Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Published by Picador
27th February 2014
Paperback Edition




Northern Iceland, 1829.

A woman condemned to death for murdering her lover. 

A family forced to take her in.

A priest tasked with absolving her.

But all is not as it seems, and time is running out: winter is coming, and with it the execution date.

Only she can know the truth.  This is Agnes's story.


They said I must die.  They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine.  I imagine, then, that we are all candle flames, greasy-bright, fluttering in the darkness and the howl of the wind, and in the stillness of the room I hear footsteps, awful coming footsteps, coming to blow me out and send my life up away from me in a grey wreath of smoke.  I will vanish into the air and the night.  They will blow us all out, one by one, until it is only their own light by which they see themselves.  Where will I be then?
     Sometimes I think I see it again, the farm, burning in the dark.  Sometimes I can feel the ache of winter in my lungs, and I think I see the flames mirrored in the ocean, the water so strange, so flickered with light.  There was a moment during that night when I looked back.  I looked back to watch the fire, and if I lick my skin I can still taste the salt.  The smoke.
     It wasn't always so cold.
    I hear footsteps.


Hannah Kent's debut novel Burial Rites is a moving tale of the last person executed in Iceland in 1829, one Agnes Magnusdottir.  She was executed for her role in killing two men, Natan Keilsson and Petur Jonsson along with Fridrik Sigurdsson; a further person, Sigridur Gudmundsdottir was later spared execution.  Sent to live with the family of  a district officer until her execution date is set, this is the story of one woman, and the people whose lives she touches, both past and present.  From being placed with a family who initially are horrified to house her, she eventually becomes one of the family, and through her story we learn of the real events of  the 13th and 14th of March 1828 as she recites her history to the young Assistant Reverend Throvardur Jonsson.

This is a warm tale even though it is set for the most part in the depths of a cold Icelandic winter.  Great detail is placed by Hannah Kent on getting the atmosphere and the settings right for this historical tale, and, being no expert, I think she has done a fine job.  This is an easy read, but a page-tuner none-the-less.  A cracking debut and I'm looking forward to what Hannah Kent is going to produce next.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 28 April 2014

Grown-up books

This is the first time I have attempted this, but a single blog post linked to both of my blogs!  I decided that as the nature of today's post fits in with both of my blogs it would be a good idea to try!

Recently I made three book purchases, all by the same author.  These are not newly published books, or even new copies of said books, but books I saw on my parents' shelves growing up, and now I am a grown-up, thought I should own too.

Shall I reveal what they are?






Yes, I've been buying books by the wonderfully talented Edith Holden.  Did you know that she went got a scholarship to the Birmingham School of Art?  How difficult must that have been for a woman in the Victorian era?


Tragically she died in 1920 at only 49 years old, whilst trying to break off a bough of chestnut buds reaching out over a backwater of the Thames.  She fell into the water and drowned.

Thankfully her books live on, and her illustrations are just as wonderful today as they were then.


Happy Reading
Miss Chapter x

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

What's to come

I thought I'd show you some of the books that will be coming up on here - eventually!  I've got a lot tons of books to review.  Lots of different genres, and subject matter and here are just a few of them!

The House Girl is all about slavery in 1852 and it's ties to present day life.  I love the cover on this edition.

Look Who's Back is a satirical novel all about Adolf Hitler and his youtube stardom.
The Fortune Hunter tells of the life of Sisi, the Empress of Austria and her true loves.
Humble by Nature follows Kate Humble's move from London to Wales.
The Astronaut Wives Club is the true story of the women behind the American Space Race.
Wake looks at three intertwining lives during the turmoil of the First World War.
Of course there are many, many more to come, but this is just a selection of what's in store soon(ish).  I'm off for the Easter break now, but back soon with lots more book reviews and interviews (and maybe a giveaway or two).
Happy Reading (and thanks for following)
Miss Chapter x

Monday, 14 April 2014

American Adulterer

American Adulterer by Jed Mercurio
Published by Vintage Books
4th March 2010
Paperback Edition



Like any womaniser, the subject of this novel must go to extraordinary lengths to hide his affairs from his wife and colleagues.  But this is no ordinary adulterer - he is John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.  Yet he is also a virtuous man enslaved by an uncontrollable vice.  Startlingly empathetic, darkly witty and deft, American Adulterer takes inspiration from the tantalising details surrounding President Kennedy's sex life and medical secrets to weave a provocatively intimate portrait of the man's affairs, illness, courage and idealism - and in JFK's love for his wife, recreates one of history's most fascinating enigmatic marriages.


The subject is an American citizen holding high elected office, married, and father to a young family, who takes the view that monogamy has seldom been the engine of great men's lives.  He has always had women - numerously, sequentially and simultaneously, in the form of family friends, heiresses, socialites, models, actresses, professional acquaintances, colleagues' spouses, party girls, shopgirls and prostitutes - following the youthful discovery that he liked women and they liked him.
     Only in the course of longer-lasting affairs did hte question of marriage arise; it was not something he took seriously until his political ambitions began to include high office, whereupon it was clarified by numerous colleagues taht a good marriage was not merely an advantage but a necessity.  A politician must remain publicly faithful to those principles and causes he chooses to follow; whether he remains faithful to his wife is another question.
     Seven years ago, at age thirty-six, he married a beautiful young woman twelve years his junior.  He will not admit defrauding his marriage vows.  Before God, he decided not to be derailed by the impossibility of making promises based upon the permanence of love, when it is clear to any thinking person that to guarantee one's state of mind in twenty or even thirty years' time is preposterous.  Taking vows is merely etiquette - as is appearing to observe them.



As a nation, there is still an unfulfilled obsession with the life of John F Kennedy.  Not so much his political career, but with that of his private life.  We read this book for our book group this month, and it was an interesting read.  Written in the third person, it literally studies the life of the President from his election right through to his assassination.  Whilst I struggled somewhat with the narrative itself (I would have preferred a first person take on the story), Jed Mercurio has written an indepth account of JFK's daliances whilst in office.

Covering his relationships with interns and colleagues' wives, plus the more well-known affair with Marilyn Monroe, it is amazing the lengths that not only the President, but his staff have to go to, to keep these matters secret, particularly from the First Lady herself.

The main subject of the book is the whole issue surrounding the President's infidelity, but for me the most thought-provoking subject matter was of Kennedy's health.  If what is written here is correct, he was even more ill than I was aware of.  Tablets for this, that and the other; at least two doctors prescribing and being consulted with permanently; and in a constant amount of pain seems to have been the life of this apparently healthy and charismatic man.  It makes you wonder how he managed to put on such a persona when clearly things were incredibly difficult.  I'm certainly keen to read more on Kennedy now after reading this book.


Happy Reading



Miss Chapter x



Friday, 11 April 2014

Books that Changed the World

Books that changed the World: the 50 most influential books in Human History by Andrew Taylor
Published by Quercus
6th March 2014
Paperback Edition



Books That Changed the World tells the fascinating stories behind 50 books that, in ways great and small, have changed the course of human history. Andrew Taylor sets each text in its historical context and explores its wider influence and legacy.

Whether he's discussing the incandescent effect of The Qu'ran, the enduring influence of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, of the way in which Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe galavanized the anti-slavery movement, Taylor has written a stirring and informative testament to human ingenuity and endeavour. Ranging from The Iliad to Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Kama Sutra to Lady Chatterley's Lover, this is the ultimate, thought-provoking read for book-lovers everywhere.


How can we ever change the world?  Military leaders, such as Genghis Khan or Napoleon have certainly managed to change large parts of it, though generally not for as long as they expected; scientists devising cures and vaccines for disease can spread a more benign influence across whole continents; the thoughts of religious leaders or philosphers, like Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Plato or Confucius, can sweep through generations like fire.  But books?
     Reading books is generally a solitary, unassuming pastime: bookishness is the very antithesis of the man-of-action qualities that seem to shake the world by the scruff of its neck.  The pen may boast of being mightier than the sword, but it is generally the sword that wins in the short term.  It is that phrase, though, which gives the game away: in the short term, writers can be bullied, imprisoned or executed, their work censored, and their books burned, but over the long sweep of history, it is books and the ideas expressed within them that have transformed the world.


As Andrew Taylor rightly points out, any list of books whether it be the ten best of a particular genre, or as in this case, the most influential books in changing the world, is purely subjective.  As Taylor says "These are the books that, in their different ways, have changed my world - but they are also books that I believe have demonstrably changed the world in one way or another for millions of other people."   He has drawn up a list of 50 titles, that in very different ways have had a great impact on the changing world, not just in the era that they were written, but continue to do so today.  I think it is important to look at the list in question so here it is:

The Iliad by Homer
The Histories by Herodotus
The Analects by Confucius
The Republic by Plato
The Bible
Odes by Horace
Geographia by Ptolemy
Kama Sutra by Mallanaga Vatsyayana
Canon of Medicine by Avicenna
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
Atlas, or, Cosmographic Meditations by Gerard Mercator
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
First Folio by William Shakespeare
An Anatomical Study of the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals by William Harvey
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo Galilei
Prinicipa mathematica by Isaac Newton
A Dictionary of the English Language by Samuel Johnson
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgange von Goethe
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth & Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Telephone Directory by New Haven District Telephone Company
The Thousand and one Nights translated by Sir Richard Burton
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion
Poems by Wilfred Owen
Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein
Ulysses by James Joyce
Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lover
The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes
If This is a Man by Primo Levi
Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
Things fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Zedong
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J K Rowling

I have to admit that the number I have actually read off of this list is remarkably low, but the number of books that I hadn't heard of was interesting, particularly Silent Spring by Rachel Carson which was only published in 1962 which makes me think I should have heard of it before!  Interestingly between 1964 (Quotations by Chairman Mao) and 1997 (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) there are on other inclusions worthy of influence - does that mean that the books of the twentieth century are not influential, or have not yet had time to impact on the wider world?

First published in 2008, this book has been reprinted this year, but disappointingly still doesn't include anything later than 1997.  What does this say about the book market of today? 

The only other question left to ask is: which books would you have included?!


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The House at the end of Hope Street

The House at the end of Hope Street by Menna van Praag
Published by Penguin Books (USA)
25th March 2014
Paperback Edition



Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

The house has stood at the end of Hope Street for nearly two hundred years.  It's larger than all the others, with turrets and chinmeys rising into the sky.  The front garden grows wild, the long grasses scattered with cowslips, reaching toward the low-hanging leaves of the willow trees.  At night the house looks like a Victorian orphanage housing a hundred despairing souls, but when the clouds part and it is lit by moonlight, the house appears to be enchanted.  As if Rapunzel lives in the tower and a hundred Sleeping Beauties lie in the beds.

The house is built in red brick, the color of rust, and of Alba Ashby's coat - a rare splash of brightness in a wardrobe of black clothes.  Alba doesn't know what she's doing, standing on the doorstep, staring at the number eleven nailed to the silver door.  She's lived in Cambridge for four of her nineteen years, but has never been down this street before.  And there is no reason for her to be here now, except that she has nowhere else to go.

In the silence Alba's thoughts, the ones she's been trying to escape on her midnight walks through town, begin to circle, gathering force in her mind, ready to whip themselves into a hurricane.  How did this happen?  How could this happen to me?  She's always been so careful, never inviting any drama or disaster, living like a very sensible seventy-nine-year-old: in a tiny box with a tight lid.


Currently this book is an American edition, but I'm hoping that someone will publish it over here as this is a beautiful read.  Alba Ashby is the daughter of a deceased Lord, with a crazy mother and rejected by her siblings.  She is also highly intelligent, and studying at Cambridge University but has unfortunately fallen in love with her professor.  Peggy lives at number 11 Hope Street, one in a long-line of women destined to be the custodian of the house, only this year is to be her last, and she needs to find a replacement.  Add to this mix, the exotic Carmen, and failed actress Greer, and you have all you need for a brilliant story.

Oh, but hang on a moment, I forgot to mention that the house is haunted.  Not in a bad way, but magically, by all the women who have ever stayed there before.  You can wake up and meet Elizabeth Garrett Anderson in the hallway, chat to Sylvia Plath in the bathroom, eat alongside Agatha Christie in the kitchen, whilst Florence Nightingale paces the downstairs hallway.  In the forbidden room you can find both Beatrix Potter and Virginia Woolf!

The House at the end of Hope Street is a tale of four different women who are each looking for the right path to take.  Each one of them has a story to tell, and a reason for running away.  The house will allow them to stay for 99 days before they need to leave, in that time it will provide them with all the clues they will need to move forward with their lives.

This is a lovely read, no violence or bad language, just a beautiful story-line, filled with some of the many women who have made a name for themselves at being the best in their chosen careers.  The House at the end of Hope Street is one I think many of us would long to visit.


Happy Reading


Miss Chapter x

Monday, 7 April 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published by Headline
10th April 2014
Paperback Edition



It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed.  Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is a primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane.  The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean.  The oldest can remember the Big Bang.


It was only a duckpond, out at the back of the farm.  It wasn’t very big.
   Lettie Hempstock said it was an ocean, but I knew that was silly.  She said they’d come here across the ocean from the old country.
   Her mother said that Lettie didn’t remember properly, and it was a long time ago, and anyway, the old country had sunk.
   Old Mrs Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, said they were both wrong, and that the place that had sunk wasn’t the really old country.  She said she could remember the really old country.
   She said the really old country had blown up.

Neil Gaiman has constructed a grown-up fairy tale with his latest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.  When our nameless narrator finds himself outside his childhood home, on his way to a funeral, he is surprised to notice that the inhabitants of forty years before are still there, and haven’t changed a bit.  But then, they always did seem a bit strange, especially Hettie Lempstock, his childhood friend who has been eleven forever.

When an opal miner is found dead at the end of the lane, the narrator meets the Hempstock family, three women who live in the farmhouse there.  They seem to have powers that other people don’t possess.  When the villagers mysteriously start receiving money, the narrator and Lettie realise that the opal miner’s death has started something otherworldly and needs to be stopped.  Unfortunately they release it into this world, with potentially horrifying consequences.  Can the narrator, a child of seven, and this mysterious girl, with a duck pond for an ocean, return things to normal?
I was gripped by Neil Gaiman’s short, but enjoyable tome, and it was definitely my read of 2013 when it was first published in hardback.  Now, hopefully a wider audience will be drawn into its magic through the paperback edition.  It’s a fantasy but at the same time, believable and very well told.  I loved the Hempstock family, with their quirky powers, and in particular Lettie.  This is a book about returning to your childhood, but not just a book for children.  Despite its length, it manages to be powerful, gripping and magical.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane transported me to another time and place, and I loved it.

* On a side note, can I say thank you for entering my blog giveaway to win a copy of The Visitors and limited edition bookmarks from the lovely Rebecca Mascull.  I had lots of entries, via twitter, here and facebook (apologies if you tried to leave a comment on here but couldn't, no idea why not) and the winner is @avrilLuke but 4 runners-up get bookmarks too, and they are @Forrest_D   @Lorraine_Lorri1  @CricketDrew and @jennymarston (who I think is Jenny in Neverland)

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Sunday, 6 April 2014

In Conversation With Rebecca Mascull & a Giveaway!

Today on the blog I am in conversation with Rebecca Mascull, author of The Visitors.  If you haven't already done so, you can read my review of her fabulous book here and at the end of our chat today, there is the opportunity to win a copy of her book!

Where did the idea for the Visitors come from?
Readers might like to have a look at THE VISITORS page on my website, where it details some of my influences:
I mentioned above about the deaf students I worked with and Helen Keller. Many of the other features of this story came through the research, such as the hop and oyster farming, and the Boer War. My primary goal with the story was to try to inhabit the mind of someone who had no language, and convey what that must be like. Then to see how life changes once communication is introduced. From there, I wanted her to experience first love and grow up a bit, and that’s where Caleb came in. I also had a kind of vision during the early stages of ghosts on a battlefield, and thus arrived The Visitors themselves. I didn’t intend it to be a ghost story to begin with, but they just turned up and wouldn’t go away! So I went with it and it seemed to work with the other material. And it was great fun working out the rules of their behaviour and suchlike. I’d always wanted to write a ghost story, so I took my chance and it seemed to work out all right, I hope!

Your novel The Visitors is set in a number of different places, did you draw on your own personal experience of these?
I lived in Kent from the age of around ten until I left home. So yes, I did base that section on my memories, as well as my brother and his family still living there. I spent the day at the Kent Life hop farm, which was brilliant for getting the feel and smell and sights of a hop farm, and all of that went into the novel. As a debut novelist, there was no funding to be had for travel, and I certainly couldn’t afford to pay to travel to South Africa. I wish I could have done, but as a writer you must do what you can, and then use your imagination and research for the rest of it. I’m a great believer in the power of the writer to inhabit other lives and places, and I feel it’s an inadequate argument to say the writer must visit every place they write about – sometimes it’s simply not possible; moreover, it might be set in a different time, in which case visiting that place may offer little if you are setting it at a very distant time. Of course, the ideal would be that writers could journey everywhere they need to – as well as become time-travellers! – but the reality is that it’s not always possible. You do the very best you can.

Where do you get your writing inspiration from?
Anywhere. No, really! It might be something someone says, a dream, an experience I’ve had, a TV or radio programme or film, another book, even a Tweet! There will be a spark of an idea there, something which captures my imagination. If I begin to look into it and it grabs me, then I know I’m on the right track. For THE VISITORS, the inspiration came from working with deaf kids when I was teacher training and also seeing a TV movie about Helen Keller when I was a child. These things percolate in your mind and when you are ready to begin a new project, your mind opens up and is receptive to these ideas; it’s as if you have radar but only for that subject, and suddenly you are noticing everything you need from which to construct the new plot. It’s a mysterious and rather lovely process. Once I start the research, the books I read often lead me off in new directions I hadn’t predicted; for example, I found hop farming in a book on Edwardian society and was hooked. Then I discovered there was a link to hop farming in my family’s distant past, so it all came together. It’s important to be open to that process, to follow undiscovered paths.

What are you working on next?
Funnily enough, I’ve literally just finished my current novel, yesterday in fact! That one is set in the eighteenth century. It involved a huge amount of research and was hard work, particularly trying to approximate the language and dialogue of C18th prose. So I’m quite relieved it’s done and that I’m happy with it, yet I loved every second of writing it. THE VISITORS was quite harrowing at points to write, especially the Boer War parts. Yet this one was a joy from beginning to end and I will miss being in that world, and my heroine’s company. My next project? Not sure yet. I have two ideas battling it out in my mind and one will win. I’ll let them get on with it while I have a short break and once my brain has decided, then I’ll get cracking.

Research in progress!

Have you always wanted to be an author and how did your publishing deal come about?
I’ve always scribbled stories, since childhood. I’ve loved reading since then too. I started writing short stories and had an idea for my first novel at university, but then I was a teacher for a decade after that. Teaching is a very full-time occupation and takes over your life, and by the age of 30 I started to feel that I had to make writing my Plan A, if I ever wanted to get anywhere with it. So I left full-time teaching – and sacrificed a good career and decent pay! – and wrote my first novel. THE VISITORS was the 4th novel I’ve written and I also wrote 2 text books for GCSE students. So by the time I got there, I had practised the craft seriously for about 12 years or so. I found representation by agents for the first 3 novels, but no publication deals. Finally, my agent Jane Conway-Gordon – who’d agreed to represent me on the strength of novel number 3, told me to get on with the next one, and I did, and that was THE VISITORS. After years of rejections (from agents and publishers), THE VISITORS was sent to Hodder & Stoughton and within a couple of weeks it had a deal. So the last bit happened very quickly, and yet it was preceded by years of work and waiting!

Any advice to any one dreaming of becoming an author?
As my previous answer shows, you have to persevere. When I sent my first 3 novels to agents, I actually sent it out to between 30 and 50 agents each time. And I had 1 agent who was interested each time, 1 out of 50. And 2 of those novels were sent out to 10 to 15 publishers and they all said no. That took about ten years, to write each book, find an agent who would take me on, then wait for publishers to say no. It’s pretty soul-destroying. You have to develop a hugely thick skin, you really do. You have to have a deep self-belief that what you are doing is good enough. And most of all, you have to keep getting up from the knock-backs and plough on with the work. I won’t lie and say it’s easy to cope with the vagaries of the publishing world, as it’s not. But if you are compelled to write – as I am – it’s not even a choice. It is the one for me, I’m smitten with writing and couldn’t give it up. The trick is to try to make it pay, so you can keep your family and all that business. I’m very lucky to have my partner Simon who has supported me throughout this process. We’ve sacrificed quite a bit. But all writers have their own commitments and need to earn their way in some way. That’s the difficult bit. So the next time you see a writer desperately self-promoting their book, spare a thought for the very probable fact that they are skint and they really, really need people to buy their books, so that they can pay their bills, and so that they can carry on writing! My other less worldly piece of advice to aspiring writers is to READ. It’s amazing to me how some people call themselves writers and yet hardly read – I have known of this. I believe any one writing a novel should read the canon – that is, the history of the novel from its beginning to the present day. I feel that any artist should study the past mistresses and masters of the form. You wouldn’t hack away at a lump of stone and hope for the best without looking at existing sculptures. You wouldn’t try to build a palace without studying architecture. I don’t believe every writer needs to do a course or indeed any sort of formal education in creative writing, but I do believe you must READ, READ, READ!

If, heaven forbid, there was a fire, what possession would you grab first to save?
Blimey, that’s a good question. Well, assuming Poppy and Simon and the cat are safe, I’m going to be awkward and say I don’t think I’d grab anything. I just don’t feel objects are that important. That’s ironic since my house is stuffed with books and knick-knacks, but these are ephemeral things. I’d probably grab my memory sticks and my handbag. That’s sad, isn’t it.

What five people, living or dead, would you choose to invite to a dinner party?
Gosh, another good one. I’d want people who were witty, well-read, talented and extremely bright to entertain me. So, as long as Simon is there doing the cooking with me and Poppy is sneaking out of bed to come and earwig, the 5 other people I’d like to have dinner with are: Emily Bronte, Margaret Atwood, Stephen Fry, Noam Chomsky and Charles Dickens.

The Visitors is out now in hardback and e-book, and in paperback in July.  You can find out more about Rebecca here:

and if you've read The Visitors do drop by Amazon and/or Goodreads and say what you thought of it!

Now, if you haven't read the book, and fancy doing so, then it's GIVEAWAY time!  I have a signed hardback first edition of The Visitors for one lucky blog follower (and I don't even have one of these)!  All you have to do is either leave a comment below, or on my facebook page or over on twitter.  Competition closes at the end of the day on Sunday 6th April.  I'll announce the winner on Monday.  GOOD LUCK!
Happy Reading
Miss Chapter x



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Emily Wilding Davison - A Suffragette's Family Album

Emily Wilding Davison - A Suffragette's Family Album by Maureen Howes
Published by The History Press
1st May 2013
Paperback Edition
Emily Wilding Davison's image has been frozen in time since 1913.  On the 4 June of that year, Emily was struck by the king's horse, Anmer, during the Epsom Derby.  She died four days later.
     She, unlike her fellow Millitant Suffragettes, did not live to write her memoirs in a more enlightened and tolerant era.  In the aftermath of the Epsom protest, her family and her northern associates were caught between two very powerful factions: the government's spin doctors and the every efficient publicity machine of Mrs Pankhurst's Women's Social and Political Union.  In response, Emily's family and associates closed ranks around her mother, Margaret Davison, and her young cousins.  For almost a century, their silence has guarded Emily's story.  Now, at the centenary of Emily's death, her family have come together to share Emily's side of the story for the first time.  Drawing on the Davison family archives,  and filled with more than 150 rare photographs, this volume explores the true cost of women's suffrage, revolutionising in the process our understanding of one of the defining events of the twentieth century.
On 4 June 1913, suffragette Emily Wilding Davison was struck and fatally wounded by the King's horse, Anmer, after she ran onto the racecourse at Epsom Downs, Surrey, during that year's Epsom Derby.  Pathe News had a camera running that day, and seeing the flickering black and white images they captured, showing Emily Wilding Davison stepping onto the racecourse as a group of horses thunder around Tattenham Corner, still has the power to shock today, just as it did a century ago.
     Since then, many theories about Emily's intentions that day have been aired: was her act, as many have claimed, a wanton act of suicide, or did the coroner get it right when he declared that her death was a result of 'misadventure' caused by Emily 'wilfully running' onto the course while a race was in progress?  Were the suffragists and the militants correct to claim that she went to Epsom as a willing martyr to the cause that she so passionately believed in?  So much time has elapsed since that day, and so many claims and counter-claims have clouded the issue since, that it sometimes seems impossible that anyone will be able to uncover Emily's true intentions.
I have been fascinated by the Suffragette Movement for as long as I can remember, and I think one of the things that, as a historian, fascinates me most about the life and death of Emily Wilding Davison, is the inconclusiveness of it all.  I think if we had some concrete evidence as to what her intentions actually were on 4th June then that would satisfy our understanding of the event itself.  The key point that she had a return railway ticket in her coat pocket seems to indicate that she did not intend to commit suicide at all, or what would have been the point in spending the money in the first place?  Maureen Howes attempts to shed further light on the dramatic end to the life of this very intelligent woman by talking to her remaining family and using previously unpublished memoirs and photographs. 
I really enjoyed stepping back in time, and not just focusing on 'derby day' itself, but learning about Emily's family and her life before 1913.  There is much more to her than just the suffragette who threw herself under the King's horse, for example she attained a First Class Honours degree from Oxford University and that she had hidden in a broom cupboard on the night of the census in 1911 thus giving the Houses of Parliament as her address!

I don't think we can ever really say for certain what the intentions of Emily were that fateful day, but she will always be remembered for her actions.  Thankfully time has helped to view this event in a more positive light that it was a century ago. 

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x