The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley

Mystery of Princess Louise

Vintage Books | 2014 | 416 pages | Paperback | library book | 4.5*

This is another catching up post. I finished reading The Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawksley during lockdown on 21 April, but didn’t feel like reviewing it that time. It’s a library book and as the library is still closed it has been renewed automatically for me.

Princess Louise was Victoria’s sixth child – her fourth daughter, born on 18th March 1848. It was an agonising and terrifying birth in a year of revolution and rebellion, a time when royal families throughout Europe were being deposed and in Britain the working classes were agitating for higher pay, better working conditions and more legal rights.

There is so much detail about her life in this book, packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets.

Blurb:

What was so dangerous about Queen Victoria’s artistic tempestuous sixth child, Princess Louise?

When Lucinda Hawksley started to investigate, often thwarted by inexplicable secrecy, she discovered a fascinating woman, modern before her time, whose story has been shielded from public view for years.

Louise was a sculptor and painter, friend to the Pre-Raphaelites and a keen member of the Aesthetic movement. The most feisty of the Victorian princesses, she kicked against her mother’s controlling nature and remained fiercely loyal to her brothers – especially the sickly Leopold and the much-maligned Bertie. She sought out other unconventional women, including Josephine Butler and George Eliot, and campaigned for education and health reform and for the rights of women. She battled with her indomitable mother for permission to practice the ‘masculine’ art of sculpture and go to art college – and in doing so became the first British princess to attend a public school.

The rumours of Louise’s colourful love life persist even today, with hints of love affairs dating as far back as her teenage years, and notable scandals included entanglements with her sculpting tutor Joseph Edgar Boehm and possibly even her sister Princess Beatrice’s handsome husband, Liko. True to rebellious form, she refused all royal suitors and became the first member of the royal family to marry a commoner since the sixteenth century.

My thoughts:

I knew nothing about Princess Louise. She had a difficult childhood, disliked and bullied by her mother and she often rebelled against the restrictions of life as a princess. She had an unhappy marriage to John Campbell, the Marquess of Lorne, later the 9th Duke of Argyll, a homosexual, and went with him to Canada in 1882 when he was appointed as Governor-General. Her relationship with Canada became a love-hate one, but began and ended with Canadian adoration.

The scandals arose about whether she had had an illegitimate child and her long term love affair with the sculptor Joseph Boehm. The mystery is still unresolved as Louise’s files in the Royal Archives are closed and her husband’s family archives are inaccessible.

Lucinda Hawksley writes:

I discovered that it was not only information about Princess Louise that had been hidden away, but information about a vast number of people who had played a role in her life, including royal servants and her art tutors. A great many items about these people that one would expect to be in other collections have been absorbed into the Royal Collection. … Over the decades, there has been some very careful sanitising of Princess Louise’s reputation and a whitewashing of her life, her achievements and her personality. (page 3)

I was amazed at her achievements, not only her artistic ability in both painting and sculpture, but also her charitable activities, raising money for hospitals, schools and other causes, such as the Gentlewomen’s Employment Association. She supported general suffrage and equal rights for both genders. She was fascinated by the social reformer Josephine Butler, who campaigned for the abolition of slavery, fed the homeless and worked with prostitutes and single mothers. Louise wanted to help Josephine in her campaign to reform the Contagious Diseases Act but Victoria and most of the rest of her family were outraged and she was forced not to take part. Louise was unconventional, generous and charming to people she liked.

It’s not a book to read quickly, as despite the lack of records, it is very detailed. There is an index and a bibliography, as well as several photographs. In this post I have simply skimmed the surface of all the stories about her, many of them simply amazing. I came away with the impression that she was ahead of her times. She was a forceful personality:

She was renowned by the public for her good looks, her unusual artistic dress sense and her sense of humour. Most importantly, Louise was also known for her compassion and her many ‘good works’. … She was regularly described as ‘captivating’, ‘charming’ and ‘clever’. people felt able to approach her, members of the public wrote letters to her, or begged for her help with charitable of political causes. … she spoke openly and controversially about subjects that other people shrank from and she was not above criticising the monarch. (page 11)

Louise died in 1939 at her home in Kensington Palace. Her last rebellious action was to leave instructions for her cremation – it was a very divisive issue, many were firmly against the idea. Her wishes were respected and a private cremation was carried out and the urn containing her ashes was transported to the Albert Memorial Chapel in Windsor, where her funeral was held. The next day they were interred in the Royal Burial Ground behind the family mausoleum at Frogmore in the Windsor Home Park. She had no legitimate children and the boy that it was claimed she had given up for adoption died in 1907. So it seems unlikely that the truth will ever be known unless the records are released.

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

Judith at Reader in the Wilderness hosts this meme – Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times. In this strange and difficult time of self isolation and sickness it is a real treat to get away from the non-stop bad news about coronovirus and to do other things – I think I’m going to write a separate post about what I’ve been doing to keep myself occupied. One of the things is, of course, is reading. Actually I haven’t been reading any more than usual, oddly enough, as the situation has affected my concentration levels and I have been doing other things too. 

I am enjoying this meme, looking round my actual bookshelves and re-discovering books I’ve read or am looking forward to reading. The idea is to share your bookshelves with other bloggers. Any aspect you like:

1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.

Whatever you fancy as long as you have fun basically.

Friday Meme 3 April 2020

This week’s photo shows part of one of my book shelves that contains a mix of fiction and nonfiction books, shelved together for no reason other than they are almost all hardback books of a similar height!

You can see the whole shelf on my current header photo.

Thomas Hardy: the Time-Torn Man by Claire Tomalin. This is a biography that I began reading in 2007 and stopped when I had reached 1867 (Hardy was born in 1840) because I decided that it would be better if I had read his earlier books before reading about how he had written them. I’m sorry to say that even though I have read more of Hardy’s novels I still haven’t got back to this biography.

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirstie Wark is a novel that I read and enjoyed very much. It’s a story centred on the lives of two women – Elizabeth Pringle and Martha Morrison. Elizabeth has lived all her life on the Isle of Arran and knowing that she is dying and has no living relatives, leaves her house, Holmlea in Lamlash, to Anna Morrison, a woman she had seen years before, pushing her daughter’s pram down the road outside. It’s about family, relationships, especially mother/daughter/sister relationships, about happiness, love and heartbreak, old age, memories and the contrast between life in the early part of the twentieth century and the present.

The Children of Hurin by J R R Tolkien, edited by his son Christopher Tolkien. This is another book that I started and haven’t finished. During the First World War and before Tolkien wrote the tales that became the narrative of  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings he began writing a collection of stories he called The Book of Lost Tales. These are the tales of Middle-earth from times long before The Lord of the RingsI first read The Lord of the Rings years ago when I was at college,  and have since re-read it a few times along with The Hobbit, so this book is one I really want to read soon – my problem is that there are so many books I want to read and time is precious.

Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran, subtitled Fifty Years of Mysteries in the Making. This is a fascinating book, exploring the contents of Agatha Christie’s 73 handwritten notebooks about her plots, titles and characters and two unpublished Poirot stories. The notebooks were found  at her home, Greenways, in a locked room, a long narrow room containing shelves and cupboards full of her printed books plus typescripts and manuscripts, letters and contracts, posters, playbills, photos and dust-jackets, scrapbooks and diaries.

And finally two of my husband’s books – The Second World War and Berlin: The Downfall 1945, both by Anthony Beevor. He has read both and recommends them highly. I’m not sure what to say about them, except they each weight a ton –  two enormous tomes! Fortunately I have both books on my Kindle as well as the hardbacks on the shelf, so you never know, one day I may get round to reading them.

WWW Wednesday: 1 April 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:

Mystery of Princess LouiseThe Mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter by Lucinda Hawkesley. I’m finding this a fascinating biography of Louise, Victoria’s unconventional daughter. She was a sculptor and painter, who mixed with the artists of her day much to her mother’s dislike and was involved in many campaigns for reform in education and health. It’s packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets. I’ve read about two thirds of this book I borrowed from the library.

Mirror and LightThe Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel, the final book in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy about the boy from Putney who climbed his way up to become Lord Cromwell, Secretary to King Henry VIII. I loved the first two books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, so it was an easy decision to buy the third book in hardback to complete the set. It is heavy, weighing in at 2lbs 13ozs with almost 900 pages and so I’m reading it very slowly. Just like the other two books I think it’s beautifully written, full of colour and detail. Reading it I feel as if I’m there back in 1536.

Fresh water for flowers

Recently Finished: Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle. This is a complex novel, multi layered and centred on Violette, a cemetery keeper, switching between different people at different times in their lives.  I’ll write more about later on nearer its publication date in the summer.

Reading Next: This is where it gets difficult as there are so many I want to read. But it will probably be The Dutch House by Ann Patchett and  Queen Lucia by E F Benson, a book first published in 1920 for The 1920 Club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings is taking place between 13th and 19th April 2020. The idea is that you read a book published in that year and share your thoughts/review with other participants.

But then it could easily be one of these books I’ve mentioned in recent posts:

What do you think – which one would you read next?

Latest e-book additions at BooksPlease

We’re in self isolation right now and one of the things I’m hoping to do is to spend more time than usual reading. And one of the best things about reading e-books is that you don’t have to go out of the house or meet anyone to get them. 

The Overstory by Richard Powers – this was my Mother’s Day present from my son.

An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crewmember in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan.

This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.

The Feather Thief : Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson – I’ve been watching Chris Packham’s daily live broadcasts and this is one of the books that he recommended.

One summer evening in 2009, twenty-year-old musical prodigy Edwin Rist broke into the Natural History Museum at Tring, home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world. Once inside, Rist grabbed as many rare bird specimens as he was able to carry before escaping into the darkness.

Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist-deep in a river in New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide first told him about the heist. But what would possess a person to steal dead birds? And had Rist paid for his crime? In search of answers, Johnson embarked upon a worldwide investigation, leading him into the fiercely secretive underground community obsessed with the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying.

Was Edwin Rist a genius or narcissist? Mastermind or pawn?

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett – Longlisted for the Women’s Prize 2020. I’d reserved this at the library, but as it’s now closed I decided to buy the e-book!

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives. The siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother’s: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.

Told with Ann Patchett’s inimitable blend of humour, rage and heartbreak, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale and story of a paradise lost; of the powerful bonds of place and time that magnetize and repel us for our whole lives.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring 2020 TBR

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

This week’s topic is Books On My Spring 2020 TBR. Some of these books have been on my shelves unread for a long time, some are new additions and others are e-books from NetGalley. These are just the tip of the iceberg and when the time comes to start a new book it might be one of these – or any of the other TBRs on shelves.

First the physical books

Spring 20 tbr

Deadheads by Reginald Hill, the 7th Dalziel and Pascoe novel. Patrick Alderman’s Great Aunt Florence collapsed into her rose bed leaving him Rosemont House with its splendid gardens. But was it murder?

Edwin: High King of Britain by Edoardo Albert, book 1 of 3 in the Northumbrian Thrones series. Historical fiction set in the 7th century-  Edwin, the deposed king of Northumbria, seeks refuge at the court of King Raedwald of East Anglia. But Raedwald is urged to kill his guest by Aethelfrith, Edwin’s usurper.

Sirens by Joseph Knox, the first Detective Aidan Waits thriller, set in Manchester. I’ve read books two and three, so it’s about time I read the first. It’s described on the back cover as a powerhouse of noir by Val McDermid.

The next two books are historical nonfiction:

As I’m currently reading Hilary Mantel’s third book in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, it reminded me that I haven’t read historian, Tracy Borman’s biography of him – Thomas Cromwell: the untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant.

Peterloo: the English Uprising by Robert Poole, about the ‘Peterloo massacre’ in St Peter’s field, Manchester on 16th August 1819 when armed cavalry attacked a peaceful rally of some 50,000 pro-democracy reformers. This is described on the back cover as a landmark event in the development of democracy in Britain – the bloodiest political event of the nineteenth century on English soil.

Next e-books

The Last Protector by Andrew Taylor, book 4 in his James Marwood & Cat Lovett series, historical crime fiction set in Restoration England. I loved the first three books, so I have high hopes that I’ll love this one too. It will be published on 2 April.

The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford, historical fiction, a love story that crosses oceans and decades. It’s set on a Scottish island in 1927 and in worn-torn France in 1940.

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin and translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle, to be published in June. A funny, moving, intimately told story of Violette, the caretaker of a cemetery who believes obstinately in happiness.

The Measure of Malice: Scientific Detection Stories edited by Martin Edwards. A collection of classic mystery stories using scientific methods of detection.

The Deep by Alma Katsu, historical fiction set on the Titanic and its sister ship The Britannic. It’s a sinister tale of the occult. Anna Hebbley was a passenger on the Titanic who survived the 1912 disaster and four years later was a nurse on the Britannic, refitted as a hospital ship.

Writing Wild by Kathryn Aalto

Writing Wild

3.5*

‘An exciting, expert, and invaluable group portrait of seminal women writers enriching a genre crucial to our future.’ —Booklist

Blurb:

In Writing Wild, Kathryn Aalto celebrates 25 women, both historical and current, whose influential writing helps deepen our connection to and understanding of the natural world. These inspiring wordsmiths are scholars, spiritual seekers, conservationists, scientists, novelists, and explorers. They defy easy categorization, yet they all share a bold authenticity that makes their work both distinct and universal.

Part travel essay, literary biography, and cultural history, Writing Wild ventures into the landscapes and lives of extraordinary writers and encourages a new generation of women to pick up their pens, head outdoors, and start writing wild.

My thoughts:

Writing Wild: Women Poets, Ramblers and Mavericks Who Shape How We See The Natural World is by Kathryn Aalto and illustrated by Gisela Goppel. Published by Timber Press it will be released in paperback on 1 April, with a Kindle edition to follow on 14 April 2020.

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I do enjoy reading books about nature, so Writing Wild appealed to me. Kathryn Aalto’s reason for writing her book was to highlight what these 25 women writers have written, their historical significance and the barriers, biases and bullying they overcame to write. It covers two hundred years of women’s history through nature writing, including natural history, environmental philosophy, country life, scientific writing, garden arts, memoirs and meditations and does not aim to dismiss men’s contributions. Gisela Goppel’s portraits of each writer head each chapter. Aalto writes an introduction to each writer and includes excerpts of prose, poems and essays with added recommendations for further reading, plus a list of sources and an index.

Predominantly American and British, some of these women writers are familiar to me, such as Dorothy Wordsworth, Vita Sackville West, Nan Shepherd, Rachel Carson, Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard and Helen Macdonald. Others are new to me, but I would like to read several of their works, such as Andrea Wulf’s book The  Brother Gardeners in which  she explores how England became a nation of gardeners. Wulf, a design historian, writes horticultural and historical history through narrative nonfiction, borrowing techniques from fiction to make nonfiction come alive. Elena Passarello’s Animals Strike Curious Poses essay collection, which Aalto describes as written with  laugh-out-loud humour and depth of empathy, also particularly appeals to me.

One of the things I learned reading this book is the name ‘Cli-fi’. I hadn’t come across it before but of course, it is not a new genre. As Aalto points out it goes back at least to Jules Verne’s 1889 The Purchase of the North Pole. Contemporary examples including Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour. The writer she chooses to illustrate this genre is Saci Lloyd, an acclaimed writer of cli-fi, whose vivid and action packed books include The Carbon Diaries, about the effects of carbon reduction policies. They are gritty eco-thrillers featuring Laura Brown a 16 year old trying to manage life with a carbon deficit card.

Kathryn Aalto is a writer, designer, historian and lecturer. For the past twenty-five years, her focus has been on places where nature and culture intersect: teaching literature of nature and place, designing gardens, and writing about the natural world. Her work explores historic and horticultural themes with a contemporary twist. She is the author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood (2015) and Nature and Human Intervention (2011). Her website is kathrynaalto.com.

My thanks to Timber Press for a review copy via NetGalley.

Library Loans 27 February 2020

The mobile library van visit was this week and I borrowed these books:

Library bks Feb 2020

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley, subtitled Queen Victoria’s Rebellious Daughter. On the back cover it says that this is ‘packed with intrigues, scandals and secrets’. I know very little about Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s sixth child, so I’m keen to find out about her. From the opening page I’ve already found out she was a friend to artists, such as Dante Rossetti, James Whistler and John Millais and that she was a sculptor.

Caught Out in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho. I’ve read two of her books before. This is the seventh book in her Rose Trevelyan series of mysteries, in which she sees four year old Beth Jones being carried away from the beach at Marazion by someone she assumes is her father. But her mother insists he is a stranger.

A Body in the Bath House by Lindsey Davis the 13th book in her Marcus Didio Falco series of historical crime fiction mysteries. It’s set in Rome and Britain in AD 75. Falco is Britain and he hates it. A thousand miles from home he realises someone with murderous intentions is after him.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. A while ago I kept seeing reviews of this book and wondered about reading it, so when I saw it on the library van shelves I decided to see what it’s like for myself. It’s a murder mystery set in a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish wilderness where old friends gather for New Year. The description makes me wonder if it is like In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware about a group of friends who spend a weekend in a remote cottage and everything goes wrong. I’m not sure I’ll like it …

I think I’ll start with The Mystery of Princess Louise – a friend borrowed it before me and said it’s very good, but first I’ll have to finish The Sleepwalker by Joseph Knox, his latest instalment in the Detective Aidan Waits series.

Happy Old Me by Hunter Davies

Happy Old Me

Simon & Schuster UK (21 Mar. 2019) | Hardback |291 pages |  4*

Blurb:

On 8th February 2016,Margaret Forster lost her life to cancer of the spine. The days that followed for her husband, Hunter Davies, were carried out on autopilot: arrangements to be made, family and friends to be contacted. But how do you cope after you have lost your loved one? How do you carry on?

As Hunter navigates what it means to be alone again after 55 years of marriage, coping with bereavement and being elderly (he still doesn’t believe he is), he shares his wisdom and lessons he has learnt living alone again. Revealing his emotional journey over the course of one year, as well as the often ignored practical implications of becoming widowed, he learns that, ultimately, bricks and mortar may change but the memories will remain. 

Part memoir, part self-help, Happy Old Me is a fitting, heart-felt tribute to the love of his life and a surprisingly amusing and informative book about an age, and stage in life, which we might all reach someday. The third book in Hunter Davies’ much-loved memoir series, which includes The Co-Op’s Got Bananas and A Life in the Day. 

Hunter Davies wrote Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It in 2018 when he was in his eighty-second year. After fifty-five years of marriage he found he suddenly had to cope with living on his own, doing all the ‘domestic stuff he had never bothered to learn’ and get to grips with being old.

It tells of what he did during his first year after Margaret Forster, his wife died and also looks back at their time together and their family and careers. It is so readable, it’s like listening to him talking. I’ve read several of Margaret Forster’s books so it was good to ‘see’ her from his perspective.

I knew less about Hunter Davies, other than that he’s a journalist and has written several books on a variety of subjects. I’m reading The John Lennon Letters, that Davies edited  and my husband is reading his biography of Alfred Wainwright (I’ll read it later) and we have a copy of his book, A Walk Along the Wall, about Hadrian’s Wall (I’ll be reading that later too). Other books by him that interest me are his biographies of the Beatles and of William Wordsworth and also Lakeland: A Personal Journey. 

Amazon tells me that ‘Hunter Davies was at the heart of London culture in the Swinging Sixties, becoming close friends with The Beatles, and especially Sir Paul McCartney. He has been writing bestselling books, as well as widely read columns for over fifty years for major newspapers and magazines.’

In Happy Old Me he writes openly and frankly, with a sense of humour and a zest for life. I really enjoyed it.

Happy Old Me Contents

When was I happiest? People often get asked that, or ask themselves, especially when they get into their eighties, as if all happiness must be in the past, gone for ever. I always say now. And I mean it. I am happy. I am happy to have had my past and I am happy looking forward to tomorrow. (page 267)

WWW Wednesday: 12 February 2020

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

A killing kindnessSaving MisseyCurrently reading: I’m reading A Killing Kindness, a murder mystery, the 6th Dalziel and Pascoe book by Reginald Hill and enjoying it very much.  I’m also reading Saving Missy by Beth Morrey, which I’m also enjoying. It’s a feel good story and very different from A Killing Kindness. Missy Carmichael’s life has become small. Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Happy Old Me

Recently Finished: Happy Old Me: How to Live a Long Life and Really Enjoy It by Hunter Davies. This is an account of one year in his life after his wife, Margaret Forster died – poignant, moving and very interesting. I’ll write more about later on.

Reading Next: This is a movable feast, as I rarely decide until the time comes.

It could be The Year Without Summer by  Guinevere Glasfurd. 

Year without summer

Blurb:

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise, the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and their livestock starve.

In Suffolk, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from the Napoleonic wars, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost. As desperation sets in, Britain becomes beset by riots – rebellion is in the air.

The Year Without Summer is the story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and the lives lost during that fateful year. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

Or it could be one of my TBRs – I simply don’t know yet.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

Six Degrees of Separation: from Fleishman is in Trouble to …

I love doing Six Degrees of Separation, a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Fleishman

This month the chain begins with Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner,  a novel described as ‘a blistering satirical novel about Marriage, Divorce and Modern relationships‘. It’s a book that so many people declare is incredibly wise, a powerful feminist book, with depth, wit, nuance and life, shrewdly observed and and utterly of this moment. It is a book I have not read and also one that I doubt I will read.

Where to go from there? I had trouble deciding!

In the end I decided to go with the word ‘trouble‘ and that made me think of Bill Bryson’s book Troublesome Words, a book about the use of words, which is probably as far removed from Fleishman is in Trouble that you could get. It’s arranged like a dictionary, so a book to dip into rather than one to read straight through. For example if you want to know the difference between ‘that’ and ‘which’ this is the book to go to. And how about starting a sentence with the word ‘and’?  I was taught at school that you should never do that, not so says Bryson.

From Troublesome Words my mind jumped to The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz, as a sentence is made up of words. Rosemary, the wife of wealthy George Barton dies suddenly at her birthday party at a West End Restaurant, the Luxembourg, after drinking a glass of champagne laced with cyanide.

And so onto Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. Rosemary, the wife of wealthy George Barton dies suddenly at her birthday party at a West End Restaurant, the Luxembourg, after drinking a glass of champagne laced with cyanide.

A birthday party features in Nicola Upson’s Fear in the Sunlight, the fourth novel featuring Josephine Tey. Summer, 1936. The writer, Josephine Tey, joins her friends in the holiday village of Portmeirion in Wales to celebrate her fortieth birthday. Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville, are there to sign a deal to film Josephine Tey’s novel, A Shilling for Candles.

So, my next link is to another book set in Wales, but in the Brecon Beacons not the coast. It’s Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas. It also links back to Fleishman is in Trouble in that it’s about the trouble caused when Selena, Kirsty’s cousin, arrives at their new guesthouse and murder follows.

Finally, another troublesome character called Selena appears in Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. She was a spy whose mission failed – a story of deception, about writers and writing and readers and reading, with multiple stories within stories.

My chain begins and ends with a book about trouble, linked by a book about troublesome words, and murder mysteries involving the use of cyanide, birthday parties, books set in Wales and books with even more troublesome characters – a real mixed bag of connections.

Next month (7 March 2020), we’ll begin with Lucy Treloar’s Wolfe Island, a book that I know nothing about. (Bryson says it’s OK to end  sentence with a preposition).