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Mrs. PG MCCORMACK (Cannock, Staffordshire, UK)

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Thicker Than Water: History, Secrets and Guilt: A Memoir
Thicker Than Water: History, Secrets and Guilt: A Memoir
by Cal Flyn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Thicker Than Water History, Secrets and Guilt: A Memoir By Cal Flyn, 7 Aug. 2016
Thicker Than Water
History, Secrets and Guilt: A Memoir
By Cal Flyn
ISBN 978-0-00-812660-5
Published by William Collins in 2016
I first met Cal Flyn in the NW of Finland on my daughter’s husky farm in winter. I instantly recognised someone exceptionally gifted and adventurous. I was not surprised later when she won the Independent award for Young Travel Writer of the Year. When I heard about her intended trip to Australia to research her discovery that a great great great uncle of hers had emigrated to Australia from Scotland but had been guilty of the brutal murder of so many Aborigines, I looked forward to reading this memoir when it was published.
Having done much family research myself once I was retired, I was impressed that she became interested at such an early age. Her research started in Scotland and I related instantly when I read of her knocking on the door of her childhood home, as I have done this in three of my former childhood homes. Her research has been very thorough and included wide reading as well as travel.
Her vivid description of the Scottish landscape makes you feel as if you were there and she includes some Gaelic with translation. Her command of language is evident and descriptions such as of the fever ship carrying convicts to Australia is quite horrifying.
The opening Prologue sets the scene. It is a dramatic account of the horrifying massacre of so many Aborigines in revenge for the brutal killing of one white settler, the nephew of McAlister for whom her ancestor McMillan worked. He became known as the ‘butcher of Gippsland’ and it was he who organised the band of Highlanders to set out to hunt and exact revenge from the guilty Gunai tribe. Cal’s question: ’Should we atone for our ancestor’s sins?’ held my interest. I was taught the ten Commandments from an early age and the doctrine about ‘visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children on to the third and fourth generation’ was one I was uneasy with. However, I could understand Cal’s guilt and her experience of modern-day attitudes to the native people of Australia opened my eyes.
I will read this book again as I found it deeply moving and challenging. It is a tale full of adventure, told by a brilliant writer whose life is so full of excitement and who has taken us on a dangerous journey starting in the Hebrides and through two hundred years across the world.

What the Doctor Saw
What the Doctor Saw
by Maurice Gueret
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `What the Doctor Saw' by Dr Maurice Gueret, 6 Jan. 2014
This review is from: What the Doctor Saw (Paperback)
Intrigued by the cover picture where the donkey rider is so obviously enjoying himself, I wondered if this is `what the doctor saw'. Pages 24 - 28 explain. The rider is the author's maternal grandfather, a psychiatrist in a Mental Hospital in Dublin. The cover alone and its explanatory chapter would be enough to entice me to `buy the book', which is described as `a collection of writings and columns by Dr Maurice Gueret between the years 2003 and 2013'.

I ordered this book in the expectation of good writing, interesting history from past years and lots of humour. I have not been disappointed. Having several doctors as friends, I always loved the anecdotes they told about their patients! Skimming through six pages of titles of articles, I could pick out at random those that I thought would be most relevant for me. The opening chapter on `Patient Bloopers' demonstrates that Dr Gueret is well versed in literature. He quotes the dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan as the author of the term `malapropisms'. The examples he gives make me aware that when I talk to my doctor about `Transient Global Amnesia', as diagnosed by my hospital consultant, I must be careful not to be guilty of a `patient blooper'!

Dr Gueret displays a wide knowledge of books and programmes. He is familiar with Winnie the Pooh and has CDs of `All Creatures Great and Small.' This brought me back in memory to when that programme was being made and Eddie Straiton operated on a lovely Golden Retriever for the second episode and gave the dog to my daughter the following day. Over eleven years ago, I met the actor, Christopher Timothy, in our local library and I told him about the dog. As my daughter was soon to be married at that time, Christopher wrote a lovely message to her on a leaflet he picked up from the counter. The book awakens many such memories for me. My daughter now owns over 100 husky dogs in Lapland and has taken charge of about 100 more on another farm but that famous TV Golden Retriever from `All Creatures Great and Small' was her first dog. In the short biography of Dr Gueret on the back cover of the book he is described as `an exemplary dog walker'. He mentions his daughter, too. I hope that she will now recognise his writing skills and boast to her friends about the interesting book her father has written. I look forward to reading again and again the various articles in this compendium of `what the doctor saw'.

Bacchus Wynd
Bacchus Wynd
Price: £4.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Bacchus Wynd by Catherine Edmunds, 5 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Bacchus Wynd (Kindle Edition)
`Bacchus Wynd', by Catherine Edmunds, is described as a prequel to her previous novel, `Serpentine'. `Prequel' was a new word to me. I had enjoyed reading `Serpentine', whose heroine is an artist called Victoria, so I knew to expect a story about a time previous to that. The two characters who appear in both novels are Emma and John.

`Bacchus Wynd', Catherine explains, is a café. She formed the word from two actual places in the North-East, Bull Wynd and Bakehouse Hill. Here, every week, Emma and John meet three friends - Toby, Renée and Evan - for coffee and a chat, and are joined there once by Sylvie, Toby's mother, and once by Felicity, John's scheming assistant in his salesrooms.

The story unfolds in a series of chapters where it is told over and over through the eyes of each individual character. This is an unusual form of narration but isn't at all boring. Each of the characters is unique, but they are linked by various ties. Emma lives with John, but she isn't happy in the relationship and she has romantic dreams of being loved by Toby, an interesting and lovable young man who suffers from Aspergers. Sylvie would like to see her son fall in love with someone young and sweet like Emma. Evan, a psychologist, is Toby's minder and thus he is close to Sylvie, while Renée, who, we learn, had a steamy fling with John in the past, now casts her eye on Toby. Felicity is not who she pretends to be but she is recognised and exposed by Renée with whom she shared a rather shocking past.

In the end, all the tangled webs are sorted, but provision is made for the follow-up in Serpentine to the future for Emma and John.

The attractive cover, `The Sand in the Painting', is the author's own gifted artwork.

I have read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Catherine's novels and poems, but I think `Bacchus Wynd' is my favourite so far.

By Loyalty Bound
By Loyalty Bound
by Elizabeth Ashworth
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Loyalty Bound; by Elizabeth Ashworth, 9 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: By Loyalty Bound (Hardcover)
With news of the discovery of Richard 111's remains in a car park in Leicester, I found myself trying to recall what I had learned of that period in history. The Princes in the Tower and the Battle of Bosworth sprang to mind. History wasn't my favourite subject in school but I was looking forward to reading Elizabeth Ashworth's `By Loyalty Bound: The story of the mistress of King Richard 111'. I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon and after several delays it arrived. `What a beautiful cover!' was my initial reaction.

It was some weeks before I had time to sit down and read, but once I started I didn't want to stop till I'd come to the end. It is a beautifully told tale and sounds so authentic. In Elizabeth's Author's Note she makes a convincing case for her suggestion that Anne Harrington was Richard's mistress. I found myself reading as if it were a true story and not fiction and this is a tribute to Elizabeth's thorough research into and love for local history.

Having previously read `The de Lacy Inheritance', I knew I was going to enjoy Elizabeth's latest book and I did. All through, I felt sympathy for the heroine - for her resistance to the unwelcome attentions of the nasty Sir William Stanley, for her loyalty to her lover and their two children, and for her reaction in the end when the happiness that was almost in her grasp, was snatched from her.

When I came to the end of the final chapter, entitled August 1485, I put the book down and felt really sad - sad, not just because there was no more to read, but sad for Anne Harrington. That shows how deeply I became involved in this brilliantly related tale.

An Honourable Estate
An Honourable Estate
by Elizabeth Ashworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Honourable Estate by Elizabeth Ashworth, 8 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: An Honourable Estate (Paperback)
Having previously read and been inspired by Elizabeth Ashworth's historical novel, The de Lacy Inheritance, I was looking forward to the publication of An Honourable Estate. As soon as the paperback edition was available, I ordered a copy.

Once I started reading, I didn't want to stop till I'd come to the end. I can truthfully say it is the most gripping book I have read for a long time. Although I found some scenes - like where the small boy, Dicken, was severely punished by Lord Peter Lymesey for eating a morsel of bread that had been thrown away - highly disturbing, the book was compelling and beautifully written. The whole story was deeply moving and thought-provoking and gave a great picture of the history of the period.

I like the way the story begins, as it ends, with the penitential walk by Mabel de Haigh to the stone cross in the market place. Between the Prologue and the final chapter we follow the story that led up to that walk.

Elizabeth gives us a lot of background information and it is obvious that she has researched her subject thoroughly. It has made me want to do some further reading about the history of the period to refresh my knowledge of the Battle of Bannockburn and of the reign of Edward 11 and of his war with his barons over the death of his cousin, Piers Gaveston, events mentioned in the novel.

What I liked, too, was the skilful way we were taken from Lady Mabel's environment to Sir William's. We knew he wasn't dead but she didn't.

This is a tale that I know I will re-read. Meanwhile, some of my friends have asked if I will lend them my copy.

Lancashire - Who Lies Beneath? (Local History)
Lancashire - Who Lies Beneath? (Local History)
by Elizabeth Ashworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lancashire; Who Lies Beneath? by Elizabeth Ashworth, 10 Nov. 2009
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The book answers the question in the title. Having always been interested in people, I often wander through old graveyards, reading the inscriptions and pondering on the lives of those buried beneath.

Elizabeth has included different types of people; each one speaks personally to me. Her story of Wallace Hartley, a bandsman on the Titanic as it sank, reminded me of a grave (next to that of my parents in a quiet churchyard in Ireland) of another victim of that tragedy. The saddest was of the American bomber that crashed on a school in Freckleton, killing 38 young children in 1944.

Reading about Samuel Crompton and his spinning-mule reminded me of history lessons in school... The first story, of the giant, reminded me that I never liked to see people put on show because of some characteristic that sets them apart from others, just to entertain us, but Frederick Kempster was held in affection and honoured in death. There lies Francis Duckworth who composed hymns and here is Percy French whose verses about the Irish Railways of his time were familiar to me as I grew up.

The stories are arranged in alphabetical order of the places visited, while a sub-title gives the name of the person and a brief description. Photographs of the graves and monuments enhance the stories and I like the directions to guide any reader wishing to visit the places mentioned.

The illustration on the cover reminds me of the falling poppies at the service of remembrance. It was an appropriate time of year for publication because of Remembrance Day and All Saints Day. Latin inscriptions intrigue me, and Elizabeth translates one for us on page 10. On page 64 I loved the little rhyming verse and the story of the dialect poet and his wife to whom it refers. Overall, I have found this a delightful book, to be read, one story at a time.

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