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.

The Week: 31st October – 6th October

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Spring afternoon in Canberra.

It wasn’t actually this week, but the early Sunday morning earthquake in Italy was devastating.

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

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(The picture at the top is one we took in June. Note in the second picture the tower on the left is destroyed even though it has not yet fallen.)

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I am not much of a Catholic anymore, but the fact the church where Saint Benedict was allegedly born finally succumbed to the earthquakes hitting the Norcia region? That is one of the most historically devastating things to have happened to Italy in modern history. One local said that the moment she saw the closed-order nuns fleeing, (women the public never see), she knew the town was finished.

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I’m not exaggerating or being sentimental because of recent events: Norcia is one of my favourite places in the world, not just in Italy. The people, the food, the beauty of every street (before it was devastated) and of the mountains it sits in the centre of.

The whole town – and many others nearby I have spent time in – are either totally destroyed now, or severely damaged and unlikely to ever recover. I’m so shocked I was last in that part of the world only a few months ago, and we were talking about what a massive earthquake risk the area was; we never really expected it to happen.

I have seen people we’ve spoken with many times in news photos and footage, and so know they survived, but I have no idea how they can ever recover from this. These are the same families who have run the towns for centuries. One older woman, whose family owns many hotels and restaurants there – some of them in that very square – was proudly showing us a magazine article about her family’s success only in June. I still have a copy of it.

We are heading back to Italy for the better part of a month in February. I hope this horror has finished by then.

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Please, America. Do not put the whole world in danger in a few days’ time. Voting for Trump isn’t just dangerous for Americans; it’s dangerous for all of us, and especially for countries like Ukraine and Syria. We don’t get a say in the election’s outcome, but you do.

The Goodreads Choice Awards

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My review of The Legendary Lord (Playful Brides #6) by Valerie Bowman

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Anne Gracie’s Upcoming Book

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Melbourne Cup Day

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The Twentieth Anniversary of Romeo + Juliet

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Melbourne Cup Day

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The first Tuesday of November is the day of the Melbourne Cup, one of the world’s major horse races. I wanted to mention a book I had a review copy of when I was in Europe, and forgot to review!

In last year’s race, Michelle Payne became the first female jockey to win, and when got up onstage to receive her trophy she famously told sexist men in the industry to ‘get stuffed’.

Of course everyone rushed to get Payne-related things out there while her name was still fresh in people’s minds, and so a few months later her biography came out.

Now, this is definitely no masterpiece of literature – it’s very simply written – but there are worse biographies you could be reading! I’m not a great fan of horse racing beyond appreciating the pretty horses (and am not really enjoying the fad for horse racing historical romances at the moment), but this book is about someone who overcame huge odds to get where she was, and that’s a story most people can enjoy and identify with.