The Week: 16th – 22nd January

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Wednesday evening in Canberra

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Canberra’s heatwave continues…

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And kills our garden!

So, apparently the new thing people do when they turn seventy is go on trips to Europe – or, at least my relatives seem to think so. With two people in my family turning seventy this year, both decided to celebrate that way – and take me along!

This week we booked a trip to southern Spain and Barcelona for August. I get to spend more time in one of my favourite places in the world: Seville. The trip came completely out of the blue. I still have to go to Italy in a few weeks, and to London after that!

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We went to the National Museum on Saturday to see the visiting exhibition from the British Museum: A History of the World in 100 Objects.

We had to queue for over an hour – I don’t even want to know what it’s going to be like when we go to the Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery!

It is much more “the history of the world according to the British Empire”. There’s so much from certain parts of the world, and NOTHING from the whole eastern half of Europe (including the Black Sea and the whole of Slavic civilisation – none of my heritage!), huge parts of Africa, etc.

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The fires active on Wednesday afternoon.

Our region of Australia has had bushfire, after bushfire, after bushfire this week. Hot weather and strong winds make the worst fire conditions.

Firestorm in Canberra, Australia. 18th January 2003.

This week was the fourteenth anniversary of the firestorm that destroyed huge parts of Canberra. The picture above is what my city looked like for a whole day (except the sky turned black after a while – and then bright red). We had those water-bombing helicopters right over us. They saved our street.

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I could go on about the terror of Trump – but what’s the point? I am TERRIFIED for Ukraine.

His wife steals Obama speeches, and the man himself steals an Obama cake!

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We’re a day ahead of the US (so I’d done this post before the Women’s Marches across the world), so I’ll just add this on at the end!:

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Recommended Read

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Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian

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My review of A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

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Cover Love

The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

Reindeer Romance?

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Victoria the Great – for fans of anything Victorian

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I commented on the new television series, Victoria, and how horrified I was by the deliberate changes to history (such as making a teenage girl’s ageing mentor her love interest!).

Recently a different version of Queen Victoria’s life was on television: Victoria the Great, released in 1937 on the centenary of the real queen’s ascension to the throne.

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Victoria being woken early to be informed she is now queen.

The movie version and a 19th century depiction of the moment.

Now, I don’t usually expect much of films from the 1930s (though Gone with the Wind has some spectacular crowd scenes that hold up today).

So how surprised I was to realise this old movie was the best interpretation of Queen Victoria’s life I’ve seen!

Actual, recorded historical moments are recreated beautifully, and accurately. I even learnt a few things – yes, I checked that they were true.

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The queen’s (played by Anna Neagle), and Prince Albert’s (played by Anton Walbrook, all the way down to his dorky hair) costumes and hairstyles are spot-on. In an era where historical licence was practically expected, the people working on this film have all but recreated the costumes from official portraits.

The sets and filming locations are spectacular, even in black and white. Unlike so many “historical” movies today, the dances are accurate for the period (Anna Karenina, I’m looking at you!), and the women have their hair pinned up! The forms of transport they use (such as the early train they depart London on) look accurate to me.

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I usually sit and nit-pick when watching historical dramas, but I couldn’t find much to complain about here.

I never liked The Young Victoria. For all the praise heaped on it, neither Emily Blunt or Rupert Friend suited their roles, and the less said about the horrific rewriting of history in the more recent Victoria, the better.

So far, this eighty-year-old film is my favourite version of the life of Britain’s most famous queen. I’m not sure how easy it is to track down these days, but it’s worth a watch.

In its time, Victoria the Great was so successful a second film was immediately made.

Recommended Read

Burning Lies

With yesterday being the anniversary of the Canberra firestorm, I was thinking about natural disaster books, and remembered there’s one that actually begins with that particular series of bushfires.

Hélène Young‘s Burning Lies features Canberra on that insane, terrible day in 2003.

It’s so hard to find any suspense books with romantic elements set in Australia, but Young is one of the few -and is a reliable bet for a good read.

Burning Lies

Kaitlyn Scott is searching for the truth about her husband’s death, even if that means revisiting the most painful day of her life. But what she uncovers is a criminal willing to stop at nothing to keep his secret.

Ryan O’Donnell, an enigmatic undercover cop, is investigating arson attacks when he is drawn into Kaitlyn’s world. He tries to fight his attraction for her, hoping the case might put his own demons to rest, but it only threatens to push him over the edge.

With Kaitlyn and Ryan on a collision course, the arsonist seizes the chance to settle some old scores. As the Atherton Tableland burns, the three of them are caught in a fiery dance of danger and desire, and not everyone will come out alive.

Canberra fourteen years ago.

Capital life and random beauty…

How appropriate that it’s near 40 degrees and windy today, just like fourteen years ago, when huge parts of Canberra were destroyed in a firestorm. It was the first time a fire tornado was recorded.

It hit my part of the city, and we were very lucky the helicopters were dropping water just before our house. People a couple of streets away were not so fortunate, and the fire came straight down the mountain and destroyed everything in sight.

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A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

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It is often a spur-of-the-moment decision that can become a turning point in life. So it is for Kitty Morland, a young woman in London in 1878.    
When she yields to temptation one fateful day, the consequences of her action force her to flee to Australia, hoping to join her brother.

On the other side of the world, she meets two men–William, an expatriate English aristocrat, and Rufe, a charismatic Colonial entrepreneur involved with trading in diamonds and in the goldfields.

Beautiful and spirited, Kitty needs all her courage and determination to survive the ordeal of marriage to William, a bullying husband. When he is drowned it leaves her alone to give birth to a daughter and to run a timber-cutting business in a male-dominated era that considers a woman only as an obedient homemaker and bed-warmer.

When she is offered a chance at love and happiness with Rufe, will she make the right decision?

A Woman of Spirit by Kate Loveday

Once I adjusted my expectations, A Woman of Spirit was a solid read that begins in Victorian England and concludes in colonial Australia.

I expected this to be more historical romance than general historical fiction (it was tagged “romance” on NetGalley). It turns out it is a family saga, complete with a to be continued at the end.

I love both the Victorian era and women-centric books concerning colonial Australia, and this was solidly researched on both counts. The main character has to flee England after false accusations against her, and after actually committing a crime that might get her in very serious trouble.

I will say that the idea she came up with to hide the evidence of her theft was a little… it made me queasy (think modern-day drug mules)!

The woman and her mother reach New South Wales fairly early in the story, and the real plot begins there. I did find it a bit odd that one of the first people they met in Sydney knew their family back in England, and recognised them by their surname! There were tens of millions of people in Britain in the late 1870s, and Australia was working its way up to a million.

If you read the blurb put out by the publisher, you are going to learn almost the entire plot. I’m not sure this is a good way to sell a book, giving everything away at the start.

However, this was solid historical fiction. I am appreciating that publishers are starting to take chances on books set in 19th century Australia. Variety is always good!

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.