Henry Dunbar – Mary Elizabeth Braddon

It’s been too long since I read a good sensation novel. So, when I was asked to nominate a book for my 19th century bookgroup, I had a look at the tbr shelves & chose Henry Dunbar. I have the Victorian Secrets edition which has, as always, an informative Introduction, notes & contemporary reviews.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon is probably not as well-known now as her great contemporary Wilkie Collins. but in her day she was incredibly popular. Her most famous novel, Lady Audley’s Secret, featured a villain who challenged every convention  of the period. She was blonde, beautiful & completely ruthless. She also wrote an enormous number of novels & short stories, very few of them still in print. So, it’s great to see this edition of Henry Dunbar.

Henry is a young army officer, spoilt & indulged. He’s also the heir to an important London banking house, Dunbar, Dunbar & Balderby. He gets into debt & entices a young clerk at the bank, Joseph Wilmot, who has a facility for copying handwriting, to help him create forged bonds to hold off his creditors. The fraud is discovered & Henry, after being forced to resign his commission, is sent out to the company’s India office in disgrace. Joseph Wilmot is dismissed without a character when Henry refuses to speak up for him.

Thirty-five years later, Henry Dunbar is coming home. His father & uncle are dead & he’s now the senior partner of Dunbar, Dunbar & Balderby. Henry had married in India although his wife is now dead & his young daughter, Laura, was sent back to England to live with her indulgent grandfather. She hasn’t seen her father since she was a small child. Joseph Wilmot was unable to get a respectable position without a reference, fell into bad company & was transported to Norfolk Island for fraud. His older brother, Sampson, still works at the bank but hasn’t heard from Joseph for over twenty years & assumes that he’s dead. Joseph, however, is not dead. He has returned from the colonies & now calls himself James Wentworth. His life has been blighted by that first mistake & he has suffered from the convict stain,  always having to move on when his past life is revealed. He lives with his daughter, Margaret, who teaches music for a living. She knows there’s a great grief in her father’s life but has no idea of his past.

Sampson Wilmot is sent to meet Henry Dunbar off the boat at Southampton. Joseph Wilmot has seen the announcement of Dunbar’s return & finally tells Margaret that he is the man who has ruined her father’s life. He sets off to London to confront Dunbar but, on the way, sees his brother & follows him to Southampton. Sampson is agitated by the reappearance of his long-lost brother & suffers a stroke, allowing Joseph to take his place as the welcoming party for Henry Dunbar.

Dunbar hasn’t changed or been chastened by his years in India. He is as arrogant as ever &, when Joseph confronts him, offers him an annuity as compensation. The two men travel to Winchester on their way to London to visit an old friend of Dunbar’s, apparently on good terms. When they arrive, they discover that Dunbar’s friend is dead so they visit the cathedral & Dunbar decides to call on his friend’s widow. The two men set off arm in arm to walk by the riverbank but only one man, Henry Dunbar, returns. He tells the verger at the cathedral that he had sent Joseph on ahead to take a message to the widow but he doesn’t return. Then, Joseph Wilmot’s body is found by the river bank, his clothes stripped away. At the inquest, Dunbar is closely questioned but, even though there are discrepancies in the time he said he left Wilmot, nothing can be proved against him. He travels on to London, to a subdued reunion with his daughter. Dunbar retreats to his family estate in the country, Maudesley Abbey, with Laura & soon gains a reputation for standoffish eccentricity. Laura is baffled by her inability to get close to her father but is distracted by her love affair with the young baronet, Sir Philip Jocelyn.

Margaret is distraught when her father doesn’t return from London &, as she has no idea of his real name, she doesn’t know of the murder in Winchester. She goes on with her teaching & meets Clement Austin, a young man who works at the Dunbar bank & is looking for a music teacher for his niece, newly arrived to live with him & his mother. Clement meets Margaret, engages her to teach his niece, & falls in love with her. Gradually, they discover the reason for Joseph Wilmot’s disappearance & Margaret is determined to confront Henry Dunbar & accuse him of her father’s murder. Henry Dunbar proves very elusive, refusing to see Margaret & Clement becomes determined to discover the truth about the murder.

In some ways, Henry Dunbar is a murder mystery but not as we would consider it. The reader knows much more than any of the characters & the excitement is in seeing how they will gradually discover the truth. Even though I thought I knew what was happening, Braddon is clever enough to throw doubt on the reader’s conjectures so that, at times, I wasn’t sure if I’d read the clues correctly. It’s a very exciting story with a police inspector (employed privately by Clement Austin) leading the chase for the murderer on the railways & even onto the seas.

Braddon may have been unconventional in her plots but her heroines bear no comparison to Wilkie Collins’s complex women. Laura & Margaret are beautiful, good & pure. Margaret’s principles are such that she dismisses Clement when she discovers her father’s true past & it takes all his persistence to track her down. Nevertheless, this is a story with lots of action – I haven’t even mentioned the blackmailer & the diamonds –  & an exciting use of the modern marvel of the railways (it was published in 1864 but set principally in the 1840s). Braddon’s writing is very atmospheric & I loved her descriptions of Winchester & Maudesley Abbey. If you love sensation fiction, I’d recommend Henry Dunbar.

Cake, roses & Phoebe

I haven’t posted about a cake for a while but I quite often bake on Sunday & take something in for morning tea at work on Monday morning. This time, my freezer was full & I’d just bought extra frozen food (peas, spinach & raspberries) to take advantage of a special deal for frequent flyer points. So, I decided to do something with the raspberries as I couldn’t immediately think of a cake that needed peas or spinach. I found this recipe for a Raspberry Bakewell cake & it looks & smells lovely. Almonds are another favourite ingredient & there’s almond meal in the cake as well as the flaked almonds on top. The mixture was more like a shortbread dough than a cake batter. Half the mixture was patted down in the tin, then the frozen raspberries scattered on top then the rest of the mixture finishing with the almonds.

It’s early Spring here so I’ve also been preparing the veggie patch for summer planting & feeding the roses. The nursery where I bought the roses recommended feeding three times – Grand Final, Christmas & Valentine’s Day – which is easy to remember. Well, Saturday was Grand Final Day so I was out yesterday morning flinging around the blood & bone. There’s lots of growth already & dozens of buds so I’m looking forward to the blossoms.

And here’s Phoebe on her way out the back door. She wasn’t in the mood to pose so it’s the best shot I could get. Lucky was asleep under her blanket so there’s no photo of her at all. We’re all enjoying these early Spring days & we’ve had plenty of rain for the garden lately. It’s a lovely time of year.

Sunday Poetry – Virginia Graham

I’ve been reading Angela Thirkell’s Cheerfulness Breaks In which is set during WWII & it made me think about Virginia Graham’s collection of poetry published by Persephone some years ago. This poem, Final Gesture, brings to mind the indomitable middle & upper-class ladies of Thirkell’s novel. With Remembrance Day only a few weeks away, I have quite a few books about both World Wars lined up to read, so there may be more Home Front poetry to come.

No, dear, I will not eat in the scullery!
I will go down with my colours flying,
and the dining-room table shall be laid
with silver, bright and satisfying,
and glass and fruit and lemonade,.
Though I be denied butter and butcher-meat,
and though there is no coal in the grate,
I will eat what I am allowed to eat
in pre-war dignity and state.
Not until I absolutely must
will I huddle in one room with all my relations,
relegating my furniture to decay and dust
and other such dilapidations.
My house shall be wide open as the air,
till it actually crumbles about my head;
and I shall sit in my sitting-room in a chair,
and sleep in my bedroom in a bed.
I cannot see why I should make life harder,
or indeed how it helps our Cause at all,
to spend the night on a camp-bed in the larder
and write letters in the servants’ hall.
Till I am broke, which granted may be soon,
I will sometimes buy a gramophone record or a plant in a pot,
and I will not drink soup from a kitchen spoon,
no, really, dearest, I will not!

Kate’s Progress – Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Kate is fed up with life in London. She works in PR & shares a flat with two girlfriends but her love life is going nowhere. Her last two relationships have been disastrous & heartbreaking & she wants a change. When her grandmother decides to give her granddaughters their inheritance now so she can have the fun of seeing what they do with it, Kate is thrilled. She plans the Cinderella Project – putting her London life on hold for six months & buying a country cottage to renovate & sell.

Kate finds the perfect property in Bursford near Taunton where she’d spent holidays with her grandparents when she was at school. Little’s Cottage is rundown & neglected but the price is right & Kate has served as a willing helper to her builder father & thought she could do most of the work herself. She doesn’t realise that she’s stepped right into the middle of a family feud by buying the cottage which is part of the estate owned by the Blackmores. Ed & Jack Blackmore are working to keep the family estate going without much help from their flighty stepmother Camilla. Camilla has a life interest in the estate as their father has died & she sold the cottage to Kate to finance her shopping sprees. Ed is immediately hostile to Kate although charming playboy Jack is more willing to get to know her.

Kate enjoys getting to know the locals including her neighbours Kay & Darren & the locals at the pub. Jack is only too willing to take Kate out & distract her from her work but she finds herself drawn to silent, brooding Ed who works in London during the week & will do anything to keep the estate together. She also becomes friends with Jocasta, Ed & Jack’s much younger half-sister & becomes involved with Camilla’s circle of friends. London begins to seems very far away & as Kate becomes more involved with the Blackmores & the local community, she wonders if she really wants to sell the cottage when the renovations are finished.

Kate’s Progress is a charming novel with an attractive heroine, two potential heroes & an involving plot. Kate’s country idyll isn’t without a snake or two in the grass. One person at least isn’t happy to see her in the cottage & leaves anonymous messages to frighten her away. Then there’s Addison, a gorgeous American who seems very close to Ed & is obviously a part of his London life that he’s kept private. This is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Tudor – Leanda de Lisle

The Tudors are the most fascinating royal family in English history. They’ve been immortalised in fiction, movies, theatre & popular culture for centuries. Leanda de Lisle’s new book is a stunning retelling of this familiar story.

Rather than beginning at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, de Lisle takes us back to the real beginning of the Tudor story – the marriage of Welsh squire Owen Tudor to Katherine de Valois, the widow of Henry V. Katherine had no political power after Henry’s death but her marriage to a servant was still a scandal. Her son, Henry VI, was fond of his Tudor half-brothers, Edmund & Jasper & it was Edmund’s marriage to Margaret Beaufort that marks the beginning of the Tudor story in relation to the English crown. Margaret was a considerable heiress but more importantly, she was descended from the marriage of John of Gaunt, son of Edward III, to Katherine Swynford. The children of this liaison were given the name Beaufort & were legitimized by their half-brother, Henry IV, after their parents married. However, they were explicitly excluded from the succession, a point which was disputed throughout the 15th century & long afterwards.

Margaret Beaufort was only 12 when she married Edmund Tudor & he didn’t wait to consummate the marriage. He died of the plague soon after so, it was as a 13 year old widow that Margaret gave birth to her son, Henry. Henry spent much of his life in exile in France & Brittany as the Wars of the Roses were fought between the houses of Lancaster & York. Eventually, with the help & support of his mother, Henry defeated Richard III at Bosworth & took the throne as Henry VII. Henry’s marriage to Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV, reconciled the two warring factions & was symbolised in the union rose which combined the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York.

Henry’s reign was troubled by outbreaks of rebellion from Yorkists who were unhappy with his victory as well as the appearance of pretenders who claimed to be one of the Princes in the Tower. However, Henry consolidated his rule & by the time of his death in 1509, his son, Henry, peacefully ascended the throne. Henry VIII’s struggles to have a son are well-known. The political & religious turmoil of the Reformation had an impact on the lives of all three of his legitimate children who all reigned after him. Edward VI, king at the age of nine, was influenced by his advisors to create a Protestant England. Mary, determined to take England back to Catholicism & Elizabeth, the most successful of them all, who took a middle way.

Henry VIII’s determination to have a son was the result of the belief that a woman could not rule & it led to the break with Rome as he struggled to annul his marriage to Katherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn who had promised him a son. Katherine & Henry’s daughter, Mary, wasn’t considered a practical choice as heir. How could a woman rule? She would have to marry & then her husband would rule her & also the kingdom. It was only when Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife, gave birth to Edward that Henry believed he had truly provided for the future of England.

de Lisle tells this complicated story very well. I’ve read many books about this period so I was especially interested in the emphasis she gives to some of the forgotten women of the family. The 16th century was a time when women were not considered fit to rule yet most of the heirs to the throne at this time were women. Henry’s sister, Margaret, married James IV of Scotland & after his death at the battle of Flodden in 1513 she married the Earl of Angus & had a daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas. As Henry VIII’s niece, she had her own claim to the throne but she was the mother of Henry, Lord Darnley, who would marry Mary, Queen of Scots & combine their claims in their son, James. Margaret’s story is fascinating & de Lisle brings her out of the shadows to show just what a determined, intelligent woman she was.

Henry’s younger sister, Mary, first married Louis XII of France but the marriage was brief. She came away with some beautiful jewellery & was always known afterwards as the French Queen. Mary then married Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk & was the grandmother of Jane, Katherine & Mary Grey, who came to prominence when Edward VI named them as his heirs (overlooking his half-sisters because of religious differences) in his Devise for the Succession, written shortly before he died. Jane famously did become Queen for nine days but Mary was able to defeat the coup & did her best for the next five years to roll back the religious changes of her father’s & brother’s reigns. Mary’s failure to have a child meant that her success would always be limited as her heir was her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth.

Katherine & Mary Grey continued to be considered as potential heirs to the throne as Elizabeth refused to marry & her Council had to consider the claims of the Protestant Grey sisters against the possibly superior, but politically unpalatable claim of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. Perhaps fortunately, by the end of Elizabeth’s long reign, the only realistic option as heir was the Queen of Scots’ son, James VI. If Elizabeth had died of smallpox, as she very nearly did, in 1562, the rival claims of the Greys & Mary could have led to civil war with the added element of religious divisions.

In the Appendices to the book, de Lisle interestingly expands on some of the thorny questions brought up by the narrative. She explores the myths surrounding Jane Grey’s mother, Frances & her husband, Guildford as well as the fate of James IV’s body after Flodden, the quarrel between Henry VIII & his niece Lady Margaret Douglas & the life of Margaret Clifford, another granddaughter of Mary, the French Queen, & another possible heir to the throne. Tudor is full of interesting stories & de Lisle tells the story with great fluency & wit. She does an excellent job keeping the story intelligible which is not easy with a cast of thousands & several main characters with the same name. It’s a wonderful introduction to the Tudor story but there’s more than enough that was new to interest anyone who has read a lot about the period.

I read Tudor courtesy of NetGalley.

Sunday Poetry – Elizabeth I

I’ve just finished reading Leanda de Lisle’s excellent book Tudor. In it she quotes this poem by Elizabeth I (picture from here). It was written in the 1580s after the departure of the Duc d’Alencon, her Frog, as Elizabeth affectionately called him. d’Alencon was Elizabeth’s last serious suitor & the poem is full of regret & melancholy. Elizabeth was nearly 50 & knew that, even if she had married d’Alencon, she would be unlikely to have a child. The fantasy of the ever-youthful queen was fading fast.  de Lisle speculates that the poem is really about Elizabeth’s feelings for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the only man she really loved but was unable to marry. Maybe it shows Elizabeth looking back at the personal price she has paid as Queen &, for a moment, wondering if it was worth it.

I grieve and dare not show my discontent;
I love, and yet am forced to seem to hate;
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant;
I seem stark mute, but inwardly do prate.
      I am, and not; I freeze and yet am burned,
      Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun—
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands, and lies by me, doth what I have done;
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
      No means I find to rid him from my breast,
      Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft, and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, Love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low;
      Or let me live with some more sweet content,
      Or die, and so forget what love e’er meant.

Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle – Georgette Heyer

Sylvester, Duke of Salford has everything. Rank, wealth, good looks & pleasing manners. When he decides that it’s time he married, he has a shortlist of suitable candidates. He’s obviously not in love with any of these young women & doesn’t see love as a necessary prerequisite to marriage. Salford’s invalid mother worries that he has become arrogant & unfeeling. She had hoped that he might marry the daughter of her greatest friend, Verena Marlow. Verena died when her daughter, Phoebe, was only a few weeks old & she now lives with her father & his second family. Phoebe’s grandmother, Lady Ingham, had given Phoebe a Season in London but it wasn’t a great success. Salford’s heir is his nephew, Edmund, son of his twin brother, Harry, who died young & a flibbertigibbet called Ianthe. Sylvester & Ianthe loathe each other & another motive for his marriage would be to encourage Ianthe to leave Edmund in the care of him & his wife when she marries foppish Sir Nugent Fotherby.

Phoebe Marlow is an intelligent young woman living miserably at home with a cold, uncaring stepmother. Her greatest friend is Tom Orde, son of the local Squire & her greatest love & interest is horses. She has literary aspirations & has written a novel using her experiences during the Season. She modeled her villain, Ugolino, on Salford, after dancing with him once & then being ignored by him at another party. Without knowing any of his personal circumstances, she made Ugolino a wicked uncle who has usurped his brother’s place & kidnaps his nephew. The novel is about to be published anonymously with the help of Phoebe’s governess Miss Battery.

Salford decides to please his mother by meeting Phoebe (he has no memory of their previous meeting) & is invited to stay by Lord Marlow. Phoebe is horrified at the thought of Salford making her an offer & persuades Tom Orde to help her get to London to see her grandmother. Unfortunately, the weather is dreadful & their carriage overturns in the middle of nowhere. Salford, returning home after Phoebe’s flight, discovers the runaways at a country inn & helps them out of their predicament. Tom has broken his leg & Phoebe’s reputation needs saving so, after a week snowed in at the inn, he sends her on to London. Their growing friendship is almost derailed when Phoebe’s novel, The Lost Heir, is published & her authorship is soon revealed. Phoebe is horrified when she learns that she has unwittingly caused gossip as her book becomes the sensation of the season even while she is ostracised by the most respectable people. She had never expected silly Ianthe to take the novel as a true story, seeing herself as the heroine needing to save her son from the evil influence of his uncle. More than one misunderstanding has to be sorted out before we can get to the happy ending.

This is such a delightful book. It’s a breathless read with so much happening that I couldn’t bear to put it down. Phoebe is headstrong, thoughtless but also vulnerable. She’s grown up knowing that she’s of very little account in her family. Her father is ineffectual & her stepmother unfeeling. Only her half-sister Susan & Miss Battery, make her life bearable. Sylvester doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He has always been deferred to yet has a strong sense of duty. He loved his brother & was devastated when he died. He puts up with Ianthe & really loves young Edmund so he’s determined that he be brought up properly. Phoebe’s horror at the thought of marrying him takes him by surprise but their growing friendship & his growing love for Phoebe surprises him. The minor characters, from Tom Orde to lady Ingham & Salford’s servant, Keighley, are beautifully written. It’s been too long since I read a Georgette Heyer & I’m glad I have several more on the tbr shelves.

Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers – Alexander McCall Smith

A new Scotland Street novel is always a treat even though I race through them in a day & then have to wait a year for the next instalment.

Bertie’s seventh birthday is finally approaching & he’s very excited – if only his mother, Irene, didn’t insist that he invite as many girls as boys to his birthday party. He would also love a penknife as a special birthday present from his parents but he knows that he’ll receive something non-violent & gender neutral instead. Art gallery owner Matthew & his wife, Elspeth are still getting used to being the parents of triplets. They decide that their wonderful Danish au pair, Anna, needs an assistant au pair but their choice isn’t a complete success.

Angus Lordie, newly married to Domenica, has started sleepwalking & is encouraged by Domenica to see a psychiatrist. They also have a fascinating conversation about the order in which we think of the names of our married friends. Domenica feels that the order of the names is important & Angus is quite sure that everyone thinks of them as Domenica & Angus rather than the other way around. When their friend, Antonia, writes from her convent in Tuscany to invite herself to stay for a few weeks while she finishes writing her book on early Scottish saints, Domenica analyses every phrase of her letter in great detail. Antonia arrives accompanied by a nun from the convent, Sister Maria-Fiore, who has a talent for stating the obvious. The unfortunate affair of the blue Spode cup has not been forgotten by Antonia & causes some uncomfortable moments for Angus & Domenica.

Pat McGregor’s love life seems to be improving when she meets an attractive young cabinet maker but their first date at a local bar becomes an embarrassment when Pat’s father arrives accompanied by a very odd woman. Coffee shop owner Big Lou is always unlucky in love but decides that although her romantic relationships have been disastrous, she has a lot of room in her heart & in her life & becomes foster mother to young Finlay.

Irene Pollock wins a trip to a literary festival Dubai in a competition & Bertie & Stuart are eager for her to go. The trip doesn’t turn out quite as Irene expected although Bertie & his father, while concerned for Irene’s safety, settle down to enjoy their unexpected freedom.

As always, there are some very funny moments in this book as well as some poignant ones. McCall Smith’s gentle humour & sense of the absurd is ever present & it’s always a joy to catch up with the residents of Scotland Street.

Sunday Poetry – W H Auden

I’ve been reading the new Scotland Street novel by Alexander McCall Smith so a poem by Auden is appropriate today as Auden is one of McCall Smith’s favourite poets. McCall Smith has just published a book about Auden called What W H Auden can do for you which is part personal memoir & part literary appreciation. So, here is As I Walked Out One Evening.

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
‘Love has no ending.

‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

‘I’ll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

‘The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.’

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

‘In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

‘In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

‘Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver’s brilliant bow.

‘O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you’ve missed.

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

‘O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

‘O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.’

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

Just borrowed

Another lovely pile of books (and a DVD) that have just arrived at my library. I want to read all of them but I’m not sure how long it will take. Some of them may go back to the library a few times before I finally get to them.

Six Against the Yard is another of the wonderful Detection Club compilations that have been reprinted in recent years. This one features six authors – Margery Allingham, Dorothy L Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Croft & Russell Thorndike – who each attempt to create an unsolvable murder. A real life policeman, ex-Superintendent Cornish of the CID, attempts to work out what happened in each case. There’s also an essay by Agatha Christie about the unsolved Croydon mystery where several members of a family were poisoned with arsenic.

The Novel Cure : an A-Z of literary remedies by Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin – a book to dip in to as it has suggestions for what to read according to your mood. So, if you’re a Daddy’s girl, in need of a good cry, feeling tired & emotional, not taking enough risks or wishing you were a superhero, there’s a book for you.

Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by Alexander McCall Smith – the latest Scotland Street book. Lovely!

Dorothea’s War by Dorothea Crewdson – the WWI diary of a nurse edited by her nephew. I’m looking forward to reading this for my Remembrance reading in November.

Bosworth : the birth of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore – I listened to a fascinating podcast from BBC History Magazine about this book. Skidmore actually ends with the battle, beginning his story with the birth of Henry Tudor & his life in exile. After reading Thomas Penn’s excellent biography of Henry, The Winter King, I’m keen to read this. The account of the battle has also been informed by the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains & the evidence of his final moments & burial. The discovery happened just as the author was completing his first draft.

Worlds of Arthur : facts and fictions of the Dark Ages by Guy Halsall – I find Arthur endlessly fascinating. Did he exist? What’s the historical, archaeological & literary evidence? I’m always ready to read another theory.

Band of Angels : the forgotten world of early Christian women by Kate Cooper – I read a review of this book & was immediately interested as it’s a subject & a period I know very little about. There were several women who were important in the spread of Christianity in the early years of the 1st & 2nd centuries. They were subsequently written out of the story as the Church become dominated by men although they are still there in the Gospels & other historical documents.

Now for the DVD. I love the 2004 adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South & not just because of Richard Armitage. However, I didn’t know there’d been an earlier adaptation in the 1970s starring Patrick Stewart and Rosalind Shanks until I saw it listed as a forthcoming DVD release & naturally bought copies for my library. Doesn’t he look brooding? I can’t wait to watch this, does anyone remember it?