20 January 2018

The Weekend 'Did you miss...:?

It is the weekend - so no reviews,

but did you miss....

and did you find a few moments 
(perhaps during coffee break or lunch)
 to read our series of Diamond Tales?

Don't worry if you missed them - they are all still here! Start with Richard Tearle's Diamond Story.

And why not browse our INDEX PAGE, to see what else of interest you might have missed?

see you all Monday, when we have our Mid-Month Extra post
this month an interesting article by Inge H. Borg

19 January 2018

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Wolf Banner by Paula Lofting

AMAZONUK £2.41 £10.99

Fictional drama / military
1066 era

Book two Sons of the Wolf series

“1056...England lurches towards war as the rebellious Lord Alfgar plots against the indolent King Edward. Sussex thegn, Wulfhere, must defy both his lord, Harold Godwinson, and his bitter enemy, Helghi, to protect his beloved daughter.
As the shadow of war stretches across the land, a more personal battle rages at home, and when it follows him into battle, he knows he must keep his wits about him more than ever, and courage and fear must become his armour…”

One thing Ms Lofting does very well is create believable detail of time, place and action. Her research is impeccable, her depictions of everyday life in the mid-eleventh century are detailed, and her battle scenes are vividly realistic.

Book two of her Sons of the Wolf series include an interesting set of characters – some real people from history, others imagine, what makes them all interesting is that most, particularly the main characters, are not perfect people, they have their flaws, their good side and bad side. 

Some of the characters I liked very much, others I did not, which also gives this tale of upheaval, trauma (and hope!) that genuine feel of reality. There are scenes of joy, scenes of fear, scenes of laughter and scenes of terror, all blended into the factual elements of the actual period, in this case King Edward (the Confessor), Earl Harold Godwinson and the Welsh King Gryffud, with a few rampaging Viking Danes thrown in for good measure.

This is a second book, and I believe there is to be a third, which could explain the rather too many, in my view, loose ends that were left dangling, and I did feel I would have benefited from reading the first book to have made better sense of some of the sub-plots and what was motivating the characters in this one. The Wolf Banner is a somewhat lengthy and maybe some disciplined pruning would have benefited the tale, as some parts are a little over-flowery or drawn-out, giving it a slight 'romance' feel.

That said, for the energy the author has put into recreating those turbulent years that led to those fateful days of 1066, and the rich, knowledgeable, detail of the period this is a worthy read, especially by those who enjoy this particular period of history. Possibly not a book for readers who are squeamish about battle-scenes though. (Which is a shame as they are very realistic!)

© Mary Chapple

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18 January 2018

Earl of Shadows By Jacqueline Reiter

Shortlisted for Book of the Month

AMAZON UK £3.99 £7.99

AMAZON US $5.26 $8.99

Biographical Fiction 

I approached reading Earl of Shadows with slight trepidation, since it is set in a period of history I know little about. But within a few pages, I was intrigued by the two brothers, William and John Pitt, and the very human flaws rendered fascinating by the author's deft characterizations. A chapter or so later and a devastating blow to their family surrendered them to the fates. With me firmly at their side, each started on a path that would ultimately lead to their own destruction…and redemption.

Ms Reiter’s exceptional research is an effortless foundation for a tale of two brothers – William is charismatic, brilliant and set on a meteoric career in politics. His older brother, John, Earl of Chatham, is destined to be subordinate to the mercurial and clever William. If that was not enough to serve up conflict aplenty, a sea change in English society upsets their world order, and an embittered political confrontation plays out in their daily lives. But it is the small and compelling details that turn this from a fascinating biography into enthralling historical fiction.

At about Chapter Five, I put the Earl of Shadows aside for an hour or two and rolled up my sleeves to familiarize myself with the political and social climate of England in the late 1780s (which to be honest, I had not considered since high school history). But such was the detail written into the novel that I wanted to understand the background, while absorbing the characters and emotional drivers of the two brothers and their fatalistic love-hate relationship. I would recommend anyone not familiar with this period of history to do the same; it significantly heightened my enjoyment of the book.

The beauty of the writing is the events told through the eyes of a flawed character. John is well aware of his weaknesses, and yet is driven to continue to repeat his errors throughout his life. And, reflected in the glory of his successful younger brother, the Earl of Chatham continues to struggle to feel good about himself, his marriage, his role in the world.

Throughout the novel, the 18th Century is brought vividly to life by an author who obviously loves the period and has saturated her knowledge of history with colorful details and glorious interludes that bring us right into the action (I particularly enjoyed the carriage flight and fight along Pall Mall between White’s and Brooks’s clubs). The Court scenes are lavish and detailed, glowing with fabrics and jewels and pools of golden candlelight. And yet in the corners lurk the shadows, and even in a happy marriage with the lovely Mary, John still carries his angst with him.

Without spoiling the end, I thought Ms Reiter brought this beautifully wrought novel to a fitting close at exactly the right point in the Earl of Chatham’s life. And as he mournfully returned to the shadows, part of this flawed but compelling man stayed with me in my heart; the true sign of a great novel. I hope there is more to come. Let me know when, so I can read up on the Walcheren Campaign. Actually, I think I need to go and read about it now. 

© Elizabeth St.John

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