The Week: 3rd – 9th April

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Driving from Queanbeyan to Canberra on Thursday afternoon. A few hours later there was a terror attack in Queanbeyan, and this road was the one the attackers used to escape interstate (the state border is at the rise up ahead on the road). Now I’ll always think of that when I see this gorgeous picture.

More of that lower in this post.

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Visiting the Treasures of Versailles exhibition at the National Gallery yesterday. Canberra has had an exclusive exhibition from Versailles for a few months now (including stuff like Marie Antoinette’s harp and Madame de Pompadour’s furniture), but because I was overseas I didn’t get there until this weekend. We actually tried to visit last week, but it was so busy everywhere we couldn’t even find a place to park! Yesterday the queue to get into the exhibition was so long it ran the entire length of the building, but we were determined to visit! It ends next week.

Dropping my brother home in the city yesterday afternoon.

Gorgeous, sunny autumn afternoon.

Parrots everywhere in Canberra now the autumn berries are coming out.

There was an Islamic State-inspired terror attack here overnight from Thursday to Friday this week. Of course – because nothing makes the news unless it happens in Sydney or Melbourne – it was barely reported.

The details of it are appalling, and I won’t go into them, but two teenaged boys went on a fourteen-hour rampage. The final stabbing happened on my aunt’s street, a few metres from her front door – it could have been her.

The house one of the attackers lived in and that was raided by police is a few doors from the house my grandmother lived in until she died in 2015. The murder at the service station happened close to where I’d met people for lunch a few hours earlier, and near our Ukrainian hall. The two guys were caught across the border here in Canberra, a few streets from my house, on a road I’d been down twice that day.

Literally every location a crime was committed during the rampage was somewhere I’d been on Thursday, and also somewhere I had a personal connection to.

While Canberra is the capital city, Queanbeyan is basically a country town, a small community just over the state border, and it is so shocking that now terrorism can literally happen anywhere.

I’m so angry that it barely made the news, because things only get reported if they happen in “known” cities.

A Visit to Dr Johnson’s House

Meet the ‘Grammar Vigilante’ of Bristol

My review of A Perfect Gentleman by Candace Camp

My review of Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Make a Date with Harlequin – Viking!

Make a Date with Harlequin – Cowboy!

Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen's World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Jane Austen’s books are full of hidden mysteries for the modern reader. Why on earth would Elizabeth Bennet be expected to consider a suitor like foolish Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice? Would Lydia’s ‘infamous elopement’ truly have ruined her family and her other sisters’ chances to marry?  Why were the Dashwood women thrown out of their home after Mr. Dashwood’s death in Sense and Sensibility, and what was the problem with secret engagements anyway? And then there are settlements, pin money, marriage articles and many other puzzles for today’s Austen lovers.

Customs have changed dramatically in the two centuries since Jane Austen wrote her novels. Beyond the differences in etiquette and speech, words that sound familiar to us are often misleading. References her original readers would have understood leave today’s readers scratching their heads and missing important implications.

Take a step into history with Maria Grace as she explores the customs, etiquette and legalities of courtship and marriage in Jane Austen’s world. Packed with information and rich with detail from Austen’s novels, Maria Grace casts a light on the sometimes bizarre rules of Regency courtship and unravels the hidden nuances in Jane Austen’s works.

Courtship and Marriage in Jane Austen’s World (Jane Austen Regency Life #2) by Maria Grace

Sometimes, no matter how much you know about a topic, it’s nice when someone puts it all together and gives it all some context.

This was the case with Courtship and Marriage. If you read as much about England in the early nineteenth century as I do, you’re not going to be surprised by much here, but this was definitely one of the better little books about life in the Regency era.

Additionally, the facts are explained in relation to the characters of Jane Austen’s books; Austen critics (of the ‘Why doesn’t Elizabeth Bennet do blah, blah, blah instead of just sitting there?!’ ilk) could benefit from the historical context author Maria Grace gives the characters’ actions.

I found this book via a link to a blog post on Twitter, so now I have found both a good historical blog and an author to follow in the future.

Walking Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen

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Walking Jane Austen’s London contains eight new walks to appeal to Jane Austen enthusiasts, history buffs and anyone who enjoys exploring London. It is lavishly illustrated in colour with detailed maps, original prints of the period and photographs.

Walking Jane Austen’s London by Louise Allen

Louise Allen is one of my favourite authors, and – in addition to writing excellent Regency-era stories, she produces some non-fiction guidebooks to the London of two hundred years ago.

I’ve owned Walking Jane Austen’s London for a while now, but recently revisited it for an upcoming short trip to the city.

Having lived on Fleet Street (in the City with a capital *C*), in nearby Holborn on the edge of the West End, and in Notting Hill, I find Allen’s guide very useful, as the old rich, Mayfair part of London is probably the bit of town I’m the least familiar with.

This guide points out heaps of little historical details about the streets and buildings you’d otherwise never know, as well as tying it all in to Austen’s books.

Allen has another guide worth a look: Walks Through Regency London.

Walking Jane Austen’s London is interesting if you plan on being in London soon, or if you’re just a fan of historical fiction.

The Week: 5th – 11th December

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Here are three pictures of our AMAZING Canberra sunsets this week. I haven’t touched the pictures up; this is just what it looks like here in summer!

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It’s nearly Christmas, and I’m not getting anything done! It seems there’re a thousand people one has to have lunch with in December, which means I’ve spent more time hanging out in the city, or at pubs in various parts of town, than I have actually achieving stuff!

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Can we STOP talking about TIME Magazine like Hitler and Trump were the only monsters they picked, like Stalin and Putin weren’t also some of their “winners” who they named “Man” or “Person” of the Year?! Four maniacs, and TIME thinks it’s cute and cool to feature them like that. (The year after Putin was given the “honour”, he started invading countries – Georgia first.)

By the way: TIME only changed it from “Man” of the year to “Person” in 1999. That’s pretty disgusting. Only a few years ago…

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I got my hands on a review copy of one of my most anticipated reads of 2017 this week, and no way was I waiting until next year to start it! I’m only 25% in now, and I love it, but I cannot understand why they have that female model in the terribly-fitted gown on the cover, when the heroine is supposed to be a stunning blonde…

However, READ THIS SERIES. It’s one of my favourites – ever. Even if the author thinks Stalin is a turn-on.

My review of Wrong Brother, Right Match (Anyone But You #3) by Jennifer Shirk

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My review of Charles Dickens by Karen Kenyon

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My review of The Hero (Sons of Texas #1) by Donna Grant

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There are book covers…

The Bite Before Christmas by Heidi Betts

Christmas Book Sculpture

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Book Christmas Trees

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Charles Dickens by Karen Kenyon

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Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved English novelists.

But who was the man behind the novels?

And how did his turbulent personal life contribute to his literary genius?

By the age of twelve Dickens was separated from his family when his father was sent to debtors’ prison. He was sent to work in a boot blacking factory, and had to live and walk the London streets alone.

He never recovered from the emotional wounds of those years, and when he began to write stories of the poor in London he included especially poignant characterisations of children.

He worked hard to change the way society viewed and empathised with the poor, and yet, despite these displays of kindheartedness, he could be heartless in his personal life.

He had strained relationships with his children and showed very little sympathy towards his depressed and lonely wife.

He was full of compassion, yet could also be a mass of contradictions.

Charles Dickens by Karen Kenyon

Despite living and working near the Charles Dickens Museum in London for a couple of years, I never got there. The more I read about Dickens’ personal life, the harder I find it to separate the books from the man.

Dickens is famous for his work helping the poor, but what is not as commonly known is that he was selfish and often cruel when it came to the people he should have cared about the most, and held a rather disturbing obsession with teen girls and very young women his entire life.

Karen Kenyon’s Charles Dickens is a detailed biography that shows Dickens as a complex and extremely contradictory man. A man who grew up in poverty and worked his way up to one of England’s most famous men, performing readings for the Queen and touring America more than once. (I found the part about his copyright woes in the US interesting.)

It is hard to make sense of a man who was loved by the public, but who blamed his wife for having too many babies – babies he was indifferent to – before leaving her for a teenaged lover when he was middle-aged.

Charles’ and Catherine’s last child was born that year…

…At the time of his birth, Dickens, with his characteristically cold response to the birth of his children, said, ‘on the whole I could have dispensed with him.’

This was a man who refused even to send his estranged wife a note of condolence when one of their children died.

Victorian England is a fascinating place, with a great deal of misery in the poorer classes that provided Dickens with subjects for his work. I think that the atmosphere of the time was described well in this book.

There is so much known about Dickens’ life, as well as more revealed about his secret life with his mistress (after it came to light in the twentieth century), that any biography is going to be heavy on the information. There is a lot of life to cover in detail, even considering he burnt two decades of his correspondence, and that there’re many unanswered questions about his thirteen-year affair.

I don’t think there was any way to present the man’s life than how it was done in this book, even if at times it was perhaps TOO fast with the facts to the point parts felt like a long list of dot points put in sentences.

Additionally, the copy I read had quite a few editing mistakes (and oddly switched back and forth between US and British English), but that was a minor issue.

It is hard to present both sides of such a complicated man – the good public one and the often cruel private one – with balance, but I think it was achieved.

Though this is a story of a man’s life, I think it is as much a story of how limited women’s options were in the nineteenth century.

I do wonder how a man with so much compassion for others could care so little about the most important people in his life.

This affair brought out all that was worst, all that was weakest in him. He did not care a damn what happened to any of us. Nothing could surpass the misery and unhappiness of our home.

One of Dickens’ daughters.

Overall, and despite my inability to get over my anger with a man who has been dead a long time(!), it was an interesting read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.