Review of A Year Without Summer – One Event, Six Lives, a World Changed by Guinevere Glasfurd @GuinGlasfurd @TwoRoadsBooks #AYearWithoutSummer #RandomThingsTours #BlogTour #Review #Historical

The Year Without Summer
By Guinevere Glasfurd
Rated: ****

I am delighted to be closing this wonderful blog tour of A Year Without Summer. One Year, an exploding volcano that has far reaching implications than just its vicinity. It is worth reading and also find out which characters from history, you recognise. The intertwining of people’s lives and a volcanic eruption makes for intriguing reading.

Year Without Summer BT Poster (1)

 

About the Author

A Year Without Summer Guinever Glasfurd Author Pic (1)

 

Guinevere Glasfurd was born in Lancaster and lives near Cambridge with her husband and daughter. Her debut novel, The Words in My Hand, was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa First Novel Award and Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was longlisted in France for the Prix du Roman FNAC. her writing has also appeared in the Scotsman, Mslexia and The National Galleries of Scotland.

Blurb

1815, Sumbawa Island, Indonesia:
Mount Tambora explodes in a cataclysmic eruption, killing thousands and causing famine, poverty and riots. Lives, both ordinary and privileged, are changed forever. Sent to investigate, ship surgeon Henry Hogg can barely believe his eyes. Once a paradise,
the island is now solid ash, the surrounding sea turned to stone. But worse is yet to come: as the ash cloud rises and covers the sun, the seasons will fail.

1816:
In Switzerland, Mary Shelley finds dark inspiration. Confined inside by the unseasonable weather, thousands of famine refugees stream past her door. In Vermont, preacher Charles Whitlock begs his followers to keep faith as drought dries their wells and
their livestock starve. In Britain, the ambitious and lovesick painter John Constable struggles to reconcile the idyllic England he paints with the misery that surrounds him. In the Fens, farm labourer Sarah Hobbs has had enough of going hungry while the
farmers flaunt their wealth. And Hope Peter, returned from Napoleonic war, finds his family home demolished and a fence gone up in its place. He flees to London, where he falls in with a group of revolutionaries who speak of a better life, whatever the cost.
As desperation sets in, Britain becomes racked with riots – rebellion is in the air.

For fans of David Mitchell and Andrew Miller, The Year Without Summer tells the story of a fateful year when temperatures fell and the summer failed to arrive. It is a story of the books written, the art made; of the journeys taken, of the love longed for and
the lives lost. Six separate lives, connected only by an event many thousands of miles away. Few had heard of Tambora – but none could escape its effects.

The Year Without Summer Cover (1)

Review

Firstly, I do enjoy a bit of creativity, so the layout of the title and sub-title captured my attention on such an otherwise, quite stark cover. It intrigues me, as does the hard-hitting blurb.

The book starts with a series of beautifully written letters between Emmalina and Henry in 1815, when Henry is a surgeon upon the Beneres – a ship out on the high seas. They practically set the scene of the times, a bit like looking at letters from ancestors.

The book then changes to 1816, where the chapters really begin, cleverly named after the main characters – John, Hope Peter, Charles, Henry, Mary, Roisin and Sarah. The book then transports readers to and fro from 1815 and 1816 in a succinct way.

This is a sumptuous period piece. I don’t mean big dresses and corsets. I mean that it is as richly character driven as it is setting driven as the story tells one of on land and at sea. There are all walks of life within these pages. There’s a romance, the returning from war, there’s a preacher trying to preach sermons wherever he could, there’s an author and artists too.

Then… an eruption! There is a volcano exploding that will change the course of life.

This was a period of time that I had heard of, but was still a bit unfamiliar with, not so much the people within the story, who did exist, but the actual Tambora volcanic explosion, so that was interesting.

There are writers, such as Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein and artists too that come into this story, one of the main reasons I was drawn to it. I was intrigued as to how they would fit into this story, plus I really like John Constable’s art. John, being John Constable, trying to show off his work of art at an exhibition at Somerset House. Those unfamiliar with Constable’s work, he was born in Suffolk and painted (in my opinion) beautiful landscapes, such as The Haywain, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows, Cornfield and many more… It is interesting reading his part of the story, you get a feeling of his mood as people study his paintings, but then also go onto Turner’s (whom I equally like) and when the subject of a volcano erupting would be right up Turner’s street, when it is reported in the newspaper. It is also all put into context with what was happening elsewhere, such as Byron leaving Britain for Switzerland and one would think, giving up Newstead Abbey (visit if you haven’t already). As for Mary Shelley, it is interesting reading how she is trying to write and finally comes up with a tale to tell.

There are also tales to tell around the mill and other interesting characters, each life different to the next.

The story goes at a reasonable pace as the words etch onto the page like the paper is a large canvas, now filled with well-known names and historical times all weaved together to create, what is a pretty good yarn. There’s all manner of life to be found in this book.

Do take time to acquaint yourself with the Afterword. It tells of the far-reaching consequences and the real-life devastation caused by the Tambora volcanic explosion. It also tells a little more about the people who are characterised within this book.

#Review of Ten Times Table – 1 Committee, 1 Pageant Funny Results. 5 stars ***** #TenTimesTable @RobertDaws @Ayckbourn #Edinburgh #York #Shrewsbury #Cheltenham #Chesterfield #Brighton @captheatres #Play #Theatre #humour #TheatreGoers

Ten Times Table
By Alan Ayckbourn
Rated – 5 stars *****

Bill Kenwright presents The Classic Comedy Theatre Company, who are performing – Ten Times Table – An excellent play by Alan Ayckbourn, set around a committee trying to put on a pageant. This is a fun revival of the Ayckbourn’s 1970s comedy play that is currently on a UK tour. Below, after the review, is also a list of where the play appears to be touring next, including links.

The Cast includes:

Robert Daws (The Royal, Outside Edge and Roger Roger. Also author and podcaster) 
Deborah Grant (Not Going Out and Bergerac) 
Gemma Oaten (Emmerdale, Holby City) 
Robert Duncan (Drop The Dead Donkey)
Mark Curry (Hollyoaks, Last Of The Summer Wine)
Craig Gazey (Coronation Street and The Full Monty, West End)
Elizabeth Power (EastEnders)

Ten TImes Table.jpg

Review

Braving the beginnings of Storm Ciara, a friend and I went to see the play we had booked months in advance at the Edinburgh King’s Theatre. The verdict – we both Loved It! This is a wonderful play that kept us entertained from start to finish. There were certainly lots of laughs to be had in this captivating, very enjoyable play. With an excellent cast performing the play, it was a great evening.

The basic premise is, a committee that is being formed in the Swan Hotel for the Pendon Folk Festival. It isn’t as easy as it seems as they try to create, develop and put on a re-enactment of “The Pendon Twelve”, after a story about the massacre is discovered.

The results of the committee are hilarious as the story unfolds, showing the many personalities around the table. There’s the chair just trying to keep everything together, albeit not terribly well and often ends up dominated by others, the one who interrupts and doesn’t really get on with anyone and storms out, the shy one, the one who is pedantic, the one just trying to get the task done, the one who doesn’t always follow what is being said or done and people with opposing points of view. The personal issues also come into play a bit too… Even though some of the behaviours/personality types are exaggerated, they are recognisable, so there is a bit of accuracy there.
They all have to find a way to reach the end result – to showcase the pageant. They all want the same goal, but all doesn’t exactly go to plan…

The Committee is led by Ray – played by Robert Daws, who is a treat to watch as he gave the audience a huge range of his acting talents. The way he delivers each line is so on-point and so expressive. Deborah Grant played Helen excellently and with great energy for this strong-willed, character. All the cast give equally terrifically strong performances. There isn’t one who lets the side down as it were.

The play is directed by Robin Herford, who has done a great job in managing this cast and it all flows very well with all the comings and goings.

For a play that is predominantly set around a committee table, it has excellent comedic writing and comedy-timing. It is a fantastic play that I recommend seeing for a great afternoon or evening out. It is highly entertaining from start to finish. My friend and I certainly were not disappointed as we talked about it all the way to the train station. The weather was horrendous with the storm, but it was absolutely worth it.

Here is a list of where the play is touring next:

Mon, 10th February 2020 to Sat, 15th February 2020
Grand Opera House, York»
Mon, 17th February 2020 to Sat, 22nd February 2020
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury»
Mon, 24th February 2020 to Sat, 29th February 2020
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham»
Mon, 9th March 2020 to Sat, 14th March 2020
Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield»
Mon, 23rd March 2020 to Sat, 28th March 2020
Theatre Royal, Brighton»

Review of First in the Fight – 20 Women Who Made Manchester Rated 5 stars @inostalgiauk @HelenAntrobus #AndrewSimcock @LoveBooksGroup #Manchester #Scotland #UK #History #Review #BlogTour #Non-Fiction #Culture #Political #Nature #Social

First in the Fight – 20 Women Who Made Manchester
By Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock
Rated:5 stars *****

 

I am delighted and very excited to be part of this blog tour for the People’s History Museum for their book – The First in the Fight. Expertly put together by the historian and author Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock, this book celebrates women who yes, are important to Manchester, but in-turn, also made a huge impact on the UK as a whole, which we still see today. So, whether you are in Manchester or elsewhere, please do take time to find out what this book is actually all about. It covers more than you would think in the lovely short sections that are just a few pages long. They certainly keep the interest going and that want to read on.

Click here for a link: Nostalgia

Click here for a link for blog tour organiser

Blurb

Emmeline Pankhurst stands proudly in St Peter’s Square, but she stands for so many more… From the women who marched to St Peter’s Fields flying the flag for reform to the first entrepreneurs, the women of Greater Manchester have long stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for equality and social change. For the centenary of some women being able to vote in 2018, the journey began for a statue to be erected, symbolising the incredible lives and achievements of Manchester’s radical women. Glimpse at the lives of the twenty women who were long-listed in the campaign, who all made Manchester first in the fight for freedom, and feminism.

Manchester Women Cover

Review

Behold these women who stood up for women’s rights. Some for the right to vote, others for workers rights and there are other women who inspire for other reasons as well.

This beautiful book important, influential women who have made a great impact, not just in Manchester, but across the entire UK, your mind may turn to the Pankhursts. The book does cover them, but there are also women who have done great things, who are less known or in the midst of time have been largely forgotten about, with their being at least one, almost being erased from history altogether.

This is a book I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about social and political history and the women’s lives who were part of change or achieved great things that weren’t within the political sphere too. That’s what is so great here, is the variety of women who are showcased in this book.
The book nicely starts off with a very interesting bit about Manchester and its history before taking each individual women and allowing readers to learn something about who they were and who they became. It certainly is a valuable book full of substance. It is beautifully presented in the way it is written, with each woman just having a just few pages about them. It is also very well illustrated from the cover right down to the pages inside. Even the front cover seems fitting and eye-catching.

Let me take you on a short journey in tim to whet your appetite for reading this book.

The women who have been so well researched for this book are:

  1. Margaret Downes – read about her; discover what happened to her and Peterloo and some other, perhaps more prominent women who would have been around too.
  2. Margaret Ashton – a leading lady from Lancashire who was in the fight for equality and yet later had her name all but erased for quite some time. Find out how her name resurfaced and about her upbringing that brought her perhaps to the Suffrage movement.

  3. Mary Quaile – Born in Dublin, her family and her moved to Manchester and were from a poor working class background. Read about the her and other women who tried for equality in the workplace. Find out more about these women and the TUC here.

  4. Esther Roper – An orphan, she was one of the first women to attend Robert Owen’s College. Scots would know him for championing worker’s rights at New Lanark (now a great museum). She also wanted to continue where Lydia Becker left off (mentioned further below). Delve further into this part and you’ll find out more about her and her connections with suffragettes.

  5. Ellen Wilkinson – one of the first women to be voted into parliament and is also famous for leading the Jarrow March. Read her section to find out how she ended up in parliament and a bit about her life as a child and her death.

  6. Lydia Becker – largely forgotten in the tides of history, she had sympathies with the working class and also wrote a book about the suffragettes and set up a literary society with the focus on science. There’s much to be discovered in this part about her.

  7. Christabel Pankhurst – The Pankhursts played host to many reformers such as Keir Hardie from Scotland, William Morris – the English textile designer, activist etc and many more people, who you can discover in the book. There’s interesting bits about the relationship between Christabel and Emmeline to find out too.

  8. Sylvia Pankhurst – she had artistic and political leanings and led an interesting life in both her achievements and how family relations were with her.

  9. Emmeline Pankhurst – Perhaps not the first in the fight for women, but perhaps one of the most well-known and influential women to fight to gain the vote. There are snippets here and there however that perhaps you may or may not already know, so it’s still worth reading.

  10. Elizabeth Gaskell – One of the most influential authors of her time who also became acquainted to other well-known authors such as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. There are other parts of her life however that is perhaps less well-known and yet also fascinating, such as charitable work, other people who she met and life in general that aren’t so well-known.

  11. Enriqueta Rylands – she came across to Manchester from Cuba, other women shouted louder, so sadly she is sometimes overlooked and yet she is just as important. She was the founder of the John Ryland’s Library (perhaps a bit more well-known than herself as it is now a world landmark for literary lovers and historians. The library still exists today). Read more in this section about how she came to being in the UK, the overshadowing and her legacy to the world.

  12. Annie Horniman – she certainly lived a varied life and not one that would instantly spring to mind. Expect the somewhat unexpected here. There are many parts to her life that are very worth reading and is written in such a way that you would really get a good impression of what this woman was like.

  13. Olive Shapley – She presented Women’s Hour in the 1930’s (a radio 4 programme that still runs today) and created a safe house for women. There’s even more to this woman than meets the eye and some of it quite risky for the time. So read on to find out more about this pioneering woman.

  14. Marie Stopes – she fought for birth control and more. She, however, is a controversial woman who had (perhaps unfortunately) eugenics firmly in her sights and more can be found out in the book.

  15. Shena Simon – she championed for better education and active citizenship (however it was Ellen Wilkinson who was the first Minister of Education in 1945), but she nevertheless seemed to do quite a lot, which can be discovered in her part.

  16. Kathleen Ollerenshaw – one of the greatest mathematicians in the country (UK), she advocated for a lot educationally and died in 2014. There’s so much of her life that would have been, perhaps unknown until now…

  17. Louise  Da-Cocodia – the section starts with a great sounding African proverb, before moving onto her time within the NHS and being part of the “windrush” generation and creating a legacy.

  18. Elizabeth Raffald – long before Mary Berry and Nadia Hussain and lots of other people who you can think of today who are bakers, there was Elizabeth Raffald. A woman who was making waves in the business world and unbeknown to her she has left a legacy, of which more can be read about as well as a bit about her life.

  19. Emily Williamson – She was passionate about the conservation and preservation of wildlife. Her passion really shines through and I she would fit well in today’s most influential conservationists etc such as David Attenborough and Chris Packham. Her life is different from that from the social campaigners and worth reading to uncover more.

  20. Sunny Lowry – She swam the Channel. Again different from the social or political activists, but it shows women can do this and also take a moment to read this section as this isn’t just about achieving swimming the Channel (although impressive in itself), this is about much more that came into being afterwards.

To conclude, this is absolutely a fascinating book to read a really worthwhile getting. There are so many interesting parts that aren’t specifically about the women mentioned too, such as how it came about that there would be a statue for Emmeline Pankhurst and the work that went into that. There are well presented photos of this too, which were taken in very recent times. I highly recommend this book for anyone to read.

Manchester Women Cover

Review of Ka-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home – A beautifully written book about the repatriation of a flag, history, culture and love by B. Jeanne Shibahara #Time to Go Home #B.JeanneShibahara #Review #WW2 #Japan #UK #USA #History #Culture #ModernTimes #fiction #Mystery #Humour

KA-E-RO-U – Time to Go Home
by B. Jeanne Shibahara
Rated 4 stars ****

About the Author and Book

B. Jeanne Shibahara studied fiction writing from Mark Harris (Bang the Drum Slowly) B Jeanne Shibharaand copywriting from Beth Luey (Editorial Consultant, Chicago Manual of Style, 16thEd.) in the MA program for creative writing at Arizona State University.

In Japan, B. Jeanne has taught English at a private university, written articles for research groups, and created jazz lyrics for composer Hajime Kitamura.

Daughter of a US military officer, she married into a family of calligraphy, ikebana, and tea ceremony teachers, shamisen player, kimono fabric artist, business entrepreneur, and architect. Her home is in Nara City, the ancient capital of Japan.

Time-slip to my Osaka life, 1995, fifty years after the end of WWII—bubble economy ready to burst and the seed to KA-E-RO-U falls into my hands. A WWII Japanese flag. A widow of a US veteran in Akron, Ohio sends the flag to a colleague of mine, asks him to find the family of the fallen soldier who had carried it into the battlefields.
Please click on the website link for more information about the author and the very interesting backstory to the book.           Link:    Website

Meryl is a Vietnam War widow who misses her grown son, feels left out after her father’s recent marriage. A WWII Japanese flag falls into her hands. The gentle push of a love-struck professor starts her adventure to take the flag home. From the neon of Osaka, to the ancient capital Nara, to the forests of Akita, the trail follows British and US expats, a newspaper reporter, factory manager, ikebana teacher, a Matagi hunter and winds through Japanese culture, past and present. A story of shared humanity and love “in the simplest things.”

Kaerou

Review

The book is well organised and split into 6 sections – Desert Flower M, The Backstreets of Namba, Day 2 in Japan, To Meryl To Atika, Returns and Finale.

The opening sentence is  “Everybody who knew the secretary knew she couldn’t resist any chance at serving up beefy gossip—seasoned, well done, sizzling and sputtering the latest, the most titillating, the just-gotta-tell.” I must say, it is instantly intriguing and I wanted to know a bit more and it is written so excellently.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the book as a whole really, but I was intrigued enough to really want to read it. I started to enjoy it from the outset in the office and getting to know the characters. The letter interested me as do the Shakespearean quotes. I like that there is some humour mingled in with history and people’s lives.

Kaerou takes readers along with Meryl, who is a war widow from the Vietnam war, on a  journey to Japan. She discovered a Japanese flag of a fallen soldier from the second world war and wants to deliver it back to the family. She meets many interesting characters who I enjoyed reading about, including a professor and a writer. The book is very character driven. The premise of the actual plot is fine and interesting enough. Sometimes the grammar isn’t at its best, but somehow that doesn’t detract from the actual story and the richness in culture. It really is fascinating to read about the cultures and how they sit in people’s minds as the book isn’t just about Japan, it covers the UK, Vietnam and the US.

The scenery is beautifully written and picturesque.

The book is nicely written and it is interesting as there are some quick, short chapters, yet the pace is smooth and gentle. The way it goes between past and present is beautifully presented and flows well and in an unconfused way. With all the complexities of the book, everything marries up well on the whole, leaving a pleasant satisfaction.

The book is a love story and one of discovery. It is also one of history and how it can join up with the present as there is a journey to join up the flag of the fallen soldier with his family. It’s about moving on, but not without making peace first with what was lost in the war. It’s also about life ever-moving onwards and it’s there to be really lived and embraced and trying to overcome and bridge that which divides us. So, as much as this is Remembrance Sunday and we think of our war dead and the veterans who are still alive, this book is about love too and there is something to learn here as well, even though Japan wasn’t an ally nation. In this book readers can learn about the past and more present times of Japan through the characters that are written about.

I think B.Jeanne Shibahara has achieved what she set out to achieve. She has a book that has a story, great characters and I get the sense of most importantly, one that tells the world about Japan.

Overall, I recommend this book. Take a leap, take that chance and read about the familiar and the perhaps, lesser well-known and learn something from this story that, although is fictional, is based on fact. So, I recommend to try this book for something new. Sometimes we get into reading very similar books time and time again, this book brings something new, or if you like reading about people’s lives or family sagas even, or learning about different cultures and thoughts and feeling emotions and history in terms of where it also sits with the present,  then I would recommend Ke a rou. Bascially, I say give it a go for a pleasant, satisfying read.

I have to say I enjoyed reading the book. Thanks to B. Jeanne Shibahara for contacting me on my contact page on my blog and for giving me this amazing opportunity to review her book. I thank her also for buying me a copy of her book and sending it to me.