In the mid seventeenth century, England was divided by war and bloodshed. Torn apart by rival factions, father opposed son and brother met brother on the battlefield. But while civil war raged on cobbled streets and green fields, inside the home domestic life continued as it always had done. For Ann Fanshawe and her children it meant a life of insecurity and constant jeopardy as she and her husband, a Royalist diplomat, dedicated their lives to the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.
In this uncertain world, Ann's 'receipt book' was a treasured and entirely feminine response to the upheavals of war. These books were a feature of women's lives during this period, when there were few doctors to be found, and were full of life-saving medical knowledge that had been gleaned from mothers and friends. Remarkably, Ann's morocco-bound book full of scraps of ink-stained paper has survived to this day.
Lucy Moore is a historian, educated in Britain and the United States, with a degree in history from Edinburgh University. She's got a long and varied bibliography as a writer - including a rather fantastic history of the Roaring Twenties. In "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" she moves onto the fascinating world of Civil War England - with Lady Fanshawe's writings providing a brilliantly insightful glimpse into one of the most turbulent times in British History.
Lady Ann Harrison was born in 1625, and was an intelligent child, loving French, needlework and riding. Born to a Royalist family, she married her second cousin, Richard Fanshawe, in 1644. They were a Royalist family - loyally supporting the King in a period where a Civil War resulted in the execution of a King and a state of Interregnum. Fanshawe is best known for writing a Memoir - full of recollections of life with her husband, and an intriguing record of what I find a particularly fascinating time in British History.
Lucy Moore has chosen not to focus solely on the memoir though, and instead has accessed Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book for a far more intimate and immediate glimpse into the life of an intelligent, passionate and driven woman. Combining the two sources, Moore brings Fanshawe to startling life - with the personal nature of Fanshawe's writings enabling Moore to broadcast her voice loudly into the 21st Century - with the reader being allowed a glimpse into Fanshawe's friends, family, loves, and losses. I've recently become hugely interested by the English Civil War - a period of time that I often find rather overlooked, despite the way it shaped world history for ever. The fact that Lucy Moore chooses to focus on a woman in this period makes it doubly interesting - the drive of this woman to support her family and husband despite it threatening both her life and those of her children is quite remarkable, and the remarkable lengths that Lady Fanshawe went to in order to maintain a level of normality and domesticity for her family in a time that was both hugely turbulent and incredibly dangerous for the family. A remarkable woman brought to dazzling life by Lucy Moore - "Lady Fanshawe's Receipt Book" is a read that will transport the reader to a very different time indeed - but place them in the company of a woman whose strength, intelligence and drive will provide a very safe pair of hand for the reader indeed. Many thanks to the publisher for the copy.
Former soldier Rob Langdon was working as a security contractor in Afghanistan when he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death in a case that would have been ruled a clear miscarriage of justice in the British legal system. His sentence was commuted to 20 years in jail, and he served his time in Kabul's most notorious prison, Pul-e-Charkhi, described as the world's worst place to be a westerner.
Rob was there for seven years, the longest sentence served by a westerner since the fall of the Taliban, and every one of those 2,500 days was an act of extraordinary survival in a jail filled with Afghanistan's most dangerous extremists and murderers. In 2016 Robert was pardoned and returned to Australia.
This is a remarkable read - a surprisingly compelling tale that initially grabs the reader by opening with a vivid retelling of how the author killed a man in self-defense. This leads to a tale of prison life that is far stranger than one could ever imagine in fiction - unpredictable, dangerous, wild, and seemingly unescapeable.
Langdon himself is a compelling lead - admirably strong and macho in prison, but open and honest with the reader about his state of mind and the emotions that drove him to survive. His way of writing is straightforward and blunt - no flowery language but a direct style that conveys his tale with a startling immediacy.
A heart stopping story of survival and strength - "The Seventh Circle" transports the reader to Afghanistan's most notorious prison and puts them through a grueling, strenuous ordeal - but one told with skill and humour that makes it absolutely worth the effort. Thanks to Allen & Unwin for the copy.
A young woman moves into a Paris apartment and discovers a storage room filled with the belongings of the previous owner, a certain Madeleine who died in her late nineties, and whose treasured possessions nobody seems to want. In an audacious act of journalism driven by personal curiosity and humane tenderness, Clara Beaudoux embarks on The Madeleine Project, documenting what she finds on Twitter with text and photographs, introducing the world to an unsung 20th century figure. Along the way, she uncovers a Parisian life indelibly marked by European history.
When Clara Beaudoux moved into an apartment in Paris, she was informed that she extra storage available elsewhere in the building. Accessing the storage, she found it full of the previous tenants belongings and, with their loves ones permission, she began to explore the contents, sharing her findings on Twitter and fascinating thousands with the mementos and snapshots of a woman's life in the 20th Century. This book collects those Twitter posts, along with some additional information regarding the author's journey to meet those who knew Madeline.
Telling the story through the Twitter posts is an interesting choice - it makes is a speedy read, and also a modern one - despite Madeline's story taking the reader back to the Second World War. It moved me rather unexpectedly - and the joy of using the Twitter snippets is that both the reader and the author can be genuinely surprised by new discoveries as they come along. Madeleine's life is a fascinating one, and and Beaudoux treats it with immense care and respect - the two seeming to form a friendship through the ages as the discoveries continue. Looking into the life of someone deceased is always tricky - but Beaudoux is careful never to be too intrusive - discoveries instead coming organically and with the blessings of Madeleine's loved ones - turning what could have been a ghoulish intrusion into a read that's uplifting, hopeful, and filled with a fierce kind of joy that left me smiling long after turning the pages. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
In this sweeping global survey, one of Britain's most distinguished journalists and media commentators analyses for the first time the state of journalism worldwide as it enters the post-truth age.
From the decline of the newspaper in the West and the simultaneous threats posed by fake news and President Trump, to the part that Facebook and Twitter played in the Arab revolts and the radical openness stimulated by WikiLeaks, and from the vast political power of Rupert Murdoch's News International and the merger of television and politics in Italy, to the booming, raucous and sometimes corrupt Indian media and the growing self-confidence of African journalism, John Lloyd examines the technological shifts, the political changes and the market transformations through which journalism is currently passing.
It takes a lot to surprise me when it comes to books - given my line of work I've read a lot, and consider myself fairly up to date when it comes to politics and culture in general.
However - Journalist and Author John Lloyd has compiled a fascinating and shocking book that explores journalism on a global scale. Far reaching and broad in scope overall, the chapters hone in on individual countries and explore the past and present of journalism in each one. Lloyd supplies the reader with a huge amount of information, but his skill is such that it never becomes overwhelming - he writes with a style that urges the reader to keep turning the pages, no matter how depressing the facts conveyed may be to some. What's rather remarkable is that this book about the dark state of journalism in many places, manages to be a shining beacon of quality journalism. Illuminating and immensely readable, Lloyd conveys his words with skill and urgency in this book that serves as both a source of fact and an alarming alert to the need for quality journalism in the modern day world. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
My mother, my family and Judaism are nested inside each other. I am Jewish and always Jewish; it's analogous with family, however hard it is, and however strained, it can never be disavowed... I remain, as my therapist put it, 'enmeshed', all tangled up in the family hoard. This book has been both a continuation of my conversations with them, and an attempt to untangle myself.
This is Joanne's account of coming to terms with her brother's suicide and through that process, the entirety of her family life. In Small Pieces Joanne explores her childhood, her Jewishness and her mother's death as well as that of her brother.
The life and family Joanne describes is a complex combination of conflicting influences - both scientific and literary; Jewish and humanist impulses; and middle America and North London settings.
Joanne Limburg is a British writer and poet based in Cambridge. She's published several volumes of poetry, and her debut novel was published in 2015.
Grief is a journey. That's what we're lead to believe at least, an unpleasant journey which no one wants to face, but one we're all sent on at various point during our lives.
For author Joanne Limburg, it's a journey she was sent on by the suicide of her brother - an unexpected event made even harder by the fact that he was the other side of the world from Joanne and her Mother at the time, meaning that her journey became both literal as well as mental. Tie into that thoughts and recollections of family life, as well an exploration and examining of the Jewish faith (something exacerbated by Joanne's brother having been cremated before they could arrive in America.
It would be easy for this to be a miserable, brutal read - with the author truly allowing the reader full immersion into her thoughts. As you may imagine, they're often raw - full of the rage, shock and despair that comes from such a horrific situation, but these are balanced well throughout, and Limburg is measured enough to not overwhelm the reader. Balancing the blackest moments of grief with touching, immediately relatable recollections and family moments allows Limburg to play with light and shade far more effectively that one may imagine given the subject matter, with a skill that prevents the reader from feeling too overcome by the situations depicted.
This is a book about death - both the journey from it and the journey to it, and one in which the subject is examined to an intense degree - with snippets of conversation and poetry that proved both haunting and enlightening to me.
I've experienced grief, but I certainly wasn't expecting to feel quite a strong a connection to the author as I did here, and I think that's due to her voice throughout the book - one clearly marked by pain, but always clear, relatable, and at all times original.
I won't say that this is an uplifting read - but I don't think that's the point of it at all. It's a fascinating exploration into a situation that, sadly, we'll all find ourselves in some variation of during our lives. Limburg has a unique and immensely gifted voice, and her willingness to convey immensely personal situations allows her to explore and ruminate on her subject matter, whilst her clear talent as a writer ensures that this book is always readable - and rewarding even at its toughest points. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Writers’ relationships with their surroundings are seldom straightforward. While some, like Jane Austen and Thomas Mann, wrote novels set where they were staying (Lyme Regis and Venice respectively), Victor Hugo penned Les Misérables in an attic in Guernsey and Noël Coward wrote that most English of plays, Blithe Spirit, in the Welsh holiday village of Portmeirion.
Award-winning BBC drama producer Adrian Mourby follows his literary heroes around the world, exploring 50 places where great works of literature first saw the light of day. At each destination – from the Brontës’ Yorkshire Moors to the New York of Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin to the now-legendary Edinburgh café where J.K. Rowling plotted Harry Potter’s first adventures – Mourby explains what the writer was doing there and describes what the visitor can find today of that great moment in literature.
Where writers write is something that has always fascinated me - as someone who is remarkably easily distracted, I'm longing for the days when I can have a shed at the bottom of my garden in which to write, unconnected from the outside world. Different things work for different writers though, and Adrian Mourby explores this to fascinating effect in "Rooms of One's own" taking the reader on a journey through studies, dining rooms, hotels, cottages and gardens in order to explore where some 50 well known authors spent time composing their works
This is no mere reference guide - Mourby travels to each place, and provides the reader with background on the area and writer, as well as personal insights and anecdotes that make for hugely entertaining reading. It's not a huge volume, but Mourby's style is such that he manages to convey large amounts of information without the reader ever feeling like they are being preached to - and as such, I came away full of facts and with a rather weighty list of places I need to visit.
Mourby doesn't just describe these places - his real life interactions with them truly serve to bring them to life for the reader, and as such this is a valuable little book that should really be treasured for providing huge amounts of insight without the reader having to go anywhere at all! Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling most recently appeared in hit ITV drama Broadchurch, the BBC’s London Spy and HBO’s Dexter, and the feature film 45 Years.
Her career has spanned popular entertainment and arthouse cinema, having starred in English, French and Italian films from 1966’s Georgy Girl (opposite Lynn Redgrave), to films with French director François Ozon, including 2003’s Swimming Pool.
Having shied away from biographies and autobiographies (“too personal”) Rampling has now written Who I Am, an intimate self-portrait via reminiscences, translated from the French it was originally written in.
The characters that Rampling has played on screen over the years - from the shallow, vain Meredith in Georgy Girl through to the distracted, pained Kate in 45 years, are filled with a sense of mystery - Rampling's intelligence always shining through in order to instantly add layers of depth and intrigue.
Here, that intelligence is used to good effect in a memoir that is exquisitely written and filled with fascinating glimpses and moments from a life that is just as intriguing as one may imagine when looking at an image of Rampling.
No standard celebrity memoir here - instead moments from Ramplings life are conveyed to the reader through snatches of conversation and memory, as Rampling wrote this with Christophe Bataille, a well known French writer. The "stream of consciousness" style may be off-putting to some - and at times it had me wondering if I truly would be learning anything about Rampling when reading. However, on reflection, recollections of the author's Father and revelations about the early death of Rampling's sister prove to be both intriguing and haunting. This isn't a book to read to find salacious gossip or recollections of a celebrity lifestyle - but instead moments of a fascinating life seen through the mysterious eyes of one of our greatest actors. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Imagine feeling lost in your own body. Imagine spending years living a lie, denying what makes you 'you'. This was Ryan's reality. He had to choose: die as a man or live as a woman. In 2012, Ryan chose Ryannon. At the age of thirty she began her transition, taking the first steps on the long road to her true self, and the emotional physical and psychological journey that would change her for ever.
In 2017 we seem to have reached a new era of awareness and acceptance when it comes to Trans people - with media campaigners and writers like Paris Lees and Janet Mock alongside actors such as Laverne Cox and Rebecca Root, Trans issues are being talked about in the mainstream media, and, for the most part, being accepted and celebrated.
We're not there yet though - there's still a hell of a lot of ignorant people out there, and media coverage can often be tainted with a curiosity that swiftly veers into disrespect and unwelcome intrusion.
Step forward Rhyannon Styles, performance artist, dancer, hairdresser, clown - and now writer. She's been a columnist for "Elle UK" for the last two years, and brings her experience, expertise and considerable talent to "The New Girl", a memoir that entertains every bit as much as it informs.
Rhyannon was born Ryan, and throughout her life went on an emotional, psychological and ultimately physical journey to become the woman she is in today. It's a journey that Rhyannon tells with no holds barred - allowing the reader to get to know her very well indeed. As such, it removes any potential awkwardness for the reader who may not be all that familiar with the ins and outs of transitioning, and instead feels like you're catching up with a friend over coffee. That's not to say that Rhyannon's journey isn't difficult - parts of this read had me tearing up, and Rhyannon's frankness and honesty conveys in part the immense difficulties and huge life choices that people questioning their gender face.
For a subject that it so difficult, emotional and intensely personal, Rhyannon does a fantastic job of not making things get too heavy - she's clearly a funny, witty and warm person and as such the reader enjoys embarking on every step of the journey with her, no matter how dark and difficult it gets.
Transitioning is going to be an individual and different journey for anyone who chooses to embark on the process, and, as such, there's no way one could cover all the potential questions that one on the journey, or the family and friends supporting them, may have. Rhyannon, quite rightly, chooses not to try and cover every possible base, but concentrates on telling her story - one packed full of humour, insights and warmth that offers considerable support, hope and understanding for those reading, whether you're trans, questioning, or just an ally. The last year or so has seen some brilliantly good Queer literature published in the UK - and "The New Girl" is a shining example of that.
Many democratic societies are experiencing a crisis of faith. Citizens are making clear their frustration with their supposedly representative governments, which instead seem driven by the interests of big business, powerful individuals and wealthy lobby groups.
What can we do about it? How do we fix democracy and get our voices heard?
The answer, argues Alberto Alemanno, is to become change-makers – citizen lobbyists. By using our skills and talents and mobilizing others, we can bring about social and political change. Whoever you are, you’ve got power, and this book will show you how to unleash it.
From successfully challenging Facebook’s use of private data to abolishing EU mobile phone roaming charges, Alberto highlights the stories of those who have lobbied for change, and shows how you can follow in their footsteps, whether you want to influence immigration policy, put pressure on big business or protect your local community.
Alberto Alemanno is a public interest lawyer, legal scholar and Civic entrepreneur. He's a Professor at both HEC Paris and New York University School of Law, founder and CEO of eLabEurope, and co-founder of The Good Lobby. In short, a man who knows his stuff.
The fact that we live in troubling times is, I imagine, fairly obvious to everyone. As someone who places himself fairly left on the political spectrum, events of recent years have felt a little like a waking nightmare, the constant enabling of the far right shifting the political spectrum to a place I'm wholly uncomfortable with. I've always been politically active, but have I ever thought that I could make a noticeable change myself? No. I'm a small cog in a big machine, but I never thought anyone would notice if I went in an opposite direction for a while. Instead, as Alemanno shows here, small cogs can make a huge difference.
Citizen Lobbying is, as Alemanno explains, a way to influence and make change as an individual - and his fantastic book gives readers the tools, knowledge and power to do so. Combining his fast experience and inspiring way of thinking with hard facts and real case stories of genuine, successful citizen lobbying, Alemanno shows the way forward for those who want to make change.
This isn't a light guide either - it's clear that a huge amount of preparation has gone into creating this work, and dividing the book into three sections allows the reader an introduction to the issues at hand, provides solutions for them, and then usefully provides the reader with a vast toolbox full of information to send them out into the world a newly energised lobbyist.
Inspiring, informative and filled with a spirit of hope and forward thinking, Alemanno's work is exactly what we need in this age - and I'm hopeful that those who read it will be filled with the urge to go out and Lobby for Change
Faringdon House in Oxfordshire was the home of Lord Berners; composer, writer, painter, friend of Stravinsky and Gertrude Stein, and a man renowned for both his eccentricity and his homosexuality. Turning Faringdon into an aesthete’s paradise, exquisite food was served to many of the great minds and beauties of the day. Since the early 1930’s, his companion there was Robert Heber-Percy, twenty-eight years his junior, wildly physical and unscholarly, a hothead who rode naked through the grounds and was known to all as the Mad Boy. If those two sounded an odd couple, especially at a time when homosexuality was illegal, the addition of Jennifer Fry to the household in 1942, a pregnant high society girl who became Robert’s wife, was really rather astounding. After the child was born, the marriage soon foundered. Berners died in 1950, and Robert was left in charge of Faringdon, ably assisted by a ferocious Austrian housekeeper. This mad world was the one first encountered by author Sofka Zinovieff, Robert’s granddaughter. A typical child of the sixties, it was much to her astonishment that Robert decided to leave the house to her.
Histories of stately homes can always be fun reads – crumbling buildings filled with people far madder than one may realize at first glance, living lives that are grand, but often filled with the weight of expectancy and responsibility. Perhaps it’s the class system that has left so many of us intrigued by these lives, and it’s this mix of curiosity and nostalgia for days gone by that keeps programmes like Downton Abbey so popular, and has seen a resurgence in recent years of books that explore the lives of the high and mighty. Sofka Zinovieff’s book however, both caters to those needs and yet manages to be a completely different kettle of fish.
Granddaughter of the Mad Boy of the title, the author came to the house in her teens, and whilst her mother never enjoyed much of a relationship with the man supposed to be her father, Sofka became fond of Robert, and he her. So fond, in fact, that in his later years he revealed that he was leaving the entire estate to her. It’s through this fascinating relationship that Sofka is able to explore the history of the house and its inhabitants – the life of her fascinating grandfather and his partner, one filled with fun, drama and incredible guest stars. A look at the visitor’s book for Faringdon House would be a rather incredible thing, as the reader spies characters such as the Mitfords, Salvador Dali, Margot Fonteyn, John Betjeman, Cecil Beaton, Elsa Schiaparelli, Gertrude Stein… It’s rather dizzying, and reflective of the astonishing lives that Lord Berners and his Mad Boy lived together. Gay and partnered at a time when it was frowned upon by most in society, and also rather illegal, the lives of these men are fascinating and glamorous. The introduction of a woman (the author’s grandmother) to proceedings takes the book in a slightly different direction, and the quest for truth and information about family secrets leads the reader in directions that prove both comical and quietly moving.
Despite the fantastic eccentricities, beautiful buildings and lavish lifestyles that are contained in this book, aided in part by the lovely layout and multiple images that appear throughout, this is a book that at its heart is a warm and loving biography of very real people. Flawed, human and endlessly fascinating, the fact that author Sofka is related to these men (even if potentially not by blood) and knew characters at the very heart of this story make it one with deep emotional ties that really help the reader form connections with this extremely fun cast of characters, and it makes for a gripping and transporting read that’s very hard to put down indeed.
This review was first published on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk