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Review: St Cuthbert's Corpse, David Willem

st cuthbert's corpseSt. Cuthbert died over 1300 years ago, but the mystery of his incorrupt corpse has continued to fascinate generations of religious Brits, especially Northerners. Years after St Cuthbert died, a group of monks opened his tomb for the first time and were amazed to discover that he appeared lifelike in every way; though his body was covered with a white shroud, his limbs were flexible and his skin pliable. Over the centuries, his tomb has been moved across northeast England, finally finding a home in Durham Cathedral, but it’s been opened five times since with different discoveries made each time. David Willem looks at the original sources of each tomb opening to create the most reliable possible account of the corpse’s history.

I found this book unexpectedly fascinating, so much so that I actually came home from reading it on my commute and told my husband all about it (he’s not a history person but tends to listen patiently to my excited ramblings, as in this case). It’s a short book which I read over just two days, covering each instance of tomb-opening from the saint’s death to the last opening in 1899. There is no real ending possible, although the author does draw some conclusions; the saint’s corpse is still in the awe-inspiring Durham Cathedral, but it’s quite unlikely that it will be opened again any time soon. But the way he traces back the history and tries to figure out exactly what happened and how a corpse could be “incorrupt” two hundred years after burial was really interesting. It’s also fascinating to see what might happen to a prominent person’s body for centuries after death. This saint hasn’t been forgotten in the slightest and it does serve to remind us of how our mortal remains might gain a history of their own.

This is a very tightly focused book and doesn’t include much context; we don’t really learn much about what’s happening outside the small piece of the world inhabited by the corpse and those who tended to it. But for someone with a good background of the various periods of history, it’s clear that the corpse is actually impacted by each, from the Viking and Norman invasions to the dissolution of the monasteries right up to the later Victorian interest in antiquities. The way the corpse is treated is itself indicative of the general atmosphere at each given point. Very designed for people who already love history, rather than those who might be dipping their toe into the water, the book contains a number of excerpts from the primary sources consulted by the author. He’ll normally tell the story (and let it be told through the eyes of the primary sources) and then look more carefully at what the person has actually said.

In summary, I really enjoyed St. Cuthbert’s Corpse and would happily read more like it. A quick read that nevertheless adds a dimension onto history, certainly worth the time I spent reading it. I now know a lot more about St. Cuthbert and I’d like to go back to Durham Cathedral to visit the tomb in person.

I received this book for free for review.

Review: Promise of Blood, Brian McClellan

promise of bloodPromise of Blood is “flintlock fantasy” or, an epic fantasy set in a world with guns as well as magic, roughly equivalent to the 18th century (ish) in our world, a new-to-me genre. In this particular series, Field Marshal Tamas, the leader of the Powder Mages, who gain strength from gunpowder, has just overthrown Manhouch, the king, an exceptionally corrupt individual, and is now working to set up his own government against many who would prefer he not do just that. Some of those are in his inner circle, so Tamas enlists the help of Adamat, a private investigator, to find out exactly what’s going on, and his son Taniel “Two-shot” to protect his fledgling state from power-hungry neighbors.

The book felt to me very similar to those I’ve read about the French Revolution, except with a less redeemable monarchy and nobility. The fact that there are old-fashioned guns involved undoubtedly helped, as it seems to further the prospective era of the fantasy along in my head from the typical medieval-esque settings. The people are unhappy and the people are hungry; in the case, though, Tamas does genuinely want to help them. It made for a nice change and provided a different atmosphere than what I was used to. I’ve never read a book in this particular branch of fantasy before, as I generally start being less interested in history when guns get introduced, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I really liked the magic system. The Powder Mages don’t exist in isolation; there are also the Privileged, who work a different kind of magic entirely, and act in a sort of opposition to the Powder Mages. When first starting the book everything seemed very confusing, but it sorts itself out quickly and by the end of this first volume I felt very familiar with how everything was meant to work and who was who. I’d say it’s a similar learning curve to most books of this sort. If you’re starting a new epic fantasy series, you’re going to have to learn the ropes before you can enjoy the story, and this is one that drops its readers straight into the thick of it.

Undoubtedly this book benefited from the fact that I’ve spent the last few months craving fantasy (just like certain sets of historical fiction now suffer from over-reading). I really, really wanted to read a proper epic fantasy and this certainly started me off in that direction. It’s also fast-paced, with consequences that are wide and political but characters that are very human, aspects of books that I love. Probably its only fault is that virtually all of the characters and central players in it are men. Women are rarely featured in positions of power, with a few exceptions, in the particular society McClellan has created, although the foreign Ka-poel, Taniel’s bodyguard, is an excellent example of how women can subvert that.  I think Ka-poel is the most interesting character in the book, simply because she’s mysterious and completely underrated by most of the other characters. I’m really looking forward to seeing where McClellan takes her.

Aside from that particular gripe, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the world and the magic system and I felt I really got to know the characters. I’m invested in what happens next and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, The Crimson Campaign, out next month.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: The Chalice, Nancy Bilyeau

the chaliceJoanna Stafford has been cast out of Dartford Priory with her fellow novices and nuns thanks to the dissolution of the monasteries, but she’s still attempting to live quietly with her five-year-old cousin, Arthur. Fate won’t let her, though; an unexpected visit with relations who have been restored to prominence embroils Joanna in a plot that threatens the very heart of the nation. Even as she attempts to move past her previous life with a man who loves her, she can’t escape the threads of prophecy that wind themselves tighter and tighter as England’s future grows murky.

When I started this book, I’d somehow missed that it was a second book in a series – my own fault for not reading summaries or synopsis of any kind! The author does a good job of filling us in on the missing history, but I would highly recommend reading The Crown first so you don’t miss anything even if by accident.

That aside, though, I really liked this book, to my surprise as generally Tudor fiction doesn’t do it for me any more. Joanna is great as a main character and has a perspective unlike any that I’d read before. She has two struggles in this book; the first is against the prophecy which attempts to dictate her life and the second is to actually find what that life should be after her life in the priory. She’s a very religious girl by nature and by education and her inclinations in that way color her interactions with other people.

I liked the way that the prophecy was interwoven into the story. One of the things that is difficult to grasp for a modern mindset is that, in the medieval period at least, “magic” was often stuck in with religion without people struggling to differentiate between the two. I think this is starting to change at this point in time, but the prophecies around Joanna don’t really conflict with her faith. The messages from the prophets are a gift, not a curse, although Joanna grapples with what they actually mean she must do. The implications of them are interesting albeit extremely unlikely from a historical perspective.

Probably the only thing that annoyed me about this particular book was the love interests. Joanna is clearly a novice in the ways of love as she is with the church, and she never expected to have romantic contact with men. The dissolution of the monasteries changed all that. Joanna is now not only beautiful, but she’s an eligible romantic interest, and two men have feelings for her; Geoffrey Scoville and Brother Edmund, a former monk. Because I had no real background without reading The Crown, I wasn’t able to see how these relationships developed, and I think that affected how I perceived them in this book. Plus, I felt like one in particular pretty much forced himself at her more than once when she wasn’t too thrilled about it, which meant I was not his biggest fan.

Still, though, I really enjoyed reading The Chalice and I can only imagine that I’d have liked it even more if I’d read The Crown, too. I definitely recommend that you start there, but it looks like Nancy Bilyeau is an author to watch.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore

one night in winterAndrei Kurbsky’s father was exiled to a labor camp and he and his mother have spent the last few years in Stalinabad. In 1945 Russia, everyone is under suspicion, and with Andrei’s chequered family history, it seems like a small miracle that he’s been accepted into Moscow’s top school – where Stalin’s own children were educated. Andrei finds himself rubbing shoulders with the children of film stars and top governmental officials, developing a crush on a girl called Serafima, who is one of the most sought-after teenagers in the school. He is swept into the Romantics Club, where several of the students re-enact scenes from Eugene Onegin, one of Pushkin’s most famous plays. But when two of the teens end up dead, Andrei, Serafima, and their friends, just children, land in Lubyanka prison, subject to the brutal interrogation methods that could end up destroying them and their entire families.

If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to have the state watch your every move, and arrest you on the slightest provocation, this book is one to read. It perfectly evokes the atmosphere of suspense and suspicion that haunted every single person in Moscow and in the rest of the Soviet Union. Any false move – even one that isn’t false – and prison awaited, along with the potential for exile to a labor camp where many suffered, including in this book Andrei’s father. For an idea of what this was like, I’d go read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn – unforgettable. But this book covers instead the questioning, the wondering, and the suspense. No one was immune, not even these children.

Montefiore has written previous histories of Stalinist Russia, including biographies of the man himself, so he’s clearly done his research on the period which makes it easier to trust what he says. This is a surprisingly suspenseful novel; it’s easy to genuinely worry about Serafima, Andrei, and the other teens and children who find themselves in prison without being quite sure what they’ve done. The back story is revealed slowly, so we know Serafima has a secret from nearly the beginning of the book but aren’t sure what it is.

What I really liked in particular was the contrast between the children’s and some of their teacher’s love for what might be termed old Russian culture and the suspicious, derelict city of Moscow. Russia is still suffering the effects of the war and Stalin’s paranoia only increases as he ages; meanwhile in school, the teens admire the romance of Pushkin’s poetry and adore the teacher who shows them how life in the country used to be.

I really liked One Night in Winter; it’s a readable, tense, suspenseful account of what life may have been like during Stalin’s dictatorship. It has multiple threads of romance and mystery throughout, as well as a sincere homage to Russian culture. Recommended.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: The End of Plagues, John Rhodes

the end of plaguesDisease is a constant in our lives. For those who aren’t privileged enough to live or be born in a first-world country, disease and death is an even greater, every day fear. But many of these diseases are now preventable, primarily due to vaccination, and it’s the history as well as the future of this very modern medical miracle that Rhodes explores with this book. As an example, smallpox used to kill two million people or more every year. Now, it’s virtually extinct, surviving in just two known test tubes in the world. Rhodes starts with the pioneering work of Edward Jenner and moves through time to explore the discovery and science of vaccination, its history, and the current fight against some of the world’s fiercest diseases.

The End of Plagues was a fascinating and unexpectedly inspiring book. I had never really learned (or don’t remember) anything about the history of vaccines in school or otherwise, but I’m always interested in learning more about the world. This book spans the entire world when it comes to the history of immunisation and the fight to eradicate diseases. Most of the discoveries were made in Europe and in the United States, but the latter part of the book focuses heavily on the struggles which have and still are taking place in the Middle East and Africa to finally defeat some of the illnesses with vaccines. Disease is truly global and Rhodes looks at the entire world to get a clearer picture of where progress lies; it’s easy to forget that diseases we’ve obliterated from our own countries still flourish in others with many still suffering from illnesses we no longer see. But the progress that we’ve collectively made is astounding and it’s inspiring to read about so many countries coming together and choosing to protect their people and improve the world in the fact of extraordinary difficulties.

The history was really interesting too, although the book skipped around a little bit in the initial chapters which made it harder to follow. I got the drift quickly though, as discoveries came in hard and fast after Jenner first made his vaccine. One thing I was surprised to learn is the chequered history of older vaccinations. Because the vaccines were actually developed before the corresponding science, there was a huge amount of trial and error and it’s immensely safer now that we actually understand exactly what happens when a vaccine is placed into someone’s body. It’s a balancing act and in many ways it’s fortuitous that Jenner made his discovery exactly how and when he did (the book refers to this as serendipity and it resulted in a couple of discoveries). Vaccines are safer now, but despite the element of luck those initial vaccines and the ongoing campaigns now have eliminated scourges that have haunted humans throughout history.

Rhodes is extremely fair when it comes to understanding why people refuse vaccines for their children and even shares his own experience with doubt. Although links between vaccination and autism have been disproven, there is still a vocal minority of people who are firmly against vaccination for various reasons. While their children definitely benefit from herd immunity, these people open cracks in our defense against serious illnesses. Rhodes explores the history of vaccination and where those worries come from. In the end, though it’s small consolation to the few parents whose children do suffer side effects, vaccination has changed the world much for the better. The simple fact that children can play outside in midsummer without worrying about permanent paralysis or death proves this. Rhodes isn’t heavy-handed, but logical and understanding; worries are there, but he went ahead and vaccinated his daughter because he knew the consequences that ensued from a lapse in that “herd immunity”.

Definitely recommended – whether you’re questioning vaccination, whether you’re interested in history, whether you’re curious about efforts to cure current scourges (primarily malaria and HIV), whether you just want to learn something new. This is a book I’m glad to have read.

All external links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: The Arrow of Sherwood, Lauren Johnson

the arrow of sherwoodWhen Robin, Lord Locksley, arrives home from four years on Crusade, his family is astonished. His fiancée has become engaged to someone else, his mother has re-married a sheriff, and his estates have become entrusted to his young nephew, who has become the ward of the Viponts, one of the most dangerous families in Nottingham. They believed he was dead. Alive, he has to fight to regain what should be his by right. In doing so, he realizes that the Vipont family has been mistreating many of the lowborn families he grew up with; taxes are extremely high and the Viponts are closely allied to the Count of Mortmain, or John, King Richard I’s younger brother, who rules the country while his elder sibling is imprisoned in Germany. Justice is subverted and new laws are created to benefit the lords, not those who suffer under their leadership. Robin is convinced that something needs to be done, and as a lord without any of the benefits of lordship, perhaps he’s the one to do it.

The Arrow of Sherwood is written by a trained historian and it really shows in the best possible ways in this book. There are details which make it clear that this isn’t a tale of modern people in fancy old dresses or a gritty hack-and-slash which shows that the Middle Ages must have been brutal; instead, it’s somewhere in the middle, with scenes at court and scenes of battle and thievery. Johnson recaptures what sort of person Robin Hood might have actually been and the book’s realism, in my eyes, is a huge selling point and definitely set it apart. It’s also a bonus that this isn’t a book about the Tudors or the Plantagenets; it’s a realistic re-imagining of a legend and for that I couldn’t help but appreciate it hugely.

The book is well-written and takes us through Robin’s journey, which is fraught with twists and turns as he struggles with the almost insurmountable authority of the Vipont family. The book gives a really good idea of how much local families were stuck with each other; there are only so many people who have authority within a given region and if one person is higher up, that’s it for everyone else. Justice was a red hot iron pushed into your hand; if it was infected, you were guilty, and if it wasn’t, you were innocent.

The only issue I had with it was actually understanding the feasibility of the set-up behind Robin’s rescued prisoners. Towards the middle of the book we essentially have an entire “hundred” of people in a forest, masked as a leper colony, but one that no one ever finds except a couple of peasants and Marian and Elaine. In addition, Robin is juggling double identities and really doesn’t seem to lie very well. I had a difficult time believing he’d be able to keep the secrets with which he is entrusted and I didn’t understand why none of the Viponts ever think to follow Robin on his travels like some of the more minor characters do. The set-up seemed too convenient, although perhaps this is again just my modern brain not actually understanding the scale of a forest.

Definitely recommended for those who enjoy fiction set in the Middle Ages and, even though Robin Hood is a well-known legend, for something a bit different than the masses out there.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: The King’s Damsel, Kate Emerson

the king's damselYoung Tamsin Lodge, heiress, is sent from the arms of her loving stepmother into the tumultuous world of the Tudor court as a teenager. She quickly realizes that her best option to progress in life is not to mourn for what she’s lost, but to seize the opportunity to gain the influence of powerful people. Her guardian places her as a lady of honor to Princess Mary, who Tamsin grows to love, but as the dynamics of power at court shift, Tamsin has to choose her loyalties carefully and decide what’s best for herself, her family, and her kingdom.

The King’s Damsel is a book that should appeal immensely to fans of historical fiction. It’s a richly written, intriguing story of a fictional girl trying to make her way best through a very hostile Tudor court. She’s hampered by her own ignorance, due to her upbringing, but she’s earnest and she tries hard to make a difference. She encounters a huge number of genuine historical figures and indeed has some basis in historical fact. Unfortunately, it was not a book that I personally enjoyed very much, due to three reasons.

The first, which is most certainly not the book’s fault, is that I still haven’t recovered any sort of desire to read fiction about the Tudor court. I overdid this years ago and it seems the desire to actually read these books has not come back. There are a few works of historical fiction which have risen above this, but I didn’t find this to be one of them.

The second is the fact that the back cover gives away practically all of the story, which I’ve actually omitted from my own summary above. I really dislike when this happens; a crucial plot point in the last third of the book really shouldn’t be on the back cover. I’m guessing someone, somewhere thought the book wouldn’t be as appealing to potential readers without this detail, but I spent most of the first 2/3 of the book waiting for that to happen.

The third reason is that I didn’t really get on board with the romance, which seemed too cursory and unrealistic given the actual status of the people involved. I wasn’t really convinced by it, and it didn’t help much that the book skipped years with mostly not much happening. I understand that maybe much didn’t happen, but it didn’t help power the book along at all, and it was a little hard to imagine how a romance happened if the key figures only saw each other once a year. A year is a long time.

The book is only 300 or so pages long and took me 5 days to read, which for me kind of demonstrates how disinterested I was in it. A lot of that probably isn’t the book’s fault – looking elsewhere, it’s had pretty good reviews. It is likely that this book, and this series, might suit someone who is still keen on Tudor historical fiction. But that someone isn’t me.

I received this book for free for review.

Review: Spilt Milk, Amanda Hodgkinson

spilt milkI really enjoyed 22 Britannia Roadso I was particularly pleased when Spilt Milk arrived on my doorstep. In this historical novel, sisters Rose, Vivian, and Nellie vow to be spinsters forever. Rose has raised the much younger Vivian and Nellie since the death of their parents when both girls were small. When she passes away in 1913, much too early, the girls are lost without her, with no notion of how to care for themselves. As a result, one of them manages to make a mistake that drives a wedge in their relationship forever, even after they’ve seemingly reconciled. Years later, Nellie’s daughter Birdie returns to her mother’s town, looking for elements of her own past. Will she uncover the secrets that Nellie and Vivian left behind and expose the potentially disastrous mistakes of their youth?

Ignorance never does anyone any favours, and the sisters in Spilt Milk, along with their sole offspring, suffer from this very lapse. Because no one ever really tells them about what’s in the world, and their education is limited, with all of the girls instead mistakenly assuming they’ll remain spinsters all their lives, they aren’t sure how to handle themselves when things don’t go to plan. And so they make mistakes – and they’re not the first women to do so. In the early twentieth century, innocence seems to go hand-in-hand with ignorance. Rose makes the mistake of never telling Vivian and Nellie about men, instead trying to get them both to stay with her. When a man shows up, of course, they both act in a way that may have been prevented, if only they’d known.

The entire book spools out from the consequences of that ignorance and misunderstanding. It’s no surprise that, when Nellie then goes out into the world, what she learns helps her make a more successful life for herself, avoiding her sister’s mistakes and any particularly damaging ones of her own. As time goes on, the specter of the secret diminishes, because standards are quickly changing, through both World Wars as the sisters age. What was once a disaster becomes something just slightly scandalous and by the end of the book no big deal.

I quite liked this book; it put an interesting perspective on the relationships between sisters, mothers, and daughters. The complex relationships between Vivian and Nellie, then Nellie and Birdie, are often truly moving. I wasn’t sure what I wanted each of the women to discover, but I knew I wanted to experience it through the eyes of each of the women. Practical but still loving Nellie was my favorite of them, I think – she is the one who goes out into the world, and she is the one who has the bravery eventually to seize more of her life, rather than letting it happen to her. But my heart broke for all of the women at various times as they change and grow and the results of their choices impact every aspect of their lives.

Spilt Milk would be a great read for a fan of women’s fiction who is tempted to try out something historical. Highly recommended.

All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.

Review: Children of Liberty, Paullina Simons

children of libertyGina Attaviano is a fourteen-year-old Italian immigrant girl living her father’s dream when she and her mother and brother arrive in Boston. Their father Alessandro has passed away, but the rest of the family arrive to stay with a cousin and aunt in Lawrence, Massachusetts. They arrive in Boston Harbor and meet two surprisingly helpful locals, Ben Shaw and Harry Barrington, who lend them an apartment for the night. Both are from prominent families, but that doesn’t stop them getting involved with the Attaviano family; Ben immediately becomes infatuated with fourteen-year-old Gina, while Gina herself develops a massive crush on Harry, who remains aloof. Over the course of the novel, determined Gina decides to find a way to fit herself in Boston society, having discovered what she truly longs to have.

I’ve never read any of Paullina Simons’s books before and I have a feeling that I chose the wrong place to start. I was deeply underwhelmed by this book, having heard many good things about the author’s Bronze Horseman trilogy, and I’m now not sure I’m curious enough about what happens next to actually delve into that trilogy. I read this first as I got it for review and a prequel is generally not a bad place to start reading a series, but I think I should have started with Simons’s other books.

Let me explain why. First of all, the characters were simply not people I wanted to spend time with. Gina decides to go off and do her own thing, lying to everyone who loves her, from the minute she steps foot on American soil. She refuses to listen to any sort of logic and, in short, behaves like a reckless teenager. That’s fine – that’s what she is for most of the book anyway. But she also turns out to be a character who is impossibly perfect; she excels at school when she decides she should, she earns all sorts of mysterious extra money with her cleverness and makes herself beautiful clothes, she begs a loan to start her family’s restaurants, and every man who sees her falls at her feet, except of course Harry (until he finally does). She even somehow speaks perfect English, even though she admits in the beginning of the book that she hadn’t paid as much attention to her father’s lessons as she should have.

Harry, on the other hand, is an adult, but seems like he could have happily remained a child or student forever. He ignores all sense of responsibility and lets his life happen to him, rather than doing anything at all to influence it himself. He’s content enough, it seems, to be in a relationship with a well-bred girl he doesn’t love, to flounder about wondering what he’s supposed to be doing while continuing to study (and getting nowhere doing it), and living off his father’s money well into his twenties. Ben, his best friend, was far more interesting because he actually had a spine and went off and did things himself. When Harry finally makes a decision about his life, he hides it from everyone and creates a disaster. Twice.

Second, the book has little plot. Gina decides she’s in love with Harry and the rest of the book is spent on various conversations, political talks and meetings, and her often fruitless efforts to entice him. I felt zero spark between them, even when Harry finally wakes up and realizes that a gorgeous Italian woman has him firmly on a leash. The romance part of the book felt dreamlike and I had no real sense of why these two people had chosen to be together. It’s one of those attraction-and-nothing-else storylines which get on my nerves.

Lastly, much of the book is spent on little happening but talking. I’m normally fine with this and tend to even enjoy “quiet” books, generally because they have some sort of meaning. But here? Gina’s entire existence is focused around Harry; everything she’s done, everything she’s learned, has simply been to attract a man. So her ideals seem faked, while Harry hides from his life and ignores responsibility, spouting nonsense about what he believes in and failing to act on any of it. I just got fed up with them and with the book – after writing this review I’m actually surprised that I finished it.

The Bronze Horseman might be worth reading, but I’m not sure Children of Liberty is. If you’re interested, I’d recommend visiting your library first. That’s where I’ll be getting the rest of the trilogy from, if I decide to continue.

I received this book for free for review.

Review: Noble Endeavours, Miranda Seymour

noble endeavoursThe histories of England and Germany have been intertwined for centuries. Among other things, the tie is in the very root of the words we speak, as the English language is based on a Germanic language, albeit with plenty of other languages thrown in for good measure. Miranda Seymour picks up the story of these two countries in the seventeenth century with the marriage of an English Stuart princess to the Elector Palatine, the son of a very different German landscape. From those nuptials to the end of World War II, Seymour picks up the story of these two countries primarily through people that loved and lived in both of them.

I had an interesting time with Noble Endeavours. I couldn’t say that I loved it unreservedly, because it had faults. As it’s set over a wide span of time, there were very many historical personalities introduced, and I for one found it surprisingly difficult to keep track of who everyone was over the centuries. I could have used some sort of guide to who was who in the front or back of the book, especially when some of those mentioned got married and their names changed. In places it felt scattered as we jumped from one person to another (who I invariably didn’t remember). This may have been partly my fault as I didn’t read the whole thing in one go, preferring to jump in and out over the course of a couple of weeks, normally how I handle non-fiction these days.

When the book was great, though, it was really great, and at times I could feel how some of these people were genuinely pulled between two countries. The best part was towards the end where we got to the World Wars – not “best” because of the circumstances, but because it gave me the opportunity to view the huge historical turning point from a new angle. And, because of the focus on specific people, we get a much more intimate view of the heartbreak caused by these divisions. Both World Wars were devastating events and this book brought more of that into focus through individual affected people from all sectors of society rather than a big picture view.

The part that I found most horrifying, actually, was how wilfully Hitler was ignored and even praised by Brits for revitalizing Germany when they had plenty of evidence of what his actual plans were. Part of that was due to the way the two countries had interacted for several hundred years, part of it was because those plans were well hidden on both sides, but it’s scary how many lives may have been lost because intelligence reports were ignored and insider knowledge was dismissed. And the price is still paid to this day.

Not a perfect book, but a fascinating one. I’d recommend Noble Endeavours for anyone interested in English or German history.

All external links are associate links. I received this book for free for review.