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Lynette Baines (Melbourne, Australia)
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The Great War: The People's Story - Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette
The Great War: The People's Story - Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette
Price: £1.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hidden life restored, 28 Sep 2014
Kate Parry Frye kept a diary for over 70 years. Fifty years after her death, Elizabeth Crawford came across the diaries, read them & became intrigued by the woman who wrote them. Kate had grown up in a secure middle-class family. She had little formal education, but loved the theatre & took lessons in singing, dancing & recitation. She became an actress & had some limited success. However, she did meet her future husband, John Collins, in a touring production of Quality Street. Kate worked as a suffrage organiser, touring the country organising meetings for the New Constitutional Society for Women's Suffrage. She married John in 1915 and, after the war, as John tried to pick up his theatrical career, they had a hard time making ends meet. Kate also had the responsibility of helping her widowed mother & sister, Agnes. Agnes's story is one of the saddest in the book. She never worked, never married & suffered from ill health & depression for much of her life. As Kate said, her life was wasted. Kate's life certainly was not wasted. I loved reading about Kate's life during WWI & afterwards, as she met every challenge with courage, especially the misery of John's last years when he suffered from dementia.
The epigraph for this book quotes the beautiful final words of Middlemarch, "To all those women down the ages who, in the words of George Eliot, have 'lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs'." This quote is so perfect for Kate. I came to feel so much affection for her & her husband, John, & let's face it, there are so many more of us living ordinary, hidden lives than there are living famous lives. I loved finding out more about Kate.


THE GLASS GUARDIAN
THE GLASS GUARDIAN
Price: £1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Supernatural romance at its best, 9 Jun 2012
Ruth has suffered more grief in a very short time than anyone should have to bear. She's lost her lover, her father & her aunt. Her Aunt Janet's death has hit her hard. Janet virtually brought Ruth up after her mother's death & the time she spent at Janet's house, Tigh na Linne, on Skye, represents Ruth's happiest memories. Ruth inherits the house & travels to Skye to decide what to do with her life. Ruth gradually realises that she's not alone at Tigh na Linne. The house is haunted & the ghost is not entirely a stranger to her. As winter envelops the house & Ruth's loneliness & confusion increase, it becomes apparent that her future is intimately entwined with her family's past & her passion for a man who died one hundred years ago.
Linda Gillard has created a completely believable world in The Glass Guardian that spans the real & the unreal, the past & the present. The best ghost stories take place in winter, illuminated by cosy fires & flickering candlelight. Skye is the perfect setting, the bare wintry landscape mirroring Ruth's despair & grief when she first arrives at Tigh na Linne. Ruth is a vulnerable & very believable character. She has few warm memories & all of them are bound up with Skye & her Aunt Janet. Her determination to discover all she can about Janet's life & the earlier family history is a fascinating part of the story.
The Glass Guardian is an unputdownable novel about love, loss, grief, music, WWI, Skye, family secrets, loneliness & a ghost who will break your heart.


UNTYING THE KNOT
UNTYING THE KNOT
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love, pain & the whole damn thing., 18 Sep 2011
This review is from: UNTYING THE KNOT (Kindle Edition)
What do you do when you love someone but can no longer live with them? That's the dilemma facing Fay McGillivray when she leaves her husband, Magnus. Magnus has been a career soldier, working in bomb disposal. His postings have been to Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf. Fay lived with the tension of being an Army wife for years, wondering if she'd ever see Magnus again every time he went back on duty. Then, the call came that Fay had always dreaded, Magnus had been badly injured in a bomb blast in Derry. And it wasn't just the physical scars, it was the mental torment that tore them apart. Magnus suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The flashbacks, the nightmares, the blank spots where he doesn't remember where he is or what he's done. As part of Magnus's recovery, he decides to buy Tullibardine Tower, a rundown ruin of a castle, & restore it. Hard physical work & solitude begin to heal Magnus but they drive Fay to the edge. Two years in a caravan on a windswept building site is more than Fay can stand. Their daughter Emily stays with her father & Fay begins a new life.
Fay starts again. She begins working seriously as a textile artist & finds some success. Her relationship with Emily suffers but she has a warm friendship with Magnus's mother, Jessie, a woman with secrets of her own. Her relationships with men are pretty disastrous because she compares them all to Magnus - & no one can compare. Magnus is still at Tully Tower, living with Nina, a young teacher who longs for a commitment from Magnus that he's not able to give. When Magnus turns up at an exhibition of Fay's work, she has to confront her feelings about him, their marriage & the reasons why she left.
Untying the Knot is a complex novel. It's not always easy to read. Magnus's illness makes for harrowing reading. But, there's also humour, beautiful characterisation & a compelling story of two people who should be together - if they can only work out how.


HOUSE OF SILENCE
HOUSE OF SILENCE
Price: £1.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, lies & romance, 10 April 2011
This review is from: HOUSE OF SILENCE (Kindle Edition)
Gwen Rowland is an independent, self-contained young woman in her mid twenties. Christened Guinevere by her drug-addicted mother because she was conceived at Glastonbury, Gwen's life has deliberately taken the opposite track to that of her mother, aunts & uncles, all now dead. While working as a wardrobe assistant on a Regency drama, she meets actor, Alfie Donovan. Alfie's childhood has been just as dysfunctional as Gwen's because he was the inspiration for his mother's successful series of children's books & he has distanced himself from his family as a result. When Alfie reluctantly takes Gwen to his family home, Creake Hall, for Christmas, the visit is the catalyst for revelations & surprises from the past. Gwen's relationship with Alfie is threatened when she meets Marek, an enigmatic gardener with secrets of his own. House of Silence is a compulsively readable book. It's a compelling story of family secrets & lies, set in a crumbling Elizabethan mansion at Christmas in the depths of a freezing Norfolk winter. The heroine is smart, independent & compassionate. The hero is, quite frankly, gorgeous. If you enjoy family intrigue, secrets from the past & lots of romance, I recommend it.


To Bed with Grand Music
To Bed with Grand Music
by Marghanita Laski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.00

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not the spirit of the Blitz, 16 Jan 2010
To Bed With Grand Music is a very different view of the war to the stiff upper lip of Vere Hodgson & the nobility of Cressida in A House In The Country. Deborah & Graham tearfully say goodbye before he's posted overseas. He doesn't promise to be faithful to her but says he would never let another woman replace her in his heart. Deborah is living in a country village with their son, Timmy, & faithful housekeeper, Mrs Chalmers. Deborah is very young & soon finds village life too constricting. She gets a job in London, moves in with Madeleine, a sophisticated friend from student days, & swears fidelity to Graham, spending her evenings alone in the flat while Madeleine goes out with a succession of men. When Deborah meets Joe, an American Lieutenant, she begins an affair with him in a glow of romantic feelings. She still feels loyal to Graham, & Joe is loyal in his way to his own wife, but Deborah realises that she's becoming frustrated & bored with her life & she gradually succumbs to the little luxuries Joe can provide. When he's posted overseas, Deborah is sure she'll never have another affair, but soon she's going out with Sheldon Z Wynuck, another American officer, but a step down in class & sophistication from Joe. Then, she meets a suave Frenchman who teaches her, at her request, how to be a good mistress. Then there's a Brazilian & a friend of her husband's who looks her up when he's on leave... Deborah's moral sense has completely abandoned her by this time. She has also virtually abandoned Timmy, who is looked after by Mrs Chalmers & hardly sees his mother. Deborah's own mother, Mrs Betts, has abandoned her daughter to her fate by this time, only intent on seeing that her grandson is cared for. Mrs Betts's attitude to Deborah struck me as quite unfeeling. She's only in her early twenties at the beginning of the war but her mother does very little to guide her when she realises how her daughter is living in London. Mrs Betts allows Deborah to rationalise her desire to leave Timmy because she sees that he's happier with the housekeeper than with his moody mother. She seems to blame Deborah's dead father for this tendency to lax morals & washes her hands of her, apart from paying her debts at one point. The ending of the book is ambiguous. The war has ended, Graham will be coming home, but will their marriage survive? I find it fascinating that the book was published so soon after the war (1946). It wasn't well-reviewed & it's easy to see why. The picture it paints of women living the high life while their men were serving overseas is not the image Britain wanted to see. Deborah is selfish, self-seeking & predatory by the end of the book, but I have some sympathy for her. Left alone with a small child while her husband has a cushy posting in Egypt, no support from her mother, few friends & no inner resources to fall back on, it's not surprising to see her downward progress.


The Lady In The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (Queen of England Series)
The Lady In The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn (Queen of England Series)
by Alison Weir
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fall of Queen Anne, 23 Oct 2009
The fall of Anne Boleyn is one of the most gripping stories in English history. Just three years after her triumphant coronation, Queen Anne was arrested, accused of adultery with five men (including an incestuous affair with her brother, George), tried & executed. Beginning in late January with the miscarriage of a son, Alison Weir's book meticulously follows the last months of Anne's life. Henry VIII was not going to give Anne another chance to produce an heir & his attention was already straying to Jane Seymour. The complicated political machinations of Henry, his chief minister, Thomas Cromwell, the Seymours & the Howards are interpreted with clarity. Weir also investigates & mostly debunks the myths & legends of Anne's fall & examines why her story has fascinated readers & historians for the last 450 years. Fascinating reading.


The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws
by Margaret Drabble
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life with jigsaws, 23 Oct 2009
The subtitle of this book is "A personal history with jigsaws". Drabble reminisces about her childhood visits to her Auntie Phyl, who lived in a B&B on the Great North Road, the main route from London to Scotland. Assembling jigsaws became one of the pleasures of these childhood holidays & they continue to enjoy it on many later visits until Phyl's death. Drabble intended to write a history of the jigsaw puzzle & she has done this, but the picture she draws of her childhood in the 40s & 50s & Phyl's life as a schoolteacher & later helping her parents run the B&B is the most interesting part of the book. Jigsaws began as dissected maps that could be assembled as an aid to teaching children geography. It wasn't until the 20th century that they became a pastime that everyone could afford. Drabble's research into the history of art, mosaics & children's toys is fascinating but the heart of the book is her relationship with Phyl & her memories of a happy childhood.


The Monster in the Box: (A Wexford Case)
The Monster in the Box: (A Wexford Case)
by Ruth Rendell
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Wexford when young, 23 Oct 2009
Inspector Reg Wexford is startled to see a face from the past, a man who he believes has committed at least two murders, but who he never expected to see again. This is the catalyst that takes Wexford back to his early days in the police force, when he was convinced that Eric Targo had murdered young mother, Elsie Carroll. He had no evidence & was too junior to influence the murder investigation, but he knew Targo was guilty, & Targo knew that Wexford knew. So, a strange game developed where Targo would walk his dog past Wexford's house or stare up at the windows of the police station. Then, he would disappear for years before unexpectedly turning up again. As Wexford tells the story to his deputy, Mike Burden, the evidence becomes more compelling, especially when another murder occurs close to Wexford's home. The Wexford series has been one of the best police procedurals for over 40 years & this is another great installment. It's not one of the best, but interesting to see Wexford as a young man, starting his career & meeting his wife, Dora.


Some Tame Gazelle (VMC)
Some Tame Gazelle (VMC)
by Barbara Pym
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spinsters & village life, 23 Oct 2009
Belinda & Harriet Bede are sisters living in an English village in the 1950s. They're happily unmarried, although Harriet has an admirer, Count Bianco, who proposes marriage at regular intervals, while she continues to lavish attention on a succession of young curates. Belinda has been in love with the lazy & self-satisfied Archdeacon Hoccleve since their University days but he married the very capable Agatha instead. This is a story of gentle irony & humour as village life brings challenges such as the church fete & what to give the local seamstress for lunch when she comes to make up the new curtains. When Archbishop Theodore Grote arrives for a visit from his African diocese, Belinda finds herself the object of attentions that she suspects Agatha might envy. I love Barbara Pym & this is one of my favourite books.


Dark Mirror (Brock and Kolla Mysteries)
Dark Mirror (Brock and Kolla Mysteries)
by Barry Maitland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Art & arsenic, 22 Oct 2009
Marion Summers dies a painful death in the London Library. The autopsy reveals that she died of arsenic poisoning, a method of murder more suited to the murky 19th century world of the Pre-Raphaelite painters & poets she was researching. Detectives Brock & Kolla investigate secretive Marion's background & discover that her research may have been the reason she was killed. Did her discoveries threaten the career of her academic supervisor? Or was it the fellow researcher who had been following her, taking photos on his mobile phone? Or her mysterious lover, who may have been the father of the child she lost just weeks before her death? This is a complex mystery with fascinating literary & historical elements. Brock & Kolla are sympathetic characters & it's always good to catch up with them again.


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