The Sunday Salon – In the Crimea and Elsewhere

Last Sunday found me in Ancient Egypt. Today I’ve been flitting between the Crimea, London and Italy with the Victorians whilst reading The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon. I’m about half-way through this historical romance that switches from place to place and backwards and forwards between1844, 1854 and 1855 making me wondering where and when I am. Apart from that it’s a good read about the Crimean War as seen through the eyes of Mariella Lingwood. Her fiance, Henry is a surgeon who volunteered his services at the battlefields and her cousin Rosa, determined to be a nurse has also gone to the Crimea. There’s a good deal of interesting and somewhat gruesome descriptions of the medical practices and, surprisingly to me at any rate, criticism (so far) of Florence Nightingale. It was the connection with Florence that interested me when I saw this book in the bookshop so I hope she gets more involved in the story in the second half of the book. There’s a list of books about Florence Nightingale in the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book – maybe I’ll look these up later. It’s also interesting to read of the amazement that horses were shipped to the Black Sea by sail instead of steam and the dismay that supplies hadn’t reached the British troops and that proper medical arrangements hadn’t been made. Not only were they suffering from neglected battle wounds they were dying from cholera.

Yesterday I wrote that there is an autumn feel in the air, and then the sun came out here. It was really hot, but today it’s a lot cooler and pouring with rain. This morning I watched Countryfile, which featured Bekonscot Model Village, which we visited at the end of June. It was a bit chilly that day too. I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. In the meantime you can check it out here.

I’ve still to write about Down To a Sunless Sea by Mathias B Freese, which he kindly sent to me a while ago. I’ve started to write a post about it so maybe I’ll finish that this week. It’s a collection of fifteen short stories, well character studies, described as “dark, offbeat stories about life”, about “the darkest struggles of life”. Serious stuff, indeed.

On a lighter note, a short while ago I received Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge by Gladys Taber and Barbara Webster from Nan at Letters From a Hillfarm as a result of a draw she held. Thank you, Nan. This looks a lovely book composed of letters between Gladys and Barbara about life in the country, illustrated by Edward Shenton. I’ve dipped into this and liked this short extract showing that life in the country is far from boring:

For one thing you can’t sit down long enough. Things happen. Pipes burst, well goes dry, heaters go off, dogs get sick, mice arrive in the back kitchen. Japanese beetles swarm on the special roses. Company drives up; in the end, all the world comes to the country for weekends. And you hope there’s time to do the laundry before the next batch comes round the mailbox corner.

I’m looking forward to receiving an Early Reviewer’s copy of Tangled Roots by Sue Guiney from LibraryThing, described as the story of an ageing mother and her adult son, carrying us from Boston to London to Moscow and back again. “Through physics, religion, travel and even baseball, they express the often unknown, yet undeniable, influences one life will have on another.”

newbooks magazine arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’m still deciding which free book (you only pay for postage) to choose from this latest edition. It’s either:

  • Life Class by Pat Barker -set in World War I, Slade School of Art and the Belgian Red Cross.
  • The Outcast by Sadie Jones – life in an English village after World War II and its effect on Lewis.
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill – Baby is 12, whose survival depends on her gift for spinning stories.
  • Boy A by Jonathan Trigell – can Jack connect with new friends while hiding a monstrous secret?
  • The Septembers of Shiraz by Delia Sofar – in the aftermath of the Iranian revolution a rar-gem dealer is arrested and falsely accused of being a spy.

I’m torn between Life Class, The Outcast and The Septembers of Shiraz, but leaning towards Life Class at the moment.

newbooks includes extracts from each book, other features and interviews with authors.The “Big Interview” in this issue is with Susan Hill, a favourite author who has published over thirty five books – I’ve only read a few and am particularly fond of the Serrailler series, which began as a trilogy and now there is a fourth, The Vows of Silence, which I must read. She’s already writing the fifth, while the sixth and seventh are planned!