The Physician by Noah Gordon

 

Description: In the 11th century, Rob Cole left poor, disease-ridden London to make his way across the land, hustling, juggling, peddling cures to the sick—and discovering the mystical ways of healing. It was on his travels that he found his own very real gift for healing—a gift that urged him on to become a doctor. So all consuming was his dream, that he made the perilous, unheard-of journey to Persia, to its Arab universities where he would undertake a transformation that would shape his destiny forever.

Not an item for the rigid, pedantic historian as there are anachronisms galore. Black Death, for one glaring instance and, wait for it,… the discovery that fleas were the carriers. Yes this is 11th century. Who cares, ’tis romping fun!

That aside it is a fabulous tale fully worthy of an encounter.

Isfahan

Three and a half genie lamps

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning

bookshelves: published-1969, travel, nonfiction, autobiography-memoir, summer-2014, spain

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 13 to 20, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b046j8z7

Description: It was 1934 and a young man walked to London from the security of the Cotswolds to make his fortune.

He was to live by playing the violin and by labouring on a London building site. Then, knowing one Spanish phrase, he decided to see Spain. For a year he tramped through a country in which the signs of impending civil war were clearly visible. Thirty years later Laurie Lee captured the atmosphere of the Spain he saw with all the freshness and beauty of a young man’s vision, creating a lyrical and lucid picture of the beautiful and violent country that was to involve him.

Laure Lee’s classic account of walking through Spain is broadcast to mark the centenary of his birth, and is abridged in five episodes by Katrin Williams.

Episode 1: The author leaves home on a bright Sunday morning, taking his hazel walking stick, some clothes and a trusty violin. Destination? It’s London first, then on to.. where?

Episode 2: Laurie’s first port of call is Vigo, Spain, for merry-making with Dona Maria and family.

Episode 3: From Vigo, out across the plains, then Madrid and its various attractions. Which means music, cafes, and some new trousers provided by the lovely Concha..

Episode 4: Down a white dusty road with orange trees looms Seville. It’s beautiful here and also poor, and there are signs of an armed struggle to come..

Episode 5: The author is in Almunecar and civil war begins. He drinks with men
who are fighting the cause, before finding safe passage back to England.
But is this the end of his travels?

Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo

bookshelves: spring-2014, afr-congo, nonfiction, journalism, published-2013, radio-4, travel, autobiography-memoir

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 16 to 23, 2014


BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b043wvxd

BBC Description: Stringer is Anjan Sundaram’s vivid account of self-discovery and danger in the heart of Africa. In 2005, at the age of 22, the decision to become a journalist takes Sundaram to Congo where he spends a year and a half cutting his teeth as a reporter for a news agency. With the 2006 elections approaching he immerses himself in the everyday life of this lawless and war torn country. This intense period takes him deep into the shadowy parts of Kinshasa, to the dense rain forest with an Indian businessman hunting for his fortune, and culminates in the historic and violent elections of 2006.

Episode 1: First impressions of Kinshasa, and an encounter with a group of orphaned children

Episode 2: A frightening encounter compels Anjan to re-double his efforts to find work as a reporter,

Episode 3: A journey along the River Congo leads to new insights for the journalist

Episode 4: Anjan Sundaram heads east towards the conflict and conducts an extraordinary interview.

Episode 5: Anjan observes the elections and is caught up in the disturbing aftermath.

Anjan Sundaram is an award-winning journalist who has reported from Africa and the Middle East for the New York Times and the Associated Press. He received a Reuters journalism award in 2006 for his reporting on Pygmy tribes in Congo’s rain forest.

Read by Riz Ahmed who is best known for his work in film. He has starred in The Road to Guantanamo, Shifty, Four Lions, Ill Manors and The Reluctant Fundamentalist which he also read for Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime.

Abridged by Richard Hamilton
Produced by Elizabeth Allard.

THE BUZZ ABOUT THIS BOOK:

ONE OF the most talked-about incidents at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year was the dismissal by British MP Kwasi Kwarteng of Anjan Sundaram’s decision to leave behind a cushy life in academia at 22 and travel to Congo to report on the civil war as just another case of a rich kid displaying only a voyeuristic interest in Africa. While the consensus among the chattering classes was that Kwarteng had been needlessly belligerent, it is possible to see his point of view: Sundaram had said that he went to Congo because, as he writes in Stringer, “I had lived in man’s genius for so long. I wanted to know our destructive capacities.”The Rough Guide to Reporting

Bongo-Bongo in the Congo

The Invention of Brazil by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: spring-2014, published-2014, nonfiction, travel, politics, filthy-lucre, anthropology, casual-violence, environmental-issues, fradio, gangsters, slaves, under-10-ratings, true-grime, south-americas, sleazy, revolution, religion, recreational-drugs, radio-4, music, lifestyles-deathstyles, history, colonial-overlords, bullies, brazil, art-forms, architecture, adventure, plague-disease, roman-catholic, sport, suicide

Read from May 02 to 19, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042jcxs

Description: Forget the beach volleyball, carnival, and the rest – here’s the truth about Brazil. The murder rate is among the highest in the world. The economic inequality is visible wherever you go. Behind the happy cultural imagery there lies a much darker Brazil, the result of an extremely dark colonial history when this land was little more than a giant farm worked by slaves.

Misha Glenny and producer Miles Warde travel from the favela of Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro up the coast to Salvador, the first capital of Brazil, and then back to Sao Paulo, economic powerhouse of the south. On the way they meet contributors including the anthropologist Peter Fry; Americo Martins of Rede TV; historian Lilia Schwarz; and bestselling author Laurentino Gomez. Further contributions from Luciana Martins, David Brookshaw and Patrick Wilcken, author of Empire Adrift.

From the team behind The Invention of Germany and The Invention of Spain.

Salvador. Most of the slaves to Brazil landed here. At that time, Salvador was the capitol.

São Paulo is a sprawling mass and is the modern economic hub of this vast country. It was from this area that the slavers worked to capture indigneous indians. Think ‘The Mission’, Portugeuse style.

Episode 1: BBC DESCRIPTION: In The Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny traces the gaps between the image and reality, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1500. More slaves were transported to Brazil than anywhere else, more than the United States, more than anywhere. “There were many Africans who served as interpreters,” Joao Reis explains, “who could tell the slaves: ‘You are not going to be eaten by those whites’. And that was the African fear – that they were being brought to an unknown world by whites where they would be eaten.”

Rocinha, the biggest slum in South America.

The favela borders Gavea, one of the richest areas of the city. The contrast is stark.

Episode 2: BBC DESCRIPTION: Misha Glenny continues his exploration of the little known but extraordinary events that have shaped Brazil. This week, two unexpected events in Brazil’s path to independence. The first occurred in 1808, when the entire Portuguese court moved across the Atlantic to escape Napoleon. They lived in Rio de Janeiro, which they enjoyed so much that they stayed on for another 13 years. The second occurred in 1822 when the King of Portugal’s son, Dom Pedro, declared ‘Independence or Death’, breaking Brazil free from her European overlords. We reveal that the British were heavily involved in both events.

Episode 3: BBC DESCRIPTION: From giant factory farm for Europeans to modern BRIC economy, the story of Brazil’s transformation is captured in this final programme in the life of Getulio Vargas – moderniser, dictator, and finally democratically elected president. In the final part of the Invention of Brazil, Misha Glenny explores the life of Vargas, the man who changed Brazil.

“I was struck by how short he was … the crowd went wild with adulation, an enormous mass of people. Their spontaneous shouts made me think I was in Italy, watching one of those fascist rallies.” Unnamed public official, seeing Vargas for the first time.

Vargas came to power in 1930 and proved an expert at keeping himself in power. Initially he styled himself on Mussolini – the story of why he took Brazil into the Second World War on the side of the Allies is central here. As also are the events leading up to his suicide while still in power. With contributions from anthropologist Lilia Schwarz, Professor David Brookshaw, Peter Fry, and author Ana Maria Machado whose father was arrested by Vargas several times.

“As quid pro quo for escorting the Portuguese across the Atlantic, the British ended up arm twisting the Portuguese royal court into signing a very one sided treaty, which in fact ended up giving the British more rights than the Brazilians themselves.” Patrick Wilcken, author Empire Adrift.

I enjoyed this three part documentary, however flister Laura, a Brazilian herself, rated this 2* so maybe this is not a rounded portrayal.

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

bookshelves: spring-2014, gardening, forest, gutenberg-project, e-book, lit-richer, maine, published-1896, victorian, travel, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, period-piece, north-americas, women

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: Wanda
Read from May 16 to 18, 2014



Read for free: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/367/36…

Opening: THERE WAS SOMETHING about the coast town of Dunnet which made it seem more attractive than other maritime villages of eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple fact of acquaintance with that neighborhood which made it so attaching, and gave such interest to the rocky shore and dark woods, and the few houses which seemed to be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among the ledges by the Landing. These houses made the most of their seaward view, and there was a gayety and determined floweriness in their bits of garden ground; the small-paned high windows in the peaks of their steep gables were like knowing eyes that watched the harbor and the far sea-line beyond, or looked northward all along the shore and its background of spruces and balsam firs. When one really knows a village like this and its surroundings, it is like becoming acquainted with a single person. The process of falling in love at first sight is as final as it is swift in such a case, but the growth of true friendship may be a lifelong affair.

Brazilliant calls these stories adorable – and that, dear friends, is more than good enough for me.

“A shipmaster was apt to get the habit of reading,” said my companion, brightening still more, and taking on a most touching air of unreserve. “A captain is not expected to be familiar with his crew, and for company’s sake in dull days and nights he turns to his book.” – Captain Littlepage.

Mrs Almiry Todd: ‘There was something lonely and solitary about her great determined shape. She might have been Antigone alone on the Theban plain. How I would love a friend such as this one.

And said of Mrs Todd’s mother: [..]she had that final, that highest gift of heaven, a perfect self-forgetfulness.

Note: SARAH ORNE JEWETT (1849-1909) was born and died in South Berwick, Maine. Her father was the region’s most distinguished doctor and, as a child, Jewett often accompanied him on his round of patient visits. She began writing poetry at an early age and when she was only 19 her short story “Mr. Bruce” was accepted by the Atlantic Monthly. Her association with that magazine continued, and William Dean Howells, who was editor at that time, encouraged her to publish her first book, Deephaven (1877), a collection of sketches published earlier in the Atlantic Monthly. Through her friendship with Howells, Jewett became acquainted with Boston’s literary elite, including Annie Fields, with whom she developed one of the most intimate and lasting relationships of her life.

The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896) is considered Jewett’s finest work, described by Henry James as her “beautiful little quantum of achievement.” Despite James’s diminutives, the novel remains a classic. Because it is loosely structured, many critics view the book not as a novel, but a series of sketches; however, its structure is unified through both setting and theme. Jewett herself felt that her strengths as a writer lay not in plot development or dramatic tension, but in character development. Indeed, she determined early in her career to preserve a disappearing way of life, and her novel can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship on the inhabitants who lived in the decaying fishing villages along the Maine coast.

Jewett died in 1909, eight years after an accident that effectively ended her writing career. Her reputation had grown during her lifetime, extending far beyond the bounds of the New England she loved.

 

Tbilisi Unanchor Travel Guide – Weekend Break: Crown Jewel of the Caucasus

currently-reading, georgia, e-book, essays, spring-2014, journalism, nonfiction, published-2014, travel

Read on May 13, 2014

 

This is a short essay on Tbilisi available online here

Opening: Lermontov’s house is gone now. The foundations have crumbled in upon themselves; the mock-ups of the reconstruction are now covered in graffiti. There will never be any reconstruction. The restaurant called Pur Pur, with its Victorian lampshades and Friday night chanteuse, has closed down without warning. We trade black-market rumors about the reopening. Of course, we don’t know anything. In Tbilisi, nobody knows anything.

Tara Isabella Burton‘s travel writing and essays have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, The Paris Review Daily, The Atlantic, on the BBC, and more. In 2012 she received the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing. She has recently completed a novel set in Georgia.

The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

bookshelves: spring-2014, britain-wales, fraudio, india, newtome-author, published-2011, adventure, travel

Read from April 26 to 28, 2014

 

Read by Nerys Hughes

Description: Spanning decades and moving from the stark beauty of the Welsh landscape to the Himalayas and Kashmir, this is a story of bravery, courage and love.Within one exotic land lie the secrets of a lifetime…Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time in her life, to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. Travelling from lonely Ladakh, high up in the Himalayas, Nerys discovers a new world in the lakeside city of Srinagar. Here, in the exquisite heart of Kashmir, the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war.But the battles draw ever closer, and life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous when the men are sent away to fight. Nerys is caught up in a dangerous friendship, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, the innocent Welsh bride has become a different woman.Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, woven from the finest yarns and embroidered in the shades of lake water and mountain skies. Wrapped within its folds is a lock of child’s hair. Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever.

A lovely story about searching for roots, and includes just about everything you would ever need to know about kasmiri yarn, cashmere, from goat to shawl. Missionary work is a horrible idea isn’t it – imagine having a bible black, fire and brimstone Chapel minister ramming a harsh God down your throat: oh! those colonial ideas. **shudder**

The Land Where Lemons Grow by Helena Atlee

bookshelves: spring-2014, nonfiction, published-2013, radio-4, travel, italy, history, newtome-author, food-glorious-food

Read from April 22 to 25, 2014


BOTW

Description: A celebration of the Italian love affair with citrus fruit.

Mixing travel writing, history and horticulture, author Helena Attlee sets out to meet Italy’s dedicated gardeners and farmers – whose passion for their life’s work is as intoxicating as the sweet scent of zagara (citrus blossom).

Episode 1: The elaborate naming systems of Renaissance botanists for the myriad varieties of citrus; and a journey to the Gulf of Naples to experience the mild yet intensely flavoured juice of the Amalfi lemon.

Episode 2: Scicily, the mafia, and blood oranges. Citrus first arrived on the island in the ninth century, brought by the Arabs whose sophisticated irrigation systems made it viable there as a crop. The island is still renowned for the quality of its fruit, particularly the arancia rossa, the blood orange, hailed as the ‘prince among oranges’, which is grown in the shadow of Mount Etna.

Episode 3: The extraordinary story of the Lake Garda lemon. In spite of the coolness of its northern latitude, Lake Garda was once the centre of a thriving citrus industry, producing extremely bitter lemons that were exported all over northern Europe. It was a feat only made possible by dogged determination and a lot of hard work.

Episode 4: Uncovering the origins of the fantastically violent and messy Battle of the Oranges – an annual event that marks the end of carnival in the Northern Italian town of Ivrea.

Episode 5: A journey to Calabria, in the deep south of Italy, to discover one of the rarest and most precious of citrus fruits: the bergamot.

Bergamot is the product of a natural cross-pollination between a lemon tree and a sour orange that occurred in Calabria in the mid-seventeenth century. It’s very particular about its environment and fruits successfully only on a thin strip of land that runs for seventy-five kilometres from the Tyrrhenian coast to the shores of the Ionian Sea.

Reader … Francesca Dymond
Writer … Helena Attlee
Abridger … Laurence Wareing
Producer … Kirsteen Cameron.

This fed my odd-obsession streak. Isn’t it amazing the reads that look so average in subject matter can turn out to be so, well, zingy and zesty, and infuse a breath of fresh air into life. Citric acid was just what I needed to cut through the greasy sludge of those last days of winter. Come to think of it, ‘Driving over Lemons’ did the same job for me over a decade ago, however that lent more to the amusement side of the spectrum, whilst this is solid fact, beautifully read by Francesca Dymond.

The Lost Heart Of Asia by Colin Thubron

bookshelves: under-500-ratings, published-1994, travel, nonfiction, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, politics, turkmenistan, dip-in-now-and-again, spring-2014, books-with-a-passport, lifestyles-deathstyles, uzbekistan, kazakstan, kyrgyzstan

Read from March 05 to 16, 2014

 

 photo 384023_zps5a7625f8.jpg

Description: Thubron travelled throughout Central Asia in the wake of the break-up of the Soviet Union and documented the widespread social upheaval in a region reeling from political change. Thubron is an inspirational writer, intrepid traveller and insightful observer and his The Lost Heart of Asia is an outstanding guide to the history, people and culture of a vast region resonating with history and politics.

Opening: TURKMENISTAN: The sea had fallen behind us, and we were flying above a desrt of dream-like immensity. Its sands melted into the sky, corroding every horizon in a colourless light. Nothing suggested we were anywhere, or even moving at all. The last solid objects in the universe were the wing-tips of the plane.

Ashkhabad

Makhtumkuli – the eighteenth-century founder of Turkic literature.

It is claimed that Merv was briefly the largest city in the world in the 12th century.

Bukhara is the capital of Uzbekistan

Samarkand

When God loved us
he gave us Amu Dariya
When he ceased to love us
He sent us Russian engineers

4* In Siberia
3* The Lost Heart of Asia
3* To a Mountain in Tibet
2* Journey Into Cyprus

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Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims

bookshelves: currently-reading, first-in-series, newtome-author, net-galley, published-2014, winter-20132014, wars-of-the-roses, medieval5c-16c, historical-fiction, war, series, e-book, adventure, religion, plague-disease, seven-seas, superstitions, britain-england, pirates-smugglers-wreckers, france, betrayal, medical-eew, revenge, spies, travel

Read from February 12 to 20, 2014

ARC received with thanks from Net Galley and Random House UK, Cornerstone in exchange for an honest review.

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick One of the Yorkist leaders in the Wars of the Roses, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker” to later generations. (wiki sourced)

Description: February, 1460: in the bitter dawn of a winter’s morning a young nun is caught outside her priory walls by a corrupt knight and his vicious retinue.

In the fight that follows, she is rescued by a young monk and the knight is defeated. But the consequences are far-reaching, and Thomas and Katherine are expelled from their religious Orders and forced to flee across a land caught in the throes of one of the most savage and bloody civil wars in history: the Wars of the Roses.

Their flight will take them across the Narrow Sea to Calais where Thomas picks up his warbow, and trains alongside the Yorkist forces. Katherine, now dressed as a man, hones her talents for observation and healing both on and off the fields of battle. And all around them, friends and enemies fight and die as the future Yorkist monarch, Edward, Earl of March, and his adviser the Earl of Warwick, later to become known as the Kingmaker, prepare to do bloody battle.

Encompassing the battles of Northampton, Mortimer’s Cross and finally the great slaughter of Towton, this is war as experienced not by the highborn nobles of the land but by ordinary men and women who do their best just to stay alive. Filled with strong, sympathetic characters, this is a must-read series for all who like their fiction action-packed, heroic and utterly believable.

Dedication: To Karen, with all my love

Opening is February 1460: The Dean comes for him during the Second Repose, when the night is at its darkest. He brings with him a rush light and a quarterstaff and wakes him with a heavy prod.
‘Up now, Brother Thomas,’ he says. ‘The Prior’s asking for you.’

Epic adventuring that had me hooked by page 52. In the time-honoured way of honest reviewing I shall point out the things that stopped this excellent story from being the 5* this read really deserves:

-The present tense prose: didn’t bother me at all once I was into the story but it will not appeal to some of my reading pals.

-That carrot ending: this really is a turn-off to many a reader and could be the kiss of death for a series. We don’t want to have it taken for granted by the author that we will buy into the next installment.

-Some secondary characters were barely fleshed out: I’m especially looking at a giant of a man who comes across as cartoon thug.

I loved this story, non-stop action featuring a lovely pair of modest but surprising heroes and that is all I can say for the moment as this is not due to be published until April. To I recommend it? Oh yes, the best adventure novel I have read in quite a while.

A word on Scrofula, sourced by The Science Museum:

In the Middle Ages it was believed in England and France that a touch from royalty could heal skin disease known as scrofula or the ‘king’s evil’. Scrofula was usually a swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck caused by tuberculosis. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England (1003/4-1066) and Philip I (1052-1108) in France.

Subsequent English and French kings were thought to have inherited this ‘royal touch’, which was supposed to show that their right to rule was God-given. In grand ceremonies, kings touched hundreds of people afflicted by scrofula. They received special gold coins called ‘touchpieces’ which they often treated as amulets.

By the late 1400s it was believed that you could also be cured by touching a type of coin called an angel, which had been touched by the monarch. After angels ceased to be minted in the 1620s the same effect was said to be achieved by touching a gold medallion embossed much like the old coin.

Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset (26 January 1436 – 15 May 1464) was an important Lancastrian military commander during the English Wars of the Roses. He is sometimes numbered the 2nd Duke of Somerset, since the title was re-created for his father after his uncle died. He also held the subsidiary titles of 5th Earl of Somerset, 2nd Marquess of Dorset and 2nd Earl of Dorset.Source

Kidwelly Castle

EXTRAS: You too can watch Dating in the Middle Ages

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