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Monday, September 12, 2011

Books Read in September

That Woman by Anne Sebba

Sebba created controversy with this biography of Wallis Simpson because of her theory that Wallis suffered from a strange sexual disorder which may have even rendered her incapable of sleeping with her husbands.  This would have meant that Prince Edward told King George the truth technically when he said that he and Wallis had not had "sexual relations".

Sebba really doesn't appear to have much evidence for this hypothesis.  There are also rumours about abortions and trouble with her ovaries.

The author dismisses some other tales as myths. For example, she writes that Simpson really wasn't very interested in politics and that she probably didn't have affairs with Guy Trundle or Ribbentrop.  There's also no mention of any drug-smuggling in China.

She still paints a picture of Simpson as very ambitious, materialistic and unlikeable.  She married the Prince because she'd gone too far and couldn't get out of it without incurring even worse problems.  There is some evidence that she didn't understand the British Constitution and thought that she could possibly be Queen.

This biography was a bit dull compared with Sebba's excellent biography of Jennie Churchill which I really enjoyed.

I intend to start a new series soon because I feel like doing something different as well as keeping a book journal.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran

Madame Tussaud had to play a dangerous game.  Friendly with revolutionaries, such as Camille Desmoulins and Robespierre who came to her mentor's salon, she also taught Madame Elizabeth (the King's sister) to make wax sculptures and she was a closet Royalist.  She was an incredibly tough woman who was forced to make sculptures of people straight after they'd been guillotined because of threats to her life.  Eventually she was able to escape to England from the Revolution.  She also had to overcome many struggles there.

I liked this book by Moran although it was fairly simply written.  Marie is an engaging and strong character and the other characters also ring true.  Moran manages to make the royal and the revolutionary characters ring true, no easy task.

Be warned, some of this book is quite gruesome.  I couldn't read parts of it.  I'd like to read more books by Moran, however, especially a sequel to this one.

Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

This novel enchanted me.  I enjoyed it almost as much as Little Women! Rose did get on my nerves a bit though because she was just too anxious to be good.

The Rose of Eight Cousins has come back from her tour of Europe with Uncle Alec and she is now an accomplished young lady with many ambitions.  Uncle Alec is rather tyrannical.  He fears that the temptations of going to balls, flirting and generally having a good time will stop Rose from achieving these.  The trouble is that he is really too much of a Puritan altogether!

Rose insists on having a few months of doing what other young ladies do.  She still tries to be good, however.  For example, she doesn't buy a beautiful dress at one stage because she comes into contact with a poor woman who makes her feel guilty about wanting it.  I felt that this was going a bit too far!

Rose also has a dilemma.  She doesn't just want to get married - she wants to do more with her life.  However, she has many suitors including some of her cousins.  How will she make up her mind?  What kind of lover should she choose?  Should she choose a man with deep flaws and try to change him?  The love story in this book is beautifully written.

This novel was surprisingly modern for its time.  Alcott deals with many issues still relevant today.  These include feminism, women's careers, and class distinction.  It may get on some young girl's nerves because its morality is rather old-fashioned, but many will enjoy it.Search Books for rose in bloom

Playing with Fire by Nigel Havers

This was surprisingly enjoyable and not badly written.  It's full of hilarious anecdotes, but it is a bit crude at times.

Havers, a son of a former Attorney-General, has led a charmed life.  He chose to go to a high school in London which focused on the arts because he realised that he wanted to be an actor from an early age.  The lucky boy lived by himself in his parent's London flat but he mostly managed to avoid temptation and focus on his studies.  His father defended the Rolling Stones so Haversl met them and even found himself at a party with them at one stage! These were just some of the famous people who he met from an early age.

Havers's blonde good looks and cut-glass accent together with his excellent acting ability soon won him roles.  He tells all about many of his films, including his exploits in outback Australia. I found his chapters about his role in my favourite film, Chariots of Fire, the most interesting.  It's certainly a fairy-tale story.

The actor is also very candid about his personal life.  He tells the story of the break-up of his first marriage and his love affair with his wife, Polly.  Some women won't be sympathetic with his marital problems but he did feel extremely guilty.

Any fans of the good-looking, sauve actor will appreciate this book.