Posts Tagged ‘England’

Land and Sea

Saturday, 29 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

Cover of The Sea Kingdoms

13. The Sea Kingdoms: The History of Celtic Britain and Ireland by Alistair Moffat

This book was published after the author produced and presented a television series of the same name for Scottish Television, and many of its flaws and virtues reflect that beginning. I haven’t seen the series (although I might be interested). Roughly country by country the book goes through a broad Celtic history of the British Isles, including Scotland, Ireland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and even England. It does not give any focus to Brittany, despite the early assertion that Celticness should be defined by language rather than race or other criteria.

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider...

The Celtic League and Celtic Congress consider Cornwall to be one of six Celtic nations.

While the editing missed a few things (one chapter in particular has an undue number of proofreading and other errors, and far too much emphasis is laid on mna si being an alternate phrase for bean si, or banshee, when any Irish child should have been able to point out that mná (women) is simply the plural in Irish for bean (woman), and thus mná sí would actually be banshees) the broad strokes of the history seemed correct where I knew enough to comment. My real quibble is with the chronology, which skips around a lot, even within given chapters, often making the point in question less clear. Similarly, a point made in one chapter sometimes appears to be contradicted in another.

Still, allowing for this not being a ‘scholarly’ history, I think it’s well worth the read, for bringing Celtic past and present together, as a true cultural heritage and largely ignoring (or at least downplaying) the tourist tat. It also makes a good argument in bringing forward the sea links that were so important in the early parts of this history (which includes some decent discussion of the Viking influence on the Celtic lands, and a return Celtic influence on Scandinavia) when land travel was often more difficult and nearly always slower.

I enjoyed this a lot, and may well follow up on the bibliography, if I can find the books. (I randomly came across this in a second-hand bookshop in Jerusalem.)

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Past and present

Saturday, 22 January 2011

NaBloPoMo Jan2011I thought I might have a new book for the reading list and to discuss here already, but I haven’t quite finished it, so here’s another catch-up from 2010. Far less frustrating than that current novel, which I’m literally only reading the second half off to discuss here!

Cover of Frogspawn and Floor Polish

Cover of Frogspawn and Floor Polish

62. Frogspawn and Floor Polish by Mary Mackie

I assumed I must have discussed this book here before, but apparently I actually hadn’t reread it in the past three years. It’s part of a trilogy discussing the author’s experiences living at Felbrigg Hall, a National Trust property her husband Chris Mackie was working at and then managing.

Like the others it is both informative and amusing, with a few laugh-out-loud moments. As a former long-term National Trust member, it’s decidedly interesting to find out more of the behind-the-scenes action, and the lives still lived at these properties we mostly only see as day visitors, trying to get a taste of what went on there in the past.

Despite all my intentions I never did get out to Felbrigg itself, not having any other reason to go in that direction, but I much enjoyed the NT sites in and around London, and previously York, when I was living there. If we lived in the UK I’d probably be a member still.

But back to this book. While I believe all three of the series were written after the Mackies left Felbrigg, this third is the one that’s really set after they left, with much discussion of their later visits back, and reminiscences of their own time there. This makes it possibly more episodic than the others, although I don’t call that a fault.

Well recommended for anyone who enjoys gentle humour, background looks at public places, or National Trust members generally!

Past Migrations

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The next set of books are nearly all about journeys in the past, in one way or another.

41. Richard the Lionheart by David West & Jackie Gaff, illustrated by John Cooper

This is a consecutive art depiction of the life of King Richard the Lionheart, from his childhood as a younger son of Eleanor of Aquitaine (I own a biography of her, and really must read it, once my books arrive) and Henry II. Both men were kings of England, but certainly wouldn’t have recognised that as an adequate description of their rank. Richard, particularly, was not especially interested in England, and preferred to crusade. (More on that below.)

42. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

This was part of the same reread I mentioned yesterday. I am torn. I love Gabaldon’s writing and characters, but her skill at expressing characters and what they experience can be more graphic than I felt comfortable with this time through. I’d like to say that’s less of an issue in this volume than some of the rest, but seeing as this is the one with the ’45, that just wouldn’t be true!

43. The Travelling People by Anthea Wormington, Sian Newman & Chris Lilly

As the title suggests, this is about the Travelling people(s) of Great Britain, and to an extent of Ireland. It is a thin glossy book produced for children about the various groups of nomadic communities. There is a focus on Irish Travellers and on Roma/Gypsy Travellers, as the most numerous such groups, but there is also information on several other groups. The title link includes PDF files of many or all of the pages of the book, and it is well worth reading, for adults as well. There are links to other related resources as well.

44. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

This one isn’t about war so much as its aftermath of suffering, death and separation, and how ultimately love can overcome them. But being Gabaldon, that doesn’t mean everything ends up sugar and roses…

45. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Now though, we’re in the prelude stages to another war, on another continent…

46. The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott

The next audiobook was my second read of Scott (I have a print copy of Ivanhoe, which I could probably stand to reread), and takes us back to King Richard and the Crusades. The former seems a favourite of Scott, and here is definitely portrayed as the absolute flower of chivalry. Richard (and to an extent Sir Kenneth, narrator and protagonist of the tale) far prefers an honourable enemy (as he considers Saladin) to a dishonourable ally (all those who feel it’s time to give up the crusade), but can he really fight on honour alone?

47. Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

The last ‘travel book’ tells of two young girls raised in slavery in 19th century America, who upon being ‘sold South’ choose to flee North along the Underground Railway. It isn’t a long book, and gets across the horrors of slavery without being too graphic for even a sheltered adolescent. It’s well written, and includes both adventure and emotion.

History’s Bigger Picture

Monday, 17 March 2008

73. England: An Aerial View by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn
74. England: The Mini-Book of Aerial Views by Adrian Warren & Dae Sasitorn

These two books contain nearly all the same photographs, in a very similar order, but not precisely, and the pictures sometimes have different proportions or other final editing. The first book is a large (and heavy!) coffee table book, with very good historical overviews of the regions of England, with good captions next to each large photograph.

The Mini-Book has similar (but abbreviated) overviews and without the detailed captions, just the briefest few words giving the name and rough location of each. The photography in each are beautiful, and there are a few pictures that literally took my breath away (at least in the larger size). (NB I dithered over counting these as one read, but they aren’t precisely the same and I did read both.)

There is a Britain version of this pair of books, which I look forward to reasonably soon.

75. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Toward Genocide by David Downing
76. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: The Nazi Death Camps by David Downing
77. World Almanac Library of the Holocaust: Persecution and Emigration by David Downing

I’m going to summarise the review of the three of these together as well, as reading them had me in tears, and I don’t want to go into the detail again right away. This is a very well put together series however (we have three more I haven’t got to yet), that gives plenty of sources (plenty for the purposes of teenagers and personal readers, at least) showing some of the major trends and effects of the Holocaust. It’s for a general audience, and ‘explains’ what happened briefly, explaining how much the individuals actually knew at the time, as well as what we know with hindsight. It’s clearly written, and allows for people dipping in and out of the book, although each of them reads well straight through. It quotes personal testimony, but doesn’t tell individual stories, as most of the Holocaust literature I’ve read does.

I amn’t looking forward to reading the rest of these, but I think it’ll be worthwhile.