I have read this as part of a Twitter History Bookclub, however, it is not like I really needed an excuse, as I have been kee to get my hands on a copy as soon as I knew this book was going to be brought to the world.
I am fascinated by stories from history – good job as I am a history teacher. And, like many who have a passion for history, it was not any of the big stories or artefacts that sparked that passion – it was a story of a portrait and an execution, told to me by a Beefeater at the Tower of London. So, ‘Dead Famous’ is perfect, despite being about the history of celebrity, for lovers of some of those lesser-known tales. You will have heard of some of the characters you encounter, but, for me, much of the joy came from reading tales of those that I did not know. Again, sparking an interst to find out so much more (pleased to say Greg Jenner kindly supplies additonal reading material at the end – so don’t be surprised if your to-be-read pile shoots up).
This book is beautifully written, with humour throughout, is not a daunting read, but fully informative as it attempts to tackle the complex idea of celebrity; something that you will certainly be left rethinking by the end of the book.
I can certainly call this book a lockdown highlight and would urge you to pick up a copy if you can. You may come to the end of it with a new love of histoty, or at least much more of an idea of exactly what makes a celebrity, ot what creates a celebrated figure.
Why did I not pick this book off the shelf sooner? This could be one of my favourite reads of 2020. What a book!
Hallie Rubenhold has told the story of five fascinating women who, over time, may have lost some of their identity. These are the women who became victims of the infamous Jack the Ripper. I hesitate to refer to ‘The Five’ as this, though, because they were, of course, so much more and it suggests that ‘Jack the Ripper’ is almost the one who deserves the attention. (Don’t get me wrong I have had and still have an interest in one of the most famous unsolved crimes of all time, but now I have a different perspective).
This book, introduces the context, tells the full tale of Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate and Mary-Jane, and reaches a fascinating conclusion. I felt like I learned so much about these people, misconceptions were broken down and clear historical context added. This is not a story linked only to Whitechapel, but a story about England and beyond. These women were victims of their circumstances, tragedy was almost written in the stars, and we should remember the five women as they lived and not just for how they died, providing fuel for the Victorian media circus.
Rubenhold’s book gives them back their identity and, by the end , they are most certainly not just ‘The Five’.
Early this year, I read ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’, so spent a lot of the rest of the year waiting for this one to come out in paperback. Therefore, it was a great choice for my ‘Non-Fiction November’.
The best thing about these books is that they are a short and sweet introduction to some wonderfully fascinating women who you want to find out more about. Of course, this is not a definitive collection of fabulous females – and you may not agree with all of Murray’s choices – but you will certainly learn something.
As I read about some women who I had never come across – such as Pharaoh Hatshepsut – I found myself admiring the determination of all of these women who have all fought for their place in ‘Her-story’, often against all odds.
The stories that really made me think and have left me wanting to find out even more were those of Joan of Arc, Marie Curie and Artemisa Gentileschi. Of course, I have a working knowledge of the first two women, but now I want to find out even more about them to draw my own conclusions. However, Artemisa Gentileschi was a figure new to me and her story, as well as her art, has really caught my attention.
All of these stories are those of women who have changed the world. In their own way, they have made an impact on the history of the world, and should be an inspiration to us all to make our mark.
There is only one small issue with the book. A teeny, tiny one that even had me texting my mum for confirmation. The book suggests in the TV series ‘Morse’ you never find out Inspector Morse’s christian name. However, as a dedicated fan (I was brought up on all the classics), I can confirm that this is incorrect – you do indeed find out his christian name. But, let’s be honest, it does not stop it from being a great book.
This is a book that I challenge you not to read in the Jonathan’s dulcet tones – in fact, he even makes reference to the fact that, as a reader, you may be doing exactly that.
Anyway, down to business: book two of ‘Non-fiction November’ is ‘Over The Top’ from another star of my beloved ‘Queer Eye’. Jonathan Van Ness is responsible for grooming on the show (just in case you have never seen it – which, of course you have). However, he does not make his tale about ‘Queer Eye’. I mean, do not get me wrong, it gets a mention, but it is not the full focus of the book. This is a bit of a warts-and-all telling of the journey Jonathan Van Ness has been on to become who he is today.
This not a book for the faint-hearted, as Jonathan is honest about the demons and struggles he has had in his life. However, it is told, at times, with humour and always with strong emotion. This is not a sob story, but it will allow you to build even nore respect for Jonathan.
An interesting point was that Jonathan presents meeting Karamo very much as Tan did in his book. And the way that they talk about their time on the show suggests they are really the team that we see on the screen – which makes me happy!
I feel that putting this book together was an important step for Jonathan Van Ness on his journey, and I am so glad that he has put pen to paper, because it will be a story to help others.
Again, I am late to the book party. ‘This is Going to Hurt’ has been all over the book world since it was published, however I was never sure it was the book for me. Yet I gave in and decided to give it a go. My word, it really is a book for me.
Adam Kay has shared with the world his diaries from his medical days. His own secret diaries from his shifts on the front line working for the NHS. This is one of the most revealing books about life on the hospital wards that you are likely to read.
There is such humour in the writing (not sure it is always intentional) some moments of horror (especially if you are squeamish) and real heartbreak. In fact, never has a book had quite such a powerful ending.
What is clear about this account is that it has not been written to name and shame the NHS. However, it does show the frustration that Kay felt working in such a profession that is being forced to survive in such difficult circurmstances thanks to outside factors. It is obvious why so many are forced out of such careers, despite their best efforts.
This is a book that I hope mamy of the readers in the UK – and maybe even the world – will pick up to educate themselves and raise their awareness of the medical world.
Have you read a memoir that is like an education?
As you may have realised, I am a fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, in turn, a fan of the TV adaptation with David Suchet in the role of Poirot. This book seemed it would be a perfect read to offer a little insight into the work of Suchet as the iconic Belgian detective , which spanned 25 years and included all of the Poirot stories being brought to the small screen.
The book starts incredibly emotionally at the end, with Poirot’s final case, ‘Curtain’, and led me to shed a few tears. Suchet writes about Poirot with such love and affection that you are immediately drawn in and almost forget that he is in fact a fictional character. We are then taken back to the beginning of Suchet and Poirot’s story and taken on their journey.
David Suchet explains the process he went through to create the Poirot he believes would do Christie’s work justice. How he stood up for the man he created to ensure that Poirot remained ‘real’. Each story is described as it was made, with anecdotes about those many actors who starred alongside Suchet to bring us these wonderful stories. The dynamics between Poirot and Hastings, as well as Inspector Japp and Miss Lemon, is always spoken of with great affection and is something that I always think is clear when you watch the episodes. Although, I feel that I was always as disappointed as Suchet when these three were not in the stories – but I guess it is always best to try to be loyal to original works.
David Suchet does not restrict his tales to Poirot; he also offers insight into other parts of his work during the Poirot years. In fact, the story about a Duke and a mango was one of my favourites – especially as it made its way into a Poirot.
This book was a lovely insight into the world of one of our best-loved actors playing one of our most-loved fictional characters. It has certainly filled me with a desire to rewatch all the Poirot episodes. This is so much more than the memoir of Suchet – it is the memoir of Poirot!