Thursday, October 27, 2011

The secrets of the notebook

When Eve Haas was sixteen her father showed her a special family notebook. The cover had a royal insignia and inside was an inscription signed by Prince August of Prussia. Eve was told that Prince August was her great great grandfather who had married Emilie Gottschalk, the daughter of a Jewish tailor. She was told no other information except that she was not to investigate this story, however one day the notebook would belong to her.

Many years later Eve and her husband decided that they needed to know the story of the notebook and in particular to learn of the lives of three generations of women Emilie, Charlotte and Anna. It was the time of the Cold War so investigations had to be made in East Berlin, a dangerous place for German Jews now living in Britain to enter. This book outlines Eve's story as she searches for the truth about her family and why all mention of Prince August and his family had been hidden for generations. In her search she discovers stories of political intrigue and struggle for power within the Hollenstedt family.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Henrietta Augusta Dugdale: an activist 1827-1918

Susan Priestley has written a well researched book on the life of Henrietta Dugdale, a pioneer member of the women's suffrage movement in Victoria and generally a campaigner for women's rights. Born in London in 1827 she came to Australia with her first husband, Junius Augustus Davies, in the early 1850s. No record of the death of her husband has been located but it is assumed that he died in 1852. In  March 1853 Henrietta married William Dugdale, they had three sons and  lived and farmed in Queenscliff for many years.  From 1869 Henrietta began writing letters to the papers, initially anonymously, on women's issues. By 1870 the marriage had dissolved and Henrietta moved to Camberwell from where, until 1887, she continued her campaigning on women's issues including the formation of suffrage societies. Her sons had moved to New Zealand with their father and when her husband died in 1903 Henrietta married Frederick Johnson. After Johnson's death in 1913 she moved to Point Lonsdale where she died in 1918.

As well as describing the life of Henrietta and her family the book provides a picture of  life in the developing colony in the nineteenth century as well as issues affecting women that were important towards the end of that century and early twentieth century. The politics of the suffrage movements are also examined.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The mystery of a hansom cab

Published in 1886 The mystery of a hansom cab written by Fergus Hume became a best seller in Australia and Britain and also gained a following in other countries. The plot revolves around the death of a passenger in a hansom cab while being driven through the streets of Melbourne. Brian Fitzgerald is originally arrested for the murder of Oliver Whyte but investigations initiated by Madge, his fiancee, and Calton, his lawyer prove his innocence. Why, however, does Fitzgerald refuse to tell the full story to clear his name? Who did kill Whyte and what information was in the papers stolen from the pocket of the victim? Set in Melbourne in the 1880s the book provides a picture of life in the city in the latter part of the nineteenth century as well as being a good crime novel.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stork raving mad

In the latest Meg Langslove book by Donna Andrews Meg is eight and a half months pregnant and is coping with a house full of drama students and other assorted guests who have taken refuge in her home when the heating at the local college failed. One of the students has written a play which is in rehearsal when two staff from the college arrive to say that the play will not be allowed to be performed. A short time later one of the staff members is murdered. Meg therefore has to contend with the police investigation, her mother who has come to decorate the nursery and other family members and friends who just appear to add to the chaos. By the end of the book the murder is caught and Meg is off to hospital to give birth to twins. Readers have to wait until the next book in the series in order to discover whether the babies are boys or girls or a mixed pair.

You'll be sorry when I'm dead

Writer, Marieke Hardy, presents a series of observations based on often extreme life experiences and passions. Themes include past relationships and friendships, a range of sexual activities plus addictions to alcohol and musicians. At times people appearing in the book are given the opportunity to comment on what has been written. The demise of the Fitzroy Football Club - a family passion - a friend's battle with cancer, sessions to encourage letter writing, an obsession with Bob Ellis (including naming her dog after him), life as a child actor and writing for telelvision form the basis for some of the chapters. Marike writes for a number of publications and many of the chapters are based on material previously published.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flash and Bones

The scene for this latest book by Kathy Reichs is a NASCAR racetrack. When a body is located in the rubbish tip next to the racetrack Dr Temperance Brennan is called in to help identify the body. A young man working at the racetrack fears that the body might be his sister who disappeared with her boyfriend twelve years earlier. Later the brother is found crushed under a car on which he was working. While investigating this cold case it becomes obvious that there was a cover-up and that the new murder is connected. But which of the agencies investigating the disappearance of the couple can be trusted and why is Tempe's life in danger? Another gripping read interspersed with information about NASCAR racing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Stieg Larsson legacy

In 2004 Stieg Larsson gave his Swedish publisher three volumes of what has become known as The Millennium Trilogy -Men who Hate Women published outside Sweden as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Stirred the Hornet's Nest. Later that year, before the final editing of the books, Stieg Larsson had a heart attack and died.

The books have become bestsellers world wide and the stories have been transferred to films. Events that have occurred since the author's death, particularly the dispute between Larsson's family and Eva Gabrielsson, his partner of thirty years, have raised additional interest in the media. As Stieg and Eva did not marry and he did not leave a will Eva is not entitled to any of the money from his estate unless the Larsson family give her part of it. There is also discussion over the draft of a fourth book which is currently held by Gabrielsson.

Many articles and books have been written about Stieg Larsson. Three titles that I found in the library recently are Stieg and Me: Memories of Life with Stieg Larsson by Eva Gabrielsson (2011), The Man Who Left Too Soon: the Biography of Stieg Larsson by Barry Forshaw (2010) and Secrets of the Tattooed Girl: The Unauthorised Guide to theStieg Larsson Trilogy by Dan Burnstein, Arne de Keijzer and John-Henri Holmberg (2011).

Eva Gabrielsson writes not only of her life with Stieg Larsson but also provides details of his early life living with his grandparents until he was nine, the strained relationship with his parents and brother, the causes that drove Stieg including politics (especially his crusade against the rise of the Neo-Nazis in Sweden) and  support of feminist issues, his journalist career including his magazine, Expo, and the writing of the trilogy. She also discusses the events that have occurred since Larsson's death, especially Sweden's laws regarding de facto relationships. She provides an interesting insight into the life and passions of the author.

In The Man Who Left Too Soon, Forshaw looks primarily at the writing of the books. He describes the groups to which Larsson belonged at various times and the use of the experience gained from these groups in the plot of the trilogy. He is particularly interested in Larsson's interest in reading crime fiction and discusses the influence of and reference to other writers and characters in the books. A major section of the book is a plot analysis of each volume. The final chapters look at other Scandinavian crime writers and responses of crime writers to the work of Stieg Larsson.

The Unauthorised Guide to the Stieg Larsson Trilogy is a collection of articles by a variety of writers on Stieg Larsson and the three books. Topics include the author, why the books have made such an impact on the public, the editing and translation of the novels, Larsson's interest in science fiction and crime novels, Nordic Noir, the characters - especially Salander, how the book portrays Sweden, feminism and the mystery of the fourth book. An interesting collection of articles for those who want to further investigate issues raised in the novels.