#Review by Lou of Toksvig’s Almanac by Sandi Toksvig @sanditoksvig @HatchetteBooks @TrapezeBooks #HatchetteAudio

Toksvig’s Almanac
By Sandi Toksvig

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Interesting, fun and purely wonderful in style, Tolksvig’s Almanac is the book that will entertain and take you to corners of facts that you may never come across otherwise. Written and narrated in her own unique style, it’s all fascinating for the brain. If you like QI or Chain of Curiosity, or humour within your history, this is one to check out, in fact a Must Have to add to your collection. Wit, Substance and Facts are all brought to the page in an absolutely marvellous, unique, eclectic, quirky style. It will have you intrigued and have you laughing too as you meander through each month. It is perfect for either listening to all at once or to dip in and out of. It’s such a joy to listen to and it would be to read as well. It is all pitched perfectly. This is one of those  times I’ll say this is a Must Have Book or Audiobook for your shelves.

I’ve read most of Sandi Toksvig’s books – fiction and non-fiction and they never cease to amaze and I have adored her fiction and non-fiction books, ever since Whistling For The Elephant’s was published and read many more since, so I was curious and I loved this too. Thank you so much to Hatchette, Trapeze, Orion Books for accepting my request to review the audiobook version.

The book is available now and I have a link after the rest of my review below…

Toksvigs Almanac Cover

Blurb

Toksvig’s Almanac is intended merely as a starting point for your own discoveries. Find a fabulous (or infamous) woman mentioned and, please, go looking for more of her story. The names mentioned are merely temptations. Amuse-bouches for the mind, if you like. How I would have loved to have written out in detail each tale there is to be told, but then this book would have been too heavy to lift.’

Let Sandi Toksvig guide you on an eclectic meander through the calendar, illuminating neglected corners of history to tell tales of the fascinating figures you didn’t learn about at school.

From revolutionary women to serial killers, pirate nuns to pioneering civil rights activists, doctors to dancing girls, artists to astronauts, these pages commemorate women from all around the world who were pushed to the margins of historical record. Amuse your bouche with:

Belle Star, American Bandit Queen
Lady Murasaki, author of the world’s first novel
Madame Ching, the most successful pirate of all time
Maud Wagner, the first female tattoo artist
Begum Samru, Indian dancer and ruler who led an army of mercenaries    Inês de Castro, crowned Queen Consort of Portugal six years after her death
Ida B. Wells, activist, suffragist, journalist and co-founder of the NAACP   
Eleanor G. Holm, disqualified from the 1936 Berlin Olympics for drinking too much champagne

These stories are interspersed with helpful tips for the year, such as the month in which one is most likely to be eaten by a wolf, and the best time to sharpen your sickle. Explore a host of annual events worth travelling for, from the Olney Pancake Race in Wiltshire to the Danish Herring Festival, or who would want to miss Serbia’s World Testicle Cooking Championship?

As witty and entertaining as it is instructive, Toksvig’s Almanac is an essential companion to each day of the year.

Review

Toksvigs Almanac CoverSandi Toksvig takes you through many facts, philosophies and into corners you may not realise existed before as she meanders through each month of the year. Sure, you’d have heard of the main themes, but she delves into areas, rarely talked about. Sounds serious, but fear not, this is historical fact and humour spun together and also relates back to present times too.
There is much to learn and is well researched, written and (narrated for audiobook, which I listened to), in her own wonderful style that is unique to her and thank goodness for that! Sandi Toksvig makes everything sound very interesting and hooks you in. She adds a bit of her own personal analogies, thoughts and tips that readers/listeners may never have thought of otherwise…

She talks of extraordinary women, some who have achieved many great things, but also those who have committed crimes. There are so many different accounts that is interesting to dip and out of. She encourages people to use this as a starting point and then go off and perhaps look up more info yourself. Sandi Toksvig’s curiosity is also infectious. Her thirst for knowledge is impressive as is her research. All perfectly pitched, it is a Must Have on your reading or listening to lists.

Buy Link: Waterstones   Amazon

 

#BookReview by Lou of #NonFiction – Rowntrees by Paul Chrystal @penswordbooks #PaulChrystal

Rowntrees
By Paul Chrystal
Rated: 5 stars *****

 There is more to just eating confections than meets the eye! This is delectable book for history and confectionery lovers the world over!
This book, as much as it looks into the very being of Rowntrees and other companies, with them at the centre, it has more to it than meets the eye!
Thanks to Pen & Sword for accepting my request to review this wonderfully interesting book, which goes into little known corners of the confectionary world with its very interesting insights.
Please follow through the blurb and then onto my review to discover more…

Blurb

Rowntrees coverThe Rowntree family, especially Henry and the younger Joseph Rowntree are, along with the Fry’s, Cadbury’s, Mars and Terry’s, synonymous with the birth and growth of the chocolate industry in Britain. Between them, they were the chocolate industry in Britain.

This book charts the fascinating story behind the birth and development of the chocolate empire that was Rowntrees. Background information to this astonishing business comes by way of chapters on the early history of the Rowntrees, contemporary York, the relationship between Quakers and chocolate, and the Tuke family – without whom there would have been no Rowntrees, and no Kit Kats.

Henry, it is usually forgotten, was the founder of Rowntree’s – he made the momentous decision to sign the deal with the Tukes and we join him in those very early days of the fledgling company and watch how he helped it through some very dark, and sometimes humorous, times in what was then a very shambolic set up – cash strapped and making it up as the company lurched from crisis to crisis. Joseph, his elder brother, it was, who became the driving force to eventual global success, mixing his hectic business life with acts of compassion and a benevolent management model, all of which paved the way for decent wages, pensions, insurance and mutual respect in the workplace. Charity work extended beyond the factories to lift workers and others out of the slums of York to a life in a healthy model village, to provide a good social life, an extensive park, swimming pool and education for children and adults. More context is given with chapters on Joseph’s relentless industrial espionage, the advancements in chocolate production and 20th century rivals in the domestic and export markets, and mergers and acquisitions.

Rowntree’s role in the two world wars is also covered along with the struggle Joseph Rowntree had accepting the importance of advertising. Altogether this book gives two fascinating biographies of two exceptional and driven brothers who came together to form one of our greatest companies – producing some of our best loved confectionery products.

Rowntrees cover

Review

Rowntrees is about that famous family, especially Henry and Joseph who are synonymous with the birth of chocolate and in how it has grown.

It charts how Henry is the founder of Rowntrees and it details about his younger brother Joseph. It’s one for the reader with a sweet-tooth and with an interest in how these companies came about, as it has other confectionary companies mentioned too. The pace is excellent for such a historical non-fiction book. It’s interesting as Henry and Joseph Rowntree weren’t just pioneering chocolate, but also in treating their staff well. It demonstrates their philanthropy and human interest and industrial relations, influenced by them being Quakers. The book has lots of context to it and mentions Lewis Fry and George Cadbury as well as The East India Tea Company and Nestle and how events influenced their ways of working and brought about meetings with Samuel Tuke, who is a key man.

There is plenty of history, even if you don’t have a sweet-tooth as it isn’t all chocolate related. It chronicles improvements to buildings and schooling and the contributions the Rowntrees made and how Joseph, especially, had been active in so many good causes.

There’s a lot to learn about the Confectionery Industry from the Mid nineteenth century onwards. It’s written in a manner as though studies have just been done and the information is unfolding for the first time. This style of writing brings some excitement to the book, especially when talking about what chocolate contains and how cacao can be consumed. The book shows differences in branding and advertising, which is a bit like an exclusive sneaky peak behind the scenes. It’s interesting what is uncovered within the book, including competition and the concerns of industrial espionage.

As the book takes readers through the years, its pace builds up some excitement as chocolate emerges and becomes established in York, England. Although there are a lot of figures and dates, it adds to the context and doesn’t detract from the rest of the facts, so even if figures aren’t your thing, the rest of the book might well be and the pace is kept-up.

In the modern day, there seems to be more discoveries and it is exquisite that there are still old traditions that still survive today. It truly is all a delightful feast for the eyes and it may just make you want to buy some of Rowntree’s confectionary as you read the rapid rise and rise of it all as it documents drinking chocolate, eating chocolate, sweets such as humbugs and pastilles, all of which still survive today.

The book nicely and respectfully concludes with The Last Will and Testament of Henry Isaac Rowntree and the heritage and suggests where to find further reading on the subject matters within the book. Beyond that, there are pictures of the Rowntrees and George Cadbury as well as some of the architecture, landscape and advertisement posters of their times, which is a delight to see.

Buy Link: Pen & Sword Books (Publishers)

#Bookreview by Lou of The Domestic Revolution by Ruth Goodman @OmaraBooks @LoveBooksTours #History #NonFiction

The Domestic Revolution
By Ruth Goodman
Rated: 4 stars ****

The Domestic Revolution takes readers to the 16th Century, where fascinating change is afoot. The Domestic Revolution is the start of the Industrial Revolution to accomodate changing desires. This Domestic Revolution firmly places changing times right into the home in a relatable way. Think history isn’t for you? Think again, The Domestic Revolution shows the progression of life and it is relatable to what we have today in an accessible style.
The book is already praised by her fellow historian – Lucy Worsley.
I thank Love Book Tours for inviting me onto the blog tour and for providing a beautiful hardback copy.
Follow down to the blurb and full review for more about the book and more of my thoughts on it.

The DomesticRevolution (1)

About the Author

For the first time, shows how the Industrial Revolution truly began in the kitchen – a revolution run by women|Told with Ruth’s inimitable wit, passion and commitment to revealing the nitty-gritty of life across three centuries of extraordinary change, from the Elizabethan to the Victorian age|A TV regular, Ruth has appeared on some of BBC 2’s most successful shows, including, Victorian Farm, Edwardian Farm, Wartime Farm, Tudor Monastery Farm, Inside the Food Factory and most recently Full Steam Ahead, as well as being a regular expert presenter on The One Show|The critically acclaimed author of How to Be a Victorian, How to be a Tudor and How to Behave Badly in Renaissance Britain

Blurb 

A large black cast iron range glowing hot, the kettle steaming on top, provider of everything from bath water and clean socks to morning tea: it’s a nostalgic icon of a Victorian way of life. But it is far more than that. In this book, social historian and TV presenter Ruth Goodman tells the story of how the development of the coal-fired domestic range fundamentally changed not just our domestic comforts, but our world.

The revolution began as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when London began the switch from wood to coal as its domestic fuel – a full 200 years before any other city. It would be this domestic demand for more coal that would lead to the expansion of mining, engineering, construction and industry: the Domestic Revolution kick-started, pushed and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

There were other radical shifts. Coal cooking was to change not just how we cooked but what we cooked (causing major swings in diet), how we washed (first our laundry and then our bodies) and how we decorated (spurring the wallpaper industry). It also defined the nature of women’s and men’s working lives, pushing women more firmly into the domestic sphere. It transformed our landscape and environment (by the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1603, London’s air was as polluted as that of modern Beijing). Even tea drinking can be brought back to coal in the home, with all its ramifications for the shape of the empire and modern world economics.

Taken together, these shifts in our day-to-day practices started something big, something unprecedented, something that was exported across the globe and helped create the world we live in today.

The Domestic Revolution

Review

The Domestic Revolution takes readers through the midsts of time and how the excavation and use of coal had a real impact in shaping lives and expanding what could be achieved in the home. It was a real game changer when it came to, not just how homes could be heated and how people could bathe but also in how and what could be cooked. In our homes today, it may be hard to believe, especially for younger generations who have perhaps not experienced a coal fire etc, but this was a vast change in technological advancements and improvements to what industry could do and for what people in the home could do, especially where women were concerned.
There were advancements in soap-making and it shows that, even though humans now know that coal can’t last forever (it is worth bearing in mind that in the 16th century, this and the effects were not known, it was instead an exciting development), the things we do see today, may not have come into being may not have ever happened and we may not use what we do today as the technologies wouldn’t exist. So, as far as the book goes, it does make you think about the world today, but also reminds us that this was a big deal and much needed thing for many advancements of today. It was one that was brought about by ordinary people as well as the more wealthy that changed the landscape and has some positives and some negatives to it, as argued out in the book. There was a Domestic Revolution afoot and people wanted change and it sowed some of the seeds for the Industrial Revolution to be able to accomodate people’s desires, as illustrated in this beautifully bound book.

It makes for a fascinating book that can be easily dipped in and out of or read all at once. It’s fairly easy-going in style, once it gets going after a bit of a sluggish start. I guess, like the Industrial Revolution, nothing happens overnight. It makes you think that every time there is change in energy supplies, there will be pros and cons. Every sentence contains a dollop of information. It is well laid-out where the text is and the pictures are to convey and back up the written word.It is clearly well-researched and there is a huge bibliography that accompanies it at the back of the book.

Review of Lionheart by Ben Kane @BenKane @orionbooks @gigicroft #HistoricalFiction #LionHeart #MedievelFiction #SundayTimesBestSeller #Review

Lionheart
By Ben Kane
Rated: 5 Stars *****

Lionheart by Ben Kane is the first in a new series of books. Now writing in medievel times, this is very accomplished writing of fiction that has been expertly woven together with an amazing amount of research. It is unputtdownable and highly addictive reading. It is a must for fans of Ben Kane, the 1100’s or even if this isn’t your usual genre, it is absolutely one I would recommend you gave a go.

With thanks to Virginia Woolstencroft at Orion Publishing for slotting me into her blog tour and for sending me an advance review copy (ARC) of the book.

About the Author

Kenya born, Irish by blood and UK resident, Ben Kane’s passion for history has seen him change career from veterinary medicine to writing, and taken him to more than 60 countries, and all 7 continents. During his travels and subsequent research, including walking hundreds of miles in complete Roman military gear, he has learned much about the Romans and the way they lived. Ten of his thirteen novels have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his books are published in twelve languages; a million copies have sold worldwide. In 2016, his research was recognised by Bristol University with an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Kane lives in Somerset with his wife and children, where he writes full time.

LionHeart by Ben Kane.jpg

Blurb

REBEL. LEADER. BROTHER. KING.

1179. Henry II is King of England, Wales, Ireland, Normandy, Brittany and Aquitaine. The House of Plantagenet reigns supreme.

But there is unrest in Henry’s house. Not for the first time, his family talks of rebellion.

Ferdia – an Irish nobleman taken captive during the conquest of his homeland – saves the life of Richard, the king’s son. In reward for his bravery, he is made squire to Richard, who is already a renowned warrior.

Crossing the English Channel, the two are plunged into a campaign to crush rebels in Aquitaine. The bloody battles and gruelling sieges which followed would earn Richard the legendary name of Lionheart.

But Richard’s older brother, Henry, is infuriated by his sibling’s newfound fame. Soon it becomes clear that the biggest threat to Richard’s life may not be rebel or French armies, but his own family…

Review

Don the armour and join the knights to be ready for Richard Lionheart. A rebel, leader, king in this exquisitely written novel, where Boots and Fists and Countess Aoife is also encountered and Henry 11’s army that has swept through England, Wales and now Ireland. This is a the first in a new series from Ben Kane, that takes readers into the 1100s. It is as every bit as a accomplished at writing about the Middle-ages/Medievel times as he is at writing about the Romans.

The book begins in 1179 and the Medievel scene is written with such artistry. The main character is Ferdia, which comes from a legendary taine/toyne/story told in Ireland. He is incarcerated in a cell, wondering if he would ever return to Cairlinn and see his family, although given some freedoms. The word choice is evocative and moving.

The writing is simply a treat to read, as every paragraph and word engages. Every smell, nuance is remarkably captured and written in this book, placing you right there in the scene as you look onwards to see what’s going to happen next. It is almost cinematic in feel and panoramic in scene setting.
The scenes of trying to even get a glimpse of Duke Richard’s arrival are lively and one of the most splendid and grandest meals are served for him.

The years roll on by to 1182-1183 and there are fine sets of armour and word of battles.
The mind too can be dark as dreams can become murderous as night falls. There are battles with many consequences in Southampton and the Duke is perhaps courageous and won’t retreat. Later it is fascinating meeting the Duke’s family with their rebellious nature.

Travel  to the third part of this tale and enter the period – 1187-1189, to fortresses and camps on the border of Aquitaine and the kindom of France, which becomes quite hostile, after what seems like a more relaxed start of these years. There is also meetings of Phillipe and depictions of the holy land and Saracens and Christians to encounter.

There is also some very moving moments that are written with a light touch and delicacy, as the story moves on, that changes the mood from the battles and the harsher clunking of swords of before. It’s quite a contrast that is written with aplomb! 

Surprisingly, there is actually some mild humour and a little romance to be found within this book, that also has betrayal and trechery within it, for this is however, a serious book that grips tight and doesn’t let go until the end. It is very addictive reading as the pages glide across the hands with the lightest of touches and the time ticks on by with barely a noticable sound and before you know it, you’ve been at the book for a good long while.

The end made me smile as there is such a fitting conclusion to the book. Even if this is not your usual genre or time period to read, it is absolutely worth reading. It is pleasantly surprising and an incredibly well-written and researched book. As I eluded to, I could barely put it down until I reached the end and only then, because, well, the end forces you to.

The author’s note is incredibly interesting, for a bit more insight into the medievel times, depicted within the story, why Ben Kane moved away from writing about Romans for his latest book and a bit of endearing insight into himself as he shares a bit about his charitable work.

There will be a second book within this new Lionheart series, which is set to hit the shelves in 2021. I may just need to take a read at that one as well.

A Ration Book Wedding By Jean Fullerton reviewers agree #arationbookwedding is #5stars all the way. #ARationBookWedding #review @AtlanticBooks @CorvusBooks #HistoricalRomance #WW2 #EastEnd #London #nostalgia #saga #NewRelease #blitzspirit #familyseries #HistFic #RationBookSeries amzn.to/2RFkaRw

A Ration Book Wedding
By Jean Fullerton

Today I am on a blog tour for Jean Fullerton, thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources book tours. Today I present some info about A Ration Book Wedding. A book that early reviewers have been rating highly and simply have a lot of love for.

About the Author

Rationbook wedding Portrait_Jean-1022 RNA resizedJean Fullerton is the author of thirteen novels all set in East London where she was born. She also a retired district nurse and university lecturer.  She won the Harry Bowling prise in 2006 and after initially signing for two East London historical series with Orion she moved to Corvus, part of Atlantic Publishing and is halfway through her WW2 East London series featuring the Brogan family.

Social Media Links –

Website: http://jeanfullerton.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jean-Fullerton-202631736433230/?ref=bookmarks
Twitter:  @JeanFullerton_

rationwedding2 pic

Blurb

A Ration Book Wedding

Because in the darkest days of the Blitz, love is more important than ever.

It’s February 1942 and the Americans have finally joined Britain and its allies. Meanwhile, twenty-three-year-old Francesca Fabrino, like thousands of other women, is doing her bit for the war effort in a factory in East London. But her thoughts are constantly occupied by her unrequited love for Charlie Brogan, who has recently married a woman of questionable reputation, before being shipped out to North Africa with the Eighth Army.

When Francesca starts a new job as an Italian translator for the BBC Overseas Department, she meets handsome Count Leonardo D’Angelo. Just as Francesca has begun to put her hopeless love for Charlie to one side and embrace the affections of this charming and impressive man, Charlie returns from the front, his marriage in ruins and his heart burning for Francesca at last. Could she, a good Catholic girl, countenance an illicit affair with the man she has always longed for? Or should she choose a different, less dangerous path?

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ration-Book-Wedding-Perfect-Gibson-ebook/dp/B081DDLWQD

US – https://www.amazon.com/Ration-Book-Wedding-Perfect-Gibson-ebook/dp/B081DDLWQD

3 (1).png

#Review of The Fall of the House of Byron by Emily Brand @EJBrand @HachetteUK #HouseofByron #LordByron #Historical #NewsteadAbbey

The Fall of the House of Byron
By Katy Brand
Rated:****

Newstead Abbey is a place I know well. I have played in its ground as a child in the school summer holidays, when visiting relatives. I have explored both the grounds and the abbey with more of a keen adult eye too, so this book was of interest to me. I am very grateful to publisher – Hachette UK for allowing me to review the book.

The book is quite unique in the perspective it takes as it talks about lives, loves, deaths and no matter where else the book takes you, it does have a focus on Newstead Abbey itself too, as a building, a home, an estate and how it is all part of the society. It is such a unique perspective on all of the Byron family. It is informative as well as emotional and yet matter of fact in Georgian England. There are a few good photos and a few poem excerpts as well, to tell their family story. So, take a look at the blurb and my review. I have inserted a photo of Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, that I took on one of the visits there.

The Fall of The House of Byron cover

Blurb

In the early eighteenth century, Newstead Abbey was among the most admired aristocratic homes in England. It was the abode of William, 4th Baron Byron – a popular amateur composer and artist – and his teenage wife Frances. But by the end of the century, the building had become a crumbling and ill-cared-for ruin. Surrounded by wreckage of his inheritance, the 4th Baron’s dissipated son and heir William, 5th Baron Byron – known to history as the ‘Wicked Lord’ – lay on his deathbed alongside a handful of remaining servants and amidst a thriving population of crickets.

This was the home that a small, pudgy boy of ten from Aberdeen – who the world would later come to know as Lord Byron, the Romantic poet, soldier, and adventurer – would inherit in 1798. His family, he would come to learn, had in recent decades become known for almost unfathomable levels of scandal and impropriety, from elopement, murder, and kidnapping to adultery, coercion, and thrilling near-death experiences at sea. Just as it had shocked the society of Georgian London, the outlandish and scandalous story of the Byrons – and the myths that began to rise around it – would his influence his life and poetry for posterity.

The Fall of the House of Byron follows the fates of Lord Byron’s ancestors over three generations in a drama that begins in rural Nottinghamshire and plays out in the gentlemen’s clubs of Georgian London, amid tempests on far-flung seas, and in the glamour of pre-revolutionary France. A compelling story of a prominent and controversial characters, it is a sumptuous family portrait and an electrifying work of social history.

Review

The book starts in late summer, 1798 and takes readers on a grand tour. The writing is exquisite and the content is rich. I very much like that we meet Joe, a long time steward and readers will then be treated to a tour of Newstead Abbey and into its past and of its priory and monks. The grand tour is written so well, that even if you haven’t been there before, you get a real sense of the Abbey and its grounds and the history each room holds. It’s almost as though you are there on the tour itself. The Abbey is steeped in history, in George’s ancestry, love and scandal.
It’s interesting to learn a bit more about the tragic Frances. In 1726 There was another baby born into the Byron family and such congratulations from Thorsebury Hall and Welbeck Abbey (which can still be visited too) and many more high-standing people such as the Duke of Newcastle at Clumber Park (it is a fine and lovely Nottinghamshire park. I played there as child and walked round with the tread of adult feet).

This book is about Newstead Abbey and the Byrons. It isn’t so much about the life and death of the poet Lord Byron, who we all know, but more how they came to have Newstead Abbey and about the generations of Byrons, perhaps the stories that are less familiar and less told. It is however no less interesting, scandalous and emotional. The author has also told of some of the politics of the time (thankfully not too much). As much as I may have liked to read a bit more about the Lord Byron we know more about and about Newstead Abbey, this is still a very good book. It’s perhaps more unique than that of what has been done before, because there is certainly no reason why all the Byrons shouldn’t be written about. Everything is also put into context very neatly as it also looks at a wide scope of social and political history too. It all adds interest to them and to Newstead Abbey, which is steeped in history, even from the angle Emily Brand has taken. I recommend it.

The book tells of the successes in battle out at sea and of love, as well as the tragedies and ultimately their downfall. The book takes readers, of course to Newstead Abbey itself, but also to other places around Nottinghamshire in England and up to Scotland and abroad, in what is a book so well-written that it feels so remarkably easy to read. The facts are all there, but in such a form that flows even easier than the water mentioned throughout the book. The chapters are named after parts of Newstead Abbey itself, which not only ties in the abbey, although the book also talks about other places, it also feels like this writer is respectful in doing this.

The book then moves onto time spent in London, a far cry from leafy Sherwood Forest, and its new developments and re-builds after the Great Fire of London and the coronation of a new king. There is a well-written contrast between London and the beauty and the nature within Newstead Abbey.

The education of the children is also mentioned and you can feel some of the anguish around it. You learn a great deal about the Byrons and their early life and as their lives develop, sometimes also colliding with tragic times.

The Byron’s certainly were busy as they got involved in shipping on trade and business voyages. There’s also a tragic disappearance of a ship.

Slight political elements are mentioned and this, apart from being interesting as they formed the Byron’s lives, it also firmly, but informally, places useful timelines on what was happening in the wider world too as it goes into events on the fields of Flanders and Scottish clans, as well as skirmishes and worse, that was happening in Edinburgh, Scotland and further up to Culloden, Inverness and up to Aberdeen as this was Jacobean times, before turning attentions back onto Newstead Abbey and the renovations and additions, William introduced to the exterior and interior. I like that someone said the Byron’s were good landlords. There is however, much scandal, including murder. This book really does seem to cover it all, as well as certain ways Lord Byron voted. However, it seems to be Newstead Abbey that is a love and he seems drawn back to Nottinghamshire and his visions for it. 

Newstead Abbey 1
Pic of Newstead Abbey – taken by Louise – writer of this blog

The Upper Lake takes readers back to sea, documenting the life and trials there and it’s certainly rough and nothing about it is romantic. I feel the author speaks of a truth and authenticity about the realities of being out at sea.

The Great Dining Hall is back on land with George Byron at Halanby Hall, on his honeymoon as he wed Annabelle Millbanke. He seems romantic, but prone to a temper. Readers can also learn how Byron’s sister became the Countess of Carlisle and her pregnancy and of the entertainment. The writing changes tone, from that of the sea. It has a more romantic air, but each draws you in nearer and yet there always seems to be heartbreak and troubled, tortured times, in amongst the better days.

Folly’s Castle takes readers to the time Lord Byron spent there with fellow poet companions, such as Shelley.  The chapter also goes into more revolutionary times and was also happening in America as New York became under British control. Again, however all is not well back at Newstead as it tells of how things were auctioned off at a nearby Mansfield auction house and back at sea was treacherous. The detail put into this, is interesting. It also looks at what was happening in France at the time, with a new Princess being born into Versailles, all the while ensuring attentions are also focussed on Newstead and the Byrons and more scandal over love affairs, this time with Amelia and Jack and their child. I get the feeling times would not have been dull, working within the properties the Byrons used, as a footman was about to find out.
This part also shows Daws in Lancashire and how his property is also somewhat failing .

The Great Gallery is fascinating about the changing fashions in music as Mozart bursts into the music scene and man is starting to conquer the skies, it alludes almost to the Byrons having to try to catch up due to them actually slowing down, which in earlier chapters seemed quite impossible to imagine and yet their reputation seemed to preceed them. There are also by now, new friends readers will meet and of course more highs and lows to encounter. It also takes readers to when Sophia is in Bath, the society and her troubles there. I love that the attention again goes back to the state of Newstead Abbey. It’s interesting to read what locals at the time, thought of the statues being installed there.

The Chapel not only looks at some financial and health issues, but also an incredible storm in 1787. The description, brief as it is, of what happened to part of Newstead Abbey is powerful. There is great sadness however over deaths and a dwindling generation, that is written with great sensitivity, whilst telling the facts.

The Epilogue – Cloisters is interesting and mentions Joe and his wish to be buried by Boatswain. I can tell you, because I have seen it, there is a memorial to Boatswain in the grounds, with the most beautiful poem on it. The Epilogue also provides a very well written conclusions about to those who made up the Byrons and their depth of character.

There is a beautiful, but somewhat emotional poem in the appendix.

As I finish the book, in some ways, I didn’t quite want to end it and in some ways there is an overriding sense of satisfaction and also a mysterious calm, when you do reach the end, that I had not expected. Perhaps because there is so much heartbreak and anguish within the book.
It is so well researched and written that it is in many ways, lavish, yet not unrealisitically so. It feels like Emily Brand has done this justice. It isn’t dramatic or sensational in any way. What there is however, is a sense of satisfaction and of knowing more about the Byrons than you might have done previously to reading this book.

*Photos are taken by Louise, writer and owner of this blog, to illustrate, to those who perhaps don’t know what Newstead Abbey looks like today.