Posted in Challenge

My Name In Books

I saw this tag on many blogger’s sites in the summer and decided to have a go for myself – I decided to pick favourite reads of all time – I confess, my biggest problem was finding four books that started with the letter O, but I finally located those that deserved a place!

So without further ado I give you CLEOPATRA LOVES BOOKS, in books

Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White

One of my favourite books from childhood

Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

My favourite read by this author who injects so much humour into this dark tale

Emil and the Detectives – Erich Kastner

Possibly my very first introduction to crime fiction where Emil and his friends catch a thief

Out of the Silence – Wendy James

A fantastic combination of fact and a historical crime

Precious Thing – Colette McBeth

One of those books I simply couldn’t stop reading

A Judgement in Stone – Ruth Rendell

The best opening line – “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write“.

Thursday’s Child – Noel Streatfeild

My favourite book from childhood – Margaret was my heroine, I read this book hundred’s of time although it sadly out of print now.

Rubbernecker – Belinda Bauer

A sensitive piece of crime fiction featuring a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome

Asta’s Book – Barbara Vine

My favourite of the psychological fiction books written by Ruth Rendell under the name of Barbara Vine which depicts Asta’s life from the turn of the twentieth century.

Cleopatra

 

Like This Forever – S.J. Bolton

The third in the brilliant Lacey Flint series

Only the Innocent – Rachel Abbot

A relatively new addition to my must read list of authors and a fellow channel islander, this is the author’s first novel

Victorian Murderesses – Mary S Hartman

Although published in 1976, this is a fascinating look at the social lives of women during the late nineteenth, early twentieth century as well as detailing some historical crimes.

Evil Games – Andrea Marsons

A fabulous new series which has a complex plot and is backed up by well-formed characters.

Shadow Baby – Margaret Forster

Probably the book I have re-read most as an adult, a well told dual time-line tale, well researched and totally captivating.

Loves

Burnt Paper Sky – Gillian McMillan

A fresh and innovative debut

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe – Agatha Christie

There simply can’t be a list which doesn’t feature the amazing Agatha Christie so while this isn’t her best novel, it did start with an O

One Last Dance – Judith Lennox

A historical saga set during the First World War, this is a story of sibling rivalry and a grand house.

Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Domestic noir at its best

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the sheer brilliance of this book

Books

Posted in Uncategorized

On My Bookshelf – Women’s Lives

On My Bookshelfv1

This week I am going to share some of the books on my shelf that fit into my interest into women’s lives and how they’ve changed in the last one hundred years or so and in particular, how childbirth could have calamitous consequences.

I am going to start with one of my favourite books of all time: Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster which I read way back in 1996 while recovering from having all my wisdom teeth bashed out of my mouth! Since then I’ve read this copy many more times, hence the unforgivable creases on the cover.

SB June 2015

Blurb

Evie, born in 1887, and Shona, born in 1956, have one thing in common: both were abandoned as babies by their mothers. Different times, different circumstances, but they both grow up sharing the same obsession. Each sets out to haunt her mother, with terrible consequences for everyone involved. Goodreads

While Evie and Shona’s stories are fascinating the events and emotions that led to their mothers to give them up are no less so. A book full of historical detail which was based upon Margaret’s book about her family for Hidden Lives. I read Hidden Lives after Shadow Baby having embarked on a Margaret Forster book fest and it was clear where her inspiration came from. Her Grandmother, also named Margaret was visited by a woman when she was in old age, a woman who said she was her daughter. Amazingly faced with the elderly Margaret’s ferocity not one of her family probed deeply into who this woman really was.

HL June 2015

Blurb

Margaret Forster’s grandmother died in 1936, taking many secrets to her grave. Where had she spent the first 23 years of her life? Who was the woman in black who paid her a visit shortly before her death? The search for answers took Margaret on a journey into her family’s past. This is a memoir on how women’s lives have changed over the century. Goodreads

Many, many years later my daughter’s history dissertation led me to read more widely about infanticide, not wholly confined to poor women who couldn’t care for an unwanted child but those who were subjected to post puerperal mania. One of the most moving books I read was The Cruel Mother by Siân Busby

TCM June 2015

Blurb

In 1919 Sian Busby’s great-grandmother gave birth to triplets. One of the babies died at birth, and eleven days later she drowned the surviving twins in a bath of cold water. She was sentenced to an indefinite term in a prison for the criminally insane.
For generations to come, the author’s family dealt with the murders and the accompanying shame, guilt, and anxiety by suppressing the disturbing memory. It wasn’t until Busby began to experience severe bouts of postpartum depression herself that she felt compelled to learn more about this shadowy story, ultimately immersing herself in the puzzling and horrific tragedy that had quietly shaped her family’s collective history.
In Cruel Mother, Busby digs out her own postpartum depression, by re-creating not only the broader reality of post-WWI working class England, but the more intimate setting in which her great-grandmother tried to raise a family. In the process, Busby brings ghosts to very real and familiar life, making these unexpected and inexplicable deaths that much more tragic. Ultimately, Busby and the reader are left not only with new understanding, but heartfelt empathy for all involved. Goodreads

This was another fascinating look at women’s lives, and treatment following childbirth, but also a great illustration of how such a tragedy can cast a long shadow over future generations.

One of the options that a girl in trouble could resort to in Victorian and Edwardian England was to employ a baby farmer. I read books about the infamous baby farmer Amelia Dyer but also a fictional depiction of the timeThe Ghost of Lily Painter written by Caitlin Davies, who is Margaret Forster’s daughter.

TGLP

Blurb

The first time Annie Sweet sees 43 Stanley Road, the house is so perfect she almost feels as though it has chosen her. She longs to move in, but with her husband seeming more distant, and her daughter wrapped up in her friends and new school, Annie is left alone to mull over the past.
Soon she becomes consumed by the house and everyone who has lived there before her, especially a young chorus girl called Lily Painter, a rising star of the music hall whose sparkling performances were the talk of the town.
As Annie delves further into Lily’s past she begins to unravel a dark episode from Edwardian London, that of two notorious baby farmers, who lured young unmarried mothers with the promise of a better life for their babies. Until Annie solves the mystery at the heart of the scandal, the ghost of Lily Painter will never be able to rest.
Based on a real period from London’s rich history, Caitlin Davies skilfully blends fact and fiction to bring to life part of our sinister past. Spanning an entire century, from the journals of an Edwardian police inspector to a doomed wartime love affair, The Ghost of Lily Painter is an engrossing and poignant novel from a hugely talented writer. Goodreads

This is an excellently well-told tale and as I was choosing books for this post, I was incredibly tempted to pick this one up and read it again.

Illustrating how long the subject of women’s lives, particularly when based on real women, has lasted this year I read Out of The Silence by Wendy James

Out of the Silence

no original picture of this one as it is on my kindle

Blurb

I call his name – only quietly, but he hears me as I knew he would, and wants me as he always does. And we come together – right there in the darkness. And even though there is no way to be certain of any other thing in the world, I am certain that I would risk anything to keep what is between the two of us. For love, I would risk anything, lose everything.
Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three Australian women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and Vida Goldstein, a charismatic suffragist from Melbourne and the first woman to stand for Parliament in Australia.
When Maggie’s life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women’s lives collide. Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change.
The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s – not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love – of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power. Goodreads

This book powerfully illustrated how women’s lives were hampered by their sex with those who decided on a career of any sort having to make a choice between that and marriage.

One last example of this genre is the memoir Bad Blood by Lorna Sage, a young woman who never had sex again after becoming pregnant in 1950’s Wales.

BB June 2015

Blurb

Blood trickles down through every generation, seeps into every marriage. An international bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Biography Award, Bad Blood is a tragicomic memoir of one woman’s escape from a claustrophobic childhood in post-World War II Britain and the story of three generations of the author’s family and its marriages.
In one of the most extraordinary memoirs of recent years, Bad Blood brings alive in vivid detail a time — the ’40s and ’50s — not so distant from us but now disappeared. As a portrait of a family and a young girl’s place in it, it is unsurpassed. Goodreads

More posts from my bookshelf can be found here:
On My Bookshelf
On My Bookshelf – What’s in a Name?

I do hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour of nearly twenty years of reading around this particular subject – do you have any recommendations for me?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Out of the Silence – Wendy James

Historical Fiction  5*'s
Historical Fiction
5*’s

I love history, particularly social history that explores the lives of women, and this book fits really well into this area of interest. Wendy James has taken the real life story of a young girl named Maggie Heffernan who lived in Australia at the turn of the twentieth century and added a fictional background to the crime she was tried for. To complement Maggie’s story we also have Elizabeth Hamilton’s story, a slightly older woman, an unwilling spinster, who works as a governess and later at a school run by Vida Goldstein. For those of you who know as little about Australian history as I do, in 1903, Vida Goldstein was the first woman in the British Empire to stand for election in a national parliament, woman having been given the vote much earlier in Australia than either the UK or the US. As Elizabeth’s story unfolds she gives an insight into the suffragette movement in Australia at this time as seen through a bystanders view rather than with the full force of Vida’s passion for the cause.

Maggie’s story is told in the first person and follows her movement from eldest daughter helping her rather cold mother out at home in the fabulously named Dederang, to being shipped off to the nearby town of Yackandandah to help out relations before moving away on her own accord gaining a permanent position as a servant. All through her narrative I knew that her love affair with Jack Hardy was doomed and yet I still hoped that the ending would be different so affected was I by the voice Wendy James gave her.

Being caught out in this dress is shame enough, but just as he comes by I am squeezed right down the front of the cart, poking about as if hunting for something or other, so he comes upon me unawares an when he asks, ‘Is everything all right miss? Can I help you with anything?’ I am not expecting it and hit my shin hard on the bench.
When I have recovered enough to speak, I ask him what he thinks he is doing, what sort of fool is he to come creeping up on a person in such a way?
‘My apologies, miss,’ he says, ‘but I wouldn’t say I was creeping – this is a public path, y’know, an thee was nowhere else for me to walk. I just thought you might have been in some difficulty, being all doubled over like that…’
‘It was nothing,’ I tell him. ‘I had… dropped my glove, is all, an was hunting for it.’ This is so plainly a tale – it is as warm a day as we ever get an there’s not a single glove in evidence – that I add in a tone that Ma would be proud of, ‘Which a person’s got a perfect right to do without being frightened out of her wits by a complete stranger.’

Elizabeth’s story is told through her journal entries and letters to her brother who is in New York, far away from their birthplace in Edinburgh, this is much drier in tone and consequently it took longer for me to get as emotionally involved in her story, which although much less dramatic than Maggie’s, illustrates how for many women the only way they would feel fulfilled was to marry but Elizabeth’s fiancé had died in a tragic accident shortly before she moved to Melbourne. Elizabeth’s story also gives us the insight into Vida’s life, a woman who has decided that improving the lives of woman and children was her goal and this couldn’t be combined with marriage. In fact all three women were fighting against not only circumstance but the freedom to have any real choices about their lives.

9 May

First typing class today. Girls very enthusiastic. Only one parent objecting to it calling it an unnecessary evil. The same parent, incidentally, who opposed his daughter’s algebra lessons. The girls father is a member of the lower house, formerly a grocer who mae his fortune during the gold rush. She tells us he can’t see the point (and nor can she for that matter). Why train her to do things she’ll never need? not as if she’ll ever have to earn her living he says. Which is fortunate, really… 

These lives collide when Maggie is arrested and Vida organised a campaign both during and after the trial which successfully proved to her country that she was able to run such a sustained media blitz, helped by the fact that she didn’t fit the stereotypical view of a suffragette. With Elizabeth on hand to help Vida out with the campaign and accompanying her on visits to Maggie these three women, with very different backgrounds meet.

Wendy James doesn’t judge any of the three women featured in this book, although the facts are overlaid with fiction and maybe Maggie’s story is given the most positive spin possible, it was still eminently believable and I didn’t get the feeling that sometimes happens in these types of books, that the author wanted me to come to a certain conclusion, rather she had confidence that her story was enough and the reader could make their own mind up about the choices made by each of the women.

I can’t wait to read more books by Wendy James, this is easily my favourite read of the year so far, admittedly aided by my keen interest in the subject matter but definitely enhanced by the sheer quality of the writing.

More Historical Crime

The Murder Tree – Alan Veale
Not Guilty – Christine Gardner
Death at the Priory – James Ruddick
Quiet Dell – Jayne Anne Phillips

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week In Books (March 11)

This Week In Books

With other blogs undergoing changes some of you will have seen my books for the week posted on Mondays but this really didn’t suit my reading and reviewing habits so I have decided to join Lypsyy Lost & Found and revert to a Wednesday post instead. Ideally this way  when I get back on top of my reviews there won’t be an inordinate wait for any book I feature to have its accompanying review.

I am currently reading The Night Falling by Katherine Webb set in Italy in 1921.

The Night Falling

Blurb

Puglia, Italy, 1921.
Leandro returns home now a rich man with a glamorous American wife, determined to make his mark. But how did he get so wealthy – and what haunts his outwardly exuberant wife?
Boyd, quiet English architect, is hired to build Leandro’s dreams. But why is he so afraid of Leandro, and what really happened between them years before, in New York?
Clare, Boyd’s diffident wife, is summoned to Puglia with her stepson. At first desperate to leave, she soon finds a compelling reason to stay.
Ettore, starving, poor and grieving for his lost fiancée, is too proud to ask his Uncle Leandro for help. Until events conspire to force his hand.
Tensions are high as poverty leads veterans of the Great War to the brink of rebellion. And under the burning sky, a reckless love and a violent enmity will bring brutal truths to light… NetGalley

I have just finished reading Out of the Silence by Wendy James which is a powerful novel that looks at the lives of women at the turn of the century. The setting is Australia but apart from the nicer weather this could be the UK, the same lack of choices for women both married and unmarried are examined in depth against the true story. This book is well-structured to give multiple viewpoints, some of which I confess to finding repellent but then I have choices, living as I do in the Twenty-First Century.

My review of Out of the Silence will be posted soon

Out of the Silence

Next up is the seventh in the Ruth Galloway series The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths

The Ghost Fields
Blurb

Norfolk is experiencing a July heatwave when a construction crew unearths a macabre discovery – a buried WWII plane with the pilot still inside. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway quickly realizes that the skeleton couldn’t possibly be the pilot, and DNA tests identify the man as Fred Blackstock, a local aristocrat who had been reported dead at sea. When the remaining members of the Blackstock family learn about the discovery, they seem strangely frightened by the news.
Events are further complicated by a TV company that wants to make a film about Norfolk’s deserted air force bases, the so-called Ghost Fields, which have been partially converted into a pig farm run by one of the younger Blackstocks. As production begins, Ruth notices a mysterious man lurking close to the Blackstocks’ family home.
Then human bones are found on the family’s pig farm. Can the team outrace a looming flood to find a killer? NetGalley

What are you reading this week? Please share in the comments box below.

See what I’ve been reading in 2015 here

Posted in Weekly Posts

Tuesday ~ First Chapter ~ First Paragraph (March 10)

First Chapter

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

My book this week is one that I’ve had on my kindle for over a year having first come across it on  Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… if you haven’t come across this blog and you love crime fiction you really should take a visit.  Margot Kinberg  has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to answer questions if your recall isn’t up to her high standards!

Out of the Silence

Blurb

I have a baby, two shillings, no reputation and nowhere to go, but even so I cannot imagine what far worse might be.
Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and the remarkable Vida Goldstein, the suffragist who was to become the first woman to stand for Parliament.
When Maggie’s life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women’s lives collide. Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change.
The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s – not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love – of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power. Amazon

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph ~ Intro


Hawthorn, Melbourne


17 January 1900

I’m looking down at this baby’s head, thinking that it’s too big, that it’s not right an infant’s head should be so big, and watching it work away at my breast, when the missus comes in, hems trailing along the floor and never a bother to her that the skirt will need washing earlier than it ought. She stands right in front of me, her hands clasped, eyebrows raised. ‘Maggie,’ she says in that soft way I have got to know so quickly – the very same way she asked me whether I have ever had any diseases of the organisation, whether I drink spirits or take laudanum – oh-so-polite, but no disguising the nastiness beneath. Maggie,’ she says there’s a gentleman here to see you. She looks down at the baby. ‘Has he finished? You can give him to me if he’s had enough.’

Do you want to know more? Would you keep reading?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below and I recommend reading the Spotlight Post on this book from Confessions of a Mystery Novelist

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (May 23)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

So this week somehow I have just one new find from NetGalley which is The Secret Place by Tana French, the fifth in The Dublin Murder Squad series (and I’ve read the previous four)

The Secret Place
Blurb

The photo shows a boy who was murdered a year ago.
The caption says, ‘I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM’.
Detective Stephen Moran hasn’t seen Holly Mackey since she was a nine-year-old witness to the events of Faithful Place. Now she’s sixteen and she’s shown up outside his squad room, with a photograph and a story.
Even in her exclusive boarding school, in the graceful golden world that Stephen has always longed for, bad things happen and people have secrets. The previous year, Christopher Harper, from the neighbouring boys’ school, was found murdered on the grounds. And today, in the Secret Place – the school noticeboard where girls can pin up their secrets anonymously – Holly found the card.
Solving this case could take Stephen onto the Murder squad. But to get it solved, he will have to work with Detective Antoinette Conway – tough, prickly, an outsider, everything Stephen doesn’t want in a partner. And he will have to find a way into the strange, charged, mysterious world that Holly and her three closest friends inhabit and disentangle the truth from their knot of secrets, even as he starts to suspect that the truth might be something he doesn’t want to hear. NetGalley

I have added Out of the Silence by Wendy James to the TBR after coming across a reference to this on Confessions of a Mystery Novelist… if you haven’t come across this blog and you love crime fiction you really should take a visit.  Margot Kinberg  has a wealth of knowledge and is always willing to answer questions if your recall isn’t up to her high standards!

Out of the Silence

Blurb

I have a baby, two shillings, no reputation and nowhere to go, but even so I cannot imagine what far worse might be.
Out of the Silence is a stunning debut novel about three women from very different worlds: Maggie Heffernan, a spirited working-class country girl; Elizabeth Hamilton, whose own disappointment in love has served only to strengthen her humanity; and the remarkable Vida Goldstein, the suffragist who was to become the first woman to stand for Parliament.
When Maggie’s life descends into darkness after a terrible betrayal, the three women’s lives collide. Around this tragedy Wendy James has constructed a masterfully drawn and gripping fiction. Based on a true story, it unfolds at the dawn of the twentieth century against the compelling backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and a world on the brink of enormous change.
The novel powerfully evokes the plight of women in the early 1900s – not least their limited options, whatever their class and education. However, at its heart this is a story of love – of love gone wrong; of its compromises and disappointments; but ultimately of its extraordinary transformative power. Amazon

A favourite contributor to my very large TBR is FictionFan who did it again with a compelling review of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton which has now been added to the pile.

Ethan Frome

Read FictionFan’s review here

On Book’d Out I came across a feature about the writer Felicity Young who has written a series of books about a female autopsy surgeon Dr Dody McCleland in The Anatomy of Death (in Australia The Dissection of Murder)

An Anatomy of Death

Blurb

At the turn of the twentieth century, London’s political climate is in turmoil, as women fight for the right to vote. Dody McCleland has her own battles to fight. As England’s first female autopsy surgeon, not only must she prove herself, she must prove that murder treats everyone equally…
After a heated women’s rights rally turns violent, an innocent suffragette is found murdered. When she examines the body, Dody McCleland is shocked to realize that the victim was a friend of her sister—fueling her determination to uncover the cause of the protestor’s suspicious death.
For Dody, gathering clues from a body is often easier than handling the living—especially Chief Detective Inspector Pike. Pike is looking to get to the bottom of this case but has a hard time trusting anyone—including Dody. Determined to earn Pike’s trust and to find the killer, Dody will have to sort through real and imagined secrets. But if she’s not careful, she may end up on her own examination table… Goodreads

Read the feature about Felicity Young from Book’d Out here

I just need to add a non-book item, well nearly… after a conversation on Twitter with one of my favourite authorsErin Kelly, I was persuaded to buy the box-set of Barbara Vine DVDs comprising of; Gallowglass, A Dark Adapted Eye and A Fatal Inversion which were on the BBC in the early 1990’s. Finding myself with a weekend to myself I really enjoyed watching the first two.  Along with this purchase I came across the box-set of five Minette Walters DVDs too, which were also filmed for the BBC, so I have plenty more spare hours to fill with two of my favourite authors on the small screen.

Minette WaltersBarbara Vine

Amazon UK