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Ms. Patricia F. Smith "Pat"
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Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family
Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family
by Roger Virgoe
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent vision of the 15th century through the genuine letters of a real family., 31 Oct. 2013
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This is a superb book. I heard it mentioned on a tv programme about medieval England so bought it. And it's totally fascinating. The Editor has embedded the book securely in its context, starting with a chronology and map of the area where they lived (Norfolk). Helpfully he's also included a Dramatis Personae giving brief details of each member of the family, along with a family tree. The letters have been carefully chosen with a short introduction which shows that each one has been carefully considered and analysed: eg: from a letter written in Sept 1443, the Editor writes: 'She and Agnes were deeply worried about his health. Judging from the phrase 'the time is come' Margaret was pregnant again...' etc. Every so often there are individual pages giving details about some aspect of their life, eg Parliament, Parents & Children, Norwich. And the story the letters tell! This is no ordinary family but they face many 'ordinary' problems of the age ... they were heavily involved in a siege of Caister Castle against the Duke of Norfolk, their eldest daughter had entered a clandestine marriage and they faced the plague in London. The letters obviously deal heavily with such matters but they also contain homely details such as: 'To begin, God thank you for my hats.' The book is well-produced with excellent illustrations, nearly all in full colour. It's a treasure-trove of accessible and fascinating information about the period through the eyes of one family and at the same time it's scholarly and informative.


The Soul of Popular Culture: Looking at Contemporary Heroes, Myths and Monsters
The Soul of Popular Culture: Looking at Contemporary Heroes, Myths and Monsters
by Mary Lynn Kittelson
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating!, 28 Sept. 2013
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As a 'dabbler' in psychology, I found the concept of this book most interesting - that 'the search for ... our own values as a culture is a major preoccupation of ours'. And a lot is subconscious. Why do certain movies / books / people / concepts become classics? What lifts their appeal to these heights? The book consists of a series of chapters on individual topics: eg: 'Vampires, eroticism and the lure of the unconscious' / the film 'The Piano' / 'The feminine hero of 'Silence of the Lambs'. With such a variety of topics and contributors (and of course readers!) the appeal varies. I personally found the chapter on Elvis to be profound and deeply sad. Called 'Fama and the culture of the dying god', it analysed the appeal and decline of the man in a very revealing way.
I will definitely re-read my favourite chapters and there were many of them. I gave it four stars because there were several chapters which didn't appeal, though most of them were excellent.


The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307: 4 (Oxford History of England)
The Thirteenth Century 1216-1307: 4 (Oxford History of England)
by Sir Maurice Powicke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £96.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly and fascinating, 28 Sept. 2013
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I bought this book for background reading as I'm writing a novel set in that period. It is a classic, excellently researched and providing a balanced view of events. As expected from the series, it's comprehensive in its analysis of personalities, events and politics. You need to bear in mind, though, that it was first written in 1953; time (and writing style) have moved on since then; paragraphs and sentences are long and sometimes an effort to read. Chosen at random, one sentence was seven lines long, perfectly grammatical and sensible, but I had to re-read it. They don't write 'em like that any more! And, of course, the book focuses on the 'top end' - peasants don't get much of a look in unless, of course, they're revolting!


Monks and Monasteries: A Brief History
Monks and Monasteries: A Brief History
by Robert C. Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Clearly explained and well-written, 8 May 2013
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I really enjoyed reading this book. the information was well laid-out with lots of headings, bullet-points, etc. I particularly appreciated the timeline at the start - I kept looking back at it. Anpther verygood point was that Mr Jones started with 'Predecessors and antecedents' of Western monasteries which provided much food for thought. The type-face was also clear and the pages weren't overcrowded so the information went in easily. Useful chapter on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lots of photos were a real bonus along with a list of internet references. Great book, thoroughly recommended.


Legend of The Cathars
Legend of The Cathars
Price: £2.24

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read, 17 Jan. 2013
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This book was interesting and clearly written. It made sense of the complex beliefs which the Cathars held and set them into their historical context. My only complaint was that it was too short; I would have liked some more detail.


Montsegur and the Mystery of the Cathars
Montsegur and the Mystery of the Cathars
by Jean Markale
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating and fascinating, 17 Jan. 2013
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This is a superb book - it's well organised and comprehensive, clearly written and explained. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it does not sensationalise; it is a factual account. It starts with 'the Sights' about the region, with emphasis on Montsegur and a similar castle, Queribus. It gives a clear account of the historical context and makes sense of the complex movements against the Cathars in the early 1200s. The second section looks at five heretic areas of belief and the third section is called 'The Cathar Enigma'. relating Catharism to its mdoern context. It examines various areas of belief that are linked with the Cathars, including Druidism, the possibilities of a solar cult and, of course, the Holy Grail. I found this interesting and relevant to anyone who wants to know more about the Cathars and less about sensational theories.


Make the Most of Your Time in Britain (Rough Guide Make the Most of Your Time in Britain)
Make the Most of Your Time in Britain (Rough Guide Make the Most of Your Time in Britain)
by Rough Guides
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely guide, 17 Dec. 2012
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full of insights and quirky things to do - it's added lots to my appreciation of this beautiful country. Recommended wholeheartedly.


Ordnance Survey Maps: Dorking No. 79 (Victorian Ordnance Survey)
Ordnance Survey Maps: Dorking No. 79 (Victorian Ordnance Survey)
by David & Charles Publishing
Edition: Map

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 17 Dec. 2012
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An interesting purchase, which shows how the area has changed since the map was drawn up. four more words required.


Metal Detecting The Beach
Metal Detecting The Beach
Price: £2.26

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting read, 17 Dec. 2012
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This was very interesting - this guy knows his stuff! I now have to add ten more words to sdubmit this review...


Abiah Darby of Coalbrookdale, 1716-1793: Wife of Abraham Darby II
Abiah Darby of Coalbrookdale, 1716-1793: Wife of Abraham Darby II
by Rachel Labouchere
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and informative about a remarkable woman., 20 Aug. 2012
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This book is a detailed 'labour of love' about the prominent Quaker speaker, and wife of Abraham Darby II who developed the technique of smelting malleable iron and thus started the industrial revolution. She was also the mother of Abraham Darby III who created the first iron bridge ini the world - installed at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire.
Despite the momentous events of the times, this diary focuses on Abiah; the personalities and problems (social, economic and industrial) faced by the foundry are incidental, though we hear brief mentions of this 'other' world. The book covers the day-to-day life of Abiah as a prominent and virtuous Quaker and we read of the family house, Sunniside, now demolished, and how it was a focal point for the Quaker movement in the area. Abiah had long disagreements with the local Methodist minister, John Fletcher; she often had to pay fines because she refused to pay tithes. In the youth she was reluctant to speak at Quaker Meetings as she was naturally shy, but eventually follwed this calling and in the course of her long life must have travelled thousands of miles (when young, on horseback) on journeys to spread the Quaker word. She would visit prisons and address unruly crowds, though with fears, doubts and hesitations about whether she could manage to do this.
Most of the book focuses on the diary she kept, detailing her journeys, her preachings, the people she met and her pamphlets a well as her worries and misgivings.
In 1769 she stopped writing and Rachel Labouchere continues via the diary of Deborah Darby and other Quaker records. I found this broadened the emphasis of the book and there were more mentions of events surrounding the creation of the famous iron bridge, often shown as a symbol of the industrial revolution, as well as other events of the time.
I really enjoyed this book as I am fascinated by the whole Coalbrookdale area and events of the time. Abiah is an intriguing person - shy and modest, yet uncompromising in her faith. Her life-long commitment to her religion and Quaker ideals form a background to the inventions and dedication of the ironmasters and those around them. The book is very detailed and gradually builds up a picture of the huge network of Friends that was being created, both in the UK and America, against the background of momentous events of the times (including the American War of Independence). There is little information on their everyday life, which is a shame, and the reason why I gave it 4 stars.


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