Posts Tagged ‘Books’


Each chapter in this book is named for a painting displayed in London’s National Gallery which is an integal part of the story.  A QR code directs you to the painting – if you have a smartphone.  I don’t, but I sought some of the paintings on my computer at times that suited me.  That meant if I was reading in bed at might, I waited until the next day to view the relevant painting.  I wonder how many people read the book with their phones beside them?  I started to get impatient with wanting to see the painting, yet not wanting to leave the book to look up the picture.

The story is centred around letters written during the London blitz.  I found the first few chapters pessimistic and wondered whether I would finish the book.  Overall it seemed tedious, and without the paintings it would be tiresome.  Using the two different timelines was an interesting device, but the modern day characters had little to commend them.

“The pictures are well worth a look
I’m not so sure about the book.”

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I liked this book, although it sometimes bewildered me.  The bewilderment started when a package arrived before Christmas from Amsterdam.  Nothing on it to say who’d sent it, and the only clue was the words “watch – filigree”.  I doubted anyone would be sending me a filigree watch, and I wasn’t sure whether it was a Christmas or birthday present.  When I opened it on Christmas day I discovered that it was a book ordered from Foyle’s in London by a kind daughter – one of several she sent which all came in separate parcels.

The story is set in the 1890’s, the third book I’ve read recently set in that period.  This one often has a modern tone which leads the reader to sometimes forget that it’s historical.  It moves back and forth from England to Japan, and involves sophisticated clockwork, magic, and clairvoyance.  Rather than an historical romance, it’s a Steampunk Saga, with fascinating characters and relationships.

“This book’s unusual fantasy
meant that it captivated me.”


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This is the story of the fight for women’s suffrage in Britain.  New Zealand women gained the vote twenty-five years before their British sisters, and I wondered whether I might find this book irrelevant, but definitely not!

It deals with early struggles for women’s rights, where the suffrage movement was linked with the anti-slavery movement and the Unitarian faith.  The need for sexual equality was discussed among the working class earlier than among the upper classes partly because lower class women had paid work outside the home and experienced wage injustice directly.

I was intrigued to read of the campaign by Caroline Norton, granddaughter of dramatist Richard Sheridan.   I’d heard of the Pankhursts and Emily Davison, whose stories were told in the film “Suffragette”, but many of the women in this book were new to me.

The U.K. movement was forced to be militant in a way the N.Z. movement was not.  This led to imprisonment, force-feeding, and the ‘cat and mouse’ act, where sick prisoners were released then confined again once they’d been nursed back to health.  Perhaps the N.Z. ‘establishment’ was less well-established and therefore more open to justice?  Reading about police brutality towards the suffrage protesters in 1887 and later reminded me vividly of scenes from Springbok Tour protests here.

There are many quotes from contemporary writings, and the whole book is well-researched and well written.  I found it engrossing.

Britain will celebrate their anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in 2018. Listening to Mary Beard being interviewed on the BBC confirmed to me that there are still brave women leading the struggle for equality.

This Saturday, 21 January, many women around the world, including me, will march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, to promote human rights and diversity at the time of Trump’s inauguration.

“So many fights for Women’s Rights
worldwide our sisterhood unites.”


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This is a very different book.  Set in 1893 it deals with the clashes between science, religion, and superstition, with exquisitely drawn characters and locations.

The novel starts with a lyrical description of time which matches the attractive end papers and dustcover.  What a pleasure to hold a book of such practical and literary quality.  The reader is constantly pulled between logic and belief within a gothic setting, as the villagers wrestle with the idea of a terrifying creature lurking in the marsh.  There’s love of various kinds, as well as political action.  Surely something here to please every reader.

“The writing has such quality
you’re soon immersed in history.”

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This is a beguiling memoir.  I found the first few pages difficult, but was soon inveigled in to share the author’s process of writing.  Along with this Jane discusses meditation and spirituality: trading beauty for anxiety, mirroring to me my volatile internal weather, and reminding me I’m not alone in it.  She’s not tempted by consumer goods feeling comfortable only in bookshops, and points out that  writing is a deeply de-civilising process caveat scriptor.  Uncertain whether what she needs is a writing coach or a spiritual director, Jane opts to settle for a pinot now and a resolution to look later at whether I mean what I write.

I especially loved the Canterbury setting, with mentions of places I’m familiar with.  Jane even went to meditate at Ballarat University, where my brother used to teach.

“This author is a skilled inciter
her book would interest any writer.”

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There’s hardly a chance for the reader to breathe in this fast-paced novel.  Set in a foggy historic Yorkshire town it tells of a murder involving a theatre group, with far-reaching repercussions.  At times I thought perhaps there were too many coincidences, but it all fitted together in the end, with just a thread or two left dangling.  I enjoyed this classic murder mystery which has interesting characters.  It’s the fifth book in a series featuring detective Joe Plantagenet, and I will seek out more.  He originally intended to become a priest – useful when there’s the possibility of medieval ghosts being involved.

“I recommend this fast-paced book
it’s definitely worth a look.”

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This true story of a woman with multiple personalities fascinated me.   It was published over forty years ago, and has been filmed as both a TV mini-series and a movie.  There are harrowing accounts of the circumstances that lead Sybil to develop multiple personalities, and gripping revelations as the various personae are exposed.

The book sold over six million copies, then in 2011 a book ‘Sybil Exposed’ by Debbie Nathan argued that the story wasn’t true.  If I had found this out earlier I may not have persevered with the book, but it makes an engrossing story anyway.  I wonder if any of my blog readers have seen this book?  What did you think of it?

“With sixteen people in her mind
the true Sybil was hard to find.”


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