Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Currently Reading...

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin.   I adored this book; beautifully written by a talented author, this is the story of Alice Liddell who was the real Alice in Wonderland - its not a biography, its fiction with a lot of facts and because of that, the story of this child who was the muse of Lewis Carroll is very readable.   I had heard (I think) several years ago that there was some minor scandal involving the author and his possibly inappropriate attachment to young girls but this story fleshes it out.  Alice Liddell at the age of seven believed herself an adult whilst Lewis Carroll (the name was a nom de plume, his real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) appeared to believe himself still a child.   Alice's life was in many ways affected by the story of Alice in Wonderland, in many ways that were not happy or positive and she only came to capitalise on her fame as the Alice in the story when she was an old lady - at which point her audience was suprised and somewhat disappointed to find that Alice had grown old.   Her life was sad, surprising and in the end, uplifting, as was the authors and this book has inspired me to read more about the real-life stories of Alice and Lewis Carroll. 
Weave, Wrap, Coil - Creating Artisan Wire Jewelry by Jodi Bombardier - I have shelves full of jewellery making books - I can't tell you quite why I love to hoard this genre of book so much, but my studio floor positively groans under the weight.   In fact, I had a good reason to purchase this particular one as most of my jewellery is wire-work - I love to work with wire and I love to look at the work of other people who work with wire.  When I see a piece by someone else, I enjoy mentally deconstructing it and learning from their technique - I've wanted to begin making rings for some time, bought ring mandrels late last year but still haven't managed to find the time to make anything.   This is another fab book published by Interweave Press which, like all my other jewellery-making books, I know I will never use to replicate any of the projects, but the deconstruction and information on how to create the 25 projects are invaluable to me in the learning process - and if you were looking to work the projects, the photos are fab, the instruction excellent and this is well worth the money. 
The Forest by Edward Rutherfurd - I read Rutherfurd's 'New York' some time ago and adored it, and this work is equally as amazing.   The central character is the New Forest in England, told through the stories of the human and animal inhabitants over centuries; from the the founding of the Forest during William the Conquerors's time up to the present day; the historical research the author must put in to each of his works is astonishing.   The story does hop around from century to century which can be a little distracting and as with some books read on my Sony E-Reader this can be difficult to keep hold of when you can't just flip back through the (paper) pages of a book to refresh your memory on a particular character.    I visited the New Forest as a child and it is every bit as magical as Rutherfurd's depiction and I cannot wait to get hold of more of this author's work. 
Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake Series 5) by C. J. Sansom - the 'Shardlake' series is one of my absolute favourites; it is historical fiction at its absolute best - as with the previous author (Rutherfurd), Sansom's hard work and research shines through the writing and the sense of being in the time and place (Tudor England) is absolute.   In this installment of the series, Henry VIII's disastrous invasion of France mounted by Henry VIII has been answered with a vast imposing French fleet making preparations to cross the Channel.    At Portsmouth, the English navy is readying itself for the battle of its life; England, reeling under the debasing of its currency to pay for the war, is suffering crippling inflation and economic meltdown. (If the thought of Britain's involvement in controversial foreign wars while suffering an economic crisis remind the reader of contemporary parallels, there is little doubt that is what  Sansom intends.)  
I especially found the portions of the book featuring the sinking of the royal ship the 'Mary Rose' fascinating because as a child, I remember vividly the raising of the same ship from her resting place of hundreds of years, in fact my parents thought it was important enough that we missed a whole morning's school to watch the event on TV.  Mary Rose Official Website (no wonder I love English history these days!)
Against this tumultuous backdrop, the lawyer Matthew Shardlake is presented with a difficult case via an elderly servant of Queen Catherine Parr which will plunge him into the labyrinthine toils of the King's Court of Wards. Shardlake’s job is to look into wrongs which have been done to the young ward Hugh Curteys by a Hampshire landowner, and (as is customary with most cases involving Shardlake) murder is soon on the agenda.
If this is the sort of fiction you enjoy, I haven't yet found better than C J Sansom - at over 600 pages long it does require some dedication, but the sense of atmosphere, of living the events is amazing and as always with Sansom's writing, it leaves me wanting more of the same, and very soon.

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