Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Last Bronte: The Intimate Memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls by S.R. Whitehead: A Review

He was Mr Brontë's right hand man and Charlotte's husband.

He fell in love with two sisters and revered a third while, to the troubled brother, he tried to be a friend. Arthur Bell Nicholls was the intimate witness to all the triumphs and tragedies of the Brontës' adult lives and The Last Brontë is his testament.

PaperbackFirst328 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Ashmount Press
ISBN13 9780955283
536


I always struggle with my reviews. I want to always be fair and I try to remain open minded. Especially, when it comes to real figures such as The Bronte Sisters, their masterpieces, and of course, Mr. Nicholls.  I am a very strong admirer of Charlotte Bronte for as much of a strong-willed, opinionated woman as we can gather she was from her letters.  I have not researched into A.B. Nicholls life, so I don't know lf his letters survive.  The Last Bronte by S.R. Whitehead is a novel and he does wonderfully bring Arthur Bell Nicholls to life. His staunch religious beliefs, his working for Mr. Bronte, his friendships with all three sisters all found within these pages. It was interesting and very refreshing to read the male perspective for a change.  I enjoyed the novel very much and the author has a  lovely writing style. However, I was disappointed not to find a bibliography list, there was no notes section whatsoever, either. These two would have been very helpful for readers. Since there are lots of religious prayers cited within conversations between Nicholls and Bronte members. Also, the letters between Charlotte Bronte and Mr. Nicholls were wonderful to read but it started me thinking as to whether or not any of his letters survived? It would have been so nice to have a bibliography or notes section to flip back to. 
Arthur Bell Nicholls study as it looks today 
The Bronte Parsonage Museum
The Bronte Society

One of the facts we know about Arthur Bell Nicholls was he was the husband of Charlotte Bronte. Sadly, they were only together for nine months when she died early in her pregnancy. S.R. Whitehead, author, created a very interesting story line between Anne Bronte and Nicholls. In the novel, he falls for Anne romantically but he marries Charlotte for reasons I thought were a bit sad really. I don't want to ruin anything for readers but the marriage between Charlotte and Arthur doesn't happen until late in the novel and well let's just say if Anne Bronte is your favorite you will be very happy!  












Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Review of The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor

I said my story had many beginnings, and the day the camera arrived was one of them. After all, without the camera, there wouldn’t have been any photographs. Without the camera, I wouldn’t have a story to tell. . . .
1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.
One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 1, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006249984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062499844


Magical..., Enchanting..., Sublime ..., are just some of the words I could use to begin.  It's all true!   

Whether or not you are familiar with the story of the Cottingley fairies from the nineteenth-century doesn't really matter. I needed a book to read that would put me in a peaceful mood and a contemplative one at that. This is it for me!  Truly, The Cottingley Secret is a retelling of the controversial events of Frances Cottingley from Yorkshire, England and the very interesting photographs of a little girl in a wood playing with fairies!  

I didn't know the story at all but I have seen the photographs online over the years and always wondered what really happened. Author, Hazel Gaynor with incredible imagination and foresight has created two story lines connecting families across two decades.  I was hooked from the opening paragraph.  

When I hear the word Yorkshire, I think nature and beauty but I also immediately think of The Bronte Sisters.  What I loved about The Cottingley Secret was that it introduced me to a part of Yorkshire unfamiliar to me; Cottingley. I appreciate the author's adept usage of Yorkshire terms i.e., nowt meaning nothing  and a lot of thou's and thee's.  I have some friends in and around Yorkshire who I contacted to ask if the slang usage or terminology was authentic. Luckily for me, I was told a firm "yes".  

Also, I am relieved that Hazel Gaynor did not feel the urge to wrap up Olivia's present day story line in a big red bow with a happily ever after ending. I don't want to give anything away but there is a love interest named, Ross, whom I immediately loved.  You see, dear readers, sometimes in life you are not always promised a happy ending. For some people some obstacles cannot be cleared. Sometimes you have to start with friendship and see where that leads. 

I actually had a childhood experience that involved fairies that I never truly talked about. Suffice it to say, I wholeheartedly believe in them and they do exist. A huge thank you to Hazel Gaynor and Frances Griffiths for reminding me of my past childhood experiences. 

I hope everyone who wants to read a truly, beautifully written and engaging story, gives The Cottingley Secret a chance. You will not be disappointed. 

To purchase the book in the United States,  Amazon US

To purchase the book in the United Kingdom,  Amazon UK

For the author's website,  Hazel Gaynor

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A review of Beauty In Thorns by Kate Forsyth

A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets. 

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention. 

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal. 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum. 

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy. 

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love. 

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.


The Sleeping Beauty by Edward Burne-Jones, Date: 1870 - 1890

There is nothing basic about Beauty in Thorns. Kate Forsyth has achieved the impossible! I love her incredibly dreamlike imagination and passionate research. She has brought to life three artistic couples and one daughter: Ned Burne-Jones with his wife Georgie and their daughter Margaret (Margot) Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his wife Lizzie Siddal, William Morris and his wife Jane Burden. It is as if she has pulled them through the mists of time speaking to me with the turn of every page. I felt as if I were present to witness all the wonderful and bitter times of their lives. For instance,  romance, courtship, marriage, birth, death with a few affairs thrown in! 

Told from the female perspective and broken up into five parts, Beauty in Thorns also introduces readers to the paintings of Ned Burne-Jones (Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones) covering the theme of sleeping beauty through the real life paintings of The Briar Rose Series with Arthurian elements. 

There is so much I want to cover and because I don't want to give anything away, I must hold back. It is hard for me to do since I love these men and women so very much. I get excited and ramble on and on. 

It was nothing but a delight to read about the personal and romantic lives of the women this time first and foremost then the men and artists whom they put up with so much from.  The love triangle between William Morris his wife Jane Burden or Janey Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti is told from her perspective which has never been written in this form before. You think you know what happened but this is what I mean by the importance of research. With fresh eyes cast upon it, Kate Forsyth brings forth some surprises. 

I became completely swept away with Janey's life and desires because I saw her as a whole woman for the first time. Included in this triangle is, of course, the frail, sickly yet not so tragic Lizzie Siddal. I am so proud of Kate Forsyth for having the courage to write and present Lizzie as a flesh, blood and bone woman suffering from a  not so known then disease putting up with the grumbling love of her life, Gabriel Rossetti. Oh yes, he could be charming and brilliant but also suffered through his own demons as we all do. 
La Belle Iseult by William Morris, 1858, Jane Morris painted as Guinevere

"Janey had never really felt safe, not anywhere. She looked at Topsy. She could not speak. He knelt before her, taking one of her cold, clenched hands; I do love you most terribly. Won't you marry me? Let me look after you? She shook her head. 
I don't expect you to love me like I love you. I know that would be too hard. If you were cold or hungry or in danger...don't you see? If you married me, I could look after you. We could be comfortable together like we've been these past months. 
They had been comfortable together. She had liked it very much, embroidery, pretty flowers, listening to his poetry, drinking  a glass of golden sherry with a pot roast he had ordered in from the landlady. 
He had begun to pace, his hands clenched behind his back. 'I'd build you a house...in the country, with a garden and apple trees and roses...Maybe we could have children one day, little girls that look like you...
She thought of lying with him. They would be a strange couple. Her feet would stick out past his like her father's did over the edge of his mattress. And he was so broad and square. He'd be heavy on her. But the bed would be soft and the sheets would be crisp and clean like new snow. And he was a gentle man; for all his bearishness. He would be kind to her. And she'd be safe. 
Janey cleared her throat. 'Are ye sure? I ain't yer kind.' 
'You are my kind,' Topsy said passionately. 'Do you not love poetry and art and music and green growing things just as much as I do? Do you think it matters you are poor? I have money enough for both of us. It's the beautiful shining soul of you that I love not who your father is or where you grew up.' A lump in her throat. 
He came and took her hands 'I'd do my best to make you happy, Janey...
Tears and smiles together. 'If ye're really sure...
I have never been so sure of anything. 
He kissed her hands and then kissed her mouth. She nestled into his arms, with her head on his shoulder, thinking He's such a kind man, such a good man. I'm sure I'll come to love him in time."   ( Pages 140-142, PT. II-Ch.6, I Cannot Paint You-Winter 1857-58).

I fell in love with William Morris the man with a huge heart held within a rotund body. His creativity knew no bounds. He loved wholeheartedly and gave of himself in every manner. All he wanted was that same complete love in return. He was funny and shy at times; loved from  afar but what he could create with his hands through his poems, books, tapestries, wallpapers, etc., nobody even comes close today.  A wonderful teddy bear of a man, I would love to cuddle all night. (move over Janey if you don't want him, I will take him). 

As the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Burne-Jones progressed; two children are born through the years, grown up to marry and have children themselves. We see Ned and Georgie as grandparents. Kate Forsyth focuses on daughter, Margaret Burne-Jones whom she calls, Margot.  Now, I have always been fascinated with Margaret and not very much in letters, diaries, survives. What is archived throughout museums does not cover every aspect of a person's life. She was the daughter of one of the most prominent painters and artists of the time. We meet the infant Margot, the young girl who is the absolute light of Ned's life. Overprotective is her father and so full of emotions himself that the idea of anyone hurting his little girl makes her growing up and finding love a bit difficult at times. All daughters who love and adore their dad understand how hard it is for both to come to terms with becoming an adult. You don't want to let them go quite yet. Still, you know they must spread their wings and fly. You stand ever close by in case they start to fall.  Don't worry Ned I'm sure you survived it all just fine. Even if you didn't, or emotionally struggled, you had your brilliant paintings of which daughter Margaret is included. Thank goodness for both of them that the rock of the family was wife and mother, Georgie Burne-Jones!  What a spitfire, powerhouse of a woman. She reminded me so much of my grandmother with that same petite frame, and drive to care for home and hearth no matter what life throws at you.  
  


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Alfred Lord Tennyson's Farringford Estate is now open to the public on the Isle of Wight!

Farringford The Home of Tennyson on the Isle of Wight
Image belongs to Farringford Estate 2017 


I just wanted to share a quick post with you all.

On August 23rd, 2017, Farringford, the home of Victorian Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, officially re-opened to the public after being restored in detail the way it was during the time Alfred Tennyson lived there with his wife Lady Tennyson and two sons Hallam and Lionel Tennyson.
The family occupied the house during the years 1853 up until his death in 1892. They were some of the happiest years spent in the home.

The Tennyson family gardens have been restored as well. The tour includes home and gardens.

According to the Farringford Estate,

"Admission to the house and grounds is PRE-BOOKED TIMED ENTRY ONLY! Tours of the house run twice a day, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.

Please call 01983 752500 to reserve your place." 

For more information, please visit the website of Farringford House  

Since I live in the United States, I would be eternally grateful to anyone who tours Farringford and shares their experiences here with me!  I will visit the home but not for another few years.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Launch in Australia for Kate Forsyth's Beauty in Thorns!



My apologies for being away so long. However, my new job is keeping me extremely busy. Besides the fact that I'm moving in six months.

International Author, Kate Forsyth along with Vintage Australia publishing is having a Book Launch following the release of her latest novel, Beauty in Thorns on Thursday, 6 July 2017.

If you are in or near Balgowah, Australia, please stop by Berkelouw Books and help them celebrate!

I will be receiving my copy of Beauty in Thorns very soon, so please expect my upcoming review.

I had a wonderful breakfast with Kate Forsyth in a lovely cafe earlier today. We talked all about her new book, the Pre-Raphaelite artists and muses including her thoughts on their lives, loves and we certainly laughed a lot!


The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention.

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum.

William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love.

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.
 


Paperback464 pages
Expected publication: July 3rd 2017 by Vintage Australia  
ISBN13 9781925324242

For more information visit the author's website, Kate Forsyth



Monday, April 3, 2017

Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders: A Review!

On February 22, 1862, two days after his death, Willie Lincoln was laid to rest in a marble crypt in a Georgetown cemetery. That very night, shattered by grief, Abraham Lincoln arrives at the cemetery under cover of darkness and visits the crypt, alone, to spend time with his son’s body. 

Set over the course of that one night and populated by ghosts of the recently passed and the long dead, Lincoln in the Bardo is a thrilling exploration of death, grief, the powers of good and evil, a novel - in its form and voice - completely unlike anything you have read before. It is also, in the end, an exploration of the deeper meaning and possibilities of life, written as only George Saunders can: with humor, pathos, and grace.


U.S. Hardcover343 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by Random House, ISBN  0812995341 

Willie Lincoln, 1862, Library of Congress

“(So why grieve? The worst of it, for him, is over.) Because I loved him so and am in the habit of loving him and that love must take the form of fussing and worry and doing. Only there is nothing left to do. Free” 
― George SaundersLincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln In The Bardo is filled with beautifully written ghostly dialogues between three central spirits who generally hang around the cemetery (mostly in the 'stone house' - the spirits word for mausoleum) where the newly passed eleven year old Willie Lincoln is being interred. He was the third born son to then President Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary Todd Lincoln who died on February 20, 1862.

President Lincoln paid several visits, within a forty-eight hour period,  to his son's 'stone-house' so he could be near him. George Saunders research states that President Lincoln opened his son's 'sick-box' (ghosts word for coffin) and touched his son's hair, prayed over him, and spoke to him. Saunders goes further with the emotions between father and son including ethereally written dialogues and thoughts from ghostly Willie's perspective.

There are so many moving scenes held within, Lincoln In The Bardo that I cannot go into much more detail. However, please understand that there are three characters, in the form of ghosts, providing various different story lines that reflect their lives before and leading up to their own deaths. So, be prepared to read more characters and stories besides President Lincoln and his son.  Don't worry there are many humorous scenes that made me laugh out loud. So, please don't think that this is a novel filled with death and sadness. On the contrary, George Saunders reflects a positive and nurturing side to such topics as:  illness, turmoil, tragedy, suffering, loss, and grief.

I will be sure to read everything else the author writes!

To purchase Lincoln In The Bardo in the United States, Amazon

To purchase Lincoln In The Bardo in the United Kingdom, Amazon UK



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Emily Dickinson: An American Enigma – Review of I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) The Morgan Library & Museum, January 20 through May 28, 2017.

"Who has not found the Heaven below will fail of it above. For Angels rent the house next ours, wherever we remove.” Lovingly Emily (Included in a letter from Emily Dickinson to her niece, Martha Dickinson and friend Sally Jenkins, 1883).

Family meant everything to Emily Dickinson as evidenced through her surviving correspondence hanging on the pink floral wallpaper in the replica period rooms of The Morgan Library exhibition.  Included on the wall, was a small framed engraving of poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning which turned out to be one of Dickinson’s favorite poets. Framed under glass was the 1848 edition of Currer Bell’s, Jane Eyre. Dickinson borrowed this copy from her father’s business partner, Elbridge Bowdoin. She returned it to him with this note,



“If all the leaves were altars, and on every one a prayer that Currer Bell might be saved and you were God would you answer it?” Bowdoin did not reply to Dickinson, instead noted, “the leaves mentioned were Box leaves sent to me in a little bouquet.” These are just some of the aspects of the woman behind this fascinating poet.


Emily Dickinson's brother, William Austin Dickinson

I found myself standing in front of numerous framed Dickinson correspondence written to her family members: her handsome brother, William Austin Dickinson, her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister, Lavinia Dickinson as well as other personal friends throughout her life. As I read through her letters on exhibit, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself because of her wry and warm sense of humour. For instance, when her sister Lavinia, returned home on the evening of June 27, 1873, from an organ concert by Howard Parkhurst, Emily penciled the lines of her poem, A Little Madness in the Spring, on the concert program:

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King
But God be with the clown
Who ponders this Tremendous scence
This sudden legacy of Green
As if it were his own-

She included such adjectives: gay/bright/quick/whole, swift/fleet.


Handwritten copies of her most well-known poem which the exhibition is named for, I’m Nobody! Who are you?, can be read in two framed handwritten pages.  For instance, in one version written around six months after the outbreak of the Civil War, she penciled in the word banish along the upper margin. Also the word advertise is penciled in the other handwritten version.


I was absolutely thrilled to be able to leaf through her private copy of her gardening book called, Herbarium. Her passion for flowers, herbs, and gardening was evident in her poetry and life as well as her bond of friendship and family which always seeped into her poems.


I urge everyone to visit The Morgan Library & Museum; especially for an unforgettable glimpse into the private world of this enigmatic woman and poet,  Emily Dickinson. 

The Last Bronte: The Intimate Memoir of Arthur Bell Nicholls by S.R. Whitehead: A Review

He was Mr Brontë's right hand man and Charlotte's husband. He fell in love with two sisters and revered a third while, to the trou...