Tidelands – book review

Tidelands, by Philippa Gregory

Apologies to those who were relieved when I recently announced I’d come to the end of my Philippa Gregory phase. Here we go again. I got a note from my wonderful local bookshop  (Wardinis, since you ask) when online orders were allowed and thought this latest looked looked the perfect lockdown book. Delivered and gobbled. I have no desire to binge on Netflix in lockdown but I could re-read every Philippa Gregory on my bookshelves and be happily entertained for a few weeks, in a mindless-but-it’s-still-history sort of way.

Tidelands is a very readable book. Typical Gregory, meticulously researched setting, lots of truth in the detail and flights of ridiculous fancy to drive the story along. Continue reading “Tidelands – book review”

Pachinko – book review

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko does exactly what a good book should; it takes you somewhere else and shows you the world through different eyes. A story has to make normal to us what may seem strange, and to explain the world enough so the reader understands the observations without the narrator being too “telly”.  This is hard to do across a cultural divide but in this epic story, Min Jin Lee gives us full immersion.

Continue reading “Pachinko – book review”

Damascus. Sex, violence & empathy

Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas

This isn’t a book review as such because, a) I only review books I love, and, b) it is full of gratuitous violence which I abhor. The gratuitous violence, however, is the point of this post. And on a more positive note, in the real world we have progressed from the days when such violence was accepted without heed. Time to move on with our books?

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Washington Black – book review

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

This book delivers everything it promises on the cover: a surreal balloon ride through a tropical jungle, a black boy holding fast with no control over things and an pith-helmeted explorer with a telescope looking like he knows where he’s going.

Washington Black, as the name suggests, is a slave boy and the explorer is the eccentric brother of his owner on a slave plantation in Barbados. They are drawn together, Titch because of the boy’s uncanny drawing ability and Wash for the enticement of freedom. But what is freedom?

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Hurt Upon The Sea

Poetry in law

Where any Person,
being feloniously stricken,
poisoned,
or otherwise hurt upon the Sea,
or at any Place out of England or Ireland,
shall die of such Stroke,
Poisoning,
or Hurt
in England or Ireland, or,
being feloniously stricken,
poisoned,
or otherwise hurt
at any Place in England or Ireland,
shall die of such Stroke,
Poisoning,
or Hurt upon the Sea,
or at any Place out of England or Ireland,
every Offence committed in respect of any such Case,
whether the same shall amount to the Offence of Murder or of Manslaughter,
or of being accessory to Murder or Manslaughter,
may be dealt with,
inquired of,
tried,
determined,
and punished in the County or Place in England or Ireland in which such
Death,
Stroke,
Poisoning,
or Hurt shall happen,
in the same Manner in all respects as if such Offence
had been wholly committed
in that County or Place.

__________________________
The Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Congratulations Isabel Thorne

It’s just 150 years too late

I’m writing a book about a young student who goes from New Zealand to England to study medicine. Nothing unusual about that now, but this was 1883 and the student  – shock horror – was a woman!

My heroine, an invented young woman called Lenne, meets up with Isabel Thorne, a real pioneering women’s activist and one of the Edinburgh Seven, a group of feisty women who had been blocked from graduating from the University of Edinburgh because of their sex. The seven women go on to form the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874 and Thorne, still unqualified, becomes Honorary Secretary. She devotes her life to helping other women achieve the goal denied to her.

Continue reading “Congratulations Isabel Thorne”

An Officer and a Spy – book review

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

J’accuse!” says Emile Zola, on the front page of a Paris newspaper in 1898, and the headline throws France into disarray over the conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for treason. Or for being a Jew.

This novel was a great hit with the book club boys. It’s a fascinating period of history and Robert Harris digs around in the ugly end-of-century society, with the rise of anti-semitism in Europe, witch-hunts, the manipulation of documents, false reporting, corruption, whistle-blowing, the power of state intelligence. It all sets the scene for 20th Century history and has a uncomfortable resonance even now, when we should know better.

In An Officer & a Spy, Robert Harris creates a gripping story around real events. Continue reading “An Officer and a Spy – book review”