This is my Genre Book Tag

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I first saw this tag done by Shaz over at Shaz Reads and it seemed like a really fun one, so I thought I’d give it a go!

The Rules:

1. What is your favourite genre?
It will come as no surprise that my favourite genre is historical fiction! I especially love historical fiction set in WWII, and historical romance set in the Regency and Victorian periods.

2. Who is your favourite author from that genre?
My favourite historical fiction author at the moment is Ken Follett. I am just in awe of his skill; his books are actual masterpieces. What I love so much about his Century trilogy is that he draws in so many different narrators from across the globe, weaving their stories together into a beautiful, intricate tapestry.

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy, #1)

3. What is it about the genre that keeps pulling you back?
I really feel that the more historical fiction you read, the more you want to read. The thing about historical fiction is that it’s based on something that actually took place, so everyone has a different slant on it. Once I find a period or event I’m interested in, I love to read multiple books on it because it’s so interesting to read different authors’ interpretations, especially when their books are based on real people.

4. What is the book that started your love for that genre?
As I’ve mentioned before in my Children’s Historical Fiction: My Childhood Favourites blog post, the first historical fiction novel I read – Back Home by Michelle Magorian – is still an all-time favourite of mine. Set in 1945, it follows Rusty, a 12-year-old evacuee returning to England after five years spent with her relatives in Connecticut. With an awesome main character, an emotional plot and great historical detail, this book is everything I love about the genre.

Back Home

5. If you had to recommend at least one book from your favourite genre to a non-reader/someone looking to start reading that genre, what book would you choose and why?
I recently read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, and I think it would be a great introduction to the historical fiction genre. It’s such an accessible historical fiction novel –  the characters and emotion draw you into the story so completely that there’s no fear of it reading like a history textbook.

The Nightingale

6. Why do you read?
So for this answer I’m going to concentrate on why I read historical fiction. The main reason is that I love imagining how people lived in different time periods. Historical fiction novels allow me to do just that, offering a little window into a specific time period or event. It’s such a fun way to learn about history – I love having the people and places brought to life on the page before me.

 

This tag was basically a chance for me to fangirl about my favourite genre, and of course I’m never going to pass up an opportunity like that!

If you’d like to take part and share what you love about your favourite genre, consider yourself tagged 🙂

 

On the Box #2 |Anne with an E

Last month I started a new feature on my blog to discuss period films and dramas I’ve been enjoying recently. For my first post I talked about Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in his early days as Prime Minister.

Today’s blog post is all about Anne with an E, Netflix’s show based on beloved children’s classic Anne of Green Gables.

Credit: Netflix


Title: 
Anne With an E
Format: Netflix Original TV Show
Released (UK): S1 May 2017, S2 July 2018
Starring: Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R. H. Thomson

 

What’s it about?

As mentioned above, this Netflix show is based on the beloved children’s classic Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Set on Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1908, it tells the story of Anne Shirley, the lovable, chatterbox orphan who is mistakenly sent to live with brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.

It’s worth pointing out that the TV show doesn’t directly follow the novel’s plot – but for me this doesn’t detract from my enjoyment, as I tend to think of them as separate things. The show definitely features some elements I love from the novel, though – such as Rachel Lynde’s penchant for gossip, and the lovely friendship between Anne and Diana Barry.

Dalila Bela and Amybeth McNulty in Anne (2017)

Credit: Ken Woroner, CBC

 

Why I love it

I think my absolute favourite thing about this show (other than the fabulous acting, especially by Amybeth Mcnulty as Anne) is the incredible soundtrack. The music has quite a modern feel, but is also very folksy and lilting which I think suits the setting perfectly.

Although there’s plenty of lighthearted humour (mostly thanks to Anne’s to dive headlong into one scrape after another), the show also touches on some important issues. The topic of bullying is handled in both seasons, with racism and female education covered in season 2 along with some great LGBT rep.

Geraldine James, R.H. Thomson, and Amybeth McNulty in Anne (2017)

Credit: CBC, Netflix

 


Recommended if you like:

Children’s classics, female friendships, spunky heroines

 

Have you been binging S2 of Anne over the past couple of months? Did you love Anne of Green Gables as a child? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

 

 

 

 

ARC Review: The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews

The Matrimonial Advertisement (Parish Orphans of Devon #1)

 


Title
: The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author: Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper Press
Publication Date: 4th September 2018
Pages: 317

 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I have such conflicting thoughts about this book. It had so many elements I usually love: meticulously researched historical detail; good use of period language; and a cute romance. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy those elements – because I did, very much so – but I had such strong opposition to one particular aspect of the plot that I found my enjoyment sadly overshadowed by frustration.

The first few chapters of the novel created a fabulously Gothic vibe. Accompanied by atmospheric descriptions of the North Devon coastal scenery, Mimi Matthews introduces us to Helena Reynolds, who has responded to Captain Justin Thornhill’s matrimonial advertisement in the papers.

From the outset I enjoyed the development of the relationship between Helena and Justin; it was of a slow-burning nature, as each slowly began to chip away at the other’s defences. With Mimi Matthews’ flawless use of period language, I found both characters to be very believable in their dialogue and behaviour, and I was rooting for them all the way.

Unfortunately, at about a third of the way through the plot took a turn which just didn’t sit well with me. It’s difficult for me to state exactly what I didn’t like without spoiling the rest of the book, but I will just say that it had to do with the representation of a topic about which people generally held extremely damaging views back in the Victorian period.

I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ representation of the topic as it would have been viewed in the period – but understanding of this topic has improved immeasurably since the 19th century, for good reason. This is a historical fiction, yes – but personally I feel there is no excuse in this day and age for publishing a novel with a message which bluntly and unfeelingly deals with what is such a triggering topic for so many people, including myself.

The last third of the book lost momentum for me. I’d been expected a bit more of a dramatic climax, but everything resolved itself too easily. I’m aware that this is the first in a trilogy, which might explain why the ending wasn’t as exciting and gripping as I’d hoped – but I think I’d also lost heart a bit by the end, since there were further unfeeling portrayals of the aforementioned topic which only increased my frustration.

I can’t fault Mimi Matthews’ portrayal of the time period, and I did very much enjoy her writing style. It’s a shame that I didn’t enjoy this book more, but I just couldn’t get past the potentially damaging messages it sent out about a topic which should always be dealt with sensitively and considerately.

 

 

Review: Dear Mrs Bird by A J Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird

 

Title: Dear Mrs Bird
Author: A J Pearce
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: 5th April 2018
Pages: 320

 

 

This book was like a large helping of jam tart and custard: warm, sweet and straight out of 1940s Britain. I’m going to open boldly by saying that this is one of my absolute favourite books I’ve read this year – so be prepared for lots of gushing in this review!

Dear Mrs Bird introduces us to Emmy Lake, a twenty-something living in London in the early 1940s who aspires to become a journalist (namely a War Correspondent). When she spots an advert in the paper for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, she’s certain this could be the first step towards a glittering journalism career – but, neglecting to ask about the finer details, she instead finds herself typing up responses to letters for the formidable Mrs Henrietta Bird, long-standing agony aunt at Women’s Friend magazine.

The novel is written in first person, which made me a little apprehensive at first – but by a few pages in, I could tell this was the perfect format for Emmy’s story. A.J. Pearce’s use of 1940s British slang is faultless, allowing Emmy’s colourful character to come to life on the page.

I loved Emmy’s energy and determination – but I also loved the more flawed aspects of her character, making her a very rounded protagonist. Her tendency to dive headfirst into making decisions without stopping to think things through lands her in all sorts of trouble, often with hilarious consequences.

It’s worth noting that Dear Mrs Bird isn’t particularly an action-packed novel – its merit lies in the colourful cast of characters and lovely pieces of historical detail woven in throughout. We accompany Emmy along to her nightly volunteer work at the fire station, and on evenings out to the cinema despite the ever-present risk of an air raid. I really felt like I’d stepped back in time to London in 1941, finding myself living and breathing each moment along with the characters.

Emmy’s upbeat personality gives this novel a lighthearted, humorous feel, but it is not without its darker moments. The harsh reality of the Blitz is explored with heartbreaking consequences, demonstrating A.J. Pearce’s ability to move the reader as well as inducing laughter. At certain points I wanted nothing more than to dive into the book and give the characters a great big hug!

Dear Mrs Bird is a warm, touching novel which completely captured its setting and brought it to life. I’m so impressed that this is a debut novel, and am very excited to see what A.J. Pearce writes next!

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Lacock

My first thought upon entering the village of Lacock in Wiltshire was: how can a place this quaint and beautiful exist?

Glancing up the street at the row of perfect period houses, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally stepped back in time about 200 years. Without a telephone wire or satellite in site, the cars parked outside the houses are the only sign betraying its modernity – which explains why it has been used as a filming location for several period dramas throughout the years.

Lacock (99)

One such period drama is the 1995 BBC miniseries of Pride and Prejudice – which, as you well know, is my all-time-favourite Jane Austen adaptation. The village of Lacock became Meryton for this adaptation, and I was so excited to stand outside the Red Lion inn which featured as the Meryton Assembly Rooms – the very location in which Lizzie and Darcy meet for the first time!

Lacock (117)

Lacock is not only suited for period dramas, but also for films of a more magical nature. At the end of a narrow lane just beside the church is the house of James and Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and at the other end of the village is Horace Slughorn’s house from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The crowning glory of the village is the glorious Lacock Abbey, which also featured in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. But even without the fame garnered through its use as a filming location, the Abbey’s previous inhabitants boasted their own impressive achievements.

Lacock (13)

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) was a scientist and inventor. There are traces of his academic interests scattered throughout the house, from the shelves upon shelves of books covering a wide range of genres and topics, to the telescopes in his study which spoke to the astronomy nerd in me.

Lacock (35)

Another interest of Talbot’s was photography: in 1835 he took a photographic camera negative of a window’s interior in the abbey’s south gallery, which is thought to be the earliest surviving image of its kind.

All in all, Lacock is a breathtakingly beautiful village, brimming with history at every turn. Whether you enjoy gushing over quaint period properties, or visiting filming locations from your favourite TV shows and films, Lacock is definitely worth a visit.

 

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale

 

Title: The Nightingale
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: 8th October 2015
Pages: 464

 

 

I initially added this book to my TBR because of its comparisons to All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – but I actually think these books are very different. While the beauty in Doerr’s novel lies in his exquisite prose, Hannah’s strength is in the raw emotional power her writing conveys.

The novel tells the stories of sisters Vianne and Isabelle, two brave women who each place themselves in the face of grave danger to save lives during the Nazi occupation of France during WWII. For some reason I had expected these sisters to be the best of friends, but in fact they have spent years barely in contact, due to both their somewhat clashing personalities and difficult past.

Isabelle, the youngest, is still in her teens when war is declared. With her passion, outspokenness and determination, she instantly involves herself in the French Resistance, whilst concealing her actions from elder sister Vianne, who has always viewed Isabelle as reckless and troublesome.

Vianne’s role in the resistance is more subtle than Isabelle’s, but she faces hardships of a different nature. As a mother to young Sophie, Vianne is forced to consider the lengths she will go to in order to keep her daughter safe, with some devastating consequences. I’m not a mother myself, yet I could completely relate to the turmoil Vianne faced in her struggle to protect her daughter, which is a testimony to Hannah’s amazing ability to stir emotion in her readers.

The pacing of the novel was very good – it covered the entire war, yet never felt jarring or as if too much was trying to be crammed in. I felt throughout that Hannah had complete command over the story she wanted to tell, and I was fully immersed right the way through to the beautiful, heartbreaking ending (tissues advised!).

In terms of emotion and characterisation, this was definitely a 5* read for me – but what stopped me giving it 5* overall was some questionable moments of historical accuracy. It was clear that Hannah had researched the period to some extent, but then proceeded to dump all the drama and atrocities she had researched upon the single fictional French town where her story was mostly set, which was a little unrealistic.

Overall, though, The Nightingale is an incredibly powerful and moving novel, and if you enjoy reading about WWII then I would highly recommend it.

On the Box #1 | Darkest Hour

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, my love of historical fiction is not limited to novels. A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about my Favourite Period Dramas, including popular new shows such as The Crown and Victoria, and adaptations of beloved classics such as Pride and Prejudice.

Since then, I’ve discovered several new favourite period dramas and films, so I thought I would make a regular feature on my blog for me to share what I’ve been watching recently.

So without further ado, here’s the first post in my series of period dramas/films I’ve been loving recently!

Gary Oldman er nesten ikke til å kjenne igjen som Winston Churchill i

Credit: United International

 

Title: Darkest Hour
Format: Film
Released: 2017
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas

 

What’s it about?

This Oscar-winning film starts with Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister in 1940, as Britain faces the very real possibility of a Nazi invasion. Facing opposition from fellow politicians, Churchill must decide whether to attempt to negotiate peace with Nazi Germany, or continue fighting.

Leading right up to Dunkirk, the famous rescue in which hundreds of thousands of Allied troops were rescued from beaches in the north of France, Darkest Hour deals with Churchill’s struggles – both internal and external – as he fights to gain the confidence of fellow politicians and the credibility of the public whilst being forced to make one of the most difficult decisions a prime minister has ever had to make.

Plot: Darkest Hour stars Gary as British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill who showcased a jaw-dropping transformation to play the revered Briton

Credit: LMK

 

Why I love it

I’m one of those people who seems to live under a rock and is really quite ignorant about famous actors, so when I watched the film I didn’t actually know what Gary Oldman looked like in real life. As soon as I Googled him afterwards, I was completely amazed – because as I’m sure most of you will know, that is some make-up and hairstyling team who succeeded in pulling off his transformation!

Incredible make-up aside, Gary Oldman’s acting was absolutely phenomenal. He was Churchill for me, in every sense of the word, and I loved the way that he was portrayed as a flawed person who was incredibly difficult to deal with despite his courageous decisions.

Kristin Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman in the film 'Darkest Hour'

Credit: Focus Features

 

Recommended if you like:

Oscar-winning films, WWII, films based on true stories

 

Did you see Darkest Hour when it was out in the cinema? What did you think? Leave your comments below, as I would love to hear your thoughts!