Many faces of Britain for Jubilee year – recent biography picks
This is the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – she has been on the throne for sixty years, which makes her the longest serving British monarch since Victoria. Whether you are a monarchist or not, this is a momentous historical occassion, and one which has been marked by the publication of a plethora of celebratory books. We have chosen one of the crop primarily because it is pictorial work, but there are many others including Andrew Marr’s excellent “Diamond Queen’, which we also stock.
This month’s picks include many other books about well-known Britons past and present, including a new book by Christine Keeler, beautiful face of the sixties and famous for her affair with John Profumo which brought down Harold Macmillan’s government.
A fresh slant on Charles Dickens is offered in a big new pictorial book on his homes and haunts. While most people associate him with the grimy streets of Victorian London and the rural underbelly of England it is not generally known that he travelled abroad to America and to European cities such as Paris and Genoa. A very domesticated man, he took an active interest in the administration of his homes throughout his life.
Elizabeth : a diamond jubilee portrait / Jennie Bond.
“In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II will mark the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne, a diamond jubilee that this book, written by former BBC Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond, commemorates. On February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, became Queen on the death of her father, King George VI to the reign that was to see major changes both in the country and Commonwealth and in the role of the monarchy began far away from Britain in a game reserve in Kenya. “Elizabeth: The Diamond Jubilee” looks at this remarkable period in the history of Britain’s monarchy in lavish and fascinating detail, featuring over 240 photographs. Constantly under scrutiny ever since she took the throne, this book presents a balanced and absorbing account of the Queen’s life and of her role as the head of state in a country and a world that have changed almost beyond recognition in the sixty years since she inherited the throne.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
Mary Quant : autobiography / Mary Quant.
“Originally published in 1966,Quant by Quantis the hugely entertaining story of fashion designer Mary Quants early career and life with her husband and business partner, Alexander Plunket Greene. After opening the groundbreaking Bazaar boutique on Londons Kings Road in 1955, Quant soared to international fame with her brand of witty style that fitted perfectly with modern life. Just as her signature styles have become synonymous with the pop culture of the Swinging Sixties, her joyful, evocative autobiography captures the world in which she found inspiration and which she ultimately helped to define and change.” – (adapted from globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Charles Dickens at home / Hilary Macaskill ; special photography by Graham Salter ; [foreword by Florian Schweizer].
“This book tracks the places Dickens lived, from his Portsmouth birthplace and childhood home in Chatham to his last home back in Kent, at Gad’s Hill Place in Rochester. The book also covers his travels in England and abroad, where the locations provided the settings in his novels, such as Nicholas Nickleby’s Yorkshire and in the East Anglia of David Copperfield, Charles Dickens’s most autobiographical novel. Above all, it is London, where he lived in different homes for the majority of his life, which is so identified with Dickens and with his fiction. One thing that characterised his attitude to all his homes in adult life was his deep involvement in domestic arrangements, despite the frantic pace of his intensive work schedule. It was this close attention to detail, as well as his acute observation of his surroundings, that distinguished his novels, both in their portrayal of home life and in their sense of place. An invaluable resource to anyone who has an interest in the settings of Dickens’ work, Hilary Macaskill weaves a narrative which places this great writer in his domestic context, gloriously illustrated with archive material and original photography.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)
Secrets and lies. / Christine Keeler with Douglas Thompson.
“Christine Keeler’s name is as synonymous with the Sixties sexual revolution as the Pill. Having found fame and success as a model – the portrait of her astride a chair is iconic – her short affair with the Minister of War, John Profumo, led to the downfall of Harold Macmillan’s government and was at the epicentre of the social and political earthquake that followed. She was the subject of scandal, intrigue and gossip and was tried for perjury and briefly jailed following the death of Stephen Ward, who had introduced her to Profumo. Now that those directly involved are no longer alive, Christine is finally able to tell the full story of that extraordinary time. This is the life’s journey of a woman whom history has refused to let go, who can never escape being Christine Keeler. She remains a headline and will do so for ever. It is the fascinating and shocking story of her enormous personal sacrifice, her unstinting resolve and her triumphant survival, set against a backdrop of political turmoil and Cold War espionage. This story Christine Keeler has finally found herself brave enough to tell will shatter all preconceptions and has the power to rewrite history.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
Cats and daughters / Helen Brown.
”Some say your previous cat chooses your new feline. If so, what in cat heaven’s name was our beloved Cleo thinking when she sent us a crazy cat like Jonah?’ Jonah entered Helen Brown’s life not long after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had begun recovery from a mastectomy. His arrival coincided with the finalisation of her previous book, Cleo, as well as preparations for the wedding of her son and struggles with her daughter’s determination to embark on a spiritual journey. Jonah, as it happened, was just as headstrong as Helen’s daughter. So while Helen attempted to deal with her own mortality and help arrange a wedding, her daughter took off to war-torn Sri Lanka and Jonah fled down the street.
In Cats and Daughters, Helen Brown writes with honesty and humour about family life, its serious setbacks and life-changing events. She also learns that sometimes the best thing a strong mother and cat slave can do is step back, have faith in those she loves and be grateful nothing’s perfect. As Helen writes in her dedication, this book is ‘to cats and daughters who don’t always come when called’.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
Wilkie Collins / Peter Ackroyd.
“Ackroyd at his best — gripping short life of the extraordinary Wilkie Collins, author of ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘The Woman in White’.
Short and oddly built, with a head too big for his body, extremely short-sighted, unable to stay still, dressed in colourful clothes, ‘as if playing a certain part in the great general drama of life’ Wilkie Collins looked distinctily strange. But he was none the less a charmer, befriended by the great, loved by children, irresistibly attractive to women — and avidly read by generations of readers.
Ackroyd follows his hero, ‘the sweetest-tempered of all the Victorian novelists’, from his childhood as the son of a well-known artist to his struggling beginnings as writer, his years of fame and his life-long friendship with the other great London chronicler, Charles Dickens. A true Londoner, Collins, like Dickens, was fascinated by the secrets and crimes — the fraud, blackmail and poisonings — that lay hidden behind the city’s respectable facade. He was a fighter, never afraid to point out injustices and shams, or to tackle the establishment head on. As well as his enduring masterpieces, ‘The Moonstone’ – often called the first true detective novel — and the sensational ‘Women in White’, he produced an intriguing array of lesser known works. But Collins had his own secrets.” (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Found : a memoir / Jennifer Lauck.Found: A Memoir
“More than just one woman’s search for her biological parents, found is a deeply moving Story Of loss, aAdjustment, and survival. Her quest not only opens up her understanding Of identity and self, but also shows her what it means to be a daughter and a mother. Book jacket.
Author Info. Jennifer Lauck is an award-winning journalist and the author of the New York Times bestseller Blackbird, Still Waters, and Show Me the Way. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches creative writing and raises her children.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The arch-conjuror of England : John Dee / Glyn Parry.
“Outlandish alchemist and magician, political intelligencer, apocalyptic prophet, and converser with angels, John Dee (15271609) was one of the most colorful and controversial figures of the Tudor world. In this fascinating bookthe first full-length biography of Dee based on primary historical sourcesGlyn Parry explores Dees vast array of political, magical, and scientific writings and finds that they cast significant new light on policy struggles in the Elizabethan court, conservative attacks on magic, and Europe’s religious wars. John Dee was more than just a fringe magus, Parry shows: he was a major figure of the Reformation and Renaissance.” – (adapted from Globalbookinprint.com summary)
High country woman : my life on Rees Valley Station / Iris Scott, with Geraldine O’Sullivan Beere.
“New Zealand’s high country farmers are a special breed. They farm in tough terrain, at high altitudes, in areas where extreme climate puts both man and animal to the test. When she was widowed, with three children, in 1992 Iris Scott had to call on all her farming skill and inner strength to carry on as the runholder of the 150-year-old, 18,000-hectare Rees Valley Station at the head of Lake Wakatipu, near Glenorchy. Not only that, she had to run the station on her own and keep up her veterinary practice. High Country Woman is the engaging story of Iris Scott’s love of our high country and her determination to farm it successfully while upholding high conservation and land-guardianship values. The book also covers the fascinating history of the area long known to locals as The Head of the Lake, the focus of William Rees’ great sheep run, established not long after he and Nicolas von Tunzelman became the first Europeans totravel into the area in an epic exploration feat in 1860.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)
Thomas Becket : warrior, priest, rebel, victim : a 900-year-old story retold / John Guy.
“A revisionist new biography reintroducing readers to one of the most subversive figures in English history-the man who sought to reform a nation, dared to defy his king, and laid down his life to defend his sacred honor. Becket’s life story has been often told but never so incisively reexamined and vividly rendered as it is in John Guy’s hands. The son of middle-class Norman parents, Becket rose against all odds to become the second most powerful man in England. As King Henry II’s chancellor, Becket charmed potentates and popes, tamed overmighty barons, and even personally led knights into battle. After his royal patron elevated him to archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, however, Becket clashed with the King. Forced to choose between fealty to the crown and the values of his faith, he repeatedly challenged Henry’s authority to bring the church to heel. Drawing on the full panoply of medieval sources, Guy sheds new light on the relationship between the two men, separates truth from centuries of mythmaking, and casts doubt on the long-held assumption that the headstrong rivals were once close friends. He also provides the fullest accounting yet for Becket’s seemingly radical transformation from worldly bureaucrat to devout man of God. Here is a Becket seldom glimpsed in any previous biography, a man of many facets and faces.” – (adapted from Globalbooksinprint.com summary)