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Monday, November 28, 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 got TB, bad skin or fever from all the dust and fluff.  No wonder there were several strikes in New York over pay and conditions!

Soon people started to worry about the cruelty to the birds and societies for their protection were formed. Laws were passed banning the sale of plumage from native birds and the importation of feathers in some places. President Theodore Roosevelt was so concerned about the situation that he passed an Executive Order making Hawaii into a bird reservation area.

This book isn't all depressing, however.  It has chapters about famous photographers, such as Samborne, the women who appeared on the postcards, and other interesting information about the times. For example, it has a short chapter on going to the seaside.

This is an excellent book for people interested in Edwardian fashion.

I received this free book from Net GallNet Galleyey in exchange for an honest review.

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 to clear up the huge room.  As she tackles the room, she muses on hoarding, clutter, and the difficulty of throwing things out. She mentions various methods of getting rid of clutter such as Marie Kondo's strategy for discarding anything that doesn't give you joy. She tells hilarious stories.

I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it, especially for people who have trouble with their 'stuff'.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, November 25, 2016

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 read more about them and he learned that he could 'easily recognize' himself or parts of himself 'in their stories'. He read about the bravery of St Joan of Arc who also introduced him to the language of the saints,  studied the life and the great spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, and read about the sufferings of St Therese who said that she would send a 'shower of roses' after she died.

I was a bit amazed to read that he had never seen The Song of Bernadette before he entered the monastery! I wasn't brought up Catholic, but it was on TV here often when I was young. He writes movingly about my favourite saint, St Bernadette, and how she helped him to remain true to his personal vision, and about his pilgrimage to Lourdes.

This is a wonderful book about Father Martin's relationship with the saints, what he learns from them and how they help him.  It will certainly assist all Christian readers to grow closer to the saints themselves. For example, I felt a bit down last night and decided to ask St Jude to pray for me. This immediately made me feel better and gave me a feeling of peace.

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

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 on Kennedy's health of the wearisome battles in the South Pacific. I was a bit surprised that there was no mention of Kennedy having Addison's disease, but the author wouldn't have known about this when he wrote the book.

Richard Tregaskis led a fascinating life as a correspondent in the war so I am going to look for some of his other books.

I received this ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Making Headlines by Chris Mitchell

Making Headlines by the former Ediitor-in-Chief of The Australian 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 Party with that of Hawke and Keating is also worth reading.

Some of the book is gossip. For example, Mitchell's account of the end of Murdoch's marriage is one example, but who doesn't enjoy some scandal?

Mitchell provides a chapter on the future of journalism and then he gives details about famous stories. One of these was a shocking cover-up and so worrying that it didn't help my sleep! This involved one of Brisbane's most prestigious schools.

I highly recommend this memoir but I didn't enjoy it as much as the one by Harold Evans.

Publisher: Melbourne University Press
209 pages
Price: ebook $8.09

I received this free ebook from net Galleyin exchange for an honest review.