Parnell And The Englishwoman by Hugh Leonard

bookshelves: winter-20152016, britain-ireland, politics, published-1991, film-only, under-20, victorian, oo-la-la, history, colonial-overlords

Recommended for: Laura, Wanda et al
Read from February 16 to 18, 2016


Punch magazine depicts the Fenian movement as Frankenstein’s monster to Charles Parnell’s Frankenstein, in the wake of the Phoenix Park Murders.

Description: The leader of the struggle for Irish independence and the daughter of an English clergyman risk everything to become lovers during the reign of Queen Victoria.

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Charles Stewart Parnell (Irish: Cathal Stiúbhard Pharnell; 27 June 1846 – 6 October 1891) was a Protestant Irish landlord, nationalist, politician, land reform agitator, and the founder and leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. He was one of the most powerful figures in the British politics in the 1880s when he helped overthrow two British governments. He maneuvered Prime Minister William Gladstone and the Liberals into adopting Home Rule. He succeeded by balancing the constitutional, radical, and economic forces at work in the Irish countryside, and by a skillful use of parliamentary procedure, by creating and leading Britain’s first disciplined democratic party, and by holding the balance of power between Gladstone’s Liberals and Disraeli’s Conservatives. He destroyed himself by an adulterous love affair that made his leadership unacceptable to many religious Catholics and Protestants.*
Wiki sourced

*Bolded type=The subject of this book

Introduced by the wonderful Alistair Cooke RIP, who clarifies the historical facts and fills in the gaps. Starring Trevor Eve and Francesca Annis

Episode 1 – The Meeting
Episode 2 – The Outrage
Episode 3 – The Libel
Episode 4 – The Reckoning

Sorrell and Son by Warwick Deeping

bookshelves: winter-20152016, film-only, published-1928, long-weekend, eng-gloucs-staunton, britain-england, medical-eew, families, euthanasia

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Karen
Read from February 14 to 17, 2016


Set in England 1926 the story is about a man who devotes his life to making his son’s a success. In the course of the story many themes are explored including life, love, career and familial and marital relationships.

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Thanks Karen! Whilst this is neither Turgenev nor Foyles War, the father and son here lead caring, insular, and blinkered lives with the soul aim to get Kit his education. Things take a turn for the better when we get to women’s rights, marriage and motherhood and Kit realises he is rather old-fashioned, awkward and dare I say it, mostly obsolete in the new-thinking within the social sphere. That all abruptly changes and Kit becomes a fantastic surgeon, loving husband and a dutiful son.

Honour Bright!”

The Slipper Point Mystery by Augusta Huiell Seaman, C.M. Relyea (Illustrator)


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Opening: SHE sat on the prow of a beached rowboat, digging her bare toes in the sand.

There were many other rowboats drawn up on the sandy edge of the river,—as many as twenty or thirty, not to speak of the green and red canoes lying on the shore, bottoms up, like so many strange insects. A large number of sailboats were also anchored near the shore or drawn up to the long dock that stretched out into the river.

For this was Carter’s Landing, the only place on lovely little Manituck River where pleasure-boats could be hired. Beside the long dock there was, up a wide flight of steps a large pavilion where one could sit and watch the lights and shadows on the river and its many little activities. There were long benches and tables to accommodate picnic-parties and, in an inner room, a counter where candies, ice cream and soda-water were dispensed. And lastly, one part of the big pavilion was used as a dancing-floor where, afternoons and evenings, to the music of a violin and piano, merry couples whirled and circled.

Down on the sand was a signboard which said: “Children Must Not Play in the Boats.”

“That’s just the trouble. I can’t imagine what it means. I’ve studied and studied over it all winter, and it doesn’t seem to mean a single thing.” It was indeed a curious thing, this scrap of stained, worn paper, hidden for who knew how many years in a tin box far underground.

“His name was Richard Worley,” answered Doris. “He was a pirate about the year 1718, the same time that Blackbeard and Stede Bonnet were ‘pirating’ too.”

She led the others up the cellar steps

More About the Squirrels (Classic Reprint) by Eleanor Tyrrell

bookshelves: e-book, eng-surrey, gutenberg-project, nature, kiddlewinks, zoology, britain-england, art-forms, winter-20152016

Read from February 13 to 14, 2016


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Opening: As I am often asked about the little beasts whose adventures were set forth in “How I Tamed the Wild Squirrels,” perhaps a further account of my furry friends will not come amiss.

I no longer keep any of them confined. After the death of three in the winter of 1914, I resolved that, dear and fascinating as they were as little companions in my room, I would never have them caged and in artificial conditions again.

There are two pairs of Germans loose in our little wood—Mr. and Mrs. Fritz and Mr. and Mrs. Laurence; while the wild Surrey ones, the little natives, come to the garden from the firs on the railway cutting.

There is no doubt that Fritz, the German, with his superior strength and masterfulness, drove away that first little colony which I had tamed so wonderfully. Toto had met a tragic death, killed by a marauding cat. Tito and Tara and the dainty little thing I used to call Miss Fritz after a time took up their quarters elsewhere. I have since come to the conclusion that Miss Fritz was not Miss Fritz—more probably Miss Tito. As she grew to maturity she proved herself entirely a Surrey squirrel. There was no tint of orange or gray about her, and she remained when full-grown as small and dainty as the rest, showing not a sign of the German larger, coarser breed.

A Little Journey (The Galaxy Project) by Ray Bradbury


Description: A LITTLE JOURNEY (August 1951) marks Bradbury’s final contribution to the editorial decade of Horace Gold, the editor of GALAXY magazine. Like THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE FIREMAN, the story demonstrates Bradbury’s characteristic blending so early in his career of the sentimental and the transcendent, the homely and the mystical. Bradbury’s old women in space and their strange outcome are reminiscent of his more famous story KALEIDOSCOPE (published in THE ILLUSTRATED MAN) and its conclusion shows unusual if understated power. Bradbury’s THE FIREMAN (the short-form version of FAHRENHEIT 451 which was doubled in length for its book publication in 1953) appeared in the February 1951 issue of GALAXY and further solidified GALAXY’s reputation, as a magazine of unprecedented originality and ambition. Gold’s commitment to the highly ambitious THE FIREMAN was, then, courageous for its time and gave publicity to the editor’s insistence that GALAXY was an entirely new kind of science fiction magazine, one which was far more oriented toward style and controversial social extrapolation than the other markets ever had been. Although THE FIREMAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES had been published earlier to significant attention, Bradbury in 1951 was by no means a writer of substantial reputation and his work was regarded by most science fiction editors and readers as marginal to the genre.

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Opening: None of these people had ever shaken Mrs. Bellowes’ faith, even when she saw them sirened away in a black wagon in the night, or discovered their pictures, bleak and unromantic, in the morning tabloids. The world had roughed them up and locked them away because they knew too much, that was all.

And then, two weeks ago, she had seen Mr. Thirkell’s advertisement in New York City:

Stay at the Thirkell Restorium for one week. And then,
on into space on the greatest adventure life can offer!
Send for Free Pamphlet: “Nearer My God To Thee.”
Excursion rates. Round trip slightly lower.

“Round trip,” Mrs. Bellowes had thought. “But who would come back after seeing Him?”

I suppose that any negativity towards Bradbury equates to deal-breaking: he had such a humanist heart and couched it in beautiful writing, and he always added in a dash of humour and a soupçon of darkness. That is the case here.

The Wheatstone Pond by Robert Westall

bookshelves: published-1993, under-50-ratings, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, boo-scary, mystery-thriller, winter-20152016, supernatural, radio-4x

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 12 to 17, 2016

Description: When an archaeological dig begins at the Wheatstone Pond, nasty events occur. Violence and aggression build up in the people who work there, the corpse of a baby is found, and a motorbike salvaged from the water carries its new owner to a fatal accident. Some sort of evil is clearly at work.

Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father

bookshelves: winter-20152016, biography, politics, published-2016, non-fic-feb-2016, nonfiction

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 12 to 19, 2016



Description: In the middle of the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin spent almost two decades in London – at exactly the same time as Mozart, Casanova and Handel. This is an enthralling biography – not only of the man, but of the city when it was a hub of Enlightenment activity.

For the great majority of his long life, Benjamin Franklin was a loyal British royalist. In 1757, having made his fortune in Philadelphia and established his fame as a renowned experimental scientist, he crossed the Atlantic to live as a gentleman in the heaving metropolis of London.

From his house in Craven Street, he mixed with both the brilliant and the powerful – in London coffee house clubs, at the Royal Society, and on his summer travels around the British Isles and continental Europe. He counted David Hume, Matthew Boulton, Joseph Priestley, Edmund Burke and Erasmus Darwin among his friends – and, as an American colonial representative, he had access to successive Prime Ministers and even the King.

The early 1760s saw Britain’s elevation to global superpower status with victory in the Seven Years War and the succession of the young, active George III. This brought a sharp new edge to political competition in London and redefined the relationship between Britain and its colonies. They would profoundly affect Franklin himself, eventually placing him in opposition with his ambitious son William. Though Franklin sought to prevent the America’s break with Great Britain, his own actions would finally help cause that very event.

Episode 1:
In November 1724, aged 18, Franklin is sent to London for the first time to buy printing equipment for a Philadelphia newspaper.

Episode 2:
After spending over 30 years in America, Franklin returns to London – not as a humble printer, but as a leading politician.

Episode 3:
Franklin’s achievements in the field of physics, and specifically that of electricity, have won him an international reputation.

Episode 4:
Franklin’s opponents in the Pennsylvania Assembly are preparing poisonous attacks to greet him on his return to America.

Episode 5:
It is 1775, and Franklin is no longer of any political use in London. He becomes Ambassador to France in the days before the Revolution.

Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse by John Mallett


Description: Brewers often call malt the soul of beer. Fourth in the Brewing Elements series, Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse delves into the intricacies of this key ingredient used in virtually all beers. This book provides a comprehensive overview of malt, with primary focus on barley, from the field through the malting process. With primers on history, agricultural development and physiology of the barley kernel, John Mallett (Bell s Brewery, Inc.) leads us through the enzymatic conversion that takes place during the malting process. A detailed discussion of enzymes, the Maillard reaction, and specialty malts follows. Quality and analysis, malt selection, and storage and handling are explained. This book is of value to all brewers, of all experience levels, who wish to learn more about the role of malt as the backbone of beer.”

Opening: Harry Harlan—the “Indiana Jones” of Barley: A strange and winding path led me to the basement repository of the Kalamazoo Public Library to read about the Ethiopian people. Physically, the journey was just a quick walk down a set of stairs, but intellectually the trail was long and complex, sown with seeds of barley. I was in that book-lined basement on a mission to locate the 1925 National Geographic article “A Caravan Journey through Abyssinia” written by Harry Harlan. Harry had become a bit of an obsession for me, and I was trying to find out as much about him and his life as I could.

Ever since a visit to St. James’s in Dublin xx years ago, I have been rather drawn to aspects of the brewing industry. I would like to track down Harry Vaughn Harlan’s, he sounds fab!

circa 1924

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

bookshelves: published-2016, philosophy, net-galley, e-book, winter-20152016

Read from February 14 to 15, 2016


Description: Rabih and Kirsten meet, fall in love, get married. Society tells us this is the end of the story. In fact, it is only the beginning. Over the years this ordinary couple will miscommunicate and misunderstand each other, will worry about money, will have first a girl and then a boy. One of them will have an affair, one will think about it. Both will have doubts. This will be the real love story. Twenty-first century depictions of love and marriage are shaped by a set of Romantic myths and misconceptions. With his trademark warmth and wit, Alain de Botton explores the complex landscape of a modern relationship, presenting a realistic case study for marriage and examining what it might mean to love, to be loved – and to stay in love.

It’s de Botton, so of course this is not going to be a straight forward romance, even though it is, albeit a forensic overview.

I have a soft spot for de Botton, his Schopenhauer inserts when I was suffering were a real boon. This was lovely as a Valentine’s weekend read.

A marriage doesn’t begin with a proposal, or even an initial meeting. It begins far earlier, when the idea of love is born, and more specifically the dream of a soulmate.”

3* The Art of Travel
4* The Consolations of Philosophy
3* The Course of Love (novel)
3* Religion For Atheists

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro


Description: Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

Opening: The weather in London in December 1598 had been frigid, so cold that ten days before New Year’s the Thames was nearly frozen over at London Bridge.

It was weird reading this, where the Irish ‘problem’ loomed large at the Elizabethan Court, and it being the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Uprising. What bastards the English were – truly, and I was amazed at Edmund Spenser: feel that I should go back and wipe that 5* off. Yet hey, that would be as stupid as taking Rhodes’s statue down from Oxford – uncomfortable or not, these things did happen and we should not squirm in the light of past atrocities but make a better world by examining past mistakes.

WHOA – in a **ping** moment of self enlightenment I come across how being PC can help wipe guilt off a subject. That really musn’t happen – let those bad decisions from the past stay and act as a warning.

The main themes in this book:
– bye-bye Will Kemp
– Essex and Ireland
– the Spanish question
– Globe building

Thanks Susanna & Judy

4* A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
4* The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606