Sunday, February 19, 2017

Vikings: raids.culture.legacy

For several years now SBS has been screening the television series, Vikings. Before screening the second part of series 4, SBS ran a series of documentaries about the lives of the Vikings demonstating the general interest in this topic. Marjolein Stern and Roderick Dale published the book, The Viking Experience, in 2014 (Carlton Books). In 2016 the book was republished by Hardie Grant Books as an SBS book.

The contents covered in the book include the origins of the Scandinavian nation, exploration, raiding and trading, settlement abroad, everyday life, the end of the Viking age and the Viking legacy. Both the authors have specialised in the history of the Viking age while Roderick Dale is also an anthropologist. The many illustrations in this book, together with the text, provide the reader with an understanding of how the peoples, now referred to as the Vikings,  really lived.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wandering Whitehorse Road

In this book Marc Fiddian describes Whitehorse Road from the commencement of the road in Camberwell to its terminus in Healesville. In reality the road is only known as Whitehorse Road when it progresses through the suburbs that now form the City of Whitehorse. For much the time the road is called Maroondah Highway.

Throughout the book the author provides snippets of information about the history of the area through which he road winds.

Evergreen Falls

The story of Evergreen Falls is set in two time periods - 1926 and 2014. The prologue describes a tragedy that occurred during the winter at Evergreen Falls, a hotel in the Blue Mountains. We are then introduced to a waitress working in a cafe in the same area eighty-eight years later. The hotel is undergoing renovations and when Lauren gains access to the old building she discovers a collection of letters and papers that start her journey investigating life in the hotel in the 1920s.

Lauren's investigations are encouraged by Tomas who works on the  renovation project. Who wrote the letters and what was really happening at Evergreen Falls? The flashbacks introduce the reader to events leading up to the tragedy described in the prologue. We also meet many of the staff working at the hotel as well as a number of the guests. In between we learn of Lauren's progress in identifying the people mentioned in the letters.

This is a story of the burden and freedom of love. Class is ever present in the 1926 section of the book, so are people allowed to form serious relationships outside their class? To what extent should family expectations affect the choice of a marriage partner. The demands of family is also a theme ever present in the 2014 section of the book for, as her investigations progress, Lauren also discovers family secrets about her own family which had been hidden from her.

Relationships are the key to this historical romance by Kimberley Freeman as she describes how one location changed the lives of several characters living in different time zones. I would have liked to have more in the book about Lauren and her discoveries but all in all I enjoyed reading this book.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Five go parenting, Five on Brexit Island, Five go gluten free

In time for Christmas a series of Enid Blyton Books for Grown-ups was released. Based on the well known Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, this collection of books has been written by Bruno Vincent in the style of the original books. However the books in this series use twenty-first century themes and events for adults.

There are five titles in the series:
Five go parenting
Five go gluten free
Five go on a strategy away day
Five give up the booze
Five on Brexit Island

In Five on Brexit Island Anne, Dick, George and Julian with Timmy decide to camp at Kirrin Island to escape the fuss caused by the Brexit referendum. Not surprisingly George and Julian have opposing views on whether Britain should remain in the European Union.  When the referendum result is known George, who owns Kirrin Island, decides to declare the island independent from the mainland.

As the title suggests, gluten free eating is the topic of Five go gluten free when the group, led by Anne, go on a restrictive diet. Who is going to give in first and will their friendship survive?

Five go parenting was the first title that I read in the series. This is an account of how the group survives when suddenly presented with a young child to look after. There are some mildly amusing incidents in this book.

As parodies of the original books, these titles don't take long to read and have a few amusing, but not necessarily laugh out loud, moments.

Illustrations from the original books, with text from the new version, are scattered throughout the pages. The illustrations, however, are not in context with the story being told. I found this annoying in the first title that I read and ignored the illustrations in the other two volumes.

The covers are illustrated by Ruth Palmer in the style of Eileen Soper who illustrated the original books.

All in all a good idea that doesn't quite work.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Bertie Project

Irene has returned home and so the Bertie Project can continue. Seven year old Bertie, however, enjoyed his months of freedom with just his father and his grandmother looking after him. Irene therefore discovers that she has lost some of her control. Stuart has also discovered the joys of not being totally under the control of his wife. But will the changes in Scotland Street last?
The story of Bertie and his family, intermingled with stories of other characters associated with Scotland Street, continue to provide entertaining reading. This is the eleventh title in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The revolving door of life

Alexander McCall Smith continues the stories in the 44 Scotland Street series in The Revolving Door of Life.  The stories are the continuation of the events, large and small, about the lives of characters who live, or who have lived, in this part of Scotland Street.

Although Matthew and Elspeth, with their triplets, have left Scotland Street to move into their new home outside Edinburgh, Matthew still works at his art gallery in the city. The house was purchased from a gentlemen calling himself the Duke of Johannesburg, a character who makes appearances throughout this collection of stories. Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald, now married, have settled into Domenica's flat in Scotland Street and are adjusting to their new life together.

The story of central interest in this collection revolves around Bertie, now seven, and his new found freedom when his mother is detained in a Bedouin harem - you will have to read the book. Nicola, Bertie's grandmother moves to Scotland Street to look after Bertie and Ulysses and determines that her grandson should have a less structured life.

The other major theme concerns Pat's father, Dr MacGregor. Pat is concerned that her father's new friend is only interested in his money so Pat and Matthew devise a plan to test whether this is the case.

Ethics and the need to do the right thing tend to be major considerations for some of the characters as they often agonise about their plans and possible actions however a solution is usually eventually found.

As this book is number 10 in the series, this volume is another collection of often amusing stories recounting the minutiae of the lives of a collection of characters we have come to know, all part of the revolving door of life.

London in many books

For family history research I have been looking at books with references to London, particularly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and discovered a selection of books on the history of London in the local public library. Some titles were more relevant to my research than others but it was interesting to see the range of material available.

London in the Eighteenth Century: a great and monstrous thing by Jerry White published by The Bodley Head in 2012. This book looks at the growth of London during the eighteenth century with the first section looking at architectural advancement during that period. There are also sections on People, Work, Culture and Power including a section on prisons and punishment. There are several sets of illustrations inserted throughout the book, detailed notes, a large bibliography and index. This is a useful social history of eighteenth century England providing useful background information for those researching the city in which some of our convict ancestors lived.

The following two books that are good to  browse through.
London: the illustrated history by Cathy Ross and John Clark was first published by Penguin Books in 2008.  This history of the city discusses London through the ages illustrated with maps plus  photos of items from the Museum of London collection. There is a useful section of further reading plus an index.

Another book using the Museum of London collection is London: the story of a great city by Jerry White.The second edition of this book was published by Andre Deutsch in 2014. In this book the history of the city is shown by topic rather than chronologically. Some of the topics include London's River, Making Money, A City of Shopkeepers, Meat and Drink, Faiths of London plus Police, Prisons and Punishment.The book is lavishly illustrated and has an index plus a small section of further reading.

The City of London by Brian Girling, published by The History Press initially in 1998 and again in 2009. It is part of Briain in Old Photographs series. Most of the photographs used to illustrate the book were taken in the early 1900s and were often from postcards. Topics in the book include Around Fleet Street, the River Thames, City Life, St Paul's Cathedral and Churches, City Celebrations and City Transport. Many of the photos show buildings built at the end of the eighteenth century and nineteenth century.

Lost London by Richard Guard is a guide to some of the lost buildings and landmarks in the city.It was published by Michael O'Mara Books in 2012. The main landmarks discussed are arranged alphabetically and the index also allows the reader to locate further information if they are mentioned in other articles.

Lindsey German and John Rees have written A People's History of London published by Verso in 2012. The book investigates how the power of ordinary people through strikes, rebellions and demonstrations has shaped the history of the city through the ages. The book has a bibliography and index.

London: a social and cultural history, 1550 - 1750 by Robert Bucholz and Joseph P Ward was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. It is a study of the development of London as a city during two hundred years. There are plates with illustrations throughout the book as well as detailed notes, a bibliography and index.

The third edition of The London Encyclopaedia was published in 2008. The 6000 alphabetically arranged articles cover all aspects of the history and life of the city. The authors are Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay and John Keay. This is a good reference book for information about the city. At the end of the book is an index to people mentioned in the volume.