A couple of weeks ago a marketing bod from Olympia Publishing emailed me with a list of recent books to see if I wanted to read and review any of them. I asked for three that looked interesting. I’ve now read them and present to you, dear readers, the reviews. I’ve also been looking at the Olympia Publishing page, since I’ve never heard of them before I thought I’d also give you my opinion on the quality of the books and anything I’ve gleaned from reading their website.
Publication Date: 5th April 2017
Regency women inhabited a very different world from the one in which we live today. Considered intellectually inferior to men, they received little education and had very few rights. This book tells the inspirational stories of twelve women, from very different backgrounds, who overcame often huge obstacles to achieve success. These women were pioneers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs, authors, scientists and actresses women who made an impact on their world and ours. In her debut non-fiction work, popular history blogger Rachel Knowles tells how each of these remarkable ladies helped change the world they lived in and whose legacy is still evident today. Two hundred years later, their stories are still inspirational.
Published By: St. Martins Press
Publication Date: 22nd November 2016
“They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.”
Lord Melbourne turned to look at Victoria. “They are mistaken. I have not known you long, but I observe in you a natural dignity that cannot be learnt. To me, ma’am, you are every inch a Queen.”
In 1837, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria – sheltered, small in stature, and female – became Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Many thought it was preposterous: Alexandrina — Drina to her family — had always been tightly controlled by her mother and her household, and was surely too unprepossessing to hold the throne. Yet from the moment William IV died, the young Queen startled everyone: abandoning her hated first name in favor of Victoria; insisting, for the first time in her life, on sleeping in a room apart from her mother; resolute about meeting with her ministers alone.
One of those ministers, Lord Melbourne, became Victoria’s private secretary. Perhaps he might have become more than that, except everyone argued she was destined to marry her cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. But Victoria had met Albert as a child and found him stiff and critical: surely the last man she would want for a husband….
Drawing on Victoria’s diaries as well as her own brilliant gifts for history and drama, Daisy Goodwin, author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria, brings the young queen even more richly to life in this magnificent novel.
Biography in novel form. Not half bad either. The development of Victoria during her first few years as queen is developed and explored in a sympathetic manner and with skillful storytelling. Occasionally the biography breaks through the novelisation and it becomes very obvious that the author is dumping information rather than telling the story, but it only happens three or four times and barely detracts from the flow at all.
Definitely one for fans of Victorian history and Queen Vicky herself.
Published by: Fourth Estate
Publication Date: 5th May 2016
Unique, transgressive and as funny as its subject, A Life Discarded has all the suspense of a murder mystery. Written with his characteristic warmth, respect and humour, Masters asks you to join him in celebrating an unknown and important life left on the scrap heap.
A Life Discarded is a biographical detective story. In 2001, 148 tattered and mould-covered notebooks were discovered lying among broken bricks in a skip on a building site in Cambridge. Tens of thousands of pages were filled to the edges with urgent handwriting. They were a small part of an intimate, anonymous diary, starting in 1952 and ending half a century later, a few weeks before the books were thrown out. Over five years, the award-winning biographer Alexander Masters uncovers the identity and real history of their author, with an astounding final revelation.
A Life Discarded is a true, shocking, poignant, often hilarious story of an ordinary life. The author of the diaries, known only as ‘I’, is the tragicomic patron saint of everyone who feels their life should have been more successful. Part thrilling detective story, part love story, part social history, A Life Discarded is also an account of two writers’ obsessions: of ‘I’s need to record every second of life and of Masters’ pursuit of this mysterious yet universal diarist.
I really enjoyed this book, as much a biography of the mysterious diarist as an autobiography of Masters and his friends during the five years he worked on the diaries and writing this book. I sped through it in a matter of hours, the writing kept me transfixed.
Masters is a sensitive biographer, disclosing new information as he learns it, and dealing honestly with his qualms when he learns that the diarist, Laura Francis is still alive. The writing is fluid and engaging, humorous at times and honest.
I’ve just started studying the life-writing component of my MA Creative Writing. My tutor suggested we should start reading biographies if we didn’t already to get an idea of the diversity of the form. I’ve read biographies in the past, but this was a refreshing change. It only took me four hours to read this book, so I started another one, before I decided to write this review. The book I’m reading at the moment is a biography of Queen Victoria, in the form of fiction. They’re different ways of writing biography but they both work well.
Published by: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 1st May 2017
The incredible true story of the young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium and their brave struggle for justice…
As World War I raged across the globe, hundreds of young women toiled away at the radium-dial factories, where they painted clock faces with a mysterious new substance called radium. Assured by their bosses that the luminous material was safe, the women themselves shone brightly in the dark, covered from head to toe with the glowing dust. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were considered the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, they found themselves embroiled in one of America’s biggest scandals and a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights.
A rich, historical narrative written in a sparkling voice, The Radium Girls is the first book that fully explores the strength of extraordinary women in the face of almost impossible circumstances and the astonishing legacy they left behind.
Kate Moore is a Sunday Times best selling writer with more than a decade’s experience writing and ghosting across varying genres, including memoir, biography, and history. In 2005 she directed a critically acclaimed play about the Radium Girls called ‘These Shining Lives.’ She lives in the UK.
What an absolutely fascinating story!
I’ve heard of the Radium Girls, women who worked painting dials for various companies in the U.S. who were killed by the radium they were injesting and the callousness of the companies they worked for. This book provides the human stories of the women, their suffering and their battle for justice, utilising letters, photo albums, the memories of family and friends and documentation such as newspapers and legal papers. The story of these women is inspiring and the author does an excellent job of telling it.
I may have cried somewhat.