Categories
Book review Book reviews Non-fiction

#TuesdayBookBlog LIFE IN MINIATURE: A HISTORY OF DOLLS’ HOUSES by Nicola Lisle (@penswordbooks)(@NicolaLisle1) Not just a toy. A wonderful look at a small but fascinating world.

Hi, all:

I have a few non-fiction books pending reviews, but I was reminded of this one because of a Fair of Miniatures and Dolls’ Houses I had to cover for the radio station I collaborate with (Sants 3 Ràdio), and I had to bring you the book and its review as well.

I was so busy during the fair, there were so many people to interview and talk to (including a couple of wonderful charities, one that provides ergonomic cushions for women who had had a mastectomy due to breast cancer [Asociación almohada del corazón] and one that rescues and rehouses animals in Barcelona [Los Ángeles del Raval]), so many miniatures, exhibits, and objects to see, and so many pictures to take for the web of the radio, that I forgot to take any pictures to share here. But I promise I will add a link to the article when it is published. Oh, and you can see some examples of the work of the association organising the fair, Assarmicat, Associació d’Artesans Miniaturistes de Catalunya, here.

Here is the link to the article (in Catalan, but you can check the pictures):

https://www.el3.cat/noticia/78208/les-cotxeres-de-sants-acullen-la-20a-fira-dartesans-miniaturistes-i-exposicio-de-cases-de-

And here, the book, from the always reliable Pen & Sword.

Life in Miniature. A History of Dolls’ Houses by Nicola Lisle

Life in Miniature. A History of Dolls’ Houses by Nicola Lisle

Popular in Britain since the late seventeenth century, dolls’ houses are tiny slices of social history that give us a fascinating glimpse into domestic life over the last 300 years. In this beautifully-illustrated book, Nicola Lisle explores the origins and history of dolls’ houses and their furnishings, from the earliest known dolls’ house in sixteenth-century Bavaria to the present, and looks at how they reflect the architecture, fashions, social attitudes, innovations and craftsmanship of their day. She discusses the changing role of dolls’ houses and highlights significant events and people to give historical context. She also takes a look at some of the leading dolls’ house manufacturers, such as Silber & Fleming and Lines Brothers Ltd (later Triang). The book includes numerous examples of interesting dolls’ houses, the stories behind them and where to see them. This includes famous models such as Queen Mary’s spectacular 1920s dolls’ house at Windsor Castle and the eighteenth-century baby house at Kew Palace. There is also a chapter on model towns and villages, which became popular in the twentieth century and also give us a window on the past by replicating real places or capturing scenes typical of a bygone era. There is advice for dolls’ house collectors, as well as a detailed directory of places to visit, a timeline of dolls’ house history and recommended further reading. One of the most comprehensive guides available on the subject, this book offers unique insights into the world of dolls’ houses and is a must for anyone with an interest in the history and appeal of these miniature treasures.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Miniature-History-Dolls-Houses/dp/152675181X/

https://www.amazon.com/Life-Miniature-History-Dolls-Houses/dp/152675181X/

https://www.amazon.es/Life-Miniature-History-Dolls-Houses/dp/152675181X/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Life-in-Miniature-Hardback/p/18021

About the author:

Nicola Lisle is a freelance journalist and author specialising in history and the arts. She has written numerous articles for family history magazines, including Who Do You Think You Are?, Your Family History and Discover Your Ancestors, and was a regular contributor to Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine for many years. She is the author of Tracing Your Family History Made Easy (Which? Books, 2011) and Tracing Your Oxfordshire Ancestors (Pen & Sword, 2018).

My review:

I received an early hardback copy of this non-fiction book from Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, which I freely chose to review.

I have always been fascinated by miniatures and dolls’ houses, although I have never collected or played with them. One doesn’t need to be an expert to enjoy this book, where Nicola Lisle introduces the history of miniatures (which have been found by archeologists in Egyptian and Roman digs) and dolls’ houses (some from as far back as the XVII century).

The book opens with an introduction and a discussion of some of the oldest known dolls’ houses, where the author also explains how they transformed from luxury items whereby the rich and important could boast and exhibit their riches, to eventually becoming children’s toys, affordable for the majority of the population. Then there are several chapters which, in chronological order, talk about some notable English dolls’ houses, explaining their history and describing them in such loving detail, that even those of us who haven’t seen them feel as if we were there.

There are also chapters dedicated to dolls’ houses in the literature, model towns and villages, a chapter containing advice on how to start collecting dolls’ houses, and one on notable collectors.

The book also contains a large section of images, which give us a taster of the type of houses mentioned, and it will also be useful as a reference for anybody interested in the topic, as, apart from a detailed index, it also contains two appendixes: places to visit, featuring houses and museums where we can see good examples of dolls’ houses live, and further reading, where we can learn even more about this hobby, art, and way of life.

Dolls’ houses are not mere toys: they reflect the mores of the different periods, the role of women in the house, the differences in social classes (with the separate quarters for owners and servants), the evolution of architecture and art movements, and they were (and are) great education aids, apart from transporting us to a different time and a different place.

I recommend this title to anybody who is interested in miniatures, especially in dolls’ houses, and in social history. It is a compact title with plenty of information for those already well-informed, and a good introduction for those who don’t know much but are eager to learn. A beautiful present for those interested in toys, collectibles, and social history in general.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and Pen & Sword in general and to the author for the book, to all of you for visiting and reading my blog, and remember to share, click, like, keep smiling, and take care. Be creative and enjoy what you do!

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 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 CRAFT YOUR OWN HAPPY: A COLLECTION OF 25 CREATIVE PROJECTS TO CRAFT YOUR WAY TO MINDFULNESS by Becci Mai Ford (@beccimai27) (@penswordbooks) Inspiring, positive, a great gift #crafts

Hi all:

I bring you something a bit different today. I hadn’t realised Pen & Sword also published crafts books, and when I mentioned it in relation to a crocheting book (more on that to come), Rosie Croft suggested I had a look at this book. I realise it won’t be available until the end of the month, but as I know some of you like to plan their gifts, I thought I’d bring it to you now.

Craft Your Own Happy A collection of 25 creative projects to craft your way to mindfulness by Becci Mai Ford

Craft Your Own Happy: A collection of 25 creative projects to craft your way to mindfulness by Becci Mai Ford

Craft Your Own Happy is a collection of mindful craft projects to make you smile! Perfect for those moments when you need a bit of self-care and relaxation time.

Do you ever feel like you spend too much of your day staring at screens, feeling anxious or stressed out? If the answer is yes – then you need this book! The cute colorful projects have all been designed with the feel-good-factor in mind. Crafting can help to take you away from the worries and pressures of your daily life, and give you back those moments of slowness and focus which can help to reduce anxiety.

Unlike other craft books, this is a book that you can dip into and find projects based upon how you are feeling. So you can craft to suit your mood! There are 25 beginner friendly projects to choose from including cross stitching, embroidery, paper craft and more… Why worry when you can craft happy!

https://penandswordbooks.com/imprints/white-owl/craft-your-own-happy.html#.X0uT7MgzbIU

https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Your-Own-Happy-mindfulness/dp/1526747391

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Craft-Your-Own-Happy-mindfulness/dp/1526747391/

https://www.amazon.es/Craft-Your-Own-Happy-Mindfulness/dp/1526747391/

Author and craft specialist Becci Mai Ford

About the author:

Becci Mai Ford is a smiley maker who loves color. A keen crafter who enjoys making a mess, Becci started crafting at a young age and hasn’t stopped since! She is now the founder of Ellbie Co. a mindfulness craft kit company that aims to spread happiness through making!

Inspired by all things cute and a desire to combat anxiety by crafting. Becci currently works in Brighton out of her tiny rainbow filled office space (The make happy corner!). Where she designs new crafty projects, blogs and tries her best to brighten as many peoples days as possible. She is making life up as she goes along – and so far it’s been a lot of fun!

https://www.womenwhocreateuk.com/blog/beccamaiford

https://jofisherwrites.com/2017/11/20/becci-mai-ford-on-crafting-for-mindfulness-building-a-creative-business-and-taking-chances-in-life-ellbie-co/

@beccimai27

@EllbieCo

My review:

I thank NetGalley and Pen & Sword books for providing me an ARC e-book copy of this book (and thank Rosie Croft for recommending it to me).

I am not a great expert in crafting. Quite the opposite. Although I love crafted and hand-made objects, I have very little skill, and I am quite clumsy (I can do very basic knitting, and I am not too bad at crocheting, but that’s about it), so it is not something I pursue often. These days, though, with the forced lockdown due to the pandemic, many people have turned to doing craft projects at home, either on their own or with their children, and as I have been interested in Mindfulness (and meditate regularly) since I attended a workshop six years ago, this book seemed to tick several boxes.

The author of the books sells craft kits, has appeared on TV, and has been interviewed by many well-known UK magazines, and she explains that she saw this book as an extension of her craft kits.

The book is divided into a number of chapters: Basics (where she gives basic instruction on embroidery for absolute beginners); Chapter 1. Anxiety makes, which includes: daily ritual embroidery, flower wall decoration, needle felted unicorn keyring, relaxing rainbow cross stitch); Chapter 2. Get outside, including: clay leaf ring dish, gratitude stones, ocean scene resin necklace, pressed flower phone case; Chapter 3. Happy home: kawaii concrete planter, pompom footstool, resin art clock, yarn wall hanging; Chapter 4. Gratitude makes: the grateful game, clay diorama, kawaii felt card, origami lucky paper stars, peg prompts; Chapter 5. Tidy mind makes: macramé jewellery organiser, kawaii taco felt headphone organiser, kawaii toast make-up bag; Chapter 6. Self-care crafting: embroidery patch, ‘you are enough’ felt banner, kawaii tassel necklace; Chapter 7. Hibernate: heated hand warmers, honeycomb quilted cushion, eye-mask; and a section with the templates of the projects included in the book.

The author explains in the introduction her personal experience with stress and anxiety and how, after trying more standard forms of mindfulness, she realised that to stop her mind from racing and making her anxious what really worked for her was to keep herself busy doing something that was not only not too taxing for her brain, but also something that she enjoyed and made her and others happy. That’s how she started crafting and this book has projects that would suit all levels of skill, although she breaks them down into easy-to-follow steps, so even I would dare to try some of the most complex ones.

She uses a big variety of materials (resin, cement, paints, wood, buttons, shells, sand, tree leaves, cotton, and wool…) and as you can see from the list, creates a large variety of objects, some very simple, and some more elaborate. I particularly liked the fact that she provides practical advice (she warns readers of messy projects, tells us how long they might take, and also explains which ones can be done over a long period of time and are suitable to just work on for a few minutes a day), and she includes projects that are fast and easy to complete, and some that might take a long time to finish, so readers can find something that suits their mood at any given time. She includes a list of materials at the beginning, breaks down each activity into individual steps, illustrating each step with its own image. I am sure those readers who are creative and imaginative when it comes to crafting would find plenty to inspire them here. And many of the projects are eminently suitable for team working, so if you run out of ideas of what to do when you are looking after children or stuck in the house with your nearest and dearest, I’d recommend picking this book up.

The author is full of encouragement and positive advice, that although common-sense and not new or ground-breaking we often forget in the whirlwind of our daily lives. I particularly enjoyed the way she emphasises that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to crafting, home decoration, or even happiness, and how little things can make a big difference.

Just a couple of quotes from the book:

For me, I think a happy home is a home that doesn’t live in the pages of interior design magazines. A happy home is where you have made your own mark on the environment. A happy home is a place where you can look around and see the love and meaning in the objects surrounding you and a place that actively connects with your personality.

Self-care consists of all the things you do to take care of yourself, to protect your mental well-being. It isn’t about doing specific activities; it is about doing what is right for you in order to ensure your mental wellness.

In sum, this is a book for people who like crafting, or who’d like to try it but don’t feel confident enough, for those looking for something different to keep their minds occupied, and it would make a great gift to people who might benefit from these kinds of activities, even if they have never given it a thought. No degree of expertise is required, and I found it inspiring and full of positive energy as well. Although I read it in e-book format, due to the nature of the projects and to the section of templates, I recommend getting a paperback copy if possible. Don’t forget to visit the author’s website for more information and to check some other projects.

Thanks to the author, to NetGalley, and to the publisher for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click and keep reading, reviewing, smiling, and always to stay safe.

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#Bookreview THE HOME FRONT 1939–1945 IN 100 OBJECTS by Austin J Ruddy (@penswordbooks) A great gift for anybody interested in the home front #WWII

Hi all:

I bring you a non-fiction book that I think will interest many of you. Fabulous.

The Home Front 1939–1945 in 100 Objects by Austin J Ruddy

The Home Front 1939–1945 in 100 Objects by Austin J Ruddy

A lifesaving gas mask. A ration book, essential for the supply of food. A shelter stove that kept a family warm whilst they huddled in their Anderson shelter. A leaflet dropped by the Luftwaffe that was designed to intimidate Britain’s populace during the threat of invasion. A civilian identity card over-stamped with the swastika eagle from the occupied Channel Islands. A rare, previously unpublished, snapshot of legendary American bandleader Glenn Miller playing at a UK air base. A twisted remnant of German V2 rocket that went to space and back before exploding over London, the result of equally twisted military science. Colourful flag bunting that saw the VE celebrations in 1945: All disparate objects that together tell the moving and important story of Britain’s Home Front during the Second World War.

The ordinary objects featured in this book, whether those produced in their millions to the far from ordinary or unique, all portray and exude the highs and lows of the British people during six years of war. From the deprivations of rationing and the bombing of the Blitz, to the cheery songs, elegant fashions and ‘Dig For Victory’ spirit, are all captured in colour.

The phrase ‘If only this could talk …’ is often heard: in this book, the objects almost can. All the objects have a general contextual background history and any specific known associated story is also included, all in a clear form, with cross-references to related subjects.

Packed with colour and archive photos, facts, figures, dates and statistics for easy reference, The Home Front 1939–1945 in 100 Objects is the perfect book for students, historians, collectors and general readers, enabling a clear understanding of one of Britain’s most important historical periods.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Home-Front-19391945-in-100-Objects-Hardback/p/16852

https://www.amazon.com/Home-Front-1939-1945-100-Objects/dp/1526740869/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Home-Front-1939-1945-100-Objects/dp/1526740869/

https://www.amazon.es/Home-Front-1939-1945-100-Objects/dp/1526740869/

Author Austin J. Ruddy

About the author:

Born in North London in 1973, AUSTIN J. RUDDY was educated at Highgate School and the University of Leicester, where he attained his degree in Archaeology. He has studied and collected the social and military history of the Second World War, particularly the British Home Front, for most of his life. Austin has featured on television and radio discussing wartime history. Austin worked at the Leicester Mercury newspaper for twenty years, where he was editor of the popular ‘Mr Leicester’ daily local history page. He currently works in Leicestershire as a freelance researcher and writer. He enjoys books, gardening, animals, old buildings, music, watching football and classic comedy (sometimes they overlap), plus vegan food and drink.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Austin-J.-Ruddy/e/B001JP0U7I/

My review:

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

I have previously reviewed other books on the series, and like then, I found this to be a fantastic resource for general readers, amateur historians, for those who still remember the war (or have relatives or friends who still do), and also for people researching the topic for their own projects.

In his introduction, the author explains that when he was a young child he was surrounded by people who’ve lived through the war and they all had stories to tell. He became so interested that he started interviewing ARP (Air Raid Precautions) wardens and Home Guards about the Blitz in his London neighbourhood. He noticed that although books and documentaries gave him a general view of the period, when he could see and touch objects that had been there, he could truly feel the connection to the past, and that set him on the path of collecting. While the protagonists and their memories might no longer be with us, these objects can shine a light on the time and help provide a well-deserved memorial to the people who lived through it.  The book recovers 100 of those objects, following an approximate chronological order, sharing colour pictures of all of them (and some extra images as well), and a write-up that provides ample background information of the role they played (information leaflets, propaganda posters…) and also of the people they belonged to (medals, certificates, uniforms, pictures…). The book also includes a list of abbreviations (quite useful as there were many organisations contributing to the war effort, and some changed names as well), a list of bibliography/further reading, and an index, that will prove helpful to those interested in researching the topic in more detail.

Some of the objects will be familiar to most readers, although they might not be familiar with the story or all the details behind them (food ration books, petrol ration coupons, pillboxes…), and others perhaps not so much (I hadn’t seen the identity cards or the Conscientious Objector’s Application Form, and had never seen an example of a German ID card for the residents of the Channel Islands…). I had also heard much about German propaganda leaflets dropped over Britain, but was pleased to see some examples.  It is a great way to bring history to life and to help us understand a bit better those times and what life in the home front must have been like.

Realising that leaflets delivered to all the houses were the best way to communicate with the population would shock young people today; there are topics that will make readers want to read more (the debate about to what extent the Luftwaffe deliberately targeted towns and cities rather than military objectives, for example); some will remind us that the losses were not only in the battlefield (like the civilian war death certificate); there are mementos of events that have become a fundamental part of the history of some places forever (fragments of glass from one of the windows of Coventry Cathedral). We are also reminded that not everybody was pulling together either, as the looting warning posters remind us; and seeing a copy of the Beveridge Report which so many bought because it brought them hope for a better future (utopian, but some of his suggestions did come to pass, like the NHS) helps us understand what kept the population going in such tough times.

This book provides plenty of information, images, data, and, perhaps most important of all, the personal stories behind some of these objects. It is a touching and moving memorial to a time that is not as distant as some seem to think, and one we should never forget. Because, as the author states, when we talk about war heroes, many only think of generals, soldiers, pilots… and they forget that people on the home front were fighting without weapons, trying to put the fires out, disposing of the bombs, organising rescue parties, looking after the wounded… As the author summarises:

“In a war that typified human’s ability for inhumanity, these heroes of the Home Front proved that humanity was the ultimate victor.”

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is a must for people who are looking for information about the home front, especially those who prefer graphic resources; readers who want to learn more about the era in an enjoyable way; and it would make a great gift for those who lived through the war and still recall the events and the period. A great resource for writers and amateur historians as well.

Thanks to Rosie, to the author, and to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and above all, keep safe!

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

A CHAMPION CYCLIST AGAINST THE NAZIS: THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF GINO BARTALI by Alberto Toscano (@penswordbooks) Inspiring and informative

Hi all:

I bring you a book that made me think about my father quite a lot. I hope you find it as interesting as I did (and as I am sure he would have).

A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis: The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali by Alberto Toscano

A Champion Cyclist Against the Nazis: The Incredible Life of Gino Bartali by Alberto Toscano

Italy,1943. Although allied with Hitler, there were those who refused to accept the fascist policies of racial discrimination and deportation. Among them was Gino Bartali.

A champion cyclist, he won the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) three times and the Tour de France twice. But these weren’t his only achievements. Deeply religious, Bartali never spoke about what he did during those dark years, when he agreed to work with the Resistance and pass messages from one end of the country to the other. Despite the dangers, Bartali used his training as a pretext to criss-cross Italy, hiding documents in the handlebars and saddle of his bicycle, all the while hoping that each time he was searched they wouldn’t think to disassemble his machine.

As a result of his bravery, 800 Jews — including numerous children — were saved from deportation. He died in Florence in 2000 and was recognized as one of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ in 2013. In this book, Alberto Toscano shares the incredible story of this great sportsman and recalls the dramatic moments in Italy and Europe in the twentieth century.

https://www.amazon.com/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible/dp/1526753391/

https://www.amazon.com/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.amazon.es/Champion-Cyclist-Against-Nazis-Incredible-ebook/dp/B089H2WNR3/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/A-Champion-Cyclist-Against-the-Nazis-Hardback/p/17794

Author Alberto Toscano

About the author:

Alberto Toscano was born in Novara, Piedmont, and graduated in political science from the Università Statale in Milan, Italy, in 1973 with a thesis on the war in Indochina. From 1974 to 1982, he worked as a researcher at the Istituto degli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI) in Milan and served as the editor of the ISPI weekly review Relazioni Internazionali. In 1977 and 1978 he received journalism training from the CFJ journalism school in Paris, France. Appointed International Bureau chief of the Italian weekly Rinascita in 1982-1983, he was then editor and special correspondent of the daily newspaper L’Unità until 1986, when he became the Paris correspondent of the daily economic magazine ItaliaOggi.

He is the author of over 5000 articles on France, published by Italian newspapers of several political tendencies: ItaliaOggi, L’Indipendente, Il Giornale.

He works as a journalist and political commentator for several media outlets — in Italy with the press agency Agenzia Giornali Associati (AGI), the RAI public radio and the private television group Mediaset, and in France with Nouvel Observateur, RFI, France Culture, France Inter and TV5. It also collaborates with the daily La Croix and served as president of the Foreign Press Association in France in 1996-1997, and currently serves as the president of the European Press Club since 2000 and President of the cultural association Piero Piazzano di Novara since 2001. Finally, since 2008, he is a member of the Board of Directors of the French Section of the Union of Francophone Press (UPF).

He is visiting professor in Political Science at Sciences-Po in Bordeaux. He is a member of the Training and Research Unit of Italian Language and Literature at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

He was received into the French National Order of Merit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Toscano_(journalist)

My review:

I received an early hardback copy of this non-fiction book from Rosie Croft, from Pen & Sword, which I freely chose to review.

My father loved cycling, both watching it and jumping on a bike, and he belonged to a local cycling club. He could talk about cycling and bicycles for hours on end, and he inspired others to take it up as well (not me, I must hasten to add, but several of his brothers and nephews). That was partly the reason why I was attracted to this book in the first place, although I had never heard about Gino Bartali. But let me reassure you: you don’t need to be a fan of cycling to enjoy this book. Although there is plenty about Bartali’s cycling career and achievements (he dedicated most of his life to it, even after he retired from sporting events), this book is not a manual on cycling techniques, full of information about bicycle manufacturers, and painstakingly detailed descriptions of the individual races. You don’t need to be very knowledgeable about Italian politics or history to enjoy it either.  Toscano, the author, manages to combine biographical information about the protagonist of the book with a solid background of the socio-historic-political situation in Italy at the time. I’m not an expert on Italian history, but I felt I gained perspective on the Italian experience during WWII, especially on the efforts of a part of the population to save not only Italian-Jews but also Jews arrived from other areas to Italy in that period. I have come across many books on the experience of the French Resistance (particularly historical fiction set there) but not so many on what happened in Italy, and it offered me a new perspective. And non-fictional as well.

What I most liked of the book was the way the author manages to place the story of Bartali in the context of the era. The personality of the man comes across in the book. He was determined, a fighter, very religious (Roman Catholic and devoted), with high moral standards, who would do the right thing, even if it meant putting himself at risk, and although he did not shy away from popularity (he regularly appeared on TV with Fausto Coppi, his eternal rival while cycling but also a good friend), he never wanted to discuss his role in helping save many Jews as part of the efforts of the DELASEM (Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants) in collaboration with Catholic priests, bishops, nuns, and many Italian civilians who helped in any way they could (housing them, providing papers, money, etc.). The book uses translated quotes from Bartali’s own autobiographies and also from the book his son, Andrea, wrote about his father (and the originals in Italian are provided also as Endnotes) to illustrate events and to make us feel as if we could hear him and had met him. There are also a few B&W pictures included. As I have said, I felt I learned a lot about the era, the politics, the importance of cycling as a sport in Italy at the time, and how sports and politics become enmeshed (and sports and national identity).  Bartali was not a sympathiser of Mussolini and fascism, and that resulted in difficult situations for him, but he was well known and respected, and that put him in a great position to be able to help others. I also enjoyed the writing style, which is fluid and provides the right amount of information for people without in-depth knowledge to follow the narrative without becoming overwhelming. Toscano achieves a good balance between the general and the detail, and the book offers a good overview of the era and of Bartali’s life and achievements.

If I had to mention something I disliked, or rather, I missed, is a full bibliography. The book provides plenty of information on the subject (Bartali) and on Italian history and politics, but there is no bibliographical section that could help people interested in those topics to research further. Some films and the books about Bartali are mentioned within the text, but there is no separate reference to them. The preface and the afterword, on the other hand, highlight the importance of Bartali and of this book, and there is information within the text about newspaper headlines and articles that would make them easy to trace back.

I recommend this book to people interested in WWII stories, particularly those about the home front and about individuals whose war efforts have not been recognised until recently. People interested in cycling, Italian history and politics, and anybody who wants to read about a fascinating character that more than rose to the challenges of his time will enjoy this book. And I’m sure my father would have loved it as well.

I had to conclude with a quote that, according to the book, Bartali shared with his son, Andrea, about why he kept silent about his role in WWII:

I want to be remembered for my sporting achievements and not as a war hero. The heroes are the others, those who suffered in body, mind, and in their loved ones. I just did what I did best. Ride a bike. Good must be done discretely. Once it is spoken of, it loses its value because it is as if one is trying to draw attention away from the suffering of others. They are the medals you can hang on your soul that will count in the Kingdom of Heaven, not on this earth.

Thanks to Rosie Croft and Pen & Sword for this opportunity, thanks to all of you for writing, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, keep safe, and never forget.

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE GREENHILL DICTIONARY OF MILITARY QUOTATIONS by Chris Riddell (Illustrator), Peter G Tsouras (Editor) (@penswordbooks) A gift for fans of quotations and military history #militaryhistory

Hi all:

I bring you a non-fiction book that I think will appeal to many of you (or will make a fabulous gift for somebody you know):

The Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations by Chris Riddell (Illustrator), Peter G Tsouras (Editor)

The Greenhill Dictionary of Military Quotations by Chris Riddell (Illustrator), Peter G Tsouras (Editor)

‘A massive compilation casting light not only upon the pain, suffering and sheer insanity of war, but also upon the unique comradeship and exhilaration of battle… this is a valuable addition to the literature of reference.’ – The Spectator

Peter Tsouras brings 4,000 years of military history to life through the words of more than 800 soldiers, commanders, military theorists and commentators on war. Quotes by diverse personalities – Napoleon, Machiavelli, Atatürk, ‘Che’ Guevara, Rommel, Julius Caesar, Wellington, Xenophon, Crazy Horse, Wallenstein, T.E. Lawrence, Saladin, Zhukov, Eisenhower and many more – sit side by side to build a comprehensive picture of war across the ages.

Broken down into more than 480 categories, covering courage, danger, failure, leadership, luck, military intelligence, tactics, training, guerrilla warfare and victory, this definitive guide draws on the collected wisdom of those who have experienced war at every level. From the brutality and suffering of war, to the courage and camaraderie of soldiers, to the glory and exhilaration of battle, these quotes offer an insight into the turbulent history of warfare and the lives and deeds of great warriors.

https://www.amazon.com/Greenhill-Dictionary-Military-Quotations/dp/1784384771/

https://www.amazon.com/Greenhill-Dictionary-Military-Quotations-ebook/dp/B088ZYS361/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Greenhill-Dictionary-Military-Quotations-ebook/dp/B088ZYS361/

https://www.amazon.es/Greenhill-Dictionary-Military-Quotations-ebook/dp/B088ZYS361/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Greenhill-Dictionary-of-Military-Quotations-Hardback/p/17753

About the authors:

Editor Peter G. Tsouras

Peter Tsouras has written critically-acclaimed alternate histories on D-Day, Gettysburg and Stalingrad. He was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. After army service in the US and Germany he retired from the US Army Reserve in 1994 in the rank of lieutenant colonel. After his army service Tsouras worked for the U.S. Army Intelligence and Threat Analysis Center (now the National Ground Intelligence Center) and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

https://www.fantasticfiction.com/t/peter-g-tsouras/

Illustrator Chris Riddell

Chris RiddellOBE (born 13 April 1962) is a British illustrator and occasional writer of children’s books and a political cartoonist for the Observer. He has won three Kate Greenaway Medals as well as the British librarians’ annual award for the best-illustrated children’s book, and two of his works were commended runners-up, a distinction dropped after 2002

Books that he wrote or illustrated have won three Nestlé Smarties Book Prizes and have been silver or bronze runners-up four times. On 9 June 2015, he was appointed the UK Children’s Laureate.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Riddell

My review:

I received an early hardback review copy of this book from the publishers, which I freely chose to review.

I am sure I’m not alone in my love of quotations. The best of them summarise wise opinions on a subject, are humorous, surprising, enlightening, and can sometimes make us see something (or somebody) in a completely new light. They are also memorable and can encapsulate the main points of complex theories or simply an amusing and touching thought. We might not remember a whole novel, or play, or a treatise, but will often remember a quotation that particularly connected with us. Those are some of the reasons that attracted me to this book.

Another one of the reasons is the topic. I’m not an expert in military history, but there are aspects of it that crop up everywhere. Recently, with the COVID-19 crisis, many commentators have observed that the members of the government dealing with the different aspects of it (I’m talking about the Spanish government, but I think it applies to many others as well), have used language and terminology better suited to a military campaign than to a health emergency, and that is often the case in many walks of life. In a similar way to sports, metaphors and similes from the military world are frequently used to refer to any situation involving two opposing sides or views (regardless of the enemy not being even visible to the naked eye). And, if you work in a pretty competitive environment, you’re likely to have had Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, or Machiavelli’s The Prince recommended as reading material at some point. You catch my drift.

That’s why this book is such a great resource.  Lieutenant Colonel Tsouras explains in his acknowledgments the difficulties he had to find, identify, and classify all the quotations he needed when writing his books on military subjects, and how that resulted in several editions of this dictionary, always with room for improvement and expansion. Both in the acknowledgements and the preface, the author/editor (I feel although the original words are not his, the design and the careful selection of the sources represents an authorship in its own right) explains his process, his choices (there are over 6000 quotations split into almost 500 categories, in alphabetical order, but there could be very many more), and why we should not forget these men and women, their words, and their wisdom. As he says in the preface ‘They are not dead as long as they are remembered’. He makes sure that we are provided a context as well, so we don’t misunderstand the true intentions of the writer (or speaker), as we know is often the case with quotations.

The book is further enhanced by Chris Riddell’s illustrations. Those ink sketches are amusing and sharp, and rather than being generic and evenly distributed, they illustrate specific quotations and are perfectly suited to the text. I’d love to have more of them, but their scarcity makes them more compelling. This volume also contains a select bibliography and a biographical index which will be helpful to those whose interest is piqued by a particular quotation or historical (or contemporary) figure.

This is a great book to dip in and out of, and I’m sure you’ll all find some old favourites and discover some new ones. It is also a great resource to history teachers (and teachers in general), writers (not only of stories with military or action subjects), historians and those interested in such topics, fans of general knowledge, and people who love quotations and are forever looking for new sources and collections.

There are so many quotations in the book that it’s impossible to decide what to share, but here are two I’d never heard before (and that ring particularly true):

You cannot pay my Marines enough for what they do for this nation. But you sure can pay them too little.  (General Charles Krulak, testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, 23 February 1999).

I always remember the Japanese soldier who outraged the sense of patriotism and duty of his superior officer by saying, ‘In Osaka I would get five yen for digging this gun pit; here I only get criticism.’ (General Sir Ian Hamilton, The Soul and Body of an Army, 1921).

Thanks to Rosie from Pen & Sword and to the author and illustrator for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and keep safe and smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview BESIDE THE SEASIDE: A HISTORY OF YORKSHIRE’S SEASIDE RESORTS by John Heywood (@penswordbooks). Beautiful and informative #non-fiction

Hi all:

I bring you a book that I could not resist reading at this point when most of us are (or have been) stuck indoors.

Beside the Seaside by John Heywood

Beside the Seaside: A History of Yorkshire’s Seaside Resorts by John Heywood

Almost all of us have happy memories of excursions and holidays spent beside the sea. For many, these will have included the Yorkshire coast which runs unbroken for more than one hundred miles between the two great rivers, the Tees and the Humber. Within those boundaries are the popular seaside resorts of Whitby, Scarborough, Filey and Bridlington as well as numerous smaller and quieter but equally well-loved destinations. How did the love affair with the area start and how did it develop? Over the years, all the ingredients for the perfect holiday are there – the spas, the sea and sun bathing, board and lodgings, entertainment and just as importantly, the journeys there and back. Beside the Seaside takes a detailed but entertaining look back at the history of these resorts over the last four hundred years and asks, what does the future hold? Packed with information, this book is fully illustrated with photographs, old and new, together with paintings and etchings. Coupled with the thoughts and memories of tourists and travelers from the 17th century through to the present time, it gives a fascinating insight into how our ancestors would have spent their time at the coast. Evocative and intriguing, absorbing and surprising, John Heywood’s book will appeal both to those familiar with the area and to others who just enjoy being Beside the Seaside.

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Beside-the-Seaside-Paperback/p/14321

https://www.amazon.com/Beside-Seaside-History-Yorkshires-Resorts-ebook/dp/B07928QP45/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beside-Seaside-History-Yorkshires-Resorts-ebook/dp/B07928QP45/

https://www.amazon.es/Beside-Seaside-History-Yorkshires-Resorts-ebook/dp/B07928QP45/

About the author:

I am an experienced professional family and local historian living in West Yorkshire. History has been my passion for over forty years. I blame my parents for taking me to every abbey, castle and historic house they could find. I am so glad they did though. My first book Silent Witnesses told the story of those men from the village of Horbury near Wakefield in Yorkshire who paid the ultimate price during the Great War. My latest book Beside the Seaside – A History of Yorkshire’s Seaside Resorts was a great labour of love to research and write. Both my wife and I take great pleasure in being by the sea.

I am currently working on my second book for Pen and Sword due for publication in Spring 2019. I am a contributor to several magazines and have recently collaborated with Wakefield Cathedral on a World War One project.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Heywood/e/B07C3S7ZXK/

My review:

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

This gorgeous non-fiction book offers readers a history of Yorkshire’s seaside resorts. I lived in South Yorkshire for quite a few years, and I had a chance to visit some of the resorts mentioned in the book (Scarborough and Whitby more than the rest), but I didn’t know much about their history or how they had evolved over the years. I had no idea that many of these resorts had had piers, for instance (it’s difficult to survive as a pier on the Yorkshire coast, as I’ve learned by reading this book), or the fact that many of them had started life as spas (people were going to take the waters in Scarborough as far back as the early XVII century).

Heywood has done a great job researching the topic, and although he tackles the subject chronologically (we go from the very early mentions of the resorts by visitors to our era), he divides it up in chapters centred on different topics that can be consulted independently as well, like those on boarding and lodging, bathing fashion, the journey (the train helped the expansion of the tourism enormously, as it did with so many other activities), excursions, entertainment, and a dip in the sea, where the bathing machines make an appearance. I’ve always been fascinated by bathing machines, and I couldn’t help but think they would be a fantastic way of ensuring social distance was maintained while bathing, in the post-COVID-19 era). There is plenty of information about what happened in these towns during both World Wars, and how they pulled through the difficulties and changes over the years, as well as plenty of details on the different venues, buildings, gardens, facilities, performers, attractions…  This book works both, as a reference for people interested in any of these topics and also as an engaging non-fiction piece of historical and social British seaside history.

The book includes some fantastic illustrations, pictures, and advertisements of the era, which are a joy to see and help us better understand how visiting all these resorts in the past must have felt like. There is also a bibliography for those who might want to read more on the subject, and an index in case you’re looking for specific information.  Readers who love curiosities and social history will have a field day with this book. And if you’ve always wondered how the British love with the seaside towns and the seaside resorts came to be, this book offers you many clues.

I recommend this book to students and fans of social history, to those who love to read about Britain, its culture, and its towns and cities, to people who love Yorkshire, its coast and seaside towns, to historical authors thinking of setting their stories in these locations or eras, and to anybody who loves to take a stroll beside the seaside. I enjoyed the opportunity to be out and about, especially now, and I hope to be able to visit the area again in the future, armed with plenty of useful knowledge and a new perspective.

Ah, and I couldn’t help but share this.

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

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