Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Reading

Christmas at Mum's
Over Christmas I have  been reading Charles Dickens' Christmas Stories, a little edition that includes :
A Christmas Carol
The Cricket on the Hearth
The Chimes
The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain
The Battle of Life

Lots of Victorian sentimentality, angelic women and bad men.  Lovely.

Other recent good reads have included

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A beautiful book about some very ugly times.  It's about the things people do to and for each other and how words can work for good or evil and it's about survival.

The Age of Elegance by Arthur Bryant
Written in 1954 with a very patriotic and rather rose-coloured view of life in early nineteenth century England and the English, it is very good on the battles with Napolean and gives rather amusing depictions of European royalty.  He describes the Prince Regent (future George IV) in 1814

'Though not yet fifty-two, he was enormously fat; his great backside, tightly swaddled in bright white inexpressibles, was one of the sights of Society'.

Bryant used huge numbers of contemporary sources and I enjoyed reading it for what were obviously first hand accounts by soldiers and politicians, but when it came to the 'editorial' kept reminding myself that his view of the world would not be mine.

The Making of Victorian England by G.Kitson-Clark
First published in 1962 this book uses a lot of words to explain that there was no cut-off point at which Britain suddenly entered The Victorian Era.  There was no fanfare or clap of thunder which meant that we were suddenly all Victorian.  A lot of the behaviours, practices, customs and injustices of the eighteenth century continued right up until the 1870s and beyond.  The book is very interesting on the development and influence of Dissenters and their rejection of the Church of England.  Also the development of political parties.  But it was hard going - why use two words when fourteen will do?