Dec 20th – Queen Anne: the politics of passion by Anne Somerset

“She ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1702, at age thirty-seven, Britain’s last Stuart monarch, and five years later united two of her realms, England and Scotland, as a sovereign state, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. She had a history of personal misfortune, overcoming ill health (she suffered from crippling arthritis; by the time she became Queen she was a virtual invalid) and living through seventeen miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births in seventeen years. By the end of her comparatively short twelve-year reign, Britain had emerged as a great power; the succession of outstanding victories won by her general, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, had humbled France and laid the foundations for Britain’s future naval and colonial supremacy.

While the Queen’s military was performing dazzling exploits on the continent, her own attention—indeed her realm—rested on a more intimate conflict: the female friendship on which her happiness had for decades depended and which became for her a source of utter torment.” (Amazon blurb)

queen AnneWhy read Queen Anne: the politics of passion?

Two excellent reasons. First, because I went to see The Favourite yesterday. I loved it. Amazing acting and some hilarious one-liners. I wasn’t totally sold on the bunnies but all-in-all it’s a film I thoroughly enjoyed. All the clothes, sets and cinematography were just a pleasure to behold. The film is historical fiction, however, and I’m fascinated to learn what was true and what wasn’t etc. – hence the book choice.

Then reason 2. Queen Anne: the politics of passion is written by Anne Somerset. Not only did her book about the Affair of the Poisons massively inform the story in my first novel, Charlatan, but Anne Somerset also was extremely kind to me during the writing of it, said lovely things about it and let me quote her on the cover of the novel. In the land of the lowly new novelist without the backing of a big publisher that was a big, big, deal to me.

If Queen Anne: the politcs of passion is half as good a book as The Affair of the Poisons, and if Queen Anne’s life is half as interesting as it appeared in The Favourite, then this will be a great read.

Day 10: The History of Underclothes

“Underwear — practical garments with a utilitarian function or body coverings that serve an erotic purpose? As this fascinating and intelligently written study shows, the role played by underclothing over the last several centuries has been a varied one.
In a well-documented, profusely illustrated volume combining impressive scholarship with an entertaining, often humorous style, two distinguished clothing historians consider undergarments worn by the English over the past 600 years. Beginning with the Middle Ages, the authors cover centuries of clothing history, including the Tudor period, the Restoration, the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and the twentieth century up to the eve of World War II. Drawing on extensive, research, the Cunningtons illuminate the role and function of underwear: it protected the wearer against the elements, supported costume shapes, served as an erotic stimulus, symbolized class distinctions, and fulfilled other social, sanitary, and economic functions.
Enhancing the detailed, comprehensive text are more than 100 period illustrations and photographs depicting a laced-up bodice of the twelfth century, embroidered linen drawers of the sixteenth century, a hooped petticoat support in bentwood (c. 1750), footed long drawers (1795), nineteenth-century bustles, early nineteenth-century corsets for men, “Frillies for the Tiny Lady” (1939), and much more. A bibliography, appendix, and index complete a valuable reference work that will appeal to costume historians, sociologists, and other readers.” (Amazon blurb)

Why read The History of Underclothes?

history of underclothesDo I even need to answer that? I can’t wait to read this book. Even if I’m not planning on mentioning my character’s underwear, I really think I ought to know what’s going on (or not) in this department. I’ve recently ‘jumped’ period and been writing a novel set in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries so I’ve had a lot of new stuff to learn. One of the things I like about this new book is that the two time periods – although only thirty years apart – are quite different. Think cars, the telephone, electric light. But also think goodbye corsets and hello bras. I’ve had a lot of ground to cover and definitely think I could do with this book to make sure I’m not making any major gaffes. Plus what if I jump period again? Maybe back in time, I’m thinking. Way back. Watch this space…

Dec 4th: Georgian London, Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis

“In Georgian London: Into the Streets, Lucy Inglis takes readers on a tour of London’s most formative age—the age of love, sex, intellect, art, great ambition, and fantastic ruin. Travel back to the Georgian years, a time that changed expectations of what life could be. Peek into the gilded drawing rooms of the aristocracy, walk down the quiet avenues of the new middle class, and crouch in the damp doorways of the poor. But watch your wallet—tourists make perfect prey for the thriving community of hawkers, prostitutes, and scavengers. Visit the madhouses of Hackney, the workshops of Soho, and the mean streets of Cheapside. Have a coffee in the city, check the stock exchange, and pop into St Paul’s to see progress on the new dome. This book is about the Georgians who called London their home, from dukes and artists to rent boys and hot air balloonists meeting dog-nappers and life-models along the way. It investigates the legacies they left us in architecture and art, science, and society, and shows the making of the capital millions know and love today.” (Amazon blurb)

georgianlondonWhy read In Georgian London?

Honestly, I love this kind of book. It’s meat and drink for me as a novelist. Often when I’m writing it’s the nit and grit of everyday life that’s needed to make a period come alive. I’ve no plans right now to write a novel set in Georgian London but, as a die-hard Georgette Heyer fan, I don’t want to rule it out. If I just happened to have this book on my bookshelves, who knows what might happen 😉

 

For The Road to Newgate, these two books in a similar vein were brilliant for writing about the 17th Century:

 

Dec 2: The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker

“For 200 years after 1650 the West Indies were the most fought-over colonies in the world, as Europeans made and lost immense fortunes growing and trading in sugar – a commodity so lucrative that it was known as white gold.

Young men, beset by death and disease, an ocean away from the moral anchors of life in Britain, created immense dynastic wealth but produced a society poisoned by war, sickness, cruelty and corruption.

The Sugar Barons explores the lives and experiences of those whose fortunes rose and fell with the West Indian empire. From the ambitious and brilliant entrepreneurs, to the grandees wielding power across the Atlantic, to the inheritors often consumed by decadence, disgrace and madness, this is the compelling story of how a few small islands and a handful of families decisively shaped the British Empire.” (Amazon blurb)

 

Screen Shot 2018-12-01 at 9.34.06 PMWhy read The Sugar Barons?

This book was recommended to me recently by my father-in-law and he was really enthusiastic about it. Of course, I love the period – 17th & 18th centuries – and the transatlantic aspect really appeals to me as a Brit living in the States. I’m also pretty sucked in by the subtitle: Family, Corruption, Empire and War.

One of the reviews I read has this line which really is what I’m always looking for when I’m first getting to know a period/event:

What I really enjoy about Mathew Parker’s style is his ingenious way of getting you hooked with one or two personal stories of individuals and families; And once he has you, the process of historical extrapolation becomes much more readable.”

Definitely think this is the kind of book that might inspire a really fascinating historical novel…