Category Archives: My Summer Reading 2008

Books I read: Summer 2008.

Mrs. Woolf & the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service

Of all stratums of society, that of the female serving class is the least examined. Whether that’s because it is, to a great extent, ‘women’s work’, and women have always suffered from poor representation in the written history of the world—their sphere is considered by many to be unimportant in the vast arena of politics, war, education—or if it’s simply that for much of history illiterate, they could often not tell their own story, doesn’t matter. So much is lost, and for a writer, that’s a terrible pity. Continue reading

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African Queen: the Real Life of the Hottentot Venus

African Queen

African Queen

African Queen: the Real Life of the Hottentot Venus

Saartjie Baartman (Baartmen? – PW and Booklist each spell the name differently, and I don’t have the book in front of me to correctly spell it, so use the spelling I remember) was, for many years, exhibited as a ‘freak’ to Regency society in England. A young woman from the continent known as ‘darkest Africa’, (I can’t find the phrase origin for ‘darkest Africa’ – does anyone know where it came from, or when?) Saartjie was misused, ridiculed, coldly handled as a commodity, but the author does an extremely good job of reconstructing Saartjie’s dignity as a woman who did the best she could in dreadful conditions. Continue reading

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A Flaw In The Blood

Cover - A Flaw In The Blood

A Flaw In The Blood

I read the Stephanie Barron ‘Jane Austen mysteries’, and enjoy them very much. Barron is exceptionally talented at capturing Jane Austen’s voice and replicating it in unlikely situations.

A Flaw in the Blood is something completely different, though, a taut political thriller that just happens to be set against the backdrop of Victorian England. As Prince Albert, the Queen’s consort, lies dying, supposedly of typhoid, an Irish barrister in his forties—a man with whom Victoria has a past entanglement—is summoned to see the Queen.

What happens next begins a chain of events that is both chilling and somehow compellingly believable. Continue reading

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