Tag: history

Shelf Control #76 – 29/03/2024

I break away from my recent deluge of non-fiction books in this series with today’s Shelf Control feature. The three posts I’ve shared so far this year have all featured non-fiction of various topics. Today, we get to explore a historical fiction novel that is unique for me in that it covers World War II from a German perspective.

Before we get into the detail, here’s a reminder of what my Shelf Control feature is all about!

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

Playing with Matches – Lee Strauss

Genre: Historical fiction

Pages: 311

Audience: Young Adult

Publisher: ESB Publishing

Publication Date: 16 Nov 2012

 

 

Goodreads – Playing with Matches

Heinz Schultz’s word could send a man to prison. Though only a youth of fifteen, he was strong, tall, and blond. The boys in his Deutsches Jungvolk unit esteemed him and feared him.

And they wanted to be just like him.
Emil Radle wanted to be just like him.

A dedicated member of Hitler Youth, Emil was loyal to the Fuehrer before family, a champion for the cause and a fan of the famous Luftwaffe Air force.

Emil’s friends Moritz and Johann discover a shortwave radio and everything changes. Now they listen to the forbidden BBC broadcast of news reports that tell both sides. Now they know the truth.

The boys along with Johann’s sister Katharina, band together to write out the reports and covertly distribute flyers through their city. It’s an act of high treason that could have them arrested–or worse.

As the war progresses, so does Emil’s affection for Katharina. He’d do anything to have a normal life and to stay in Passau by her side. But when Germany’s losses become immense, even their greatest resistance can’t prevent the boys from being sent to the Eastern Front.
***

Enjoy reading this well-researched, dramatic story of what it was like to be a teenager in Hitler’s Germany. A slightly different perspective than many world war two novels.

 

My Thoughts

It’s not the first time I have read historical fiction from a German perspective. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak sounds similar to Playing with Matches in terms of setting, and it was a book I rated very highly! I love the sound of the synopsis and the danger these youth find themselves in. This book differs from The Book Thief in that is focuses on the oppressors rather than the oppressed Jews. That is a perspective I’ve not read before, so I am intrigued! 

If I’m honest, I am a little wary of representation given that the synopsis alludes to BBC broadcasting as the truth. I don’t know if this was the case, but it’s very likely it was propaganda in itself. The truth likely lay somewhere in the middle of the messages the allies and Germans were told. I’ll take that with a pinch of salt and otherwise see where the narrative takes us.

Whilst the characters in this book are fictional, the scenario in itself was very much real. Real people would have filled these character shoes and had to endure these experiences. That’s partly why I enjoy historical fiction around this topic so much. It’s harrowing, but it’s also an important reminder of what has happened to real people in the not-too-distant past.

Have you read Playing with Matches or any other World War II fiction set from a German perspective?

 

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Shelf Control #75 – 23/02/2024

This is the third Shelf Control feature I have shared in 2024, and it features yet another non-fiction historical book! I promise that it’s different to those I featured in the series so far this year, so stay tuned to find out what today’s feature is.

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

Henry VIII – Abigail Archer

 

 

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 116

Audience: Adult

Publisher: New Word City Inc

Publication Date: 12 Jan 2015

 

 

Goodreads – Henry VIII

Henry VIII ruled England from 1509 to 1547. As a young man, he was fond of sports and hunting, and was said to be uncommonly handsome. Standing more than six feet tall, he loomed large in the lives and minds of his subjects as he navigated his country through the tricky diplomatic and military hazards of the sixteenth century. A man of enormous appetites, Henry conducted affairs with many women, married six, and executed two. His infatuation with Anne Boleyn set in motion a chain of events that reshaped the church in England and eroded the dominance of Rome. But the popular image of Henry as a crude tyrant, dispatching courtiers, enemies, and wives with gusto, obscures a more nuanced and fascinating character. He was a true Renaissance king who presided over one of Europe’s greatest courts and nudged Western civilization onto a new course. Here, from Abigail Archer, author of The New York Times bestseller Elizabeth I, is the story of Henry VIII.

 

My Thoughts

So far in my 2024 Shelf Control posts, I’ve featured World War II and Ancient Egypt as historical topics of interest. Today’s feature is a brand-new time period completely. Tudor England, and particularly the lives of Henry VIII and his wives is a topic that I could go back to again and again!

At only 116 pages, I’m interested to see if the book is more of a summary of the history or whether it goes into any kind of detail. I personally enjoy detail, but I’m expecting Henry VIII to be on the lighter side. There’s nothing wrong with this either; if already shared reviews are anything to go by, there are some interesting tidbits to pick up from this book.

Books like this one great for those who want a refresher on a topic. Or, if you want to explore it for the first time to see if it’s of interest, that would be a reason too. I already know that I enjoy this topic. For me it is a refresher, but also I’m looking to pick up the book and share my thoughts to help other readers decide if this is the book for them!

Do you read historical or fiction books about Tudor England? Is it a topic that interests you? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Shelf Control #74 – 09/02/2024

For those of us done with another working week – congrats on making it! If not, well, sorry… 😅 As you all know by now, I regularly share a Shelf Control feature post. It’s a great way to get excited about upcoming books on my reading list and share with you exactly what inspired me to add them in the first place!

As usual, I’ll share the official blurb and then we’ll get into the book that’s made it into this Shelf Control post!

Shelf Control is a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

 

The Woman Who Would be King – Kara Cooney

 

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 298

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Crown Publishing

Publication Date: 14 Oct 2014

 

 

Goodreads – The Woman Who Would be King

An engrossing biography of the longest-reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt and the story of her audacious rise to power in a man’s world.

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt’s throne without status as a king’s son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father’s family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. At just twenty, Hatshepsut ascended to the rank of king in an elaborate coronation ceremony that set the tone for her spectacular twenty-two year reign as co-regent with Thutmose III, the infant king whose mother Hatshepsut out-maneuvered for a seat on the throne. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as women today face obstacles from a society that equates authority with masculinity, Hatshepsut had to shrewdly operate the levers of a patriarchal system to emerge as Egypt’s second female pharaoh.

Hatshepsut had successfully negotiated a path from the royal nursery to the very pinnacle of authority, and her reign saw one of Ancient Egypt’s most prolific building periods. Scholars have long speculated as to why her images were destroyed within a few decades of her death, all but erasing evidence of her rule. Constructing a rich narrative history using the artifacts that remain, noted Egyptologist Kara Cooney offers a remarkable interpretation of how Hatshepsut rapidly but methodically consolidated power—and why she fell from public favor just as quickly. The Woman Who Would Be King traces the unconventional life of an almost-forgotten pharaoh and explores our complicated reactions to women in power.

 

My Thoughts

This is the second non-fiction book that I have featured in this series already in 2024. The last book was based around the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Today’s feature is a completely different period and topic, but it’s one that I’m no less excited to read.

Unlike my previous feature Auschwitz, I have a lot less knowledge on Egyptian pharaohs in general. I have watched some documentaries in the past, but it’s not a topic I have read about before. It’s for this reason that I added The Woman Who Would be King in the first place. Of course, I am also fascinated by the prospect of a female Pharaoh as they were few and far between.

Hatshepsut isn’t the first name that may jump to your mind when you think of famous female Pharaohs. Cleopatra is probably the most well-known, and she has been the feature of some of the documentaries I have watched in the past. I deliberately wanted to choose another famous female in order to broaden my knowledge.

I’m hoping I go on to enjoy this book as much as I think I will, as it is a period of history I would be interested in exploring in more detail in future!

Have you read The Woman Who Would be King or any other great non-fiction books about Pharaohs?

 

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Shelf Control #73 – 12/01/2024

Happy Friday and welcome to today’s instalment of my regular Shelf Control feature!

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog – a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. It’s a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Today’s book is a historical non-fiction about a topic I am morbidly obsessed with – the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. More specifically, the experiences of those who lived and suffered there. Today’s feature is a collective of over 100 interviews from those who experienced the camp first-hand. Their unique insight into the inner workings should make for compelling, if equally horrific, reading!

 

Auschwitz – Laurence Rees

Genre: Non-fiction / History

Pages: 327

Audience: Adult

Publisher: Public Affairs

Publication Date: 01 Jan 2005

 

 

Goodreads – Auschwitz

Auschwitz-Birkenau is the site of the largest mass murder in human history. Yet its story is not fully known. In Auschwitz, Laurence Rees reveals new insights from more than 100 original interviews with Auschwitz survivors and Nazi perpetrators who speak on the record for the first time. Their testimonies provide a portrait of the inner workings of the camp in unrivalled detail—from the techniques of mass murder, to the politics and gossip mill that turned between guards and prisoners, to the on-camp brothel in which the lines between those guards and prisoners became surprisingly blurred.

Rees examines the strategic decisions that led the Nazi leadership to prescribe Auschwitz as its primary site for the extinction of Europe’s Jews—their “Final Solution.” He concludes that many of the horrors that were perpetrated in Auschwitz were driven not just by ideological inevitability but as a “practical” response to a war in the East that had begun to go wrong for Germany. A terrible immoral pragmatism characterizes many of the decisions that determined what happened at Auschwitz. Thus the story of the camp becomes a morality tale, too, in which evil is shown to proceed in a series of deft, almost noiseless incremental steps until it produces the overwhelming horror of the industrial scale slaughter that was inflicted in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

 

My Thoughts

For reasons I can’t put my finger on, I love reading about the Auschwitz camp. I’m fascinated by the subject and learning what happened to the poor individuals that ever passed through these gates.

I have read both fiction and non-fiction on the subject. If you are more interested in the fiction side of things, then I can recommend The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey. Three Sisters is on my TBR. More recently, I read The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield. This is a non-fiction account of a father and son who refuse to be separated and endure together. Theirs is a unique story in that they are the only known pair to have been interred together and survive to tell their shared story.

Anyway, back to the current book of discussion! It’s the multi-perspective aspect of Auschwitz that I am excited for. I’ve read several books from same or limited perspectives in the past – see the above examples. The nature of the book featuring so many different voices and experiences should make for a rounded learning opportunity. As a result, Auschwitz promises detailed insight into the workings of the camp and what life was like there. 

Auschwitz has been on my reading list since 2018. It’s definitely coming up due to be read. What better time than the year I’m continuing with a reading goal of deliberately picking up non-fiction?

Do you enjoy reading about Auschwitz-Birkenau, World War II or similar? Do you have any recommendations for further reading for me to look at?

 

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Monthly Wrap-Up – November 2023

Happy first of December folks and welcome to my monthly wrap-up post for November! Before that, are your Christmas decorations up yet? I confess I put up my tree and some outside lights today. The rest is to follow tomorrow.

I usually put mine up the first weekend of December. However, as I have been on leave from work this week, I decided to make my life a little bit easier tomorrow and do some of the bigger jobs. Although I say that, the outside lights only took me 10 minutes as I packed them in the same way I strung them up last year – I just had to clip it all back in place!

Anyway, let’s stop talking about the c-word and start talking about the books I read in November. I had a great month of reading! I’ve also varied how I split my reading this month, making the list more manageable. Shall we get into my monthly wrap-up post and take a look at what I picked up?

 

Books Read

 

The Shining

At the start of November, I left off from my last monthly wrap-up having only read 30 pages of The Shining. I’d wanted to read the book around Halloween, but it transpired that I only started the book that night.

So, I read the vast majority of this nearly 500 page book in November. Whilst the timing didn’t quite pan out as expected, it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the book at all. On the contrary, this book was everything I have come to expect from Stephen King. Although I am not a big reader of horror in general, I will always make an effort to pick up his books.

The Shining is a classic novel, and I’m glad I finally got around to it! It was every bit as good as I expected it to be, and I can’t wait to read more of his classics in future.

 

The Vikings in the Isle of Man

It feels like many moons ago, although in reality it is not, that I featured my Norsevember post. As part of my research for that post, I read a couple of books around Vikings and their presents in the Irish Sea, including and surrounding the Isle of Man. I read the majority of The Vikings in the Isle of Man in November. I had to prioritise reading this at the beginning of the month, so I technically completed this book before The Shining.

The Vikings in the Isle of Man was an informative read and touched upon topics and themes I had also read in Vikings of the Irish Sea. It’s quite a niche topic if we’re being honest. It is only because it relates closely to home that I wanted to pick it up and share a little bit of knowledge. I appreciate it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

 

Lost Solace

Lost Solace has been on my reading list for quite some time. I’ve attempted to get round to the book for the last two or three months as well, and failed. That is, I’m pleased to say in this monthly wrap-up, until this month. At the beginning of November, I told myself that this month was the month I was going to pick it up. I’m glad I did!

If you enjoy science-fiction, and want a relatively short but action-packed novel, this would be perfect for you. Having read some related books by Karl Drinkwater before (Tales of Lost Solace), some of the characters were already familiar to me. I don’t think that specifically contributed to my enjoying the book anymore, but it was nice to go in with a degree of familiarity.

I won’t be leaving it so long to continue with this series!

 

November TBR Jar – The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz

Historical, whether fiction or non-fiction, is a genre I will enjoy going back to time and again. When I pulled The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz out of my TBR jar at the end of October, I was excited! Although a morbid subject, I have enjoyed multiple books that centre around characters and experiences around the concentration camps in World War II. Heather Morris’ books, The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Cilka’s Journey, are great examples.

Every bit is harrowing,The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is a true story of a son who could not bear to be separated from his father, and opted to go to Auschwitz with him. They had already spent a good deal of time in captivity before they were transferred to the infamous camp. Shockingly, the treatment there is not the worst they received. Towards the end of the book, I was just begging that the both of them survived. They had already been through so much.

Well researched and written, this is one of the easiest non-fiction books I have picked up in terms of readability this year.

 

Ashes of Guilt

One of the last books I picked up to physically read in November was Ashes of Guilt by Isabella Steele. I had downloaded a copy of this book through Reidy discovery in order to provide a review by the end of the month. If you haven’t yet checked out that post, you can see my thoughts from Wednesday’s review here.

Ashes of Guilt is another relatively short, but equally compulsive, read. The synopsis was a great hook into the narrative, but quickly we worked through that and found ourselves in uncharted territory.

This is the kind of book that would be a great palette cleanser, or if someone wants to dip that to a genre for a reasonably short time before moving onto something else. I read Ashes of Guilt in just a handful of days. At 222 pages, it has to be one of the shortest books I’ve read this year.

 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

For the first time in months, I have a mood read to share with you in this November monthly wrap-up. You’ll see why below.

Picking up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is absolutely because I went to watch the film on Tuesday. It’s been a long time since I went to the cinema and I had a great time watching this film. After spending over 2 and a half hours in a cinema seat, I can remember why it’s not a regular occurrence… But I had a good time nonetheless.

I’ve been threatening to pick up this book since I started re-watching the hunger games films. After watching and loving the film, I literally couldn’t wait. Often, films deviate from content in the books, and I was curious to see what extent this does. As of this post, I am just over a quarter of the way through The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and there isn’t too much variation, which is good!

 

Audiobooks

 

October TBR Jar – The Flood

Carried over from October’s monthly wrap-up post, I still had half of the audiobook of the flood to listen to this month.

I was a little late starting this considering I had already made progress with the book. I only really made progress in the last week of November. That’s because I’m not very good at listening to audiobooks in and around my normal routine. I started listening to The Flood when I was on leave from work last month. This week I have been on leave again (using the last of my holiday, can you tell?). Because I’ve been out of routine again, I’ve been able to make time to listen to the audio.

Overall, I had a good experience with The Flood. I strongly recommend listening to this book as the audio went along way towards my enjoyment of it. I didn’t anticipate the ending and I enjoyed seeing the mystery on full to reveal the truth right at the end.

 

Insta Poll Pick – The Minders

Given I had quite the number of books on this reading list, I decided to pick up the audiobook copy of The Minders. This book won my Instagram poll that I posted at the end of October. I was lucky in that I didn’t already have a copy of the book, so I had my pick of the format I went with.

This book would be great in any format, although I am again enjoying the audio. The book is told through multiple perspectives and these are told through two narrators.

As of this monthly wrap-up post, I am about halfway through The Minders. I still have just over 5 1/2 hours left of listening time, and I hope that time that I start to get some explanations as to what is going on. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is kind of a conspiracy thriller. I’m deliberately not meant to know too much about what is going on, and I am hooked to find out how the plot evolves and ultimately resolves itself.

As experiences go, this is the first time I have picked up a John Marrs book and I doubt it will be the last!

 

Books DNF’d

 

The Witches – Salem, 1692: A History

We have a rare feature in today’s monthly wrap-up post – a DNF. It was quite a decisive one at that too. I ultimately made it through 30 pages of The Witches before I threw in the towel.

The writing style at the beginning was fine. The opening chapter is an introduction to events as they happened, including the numbers of people who died as a result of the witch trials, and a summary of the evidence available to the author, when putting together the book. In short, not much. It was the next chapter that threw me off completely.

I cannot help but feel that in the absence of tangible information, the author, then decided to fill in the gaps with pure fantasy and presented as. For example, the scene describes how two women flew on broomsticks to a given meeting location. This may be what they have been accused of, but presenting it as fact really didn’t sit well with me. It felt like filler and already had me questioning the information I’d been told.

The book is a reasonably lengthy one for a non-fiction, and I’ve already made my mind up at the 30 page mark that I wasn’t a fan. Had I struggled on, I wouldn’t of enjoyed the experience and could well have put myself in a readings lump because I didn’t want to pick it up. Frankly, life is too short… and my reading list is too long. So, onwards we go. Now you know why I picked up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes instead – the timing of this DNF coincided with me watching the film!

 

Summary

In all, I had a great month. I picked up some varied and interesting reads. That was one miss two, but I didn’t let myself dwell on that one for too long!

In addition to reading some great books, I also met my Goodreads reading challenge of completing 50 books this year very early this month, which is cause for a pat on the back. Last year I read 47 books, so to be going into December having read 55 already is a great achievement. Am I unofficially pushing for 60 by the end of the year? Absolutely!

Here’s hoping for some great reads to get me there. If you’re keen to find out which books I will be picking up in December, I will be sharing my reading list early next week. Stay tuned!

Until then, happy reading!

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #16 – Normal Women

In today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! post, I knew I wanted to feature a podcast. I have gotten out of the habit of listening to them. This post felt like the perfect opportunity to dive back in, find a show/topic that I really enjoy… and feature it! And that I did! In today’s post, I feature Philippa Gregory’s podcast, Normal Women.

The show discusses various topics relating to women throughout the last 900 years. The content stems from research Philippa has undertaken in writing her upcoming book of the same name.

The topic I took particular interest in relates to women, and whether they have been perpetually underpaid for their labour in society.

 

The Statistics

The gender pay gap between young women, whilst it does exist, it far less dramatic than women in later life.

I discovered via this podcast that by the time women are in the 50-59 age bracket, they are paid 80p for every £1 earned by a man. That’s a huge difference! Not covered in the podcast, but when you consider women often lose out on pension contributions if they take a career break to have and raise children – that’s quite a disadvantage!

 

Domestic – Work?

Domestic work used to be classified as work by political scientists (aka economists) in British censuses, even if it wasn’t paid for.

Women either typically worked at home, or assisted their husbands in the labour market. For example, women were the backbone of upholding miners and their labour in the 19th century. They often performed tasks for their husbands that enabled them to do their jobs – mending kit, laundry etc. So much so, wives of miners often experienced more health complications than the men who performed the labour in the dangerous conditions.

Other examples include women working for their husband’s businesses and not being paid equally. As assistants, they were paid for assisting other paid workers… but for some reason, not their husbands. It was also customary to hire men for positions and assume that women would take up ancillary roles (headteacher/matron, priest/pastoral care) to name a couple of examples.

Nowadays, domestic work isn’t taken into account in the modern census even though it’s believed to make up 60% of GDP.

 

History

It may surprise you to learn that there are glimmers of times in history when women could earn as much as men.

 

14th Century

The podcast stated that the Black Death wiped out between 45-60% of the British population in 1340’s. The consequences of that meant that demand for labour skyrocketed. Women not bound into existing working contracts and able to take up casual labour capitalised on the opportunity. They demanded equal pay. Sounds like we’re going in the right direction, doesn’t it? Well, just a few years later in 1351, the government stepped in. To prevent women from being able to demand a fair share, they introduced the Statute of Labourers. This prevented anyone from demanding a wage higher than they earned prior to the epidemic. For women, that meant putting them back ‘in their place’ behind men.

 

16th Century

It’s not the only time the government introduced laws that directly disadvantaged women. The Statute of Artificers 1562 Act meant that anybody, including women doing domestic work around the house, could be called to perform agricultural labour. They couldn’t refuse without suffering imprisonment. Further, women had to be employed year-round – they couldn’t work for themselves. In principle, the law was brought about to control trade and encourage training in skilled professions. In practice, it meant that women were ‘apprenticed’ to domestic chores they were already doing, and not paid a penny for their efforts.

 

Skills women contributed to the economy were also frequently replaced by advances and technology. As they were unable to obtain mortgages or take out loans, they were prevented from starting businesses of any kind of industrial scale like their male counterparts. Their manual labour wasn’t required, and they couldn’t share a slice of the pie either. 

Only in 1919 was UK law was changed to allow women to enter legal professions. Previously, they had been barred from the opportunities for the required education and also to practice.

 

Present Day

Historically, women have been underpaid and severely disadvantaged. Whilst women have significantly more rights than they ever did before, that’s not to say that we’ve caught up.

Normal Women highlighted that in the modern labour force, women hold the majority of low pay jobs even when working – the care sector particularly.

Women are being actively recruited into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions, providing opportunities for specialisation that hasn’t always been available. However, statistically, it has been proven that when women are brought into a profession, the remuneration for these jobs goes down over time. It’s proof of women being paid less than their male counterparts, otherwise the average wouldn’t come down!

 

Summary

If you have enjoyed the content of the podcast and this post, then keep your eyes out for Philippa Gregory‘s book of the same name being published in February 2024.

If you’re interested in other books on this theme, I can also recommend Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Pérez.

 

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Vikings of Mann – Ancient History or Modern Enigma?

Hello readers and welcome to today’s Norsevember post! I’m excited to be taking part in this event this year, and talking about a subject and place I love.

In case you are unfamiliar, Norsevember is a yearly reading event organised and hosted by Alex at Spells and Spaceships. If you want to check out other Norse themed posts already shared and keep up with upcoming content during the rest of the month, then you can check out his blog or X account with these links.

As a fan of history, I have often mumbled about how local school syllabus rarely covers local history. In my case, I’d have happily settled for British history, as a syllabus dedicated to the Isle of Man would be a little niche. It’s not something I know a lot of beyond local knowledge, so preparing for today’s insightful post was the perfect opportunity to brush up!

 

What we Know of Vikings of Man

The vast majority of evidence we have for Viking presence in the Isle of Man stems from archaeological finds. These largely warlike bands weren’t exactly great at chronicling their movements. Even when Viking presence is alluded to on the Isle of Man in literature, it is only done hundreds of years after first landing on our shores. This sparse and posthumous literature hardly makes for reliable evidence to historians.

Instead, they have turned to physical evidence: burial mounds containing graves or hoards, the foundations of settlements left behind, and most distinctly here on the Isle of Man – memorial stones. Based on the number of stones you can find all over the island, I had formed the impression that they are a common relic of the Viking era. Not so. The Isle of Man has a significantly higher concentration of them, which I’ll talk about a little later.

 

Archaeological Evidence:-

Graves and Burial Mounds

Two things can be found in abundance when talking about marauding land-takers – booty and death. Some early and other more ‘elite’ Viking graves have uncovered a number of items that the dead were buried with. Such graves tell us more than you would expect. Not only do they indicate the types of items that men and women would use in the period (as it is believed that such items were buried with them to be carried through the afterlife), but they also give us an idea of when they started to settle on the Island.

Comparing such troves to those found in Ireland, what was the Danelaw and Scotland, it’s believed that Vikings settled on the island later than their counterparts along the Irish Sea. It has been speculated that this is because the island was more difficult to get to. As anyone who attempts to travel to or from the island between the months of October and March can testify, sea voyages are frequently rocky… or in stormy weather, non-existent. It’s a small thing, but it’s one of many clues we can glean from the traces left behind.

From basic and unadorned lintel graves to elaborate burials involving small boats and presumed slave sacrifice, there is a wealth of knowledge that can be explored in the remains. The locations of these sites, and apparent shifts in burial styles, are indicative of less tangible but no less probable changes. For example, it’s believed based on changes to burial rites that within a few generations from leaving Scandinavia, settled Vikings adopted a new religion – Christianity.

 

Settlements and Structures

Being a small island, there is less in the way of structural evidence compared to Dublin, Ireland and other locations across the Irish Sea. However, notable sites include Braaid and St Patrick’s Isle… a fortified islet I used to walk around regularly.

As would be expected for this seafaring peoples, a lot of these locations are based around coasts of the island. That is not to say settlements were exclusive to these regions, but there appears to be a preference for living near the water.

 

Memorial/Commemorative Stones

As I mentioned in the introduction, I had formed the impression that memorial stones were a common Viking relic. Whilst some are clearly identifiable as one of four distinct styles in the period, there are many later works that are less clear.

We’ve already established that that existing settlors and Vikings mingled within a matter of generations. This is also broadly supported through these memorial stones via inscriptions and runes. There are several examples of Gaelic and Viking names together on these memorial or commemorative stones. Some are partners, others reference children, but it’s clear that these individuals are related… highly suggestive of intermarriage. 

The inscriptions and the language also indicate assimilation over time. Stones identified from the period are initially inscribed with distinct Norse runes. However, throughout the tenth and eleventh century, inscriptions lose their iconic Scandinavian form… presumably to blend with local language.

 

Other Evidence:-

Place Names

Place names tell us a lot about the prominence of Viking settlers. Whilst it’s believed that the Viking invaders and local inhabitants commingled and intermarried reasonably quickly, it is commonly held that locals were very likely to have been enslaved when raids occurred. Vikings were therefore the dominant peoples and would have the influence and power of decision making.

Many place names today, despite reintroduction of Gaelic language in later years by the Scots, doff their cap to Scandinavian convention. Key sites like Jurby, Colby and Sulby all have a common denominator… one that is strongly linked to Danish language. These are also key sites where archaeological evidence of Viking presence has been found.

 

Local Government

The Isle of Man is governed by its own local government. Although a crown dependency, we have the ability to make an enact our own laws. This is celebrated on the 5th of July every year, locally known as Tynwald day. But where does Tynwald come from?

The annual event is an open air ceremony, which is believed to have strong ties to similar proceedings in the Viking age. Things, Scandinavian assemblies, settled local disputes and generally presiding over how the community was run. Many of these traditions stand today… and the hill on which the event is held is believed to be a key site, if not the one site, such events were held on based on its central location.

The name Tynwald is highly indicative of Viking influence. Similar presiding and locations have been identified with very similar names across both English Shores and Scandinavian. Names like Thingwall (the Wirral, UK), Thingmount (Dublin), have phonetic similarities. When you take into consideration that these are all known meeting places, and in fact, the word “Thing” means a Scandinavian meeting or assembly, then you can see commonality clear as day.

 

Summary

Although there is sufficient evidence of Viking influence on the Isle of Man, there is far more intangible influence we are unable to quantify.

There are only a limited number of sites that are available for excavation and the island is a very small location. Even then, not all sites have been excavated, or will have been done so in the early 20th century at a time where standards were far lower than they are now. Recordkeeping is therefore not as diligent and the finds of these digs are either missing, or inaccurately recorded.

The evidence is also largely centred around archaeological finds. The Isle of Man and key political figures don’t come into literature until the 13th or 14th century… which cannot be relied on for giving us unbiased information.

Even so, it is undeniable that Scandinavian settlers coming to the island have made their mark. What evidence there is on island is often cooperated with other Irish sea locations known to be inhabited by Vikings in the same period. Not all of their influences have clung on into this modern era. But, when you consider these events over a thousand years ago and how their influence still shapes today’s Manx landscapes, and societal structure… it’s clear that they have made a permanent impact on the island. 

 

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Monthly TBR – November 2023

Good evening readers – I hope you are having a lovely weekend? I’m looking forward to sharing all my upcoming reads for the month, and today is the day I share my monthly TBR!

The list looks larger than usual, as it is inflated by a couple of carryover reads from October, together with the fact that the average book length for this month is slightly lower.

I have around 2400 pages to read over the course of the month, which is about average. This doesn’t include my audiobooks for this month, of which I have about 16.5 hours listening time. That averages to just over half an hour a day, which is more than achievable!

Shall we get into my monthly TBR and discuss specifics of the books I’m reading in November?

 

Fixed Reads

 

October Carryover – The Shining

I picked up The Shining, the last book on my October TBR, on Halloween. I was hoping to be a little bit further into the book by that point, but still reading it for the spooky season. As it happens, I only read about 40 pages… But it is a start and I’ll take it.

As of this monthly TBR I am a more modest 180 pages, or roughly 40%, through the book. There was never really any doubt, but I am enjoying this story and the setting so far. Although I’ve been making my way through The Dark Tower series, it’s been a little while since I picked up a pure horror by Stephen King.

I’m looking forward to making further progress in the book and seeing how events unfold. There has been a lot of set up for what may happen later in the book; I’m keen to see if they play out as I hope they do!

 

October TBR Jar Carryover – The Flood

Throughout the latter half of October I started listening to The Flood by Rachel Bennett. Rachel is, I believe, resident on the island, and so I picked up this book to support a local author.

As I mentioned in my monthly wrap-up post for October, I am getting on well with this audiobook. I’m curious as to the history of some of the characters and how future events will unravel. There is definitely far more going on from the ‘historic’ timeline than we readers are aware of yet. I’m interested to see what bearing this has on the modern day aspect of the narrative.

 

Norsevember – Vikings in the Isle of Man

Norsevember is a reading event hosted by Blogs and Spells. Over the course of November, he and other creators feature all things Norse, from books to mythology. I have the pleasure of taking part this year and sharing a feature post on how the Norse touched the little island I live on.

I have already read one book that will contribute to my feature post next week, but I am going to be reading Vikings in the Isle of Man to supplement my knowledge ahead of this post. It’s also another great way to be able to support the event.

It’s only a short non-fiction at 140 pages, but I’m looking forward to picking it up!

 

Ashes of Guilt

I found Ashes of Guilt on Discovery as available to read and to provide a review for. I really like the sound of the premise for this book, so I’ve decided to give it a go! It’s a small-town mystery/thriller novel in which the main character has a shady childhood past; only, it may be that not all is as it seemed back then…

Ashes of Guilt is my only review obligation for November, which makes a nice change from the three I had to do last month! I shouldn’t complain, I sign myself up for these things. So, if there’s anyone to blame, I should just go look in the mirror…

 

November TBR Jar – The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz

Every month, I randomly pick a book out of my TBR Jar. November is no exception. Yesterday, I shared my pick on Instagram. If you’ve seen that already, then you know I drew out The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz.

I’m actually glad this book made it to November’s monthly TBR. I really love books around World War II and in particular Auschwitz. You can call me morbid if you want. I just find it a really interesting subject. What makes the pick even better is that it is a non-fiction novel. With the end of the year fast approaching, I am trying my best to meet my target of picking up more than 15 non-fiction books by the end of the year.

As of this post, I have read 12. Incidentally, I have three non-fiction books on this reading list (last one below), meaning that I have every chance of hitting that goal! Considering I was behind in my mid-year review post, that’s quite a turnaround. 

The fact that this book came out makes it even easier for me. I should, in theory, only have to read one in December to exceed my >15 goal. 

 

November Instagram Poll Pick – The Minders

In addition to the TBR Jar, I’ve taken to posting a poll on Instagram and getting my followers to vote between two books, the winner being the one I read next.

For the poll just gone, the books my followers had to choose from were My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, or The Minders by John Marrs. The Minders won by quite the majority, and I’m glad it did! I have a few books by John Marrs on the reading list at this point, so I’m excited to be getting around to one of his at least! It’s also more fitting for the season. The Minders is a mystery/thriller novel with hints at government conspiracy in the synopsis. I hope you are as intrigued as I am, because I’m looking forward to telling you about it.

I have obtained a copy of The Minders via audiobook. I quite enjoyed the sample and honestly, I already had quite a lot of books on this reading list in either physical or e-book format. I needed another audio!

 

Mood Reads

The Witches – Salem, 1692: A History

The first of my mood reads in today’s monthly TBR is also the third non-fiction I mentioned above. I have had my copy of The Witches for about a year now. I have gone to pick it up before, but I was a little bit intimidated by the page count and the text size – it’s tiny!

This normally doesn’t bother me, but I looked at it before experimentally when I was looking for a change in read, and ideally something quite quick. That wouldn’t have been the case, so I didn’t pick up.

I am interested in the subject matter though, so I’m looking forward to getting around to it at last!

 

Lost Solace

A relatively quick read, and a change up in genre, is Lost Solace by Karl Drinkwater. I have had a copy of this book for the longest time to read. It’s also supposed to have been on the last three or four months TBR’s, but I just couldn’t fit it in.

Karl’s Lost Solace series in itself will be new to me, but I have read several short stories set in the same universe. I have really enjoyed those stories, so I’m looking forward to giving this mean series for dry.

It’s also been a little while since I read a science fiction novel. What do you believe, the last time I picked up the genre was when I read Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson back at the end of July! I certainly never intended to leave it that long. Then again, picking up Lost Solace has moved to or three times.

 

Incendium

The last book I would like to pick up in November is Incendium. It feels like the perfect month to pick this book up, as the plot sounds like it is very reminiscent of the gunpowder plot… which was foiled in November 1605.

I would’ve liked to pick up the book a little earlier in the month to coincide with bonfire night. However, it’s more important that I focus on my obligations, and so I will have to settle for reading it in the same month!

 

Summary

That’s a lot of books that I’m hoping to pick up in November, but honestly, I think it’s doable. Given that I am prone to reading 600-900 page books, and all of these on my list fall under that, there is absolutely no reason this is unachievable!

Thanks for reading today’s Monthly TBR post!

Have you read any of the books on my November reading list? Do you like the sound of them?

 

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Well, I Didn’t Know That! #11

For today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! feature, I am sharing a streaming service dedicated to history lovers. I had no idea it existed until I got an offer on a reduced subscription for six months through a professional membership body.

Naturally, as a fan of history, I’ve decided to give it a go – and today’s post is all about making you aware of it!

If you are interested in reading more posts from this mini-series on my blog, here is a link to the original post and an index of the posts I have shared so far!

 

What is History Hit?

The service I’m talking about in today’s post is called History Hit. In reality, it is more than a streaming service… but I’ll talk about more of that below. It also seems to be continually growing, so the features I outline in today’s post could become outdated quickly!

History Hit was set up in order to make history accessible to everybody across modern platforms. And the site does so across a variety of mediums.

Whatever period of history you’re interested in, you can easily find it on the site. Across all of its mediums, different periods of history are segregated by time period accordingly. If you want to read about the ancients, or watch a documentary about the medieval period, they each have their own designated section. Multiple periods of history are covered; from ancient history to 20th century, revolutions and world wars… there is something for everyone!

 

Features

 

Documentaries and Podcasts

Regardless of how or when you like to dabble in history, there is a medium for each occasion. If you enjoy watching documentaries, then there are hundreds available on the subscription service. Again, all of these are broken down by category based on their time period. For example, I recently explored the Ancient section and watched a couple of documentaries on the last days of Pompeii before Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the town in 79 A.D.

The documentaries available vary in length. The shortest documentary I have seen whilst browsing is just 20 minutes long. In contrast, the second Pompeii documentary I watched was around 55 minutes.

If you aren’t in a position to be able to watch anything, then good news! There are thousands of podcast episodes already available on the site, and they are updated each week with brand-new ones. Earlier this week, I listened to a couple of very different podcasts. The first of those was about Tutankhamun and Ancient Egypt. The second was about one of the most famous buildings in Greece, the Parthenon.

Although I have definitely shown a bias towards ancient history here (it’s a period I enjoy, clearly), there is the variety in time periods I’ve already discussed. I’ve only been using the site for a few days, so I still have plenty to explore myself.

 

Articles & Travel Guides

If you only have a few minutes, then there are plenty of articles on that website that you can access and read instead! As a reader, this is obviously something that will appeal to me. I’m hoping the site will be a good way of gaining an introduction to a topic that I might then go away to find out more about. That may be finding other media on their site about it (such as a podcast or documentary) or by going away and reading something else.

One further avenue they seem to be branching out into is travel. Anybody wanting to go and visit key historic sites as part of their holiday travels can also consult the site in order to get recommendations and expert advice. This is something I haven’t explored, but it’s not something I’ve seen elsewhere either. It’s definitely a unique selling point if this is the sort of holiday you like to plan!

 

How can I access it?

History Hit have their own app that can be downloaded on smart devices. I have the app downloaded on my phone so I could watch documentaries or listen to podcasts on the go. They also have an app that can be downloaded onto newer smart TVs, or through services such as the Amazon fire stick, Chromecast or similar.

They also have their website for articles and the travel guide information.

 

I wanted to feature History Hit in this Well, I Didn’t Know That! post as it has such variety in its media. It touches on reading, but also other media to explore depending on personal preferences or situation. I’ve also enjoyed using the site and plan to continue exploring new time periods, whether that’s watching a documentary at home or listening to a podcast at work. 

I hope I’ve been able to share something new with you in today’s Well, I Didn’t Know That! post.

Had you heard of History Hit? Do you subscribe?

 

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Shelf Control #61 – 17/02/2023

Happy Friday and welcome to today’s Shelf Control post! Today I feature a classic novel that I’m willing to try. If it were a more modern book, it’s not something I would really choose for myself. However, it is it’s fame that makes me want to give it a try. Even if I don’t like it, I can say I’ve tried it!

Before I share the details of the book, here is a recap of what Shelf Control is all about.

Shelf Control is a regular feature on my blog. It’s a meme run by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies… a celebration of the unread books on our shelves! The idea is to pick a book you own but haven’t read and write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up!

If you want to read more about the Shelf Control feature, check out Lisa’s introductory post.

Now, let’s dive into today’s featured classic novel!

 

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

 

Genre: Classic / Romance

Pages: 532

Audience: Adult

Publication Date: 16 Oct 1847

 

 

Goodreads – Jane Eyre

Orphaned as a child, Jane has felt an outcast her whole young life. Her courage is tested once again when she arrives at Thornfield Hall, where she has been hired by the brooding, proud Edward Rochester to care for his ward Adèle. Jane finds herself drawn to his troubled yet kind spirit. She falls in love. Hard.

But there is a terrifying secret inside the gloomy, forbidding Thornfield Hall. Is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled once again?

 

My Thoughts

Romance isn’t a common genre to find on my reading list. Despite that, there are a couple of instances in which romance has been a hit with me.

I have never read a classical novel in this genre. The Brontë sisters are very well-known in the classical world. Even if I don’t particularly like their books, I would like to at least give them a chance. I have heard a lot of mixed things about Jane Eyre. It is just one of those books that I’m going to have to pick up for myself in order to make my own mind up.

Arguably, I am more likely to like Jane Eyre compared to contemporary romances based on the setting and tone of the book. It’s not flowery. If anything, I have read that it is more gloomy, almost Gothic in nature. For the most part, I’m not a fan of happy ever afters and the predictability of modern contemporary romance. They have their place and I’ve enjoyed a couple in my time. But they are not catnip for me like they are for others. The complete change of tone, and I hope elements of historical fiction (or at least the historical setting) will help with the appeal of this novel.

If nothing else, I want to try and pick up Jane Eyre as I want to slowly work my way through the classics. Reading classical novels is completely different to reading something modern. Very often, the language and setting is very different. Characters and culture can portray very different attitudes to that of society now. As a result, there is a lot to gain from a book like this from a historical point of view.

 

I hope you have enjoyed today’s Shelf Control post.

Have you read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, or any other books written by any of the Brontë sisters?

 

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