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#Bookreview LITERARY TRAILS: HAWORTH AND THE BRONTËS by David F Walford, Catherine Rayner (@penswordbooks). A wonderful gift for lovers of the #Brontës, walking and history

Hi all:

I bring you another great book from Pen & Sword, one recommended in particular to lovers of the Brontës and walking.

Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës by David F Walford, Catherine Rayner.
Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës by David F Walford, Catherine Rayner

Literary Trails: Haworth and the Brontës by David F Walford, Catherine Rayner

This lighthearted but deeply researched book offers interest and guidance to walkers, social historians and lovers of the Bronte family, their lives and works.

Set in and around the town of Haworth it gives a dual introduction to walkers and lovers of literature who can explore this unique area of Yorkshire and walk in the footsteps of those who knew and loved this town and its moorlands two hundred years ago.

With guided tours around special buildings as well as outdoor walks and the history of people and places who lived and worked in Haworth over centuries, it offers an insight into life and death in the melee of the Industrial Revolution.

Its joint authors have combined their lifelong interests in Victorian literature and social history with writing, walking, photography and cartography and have included quotes from Bronte poetry and novels.

https://www.amazon.com/Literary-Trails-Haworth-David-Walford/dp/152672085X/

https://www.amazon.com/Literary-Trails-Haworth-David-Walford-ebook/dp/B07RL27PGS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Literary-Trails-Haworth-David-Walford-ebook/dp/B07RL27PGS/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Literary-Trails-Haworth-and-the-Bronts-Paperback/p/15341

About the authors:

About Catherine Rayner

Catherine Rayner is a Life Member of The Bronte Society, a Trustee on the Council of the Bronte Society and the Chair of its Conference and Publications Committee. She studied at Hull and Leeds Universities and has degrees in English and Philosophy with Social History, Health and Social Care, and an MA in Victorian Literature. She has studied and researched the lives of the Bronte family for over forty years, and has previously written two theses on Emily Bronte, as well as various articles. Alongside this, she is a qualified nurse and has studied the effects of childhood on the development and psychology of adults.

About David F Walford

David F Walford has a fascination with the great Victorian engineers, along with his passion for walking, mountaineering and photography. He has written several books about walking in Yorkshire, including a wealth of information on the development of the railways. As a qualified draughtsman, he includes detailed maps of every route to enhance each walk around Haworth.

My review:

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

I love walking. Perhaps because I was a clumsy child (and I can’t say I’m the most graceful of adults, either), overweight, and lacking a good sense of balance, many sports didn’t like me (it was mutual!), but walking I could do, and I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity it gives us to contemplate life at a slow pace and to discover things, people, and places that might pass us by if we use other means of transport.

I love the Brontës as well. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre have long been among my favourite novels (I must read some of Anne’s novels in English, I know), and I’ve lived and worked in Yorkshire, quite close to the area where they lived for lengthy periods, and loved the landscape as well. So, of course I had to have this book.

Wherever I visit, if I can fit in, I try to join a literary walk. It’s a great way to combine two of my favourite activities: reading and walking. (I also listen to audiobook while going for walks sometimes). If the guide is skilled and knowledgeable, you can learn fascinating information about the city or area, about the author or authors, and feel as if you were going back in time and experiencing what the place might have been like when the author lived there. This book offers us the same kind of experience. Although it is written as a companion for people planning a visit to Haworth and its vicinity, it is so packed with information, photographs, maps, literary references, and advice, that it will be indispensable to anybody who wants to learn more about the sisters and submerge herself or himself in the landscape the authors loved so much.

The book is divided into 20 chapters, it contains 19 walks of varied difficulty (some are short walks within the town of Haworth itself, and the first one, in fact, is a walk around the Parsonage where the Brontës lived, now a museum), and a few introductory chapters. There is the introduction proper, explaining the reasons behind the writing of the book, chapter 2 talks about West Yorkshire and the Haworth area, chapter 3 offers a guide to safe and responsible walking, chapter 4 summarises the history of the Brontë family and chapter 5 talks specifically about the Brontës in Haworth and what happened to them there. Then follow the chapters about the walks (some containing one walk in detail, while some of the later ones, which are longer and stray farther away from Haworth, sometimes include a couple of walks that might be combined, always offering options to reduce their length. There are even some that include the option of jumping on a train). The final chapter talks about the art of walking and what effects it had (positive and negative) on the Brontës. There is also a bibliography that will be of interest to anybody keen on increasing their knowledge on the sisters.

All the chapters are structured in a similar way, first offering a narrative, a fact file of the walk (including the Ordnance Survey Map, general information as to the terrain, level of difficulty, length, likely duration, facilities, and also any relevant warnings), followed by maps or graphics (depending on the topic), and then a collection of photographs, all in black and white, which can aid people going for the walks to find their location easily, but will help readers imagine what the place is like as well. (I must confess I would have liked to see colour photographs, but I can see how the black & white pictures recreate the nostalgic air of the area and help us imagine the old times, as they combine more seamlessly with the archival old photographs. It is also true that the moors change colours so dramatically with the seasons that it would be difficult to give readers an accurate idea of what the place is like in different times of the year).

What did I enjoy the most? Having visited Haworth, the surrounding area, the Parsonage, and having walked around (in town, but also some of the longer walks that include landscapes and buildings said to have inspired the sisters’ writing), I enjoyed the pictures, which reminded me of many familiar places and others that had passed me by (I must visit Thornton, where the family lived before they moved to Haworth, if I can). I also enjoyed the titbits of information about buildings, how those had changed over time, and how the authors managed to make readers imagine what the sisters and their family would have experienced and seen at the time, including also poems, and references to their work.

These are the moors above and beyond Haworth spreading for miles to the west and containing old farmsteads and ruined houses dating back to the Elizabethan era and where people have lived and worked for centuries. They can be covered in swirling mist or blazing sunshine, snow and piercing gales, or have an eerie calm. They can be loud with the cries of animals and birds or silent as a tomb in their deep holes and clefts. They are harsh and they are beautiful. (Walford & Rayner, 2018, p. 5).

While most of the book centres on the beauty and the wonders one can see and experience when visiting the place, the authors excel also at explaining what the living conditions were like at the time. Although today Haworth might feel quaint, charming, and romantic (yes, it is all that and lovely to visit, believe me), this is quite different to what it had been like at the time, when the living conditions were quite terrible, the industrial revolution was steamrolling everything, mills were popping up all around, filling the atmosphere with smoke and soot, transport was difficult, sanitation ranged from bad to inexistent… It is not surprising that the six Brontë children died young, as did their mother, and they were not the only ones.

“Through hard and dangerous work, squalid living conditions, polluted water supplies, poor sanitation and disease, the town of Haworth was killing its own community in the nineteenth century” (Walford & Rayner, 2018, p. 8).

The chapter of the walk around the graveyard attached to the Parsonage, chapter 8, reads at times like a gothic horror novel, with graves piled up 10 to 12 high, and rainwater running from the moors down the graveyard filtering into the drinking water, and likely being the cause of cholera, typhoid fever, and some of the other illnesses common at the time. (Life expectancy was 25 at the time). On the other hand, this same chapter also includes information on the symbolism of the carvings on the graves (for instance, a Celtic cross would mean eternity, and an angel with open wings, the flight of the soul to Heaven).

One of my favourite chapters (and yes, if I go back to the area I’ll be sure to take the book and follow as many of the walks as I can) is the last one, on the art of walking. It is a fascinating reminder of a time when people mostly walked everywhere, and they didn’t have appropriate clothing or shoes in most cases (the authors remind us that the father of the Brontës never owned a horse, and tells us of a visit of Branwell [their brother] to Charlotte that would have meant a 65 km (40 miles) round trip, walking, in one day. If you didn’t have a lot of money, there weren’t many options then, and your health could suffer if the weather was bad. But nowadays, we are lucky, and walking is a healthy option with many benefits, for our bodies and minds.

In summary, this is a fantastic book for people planning a visit to Haworth and the surrounding area, but also for anybody who loves the Brontës and wants to learn more about their time and lives in a visual and tangible way. It will inspire readers to visit (even if it is only with their imagination) the landscapes and the streets the sister walked, and will help them understand better what makes their voices so haunting and distinct. This book is also a beautiful gift to walkers and historians who want to learn more about this time and area in an engaging and enjoyable way.

As the authors say:

It is important to remember the old ways and the people of the past and the efforts they made to improve and enhance society, so that in the 21st century people in this country, and many others, can live healthier, easier and more entertaining lives. There is still much evidence of the past remaining which can help modern society to recall and appreciate its heritage. (Walford & Rayner, 2018, pp. 273-4)

Thanks to Rosie Croft and the team, and to the authors of this wondeful book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and always keep smiling and walking!

 

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog THE ENGLISH WIFE: A NOVEL by Lauren Willig (@laurenwillig) (@StMartinsPress) Recommended to fans of Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Jane Austen’s novels. #bookreview #historicalfiction

Hi all:

I am sure today’s book won’t be to everybody’s taste, but I loved it. See what you think.

The English Wife by Lauren Willig
The English Wife by Lauren Willig

The English Wife: A Novel by Lauren Willig

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

https://www.amazon.com/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Wife-Novel-Lauren-Willig-ebook/dp/B072TY6MS6/

Author Lauren Willig
Author Lauren Willig

About the author:

Lauren Willig is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Pink Carnation series and several stand alone works of historical fiction, including “The Ashford Affair”, “That Summer”, “The Other Daughter”, and “The Forgotten Room” (co-written with Karen White and Beatriz Williams). Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages, awarded the RITA, Booksellers Best and Golden Leaf awards, and chosen for the American Library Association’s annual list of the best genre fiction. After graduating from Yale University, she embarked on a PhD in English History at Harvard before leaving academia to acquire a JD at Harvard Law while authoring her “Pink Carnation” series of Napoleonic-set novels. She lives in New York City, where she now writes full time.

https://www.amazon.com/Lauren-Willig/e/B001IGQV62/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

In case you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to read the whole review (you know I can go on and on), I love this novel. I recommend it to anybody who enjoys historical fiction with a mystery at its heart, especially if you enjoy gothic novels. If you love Rebecca and Jane Eyre, I would advise you to check it out. And, for the insights it offers on the society of the time (both sides of the Atlantic), I think fans of Jane Austen who are interested in novels beyond the Regency period will also enjoy it.

This historical novel, set at the end of the XIX century, starts with a murder and the mystery surrounding it. On the day when Annabelle and Bay, a couple of the best of New York society (Annabelle, the aristocratic English wife of the heir of the Van Duyvil dynasty) have organised a ball to celebrate the completion of their new mansion, he is found dead with a knife (a dagger from his costume) in his chest, and his wife is presumed drowned under the icy waters of the river. Janie, Bay’s sister, alarmed at the different versions of the story that circulate (either her brother killed his adulterous wife and then committed suicide, or his wife killed him intending to run away with her lover, although her brother is also accused of adultery with their cousin Anne…) and how they will affect her little niece and nephew, decides to try to find the truth. She chooses an unlikely ally (more unlikely than she realises at the time), a reporter (her mother values privacy, appearances, and reputation above all, and she appears to be the perfect obedient daughter), and the novel tells the story of their investigation, that we get to follow chronologically from the moment the body is discovered, in January 1899, for several weeks. We also get to read about events that took place several years earlier (from 1894 onward), when Annabelle (also known as Georgie) first met Bay, in London. She was working as an actress and they become friends. These two strands of the story, told in the third person, but each one from the point of view of one of the main characters, Janie and Georgie, run in parallel until towards the very end, and that offers us different perspectives and insight while at the same time helping keep the mystery going. The more we know about the ins and outs of the characters, their relationships, their families, and their secrets (and there are many. Other than Janie, who only starts keeping secrets after her brother’s death, all the rest of the characters carry heavy loads, sometimes theirs, sometimes those of others), the more we feel invested in the story, and the more suspects and red herrings that keep appearing. I have read some reviewers that complained about the story not being a mystery or a thriller. Well, a thriller it is not, for sure (although I found the reading experience thrilling for other reasons). It has some of the elements of a classic mystery of the era, with the added beauty of the detailed setting, the appreciation of the subtle social nuances of the time, the strong portrayal of the characters, and the beautiful language. You might guess who the guilty party is (I must confess I kept wavering between several possible explanations), and also some of the other secrets (some are more evident than others), but I thought it worked well, although not, perhaps, for a reader who is looking, exclusively, for a mystery and wants to get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. This is not a book written following the rules of the genre we are so familiar with (nothing extraneous that does not move the story forward, kill you darlings, keep descriptions to a minimum) and, in my opinion, is all he better for it.

This book is full of great characters. We are limited to two points of view only, which might be biased due to personal reasons, and some characters, like Cousin Anne, generates strong emotions from all those involved (she never conforms, she steals the man her cousin Janie was going to marry, later divorces, and her attitude towards Annabelle is not supportive), but she has some of the best lines, and we get to understand her quite well by the end of the story. Janie, who has always been dismissed by her mother and ignored by the rest of the family, is an articulate, intelligent, cultured, and determined woman. Burke, the reporter, is a complex character with stronger morals than anybody would give him credit for, and Mrs. Van Duyvil, the mother, is a larger-than-life woman, whose influence is felt by those who come into contact with her, and she is far from likeable, and there are other characters that appear in a negative light. Even the “good” characters (Bay and Janie) have complex motives for their actions, and nothing is a black or white as we might think at the beginning.

As I mentioned above, the author (whose work I’d never read before but I’ll make sure to check) captures well the nuances of the time, the dress, the setting, the social mores (yes, a little like Jane Austen, although in a very different historical period), writes beautifully, and her choice of female characters as narrators allows us a good insight into what life was like at the time for women, whose power always had to be channelled through men. Times were changing already, and people keep referring to the Vanderbilts’ divorce, but this was not generally accepted yet, and certain things had to be kept hidden. The dialogue is full of wit and sparks at times, and although there is drama, sadness, and grief, there is also merriment, fun, romance, and very insightful comments on the society of the time (and yes, our society as well).

The book is full of literary references, historical-era appropriate, and most readers fond of the genre will enjoy the comments about books (and plays) of the time. I did. The narrative takes its time to explore the situations and the characters in detail, but I felt it moved at the right pace, giving us a chance to reflect upon the serious questions behind the story. Who decides who we truly are? How important are appearances and social conventions? What role should other people’s opinions play in our lives and actions? I don’t want to give any spoilers away (I enjoyed the ending, by the way, but that’s all I’ll say about it), but I thought I’d share some snippets from the book.

The juries of the world were made of men. A man could hold his honor dear in masculine matters such as gambling debts and never mind that he left a trail of ruined women behind him. Men diced with coin; women diced with their lives.

Georgie took a sip of her own tea. It was too weak. It was always too weak. She blamed it on the Revolution. Since the Boston Tea Party, the Americans had apparently been conserving their tea leaves.

“So you came rushing through the ice?” Janie didn’t know whether to be touched or shake him for being so foolish. “Slaying a dragon would have been easier. And warmer.”

Viola lifted her head. “I don’t want a lullaby. I want a story.” “Even better. I have a wonderful one about a prince who turned into a toad. You’ll adore it. It’s very educational.” (This is Anne. She has many wonderful retorts).

And this one must be one of my favourite sentences of the year so far:

Janie felt like a prism: fragile, but with the chance of rainbows.

In sum, a beautifully written historical fiction novel, with a mystery (several) at its heart, memorable characters, fantastic dialogue, and a gothic touch. Unmissable.

 

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW!

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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview WHAT REGENCY WOMEN DID FOR US by Rachel Knowles (@RegencyHistory) (@penswordbooks) #history #Regency A gripping book about twelve extraordinary women

Hi, all:

I bring you a review of a non-fiction book from the Pen & Sword history collection. A great read.

What Regency Women Did for Us by Rachel Knowles
What Regency Women Did for Us by Rachel Knowles

What Regency Women Did For Us by Rachel Knowles A gripping book about twelve extraordinary women

Regency women inhabited a very different world from the one in which we live today. Considered intellectually inferior to men, they received little education and had very few rights. This book tells the inspirational stories of twelve women, from very different backgrounds, who overcame often huge obstacles to achieve success. These women were pioneers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs, authors, scientists and actresses women who made an impact on their world and ours. In her debut nonfiction work, popular history blogger Rachel Knowles tells how each of these remarkable ladies helped change the world they lived in and whose legacy is still evident today. Two hundred years later, their stories are still inspirational.

https://www.amazon.com/What-Regency-Women-Did-Us-ebook/dp/B06ZXZ3NHS/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Regency-Women-Did-Us-ebook/dp/B06ZXZ3NHS/

Author Rachel Knowles
Author Rachel Knowles

About the author

Rachel Knowles is the author of the popular Regency History blog. She lives in Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew, and has four grown-up daughters.
Please visit Rachel’s website: www.regencyhistory.net

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Knowles/e/B00XYK33RA/

My review:

I received a copy of this paperback from Pen & Sword History and I freely chose to review the book.

This is another great book by Pen & Sword that are quickly becoming one of my favourite publishing companies for non-fiction books.

This small volume is packed with information. After a brief introduction that sets the Regency period, particularly how life was for women at the time, the book discusses the lives of twelve women who played an important role in the UK during that period. As the author comments, they were not the only women of note at the time, but they did make a significant difference to Britain, and a difference that survives to this day. They come from all walks of life, their professions or interests are diverse, some were married and had children but half of them never married, and I must confess that although I knew some of them, I had never heard of the others. And I learned a great deal by reading this book even about the ones I was somewhat familiar with.

By now, you must be wondering who these twelve women are.

Chapter 1 is dedicated to Eleanor Coade, whom the author calls ‘the king’s stone maker’, a business woman who took charge of the artificial stone manufactory that bore her name and was very good at creating a high-quality product and also at marketing. I had never realised that many of the statues, garden sculptures, and facades of buildings I have visited were made using her stone.

Chapter 2 introduces us to Caroline Herschel, who always keen to assist her brother, became an astronomer of note in her own right (and she discovered many comets).

Sarah Siddons, the actress that lifted the reputation of actresses and well known for her tragic roles, is discussed in chapter 3.

Marie Tussaud, of Madame Tussaud’s fame, is the subject of chapter 4. And although I was familiar with the wax museum, I discovered I didn’t know much about this fascinating woman.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to Mary Parminter, mountaineer, traveller, and benefactress to other women.

Writer and mother of historical fiction Maria Edgeworth is discussed in chapter 6.

In chapter 7 we learn about Jane Marcet, a woman so eager to learn and to help others learn, that she wrote the chemistry for dummies of the period, so that women and people who had not had access to much formal education could understand the subject. She used the format of a dialogue between female students and teacher and also provided examples of experiments that could easily be done at home. Faraday gave her credit for his early steps in science and she was very well regarded and a best-seller of the time.

Chapter 8 is taken up by Sarah Guppy, who was an amateur engineer and although did not always get credit for her inventions she truly deserves to be in this book.

Jane Austen is the subject of chapter 9. Although she died during the period, the author chose to include her. She is probably the most famous woman in the book, and the one I knew more about, but I learned some new things and her chapter is a good introduction to readers who are not familiar with her life, works, and period.

Harriot Mellon had an awful childhood but she went on to become an actress and eventually a banker, and her private bank exists to this day. And her legacy, that found its way into many charitable causes, has also endured.

Elizabeth Fry is perhaps best known for having been on the back of the £5 note for a while. I read about her when I studied Criminology, as she was a big prison reformer, but I did not know about her role in creating a training school for nurses well before Florence Nightingale, and her life is fascinating. She was a truly passionate and generous woman, always devoted to improving the lives of others.

The last woman the author chooses to include is Mary Anning. She was from humble origins but became a great fossilist and her fossils are still on display in many museums today.

Knowles has chosen a fantastic group of women to write about. Her writing style is fluid, easy to follow, and includes both information about the personal lives of these women and about their contributions to the period. These brief biographical chapters are a good introduction to anybody who wants to get some idea about what women’s lives were like at the time, whilst at the same time providing a glimpse into what made these twelve women extraordinary. Their intelligence, their determination, and their passion shine through in those few pages. I must confess I would be happy to read a whole book on any and all of these women.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in women’s history or looking for an introduction into the Regency Period that looks more closely at the role women played. It is a gripping read and I hope it will go some way to help these women get the attention they deserve.

Thanks so much to Pen & Sword (Alex in particular), to the author, and thanks to all of you for reading, and don’t forget to like, share, comment, click and REVIEW!

[amazon_link asins=’158297280X,B00KSERAQA,0141395206,1624860648,0892365579,B073RLV6B1,0199537550,0230103421′ template=’ProductCarousel’ store=’wwwauthortran-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’27cd3667-aa82-11e7-8054-61c661fb7a00′]

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