History of Science Favourites

Besides fiction, I also enjoy picking up non-fiction reads from time to time, though I don’t do it as often as I’d like. History is one genre I like to read, but I also like at times to read popular science books (nothing too technical, though), and of course since I like both these, I also enjoy a combination of the two. Today, I’m sharing a few favourite reads that are both history and science, talking about people who contributed to science as well as the contributions they made. (One in my list is fiction, though).

To start off with, one of my absolute favourites (although this list isn’t in any order/ranking, as such), The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes (2008). This book focuses on the lives of a few scientists/explorers, specifically Joseph Banks who made a voyage to Tahiti, William and Caroline Herschel with their discoveries in the skies, Humphry Davy and his work with the miner’s lamp, and again in the laboratory, Mungo Park’s adventures in Africa, and balloonists in England. But it is not only these people that he focuses on but life and discoveries in the time period that they lived in, their interactions with and influences on poets and writers of the time including Mary Shelley, John Keats, and Samuel Coleridge. Of course, these ‘scientists’ were themselves also not focused on science alone–they wrote poetry like Davy (even if not very good), or played music like William Herschel, and were truly part of the ‘Romantic’ Generation. I had come across this book in a newspaper review and felt I would like it, and when I read it finally I really enjoyed it very much–the writing, the stories themselves, also the range of references, which also extend to poetry, art, and fiction, and of course the pictures. This is a really wonderful read.

The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World by Laura J. Snyder (2011) was recommended to me by a friend, and pretty much picks up where Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder left off. It focuses on Charles Babbage (Homes too touches on his story), John Herschel (son of William Herschel), Richard Jones, and William Whewell, four friends with a shared love of science, who met at Cambridge, and formed a sort of breakfast club where they met every week to discuss science and share a good meal. Like the romantic scientists in Holmes’ books, these too were interested in poetry, architecture, and music besides science, and went on in their lives to contribute to a range of fields–architecture, economics, photography, astronomy, chemistry, biology, computers, and cryptography. Their contributions also professionalised the sciences.

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh (1997), traces the journey of several mathematicians to solve a proposition in number theory given by lawyer and mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637 in a marginal note in his copy of Arithmetica, also mentioning that he had proof that wouldn’t fit in the margins. Essentially the book follows the quest of an English Mathematician, Andrew Wiles, who first came across the problem at the age of ten, and later after seven years of dedicated focus managed to crack the puzzle. But the book isn’t restricted to just Wiles, but also traces various others’ attempts at solving it over the ages, as well as developments and contributions to the field of mathematics alongside.

This one I’ve written quite often about on this page, and is one I discovered only after seeing it’s TV adaptation. Longitude: The True Story of a lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel (1995) tells the tale of John Harisson, a watchmaker who spent much of his life perfecting the marine chronometer, the first one that helped sailors fairly accurately calculate longitudes when at sea, saving precious lives and time. Of course, as with the other stories I’ve talked about above, it also goes into efforts in other quarters and by other people towards solving the same problem, and the contributions these made. Incidentally, the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne, fifth Astronomer Royal, who is pretty much the ‘villain’ of sorts of this piece (despite his contributions) comes across in much better light in Richard Holmes’ The Age of Wonder.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003) is not very short but a very interesting read, taking us into the Universe from when it began to how it is today, through contributions of scholars and scientists, amateurs and professionals. The book highlights human intelligence, but also obstinacy at not wanting to accept new things, as well as the mindless destruction that human beings are constantly bringing about. It also brings to attention how much of our home, our planet earth, still remains a mystery (including what lies in its waters) leaving one with feelings of wonder and awe, curiosity, but also anger at our actions.

Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann (2006), translated by Carol Brown Janeway is different from the others in my list since this is a novel and not non-fiction, but I am still including it in my list since it involves history and science, and is largely based on fact. This book, in a humorous way, tells the story of geographer, naturalist, explorer Alexander von Humboldt and mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss–two very different personalities who made great contributions to the world of science. While von Humboldt is out and about exploring (and measuring) the world, actually travelling, Gauss does so with his extraordinary mind and mathematical skills; they eventually meet in 1828. This was also recommended by a friend, and I enjoyed it very much.

These were a few of my favourite history of science reads. Do you like reading books with science themes? Which are some of your favourites? Have you read any of the ones in my list? What did you think of them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Image source: Pexels; All book cover images: Goodreads

Shelf Control #75: Monster Mission by Eva Ibbotson

Wednesday, the 29th of January–Shelf Control time once again! A weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, Shelf Control celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is 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!

For this, the final Shelf Control post for this month, my pick is a children’s book, Monster Mission by Eva Ibbotson. First published in 1999, this book has also appeared under an alternative title, Island of the Aunts. The book has been a School Library Journal best book of the year for the year 2000.

The book takes us to an extraordinary island inhabited by fantastic creatures including mermaids, selkies, and kraken, all looked after by three sisters. But as the ‘aunts’ are growing older, they decide to find (kidnap) three children to come to the island and take over their work. But not all the children are willing to do this. Then the island is suddenly under seige, and a wicked man plans to use the island’s magical creatures to make money. So it falls to the children to save themselves and their new friends. Will they be able to do it?

Eva Ibbotson, Austrian-born British novelist, wrote both children’s novels as well as novels for adults (and young adults). Most of her children’s books feature magical or supernatural creatures, but presented in a fun and likeable rather than scary way. Themes related to nature–its relentless destruction by human beings are part of some of the books as is the theme of everyone, however different, needing/being entitled to a home where they can be secure, something that reflects her own experiences having had to flee the Nazi regime, and also her views on experiments on animals (having trained as a physiologist). I’ve read a few of her children’s books earlier including Not Just a Witch, The Great Ghost Rescue (review here), and Dial-a-Ghost (review here) all of which I enjoyed very much–while they do go into more serious themes, they are still enjoyable and fun. If this one is on the same lines, I’m sure I will enjoy this very much too.

Have you read this one? How did you like it? What about Eva Ibbotson’s other books? Any favourites among these? Any others on similar lines (likeable ghosts)? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Info on the book is from Goodreads (here) and Wikipedia (here), and on the author from Wikipedia (here). [The wikipedia link on the book has a full summary so I think perhaps you should avoid that unless you’ve read the book].

Malory Towers Series Review #EnidBlyton #Children’sBooks #SchoolStories

Last week I finally finished my revisit of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers books. (I say finally because while I started my revisits last year, and finished the first five books, because of various things, I only got to the final book this year). While I have reviewed each of the books individually as I read them, this post is my thoughts and impressions of the series overall.

Malory Towers is a six-book series by Blyton, set in the boarding school of the same name, in Cornwall. The series was published between 1946 and 1951. (There are further books by author Pamela Cox; while I didn’t these include in my reads, but you can find more about these on the World of Blyton blog here and the Blyton Society Page here). This is one of three school series by Blyton, who also wrote at least one standalone school story Mischief at St Rollo’s. (I have a post about her school stories generally here). The stories feature Darrell Rivers (named after Blyton’s second-husband, Kenneth Darrell Waters) a young girl of twelve setting off to attend school at Malory Towers in the first book, First Term at Malory Towers, and trace her journey until her last term when she is about to turn eighteen, finish school, and join St Andrews in Scotland with some of her Malory Towers friends. At school, she is keen to make friends and is initially drawn to the intelligent but sharp-tongued and somewhat nasty Alicia and Betty, but finally finds a friend in the more sensible Sally Hope, who after getting over her sibling-jealousy turns out a good friend indeed. In the later books (Upper Fourth), Darrell’s sister Felicity, and Alicia’s cousin June also join the school. We also meet various other students like the mathematics and musical genius, but scatter-brained Irene (always misplacing her health certificate, a standing joke in I think all of the books), Belinda, equally a genius but at sketching, Willhemina (Bill), and Clarrisa, who are crazy about horses, and also various others.

Being set in Cornwall, one aspect that stands out in the books (though not all of them) is the Cornish landscape–the school pool for one, amidst the rocks, filled with sea water by the tides. The beach which is out of bounds, and also the rather dangerous waves have a role to play in one of the books, as do the cliffs and gales in another of them, both resulting in some of the girls getting into trouble, for different reasons.

As I have been writing in most of my reviews of these books, the characters in the books stand out for their different temperaments, dispositions–some brave, some reckless, arrogant, kind, spiteful, self-centred, reserved, cowardly, and such. Also, there is, as in real life, no one who is ‘perfect’; even our ‘heroine’ Darrell, has to deal with her own bad temper which gets her out of control from time to time, and is not something she can always manage to keep in check; even towards the end of the series, though she does get better. But of course, while characters like her and Sally do manage to face their flaws and work on them to an extent, there are others like Gwendolen Mary Lacey, spiteful, self-absorbed, selfish, who remain so till the end, only to be shaken into their senses the hard way. So are some others. One student is even expelled from the school, which I don’t remember happening in any of her other stories (though I may be wrong about this). But as in real life, Darrell must also learn to deal with the fact that one will meet all sorts, and have to live with them. Blyton also brings up issues like pressure to excel at exams in one of the books, which is again something one faces in real life.

And also as far as characters go, in this series, like the St Clare’s books, there are also many ‘stereotypes’ (that one gets to see, often in Blyton’s books). For instance, Zerelda, the American girl, is typical, interested more in her appearance–her complexion, hair, and nails, than anything else; much like Sadie from St Clares. But Zerelda does want to become an actress, unlike Sadie, but soon realises that this too requires hard work rather than simply talent, and what she thinks is the way to act. Similarly we have the french girl, Suzanne, Mam’zelle Rougier’s niece, who like Claudine from St Clares, speaks in an exaggerated way (‘Police’, and ‘piggihoolear’, and such), and doesn’t have the same sense of morals and such as the English girls do. Though of course, in both cases, they are good-natured and likeable. And of course, the Mam’zelles (the stricter Mam’zelle Rougier, and the more good-natured Mm’zelle Dupont) too have a tendency to use the wrong English expressions, and are often at the receiving end of the girls’ tricks though Mam’zelle Dupont plays one of her own too–involving a set of false teeth, no less! In Bill and Clarissa’s love of horses, there are shades of St Clares’ ‘circus girl’ Carlotta, who is also a whiz with them! And in Gwendolen Mary Lacey, though she is self-centred and spiteful, there are shades also of Alison O’Sullivan, fawning over some new students if they happen to be beautiful or rich, mostly the latter. In a sense, her ideal students too (even if realistic) have a certain stereotype attached to them, which are her own views of what the ideal child is like–fond of sport, strong (or at least not weak), honest (and able to own up even where he/she has done something wrong). While there is nothing wrong as such with these ideas (of the ideal child I mean), she does seem too hard at times on people who are ‘weak’, and unable to speak up for themselves or know their own minds.

Compared to her other book series, I think over all, the structure of these books, even the characters are a lot like her other six-book series St Clares, which feature Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan, Twins who initially want to go a more exclusive school but finally find St Clares to be the place for them, sensibly picked by their parents of course. But while the Malory Towers girls play tricks like the St Clares ones, they don’t I think have any midnight feasts in any of the books, which the St Clares girls most certainly do. Also, in the Malory Towers books, there are sometimes characters who are supposed to have joined in terms that we were never part of (the ones not in the books), and we’re are introduced to them later, which again, if I remember does not happen as much in St Clares. Whyteleaf school in the Naughtiest Girl stories is more radical in terms of how the student body functions and such, and is also different in other respects.

But, similarities and differences aside, Malory Towers turned out to be an enjoyable series to revisit, for me especially since I haven’t read these as much as a child as I did the St Clares books. It gives a fun picture of school life but also a realistic one with ups and downs, lessons and sport, study and tricks, different people, but most importantly, of the journey itself.

Have you read this series or any of the individual books? How do you find them in comparison to other school series (by Blyton or other authors)? Which are some of your favourite school series/books? Looking forward to you thoughts and recommendations!

My reviews of the all the books in the series are here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Find some interesting Malory Towers posts (there are plenty) on the World of Blyton blog here and here and on the Blyton Society Page here; a fellow-blogger’s review of a stage adaptation of the books here

Shelf Control #74: Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel #TBR #Science #Biography

Wednesday, the 22nd of January–Shelf Control time once again! A weekly feature hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, Shelf Control celebrates the books waiting to be read on your TBR piles/mountains. To participate, all you do is 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’s pick is a biography, but one very different from the usual. Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel tells the story of Galileo through some surviving letters of his daughter, Sister Marie Celeste. First published in 1999, this book was nominated in 2000 for the Pulitzer Prize for biography or autobiography.

Suor Marie Celeste was the eldest of Galileo’s children and is said to have ‘best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility’. As his children were illegitimate and had little prospect of marriage, Virginia (who became Marie Celeste) and her sister were placed in a convent, where Virginia took the veil in 1616. The letters she wrote to her father show great love and respect towards him; these exchanges also enabled her to keep abreast of happenings outside the convent. She had genuine interest in her father’s work and even offered her own opinions from time to time. The book takes us into the world of science, but also into life in the period, the Florence of the Medicis, and the papal court in Rome.

Of course, the book is more about Galileo than his daughter, and about his scientific work, not just his work with the telescope but also on sunspots which Sobel claims he also investigated. This book sounds to me like a really interesting read; I enjoy reading history, including history of science books, and the format of this being very different from the usual biographies; in that is not just focused on Galileo’s science but also his and his daughter’s life, I am really looking forward to picking this up. I have previously enjoyed books by Dava Sobel, especially Longitude, the story of John Harrison, creator of the first accurate chronometer.

Born in 1947, Dava Sobel is a freelance science writer and columnist, and has written various science-related books exploring the science as well as the people who worked with it. [I have written a full-length post about Sobel and her works previously-here].

Have you read this one before or any of Sobel’s other works? Which ones and how did you find them? Do you enjoy reading history of science? Which are some favourites? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

p.s. I will have a post on history of science favourites soon.

As always info on the book is from goodreads (here) and wikipedia (here)

Find reviews of Galileo’s Daughter by fellow bloggers (here) and (here)

#MurderousMondays: The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

#MurderousMondays is a feature started by Mackey at Macsbooks, to share her latest murder read. A historical mystery, a contemporary, paranormal, or cosy–there are so many kinds of murder mysteries, and if you’re reading any, you can share them in this feature too!

The Vanishing Stair is book 2 in the Truly Devious Trilogy (my review of book 1 Truly Devious, is here). The story is set in Ellingham Academy, a residential school in Vermont which takes only gifted students, each of whom have a specific interest, and encourages them to hone those skills through curricula designed accordingly. In the 1930s, when Ellingham was first established, the founder Albert Ellingham’s wife and three-year-old child were kidnapped never to be found again. His wife’s body was recovered a few days later, but nothing was ever heard of his daughter Alice. Another student at the academy, Dottie Epstein had also disappeared at the same time. Before the events, Ellingham had received threats including from someone mysterious who called themselves Truly Devious—a riddle in a letter with letters cut out from newspapers. A man was arrested for the crime, but many believed that he wasn’t actually responsible. These include in the present day, Stevie Bell, a young student with a special interest in true crime, and particularly the Ellingham case.  In the first book, she gets into the Academy, and is on the way to realise her dream of actually solving the case. But her investigations she finds are not confined to the events of the past for it seems Truly Devious might strike again, and in fact does, when a student she was working with on a reconstruction of the crime, is killed.

In this one, the story picks up from where we left off in previous book. After Stevie had picked up on a clue to the present-day murder and pointed it out, leading another student to run, her parents pulled her out of Ellingham for her safety. But now another, unexpected chance appears for her to return, but one that has a condition that isn’t the most welcome one. Still being her only chance to go back, Stevie accepts. Back at Ellingham, she soon fits back into what has become her home, with her friends and begins work once again on the two cases, mostly the Ellingham case. Ellie, the girl who had vanished has not been seen or heard from since the time, and Stevie doesn’t seem to know where she might have gotten to, while others seem to give rather unconvincing suggestions. But Stevie has clues to more than one aspect of the old case, and she is keen to continue piecing it together. Meanwhile she also gets a chance to assist a professor with her research on the Ellingham case. The professor, Fenton, has written one book on the case already, and is planning another and claims that if some details check out she will be able to solve the puzzle. It is here that Stevie is supposed to help. But another new character, Fenton’s nephew Hunter suggests she might have other motives too. Meanwhile Stevie must also keep up her end of the bargain for returning to Ellingham which is causing her a dilemma between her own feelings and ‘a deal with the devil’ so to speak. Also, as in the previous book, the story goes back and forth between present-day events and those in the past, and these give us answers which even Stevie doesn’t know so far.

I read this instalment almost eight months after reading the first one, so while I remembered the broad storyline and some of the characters, many of the details had disappeared as well as some of the characters; so when I started this one, it took me a while to get my head around everything and get back into the story. But once I was back into it, I once again found it to be an exciting and gripping read. While as I mentioned in my review of the first book, the whole mystery will be resolved only in the final book, there are plenty of important revelations in this one too, and it seems Stevie has pretty nearly solved the old case, well at least a major part of it. But events in the present day begin to get much more complicated, and the killer strikes yet again, with leaving us with more unsolved crimes, and only part of the answer to the old one. I thought it ended with a good mix of answers and new and old questions, and left me excited to see how everything finally turns out. Also it certainly does give you a creepy feeling when reading it! Great read once again.

Malory Towers Challenge: Last Term at Malory Towers by #EnidBlyton

The final Malory Towers book, and thus the final part of my revisit of these books, which I ended up picking up many months after I’d read book 5. In this one Darrell and Sally, and the rest of their form are returning to Malory Towers for their last term. Darrell and Sally and also Alicia and Betty are headed after that to college—St Andrews in Scotland, while Irene will go on to study music and Belinda art. Bill (Wilhemina) and Clarissa also have plans of their own to the others’ surprise. Being their last term, Sally and Darrell want to savour every moment and Darrell, now the head-girl, takes in the new students to Miss Grayling to hear once more the wise words she says to every new student. Being in the sixth form, they don’t think there will be any new students but there are in fact two—the domineering Amanda, a genius at sport who has come to Malory Towers because her own school Treningan Towers was destroyed in a fire, and is inclined to turn up her nose at the fact that Malory Towers isn’t as focused on sport as her old school was. And there is Suzanne, a French girl, Mam’zelle Rougier’s nice who speaks as all EB’s French characters too—with an exaggerated style but is still likeable and good fun. The term is as usual a mix of work and play, with some conflict thrown in.

Now that the sixth formers’ time at Malory is coming to an end, the only question before them is what they have made of their time at the school. While some like Darrell and Sally have learnt to overcome their flaws or at least be more in control of them, others like Alicia continue to be as they are but perhaps in a milder form. But of all of them, it is Gwen (Gwendolen Mary Lacy) who has gained absolutely nothing from her time there—and continues to be as she always was, no longer even listening to her governess Miss Winter who seems to be talking some sense rather than simply pandering to her now. Amanda too is difficult and clashes with the equally headstrong Moira, but when she decides to coach June, Alicia’s cousin, in tennis and swimming, as she sees a lot of potential in her, the project turns out to be good for them both. But there is also the inevitable clash of two rather strong personalities. Among the younger ones, the spoiled Jo Jones is a misfit, encouraged by her brash father to do just as she likes, and she ends up not just putting off her fellow students but taking steps from which there can be no return. And on a lighter note, since the sixth formers are now no longer in a position to play tricks, this too falls to the younger ones with the Mam’zelles once again being at the receiving end.

This was an enjoyable close to the series with both light moments as well as grave ones. Many of the girls have their certificate exams to take though Darrell and Sally don’t find it as hard since they have been putting in work consistently. But academic issues apart, there are plenty of dilemmas and crises in some of their lives. Gwen for one refuses to see sense, even though Miss Grayling charges Darrell to try one last time, and continues to pursue her own path. But lessons must be learnt in life and poor Gwen has to end up learning the hard way. Amanda too has to learn hers when she thinks certain advice is inapplicable to her. Among the younger ones too, this is the case for some of them. But whether the hard way or on their own, most of them at the end learn to face up to their flaws and perhaps try to work at being better. Of course (while not defending all of the characters), EB does have certain preconceptions or fixed ideas of how children should be to be ‘good’ or ‘appreciated’ as against being looked down upon which sometimes may be isn’t so accepting of difference; at the same time, I like the fact that even her main characters like Darrell and Sally are not without their flaws, and realistically, these don’t magically vanish or are magically overcome either but must be faced again and again, and dealt with.

But of course all is not as grave and bleak as I may have made it sound, there are plenty of fun moments too—no plays or performances but there are tricks, this time played by the younger ones—Felicity and June’s form—one involving a magnet and the Mam’zelles’ hairpins, which turns out so much fun that they decide to give the sixth formers a chance to enjoy themselves as well, finding excuses to play it in their form too, not once but twice, and with something further added on. Suzanne, the French girl, is like Claudine from St Clare’s, with ‘piggyhoolear’ English, and an outlook much like EB’s notion of ‘foreigners’ (and why she faces criticism) adds a further touch of humour.

I liked how the series wrapped up with us being told what lies ahead for all the students, even ones who’ve left, though overall, it was perhaps on a graver note than the rest of the books.

I’ll have a review of the full series up soon as well.

Interesting Anne Brontë Facts on Her 200th

Anne Brontë by brother Branwell,
National Portrait Gallery [Public domain]
Via Wikimedia Commons

17th January 2020! On this day, two hundred years ago, in Thornton, Yorkshire was born novelist and poet Anne Brontë, the youngest of the Brontë family. Not long after her birth, the family moved to Haworth Parsonage. She was barely one when are mother became ill of what is thought to be cancer, and died. Their aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, who had moved to the parsonage to nurse her ailing sister, stayed on to look after the children. Anne was educated at home, and in Roe Head school. She learnt reading and writing, Latin, needlework, music, and painting. Between 1836 and 1837, she also attended a boarding school in Mirfield. Anne went out to work as a governess between 1839 and 1845, working for two different families. The first was for a shorter period of a few months, the latter almost five years with the Robinson family at Thorp Green Hall. In 1845, after the sisters discovered each other’s poems, they selected poems by each of them for publication. In December 1847, Anne’s first novel Agnes Grey was published in three volumes. Her second novel, The Tenant at Wildfell Hall, also appeared in three volumes some months later, in June 1848. Both books were published under her pseudonym Acton Bell as were the sisters’ poems. Towards the end of that year, Anne fell ill with influenza, and was later diagnosed with consumption. She died in May, 1929, aged only twenty-nine.

As a fellow blogger (here) mentions, facts about Charlotte are easier to find than about Anne, still like her, I have tried to compile a few I found from various sources. All my sources are listed below as are a few bios of Anne and reviews of her works, should you like to explore more about the youngest Brontë.

  • Anne is described as having been ‘different in appearance from the others [with “violet-blue eyes, finely penciled eyebrows, and a clear, almost transparent complexion’, and light brown hair], and her aunt’s favourite’.
  • With sister Emily, Anne created the imaginary world of Gondal, which consisted of four kingdoms, about which they wrote verse and prose (more about Gondal here). The first of Anne’s known poems, ‘Verses by Lady Geralda’, dating to 1836, is set in Gondal as is ‘Alexander and Genobia’, from 1837. The verses have survived but not the prose.
  • Anne contributed 21 poems to the book of poems she and her sisters published under the names, Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Emily also contributed the same number while Charlotte wrote 19. Published in 1846, this book did rather badly, selling only two copies in its first year. However, it did get good reviews.
Anne Brontë by Charlotte
via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anne_Bronte.jpg
  • At nineteen, Anne went out to work as a governess. Anne’s first book Agnes Grey, was based on her experiences on this job, the title-character Agnes, sharing a lot in common with Anne herself.
  • He second book, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, was based also on real life experiences. Specifically, their brother Branwell’s struggles with alcoholism and drugs was the inspiration for the antagonist in the book.
  • Anne’s writing style was less romantic and more realistic than that of her sisters.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is seen as a ‘groundbreaking feminist work’.
  • After Anne died, Charlotte prevented the republication of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in England (not in America), according to some to protect Anne against onslaughts because of its subject, while some even feel it was due to jealousy of Anne. Consequently, the book was almost forgotten. It was republished only in 1854.
  • Anne may have had a possible speech impediment.
  • She was known as the less talented and meeker Bronte sister. Yet, in 1924, in Conversations in Ebury Street, George Moore wrote that ‘if Anne Brontë had lived ten years longer, she would have taken a place beside Jane Austen, perhaps even a higher place’.
Another of Anne b y Charlotte
via Wikimedia Commons
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AnneBronte.jpg
  • Find: A detailed bio of Anne here and on Wikipedia here
  • A page dedicated to her here
  • A review of Agnes Grey here highlighting why the book ended up being overlooked despite its merits.
  • A review of Agnes Grey (here) by a blogger who ‘enjoys the narrative voice of Agnes Grey‘.
  • A pretty craft cover of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, with tweed and embroidery by a fellow-blogger, commemorating Anne’s 200th (here)
  • On the Folio Society Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (here)

Have you read either (or both) of Anne Brontë’s books? How did you find them? What about her poetry? Any favourites you’d like to recommend? Any other interesting tidbits that you’d like to add? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Shelf Control #73: The Draycott Murder Mystery by Molly Thynne #TBR #GoldenAge #Mystery

Wednesday, the 15th of January–Shelf Control time once again! 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, all you do is 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!

After featuring a biography and an autobiography the first two weeks this year, in week 3, I’m back to a more usual suspect–a murder mystery, and of course, a Golden Age one. The Draycott Murder Mystery, published in 1928, is by Molly Thynne, an author I haven’t read before. I got this one again on kindle. The description is rather intriguing with some scary/creepy elements as well.

I quote it verbatim: ‘A howling gale … A lonely farmhouse … the tread of a mysterious stranger … and then the corpse of a beautiful blonde, seemingly stopped in the act of writing.‘ Sounds almost like the start of a mystery film, don’t you think? The case is being investigated by the local PC Gunnet, who naturally finds it a bit much. The farmer whose house the body is found in claims he has never set eyes on the woman before, but the police are not inclined to believe him for all the evidence is against him. And so he, John Leslie is tried and convicted. But then on the scene arrives an old ‘India hand’, Allen ‘Hatter’ Fayre, who finds that all is not as it seems in this case, and there is more than one suspect in the puzzle. The puzzle, it seems, ‘hing[es] enigmatically on the evidence of a fountain pen’.

The author: Born in 1881, Mary ‘Molly’ Thynne was a member of the aristocracy and grew up in Kensington. Betweem 1928 and 1933, she wrote six murder mysteries, three of which featured chess master and amateur sleuth, Dr Constantine.

As I said, I haven’t read this author before, but the description of the plot really intrigues me, from the scene in which the body is found, to the more typical aspect of the police jumping in on the most obvious suspect, and then of course the detective arriving to find that this was of course not the case. The hint pointing to the fountain pen also seems interesting–will I be able to pick up on it I wonder? Reviews of the book on goodreads are mixed (here) but many have said they did guess whodunit part of the way in. Still that doesn’t necessarily always spoils one’s enjoyment of the book (as I have been finding with many of the Angela Marchmont books I’ve been reading recently). So I am certainly looking forward to giving this one a try.

Have you read this one or any other books by this author? Which ones and how did you find them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!

Some reviews of the book by fellow bloggers are here (In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel who highly recommends it) and here (Beyond Eden Rock, who found, reading the book ‘left [her] eager to read the rest of Molly Thynne’s work’).