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Dress fabric to lust after

Blackberry and Wild Rose Book Cover Blackberry and Wild Rose
Sonia Velton
Historical Fiction , Women's Fiction
Quercus Books
10 Jan 2019

For fans of Jessie Burton and Tracy Chevalier, a rich historical debut set among the Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields in the late 18th century.

WHEN Esther Thorel, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God's will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping 'madam' is too good to refuse.

Inside the  Thorels' tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress's blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

It is silk that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she strikes up a relationship with one of the journeyman weavers in her attic who teaches her to weave and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household.

Spitalfields is an area of London that has always fascinated me, with its tall houses topped by glassed in roofs.

I knew that it had been settled by the Huguenot weavers when they came to Britain fleeing religious persecution in France, but knew little about the actual people other than their religion and that they wove silk.

This was also the time of the East India company’s explorations and settlement into the Far East, India, Alaska and North America. When they brought back furs, exotica and fabrics never before seen in England – and cheaper than silk too. Which is where this novel comes in.

I really enjoyed this faction/fiction about this period in history but would have been more impressed with the knowledge and storyline if I hadn’t heard about the book published just a year ago by Liz Trenow The Silk Weaver which is the (fictionalised) story of Anna Maria Garthwaite (as her real history has not been fully documented), who was the person who came to London and produced the realistic and beautifully detailed designs for silks, that in this story by Sonia Velton, is Esther’s role. Anna even persuaded a weaver to work on her silk as his Master piece. The flowers are amazingly detailed and must have taken a very long time to weave, stitch by stich, by hand, as mechanized weaving was not yet available for these fabrics, and the designs are woven in and not printed on.

This is an example of Anna Maria’s silk as held in the Victoria and Albert’s collection.

This is designed by an unknown silk weaver – held in the V&A’s Collection

Sonia’s story takes some of the facts about the Combinations, the Cutters’ Riots, and the hangings (there were 2 men hanged historically) and the known riots by the weavers as a direct result of the bringing in of printed calico and thus the drop in demand for silk, and the resultant loss of work and pay. But as my husband would say, there was always a small riot in London, they just never managed a big enough one to rival the French!

I enjoyed Sonia’s story nevertheless and found it well written and I did invest in the characters and the difficulties of life as a woman in this time – and how bad life was in London if you were poor – this is the time Hogarth painted his Gin Lanes and women feeding children gin to keep them quiet as they lacked food or milk.

But 2 novels published in the same year effectively about the same period with a similar cast of characters brings down the ranking of the second one.

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Clockwerk and Mapwerk?






The Watchmaker's Daughter Book Cover




The Watchmaker's Daughter




Glass and Steele #1/#2





C.J. Archer





Historical Crime, Thrillers & Mystery,  Romance, Fantasy




C.J. Archer




June 28, 2016




380



DESCRIPTION India Steele is desperate. Her father is dead, her fiancé took her inheritance, and no one will employ her, despite years working for her watchmaker father. Indeed, the other London watchmakers seem frightened of her. Alone, poor, and at the end of her tether, India takes employment with the only person who'll accept her - an enigmatic and mysterious man from America. A man who possesses a strange watch that rejuvenates him when he's ill. Matthew Glass must find a particular watchmaker, but he won't tell India why any old one won't do. Nor will he tell her what he does back home, and how he can afford to stay in a house in one of London's best streets. So when she reads about an American outlaw known as the Dark Rider arriving in England, she suspects Mr. Glass is the fugitive. When danger comes to their door, she's certain of it. But if she notifies the authorities, she'll find herself unemployed and homeless again - and she will have betrayed the man who saved her life. With a cast of quirky characters, an intriguing mystery, and a dash of romance, THE WATCHMAKER'S DAUGHTER is the start of a thrilling new historical fantasy series from the author of the bestselling Ministry of Curiosities, Freak House, and Emily Chambers Spirit Medium books. KEYWORDS: historical mystery, historical fantasy, victorian era, victorian fantasy, steampunk, historical romance, paranormal romance, romantic fantasy, paranormal fantasy, magic, fantasy mystery, wild west, oulaws, victorian romance, alternate reality, magical realism

The Watchmaker’s Daughter/The Map Maker’s Apprentice

Part of the Glass and Steele series #1 and #2

I initially thought that these were Clockwerk Urban/Steampunk novels but realised soon that we were actually talking about the alternate Victorian London where there was magic. So I was slightly disappointed at beginning.

But …. then I liked the stories in these 2 books but agree with some reviewers that the language used was not typical English Victorian, but this didn’t bother me as this was not ‘our’ Victorian world after all.

We did see the typical prejudice of the time against women played out well and hidden beneath it, we finally discover, is the prejudice against craftsmen who have a different and rather special skill – magic.

Book #1 was rather slow at times but I did buy the follow on book – however,  found myself not bothered enough to read any more of this series.  Book 1 was better than book 2 in my opinion. Book 2 was repetitive of book 1 and the theme not as strong.

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The Tigger’s 2015 in review: stats and more

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Now at the start of the year I made some a series of reasons why people should read this blog so that I could gain 1000 followers. I now have 385 that read this blog directly; 29 read through Tumblr; and 985 see my book reviews through my FaceBook page – https://www.facebook.com/elayne.coakes which does have other stuff on it too.

So what I said was:

  1. I don’t blog a lot about my health and moan about my family or the state of the union or be vehement about my politics or… I blog about a variety of subject matters that interest me and hopefully you, some of which, especially as the majority of my followers are from the US, may be unfamiliar to you;
  2. I write good grammatical English (UK spelling), properly punctuated, and I know how to use the apostrophe. I don’t usually write in stream of consciousness mode but nice precise paragraphs.
  3. I write about a good variety of subjects so you are very likely to find something to interest you in them  – from flowers and gardens, to crafts, to travel, to – in particular – books. Illustrated by my husband’s excellent photographs. As a European I get to a lot of countries you may wish to visit in Europe, but also have been to many more exotic locations such as China and India and these are  described here. More still to come on past adventures, but this year I shall be flying out to Boston and New York and cruising back on the Queen Mary 2; and also Ireland later in the summer for sure. [Sorry, 2015 has been dominated by books but still I did cover other items, and shall try to do better in 2016]
  4. I read a lot of books and write informative and well researched reviews that don’t give the plot away and are not summaries. There is no plot synopsis but a comment that will be relevant to the subject matter and will inform. [2015:This is absolutely still true and will continue to be so]
  5. If I can get over 1000 followers, I will be authorised by more publishers on the NetGalley site which means I will get to read yet more books that are just being published, and more books by new authors you may not yet have heard of. I shall endeavour to keep up the interviews with them that I have recently started. [2015:I now have at least one author interview a month, sometimes more, and I am recognised by several publishers as shown by my widgets including being in the Brash Priority Reveiwer’s Circle]

 Here are details of 2014’s activity to compare to this year’s:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 75 views. The most popular post that day was Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?. In 2014, there were 60 new posts.

Click here to see the complete report. for 2015.

And do please comment and come and read more posts!

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London Over and Under

London Over and Under: 

This is the post I have intended to write for a very long time but which has been sparked by the Tuesday Falling. In it the heroine lives under London in the forgotten and secret places and streets that still exist from all the previous Londons that have been built on and covered up.

I am going to go through the secret places that are mentioned in the book and then I will talk about some of the other secret places that exist. I take my research from a number of websites but also several books: Shakespeare’s London by Stephen Porter; I never knew that about London by Christopher Winn; London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling; Underground London by Stephen Smith; Vanished City by Tom Bolton; and London – City of Disappearances by Iain Sinclair.

 Places mentioned in Tuesday Falling:

The Marquis of Granby pub is at 41 Romney Street in the area known as Fitzrovia and also at 2 Rathbone Street!  Interestingly they are both owned by Nicholson’s.  It was named after the an 18th century war hero who rewarded officers from his own coin.  Only officers it would appear… John Manners – the Marquess as it was titled then, was a Lieutenant-General 1721-1779 and served in the 7 years war (which affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines) and eventually was named Commander In Chief of the Forces. It is said that he has more pubs named after him than any other person because he had the practice of setting up old soldiers from his regiment as publicans.

Brydges Place, Convent Garden,  is known as London’s narrowest alley. It is by the Coliseum and connects St Martin’s Lane with Bedfordbury.  The Marquis of Granby pub backs onto the alley – and it is this pub that was where Dickens drank. The Harp pub also has a back entrance into this alley harp-covent-garden-10.

Convent Garden itself is the heart of the market of the old Saxon town of London. Aldwych means ‘port’ in old Danish and we see his reference in the name of the church that peals out ‘Oranges and Lemons’ ie St Clemens (or Clements) Danes. [See the nursery rhyme details below] This current church is a Wren design on the ruins of an older church an dthe rumoured burial place of Harold Harefoot, the Danish king.

Westminster also sees the River Tyburn flowing through it. ‘Ty’ meaning boundary and one can see why here as there were many boundaries for it to chart through the ages.

Convent Garden is of course famous for its Flower Market and theatres and opera house where one could find various forms of companionship amongst those wandering there as well as purchase the odd nosegay…

Now it has been revitalised as a tourist destination with outdoor entertainment and stalls selling handicrafts and other trinkets as well as some trendy eateries.

Nursery Rhyme:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great Bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Interestingly the earlier versions of the rhyme do not have the last 2 lines in them – those which are of course, the childrens’ favourites! However there is a another version of the rhyme which is more sinister:

oranges

chopper

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A period of recreation and rest is here:

For those who engaged in gardening for recreation not profit, according to the Gardener’s Almanac. Certainly we are beginning to wind our efforts in my garden, but still our Yellow book (National Garden /scheme) doesn’t happen until mid July, so we need to keep up our efforts and maintain the peak of perfection (!) we have achieved.

According to St Phocas, a gardener from the 3rd century AD the so-called dog days are 3rd July to 11th August and are the hottest of the year. So clearly we need to keep a wary eye on our plants and ensure they are well watered. there is an argument raging about whether you water in the evening or  the early morning – ie about 6am or even 5am if you can get up. I guess it all depends on whether or not you can get a mildew over-night. Just how susceptible are your plants?

When we open again for visits we have decided to open in late May or early June as our garden is really beautiful now. so here are some of our flowers –

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White clematis and Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

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Anemone Blanda

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Phormium and artwork

begonia and nettle

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Flowering pear and crab apple

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Red perennial wallflower

Elayne Coakes urban garden in North Lonodn featuring clematis integrifolia herbaceous

Elayne Coakes’ urban garden in North London

hellebore double yellow speckled

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Freckles: winter flowering

Hellebore_double_apricot[2]

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Clematis Wessleton

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Black Tulip magnolia

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Orange tulips and Euphorbia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the roses are coming out too….

 

you can see more of our flowers on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/gardening4bees

and come and see our garden if you are in London on July 5th in the afternoon.

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