-Charles-Gardner/dp/1526746875/

https://www.amazon.com/Battle-Britain-Broadcaster-Charles-Gardner/dp/1526746875/

https://www.amazon.es/Battle-Britain-Broadcaster-Charles-Gardner/dp/1526746875/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Battle-of-Britain-Broadcaster-Hardback/p/16529

Robert Gardner MBE

About the author:

Robert Gardner, Charles Gardner’s son, worked as a journalist for four years before moving into public relations with the British Aircraft Corporation becoming Head of Publicity and later Vice President of British Aerospace and BAE Systems. He is the author of From Bouncing Bombs to Concorde – The Authorised Biography of Sir George Edwards. Robert Gardner, who is now retired, was appointed MBE in 2001.

My review:

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

What initially intrigued me about this book was the mention of Charles Gardner’s career as a broadcaster for the BBC. I am a fan of radio and as a volunteer at local radio stations for the last few years (first on Penistone FM, in the UK, and now on Sants 3 Ràdio, here in Barcelona), I wanted to read about an important pioneer’s experiences. When I read more about Gardner and his career, both with the BBC and also as a pilot and collaborator with the British Aircraft Corporation, I wanted to know more.

This is a book, written by the son of the protagonist, and as such, it has the virtue of including plenty of personal details and memories that are not easily available anywhere else. Charles Gardner wrote and published books about WWII and about aviation and aircraft, and we have access to many of his broadcasts and articles —and there are excerpts of those in the book as well— but the author has had privileged access to materials such as notebooks, letters, and also, of course, to stories he heard first-hand and lived, and that makes this a much rarer opportunity for those interested in the story of this pioneer, a man who loved the news, journalism, and also planes and flying, to the point that he decided to learn to fly and that would influence his later career in the BBC and also his time in WWII.

This book highlights some events, like Gardner’s life broadcasting of an air-battle between British and German planes in 1940 (a first, and somewhat controversial broadcasting), his friendships (Richard Dimbleby, New Zealand pilot ‘Cobber’ Kain, with Sir George Edwards, his connection to Lord Mountbatten…), his time broadcasting in France and following the RAF before enlisting as a pilot and being involved in actions in Europe and later in East Asia (Ceylon and Burma)…  There is also content about his return to the BBC after the war and a chapter about a royal secret and Gardner’s involvement in it (and yes, it concerns Elizabeth, a princess then, and Philip, her future husband. Yes, romance is involved as well). I loved the details about the beginning of Gardner’s journalistic career at the Nuneaton Tribune and the Leicester Mercury and also the account of the first years with the BBC, that reminded me very much of what is like to report on local news: you might be covering an anniversary even today, the opening of a new facility tomorrow, and interviewing some local celebrity the next day. The difficulties he and Richard Dimbleby had trying to broadcast from France and getting access to a broadcasting vehicle highlights how different things were (we were not all connected then), and I loved the inclusion of snippets of how the family was experiencing the same events (his wife and his growing number of children moved a number of times to follow him during the war, and those stories make for great reading material in their own right).

The book also includes many black and white photos of Gardner, his family, the locations… There is an index and detailed notes and resources for each chapter.

This is a great read and a book I recommend to people interested in Charles Gardner, in the history of the radio, news reporting, BBC and media in the UK, in WWII history, particularly the RAF, and in British aviation in general. 

You might want to check this article by the author where he talks about his father and about this book.

https://www.historyhit.com/who-was-charles-gardner-the-broadcaster-who-brought-hope-during-britains-darkest-hour/

Thanks to Pen & Sword and to the author for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and especially, keep safe and keep smiling (even under the mask). ♥

 

 

 

GET MY FREE BOOKS
%d bloggers like this:
x Logo: Shield Security
This Site Is Protected By
Shield Security