Shelf Control #63: Coromandel by Charles Allen #History #Non-fiction

Wednesday the 31st of October–time again for Shelf Control, the last one this month. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks!

This week my pick is a non-fiction title and a recent acquisition on my Shelf, Coromandel: A Personal History of South India by Charles Allen. This was first published in 2017 and I recently acquired a hardback when it was on sale.

One can I think, describe this one as both a history and a travel book as this isn’t merely the author narrating a history of the Coromandel Coast (the southeastern coast of the subcontinent) but visiting and exploring, “the less well-known, often neglected and very different history and identity of the Dravidian south”. The book explores various facets of the region going into archaeology, religion, linguistics, and anthropology to look at its people, places, and life, and also the influence on the region that came from the North, ultimately showcasing not only the past but also the present. (The final chapter I can see is a commentary on more current events.) The book’s ten chapters, introduction and ‘endnote’ have early illustrations and photographs as well as those taken by the author, besides maps.

I thought this would be an interesting read for me since I haven’t read history or travel books focused on this region. One is familiar with the broader history from more general histories of the country and school lessons but this one being focused on part of the South rather than the region as a whole, and being told from one person (the author’s) personal perspective would I think make it different from an ordinary history book. (Another book I read somewhat on these lines where history is told but with the author’s personal interests, perspective, and story woven in was The First Firangis by Jonathan Gil Harris which I enjoyed very much (review here).) (I also like the cover very much.)

The Author: Charles Allen, British historian and author, has written several works (over 20 books) on India, the country where he was born and where several generations of his family served under the British Raj. Among other subjects, he has written about Kipling, the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, the West’s discovery of Buddhism, and Mount Kailas.

Have you read any history books on India? Which one/s and would you recommend them? Did they change any views/perspective you had based on school lessons or otherwise? Any other books (whether or not focused on India) which are written from the author’s personal perspective that you enjoyed? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Information on the author and book are from the book blurb and Goodreads (here and here).

Shelf Control #62: Charlotte Brontë by E.F. Benson

Wednesday the 23rd of October–time again for Shelf Control. I haven’t posting so regularly recently but I am trying to whenever I can. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This week my pick is a bio of Charlotte Brontë by E.F. Benson (1867-1940), otherwise known for his Mapp and Lucia series which I found to be great fun. Besides a large number of novels and short-story collections, Benson also wrote a fair bit of non-fiction, including biographies (among others, of Sir Francis Drake and Queen Victoria). He also wrote an essay separately on all the three Brontë sisters some years after this bio in 1936.

This biography of Charlotte Brontë, written in 1932 is a short one (just 144 pages), and has been described as one that tries to show the real Charlotte rather than the saintly picture painted by Elizabeth Gaskell or other earlier biographers. Reviewers (Goodreads here) seem to get the impression that he didn’t even like Charlotte very much but still manages to present a honest portrait. The Gaskell bio (The Life of Charlotte Brontë) of course did feel like it presented a version of Charlotte that would be more acceptable to the times (and yes, a little saintly too, certainly), but what I liked about it was it’s incorporation of CB’s letters which made it feel like one was at least getting a glimpse of the way she saw things. But that is the only bio of her I’ve read so far and I would like to read one (or more) that gives a truer picture as well. This seemed a good option since it is fairly short, and I have liked the books by Benson I’ve read so far (Mapp and Lucia, and also The Freaks of Mayfair). [I do also plan to get to the Juliet Barker at some point (but at 1000+ pages, it will be a while before I do). Before that I do also want to read The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne Du Maurier.]

The Benson bio I downloaded via fadedpage.com (here).

Which is your favourite Brontë sister, and book by them? Have you read any Brontë bios? Which one/s and how did you find it/them? Any Brontë bios on your TBR? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Bookquotes: Quotes from Books (79)

 Look round and round upon this bare bleak plain, and see even here, upon a winter’s day, how beautiful the shadows are! Alas! it is the nature of their kind to be so. The loveliest things in life, Tom, are but shadows; and they come and go, and change and fade away, as rapidly as these!

Charles Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)

Image source: Pexels

Shelf Control #61: The Ladies Lindores by Margaret Oliphant #Classics #TBR

Wednesday the 8th of October–time again for Shelf Control. This is my first one this month since I ended up skipping posting last week. Shelf Control is a weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, and celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, simply pick a book from your TBR pile and write a post about it. Link back to Lisa’s page, and do also leave your links in the comments below as I’d love to check out your picks.

This week my pick is a classic, first published in 1882-83, The Ladies Lindores by Margaret Oliphant. This tells the story of three Ladies Lindores, Lady Mary, Lady Caroline, and Lady Edith. When their family suddenly comes into a fortune (and the patriarch a title), the family must move to a castle in Scotland and into a completely new life. Lord Lindores has not only come into a fortune but has also turned into something of a tyrant, wanting his family to move up in life, with little regard for what they might want. Onto the scene comes John Erskine, in love with Lady Edith (who he had met when the family was still ‘ordinary’) , but her new circumstances mean her father does not approve.

Margaret Oliphant by Frederick Augustus Sandys
via wikimedia commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Margaret_Oliphant_Wilson_Oliphant.jpg

The author: Margaret Oliphant (1838-1897) was a Scottish novelist, and also wrote short stories, biographies, histories, and literary criticism, with over 120 works to her credit. She wrote as Mrs Oliphant. Critically acclaimed and compared to other Victorian (and earlier) greats like Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Anthony Trollope. I personally came across her work after joining Shelfari when I was ‘exploring’ a friend’s shelf and came across Miss Marjoribanks, which caught my eye. I didn’t read that one immediately but some others in the same series, the Carlingford Chronicles, and found I really enjoyed her works. Later I also ventured into a few of her other works, A Country Gentleman and His Family and The Curate in Charge. Her works (most of the ones I’ve read so far) have often quite exceptional heroines and very realistic (and quite ‘modern’ at times) plot lines.

I’m really looking forward to read this one and her other works as well. I downloaded this (public domain) via Project Gutenberg (here).

Have you read any of Mrs Oliphant’s works? Which ones and how did you like them? Or do you plan to if you haven’t yet? Looking forward to your thoughts!

Info on this book is from the page on Mrs Oliphant (here) and goodreads (here), and on Mrs Oliphant from wikipedia (here).

All her works are also available on this page.