Dear Body: poems on identity, disability and finding your place in the world

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Usually I jump straight into my reviews, but this post is a little different. I want to begin by telling you a bit about Hannah, the author of an incredible poetry pamphlet I have just devoured.

I came across Hannah on Youtube a while back (find her here), through a bookish review she had put up on her channel and I’ve been watching ever since. She is a warm, genuine young woman and has an immense passion for life- one of those people who remind you that there is good to be found in this often-overwhelming world. And her resilience is astounding as she was diagnosed with a life limiting condition as a teenager and has to deal with challenging additional illnesses as a matter of course. Though she could let disability stop her, she doesn’t. She reaches out, shares her experiences, embraces life regardless, questions society’s views on disability and is such a positive voice for other young people. Plus, she writes awesome poetry too!

In her poetry collection, Dear Body, she explores the relationship between her personal identity, her body and how she fits into the world. Her poetry is honest, powerful and accessible as well as just being beautifully written. I felt all the emotions as I read, and they are the kind of poems that stay with you long after you have finished. I certainly feel richer having read Hannah’s collection.

I of course strongly recommend you purchase a copy of Dear Body on her website (easy Paypal purchase) and have a read of her blog while you are there too. Click here for Hannah’s blog and shop.

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Hannah was also part of a recent article in The Guardian about the positive role that social media can play for people with both physical and mental disabilities. I can relate to this from personal experience. Though I am aware of the many negatives, social media can indeed be a life line and I certainly wouldn’t have known about Hannah otherwise!

 

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Feminist Orchestra book 1: Feminism is for Everybody

I’ve been reading at a much slower pace this month, partly due a stupid number of headaches and partly because of the books I have been reading.  I have been really enjoying taking my time reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which I haven’t read since my late teens- more on this soon. However, the book that has taken me quite some time to get into and digest is bell hooks’ Feminism is for Everybody. I am just one of the slowest non-fiction readers ever, as I don’t read it very often, I find it hard to keep focused and I choose subject matter that I need time to process.

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Feminism is for Everybody is March/April’s book choice for the Feminist Orchestra. This is a book club created by the lovely booktuber Jean, over at Jean Bookish Thoughts and this year Lauren from Reads and Daydreams is hosting too. You can find the Feminist Orchestra here on Goodreads and here is an intro video on Jean’s channel. The idea of this group is to explore feminism and different types of feminist writing within a community environment. The idea of it being like an an orchestra is wonderful;  all the ideas and discussions and connection that will be created by members, working together to shape a feminist online community.

Now, I am not new to feminism, far from it, but I am rather new to feminist writing and also reading texts from a focused, specifically feminist angle. So ,this book club is perfect for me and I’m looking forward to making some friends along the way too.

Bell hooks was an influential member of the feminist movement in America in the late 1960s onwards  and is still very much politically active today. This book is intended to be a go-to introduction to what she believes feminism was, is and could be in America. It was written back in 2000, something to bear in mind. Find more about bell hooks here.

I loved…

She tackles racism, classism and gender discrimination head on. She is fierce and passionate and brave.

I learned a lot about the history of feminist movement in the USA; its motivation, its origins, its successes and failures, how it has been perceived, its structure and divisions within. It made me realise that I have never read anything like this about the British movement. I would love your recommendations.

I enjoyed learning a little about Hooks’ own background and experiences. As I struggle with non-fiction, I wish there would have been a bit more of this as it helped me to engage with the text on a more personal level. I know the point of the book is to be a brief exploration and not a memoir, about a movement rather than individuals. But still. Her story made me think how easy it is these days, to forget that not that long ago, being a woman and a woman of colour dropped you to the bottom of the social justice scale and if you added working class to that too, the challenges were horrendous. What an exciting time the feminist movement must have been for women with all that energy and potential, with the opportunity to find your voice. I am fully aware that there were deep divides, conflict and many things that did not in fact change but wow, what a beginning.

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I thought the focus on bringing feminism back into the community, making it accessible and relevant for everyday  life was brilliant. I also utterly value her belief that language and education has to be accessible beyond academic debate. She makes the point that right wing movements makes their writing a lot more accessible to a wider range of readers. She highlights the need for talking and discussion, for audio tapes and radio and tv so that different ways of learning and communicating reach more people. I think that social media in the present day has such potential to reach out, inform, invite discussion and unite.

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In my opinion, hooks writes very perceptively about young women of today. She describes a complacency, a taking for granted, when it comes to equality. I see this so often and if you are complacent, things can change in a heartbeat.  She writes that so often young women don’t have the knowledge of the past nor the awareness of how discrimination works. I agree.

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A theme running throughout the book, which I agree with whole heartedly, is that criticising a system is vital but it can only have a positive impact if there is something there as a viable alternative otherwise there is nothing fundamental and solid to work with.

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I found the discussion on whether the ‘right’ to work really does mean self-actualisation and freedom most interesting and inspiring. There are just so many layers to this and I look forward to reading more on this topic.

The section on how being a woman was and still often is defined by the ability to bear a child was very relevant to me personally. I have chosen not to have children and believe that there is still such stigma attached to this in western society. Who are you when that definition is taken away?

I had problems with…

It is hard to criticise a book that has been so instrumental in feminist writing and which was written by such an incredible woman. But opinions and discussion matter so here we go regardless:

There are lots of sweeping, general statements. This is partly because of its aim to be a short introduction and I understand this. However, it is so often the generalisations voiced in society that cause so much conflict and fear.  At times, the generalisation came across as a stereotypical in my opinion, especially when lesbianism was focused on.

I am part of the white privileged class. I am aware that there is a horrific amount of discrimination that I have never faced and most likely won’t face personally in the future. I am aware of racism and classism inherent in society and that I cannot fully understand what I have not experienced myself. I am aware of the ignorance and the injustice and am often overwhelmed by it all. It isn’t the reading and feeling uncomfortable that is my issue because often this is exactly what is needed. What I do have a problem with is, that to me, it sometimes came across like the white privileged class of women were a uniform enemy within, with only the odd exception. In short, I read some bias in content, however natural and true to experience and I’m not sure how constructive that was in including ‘everybody’.  

Another problem I had with the book was when hooks wrote of how negative academicisation was and is for feminism. I agree with the point made but this book is marketed as an accessible introduction, yet I found both content and language quite academic at times. It didn’t reach out to me and I have an academic background!

Hooks’ viewpoint is very anti lifestyle-feminism i.e. a feminism that has developed away from the political arena and is very individual in nature. To me the message was that unless you are an activist you are not enough of a feminist, you can’t be a true feminist.  I realise I am rather a lifestyle feminist, I compile my own beliefs and access feminism in this way. My feminism is the everyday stuff, it is not political parties and conflict and open declarations. While I want to look at my own approach, I do not see my thoughts and actions as having a negative impact on the feminist movement.

A further issue I had, was that though race and class are tackled head on, sexual orientation or gender does not go beyond general statements. The time context of course plays a factor here but even the section on lesbian women felt dated for the time period of publication. And what about those in society who see themselves as gender fluid or trans? Feminism isn’t just about those that live with clear, socially accepted definitions of man and woman.

To conclude, this is a thought provoking book with so many key areas addressed; it is perfect for discussion. In my opinion, it should be read with a questioning mind and readers need to be aware of the at times sweeping statements. It worries me how much of this book is still very relevant today e.g. the power of conservative fundamentalists. At one point, hooks reminds us how easy it still is to take rights away – it astounds me that this is still so true.

I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the book:

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See What I Have Done: pushing my reading boundaries

I enjoy a good horror film, the darker and more psychological the better, however, when it comes to books I am more of a scaredy-cat. Weird but true. I think it is because I process things more intensely when I read and because I have a well-developed imagination, so the words conjure up more powerful images than a film might. Over the last year and a half, I’ve made a conscious commitment to expanding my reading horizons and a part of that is pushing myself to read books that challenge me in some shape or form.

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I don’t do things by half, so I chose See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt, which reimagines the story of Lizzie Borden (an alleged murderess, said to have viciously killed her stepmother and her father with an axe, and whose murder trial at the beginning of the 20th century, became the sensation of the time). It is told from the viewpoint of four main characters, each potential suspect with their own axe to grind (yes, I know, I had to go there): Lizzie, her sister Emma, the maid Bridget and a young man hired by Lizzie’s creepy uncle John to threaten her father, Andrew Borden.

My main thoughts on reading See What I Have Done:

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The harsh, vivid and minute details: Sarah Schmidt can write! The description is gory, intimate, shocking and stomach turning. The writing style certainly had a powerful impact on me. Though it made me feel uncomfortable, sometimes to the point of not wanting to read more, it fully immersed me in the narrative at the same time so that I simply had to read on.flourishes

The claustrophobic atmosphere and setting, which feel wrong from the very beginning: At times I had to put the book down to have a breather, to put some distance between me and the intensity. As I read, I felt I was there in that hot, airless house; the darkness and tension wrapping themselves around me.

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The warped, twisted relationships: These were crafted wonderfully, Schmidt really gets into the headspace of her characters and thoroughly explores the dynamics at play in the Borden House. I really got a strong sense of the toxic mixture of resentment, confusion, jealousy, authority and abandonment.

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Lizzie herself: Above all, what stayed with me was Lizzie’s complex character; her mental instability, the sense that though the family may have tried to protect this erratic, confused, often wild, sometimes childlike and equally sinister woman, they couldn’t meet her needs. Lizzie’s narrative jumps from childlike language to sinister to needy in a heartbeat, you never quite know where you stand or what you should believe- very cleverly written and utterly disturbing.

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In an afterword, Sarah Schmidt explains how she came to write about Lizzie, or rather how Lizzie found her! For me, this added another delicious layer to the narrative and I loved hearing about Schmidt’s experiences at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum. Yes, you can actually stay in the Borden house where the interiors are modelled on the original crime scene photos!

This is a book that gets under your skin and which continues to play with your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It hooked me completely and produced strong emotions within. I can’t say I loved it or that I will read it again, yet I can with certainty say that it is an original, superbly written book.

P.S.  If you fancy exploring further on the web (as I felt compelled to) then I can recommend: http://lizzieandrewborden.com/

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; how small acts of kindness can be life – changing

Every now and again a book comes into your life that has such a profound effect, that reaches deep into your soul and changes you for the better. Eleanor Oliphant is such a book. I’m actually finding it difficult to find adequate words for my thoughts and emotions about this debut novel, so bear with me.

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Eleanor is a woman in her thirties, she has crafted a carefully ordered life for herself without genuine human connection. She is a survivor of severe childhood trauma, which we learn more about as the story develops; this trauma has locked so many doors in Eleanor’s emotional and mental development. She is an outsider and doesn’t understand society’s rules; she is one of the loneliest characters I have ever come across. This all sounds very bleak and parts of the story are so very sad but, at the same time, this is the story of how Eleanor learns to open herself up to the world, to find meaning in her life and to allow love in. It is a story of so much courage as she tries to navigate a world, which feels alien to her and tries to come to terms with the dark experiences of her past.

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I’ve seen Eleanor Oliphant marketed as a ‘funny book full of humour’. I agree that there are many such brilliant moments as Eleanor’s perspective is so honest, her observations delightfully plain speaking and often childlike in honesty. There is a wonderful section where she is on a quest to look more socially acceptable, to look like the other women she sees as being normal. Her bewildered observations when she has her nails done and when she wants to buy trendy clothes in a department store, really did make me laugh, largely because I can totally identify with the bewilderment! When having makeup applied, the beautician asks her whether she likes a smoky eye look, Eleanor replies that she doesn’t like anything to do with smoking. When asked whether she likes the finished effect, she say in all seriousness,

“I look like a small Madagascan primate, or perhaps a North American raccoon. It’s charming!”heart hands

However, selling it primarily as a comedy doesn’t sit right with me. I went into reading this book not knowing a lot about it but having the expectation of a Bridget Jones style narrative – this doesn’t begin to do Honeyman’s writing justice. Eleanor drinks two bottles of vodka at the weekend to make time pass quickly as there is nothing and nobody to fill the days when she is not working. Her mind becomes so dark at one point that she doesn’t know if life is worth living. This darkness is so well written, her mental health incredibly sensitively explored. I cried. Lots.

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Another thing I absolutely loved, is how Eleanor has moments of deep understanding, precisely because she doesn’t conform to what society expects; she doesn’t play by the social rules. For example, there is a scene in a café, where she is waiting for the rather wonderful Raymond, her first real friend. She attempts general conversation with a member of café staff and finds out he is leaving his job as his wife is terminally ill. Instead of shying away, finding a polite response, she tells him that she understands he would rather spend the short time left with his dying wife rather than serving random strangers.

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The friendships Eleanor develops are just so very lovely in their honesty and acceptance. This book shouts from the rooftops that there are good people out there and I love it for that. I shan’t say much more as they are for you to discover (but I hope you love Raymond as much as I do!) I will mention the cat that comes into her life though – because, you know, me and cats! Eleanor takes in this traumatised, scrappy little cat and allows her to become the centre of her long empty life. There is a special, tender moment when they first meet, remarkably, Eleanor has so much love to give:

‘I held her like a baby, close against my chest, and felt, rather than heard, her deep, sonorous purring. Oh, the warm weight of her! I buried my faced in what remained of her fur and felt her gently turn her head towards me as she gently sniffed my hairline.’heart hands

I read Eleanor Oliphant just before reading Joanna Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie (see my review here) and these two books together have played a huge part in restoring my hope in humanity. They have both reminded me how those small acts of everyday kindness can change someone’s world and that we humans are capable of so much compassion, care and indeed love, if we only put our minds to it.

 

 

Three Things About Elsie: how each one of us makes a difference

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Every now and again a book comes along that really makes a difference to your life, that opens your eyes and your heart; Three Things About Elsie is such a book. Printed on the inside of the Three Things About Elsie cover is the phrase,

Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

This is the core message I took away from Joanna Cannon’s second novel and I feel so much richer for having read it.

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In contrast with her first novel, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (read my review here),which has two young girls as leading characters, Three Things focuses on the elderly Florence and her friend Elsie. Florence lives in a care home and we meet her lying on the floor after a fall, waiting for someone to find her.

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To keep herself busy, she reflects on her past and present life, believing that she has never made a difference, even though it turns out that is far from the truth. This perspective spoke to my heart in a very fundamental way. I have lost both of my much-loved grandparents over the last couple of years. They were such a fundamental part of my life and I loved, respected and was in awe of them. For me, their old age was something to admire, they had so many stories to tell, so many experiences to share.

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{Table decoration at my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary}

My grandparents were married for 68 years, imagine that. They fled from East to West Germany before the wall was built. My Omi had a children’s short story published in a newspaper at Christmas time. My Opi was an awesome photographer and had his work displayed in the care complex where they lived. I could go on and on. When their bodies started to slow down in their mid 80s, their minds were still incredibly active, and they struggled to come to terms with this change in pace and change in physical freedom.

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{My lovely Omi}

Shortly before their deaths, both faced rapid mental decline and they felt so frustrated in moments of clarity. They were lucky as they lived in an outstanding home, with staff who treated them with such care and respect. They lived in an  environment where there were countless activities and events to promote inclusion in society and to keep their minds stimulated.

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{My equally lovely Opi}

I write all this because my grandparents have made me think so much of what it means to be old, they have made me look at how we as a society treat older generations, they have made me think about what my own future could look like. What happens if I am forgotten, what if I forget who I am myself? Three Things gave me the opportunity to explore some of these thoughts, emotions and fears.

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Florence has the onset of dementia, she spends a lot of time without human interaction and at the beginning, the few people in her life don’t see beyond her old age and dementia. Her confusion and disorientation is so heart wrenchingly described. Florence says,

‘I never used to be like this, and if you’re not in charge of the inside of your own head, what are you in charge of?”

A man arrives at the home and she recognises him from a dark moment in her past, yet he is there with a different name and Florence finds it very hard to be taken seriously. And so the wonderful mystery element begins! This treatment of Florence seems rather bleak and in some ways it is; I found Cannon’s observations very true to life; she writes with honesty, integrity and understanding. The elderly are often treated in a child-like way and without the respect they deserve. Their rich lives are often forgotten and their present lives are often dismissed. Loneliness is certainly a massive issue here in the UK (and it is my biggest fear to be old and alone).

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However, this book is also one of the most life affirming books I’ve come across. Warm, strong friendships are formed; the characters are interconnected in all sorts of ways that remind us of what it means to be human; Florence becomes empowered and becomes an amateur detective of sorts; several of the care home staff open up their hearts and minds. There is also much humour, even in the darker times, Flo’s feisty spirit shines through. The conversation she has at a dementia assessment clinic really made me smile:

It (the piece of paper) said, Close Your Eyes on it.

“Why would I want to do that?” I asked.

“Because I’m asking you to.” Doctor Andrews held the instructions a little closer.

“Is it a surprise?” I said.

I heard Doctor Andrews sigh. “Do you not usually do as someone asks?”

I frowned. “Not if I can help it.”

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And then there is the care home outing to Whitby. Whitby makes my heart sing, it is one of the most special places on earth for me. Joanna Cannon clearly loves Whitby too; the descriptions are wonderful.

‘We’d only been there a matter of minutes, but already the sea air had pulled away some of the worrying. The colours seemed brighter and other people’s laughter was more obvious, and my face fell into a smile so much more easily.”

“The yards and the snickets, and the alleyways, hold on to the footsteps of our ancestors, and somewhere at the point where the cliffs reach out to the North Sea, the past is valued rather than abandoned…”

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I also love how Three Things is full of small, thought provoking moments to make you think about how the treatment of dementia could be changed for the better. For example, Florence talks about how her senses play such an important part in remembering;

‘Sometimes you feel a memory before you see it. Even if your eyes can’t quite find it, you can smell it and taste it, and hear it shouting to you from the back of your mind.’

So why aren’t we doing more to actively engage minds and stimulate senses, why aren’t we celebrating all that experience and all those memories? Instead, there are far too many communal day rooms with televisions as focal points. I read a really interesting article recently about an East German care home, which has created a room full of artefacts from the old GDR so that inhabitants with dementia can physically access this time period; a time that feels clear and safe to them (and I know the GDR was by no means safe but you get the picture).

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Having finished Three Things, I had this strong need to act on what I had just read. It is easy to be inspired, to have good intentions and then life gets in the way and thoughts of making a positive contribution are pushed to the side. So, I researched – and there are so many opportunities out there to make a difference to the lives of older people. I want to play my part in combatting loneliness, I want to learn the stories behind the faces, I want to talk and listen. And though I am looking at more formal volunteering opportunities, I will be putting my intentions into everyday practice; it doesn’t take much to reach out to someone on a bus or at the shops, or to stop and chat to a neighbour on your way home.

What an incredible read this was.

 

Femmeuary Wrap Up

This month I have taken part in the lovely Lauren’s (from Lauren and the Books) themed February challenge, which has celebrated all things female; from books to film, to role models and friendships. I shall insert her booktube channel here. Though I do see myself as a feminist and actually, when I come to think of it, I read largely female authors, it has been really refreshing to dedicate a whole month to exploring what feminism and being a woman means to me. Here is a short synopsis of what I have been reading, watching and listening to:

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Audio book: The Gender Games by Juno Dawson. Now, I have so many thoughts to share with you about this book that I WILL write a separate post. This is such an important book: an exploration of how society defines gender and the implications of these definitions in the world we live. It is a commentary, full of observations and open questions, written in a really accessible way. In part, it is also the very genuine, honest memoir of Juno’s personal journey. The audio book is read by Juno herself and this works brilliantly ( I am so fussy about narrators but not only do I love Juno’s voice but it also adds a very personal element to the book).  I have now bought a physical copy of the book too so that I can go back and underline to my heart’s content.

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British Library online resource: Votes for Women. This month has celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the first women to gain the vote here in the UK. I find it so interesting/frustrating that class very much defined who could vote and who could not (only householders over the age of 30 could in 1918). To celebrate the beginning of such an important change in women’s rights, the British Library has put together an online resource of photographs, posters, pamphlets and articles. Click here for this brilliant resource.

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Book group: The Feminist Orchestra. The passionate, politically minded Jean (from Jean Bookish Thoughts, click here for her booktube channel and here for the goodreads group) has started an online book club for reading and discussing feminist texts, both non-fiction and fiction. I can’t wait to get stuck in with the first book, which my local library is ordering in for me: Feminism is for Everybody by Bell Hooks.

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Children’s book: Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst. A gorgeously illustrated, fact filled book aimed at children – and people like me, who love short, accessible, illustrated non-fiction.

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Play: Hedda Gabler. I was lucky enough to be given a couple of tickets to the National Theatre production of Ibson’s Hedda Gabler, adapted by Patrick Garber and Ivo van Hove, at the Nottingham Theatre Royal. Hedda is one of the dark heroines of theatre: free spirited and frustrated by society’s constraints, desperate to assert her own power whilst struggling with her own sanity. Lizzy Watts was incredible in the role and I loved this contemporary version too.

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Graphic novel: Red Rosa by Kate Evans. I’ve already written about Rosa and reviewed this graphic novel here. Rosa will forever be a role model for me.

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Film: Milada. A film (on Netflix) about the Czech politician Milada Horáková, who fought for women’s rights and democracy until she was executed by the Communist regime in Prague in 1950. I didn’t know anything about this principled, resilient, incredibly intelligent woman.

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Biography: The Brontë Sisters, the Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne by Catherine Reef. I’ve just started reading this book aimed at younger readers. I adore the Brontës, and for me, each is a role model in her own right. I am amazed over and over again at how they overcame all odds to have their work published and how their individual pieces are still so very popular and relevant today. I bought this book as I am interested to see how their lives are described for a new generation. Plus, THE COVER!

What a brilliant month I’ve had.

 

Stories from the Homefront

I adore history and am especially interested in the two World Wars. I think a large part of this is because I have such strong connections with both Germany (I am German) and the UK (I have lived here for most of my life). Therefore, I have a rather interesting perspective, trying to come to terms with my native country’s past but also knowing that not all Germans were the enemy – there was a German resistance movement, there were people who helped Jews, some people feared for the lives of their loved ones to the extent that keeping them safe took priority. Indeed, there was suffering on both sides of the channel. Alongside this, I have grown up with the British perspective of history. I have learned about the fear, loss, sacrifice, sheer resilience and stubborn determination experienced on this island I call home. I believe that good historical fiction brings history to life, it engages on a very human level; here are two recent reads that did just that.

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Reasons why I picked up The Night Raid:

  1. It is set in Nottingham where I live.
  2. One of the main characters is Dame Laura Knight, a war artist, originally from Nottingham, who I have always wanted to find out more about.
  3. I am very interested in the role of women during the war and this book promised strong female characters.
  4. I am really interested in learning about the everyday life experienced by people in war time and the plot focuses on this.
  5. I saw that the author, Clare Harvey, would be in Nottingham to talk about her book and I love hearing authors talk about their work.

The story focuses on two young women, Violet and Zelah, working in a munitions factory in Nottingham. Both have pasts they are trying to escape, both are trying to find a way forwards in this world where women are very much holding life together. Commissioned to paint a propaganda portrait of women workers in the factory, Dame Laura Knight becomes a part of this factory life too, facing her own demons along the way. The lives of these three women become intertwined in ways that changes each one of them forever.

Why I loved reading this book:

The Nottingham setting is very special: Clare Harvey has lived in Nottingham herself and her writing feels very genuine. I could really imagine the city during wartime and it was clear that Harvey put a lot of time and effort into making the setting as accurate as possible. It is historical fiction, and there is creativity in terms of events and timelines, but the essence is very real.

Dame Laura Knight: I had heard of her in general terms, I knew she was commissioned to paint propaganda art, but that is as far as I had got. This book made me want to immerse myself in her work (a lot of it is available to view online) and Harvey writes in her author’s note that a particular piece, Ruby Loftus Screwing a Breech Ring, was an inspiration point for her. I loved the connection of art with fiction very much. I now want to read more about Dame Laura, who comes across as such a strong, complex woman, with an incredibly individual voice. I know that she wrote an autobiography so this is where I shall begin.

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Very human, rounded characters: It is easy to connect and invest emotions in The Night Raid characters. Each has a very personal story to tell and Harvey writes in a way that makes you genuinely care about what happens to them.

An emotionally engaging plot with a twist that I didn’t see coming: It isn’t a fast paced page turner and it is very much a character piece, however the plot itself flows really well ,coming together piece by piece, using the viewpoints of four characters. As for the twist – let’s just say I had a tear or two in my eye!

I went to the Waterstones author evening with Clare Harvey here in Nottingham and it was such a wonderful experience. She is an author, who has a genuine interest in her audience and I loved how animated she was. When you see how much an author has invested in her characters, it gives the whole reading experience an extra layer of meaning.

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It was love at first sight with Letters from the Lighthouse. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? I have a bit of thing about lighthouses (it is my dream to live in one) so this, combined with the topic at hand, was a perfect match for me.

Olive and her brother Cliff are evacuated to the Devonshire coast, when living in London becomes too dangerous due to heavy bombing. The children become involved in a mystery that will see them discovering a dangerously brave rescue mission and indeed playing their own part. It is also a story about war time communities and the treatment of both evacuees and refugees; prejudice, acceptance, friendship and loss are all explored beautifully. And there is a handsome, mysterious lighthouse keeper to boot;)

Why I loved this book:

The writing itself: Emma Carroll has a really rich, engaging, often beautiful and very honest writing style. Her words transported me to the Devon Coast and made me travel back in time. Simply gorgeous. I really like how seriously she takes her readers, not shying away from difficult issues, many of which are just as present in today’s society.lighthouse-clip-art-lighthouse-clipart-0-clipartix-free

The quirky characters: I especially loved Esther, the German girl who came over on the Kindertransport and is then evacuated with her class to the coast. She is prickly, feisty, hard to read and struggles to connect with others. Yet she is also so brave and resilient and there is a huge heart hidden away. Then there is mysterious Queenie, whose clocks have all stopped and show the same time ( She refuses to fix them).lighthouse-clip-art-lighthouse-clipart-0-clipartix-free

The war time detail: It is well researched and its presence is detailed yet not to the extent of information overload; just how I like it. I think children reading this book, will experience enough to be hooked and that they will be inspired to find out more about this period in history.lighthouse-clip-art-lighthouse-clipart-0-clipartix-free

The rather wonderful mystery: I really enjoyed how this played out as the book progressed, I loved the codes involved and I can’t really say much more 😉

Letters from the Lighthouse is book that I know I shall read again and that I will certainly recommend to my oldest niece – I like the idea of an auntie niece book club.