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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Prince Albert. The Man Who Saved The Monarchy by A.N. Wilson

A.N. Wilson does the extremely talented and multi-faceted Prince Albert justice in this long biography.  Prince Albert was a surprisingly progressive prince with liberal ideas and attitudes, who liked to be involved with politics, technology, the arts, and even helping the working classes. He was the President of The Anti-Slavery Society, and interested in getting rid of the oppressive Corn Laws. His supreme achievement, however, were the wonderful museums in Kensington and the Crystal Palace Exhibition.

When Queen Victoria came to power, the monarchy had a bad reputation due to the dissolute George IV and the Dukes and their mistresses.  Prince Albert and Queen Victoria with their stable family life and large number of children restored the reputation, and Prince Albert, once regarded as a German interloper, came to be admired and respected.

This book is an excellent study of his private and public life - it goes into the storminess of the marriage, for example. However, I found it a bit heavy-going. Also, Wilson writes that there hasn't been an extensive biography for a long time but I have another one from the 1980s.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Dutch Girl Audrey Hepburn and World War II by Robert Matzen


I am pleased to be joining the Blog Tour for Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen. I hope that you like my review.

Audrey Hepburn was terrified. The teenage girl was returning from delivering a message to an Allied airman when she saw German soldiers coming towards her. She knew that she would not only be asked for her identity, but also what she was doing. This required fast thinking. Audrey started picking wildflowers, smiled sweetly at the soldiers, and told them that she was taking the flowers home.

This is just one of the many tales Robert Matzen  tells in this exciting, but extremely harrowing book about Audrey Hepburn’s time in the war. Although the star was quite a heroine, the war affected her so badly that she didn’t want to talk about it so she kept it mostly secret except from her sons. Also, her aristocratic mother was once a fan of Fascism and even met Hitler, misguided by her Irish husband, Audrey’s dissolute father. Her mother saw the light quite quickly, however, once the Nazis invaded Holland.

Although Audrey did manage to establish a fledgling ballet career during the war, she had a terrible time. Her beloved uncle was taken hostage and shot. She saw her older brother dragged to a Nazi camp and Jews taken away on the cattle trains. She lived in Velp near Arnhem and towards the end of the war, people were suffering from malnutrition, including Audrey herself. The war raged around them and they turned to despair when the Battle of Arnhem was lost. Audrey once said: ‘Don’t discount anything you see or hear about the Nazis’. She said that: ‘It was worse than you could ever imagine. She was once helped by UNICEF and never forgot it – this led to her becoming an ambassador for the organisation.

During this dreadful time, Audrey and her mother helped a doctor who worked for the Resistance, Audrey delivered a Resistance newspaper, and her family even hid an Allied airman! She also helped to raise funds for the Resistance.

This is a well-researched story which reads like a novel and might make people see the wonderful star in a different light. The only point that I would quibble at is that Matzen  seems to give the impression that all of the Mitford sisters were pro-Nazi. Nancy was very much for the Allied cause and Jessica became a Communist and ran away to America. 

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




Monday, April 29, 2019

Blog Tour for The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen on May 14


I am delighted to be joining the Blog Tour for The Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen on May 14. Audrey Hepburn was only a great actress. She was also a heroine of the Dutch Resistance!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I Mary, Elizabeth & Henrietta Anne by Sarah-Beth Watkins John Hunt Publishing Ltd Chronos Books

If the daughters of Charles 1 lived now. they could have happy marriages and successful careers because they were remarkably clever. Unfortunately, the poor girls had to endure the regicide of their father, exile from home, and unhappy lives.  Mary's marriage was relatively happy, but she was homesick for England, and Henrietta had an extremely tough time in France.

I enjoyed reading about these sisters. Sarah Beth-Watkins has written a detailed, well-research account and the letters help to bring them alive.  The relationship between Charles II and Henrietta is especially poignant.  The only problem that I have is that Charles 1 is regarded as a saint in the Anglican church because he would not agree to make England Presbyterian, and I didn't feel that she really gave the controversy about his relationship with the Covenanters of Scotland a fair hearing.

However, this book certainly made me want to read more about the period.

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

Friday, April 05, 2019

Quaker Quicks. What Do Quakers Believe? By Geoffrey Durham

Geoffrey Durham paints a vague, but appealing picture of the Quaker religion. I did wonder whether he is describing an extremely modern form of Quakerism, however, because I thought that Quakers were Christian and Protestant. According to Durham, you don't have to be a Christian to be a Quaker, although the Bible is very important to Quakers. It is possible to be a Hindu or Buddhist Quaker, apparently.

Durham gets rid of the misconceptions concerning Quakers, for example, that they are exclusive or that they dress in black and don't have any fun. He writes eloquently about Quaker philosophy, their belief in an Inner Light and their approach to life, the importance of meetings and their work for charity and society. Many people will have heard that Quakers are pacifists. Durham explains this.  He has Quakers from several different backgrounds describe their experiences at the end of the book.

This is an excellent introduction to Quakerism and I enjoyed reading it.

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Mistress of Novels about Broken Relationships. The Best of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope proves that she is the mistress of novels about broken relationships in this moving account of how the selfishness of adults affects their teenage children. She has sympathy for all of her characters, but her true heroes are the teenagers who are forced to reinvent their lives when one breakup causes chaos. Sophie is especially realistic and memorable.

A quiet, lonely girl, Sophie, an only child, seeks refuge with her friend Gus and his two brothers and happily married parents at their hotel, The Bee Hive. Her mother and Gus's father, Laurence have been best friends for years and have a strange relationship, although Hilary is also friendly with Gina. When Sophie's father Fergus leaves, he starts a trail of misery which Sophie finds difficult to cope with as she gradually finds that she can hardly depend on anyone and her illusions are being shattered, one by one.

I have read most of Joanna Trollope's novels, and this is the best one I have read. I found it difficult to put down. Although it was a quiet domestic story, it was extremely dramatic, and certainly kept me wondering what would happen next!

This is highly recommended.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Living Dangerously by Katie Fforde

This fairy-tale like romance by Katie Ffordewas great holiday reading, although it was wordier than most of her novels. The likeable hero and heroine, attractive settings and involved story made it enjoyable reading. It was a bit silly, but I was sorry to finish it.

Polly, the heroine, is a thirty-five year old struggling potter who works as a waitress in her Cotswold village to support her tiny business. She has had trouble with boyfriends and is much more passionate about trying to save some historic shops from demolition. However, she decides that she is in a rut after a lecture by her colleagues and wants to 'live dangerously'. An affair with a toy boy might be the answer, but is smooth-talking journalist Tristan what she needs? Why does she feel attracted by the stiff-upper-lipped and older David Locking-Hill?

SPOILER

 When Polly gets the morning-after pill from the doctor, I was a bit upset, so I was extremely pleased when she threw it down the toilet!

Katie Fforde's novels are mostly fairly light and frothy, but well-written. I have almost read them all, and they are definitely my preferred reading.