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Showing posts from November, 2016

Edwardian Ladies' Hat Fashions by Peter Kimpton

Gaiety Girls

When Peter Kimpton first saw postcards of Edwardian ladies with their gorgeous big hats, he fell in love with them and decided to start collecting them.  He originally wanted to write this book to showcase his collection and it is certainly full of beautiful pictures of postcards of different women in glamorous hats. However, he soon discovered that there was a dark side to the manufacture of the hats.

This dark side involved the cruelty to and killing of thousands of birds for their plumes.  Some even went extinct.  Sometimes, the wings of the poor birds were ripped off while they were still alive.  Even exotic birds in remote places like New Guinea were killed for their colourful feathers.  Chanel began her career by making these hats and there is a picture by a Scottish artist in the book showing her surrounded by dead birds.

Another problem was the terrible conditions in the sweatshops where young women got the feathers ready for the hats.  Apparently, many of them g…

Year of No Clutter A Memoir by Eve Schaub

Eve Schaub usually just shut the door and left it alone.  'It' was 'The Hell Room', the largest room in her house, 567 square feet. Why did she do this? The room was unusuable because it was filled with stuff, mostly detritus, clutter and things. The easiest thing to do was run away from the room, instead of doing anything about it. After all, it didn't affect her family's life - or did it? She certainly wasn't that dreadful person, a hoarder - or was she?

The problem was that the room made her feel guilty. There was even a dessicated mouse in a box inside the room! Many clutter books tell you to have a 'box room,' but this was really too much! Eve Schaub decided to tackle the room, and write a book about it. Luckily, she obtained her daughter's help.

Although this book is sometimes repetitive, Schaub seems to be such a likeable, lovely person that she makes it very easy to sympathise with her and be with her every step of the way as she tries t…

My Life with the Saints (10th Anniversary Edition) by James Martin, SJ

Father James Martin's life with the saints began when he sent away for a small statue of St. Jude, the saint of lost causes. However, he grew embarassed about his little figurine and only took it out on special occasions.  He had a similar attitude towards his faith, until he struggled with a life as a businessman that he found meaningless and saw a documentary about Thomas Merton which changed his life.
Father James Martin's

He read Merton's autobiography and went in 'search' of him.  Merton struck Father Martin as bright, funny and creative - someone who could have been a good friend.  He also struggled with the big questions, such as the purpose of life and 'Who is God'?  Father Martin felt an invitation to the monastic life after reading Merton's book.

When he entered the monastery, he discovered that many of the Jesuits had special attachments to saints - one told him that he thought of them as siblings who gave advice and counsel. Martin began to …

John F. Kennedy and PT-109 by Richard Tregaskis

By Frank Turgeon Jr. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When the crew if the tiny torpedo boat, PT-109, saw the huge Japanese ship looming over them, they were terrified with good reason.  The crewmen of the other boats who witnessed the collision thought that no one could have survived and plans were made to hold a memorial service. However, Kennedy, the young 'skipper' of the boat had other plans. He saved most of his crew, a remarkable feat which even involved being shipwrecked on an island and big storms which hindered the rescue attempt. This had a terrible effect on his health, apparently.

I don't usually like war books, but I couldn't resist one about JFK by the great war correspondent, Tregaskis. This sets the scene of the battles in the South Pacific against the 'Tokyo Express' and the Japanese destroyers and Kennedy's background very clearly and Tregaskis vividly relates the dramatic and exciting story of the rescue and the detrimental effect…

The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge

This is a strange and vivid account of two young women who work in a bottle factory in the nineteen-sixties, inspired by Bainbridge's stint at a similar plant. Freda is wild, flirtatious and imaginative while Brenda is shy and easily-led by her bossy friend. They are both carried away by the handsome Italians at the factory who think that they are very forward but they don't realise this. There is certainly a big contrast between the old-world Italians and the 'fast' English women here.
I didn't go on with this because I am a nineteenth-century person and I found Bainbridge's staccato style rather dry, although it is certainly evocative. Also, I didn't like any of the characters so I didn't really care what happened to them. Having said that, I am enjoying The Birthday Boys by the same author much more.
I received this from net Galley in return for an honest review.

Making Headlines by Chris Mitchell

MakingHeadlines by the former Ediitor-in-Chief of TheAustralian a tour de force through Mitchell's relationships and opinions of several Prime Ministors. He also provides inside details on famous and controversial stories, such as Manning Clark's links with The Soviet Union. Some of these accounts will make your hair stand on end. 
Mitchell doesn't spare any ex-PM's. He describes his fraught arguments with Rudd, for example, who appears in the book as strange and bad-tempered and a micro-manager. He got on better with Abbott until he told him that he ran an independent newspaper. However, Mitchell's opinion was that Abbott gave Peta Credlin far too much power. Abbott was also too loyal to his Ministers, such as Hockey, who he really regarded as lazy.
Julia Gillard comes in for the worst serve. Mitchell's opinion of her alleged attempts to restrict the freedom of the Press and why she wanted to are especially interesting. His comparison of the present Labor Part…