Google+ Followers

My Blog List

Friday, September 30, 2011

Short Review - Agatha Christie's POSTERN OF FATE

Tommy and Tuppence move to a very quiet, quaint English village - to do up a house and live the rest of their retired lives in peace. They are not looking for adventure, spies, spy stories but it seems to follow them and before you can say Jack, they are upto their necks in it - trying to unravel a mystery and a couple of deaths which took place over sixty years ago.

Set in absolutely beautifully described countryside, peopled with characters I would love to have living around me, is this the quintessential English village often mirrored in books.

The last book written by Agatha Christie. A wonderful story beautifully told.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book blog hop 30th September to 3rd October

I am going back to this meme after a couple of weeks (mainly because I did not do the link part correctly!).




The blog hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books introduces one to a host of bloggers with similar and dissimilar interests. It just adds to the interest. It allows you to meet and discuss matters of interest in the book world apart from adding titles to almost everyone's towering TBR piles.

This weeks question?

“In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your favorite “banned or frequently challenged book”?”


 
For me it was Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
 
All of us enjoy visitors to our blogs so I do hope you will visit the linked blogs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Google!

Has this happened to anyone where access was denied for "security reasons" ??

I was flummoxed when this happened to me a little while ago specially since I was happily
commenting away. The problem arose when they asked me for mobile number and in whatever
format I gave it, it was rejected saying not in correct format. I do wish Google would put a sample
of what is the correct format as an example. Entering an overseas mobile number one generally has
to put country codes, city code etc but apparently this is not so.
Whose to know unless you specifically say so?

It did give me an anxious forty five minutes but we are back to transmission again!!

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - The POISON TREE


Another book from the series but one which I found different. Upto now we have had the Morland saga complete with family extending to both America and England. We have had basically strong willed women and men who have been people of honor who have worked honestly and well, looking after the family as well as extended family along with their host of retainers and those who have depended on them for their livelihood.

It was a slightly old fashioned way of life, very comfortable and also very satisfying to read. The fact that good always overcame evil was a nice thing to be reiterated. This one brought a more evil character into the story and one who overshadows everything in the book. He is the poison fruit obviously of the Poison Tree. Nicky who pretends to his mother to be the all caring son, who insidiously is continuously poisoning his mother's mind against Bendy the second boy, the innocent, hapless victim who to protect his mother and family decides to give up all and go away.

England is emerging from post war period and the entire mood of the country is somber. There is plenty of violence and a new breed of men around. Those who are looking for quick gain, no sense of honesty and fairplay and for the first time cholera leaves the poverty stricken areas of England and strikes at the heart of the rich.

The Morland family is also stricken - first with Nicky's evil maneuvres, Bendy leaving home and their mother heart broken who leaves the reign of Morland to Nicky who is given ample room to play as much as he wants with the finances and lives of those who live within. The gradual deterioration of Morland House and those who live within is sad and very visible and you feel the end of the dynasty is coming.

A different read from the others, but not less enjoyable.

On a different note I was yesterday in the ancient city of Sigirya - famous for its rock fortress. I was on work but the rock overshadows the entire area being visible for miles. It was a fortress of a king and has beautiful ancient frescoes.



Now its back to office work.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Additional Mailbox Monday!!!







My mailbox was empty this Monday! so I went shopping Monday morning and got these gorgeous books.



A description said that she was enraged at the limitations of pre-war provincial society. That was good enough reason for me to pick this up!
Mary Stewart has been coming up on several blogs. This book is a sequel but I could not find the first one.

 Like the classic Penguins!

Who can resist three Agatha Christie's? Not me.

I read and reviewed another book of this author which I just did not like. So many bloggers said she writes so well, I wanted to read something else of hers.

The latter book set in pre WWII - one of my favourite periods in history.



Has anyone not read The Thorn Birds? I couldn't pass up on this one.

Outlander was one of my first forays into a slightly different genre (for me that is). I liked her book so this is my second.

Review - The Book of the Courtesans by Susan Griffin

The book was an eye opener. I fell for the cover when I picked it up not really thinking that it would be more of a history lesson, with a bit of romance and politics thrown in. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.

The book gives one an indepth view of how women - very beautiful ones obviously - faced many obstacles ranging from grinding poverty, to an absolute lack of education to even in some cases the wrong accent where they had to actually learn to talk in not just a different style but with a totally different accent. Then there was the non formal education of etiquette and what to do when, where and to whom which seemed of paramount importance in France particularly.  These women were no empty headed bimbos - they were smart, talented, very clever - much cleverer than the men who were their partners.

Some of the men have gone down in history as figures of importance - Madame du Pompadour and Madame du Barry and Coco Chanel but there were others who were for me just names and those were the ones which caught my interest.

The book was slow paced for me - this is not a quick read and I do wish the illustrations could have been a bit more adventurous but the content of the story interested me well enough, specially since it is a topic I knew very little of.

Actually I have begun to realise that I do know very little and everyday is a learning experience!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What are you reading?


Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Leah of Amused by Books - for September it is being hosted by Serena of Savvy Verse and Wit.

I am linking my post with It's Monday What are you reading? hosted by Book Journey.

Please visit both blogs to get to know what is the latest in the book reading world. It also adds to your TBR piles but that is another story.

I have no new books to add to my Mailbox and this will give me an opportunity to read whatever I have.

For this week I hope to read :

Legionary  This is slow going. Set during the height of the Roman empire an era I know very little about. Hope to finish this as well.

River of Smoke - am keeping this for the next completely free day because I do know that I will not be able to put it down once I start. Amitav Ghosh does that for me.

A life in London - Monica Dickens - I started this with much enthusiasm as it deals with "everyday" lives. This is a theme I enjoy very much. Have to get back to it this week.

This coming week is going to be a rushed one. I have a trip planned mid week to Sigiriya - I love the trip and the sightseeing of the countryside which is absolutely beautiful but it does eat into working time!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This and that!

This is where I go Thursday to Monday morning. A haven in the hills - that sounds almost poetic! Colombo where I normally live is hot and humid and my husband and I are always rushed. There is always so much of work to get through.

Rozella which is our "up country" home is green, surrounded by tea gardens, almost always 21 degrees and cool by Sri Lankan standards, the only sound is the train on the far hill going every hour and two dogs who adore us.  The first picture is the house, the second our bed of leeks  (nursery stage)and the third is the tea gardens overshadowing the house. Not very good photographs.

The only drawback is that there is no internet connectivity there. I am working on this but doubtful that I am going to have much success in finding any way around this problem. There are not enough users to make this worthwhile for anyone it seems.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review - Jean Plaidy's FLAUNTING EXTRAVAGANT QUEEN


Marie Antoinette comes to Versailles as the bride of the Dauphin as an innocent, light hearted girl of fifteen. She has never been able to think other than for the moment of something that is pleasant, light and fun. However much her mother has stressed on her the need to be serious, far thinking, and conscientious, she has not been the type to take these "scoldings" to heart.

Landing in France, she is flummoxed by the etiquette that is demanded by the Court. From her arrival she is aware that she is no longer an Austrian citizen - she is made to remove every bit of clothing she wore at the border, including a ring given by her mother and wear fresh clothes which were purely French.

From the beginning of the novel one knows there is a sense of impending doom. We know that the fun and frolic which Marie Antoinette surrounds herself is too frothy to last. She seems to live in a bubble of unreality - far away from any kind of real life. Her passion for clothes irrespective of cost, the same thing goes for diamonds, her setting up of an idealistic farm with sheep with ribbons tied around their necks and the ladies being dressed as shepherdesses - makes you feel that this cannot last. Though most people are aware of the end even before they read the story, the cleverness of this author is that she draws you in knowing you are going to a place which is of doom and gloom. You still want to read however.

Marie Antoinette 's role is from the beginning fraught with uncertainity. A bride to a very unwilling bridegroom,  no proper counsellors for either Marie Antoinette or her husband, the King overshadowing everyone till his death, the young couple thrust blindly into the spotlight of the political arena with neither having a clue who is friend or foe, even the immediate family vying for position or for taking over the throne and you have the stage set for disaster. Add to this the Queen's gullibility, the recession and poverty of the time, people wanting a scapegoat and a "foreigner" as Queen available and we know who is going to be the victim.

Such a sad read but a very informative one. I did not know that Marie Antoinette had a Swedish lover who was faithful to the end, neither did I know earlier on that Louis her husband was "slow", disinterested in anything and everything and impotent into the bargain. Such a tumultous period in French history beautifully told.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Review - Rosie Thomas 's IRIS AND RUBY

This is two distinct stories - one in the present and one in the past. Iris 82 years old who has lived her entire adult life out of England and considers Cairo home. She has lived and loved her life in Cairo. We have Ruby her very young grand daughter - rebellious not seeing eye to eye with her mother Lesley and step father and just knowing that she somehow does not fit in with the family now.

Ruby arrives in Cairo - unannounced, unexpected and unwelcome! she is nonplussed by the lack of welcome and does not realize that Iris just longs to live each day in the past, in a quiet reminiscence of what happened and does not want to be rudely brought into the present times.  Through their brief interaction Iris re-lives her entire life by talking to Ruby of incidents in her past - snippets here and there, seemingly unconnected and Ruby slowly unravels her grandmothers very rich life. Ruby seems to be a typical teenager making friends with her taxi driver and falling in love with his brother overnight - she also finds it difficult to adapt to the idea that being in love with someone does not necessarily mean that you have to have a physical relationship with him and is nonplussed at her boyfriend reluctance to engage in sex right away!! At the same time Ruby's relationship with Jas her friend who died also shows depths in Ruby's character which were not apparent till now. The death of Jas was the reason why Ruby felt she had to get away from everyone and go to a place where she was not known.

The story of Iris is mainly focussed on the period of WWII - very interesting time in Egypt's history it being so pivotal during the WW and in Ruby's case it is very much a modern one of here and now in Cairo, changed and yet seemingly unchanged culture wise. This was a nice peek into the Cairo of then and now. The story of Egypt during the WW was very interesting as it showed the importance that the allies placed on Egypt as being the center and the place which divided the West from the East. It shows the privileged life of the Westerner in a poor country even at times of war, enjoying privileges and luxuries denied the people of the country. Iris working in an administrative capacity at the time realises that she can do something by training to be a nurse, and she does so finally moving on to become a doctor much later in her life.

For someone like me who does not travel much and who very much likes to, books like these are interesting reads. I liked the distinction between the old and the new Cairo, the descriptiveness of the markets, the streets, the deserts and even the museums and history all bring Cairo very much to life.

Review Giles Milton's NATHANIEL'S NUTMEG

I liked the book first its cover - you get the nutmeg fruit in all its detail (not seen very often) and thenyou get all the background in color. The other thing is that Sri Lanka like these islands in the book was very much a target of the Dutch and the British in their quest for spices - in our case it was pepper and cinnamon mainly so this book drew me in.

A very comprehensive story - almost a history book - of the initial investigation for the spices which were so highly prized by Europe. The nutmeg was supposed to be effective against the sleeping sickness - the plague and however expensive it was and it was fabulously expensive, it was much sought after. In the East we take spices for granted having lived with them from the day we are born so it is amazing to watch the actual war that took place over these spices.

The stories start from the 16th and 17th centuries with the quest by Holland and England to seek a route to the spice gardens of the East. Apart from the known routes there were surprises. Explorers thought a way could be found through the Arctic, another thought of reaching it through the Americas going West. The loss of men and ships was immeasurable just by way of natural disasters as well as sickness. The lack of fresh water, the paucity of food, and the type of food available on ships meant that most of the time the crew were decimated even before half the journey was over. The attacks on ships by pirates, other countries and by the natives of the lands which they sought to conquer took care of the rest.

Was the loss of life and costs involved worth it ? obviously the goverments and Crowns of England and Holland thought so because most voyages had the patronage of the Crown. However what was interesting for me was the human angle to the stories - how this man or that survived, what happened to the single man who was left on an island - why did Madam Catriona write her memoirs of her travels only six decades after she left  the ship. I am sure there may be many more human interest stories there - the factors and their families who worked and lived on the Banda Islands - never going back to their home countries, those intrepid explorers who left families behind in their quest for the spices - those stories must surely be very interesting.

The tail end of the story focuses on Nathaniel Courthope who led an expedition to take over the island of Run completely covered with nutmeg trees. His attempt to assert the ownership over the Dutch failed.The Dutch then began a relentless assault against the British which culminated in Courthope's death. However the failure turned to triump when the Dutch came up with a treaty handing over the state of Manhattan on the other side of the world to the British in exchange for Run!


This was a good book for me and I will certainly never look at a nutmeg in quite the same way as before. I did not know that the nutmeg tree was brought from the Banda Islands where the islands were depleted of all their nutmeg trees so as not to allow the "other" side to have any benefit from the spice.  Those trees were transplated to Bencoolen, Singapore and Sri Lanka where it was planted and did very well.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's Monday What Are you Reading?/ Mailbox Monday

I am combining both meme's - Mailbox Monday being presented by Amused by Books. It's Monday What are you reading? sponsored by Book Journey. Please visit the links on both blogs to have an insight into what is happening in the book world.

This week brought me some unusual finds. I am always amazed at what I find in my second hand bookshop. I also love reading the writings on some of the books and trying to imagine what a colorful past the books have had before ending up in Sri Lanka.

The first was Barbara Pyms's The Sweet Dove Died. (inscribed is that it originated from Stadbibliothek Opfion, Glattburg) how did it end in Sri Lanka!!!

The second is Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance. This is an author I have been hoping to read for sometime. An Indian origin Canadian who writes in English must be interesting.

The last one was intriguing from the title upwards Nathaniel's Nutmeg - Giles Milton. This is also part of my next meme as I am reading it right now. Very relevant to the Sri Lankans as we had both the Dutch and the British in our country for years and years.  More or less a memoir of the travails of the British and Dutch in their search for the "spiceries". Very good reading!

My stay out of Colombo was tiring but the work got done - finally. I love it there but unfortunately the internet connection hardly works. That is the major drawback and six days without internet is a bit too much.
Have a good week.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Review - Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

I had read about this book for months and people raved over the book. When I won it at Stephanie's blog I was delighted.

The story of a 12 year old in trouble with a mentally ill mother and an almost absentee father and how she tries to cope with day to day living. Suddenly her mother dies in a traffic accident and Aunt Tootsie turns up like a fairy godmother and whisks her away to Savannah from a grim house to a fairytale mansion complete with beautiful furnishings, wonderful food and an idyllic lifestyle.

For me the story would be perfect for young 12 year old's with its fairy tale descriptions and also its very happy ending. Too sweet for me - found the Southern aspects of the book too precious for me.

It is an ideal read for very young readers as apart from its very happy storyline it is also a good indication of the value of strong family links and ties.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review - Cynthia Harrod Eagles - THE HIDDEN SHORE

This is a fairytale told in a historical setting. It is a Cinderella story brought to real life and one that you will not know is happening till it actually happens. Reading the book we think that Charlotte is doomed. Living with a cranky, disabled father who does not show any love or affection Charlotte is confined to her house with strict instructions not to talk to neighbours or to have any social contact with anyone. Charlotte comes across at this stage as being very naive mainly because she is so over protected.

With her father's death and absolute poverty staring her in the face Charlotte discovers her true identity going through her father's papers. Charlotte is a very wealthy woman and a Countess in her own right and also part of the huge Morland clan. Going to London to meet her mother and extended family Charlotte is thrown into a world of aristocracy and high living far beyond her understanding and for a world which she feels that she is far removed from. Although she enjoys the balls and pleasure that this immense fortune brings her, Charlotte feels that she ought to do something more with her life and moves on to the rookeries and the slums of London hoping to do something which will benefit Londoners.

Flouting convention and only able to do this because of her position and wealth Charlotte pursues her work of helping the poor much to the disgust of several members of her family. Fast forward to Charlotte almost getting married and then being forced to accept that she is being married only for her money and position - she does the unthinkable and gives up on the very handsome Fleetwood. At the same time we have the story of Fanny - also very rich, pretty and looking for love and failing miserably.

The stories of Fanny and Charlotte separate and intertwined are the focus of this book. Both are not the average girl of the times - in different ways both are courageous and different. It would not have been easy to be different during this period of time - where convention and submitting to the norm was of paramount importance. The fact that Charlotte specially was able to do what she did was most commendable.

As usual a very good book and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mailbox Monday is being sponsored by Amused by Books. I am combining it with the meme It's Monday What are you Reading? sponsored by Book Journey. Both memes are wonderful linking us with people of similar interests and introduce you to a whole host of reading pleasure.

This was the only book that came into my home this last week. It was a win from Taylor of All Things Historical Fiction. Thanks. A period of history I know nothing about so this is going to be good for me.

For reading for this week I have piles of books - leading the list is Cee Cee Honeycutt. There are still Jean Plaidy's to get through which I want to balance with something a little different - not history anyway - so I will go back to my TBR piles.

I am also in the mood to visit my secondhand bookshop today so maybe I will unearth some gems!

Have a good week everyone. From Wednesday I will be again out of Colombo for five days and then no blogging.

Review -Cynthia Harrod Eagles - THE OUTCAST

I have not been blogging for quite a few days. I was out of Colombo on a small tea estate with a bungalow that needed to be overhauled and a garden that was ruined by the builders! In six days small miracles have happened, the house is now habitable and presentable the garden is well certainly better than what it was. The rain helps though. Getting away from hot and humid Colombo was a treat but being without the internet was not so hot. I did get quite a lot of reading done though.

I went back to the Morland Dynasty after a long break and enjoyed both books I read so very, very much. I find that the story telling in these family sagas is intimate, very touching, and very real. The emotions are almost tangible from the heartbreak to the joys and the everyday way of life of the period is so well depicted.

The story beginning in 1857 has its backdrop the American Civil War. After many years of comparative quiet and a blissful married life, Benedict faces a figure from his past in the form of a twelve year old orphan who disrupts his household unimaginably. The disruption and disquiet are not just on the Morland side - our orphan Lennox is so depressed, so bullied and so "gentlemanly" about the whole saga that nothing ever gets out.

How Lennox is taken to join his sister Mary in the deep South of America, Benedict's stay there for one year and the events of the War are very detailed and gives one an indepth idea of how this war affected all Americans not just those from the South. My knowledge was zero on this subject and I never realized the divide between the North and South. Almost a them and us. The subject of slavery - so matter of fact in the South - so much part of life but the actual reality of slavery was not pleasant to read. Even in households like the Morlands (American branch) where treatment of slaves was not cruel or sadistic, there was much to be horrified about. Difficult to imagine that even during this part of the 19th century the idea of "slaves" was so widely accepted in the American South as being just part of their economy.

The effect of the war in the families surrounding Mary, the losses of both lives as well as livelihoods, their homes, the looting and pillage of all wars including this one was sad to read about. How they survived the war and try to rebuild their lives is the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

As usual I loved the book.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Review - Helen Hollick's SEA WITCH

This was a win from Velvet of vvb32reads. This is a book which took me out of my comfort zone. This was the world of pirates and a bit of fantasy, a bit of the paranormal, and a lot of rough and tumble. I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

A love story mixed with the actual tale of piracy, privateers (oooh a very small distinction here) which was delectable. Absolutely irresistible Jesamiah (even the name was good!) and the witch Tiola who is a healer and a midwife in real life are drawn together despite overwhelming odds. Enter the Dutchman who has stability, presence, status and money to offer and who is determined to win the hand of Tiola. On the other hand you get the evil Phillip - step brother to Jesamiah, cruel, vicious and vindictive to the last who not only wants to see the end of Jesamiah but also to see that he suffers to the very end. Add to the mix lots of corrupt government officials in every country you visit, plus a handful of good ones, a few bordellos and there you've got your story.

How someone like Jesamiah who does all the things a pirate does - murder, robbery, pillage and destruction, taking of someone else's property without a qualm and still comes out of the story smelling of roses is the author's cleverness. The descriptions of the daily life on a pirate ship were wonderful and kept one at the edge of one's seat. In my case I couldn't sleep till I finished the book. The intermingling of the history of the period and particularly of the places involved - Cape Town and the Caribbean added lustre to the story.

You feel very much with the characters as they go about their life, and you are really cheering for Tiola to rescue Jesamiah in time (and you do know she is going to get there). I would have been devastated if she didn't. To get such a lot of enjoyment from a book is always my guide that the book has been good - for me that is. I felt that the author herself must have immersed herself in writing this book and above all enjoyed the job tremendously.

I will be away for a few days from the blog - going up country where there is no internet. Will be reading though so hopefully can get through a few more books.

Review - Anne Tyler's BREATHING LESSONS

This is a Pulitzer prize winner. The book has got rave reviews. I however found Maggie irritating.
Based on just a single day in the life of Maggie and Ira the day encompasses the characters of both
Maggie and Ira - that is the beauty of the author's writing and I presume how she won the Pulitzer.

Maggie and Ira are on their way for a funeral - Maggie's good friend Serena has lost her husband Max to cancer. On their way back (Maggie well before) decides to make a detour to catch up with Fiona her ex-daughter in law because she believes that her son and Fiona can make a go of their marriage despite them being very much divorced. Maggie seems to be good natured in her meddling - she seems to believe that what she thinks is right/will be right/will come out right will happen but she is meddlesome.  She will not think things through, she will not think of consequences but just thinks for the moment and only in her own insular way of "hoping for the best" and thinking that her way is the best way.

Ira is matter of fact, let sleeping dogs lie, willing to accept everyone as what they are but he does not have the strength of mind or energy to ask Maggie to mind her own business. He seems to be swept in with her plans so that he also becomes to an outsider as part of the "team" who do as they want,  when they want. Even in crisis, he seems to just melt into the background and only once or twice actually begs to differ. He is overwhelmed by Maggie's insistence on doing things her way.

Fast forward and go back in flashback are part of the book. There is no great story, there is no overwhelming love story but there is humor and irritation in equal measure. I was mostly irritated though.
It was not a comfortable read for me because reading a book where a character constantly irritates me is not my idea of a good time.

Sorry this book did not do anything for me, other than the belief that one should not become like Maggie!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review - Jean Plaidy's MURDER MOST ROYAL

For readers of historical fiction, the Tudor saga seems endless. The story of Henry the infamous VIII th and his never ending list of wives, mistresses and girlfriends seem tiresome after sometime. But, the strange thing with Jean Plaidy is that the story can be written from so very different angles - the same period in history from the point of view of Katharine of Aragon his first so patient wife, to that of Anne Boleyn (the colorful one) and then the ones who were not so prominent like Jane Seymour or Catherine Howard or Anne of Cleves are all so interesting in their own way.

This particular book dealt mainly with the descending star of Katharine - who did not give up without a very fair fight and the ascendancy of Anne Boleyn - with all the treachery, politicking and planning possible. I did not know till I read this book that Anne was Henry's mistress for over six years and it was only a seemingly unplanned pregnancy which motivated Henry to more actively pursue the divorce in order that her baby would be born legitimate.

The story is sad in parts because it shows that no sooner Anne was heavily pregnant with the so looked forward to "son" Henry's interest in her wavered even during her pregnancy and she had occasion to find him dallying with one or other of her maids. With the birth of Elizabeth, the King seemed to have lost the interest and Anne seems to have lost the firm hold she had on the King.

It was marvellous to read how Henry could justify his looking elsewhere for a wife - with the first wife very much alive - he did it for England, for his people and for the benefit of his country. He discarded Katharine on a point of law which only he could understand - that she was his brother's wife and it is specifically said in the Bible that you cannot marry your brother's wife (this despite Katharine swearing that she was a wife only in name). For Anne it became one trumped up story after another - incest with her brother, treason in every form imaginable. It never helped that Anne was in herself so arrogant and so swollen headed with her own power as Queen that she made enemies by the dozen during her short period of glory. There were many who just waited to see her downfall including her sister in law Jane who brought forward the charge of incest and who on her execution admitted that it was a lie.

Anne enjoyed being Queen, her love for the King was secondary to her love for the position of Queen. She enjoyed the privileges of her position and specially liked to act as benefactor to any of her relations in need. At the same time, she did not forget a slight and to this end went to any extent to see to that person's downfall. She did this with so many statesmen that she turned the normally placid
Englishmen against her who thought she was a witch who had enticed the King to act as he did.

That Henry was putty in her hands during her days of glory - of that there is no doubt. He gave in to her demands, put so many men and women to death (women in his reign for the first time were done to death) but he always found a way to justify his conscience and the stories he spun were remarkable. His courtiers speedily complied with his way of thinking (if they wanted to keep their own heads) and so he went on his way merrily.

The last third of this book deals with Anne's death and how first Jane Seymour becomes Queen and after the birth of her son dies soon after. Just two years later Henry is looking out for someone young, fresh and pretty and his eyes fall on Catherine Howard.But in the meantime a political marriage is arranged but that falls flat as the lady is not pretty, neither young or good looking. After this it is the turn of Catherine who for a very short time  enamours the King completely, who believes that he can now rest in peace for the rest of his days with his very young wife!  but behind the scenes there is her Uncle who is plotting her downfall and poor Catherine leaves the door wide open for anyone and everyone to accuse her of loose morals/adultery and treason. After her sad execution we see Henry alone but not for long!!! he is on the lookout for his next wife.

The other books I have read deal with one character at a time with just a side serve as it were of the other characters in the story. This one deals in great detail of so many of the wives as and when they come into the path of Henry VIII.

Sad but true and very readable.

Mailbox Monday and It's Monday What are you reading?


Mailbox Monday is a meme sponsored by Marcia of the Printed Page. For September the host is Amused by Books. My mailbox was a bit light this week with only this best seller which was a win from Stephanie. Thanks Stephanie.




I am linking Mailbox Monday with It's Monday What are you Reading? This is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. The two memes links one to bloggers worldwide and give you the best update of what is happening in the book reading world.

For this coming week I still hope to finish a Jean Plaidy, Amitav Ghosh (Rivers of Smoke) a rather heavy book so I will need time for that and maybe one more from my TBR pile.

Have a good week.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Review - Norah Lofts THE HOMECOMING



I have such a nice cover for my book which I can't find anywhere so you will have to be happy with this rather stark one.


My first reading of as I know now, this very prolific author. We have the tale of romance, almost unbelievable. Sir Geoffrey presumed dead all these years returns to Sybilla his faithful wife with Tana a concubine from a harem. She saved his life and in return he helped her to escape the harem. This little tidbit is not revealed but she is later described as a Spanish lady of means with a blurred history.


He is welcomed by his family - his sons all scattered, his daughter only seeking love from anyone around and Sybilla who accepts his story without a murmur. A little while later Sybilla is pregnant and bears a son and Tana bears a daughter. It is here the story actually comes into play because Joanna and Robert become more or less the focal point of the story.


The survival of the Tallboys family- the importance of land, increasing one's ownership of more and more arable land which is the early focus of the book, the difficult life for second and third sons who have nothing to look forward to as a patrimony and have to find a way of living (not easy when one has got accustomed to live a life of leisure) and how Joanna survives everyone who is trying to put her down make for an interesting book.


This book which is part of a triology which I would dearly like to read (and it will be sheer good luck to find) deals with a particular family and the tribulations, happiness and sorrows that follow them.


Writing historical fiction, keeping within the actual facts of history Lofts also is able to go into detail about this particular family - and at the same time give us a very good idea of what conditions were like in England at the time - both from a broad as well as a domestic level. This is what made it interesting for me. I love the trivial bits of information how households were run and the enormous capabilities of good housewives whose worth was immeasurable for the successful running of a home. The training of young girls was not just a fad, but a necessity for survival as it was on them that the entire structure of the home lay. It was not just the cooking, and the cleaning, but the stillroom, the animals, the preservation of food, and even the making of cloth and all clothing and furnishings were their responsibility. Modern women have nothing to complain about!


A very interesting author and one whose books I am going to search for.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Review = John Braine's ROOM AT THE TOP



The story set in 1921 takes me right back to my favourite era - just post World War and everyone is very sure that a change will come about. Joe Lampton born on the wrong side of the tracks to good middle class folk, seeks to improve his lot - he wants the easy going, fast, moneyed life of the upper middle class and to this end is willing to sacrifice/make up to anyone who will help him achieve this end.


Joining the Town Hall with very good prospects, Joe is not one of those willing to plod along or to go on the path travelled by his friends. He wants the quickest way to the top. Enter the ladies.

One is Alice - a married woman who is available and falls for Joe - the feelings seem mutual until he decides that though Alice is good for a fling, it is Susan with her father's money behind her who is his star attraction. Unwilling to give up on either, he manages to hang on to both with much subterfuge but when found out is willing to drop Alice immediately.


Eventually Joe achieves his ambition of marrying Susan. Alice in drunken remorse drives her car to her death and though Joe initially is struck by despondency he shrugs these feelings off and gets on with his own life.


The book is an embodiment of the British obsession of the time with society, class and how to better oneself. For Joe it was to marry money. There was no other way up for him. He was not one willing to work for his bread and butter and improve his lot by sheer dint of hard work. He wanted it all and he wanted it now!


You do not like Joe Lampton at all - neither could I admire his sheer determination to go on the upward mobile path but the book is a good indication of what life was like in Britain at the time.


My blogging has been sporadic this week. I have been out of Colombo twice - we are having a problem with staff on one property which has to be sorted out soon. Worrisome details of daily life. On a nice note, we attended a lovely wedding today - the bridegroom was Singhalese and the bride Tamil. I believe that more marriages like this bode well for our country. So much division and separation - this is one way forward to tolerance and living peacefully together.