Archives for category: Genre: History

Published by Faber & Faber

This is Emma Carroll’s latest novel. It is set in the Second World War and encompasses the blitz, refugees, and evacuation – friendship, bravery and a little bit of luck – well more than a little. It will become a classic – there’s mystery and danger from the first page – it is a real page turner – a book that details the sense, and atmosphere of a very dark time in our history.

This is the first book of Emma Carroll’s that I have read – which is slightly embarrassing; five others are listed in the front, and her seventh book – The Lost Boy is being advertised in the back. Well written, edgy and engrossing. Superb.

 

Published by Bloomsbury in March 2017

This is the story of Victoria. Actually its about two. There is a slight twist to the true story of Victoria’s life in Kensington Palace,  but based as always in historical fact. This is the story of a young princess, controlled, and driven who finds a friendship where she doesn’t expect it. It is also a story of Sir John Conroy’s daughter named Victoire, who was Victoria’s companion. I rather like the idea of the twist, but wonder how successful such a scheme as proposed by this novel would actually be. The book does cover Queen Victoria’s rather lonely and strange childhood extremely well – and the end is a piece of whimsical pondering that makes it all the more fun.

A book for history lovers…

Lucy Worsly has also written Eliza Rose, also reviewed on this blog, which is already ‘out’ and available to purchase from ‘all good bookshops’.

Published by Chicken House –

A slim volume, the story is only 156 pages, not including some notes about the blitz and the Second World War at the back.

Atmospheric, and historical. The story of a family both in the war and also in the 21st century. Rose sees her Great Aunt leave the house and follows her down into the Underground and finds herself back in the 1940s – and the beginning of the blitz, tracking and becoming quite involved with her own history.

It is a solid adventure – detailing some of the worst occurrences of the war. Rose seems, on the whole not to be overly concerned about how her involvement might affect history, or for that matter whether she will be able to return to her ‘own time’, however, that aside it is a very good read and a beautifully described introduction to this rather horrific time in our history.

Published by Chicken House

Remember, remember the fifth of November…

Gunpowder.

Treason

 Plot…

I have just started this book (page 46) and I know its going to be one of the best stories of the year – without any doubt. It has a superb cover, which is extremely striking – and I seem to have managed to download it to this post…somehow…

We all remember the fifth of November and Guy Fawkes. What he attempted to do, and what happened to him as a result of his failure. There are numerous books on the subject.

This story though is set in 1605 and Tom sees his father slip out from their farm to meet a man in the shadows. When he asks who he is, Tom realises this isn’t just any man – this is a papist priest, trying to escape from the authorities and he also realises that his father is going with him to guide him to his next ‘safe house’.

Tom is left to defend his mother and baby brother against the forces who arrive searching for the priest and his father, and, in attempting to protect them, Tom lets out that the priest had been sheltered overnight at the farm…

This period of history was dark, full of treachery, danger, death and murder. A time of distrust. It was a time where when trouble started neighbour didn’t necessarily support neighbour. This was a time when families were split…a time of suspicion.

For us, it makes a wonderfully colourful part of our history. I sometimes wonder though about the priests, hidden in their priest holes…of people printing banned religious tracts on hidden printing presses, and many dying for their faith.

Sadly it seems history is ever repeating itself. It is surprising what is done in the name of religion. Some extraordinarily bad, and some, extraordinarily good. We are a very weird species of animal.

To return to this book – it is a must read. A traditional, well written, adventure story suitable of everyone from 9 or so to…well adult, shall we say.

If this book does finish as its start indicates it will – as a superb story, I will contact Chicken House and ask if they can arrange for Ally Sherrick to come and ‘do an event’ – which would be marvellous…

I must stop writing this now and get back to Tom who has just managed to reach Buck Hall…

 

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Published by Bloomsbury

There is something about the Tudors. So much so I once caused consternation by explaining to a group of primary school boys that for me, history begins with them…and everything else then hangs off the dynasty – either backwards in time or towards the future. I’m afraid they were a little puzzled at first and then a bit shocked that an adult should think in this rather illogical fashion. Except for me it isn’t. Why not start with the bits you enjoy and then place everything around it – rather like starting in the middle of a time line puzzle…

You really can’t beat Henry VIII and his six wives for drama and for being just a human story – we know a great deal, I suspect guess quite a bit about what happened, but also know so very little too.

This is essentially the story of Katherine Howard, the one who was beheaded, before the last Queen who survived in that rather useful poem – Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced Beheaded, Survived. I find the whole episode of Henry the Eighth’s drive to father a son and the repercussions of it, unbelievably sad, and have always thought that Katherine (and Anne Boleyn) perhaps wasn’t quite as she has often been depicted, in Katherine’s case as a wanton lass (and Anne’s as a witch…)

That the circumstances around Henry’s matrimonial problems, were often part of the reasons why people behaved the way they did, and often the result of just being between a rock and a hard place. Who can say why Henry only managed to produce three children? It is interesting that he was after all the common denominator in all the relationships.

Eliza Rose is Lucy Worsley’s interpretation of this part of Tudor history – Anne of Cleves and Katherine’s rise and subsequent fall. It has more depth than many of the Tudor histories I have read that have been written for young readers. Lucy Worsley’s knowledge of how palaces worked means that it fits together better, runs more smoothly and was a real pleasure to read, even though I knew the outcome of the story.

Eliza Rose is a fictional character inserted into history – a ploy that sometimes doesn’t work. In this case Lucy’s depiction of her character, and what happens to her are believable to the degree I had to check as to whether she really was a piece of imagination or had lived and was a character I just hadn’t heard about.

There was without doubt more to the tale of Henry and his six wives.

The demands were different, as were expectations. Attitudes and beliefs were different. Henry might well have been a despot. I think he was also a human, with human frailties, hopes, desires, and fears. As for his queens – all I think were victims of circumstance, some the result of just taking one too many chances (and who hasn’t done that, at least once in their lives), as well as being as brave, naïve and just caught up in other’s and their own hopes and dreams.

kath-howardI really enjoyed this – I hope Katherine had someone like Eliza Rose in her life. In this book they may have been inadvertent rivals, but were also caught in the same circumstances.

I hope that Lucy will write more books about the Tudor period – this I carried around with me for 48 odd hours, and frantically searched the house late last night so I could read it before I went to sleep; only to find I’d left it in the car. Finished this evening…a very satisfactory retelling of a very traumatic story.

 

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Published by Walker Books

This reminded me of Georgette Heyer – but Georgette Heyer with a demonic / satanic twist. Regency London and a young heiress and debutante is about to be introduced to London society. She is of course looking for that perfect marriage, after all that is what young ladies are supposed to aspire to. There are of course highly suitable men on the ‘circuit’, as it were and of course an anti-hero to set hearts a-flame.

What is the secret that surrounds Lady Helen’s mother? Did she betray England? What is the truth about Lady Helen’s ancestry?

It has lovely detail, a clever plot and is the start of a trilogy.

Something to really get your teeth into!

Sadly I don’t think the cover that this has been given gives the book its due – which is a pity and the book might be overlooked as a result.

As always, never judge a book by its cover… I thoroughly enjoyed it and await the second volume with interest.

 

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Published by Scholastic

Not yet Published at time of going to Post: March 2016

This reminded me of some of our relatively recent royal history. The story of Wallis Simpson, who married Prince Edward, the Duke of Windsor who had been King Edward the VIII and abdicated to be with her. His younger brother, unprepared took on the role of king in 1936.

As with King George VI, Alfie has been brought up, as the second son and doesn’t expect to rule, until circumstances vastly turn his world upside down. This was a wonderful jaunt – full of royal protocol and a great deal more. This is history with a good seasoning of fantasy – a brilliant adventure…

 

 

 

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Published by Bodley Head

Not yet Published at time of going to Post: 28th January 2016

This is a curious book. If it were to have a sub genre I would place it along side John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain and perhaps Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  I think, though, on reflection, it had characteristics in feel to that of the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas than that of Zusak’s novel.

On the 6th of November 1939 Anna’s father had to go away for a few hours. He left shortly after eleven o’clock. He did not come home again.

That in a way, says it all. It is the story, initially, of how Anna searches for her father. It then relates her meeting with the Swallow Man and what follows after. A book that I read with hope that it would all turn out well, with the knowledge that little in those circumstances did.

I read the proof that was sent to me and the cover that was used on that seems to be the one that is being advertised by Bodley Head – so with luck it will be the same.

Published by Hot Key Books

Not yet published: 27th August 2015

This engrossing story covers everything. Including secrets, sexuality, conformity, bravery, revolution and protest in an intense and unforgettable intricate story of what might have been should the modern world be run by a Nazi state.

Jessika Keller follows the directives given by the government and her parents. She has never questioned them. Unthinking this talented girl’s interests revolve around her ice-skating and her family until she becomes best friend with Clementine Hart who doesn’t, isn’t and who questions everything.

This is not an easy book to read. Much of it is related in history and much of it still goes on today. A book with dark depths that will have readers thinking about the issues raised in it long after the book is closed.

It’s about friendship, and about whether you should do what is right, or what is safe…

It is a book of stature – a book of importance.

Published by Puffin

Not yet published at time of going to press – September 2015

This combines history, secrets, treachery, alchemy, chemistry, codes, adventure and friendship in a cornucopia of a story. It is truly a book to treasure and in which to submerge one-self. Christopher Rowe’s friends include his best friend Tom, Tom’s little sister young Molly and a pigeon, named Bridget who all try to help him when he becomes involved in trying to prevent a plot by anti-royalists not just to overthrow the king, but also to obtain the ultimate power…

To be published in September this year, I hope they keep the design of the cover of the proof, which is sumptuous – an extraordinary and superb volume – brilliant. It is quite in the old tradition of Puffin; well written, good plot and wonderful characters.

The following is something related to the book to be going on with –

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