Review: Victorians Undone by Kathryn Hughes

DNVX0212[1]I’ve been on a bit of classics hype over the last few weeks, rediscovering some authors I’d previously had a bit of a rockier relationship with, and realising that I do actually enjoy some of their works. If you’ve seen either my Ethan Frome post or my Silas Mariner post then you’ll know what I’m talking about, but if you haven’ t, let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised! Delving back into, not only classics, but also the Victorian period (which is my favourite!) was completely refreshing, and having finished both of the above books I was craving something a bit more focused on the historical aspect. That’s where Kathryn Hughes’s Victorians Undone came into play.

Victorians Undone: Tales of the Flesh in the Age of Decorum, is actually a non-fiction book, something I’m trying to make more of an effort to read. The premise is fairly straightforward and has an interesting concept; through five different Victorian body parts Kathryn attempts to not only look at what their owners lives were like, but also what it was like to be them, as well as calling into play the society they lived among. I was pretty instantly sold on the entire idea and loved the thought of discovering the Victorian in a slightly different way, so it was a fairly easy decision to pick this as my next read. Continue reading

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Review: Witches; James I and the English Witch Hunts by Tracy Borman

IMG_0218[1]It’s no secret that my favourite period of history is the Victorian one, closely followed by that of the Tudors. I’ve read quite a lot already surrounding these times, in both fictional and non-fiction books. Even so, I still like to read as widely as possible, and as an all round history buff I’m always eager to learn more about our history in general. One of the periods that I’ve come to learn much more about lately, and to find equally as fascinating, is that of the Jacobean period. King James VI was already the ruling monarch of Scotland, but this man also became King James I of England after inheriting the throne from Queen Elizabeth I (the last of the Tudor monarchy).

King James’s reign was an extremely eventful one, mostly because of the legacy of religious uncertainty initially started by Henry VIII when deciding to break from Rome and the Catholic faith. We’re all heard of Guy Fawkes, and hopefully we understand the meaning behind the Gunpowder plot and its aims. Yet as fascinating as this infamous event is, there is another event which King James has also become synonymous with; witch hunting. I find the idea of the persecution of normal people under the charge of witchcraft equally fascinating and disturbing, so when I saw that Tracy Borman had previously written a non-fiction book about this I was incredibly excited.

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Review: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

IMG_8757[1]Everyone knows how much I love the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and this year I’m more determined than ever to read all of the shortlisted books. When the longlist was recently announced I was really excited to see such a diverse range of books, including some I already had sitting handily on my shelf.

One of the books I already owned was See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt. This book had a lot of hype surrounding it when it was initially released, so the fact that it’s been longlisted for the prize was just an extra incentive to pick it up. It’s actually an historical crime novel which takes inspiration from the case of Lizzie Borden. Lizziewas an American woman who became infamous after being accused of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1892. In this novel Schmidt uses this crime to delve deeper into the lives of the family, exploring the dynamics and relationships between them whilst also exploring what might trigger someone to commit such an atrocious crime.

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Review: Medieval Europe by Chris Wickham

IMG_7221[1]As some of you may remember, it was recently my birthday, and I was lucky enough to receive some new books from my boyfriend. I’ve already read and reviewed the first book, The Unwomanly Face of War, which I absolutely adored (review here)! Feeling buoyed from such success, and following on from non-fiction November, I decided to go ahead and start the second book before the month was out.

Whilst The Unwomanly Face of War was still very much a non-fiction book, it was written using such an interesting technique that the book felt extremely personal and emotive, making it a very accessible piece of non-fiction. This next book, although falling into a similar genre of a non-fiction historical book, is very different in style. This book is an academic text which takes a much broader and far more removed look at a period of history. As you may guess from its title, Medieval Europe, the book is focused solely upon the medieval time period between the years 500 to 1500. Also commonly referred to as the Middle Ages or the Dark ages, Chris Wickham takes us on a journey which tracks the major changes and events which occurred throughout Europe. This timeline takes us from the decline of the Western Roman Empire, right up to before the infamous Reformation, with far more events in between.

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Review: The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood

22071560_136672547066313_6682299295246319616_nYou know that feeling? The one you get when a book sounds completely up your street, fit to bursting with all the things you love and you can’t wait to devour it? You know that consecutive feeling? The one where said book not only lives up to your hopes, but defies them, thrilling and surprising you in equal measure? It’s a feeling many readers strive for, waiting for that next elusive five star book. It’s a feeling I am so completely happy to say I found with Alison Littlewood’s latest novel, The Crow Garden.

As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I knew I had to have it. Having studied English Literature, I can say with a firm resolve that I am a Victorianist through and through. The fact that this book is an historical novel, set in this period, immediately had me intrigued. This setting, combined with the mention of asylums, strange occurrences, doctors who swear by phrenology, mesmerism and the occult, had me coveting this Gothic tale even further. Of course, credit must be given where credit is due for this stunning cover design by Leo Nickolls. It really is a work of art, the eerie quality of the novel reflected beautifully in the cover. Naturally, with Halloween fast approaching, this book really did seem like the perfect atmospheric read. When it arrived in the post for me to review I was ecstatic!

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