How to be both by Ali Smith

Description: How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

For Frances Arthur
and everyone who made her

to keep in mind
Sheila Hamilton

and for Sarah Wood,

I can tell straight off that this will not be a book for me – read twenty odd pages and it is as an abstract painting and so not what I am looking for at this time. Better to mark it ‘decided against’ than try to battle through and have to mark it abandoned with a 1*

Rebellion: The History of England from James I to the Glorious Revolution (The History of England, #3) by Peter Ackroyd

bookshelves: history, stuarts, net-galley, e-book, britain-england, autumn-2014, nonfiction

Read from September 11 to 21, 2014
St. Martin’s Press and Thomas Dunne Books

Description: Peter Ackroyd has been praised as one of the greatest living chroniclers of Britain and its people. In Rebellion, he continues his dazzling account of The History of England, beginning the progress south of the Scottish king, James VI, who on the death of Elizabeth I became the first Stuart king of England, and ending with the deposition and flight into exile of his grandson, James II.

The Stuart monarchy brought together the two nations of England and Scotland into one realm, albeit a realm still marked by political divisions that echo to this day. More importantly, perhaps, the Stuart era was marked by the cruel depredations of civil war, and the killing of a king. Shrewd and opinionated, James I was eloquent on matters as diverse as theology, witchcraft, and the abuses of tobacco, but his attitude to the English parliament sowed the seeds of the division that would split the country during the reign of his hapless heir, Charles I. Ackroyd offers a brilliant, warts-and-all portrayal of Charles’s nemesis, Oliver Cromwell, Parliament’s great military leader and England’s only dictator, who began his career as a political liberator but ended it as much of a despot as “that man of blood,” the king he executed.

England’s turbulent seventeenth century is vividly laid out before us, but so too is the cultural and social life of the period, notable for its extraordinarily rich literature, including Shakespeare’s late masterpieces, Jacobean tragedy, the poetry of John Donne and Milton and Thomas Hobbes’s great philosophical treatise, Leviathan. Rebellion also gives us a very real sense of the lives of ordinary English men and women, lived out against a backdrop of constant disruption and uncertainty.

Opening: A NEW SOLOMON: Sir Robert Carey rode furiously from London to Edinburgh along the Great North Road, spending one night in Yorkshire and another in Nortumberland; he arrived at holyrood Palace ‘be-blooded with great falls and bruises’ after a journey of over 330 miles. It was late at night on Saturday 26 March 1603.

Can you feel just how excited I was at scoring this? HUZZAH

It was almost as if Mr Ackroyd and I were cwtched up together chatting through this history on the settee rather than me curled solo around my ipad. There were parts I vaguely remembered from ‘back when’ and other succulent snippets re-visited with a chuckle, however, so many tidbits had never passed through my sphere and right from the get-go I was breathing out “cwor-blimey”s all over the place. For instance – who knew that Jimmy VI had fallen off his horse and broken his shoulder on his way down to London to be crowned as James I.

I was totally transfixed with this rendition of Charles I and The New Model Army, new light has been shone on events making me look at things in a different way.

Utterly superb and given that the archive date is set at Oct 21 2014, I can re-read.

3* Three Brothers
3* Hawksmoor
4* Shakespeare: The Biography
4* Chatterton
4* Dickens
1* The Lambs of London
3* The House of Doctor Dee
3* Poe: A Life Cut Short
3* Venice: Pure City
2* The Plato Papers
5* Tudors (The History of England, #2)
3* The Fall of Troy
4* Wilkie Collins
5* The Mystery Of Charles Dickens
5* Rebellion

The Man Within by Graham Greene

Read by James Wilby

Description: Graham Greene’s first published novel tells the story of Andrews, a young man who has betrayed his fellow smugglers and fears their vengeance. Fleeing from them, with no hope of pity or salvation, he takes refuge in the house of a young woman, also alone in the world. Elizabeth persuades him to give evidence against his accomplices in court, but neither she nor Andrews is aware that to both criminals and authority, treachery is as great a crime as smuggling. The first step in a brilliant career, The Man Within offers a foretaste of Green’s recurring themes of religion, the individual’s struggles against cynicism, and the indifferent forces of a hostile world.

Recalling Household’s ‘Rogue Male’, sometimes the paranoid suspense here in ‘The Man Within’ is riveting, however this early Greene lacks sufficient subtlety to immerse a reader. One for the Greene completists.

Trivia: Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici: ‘There’s another man within me that’s angry with me.’ In 1947, a film version The Man Within was made of the novel (called The Smugglers in the United States) starring Ronald Shiner, Michael Redgrave as Carlyon and Richard Attenborough as Andrews.

3* The Quiet American
4* The End of the Affair
3* Our Man in Havana
4* Brighton Rock
4* Travels With My Aunt
3* The Third Man
4* The Human Factor
4* A Burnt Out Case
4* Monsignor Quixote
3* The Captain and the Enemy
3.5* This Gun for Hire
2* The Man Within

Agincourt by Bernard Cornwell

** spoiler alert ** mp3 – dog walking/gardening/mopping

Description: Young Nicholas Hook is dogged by a cursed past—haunted by what he has failed to do and banished for what he has done. A wanted man in England, he is driven to fight as a mercenary archer in France, where he finds two things he can love: his instincts as a fighting man, and a girl in trouble. Together they survive the notorious massacre at Soissons, an event that shocks all Christendom. With no options left, Hook heads home to England, where his capture means certain death. Instead he is discovered by the young King of England—Henry V himself—and by royal command he takes up the longbow again and dons the cross of Saint George. Hook returns to France as part of the superb army Henry leads in his quest to claim the French crown. But after the English campaign suffers devastating early losses, it becomes clear that Hook and his fellow archers are their king’s last resort in a desperate fight against an enemy more daunting than they could ever have imagined.

One of the most dramatic victories in British history, the battle of Agincourt—immortalized by Shakespeare in Henry V—pitted undermanned and overwhelmed English forces against a French army determined to keep their crown out of Henry’s hands. Here Bernard Cornwell resurrects the legend of the battle and the “band of brothers” who fought it on October 25, 1415. An epic of redemption, Agincourt follows a commoner, a king, and a nation’s entire army on an improbable mission to test the will of God and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. From the disasters at the siege of Harfleur to the horrors of the field of Agincourt, this exhilarating story of survival and slaughter is at once a brilliant work of history and a triumph of imagination—Bernard Cornwell at his best.

Info from wiki – The Battle of Agincourt was an English victory against a much larger French army in the Hundred Years’ War. The battle occurred on Friday 25 October 1415 (Saint Crispin’s Day), in northern France.

Not so sure that the use of names usually thought of as Robin Hood’s men works here for readers as it annoyed me intensely; my brain kept alternating time zones because of these names. No doubt it is supposed to conjure up the ‘band of brothers’ theme but like I say, it was as annoying.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan

bookshelves: autumn-2014, published-2014, lit-richer, legal-courtcase, medical-eew

Read from September 02 to 20, 2014


Description: Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

But Fiona’s professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Jack doesn’t leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.


1/10 An Ultimatum: a Rook for a Knight. Juliet Stevenson reads Ian McEwan’s powerful new novel about faith, love and the law.

2/10 Other People’s Problems.

3/10 A Matter of Extreme Urgency: The lawyers state their case while the clock ticks.

4/10 For the Sake of Religion: Fiona hears from all sides and takes an unorthodox approach.

5/10 I’ll Sing Along with You: Will a meeting in a hospital room clarify Fiona’s mind?

6/10 The welfare of the child: the court’s paramount consideration’.

7/10 So many questions for you.

8/10 ‘All of life and love that lie ahead’.

9/10 ‘Her kiss was the kiss of Judas’.

10/10 As Fiona prepares for the Christmas concert, the troubles of the year seem behind her.

I keep waiting for McEwan to come out with a mind-boggling story; his Cement Garden is the one that sticks in the mind most.

Guardian article: Ian McEwan: the law versus religious belief

3* Atonement
NR Saturday
1* On Chesil Beach
3* Sweet Tooth
1* Amsterdam
TR Enduring Love
4* Solar
4* The Cement Garden
3* Black Dogs
2.5 The Children Act

Other Side of the Hill by Peter Luke

bookshelves: published-1984, war, play-dramatisation, historical-fiction, napoleonic, autumn-2014, fraudio, tbr-busting-2014, spain, portugal

Read from August 12 to September 20, 2014

Description: A two part dramatisation of Peter Luke’s two novels of the Peninsular War. Much of the story is based upon fact – the fate of some of the main protagonists is given at the end – and these well adapted stories make intersting and exciting listening for both history fans and others.

This is an old BBC recording that I found in the storage boxes, and if it comes around again on the radio, do take a listen – I can guarantee you will enjoy it!

Hahaha upon looking for the isbn number, this is what this book sells for on
£3,861.63 new (1 offer)
£752.37 used (2 offers)

The battle of Talavera de la Reina by William Heath*

“The Devil’s Own” 88th Regiment at the Siege of Badajoz 1812 by Richard Caton Woodville

* Talavera is the setting for Sharpe’s Eagle, the first book written in Bernard Cornwell’s “Sharpe” series, and is depicted in the conclusion of the film adaptation of the same name.