Posts Tagged ‘WWI’

The Secret Rooms – A True Gothic Mystery – Catherine Bailey

Posted in non-fiction on November 16th, 2012 by admin – 3 Comments

jacket image for The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey - large version

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (1 Nov 2012)
  • Source: Amazon Vine
  • My Rating: 5 stars

I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction but something about this story really drew me in and, to use that well-worn cliche, “you couldn’t make it up”. From a daunting mountain of documents, Catherine Bailey has succeeded in excavating an intriguing and involving true story of one man’s life – a very sad story emerges as she fills in the gaps in the life story of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland.

This is a very detailed and extremely well researched account which highlights the immense power held by the Manners family – power which is abused by Violet, John’s mother, who is portrayed as a manipulative matriarch, determined to safeguard the future of the family line, at any cost. Could duty to one’s family possibly override duty to one’s country at a time of war? When you don’t have the luxury of “an heir and a spare” does the end justify the means?

Despite John’s efforts to cover up events, he hadn’t reckoned on the tenacity and investigative skills of Catherine Bailey. It makes you feel quite sorry for some of the aristocracy although that is tempered a lot when you consider the immense numbers of Rutland estate workers who died in the trenches during the Great War. A very engaging and eye-opening read.

Belvoir Castle today

John, 9th Duke of Rutland and his wife Kakoo (Kathleen)

The Menacing Mama!

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My Dear I Wanted To Tell You – Louisa Young

Posted in Historical Fiction on August 22nd, 2012 by admin – 2 Comments

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You

Published
05/01/2012

Publisher
Harper

Source
Library

My Rating - 3 stars

There seems to have been a spate of WWI books recently of which I have consumed my fair share so I waited a while after publication before investigating this story out of fear of over-exposure.   I have also waited a while after reading before reviewing as I wanted to see if my reading experience would improve with age…..however, it remained a 3 star read for me, not bad but not earth-shatteringly good either, decidedly middle of the road.

There’s a lot going on in this novel – two men and three women, from varied social backgrounds experiencing different aspects of the war both at home and at the front.  Add to that a forbidden love affair, the gradual crumbling of social barriers, the horrors of life in the trenches, the physical and mental scars of war and you have a heady mix.  It’s clearly an extremely well-researched novel with lots of interesting information about the early days of reconstructive surgery.

There’s no doubt that Louisa Young is a fine writer but I had the impression the kitchen sink effect of so many themes had a clogging effect on the story and I found it hard going at times.  Whilst Riley, Peter, Nadine, Julia and Rose are portrayed vividly, I only felt engaged by Rose who was kept in the background for most of the novel.  The rest seemed to belong to a clique renowned as much for their vapidity as their beauty.

Somehow this novel and I just didn’t click but I’d still like to read more of the author’s work, perhaps with different subject matter.

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