Sunday, 13 July 2014

Portrait Miniatures by George C Williamson / The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom / Room Full of Mirrors by Charles R Cross

Portrait MiniaturesPortrait Miniatures by George C. Williamson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Shadow of Night, a fantasy novel which I recently read, made much of a pair of miniature portraits so when this book popped up as the ForgottenBooks choice of the day, I was interested enough to download it.
Williamson has written a brief essay overview of miniature portrait artists from the 1500s to the 1800s. Due to its short length, not many get a look in, but the essay is studded with biographical details and anecdotes about the works. The writing is quite dry, but informative.
The shame about the presentation of this book as a reprint download is that the great quantity of illustrations are all in black and white, and none are particularly clear. It is possible to zoom in, but not to make out the intricate details referred to by Williamson.



The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Hiding Place is another triumph for the AudioSYNC audio book download series. I'm so glad to have discovered it!
I was already aware of Corrie Ten Boom's autobiography but had bypassed it in favour of others, primarily because it is always publicised as a Christian book. I think this does the work a disservice because, although Corrie's faith is fantastically important to her, there is much more to her story.
The Ten Booms were watchmakers in Haarlem, an extended family living in a fairly small house over their shop. They were already known for helping the less fortunate throughout the district and I enjoyed reading about their pre-war lives. The horrors of the war are often told, but small details get overlooked. In The Hiding Place, the accumulation of such detail made for an interesting listen. I liked the way events were told with an eye to humour, especially as the little house begins to fill with strangers passing though. Listening had the cosiness of a aging relative telling stories and it was easy to see Corrie's attraction as a speaker post-war.
A theme she often returned to was how only looking within a small sphere makes huge events less mind-blowing, and this is essentially how Corrie kept her sanity despite the horrors she endured. Her prop was the religious belief she had been taught since earliest childhood, and the autobiography does overplay everything potentially miraculous, but Corrie also shows how quiet organisation, determination, kindness and consideration can mould many small deeds into a truly inspirational life.



Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi HendrixRoom Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix by Charles R. Cross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not a big Jimi Hendrix fan and so knew very little about him other than a few of his hit songs and his early death. Dave had this copy of Charles Cross' Hendrix biography and found it interesting so I thought I'd give it a try too.
The book is surprisingly dry for such an outrageous star. The coverage of Jimi's early life seems thorough and is sad to read as family life was pretty much nonexistent. Violence and poverty are recurring themes with whichever Hendrixes constituted the household at the time frequently moving from one dump to another.
Once Jimi finds music and begs a guitar, he works for, and later with, a bewildering number of musicians. Pretty much any star in sixties London is name-dropped at some point!
Cross has obviously done a fantastic amount of research, but I thought some of his inferences seemed contrived. The writing style is hit and miss and I felt tighter editing was needed, especially for incidents that a cited on multiple occasions, but without recognition that they have been mentioned before.
Jimi Hendrix did certainly lead a fascinating life and this is a good rendition of it, but I think a stronger writer could have made this a greater book.

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