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text 2018-05-21 14:11
Defying Henry VIII: Thomas More

Next up: Thomas More


Source: samanthawilcoxson.blogspot.com/2018/05/defying-henry-viii-thomas-more.html
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text 2018-04-13 04:50
Reading progress update: I've read 6% of Ice Ghosts
Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition - Paul Watson

The author has supposedly won a Pulitzer.  (OK, it was for photojournalism.)


This book was selected by the Guardian as one of the "best science books" of 2017.  The CBC put it at the top of its 2017 "holiday gift guide" of books about science and nature.


I regret to say at 6% in it is poorly organized, opening with three (inadequate) maps (and hard to read on a kindle, though that is not his fault - possibly the publisher's), and a chronology of events which is, depending on how you look at it, either spoilerific or because he couldn't be bothered to write a proper narrative history. 


And then the spliced sentences started popping up, as well as at least one sentence fragment.  Watson is also addicted to adjectives.


I'll be charitable and say he needed a better and more observant editor.  I would think W.W. Norton would have been capable of finding one, but perhaps the experienced ones were all busy elsewhere, and an intern got the job.


(I think - think, mind you - that I shall finish this, as I find the subject fascinating.  But his prose style and the freaking sentence splices are getting on my nerves.  My fingers are itching for a red pen.)

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review 2018-04-05 19:13
An excellent introduction to the iconic monarch
Queen Victoria - K. D. Reynolds,H.C.G. Matthew

As one of the last monarchs whose name is associated with an era, Queen Victoria comes across more as an icon than as a person.  Yet the stout figure seemingly always dressed in mourning always had to walk a fine line between these two poles.  Viewed from birth as a likely future monarch, Victoria led a isolated life as a child thanks to her mother and a key member of her household, both of whom sought to usurp her future authority as queen.  Asserting herself soon after her accession to the throne, she nonetheless submitted willingly to her husband, Price Albert of Saxe-Coburg, deferring unquestioning to his counsel throughout their marriage.  Devastated by his death, she eventually emerged from her seclusion to assume a politically active role in the later decades of her reign, spending her final years as a beloved and venerated figure among the British people


Summarizing Victoria’s life for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, from which this short study is derived, was the joint task of its editor, H. C. G. Matthew, and one of his former students, K. D. Reynolds.  Matthew’s premature death, however, left Reynolds to finish up the entry.  His achievement is an impressive one that combines insight with brevity to provide a remarkably comprehensive summary, one that shrugs off the longstanding myths and imagery to allow a real person of flesh and blood to emerge.  It makes this book an essential starting point for learning more about the queen, one unlikely to be bettered in its evaluation of Victoria’s life and reign.

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review 2018-04-03 15:42
My ninety-sixth podcast is up!
Christabel Pankhurst: A Biography - June Purvis

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview June Purvis about her new biography of the British suffragist Christabel Pankhurst (which I reviewed here). Enjoy!

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review 2018-03-29 16:03
An illuminating study of Edwardian society
The Edwardians: The Remaking of British Society - Paul Richard Thompson

For Britons, the first decade of the 20th century was one of great change.  Traditional concepts of age, class, and gender faced increasing challenge, and the response ultimately transformed British society. In this book, Paul Thompson analyzes the changes British society underwent during those years. Using hundreds of interviews with people who lived during that era, he seeks to chart the lives people lived during that time, and what those lives can tell us about the evolution of British society during those years.


To achieve this end, Thompson divides his study into four parts. The first covers what he terms the “dimensions of inequality,’ considering those elements of age, wealth, and circumstance that defined the lives of men and women during that time. The second section, titled “Edwardians”, recounts the lives of a dozen people from across the social stratum, ranging from the wealthy to those mired in poverty.  From there he describes the social, economic, and political elements that were changing the lives of the Edwardians, from the suffrage movement to the onset of the First World War. Finally, he concludes with a look at how these transformative forces shaped the lives of the people, from their family dynamics to their quality of life.


Taken together, these elements combine to provide an illuminating portrait of life in Edwardian Britain. Through his judicious combination of interviews and statistics, Thompson provides, a well-rounded examination of the people of the time and the changes they underwent.  What makes the book especially worthwhile is his use of the interviews to breathe life into the people, as the individuals he singles out give definition and form to what otherwise could be just an anonymous mass. It is this which has helped to make this path-breaking social history such an enduring work, one that rewards reading for anyone interested in the people of the era.

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