Thursday, 16 July 2015

Daughter Of The Desert by Georgina Howell / The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger / Sugar And Snails by Anne Goodwin

Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Our friends, Andy and Barbara, bought Dave a copy of Daughter Of The Desert way back in September and I am a little embarrassed that it has taken me ten months to get around to reading this biography of the amazing woman who was Gertrude Bell. Especially as Dave was singing its praises months ago.

Gertrude Bell lived several lives within one! In her mountain climbing 'phase', she outclimbed practically every one else in the Alps and there is still a peak named after her. Once she set her sights on Arabia, she completed months of nomadic journeys at the head of an effectively royal train of horses, camels and men, publishing several books of her journeys. (The most famous of these, The Desert And The Sown, is now on my Goodreads TBR list!) She dabbled, to a professional standard, in archaeology, taught herself cartography, created a national museum in Baghdad, and was one of the main driving forces pushing for Arabic self-rule in what became Iraq, Jordan and Syria. It sounds breathtaking in brief and Georgina Howell manages to keep the excitement simmering through most of the many pages of her biography. Howell understands Bell completely and has obviously spent a huge amount of time immersed in her published writing and private letters in order to produce such a well-rounded portrait. I loved the inclusion of sections of Bell's own words in a distinctive font. This device was effective and helped to maintain pace in a way that paraphrasing would have thwarted. I admit I did begin to flag during the intense politics of the post-Great War years, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this biography.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Georgina Howell / Biographies / Books from England


The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I received my audiobook edition of The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger via the wonderful AudioSYNC programme. Having previously only really been aware of the book from its movie poster, I was expecting to be unimpressed by a gungho men triumphing against the sea adventure. Oops!

The Perfect Storm is an incredibly well researched factual work of journalistic style reporting. Junger presents not only his best educated-guess of what happened to the ill-fated crew of the American fishing boat, Andrea Gail, but also delves into many related areas to provide an all-round education to his readers. If you memorised enough of this information, The Perfect Storm could be a Mastermind specialist subject! I was fascinated to learn about the history of Gloucester and her shipping fleet, what actually happens on board a swordfish fishing boat, and how such a life affects the men and women who fish. Junger also discusses meteorology and what must occur to create storms, the extensive training of rescue crews, what physically happens to a person as they drown, and how boats do (or don't) keep themselves afloat. These complementary subjects are interspersed with the story of the Andrea Gail and her sister boats during the storm that claimed her. Junger extensively interviewed crews of the other boats so his imaginings of what happened on board as the storm heightened is based solidly in fact, including many direct quotes. This style of writing worked brilliantly for me allowing me to imagine and understand. Perhaps the narrator wasn't the best as he did stumble and lose pace occasionally, but that didn't detract from a powerful and interesting book.

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Books by Sebastian Junger / Reportage / Books from America


Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Anne Goodwin kindly got in touch with me via Goodreads a couple of months ago to offer a preview copy of her new novel, Sugar And Snails, which I excitedly accepted. I already enjoyed her thoughtful and insightful blog posts so had high hopes for the novel - and I wasn't disappointed! Sugar And Snails will be published on the 23rd of July and you can Pre-Order Your Copy Here!

For reviewing purposes, I am finding it difficult to write freely for the same reason as I had when discussing We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I came to the book effectively ignorant of the main plot idea and don't want to be the one to give it away to other potential readers. Therefore please excuse my vagueness! I don't think Sugar And Snails would be ruined by advance knowledge, but (for both books) I definitely appreciated making the discovery myself!

I can wax lyrical about character portrayal and development which are always important to me. Goodwin obviously has a great empathy for Diana whom I did not always like, but continually found myself rooting for. It takes really good writing to pull that off! Her childhood reminiscences were as convincing as her adult life and by the end of the book I fully understood how the child had grown into the woman. I appreciated that the multi-racial cast didn't exist to make any heavy political point, just to reflect Diana's social group.

I did find the abrupt failures to reveal What Happened In Cairo somewhat coy and irritating during the first third of Sugar And Snails. However once once the full tale began to wind and unwind itself, this was a strong and interesting read. It's northern England university setting made a refreshing change from the fictional Oxbridge norm and I loved the flashes of dialect, especially from the children.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anne Goodwin / LGBT books / Books from England

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