Thursday, April 25, 2013

28. What Matters in Jane Austen?

By: John Mullen

Rated 4 Stars

This book is full of interesting tidbits, but you do need more than a passing acquaintance with Austen's novels to understand what the author is talking about.  Especially when he is referencing  what characters say to each other.  But for people who are new to reading about the period in history in which Austen's books are set the chapters that address money, mourning, games and social customs  are very helpful. 

Book Description

January 29, 2013
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.
Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

Monday, April 15, 2013

24. The Queen Mother

By:  William Shawcross

Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

I was actually looking for a biography of George VI on audible but couldn't find on so I got this one as it was the closest I could get.  I'm beginning to think audible is prejudiced towards male monarchs.

She wasn't really all that special but she brought humanity to the Royal family at a time when they desperately needed it.  She was the right woman at exactly the right place and time.

Publisher's Summary

The official and definitive biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: consort of King George VI, mother of Queen Elizabeth II, grandmother of Prince Charles - and the most beloved British monarch of the 20th century.
Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon - the ninth of the Earl of Strathmore's 10 children - was born on August 4, 1900, and, certainly, no one could have imagined that her long life (she died in 2002) would come to reflect a changing nation over the course of an entire century. Now, William Shawcross - given unrestricted access to the Queen Mother's personal papers, letters, and diaries - gives us a portrait of unprecedented vividness and detail. Here is the girl who helped convalescing soldiers during the First World War...the young Duchess of York helping her reluctant husband assume the throne when his brother abdicated...the Queen refusing to take refuge from the bombing of London, risking her own life to instill courage and hope in others who were living through the Blitz...the dowager Queen - the last Edwardian, the charming survivor of a long-lost era - representing her nation at home and abroad...the matriarch of the Royal Family and "the nation's best-loved grandmother".
A revelatory royal biography that is, as well, a singular history of Britain in the 20th century.

Monday, April 8, 2013

25. That Woman

By:  Ann Sebba
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book

This book is a cautionary tale if there ever was one.  Be Careful What you Wish For is the message that comes through loud and clear.

Because I have never been particularly interested in gossipy enquirer type articles I had never looked very closely at either the Duke or the Dutchess of Windsor.  But lately I have been doing quite a bit of reading lately about WW2 and several of the books I have read have mentioned that they were both suspected of having pro Nazi sympathies I decided to search out a biography of the Duke.  I didn't find one on but did find this book.  My goodness, what a to-do!

The conclusion that I came up with is that neither the Duke or the Dutchess had pro Nazi sympathies.  In fact I got the impression that both of them were so self absorbed that it was impossible for them to connect with or even understand any concept beyond their own personal desires at any given moment.  That is not to say the wouldn't has assisted the Nazi cause- but only if they perceived that by doing so they would advance their own interests.

I felt a little sorry for the Duke because if the facts of what happened were represented accurately then a real good argument could be made for him having a developmental disability of some sort.  Perhaps autism.  He really did seem to be unable to understand cause and effect throughout his life.  In the end he got exactly what he pushed so hard for and gave up so much to get and then spent the rest of his life unhappy because he was never able to understand why when he shed all responsibilities all his perks went away as well.  I thought he was honestly bewildered by that.

As for the Dutchess, well I have less sympathy for her.  I don't think she ever wanted Edward "for keeps" but thought she could carry on an affair where she could enjoy royal patronage, snub her nose at Brittain's society types, advance her husbands career and then when Edward inevitably tired of her like he did all the mistresses that came before her go back to her long suffering second husband that she truly loved and her life would go back to normal.  Instead she found herself in way over her head and ended up losing the husband she loved and stuck with an obsessively clingy husband that she didn't love.

The only ones who came out ahead in this mess were the British people who ended up with a much better king at a time when they had enough to deal with without having to put up with a King who displayed all the maturity of judgement of a six year old brat.

Publisher's Summary

Here is the first full-scale biography of Wallis Simpson to be written by a woman, exploring the mind of one of the most glamorous and reviled figures of the 20th century, a character who figured prominently in the blockbuster filmThe King’s Speech.
This is the story of the American divorcée notorious for allegedly seducing a British king off his throne. "That woman", so called by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was born Bessie Wallis Warfield in 1896 in Baltimore. Neither beautiful nor brilliant, she endured an impoverished childhood, which fostered in her a burning desire to rise above her circumstances.
Acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba offers an eye-opening account of one of the most talked about women of her generation. It explores the obsessive nature of Simpson’s relationship with Prince Edward, the suggestion that she may have had a disorder of sexual development, and new evidence showing she may never have wanted to marry Edward at all. Since her death, Simpson has become a symbol of female empowerment as well as a style icon. But her psychology remains an enigma.
Drawing from interviews and newly discovered letters, That Woman shines a light on this captivating and complex figure, an object of fascination who has only grown more compelling with the years.