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review 2020-05-29 07:42
The Attack on Troy by Rodney Castleden
Attack On Troy - Rodney Castleden

TITLE:  The Attack on Troy

 

AUTHOR:  Rodney Castleden

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2006

 

FORMAT:  ebook

 

ISBN-13:  9781781596890

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DESCRIPTION:

 

3300 years ago Agamemnon, king of Mycenae in Greece, attacked the city of Troy in western Anatolia. The bloody siege that followed gave rise to one of the most famous legends of the ancient world, and the search for the truth behind the legend has intrigued scholars ever since. In this fascinating new investigation Rodney Castleden reconsiders all the evidence in order to establish the facts and give a historical basis to the most potent myth of ancient warfare.

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REVIEW:

 

This book is a little bit different to Michael Wood's In Search of the Trojan War, which reads like an archaeological detective story.  Both books provide similar information but in a different "format".  Castleden attempts to recreate what the Trojan War by comparing what is known from archeology of Bronze Age Mycenaean and Ancient Near Eastern civilization (Hittites, Luwians, Egyptians etc) to the information provided in various incomplete and lost epics such as the The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Kypria, and The Little Iliad.  Castleden works through the ancient epics and explains what is plausible in terms of cultural and military factors and what is probably poetic license.  The writing style is clear and easy to read, with the layperson rather than academic in mind.  A nicely written introduction to the archaeology and mythology of the Trojan War.

 

PS:  Another nonfiction book on the Trojan Was is Barry Strauss's The Trojan War, but I never did manage to read more than 2 chapters as the author had a tendency to novelize whole sections of the Iliad that did not appeal to me.

 

 

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review 2020-05-28 18:39
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell
A Woman of No Importance - Sonia Purnell

This is an engaging book about a totally badass historical figure, though I’m left unconvinced that the author really had enough information to write a book about her.

Virginia Hall was an American woman who, during WWII, worked undercover in France for first the British and later the American intelligence agencies. She helped organize and arm the French Resistance, spied for the Allies, and later even directed guerilla activities herself. She faced incredible dangers to do so, and with about two years behind enemy lines, spent much more time in France than most operatives, despite the comrades regularly being hauled off by the Gestapo to be tortured and sent to death camps. She had plenty of adventures and near-misses, including once having to escape over the Pyrenees on foot in winter, an even more impressive feat given that she walked on a wooden leg after shooting herself in the foot years before.

Hall is certainly an impressive figure, and I am glad to have learned about her and enjoyed the book. After the first couple of chapters early on, relating the first 30-odd years of her life before sneaking into occupied France, the book is overwhelmingly focused on high-tension WWII exploits, and written in a fluid style that makes for quick reading. I’ve read my share of WWII books considering this is not my favorite subject, but I learned some new things here about the French Resistance, and the book introduces readers to numerous impressive men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives fighting the Nazis.

That said, Hall herself – no surprise here – was secretive, and refused to share war stories even in later years with the niece to whom she was close, so I have some questions about where all the author’s information comes from. In particular, the author is quick to describe Hall’s thoughts and feelings about events without attributing them to any particular source, leaving me to suspect she made them up. Also, that same reticence on the part of the book’s subject left me confused about just how Hall was accomplishing the things she did. Somehow, Hall would arrive in a place where she knew no one, and despite Purnell’s repeated insistence that Hall was security-oriented and had no patience for loose-lipped operatives, within as little as two days she would have some new person apparently in on the secret, risking their life to accompany her on dangerous missions, while she risked hers in trusting them. Obviously Hall was an excellent judge of character since this virtually always worked out, but the book doesn’t give any sense of her methods, probably because the author doesn’t know.

I also came away with the sense that Purnell was perhaps a little too enamored of her subject, heavily criticizing anyone Hall didn’t get along with. It’s interesting that Hall’s career never really went anywhere except in occupied France: before the war she largely seems to have been held back in her attempted diplomatic career by gender prejudice, and it was at least partially the same story afterwards in her years with the CIA. However, I couldn’t entirely share the author’s indignation with the CIA’s failure to fully utilize Hall’s talents when during the decades after WWII the agency was busy toppling democratically-elected progressive leaders in Latin America to replace them with right-wingers who were friendly to American business interests and whose torture and murder of dissenters was pretty similar to the Nazis’ methods. While Hall’s having a desk job during those years doesn’t exempt her from her share of moral culpability – which Purnell never acknowledges – it at least lets the book focus instead on the straightforward excitement of the French Resistance years, with everything after that summed up in a single chapter at the end.

As an interesting and enjoyable book that introduced me to an impressive woman I would not otherwise have known about, I found this worth reading. But it’s sufficiently biased and speculative that I find it a bit difficult to recommend.

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review 2020-05-28 13:48
The Discovery of Witches
The Discovery of Witches - Hopkins, Matthew

by Matthew Hopkins

 

 

This is an account by a witchfinder not so much of his history but to answer questions and concerns among the authorities of his time.

 

Within his answers are details about methods for recognising witches and how to tell the difference between ordinary anomalies like marks on the skin and unusual ones that indicate a pact with the Devil.

 

Reading his explanations reminded me of some of the least logical troll discussions I've seen on line. I'm sure it all made perfect sense to Hopkins, but as we all know, witchfinders tended to have their own agenda and much of it was based either on greed, lust or superstition.

 

As a historical record, this is invaluable. It tells us the mindset of one of the best known witchfinders in an age of hysteria. I'm glad it was short though. I couldn't read through too much of that. If anything, it highlights some of the worst side of humanity and our potential for cruelty to our fellow creatures and each other.

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review 2020-05-27 09:36
In Search of the Trojan War by Michael Wood
In Search of the Trojan War - Michael Wood

TITLE:  In Search of the Trojan War

 

AUTHOR:  Michael Wood

 

DATE PUBLISHED:  2005 (updated edition)

 

FORMAT:  paperback

 

ISBN-13:  9780563522652

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DESCRIPTION:

 "For thousands of years we have been enthralled by tales of Troy and its heroes. Achilles and Hector, Paris and the famed beauty Helen remain some of the most enduring figures in art and literature. But did these titanic characters really walk the earth? Was there ever an actual siege of Troy? In this extensively revised edition, historian Michael Wood takes account of the latest dramatic developments in the search for Troy. His wide-ranging study of the complex archaeological, literary and historical records has been brought up-to-date. Detailing the rediscovery in Moscow of the so-called jewels of Helen and the re-excavation of the site of Troy begun in 1988, which continues to yield new evidence about the historical city, In Search of the Trojan War takes a fresh look at some of the most excited discoveries in archaeology. A dazzling and exhaustive analysis. Washington Post This beautifully illustrated book vividly evokes themes that are central to our civilizations quest for its past. "

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REVIEW:

 

An entertaining and fascinating detective history book that aims to determine if the Trojan War could have happened as described in Homer's Iliad.  Wood takes a look at archaeology (ancient texts and ground work), as well as literature, to determine what was going on in and around the ancient Mediterranean region during the Bronze Age.  The updated edition includes an additional chapter that reveals new finds made since the 1980s.  A few more illustrations (especially one that displays all the Troy levels) would have been useful.

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review 2020-05-26 19:52
Book Review: The Green Dress
The Green Dress - Liz Tolsma

The Green Dress is about a woman who is staying with the Robinson family. There seem to be strange illnesses or deaths occur. It seems to be about a woman named Sarah Jane Robinson. What is going on in the house is strange.

Harriet seems to bring in a Dr. Weaton. She moved into the Robinson family household but things seem to happen more once Lizzie passes away. But we do not know who it is. As the story goes on and more death occurs. The suspicions rise. Who is killing the Robinson family members and why?

The author does a wonderful job of having you trying to figure out the culprit. You get a history of some of the members. What a way to show some true colors in some folks. This story has you wanting to turn the pages and rooting for the heroes to save the day. You are pulled in emotionally as well. I was guessing Dr. Beers or even Mrs. Robinson. Can Michael and Harriet save the Robinson family members or will it all go bad?

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