#BookReview by Lou of Crow Glen – A Spiritual Universe of An Irish Village – Exquisite and Insightful – 4 stars. #NonFiction

Crow Glen
By Marella Hoffman
Rated: 4 stars ****

 

Exquisite, insightful and erudite into a part of Ireland

Exquisitely written and erudite, Marella Hoffman, originally in Ireland herself, begins looking into Ireland, specifically Gleann an Phreachain or Glen of the Crow and the surrounds of North Cork in ways that are insightful as she takes you on a journey of discovery into people’s present and history, culture where there is heartbreak, joy and more…

Please follow down to discover more in the blurb and review and about the author. There is also a link to her website showing you more about her venture in France as well.
I thank Marella Hoffman for getting in contact to provide a quote for the book and for a review. Please note, my review is non-biased.

CrowGlen, cover

Blurb

An odyssey through big time in a small place, this book unfolds 1,000 years of history in Crow Glen, the village of Glenville, County Cork. Returning to her native place, an emigrant ethnographer uses original oral history recordings, archival documents and collective memoir to reveal the layers of Irish history in this microcosm. The Fianna, pre-Christian nature worship, the Bards, the Famine, the War of Independence, locals’ Catholic practices on the body, in the home and in the landscape – all are resuscitated out of the land, the archives and folk memory. There are circles of emigration and return. Irish Americans come back to the village 170 years after their ancestors’ coffin-ship exodus. Their memories engage a rich dialogue with those of the villagers today. Secrets emerge, revealing historical facts of national importance. We discover that Crow Glen was a major HQ for the Irish armed effort in the War of Independence, hosting visionaries from Thomas Davis to Ernie O’ Malley, Liam Lynch to Tomás Mac Curtain. Crow, the village’s ancient icon, has a bird’s eye view over the centuries and the lives below. He shows us Fagan, the hedge-school teacher; Sweeney, the gamekeeper on the colonial estate; Ó Duinnshléibhe, the Gaelic manuscript calligrapher; and some of the country’s greatest Irish-language Bards who worked in Crow Glen, the Nagle Mountains and the Blackwater Valley from the fourteenth century onwards.Nineteenth-century locals continued Crow Glen’s Bardic tradition with witty songs and biting satires that celebrate the landscape, regulate feuds and remember emigrants. In this book, the land speaks too. Lyrenamon, Mullanabowree, Toorgariffe – exotic placenames stud the area’s black soil like jewels. Townlands speak their original Irish-language meanings, yielding messages about how our ancestors lived there. Wherever we are, the strengths and resources of previous generations in Crow Glen can help us face the challenges that lie ahead of us all today.

Buy Link: Amazon Buy Link With Free Delivery

Review

This is a curious and highly intriguing and interesting book about Crow Glen, a mysterious place near Cork in Ireland. There is even a map of places where people can go on walk and an Irish folk song included, which adds to the richness of this book, which mostly circles around Marella Hoffman, Norma O’ Donaghue, Nell and the Carney’s and also has like a tour round a manor house.

Firstly Marella tells you a little about herself and the research methods she used and her discoveries of historical treasures, including a letter sent to the Prime Minister at the time. The areas of Ireland she researched seem shroud in mystery and spirituality and differing experiences of the place from person to person, as explained at the start of the book. It’s very interesting and very accessible, as is the entire book for any reader interested in Ireland and indeed is from Ireland.

The origins and evolving language is explained in chapter one as is how to get to Glen of The Crow to join in its fairytale state of living, where it seems to be a very unique place where things, including time, don’t totally work in the conventional way. With this book, you’d be sure to find it by the directions given and the rich, scenic descriptions, which seem almost dream-like, as does the ritual of returners and how they are welcomed back into the fold.

The descriptions of the trees within the area is cleverly done, in an almost tactile manner, as though you could reach out and touch them, but the descriptions go even further than that as by now, its all caught up finely and yet deliberately in the mystique and quirks of the place.

There’s an intensity of religion that is conveyed to be rather different from other places. It’s written with, whether you’re a religious or spiritual person or not, in a respectful manner, whilst also with authenticity, with parts of how Marella herself remembers it, but also through talking to Norma. It goes on, into interesting detail about how it is being a Catholic there and how it can become a huge part of life and also how it has changed from historical to present times as it seemed to consume a huge amount of time, compared to nowadays. There is great insight into this way of life and also into people’s homes and also how they sit within the religion and spirituality and explores differing viewpoints. It’s all rather interesting and perhaps not all as your may expect.

The book moves on like a family is leaving Crow Glen in “other worldly” fashion, in the way it is described, which introduces Johanna Carney who is moving away with her large family in 1847. Her homestead still exists, but back then there was hardship and also Cromwell’s army invading.

There are events within this, such as smuggling and of the usual type people would think of. Every so often there are nuggets of the very unexpected that heightens interest more in this place that seems full of curiosities.

There’s a wonderful sense of history that converges with the present, but also what comes across is there are differences too that emerges as time moves on and changes made.

Marella then gets the opportunity to speak with people related to Johanna, where an insightful interview between Chris and Mary takes place, that pulls the reader into learning more about their ancestry from Ireland to America and there is a real sense of the importance of treasuring family history to pass onto future generations to enhance their knowledge.

There is some rich mythology that has spawned from what is a place that seems somewhat hidden, or was and it has taken time for young people to realise there is a whole world, from much of the outside world  like The Children of Lir being turned into swans. It turns into an even more extraordinary book.

It isn’t all spiritual and religion, nor fairytale like, there is a political element to this book further along as well about the 1920’s  and the IRA and spies and an intriguing man who was Lieutenant Seymore Lewington Vincent. This is written in a way that brings another dimension to Glen Crow and Cork and a further understanding of what was going on in the political world. There is also a part which refreshingly details the women’s contribution to the revolution.  This is absolutely not a dry section of the book by any means, but one that gives some history, espionage and action, where there are some twists and turns involving Nell.

 It concludes with a considered and thought-provoking Afterword, followed by a glossary and bibliography.

About the Author

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Marella Hoffman (née Buckley) was raised in Glenville, the Irish village featured in this, her ninth book.
After writing a PhD thesis on literature, she first lectured at University College Cork. She has held research awards or positions at universities in France, Switzerland, the US and at the University of Cambridge, where she was based for almost a decade. She has also worked extensively for governments, designing systems that boost democracy and social justice among excluded communities. Her tools for assisting dialogue between refugees and host communities were published recently as part of a toolkit for the United Nations.

A Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, her books have studied topics like the attitudes of the
permanently unemployed White underclass in an English town; refugees’ experiences of nationality and identity in their adopted homeland; or the ecological practices and lifestyle of an 87-year-old hermit shepherd in the French Mediterranean mountains. Her work has been published by Routledge, the Sorbonne University in Paris, other academic presses, regional publishers and as journalism.

She is married to the author and medical scientist Dr Richard Hoffman. They produce much of their work from their writers’ retreat near the Bordeaux vineyards in southern France, where they are rewilding several acres as an ecological nature reserve. They also accommodate visiting writers and families on holiday. For information, a virtual visit or to holiday at the Bordeaux centre, visit http://www.marellahoffman.com

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#BookReview of The Servant By Maggie Richell-Davies; An immersive book into a different side of Servant’s Life #MaggieRichellDavies #HistoricalFiction #Fiction #NewBook

The Servant
By Maggie Davies
Rated: 4 stars ****

The Servant, it transpires (do read the end note), was inspired by a visit to the Foundling Hospital Museum, London, a place I too have visited. Readers are plunged into the 1700’s and it is far from a glamorous version. There’s a harshness of life and secrets aplenty in what becomes quite a drama for readers to become entangled in, as well as a bit of a love-story.

The book won the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award this spring, together with a publishing deal from Sharpe Books. It is currently gathering four and five star reviews on Amazon. Discover the blurb and my full review below.

I thank Maggie Richell-Davies for getting in touch on the Contact Form on my blog, to ask me to review and for sending me out a copy.

The Servant cover
Blurb

1765
London

Young Hannah Hubert may be the grandaughter of a French merchent of a Spitalfields silk weaver, but she has come down in the world.

Sent one day as maidservent to a disgraced aristocrat, she finds herself in a house full of mysteries – with a locked room and strange auctions held behind closed doors.

As a servant, she has little power but – unknown to her employers, she can read. And it is only when she uses her education to uncover the secrets of the house that she realises the peril she is in.

Hannah is unable to turn to the other servant, Peg, who is clearly terrified of their employers and keeps warning her to find alternative work.

But help might come from Thomas, the taciturn farmer delivering milk to the neighbourhood, or from Jack Twyford, a friendly young man apprenticed to his uncle’s bookselling business. Yet, Thomas is still grieving for his late wife – and can she trust Jack, since his uncle is one of her master’s associates.

Hannah soon discovers damning evidence she cannot ignore.

Review

Through darkness of the streets and the people you will meet, there is also a bit of a love story that emerges, which pierces through some of the dark and brings a bit of lightness here and there.

London, Spring 1765 is when this story begins. The scene is set instantly in a way where you’ve got to catch breath. It’s atmospheric already and then comes the main character – Hannah Hubert, who readers will instantly get a feel for her predicament. Very quickly the tones of the characters emerge, altering from character to character, depending on their position very well. This is all established pretty early on.

Hannah gets a position in the home of Mistress Chalke and is sent on her way to meet her by Mrs Lamb. As well as meeting the mistress, she also meets fellow servant – Peg.

This isn’t like Downton or its predecessor – Upstairs Downstairs. It’s a fair bit darker and has many more shades to it. It captures a different side of a servant’s life, which shows a brutality and darkness as crime enters her life as Hannah is plunged into a situation that could mean she is imminent danger. . It is, however, a well-developed story with a richness that readers would be expecting in its descriptions of fashionable materials of the time, as well as the interior of the house and outside world.

Before and after this concern, she meets Jack, who is a bookseller and an interesing character, as is Master Chalke, who is a writer. It’s an interesting walk that Jack and Hannah take through London. It’s far from the usual sort, it shows the workhouses, the Foundling hospital and all is woven tightly into the fabric of the city along with how money is used.

The chapters are immersive as they plunge you into the darker streets into a somewhat seedier side of the 1700s. It is interesting to note that the Chalkes sound like they ought to have many high society connections, but they do not. They also disappear on Mondays. It adds to the intrigue as the story goes along. This is more than the clean lines of a Lord and Lady of the manner with the seasons and dances. It’s the complete opposite, which makes it somewhat refreshing in a way. It isn’t a place where you’d want a servant to end up at all, which makes you root for Hannah.

About the Author

Maggie Davies was born in Newcastle and has a first-class honours degree from the Open University.

Her debut novel, The Servant, won the Historical Writers’ Association 2020 Unpublished Novel Award, together with a publishing contract from Sharpe Books.

The book was inspired by a visit to London’s Foundling Hospital Museum, with its heart-breaking stories about the tokens desperate women left there in the hope that they might, one day, be able to reclaim their child.

Maggie has had short stories published, been shortlisted for the Bridport Flash and Olga Sinclair Awards and longlisted for the Exeter Novel Award. She is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Royal Tunbridge Wells with her husband, but also spent a number of years in Peru, Africa and the United States.

The Bobby Girls Secrets By Johanna Bell @JoBellAuthor @HodderBooks @HodderPublicity @TeamBookends #TheBobbyGirls #strictlysagagirls #WW1 #HistoricalFiction #bookreview #readingforpleasure #NewBook

I just thought I would write to let you know that The Bobby Girls Secrets by Johanna Bell, that I reviewed awhile ago now, is published today. If you haven’t already tried this wonderful series about the first volunteer police women during World War 1, then do take a look, you may be pleasantly surprised; even if this isn’t your usual genre. This is a sequel to The Bobby Girls. I have provided links to both books, which include my usual bit about the author, the blurb and my review.

Click Here for The Bobby Girls

Click Here for The Bobby Girls Secrets

 

 

#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.

 

The Bobby Girls Secrets by Johanna Bell @JoBellAuthor @HodderBooks @HodderPublicity @TeamBookends #TheBobbyGirls #strictlysagagirls #WW1 #HistoricalFiction #bookreview #readingforpleasure #NewBook

The Bobby Girls Secret
By Johanna Bell
Rated: 5 stars *****

 

This is a delightful sequel to The Bobby Girls. I’ve been looking forward to re-joining the volunteer policewomen and I am so pleased that I have the opportunity to and to review this excellently written and researched book that has wonderful characters and plot.

I thank Joahnna Bell for being in touch with her publishers to ask them to accept my request to review again and I thank her publisher Hodder and Stoughton for accepting my request to review this wonderful series of books. 

About the Author

Johanna Bell cut her teeth on local newspapers in Essex, eventually branching ut into magazine journalism, with stints as a features editor and then commissioning editor at Full House magazine. She now has sixteen years’ experience in print media. Her freelance life has seen her working on juicy real-life stories for women’s weekly magazine market, as well as hard-hitting news stories for national newspapers and prepping her case studies for TV interviews. When she’s not writing, Johanna can be found walking her dog with her husband or playing peek-a-boo with her daughter.

The Bobby Girls' Secrets

Blurb

As the Great War rages on, will the truth come out?

1915. Best friends Irene, Maggie and Annie are proud members of the newly renamed Women’s Police Service. While Britain’s men are away fighting in France, the girls are doing their bit by keeping the peace at home in London’s East End.

But out of the blue, Irene is given the opportunity to be stationed near an army barracks in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Having recently experienced some heartbreak and keen for the adventure, she decides to go. What could possibly go wrong?

It turns out, plenty. One of the other WPS girls takes an immediate dislike to her and makes her life a misery. On top of that, the man she thinks could be the answer to all her problems isn’t all he seems. And when she finds a psychologically disturbed deserter in hiding, she has a very difficult decision to make . . .

Can Irene overcome all these obstacles without Maggie and Annie by her side, and find true happiness at last?

Review

As soon a I read The Bobby Girls, I wanted to read The Bobby Girl’s Secrets. I must say I was not disappointed. After the first one, I just knew that the second one would be worth the wait. This set of girls have captured me and this is turning out to be one enthralling series, with very likeable characters and highly believable plots. This is down to the research that Johanna Bell has put in, and clearly she has a love of this time period. I love too, that even though there’s a lot going on in the women’s personal and work lives, there are strong bonds of friendship, something perhaps people can carry through into their own lives during and after challenging times.

We re-join Irene, Maggie and Annie in 1915 on Bethnal Green. The three women, in their 20s, who made it to join the Women Police Service (WPS) are now firm friends, despite such different backgrounds and having little in common. There is a great camaraderie about them as they look out for each other. Johanna Bell, ensures you really get to know these likeable characters and their personal lives, as well as their working ones and she does it in a way that you want to be involved with them. There’s heartache and hard-hitting issues, and yet it’s a lovely relaxed pace. The book deals with prostitution (nothing explicit), the consequences that war is having on the men and life in-between, such as how hard it is to deal with losing someone you have feelings for and yet not necessarily reciprocated.

Readers will travel to Grantham to see what new challenges are posed and there are some new characters to meet, such as, Mary, Ruby, Helen and Chief Inspector Boldwood. The issues of status are nicely shown and the differences in attitudes and acceptance of policemen and those who are women on the volunteer team, not to mention some tensions between those in Grantham and a Londoner who had an easier time than them. There’s the trials of things being different in London and the countryside. There’s also tensions between stall holders and soldiers, with the merchants giving the men a hard time. There’s also challenges of getting used to the imposed curfews,due to prostitution. It is interesting to read about the different attitudes and opinions on it, from the volunteer women’s police service point of view. It isn’t all work however as romance is in the air, but all is not all as it seems.

The book is very well researched and is very interesting about different attitudes of the time. Although there is less of the characters (apart from Irene) in the first book, this is still a very good read as Irene carries the story forward and it is interesting meeting new characters in a new location. I feel it also gives a wider perspective of what was happening at that time.

Just like in The Bobby Girls, there is a really interesting part in the last pages of the book, after the story has finished and after the acknowledgements, there are some brilliant photos of Grantham and the people depicted within this book.

You can Pre-Order now from bookshops (lots are open for business online, including independent bookshops) and Amazon. The published date is May 2020.

Look out for the third book in this delightful series – Christmas With The Bobby Girls.

Take care folks!

Elaine Everest, Deborah Burrows, Margaret Dickinson, Rosie Hendry, Evie Grace, Clare Harvey

 

#Review – Eileen – The Making of George Orwell by Sylvia Topp – An Insightful book of their lives and her influence. @SylviaTopps @unbounders #Eileen #GeorgeOrwell #RandomThingsTours @AnneCater #Biography #BlogTour #non-fiction

Eileen – The Making of George Orwell
By Sylvia Topp
Rated: 4 stars ****

I am very pleased to present my review about Eileen, who, I knew so little about, until now, and it turns out she is a remarkably talented woman who does deserve credit and who really was the making of George Orwell, so he became the author we all know today.

About the Author

Sylvia Topp has worked in publishing since college, starting as a copy writer on medical Eileen Sylvia Topp Author Picjournals, then moving to freelancing editing at a major literary publishing houses. She was the long-time wife and partner of Tuli Kupferberg, a Beat poet who later was a co-founder, in 1964, of the Fugs, a legendary rock and roll band. Together Sylvia and Tuli wrote, edited, and designed over thirty books and magazines, including As They Were, 1001 Ways to Live Without Working, and Yeah! magazine. Sylvia joined the staff at The Soho Weekly Newsand later The Village Voice, before finishing her publishing career at Vanity Fair. Eileen is her first book. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

Social Media Links –

Twitter – @sylviatopp

Publisher – Unbound

Eileen Cover

Blurb

In 1934, Eileen Shaughnessy’s futuristic poem, ‘End of the Century’, 1984, was published. The next year, she would meet George Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, at a party. “Now that is the kind of girl I would like to marry!” he remarked that night. Years later, Orwell would name his greatest work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in homage to the memory of Eileen, the woman who shaped his life and his art in way that have never been acknowledged by history, until now.

From the time they spent in a tiny village tending goats and chickens, through the Spanish Civil War, to the couple’s narrow escape from the destruction of their London flat during a German bombing raid, and their adoption of their baby boy, Eileen is the first account of the Blair’s nine year marriage. It is also a vivid picture of bohemianism, political engagement, and sexual freedom in the 1930s and ’40s.

Through impressive depth of research, illustrated throughout with photos and images from the time, this captivating and inspiring biography offers a completely new perspective on Orwell himself, and most importantly tells the life story of an exceptional woman who has been unjustly overlooked.

Review

Eileen! Who on earth was Eileen in relation to George Orwell’s work? It is true to say, not much seems to be known about her, until now. This book will tell you who she was. This is a book that offers a completely new perspective on George Orwell and is insightful about his wife – Eileen.
Eileen was much more to George Orwell than just his wife. The book shows a rounded character build-up, so a real sense of her life and personality really does come through. It really is absolutely fascinating, especially since so little was known and yet she had such a positive influence on George Orwell’s life. I get the sense that a lot of research has been put into this book and not all of it, easily found. Eileen, at times seems a woman of complete mystery and other routes have to be taken to discover more about her, and other times, there are letters right there, about her life. There are great photos of the key people mentioned, placed in the middle of the book. There are letters and archive materials scanned into the book too. I love that this book is, built on research that is actually supported by the Orwell Estate and Orwell Society. Recent biographers of George Orwell seem to laud this book. 

So, why write a book about Eileen, the woman who would become George Orwell’s wife? Readers will partially find out in the very interesting foreword, expertly written by Peter Davison who is the editor of The Complete Works of George Orwell and will certainly know much more about her by the end. The book also debunks some myths about George Orwell being a self-made man. Eileen has to be able to have credit to what she did and this book sets out to give her recognition. She was much more than a wife to George Orwell, it would seem. She was a woman who did a lot and achieved a lot in her life and helped shape George Orwell to be the successful man he became.

The book takes readers right back to archived material and research conducted on her ancestry and then moves onto her school days in South Shields and how nowadays there is memorabilia from the school is now scattered around the world. It is interesting having a look at her school reports and also a poem she wrote.

The book, interestingly gives an insight into what people thought of George Orwell and whether he was suitable marriage material or not and the marriage itself and the problems and expectations.

It is known that Orwell went to Catalonia and as well as addressing what he was doing there, readers will also see some of the extent of her work in their cottage, in helping Orwell on the road to becoming the author he became. What comes across is that she was a hard worker and also seemed quite devoted  to Orwell and did a lot, including making expensive and stressful trips to visit him in a sanatorium when he was terribly unwell.

Apart from having a positive effect on Orwell’s writing; Eileen typed and she also got review copies of books organised from his publisher. She comes across as being very supportive of him and his work. She also wanted him to be healthy after so much illness and tried to find a better home than the cottage to live in. I felt the writing gave her justice and her personality comes through.

The book moves on to a time in Morocco. There’s a real sense of what Morocco was like then and the experience they had. With secret letters to another for a time, I felt sorry for her and with all the sacrifices she was making. There does, however seem to be happier and better periods in their marriage, before and after this. It’s like they were bound together some way, no matter all their troubles and strife. It’s certainly interesting reading about what sort of marriage they had. 

It is interesting reading about what Eileen may have done to support the war effort and she seems to be a woman with substantial connections to important people and how she seemed to be becoming successful in her own-right, but even then, there is still a bit of bleakness and hardship to live through. I figure that there must be quite some strength of character in Eileen.

It is then, so interesting to see what influenced George Orwell to write both 1984 and Animal Farm and reading about his other works. It is equally interesting to read about how Animal Farm could have been such a different piece and perhaps, not quite so cleverly written or indeed in story form, if it was not for the influence of the extraordinary Eileen, who was also, it would seem, talented in her own right. Her influence on Orwell’s work, especially Animal Farm is hugely significant and I certainly had not realised until reading this book, for that to be the case.

The book has an epilogue about what happened at the end of Eileen’s life and what happened next. There are also eloquent letters she wrote. It is worth pointing out that after the index, there are lists upon lists of people’s names who have supported this book.

By the time you’ve finished this book, you will have learnt a lot and you will see why this book had to be written and why Eileen deserves recognition, I certainly think she does. This book is definitely worthwhile reading.

Eileen BT Poster