Book Blether: Book Suggestions

We had a super inaugural meeting, with many great suggestions for books to read.  A real mixture of themes, so something for everyone. Below is a synopsis of the suggestions.  We think there is enough interest for another meeting. We will keep you posted.

Hamnet (Maggie O’Farrell)

“Hamnet opens with some historical notes. A couple in Stratford had three children, twins Hamnet and Judith, and daughter Susanna. Hamnet, died in 1596, aged eleven (from Bubonic Plague) . Roughly four years later, his father writes the play Hamlet (a name that is interchangeable at the time with name Hamnet).

As the story unfolds, the book tells a fictionalized story of William Shakespeare and his wife Agnes and the death of their son Hamnet”.  (Source: The Bibliophile)

Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars (Francesca Wade)

“Mecklenburgh Square, on the radical fringes of interwar Bloomsbury, was home to activists, experimenters and revolutionaries; among them were the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf. They each alighted there seeking a space where they could live, love and, above all, work independently.

Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own”. (Source: Blackwells)

 The Redemption of Alexander Seaton (Shona MacLean)

“Is the young man merely drunk or does his tottering walk suggest something more sinister? When he collapses, vomiting, over the two whores who find him on that dark wet night, they guess rightly that he’s been murdered by poisoning. So begins this gripping tale set in the town of Banff, Scotland in the 1620s. The body of the victim, the apothecary’s nephew, is found in Alexander Seaton’s school house. Seaton is a school master by default, and a persona non-grata in the town – a disgraced would-be minister whose love affair with a local aristocrat’s daughter left him disgraced and deprived of his vocation. He has few friends, so when one of them is accused of the murder, he sets out to solve the crime, embarking on a journey that will uncover witchcraft, cruelty, prejudice and the darkness in men’s souls. It is also a personal quest that leads Alexander to the rediscovery of his faith in God as well as his belief in himself”.  (Source: Goodreads)

 Weather (Jenny Offhill)

“Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.

As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep tending your own garden once you’ve seen the flames beyond its walls”. (Source: BookBrowse)

The Memory Code (Lynne Kelly)

“In the past, the elders had encyclopaedic memories. They could name all the animals and plants across the landscape, and the stars in the sky too. Yet most of us struggle to memorise more than a short poem.

Using traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines as the key, Lynne Kelly has identified the powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world. She has discovered that this ancient memory technique is the secret behind the great stone monuments like Stonehenge, which have for so long puzzled archaeologists.

The stone circles across Britain and northern Europe, the elaborate stone houses of New Mexico, the huge animal shapes at Nasca in Peru, and the statues of Easter Island all serve as the most effective memory system ever invented by humans. They allowed people in non-literate cultures to memorise the vast amounts of practical information they needed to survive.

In her fascinating book The Memory Code, Lynne Kelly shows us how we can use this ancient technique to train our memories today”.  (Source: Science Book a Day)

 Travels With A Donkey In The Cevennes (Robert Louis Stevenson)

“Recovering on the French Riviera from a respiratory ailment, Stevenson spent 12 days walking 120 miles from the town of Le Monastier to Saint-Jean-du-Gard in the Cévennes mountain range, accompanied only by his donkey, Modestine. A classic of travel literature, Travels gives a humorous account of Modestine’s idiosyncrasies and the mutual adjustments of author and donkey. The account is enlivened by Stevenson’s fresh, vivid descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants, his detailed record of his travel preparations, and his depiction of his visit to a Trappist monastery”. (Source: Brittanica)

 Queen Victoria (Lucy Worsley)

“The irrepressible Lucy Worsley takes a novel approach to her biography of Queen Victoria, analysing twenty four days in the monarch’s life to build a picture of the different facets to her personality. Worsley is, as ever, a thoroughly engaging narrator with an uncanny ability to bring the past to life and this book will redefine how we view this most iconic of sovereigns”. (Source: Waterstones)

Gladstone’s Land ( The National Trust for Scotland, 1983)

Sorry but unable to find details. A copy is for sale on eBay but no description as such, other than 23 pages long.  If we can find out more information we will share it.

The Language of the Landscape (Angus Winchester)

At the age of five Angus Winchester moved with his family to Cockermouth in the north of the Lake District, close to Buttermere, Loweswater and Crummock Water.

So began a life-long love of a Lakeland valley and a fascination for the history which shaped it. The Language of the Landscape combines these two in a passionate and scholarly examination of the effect of place on our lives and imagination.  (Source: Cumbria Books)

The Debatable Land (Graham Robb)

“The Debatable Land was an independent territory which used to exist between Scotland and England. At the height of its notoriety, it was the bloodiest region in Great Britain, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James V. After the Union of the Crowns, most of its population was slaughtered or deported and it became the last part of the country to be brought under the control of the state. Today, its history has been forgotten or ignored.

When Graham Robb moved to a lonely house on the very edge of England, he discovered that the river which almost surrounded his new home had once marked the Debatable Land’s southern boundary. Under the powerful spell of curiosity, Robb began a journey – on foot, by bicycle and into the past – that would uncover lost towns and roads, reveal the truth about this maligned patch of land and result in more than one discovery of major historical significance”.  (Source: Pan MacMillan)


Landmarks (Robert Macfarlane)

“Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather.

Travelling from Cumbria to the Cairngorms, and exploring the landscapes of Roger Deakin, J. A. Baker, Nan Shepherd and others, Robert Macfarlane shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it”. (Source: Penguin Books)

The Steel Bonnets: The Story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Reivers (George MacDonald Fraser)

“In The Steel Bonnets, George MacDonald Fraser, author of the bestselling Flashman novels and himself a borderer, takes us back through three centuries of conflict, telling the fascinating and bloody story of the reivers. He relates their rise to power as ferocious soldiers on horseback, their important roles in the battles at Flodden and Solway Moss, and their surprisingly sudden fall from grace. The Steel Bonnets is a superb work of serious history and scholarship that is as irresistibly compelling as any novel”.  (Source: Simon & Schuster)

Author Recommendation:

CJ Sansom (Edinburgh Born)

“Sansom came to prominence with the Shardlake series, his historical mystery series set in the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th century. The series’ main character is the hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, who is assisted in his adventures by Mark Poer, then Jack Barak and also Nicholas Overton. Shardlake works on commission initially from Thomas Cromwell in Dissolution and Dark Fire, then Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in Sovereign and Revelation, Queen Catherine Parr in Heartstone and Lamentation and finally Princess Elizabeth in Tombland. Dark Fire won the 2005 Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger”. (Source: Wikipedia)

Colin Foreman (Scottish Writer)

Keepers and Seekers Series – there are five books.  They are aimed at older children, but don’t let that put you off.  If you like a mix of history, folklore and modern day scenarios you will likely enjoy allowing your imagination to run free.  The tales move between past and present and are set in Scotland and England.  The story contains battles, Vikings, explosions and magic.

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