Empire of Eternity explores what might have been behind Napoleon's expedition to Egypt and Syria in 1798. The narrative oscillates between the careersEmpire of Eternity explores what might have been behind Napoleon's expedition to Egypt and Syria in 1798. The narrative oscillates between the careers of Bonaparte on the one hand, and that of Alexander Rhind, Scottish lawyer and Egyptologist, on the other.
Bonaparte sends Vivant Denon, writer, artist, and hedonist, to Egypt to find the chamber of The Empire of Eternity. In it, the secrets of the universe are said to be given to its initiates. Bonaparte is eventually led to a ceremony within the Great Pyramid, officiated by a mysterious Red Priest, where he receives his prize. Napoleon, convinced that Destiny is with him, becomes Emperor of France. But on the eve of each new scheme, the Red Priest arrives.
Rhind is recruited by Queen Victoria (via William Hamilton), who has herself become fascinated by the legend. Investigating Bonaparte's footsteps, Rhind must choose between Monarch and archaeology.
Empire of Eternity showcases the strength of O'Neill's imagination and his ability to create a period-appropriate dialogue. The climax is not of the earth-shattering quality, and is all the better for it. If there is an issue with the novel it's that of pacing. There is too little going on for a novel of this length, and could have worked as well as a novella. A number of Bonaparte's musings that O'Neill puts into his mouth are also frankly unconvincing.
Nevertheless , this is a well-written piece that will exercise the reader's imagination - if the reader slows their pace.
An interesting story - five police officers are given a tip-off about a possible opium deal. Rushing to the house, a bomb explodes, killing two and grAn interesting story - five police officers are given a tip-off about a possible opium deal. Rushing to the house, a bomb explodes, killing two and grievously wounding the other three. The bomber seems to be an addict revenging himself on behalf of a friend he believed falsely accused and hanged for the shooting of a bystander in an arrest gone wrong.
A fundamentally interesting story about possible police corruption (with strong modern resonances) is marred by Pitt's long internal monologues. The dialogue, replete with an excess of exclamation marks and a tendency for characters to have 'exclaimed' rather than rely on the old 'he said/she said), tended to come across as a preachy tirade. Consequently, the story felt poorly paced.
This was especially evident at the denouement - which look place in the courtroom - at which point the story ended. There was no sense of how the characters might react to how the events unfolded, nothing to tie the story up.
Fans of the series may also be disappointed that some of the characters that were more central in previous stories are reduced to cameo performances. This is the bare bones of an interesting story that felt rushed to meet deadlines....more
Waldman explores the textures of grief in a novel that is wryly amusing and heartbreaking in turns. It’s woven around that common relationship knot; tWaldman explores the textures of grief in a novel that is wryly amusing and heartbreaking in turns. It’s woven around that common relationship knot; that of step-parent and step-child. Emilia Greenleaf, a lawyer, is ‘the other woman’ for whom Jack Woolf left Carolyn, his wife.
Waldman explores the uneasy relationship that develops between Emilia and William, Jack and Carolyn’s precocious 5-year old son. Added to this web is the often difficult relationship between Emilia and her father and with her half-sisters. Waldman novel is a well-written exploration of these relationships around which the skein of grief is woven. It explores the (often unrealistic) expectations of romantic love as an almost magical process that overcomes all obstacles. Instead, the novel shows us that love is often hard work but does so without being didactic.
The characters are drawn skilfully, and the relationships between them are, on the whole, convincing. The resolutions that occur at the end, particularly between Emilia and her father, feel somewhat pat, though not unbelievable. But the most fraught relationship – that between Emilia and ex-wife Carolyn – is well resolved, and the vehicle for it is a past tragedy that has clouded Emilia and Jack’s relationship.
I found the opening rather slow, but the quality of the writing helped me persevere, and I’m glad to have done so. This is not a sweetly funny romantic comedy, though it is lightened here and there with amusing moments. Some readers will find the some of the material confronting, and Emilia is not always a particularly likeable character. But despite these, I found this an engrossing read. ...more
In January 1830, Agnes Magnúsdóttir became the last person executed in Iceland. She was accused, along with Fridrik Sigurdsson and Sigrídur GudmundsdóIn January 1830, Agnes Magnúsdóttir became the last person executed in Iceland. She was accused, along with Fridrik Sigurdsson and Sigrídur Gudmundsdóttir, of the murder of Natan Ketilsson and Pétur Jónsson (the former her employer) in March 1828. Of the three, only Agnes and Fridrik were executed. Sigrídur's sentence was commuted to life imprisonment in Copenhagen. It was presumed that her youthfulness made her suggestible and thus influenced by the others.This story is of her final months with the family of District Officer Jón Jónsson.
Kent's prose is sparse, befitting the setting. The District Commissioner and one of his servants are distinguished simply by their coats; 'bright red' for the former, and 'worn' for the latter. One can readily imagine the fierce winds whipping across the skins used to cover windows.
Written alternately in the third and first persons, some readers might feel some disorientation moving between modes. But it is well handled in Kent's deft prose. Reading Burial Rites gives you the sense of a writer in command of their craft. This impression is confirmed by the research that the author has undertaken. While the work is obviously an imagining of Agnes' thoughts (and of what really happened), it is clear that much research has informed the writer's views. What I also found particularly impressive was that, though there was a lot of knowledge behind the writing, the writing never became a display tableau for it.
In general, the characters are well drawn. The District Commissioner is not simply keen for the executions to serve as a deterrent to the district's peasants (though he is certainly that). He expresses a desire for the islanders to share the modernisation enjoyed in Denmark, for example by having glass windows. The Assistant Priest's attraction to his charge is deftly drawn. If I were to level one criticism, it would simply be that we don't feel the antagonism towards Agnes felt by most of the Jónsson family (in particular). While we slowly see the relationships between them thaw, we don't feel the revelation that they did. Instead, we feel that she cannot be guilty of murder, and simply await the truth to be revealed.
What we have here is a wonderfully told story of a woman whose own was ignored. It is a story that you should hear.
Books by Anglo-Americans reacting (usually very favourably) to French culture have a long history. Hemingway’s classic A Moveable Feast has been authoBooks by Anglo-Americans reacting (usually very favourably) to French culture have a long history. Hemingway’s classic A Moveable Feast has been authors such as Julia Child, Peter Mayle Jane Paech and Sarah Turnbull, all drawn to something in la vie française.
Many centre (naturally) around food. Pamela Druckerman French Children Don’t Throw Food looks at French parenting. Based on her own experiences of raising three children in Paris, Druckerman examines how it is that French parents can raise children who, on the whole, are remarkably well behaved, particularly when compared to their Anglo-Saxon cousins.
Essentially, French parents don’t treat their children as though they are the centre of the universe. While this might seem shocking, it doesn’t mean that French parents don’t love or care for their kids. Instead, it reflects a philosophical and cultural divide on the role of parenting. French children are raised to understand that family life does not revolve around them. That doesn’t mean that they are unimportant (we are not in ‘children should be seen and not heard’ territory). It’s simply that, in order for the family to function effectively, the parents do not centre their lives entirely on their children.
The French refer to this as cadre – a framework which sets limits for children. But the aim of these limits is to give the child a stable set of expectations from which they can explore. Children are encouraged into sleeping and feeding rhythms quite early. By the time they become toddlers, French kids typically eat three meals a day and an afternoon snack around 4-4.30pm (a goûter). While this may seem inflexible (and joyless) it does seem to provide a framework in which children can get into good food habits early.
AS the book proceeds Druckerman marshals research that, on the whole, tends to vindicate French methods. Uncritical praise is not good for self-esteem. It’s good for children not to have every which catered for. What Druckerman’s observations seem to show (and science tends to confirm) is that establishing norms of behaviour (remember ‘politeness’?), boundary setting, and integrating the child into the functioning of family life provides the best base for the child to blossom.
The aim of the French parent is twofold. One goal for parents is to establish their authority. As you read, you’ll be introduced to The Pause, the Look, and Sage (calm). This is not to say that all French parents are authoritarian. Indeed, ideally oui ought to be heard more frequently than non. But when the answer is non, it must be firm and unyielding.
The other aim is educative. In a sense, the whole of French childhood is seen as a means of education. This does not mean Mandarin tutors at two years and cello lessons at three. French daycare (which is heavily subsidised by the state, and which children typically start to attend around these years) is remarkably unstructured. Instead, it’s felt that, by helping children see themselves within broader social contexts, that they themselves will begin to explore the world around them. The aim of parents and carers is to facilitate, set limits, but not to push.
This means that French parents don’t simply identify themselves as parents. In the Anglo-Saxon world, this usually expresses itself as the promotion of ‘motherhood’ as an all-encompassing identity for many women. This is anathema to many (though not all) French women. Readily accessible and inexpensive childcare means that mothers can, and do, quickly return to the workforce. In France, full-time motherhood is not esteemed as it is here (in my view, quite properly). That doesn’t mean that French mothers don’t enjoy motherhood, but it doesn’t take over the totality of their identity.
Those of us drawn to works about French food and culture (and the same applies to Italian) are, I suspect, convinced that there is a malaise in Anglo-Saxon culture that deifies goals and achievements and KPIs at the expense of broader artistic and cultural questions. What's not to admire about cultures in which fresh, quality food is at the heart of one's daily life?
This is a fascinating work. Of course, it’s not perfect, and one wonders how far the philosophies presented extend into French society as a whole. Is it a largely metropolitan phenomenon? Or is it a middle-class phenomenon?. There were many socio-economic questions that cropped up as I read, and these were largely unanswered. One yawning gap is the migrant experience. On the other hand, this doesn’t pretend to be a thorough sociological study. But it was a fascinating and rewarding sketch of the philosophy behind French parenting. I thoroughly recommend it.
Sister Fidelma, an Irish nun, travels with a party of coreligionists to Whitby Abbey. There, a Synod is to be held presided over by Oswy, Saxon King oSister Fidelma, an Irish nun, travels with a party of coreligionists to Whitby Abbey. There, a Synod is to be held presided over by Oswy, Saxon King of Northumbria. At stake is which set of rites, Celtic or Roman, the kingdom will follow. At issue is the form of clerical tonsure and the dating of Easter. When the Abbess Étaín, the leading speaker for the Celtic faction, is murdered Fidelma must investigate the crime.
An advocate in the Irish Brehon Court, she is well suited for her task. But Oswy, known to favour the Celts, must be impartial. She must work with Brother Eadulf, a Saxon from the Roman faction. As their investigations proceed and as the Synod continues, more murders threaten to plunge Northumbria into civil war.
There is much to like about this first work in the series. The clash of Irish and Saxon cultures maintain a dynamic tension through the work and while Fidelma is a more rounded character Eadulf is certainly not two dimensional.
Peter Tremayne (the pen name of Peter Beresford Ellis) is a Celtic scholar, and it shows in the detail that he brings to the work. Unfortunately, at times, it reads like an anti-Roman polemic. But, though it's in the third person, the novel is clearly told from Fidelma's point of view. Also, as her working relationship with Eadulf strengthens, Fidelma comes to appreciate (though still not necessarily agree with) the perspective that he brings.
I found the clues a little telegraphed, having guessed the guilty party less than half way through the book. However, the political intrigues stop it from being too predictable. If you like this period of history then this should be a series worthy of your consideration.
I read the trilogy of which this is is the first part when I was first at uni in the late 1980s, and wanted to see how it holds up for me now. Jane, aI read the trilogy of which this is is the first part when I was first at uni in the late 1980s, and wanted to see how it holds up for me now. Jane, a middle-class woman in her late twenties falls pregnant after her first sexual encounter. Her relationship with her widowed father already difficult, she takes a cheap room (which is the source of the novel's title) in a crumbling building. In it she struggles to come to terms with the impending reality of becoming a single mother in early-sixties Britain.
In many ways it's very much a work of it's period in the way it deals with issues such as pregnancy, abortion, poverty. One probably couldn't now write a mainstream novel in which the main character could seriously talk about the desire that she had to 'save herself' for marriage. Nor would she continue to drink throughout her pregnancy without some self-justification. Jane's first encounter with her West Indian neighbour is memorable for his powerful 'negro odour'.
Yet it's also timeless in the way Jane copes with her new circumstances, alternately moving between hopeful optimism and quiet despair. Despite the outdated stereotypes, Jane's deepening relationships with her fellow tenants do much to undermine them. And many of the attitudes to women that Jane wrestles with seem distressingly modern.
In 6th century Britain an elderly couple, both Britons, sense memories that tease the edges of consciousness. They journey across a Britain to find thIn 6th century Britain an elderly couple, both Britons, sense memories that tease the edges of consciousness. They journey across a Britain to find their son in another village. The eerie post-Roman landscape is one in which mythical creatures are an ever-present danger.
This is a beautifully written melancholic work. As Axl and Beatrice wrestle to re-discover their memories we become uncomfortably aware that forgetting can be a mercy. Some will find that their pilgrimage across Dark Ages Britain drags, and the sense of 'fogginess' that permeates the work robs it of texture. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed reading a work of fantasy whose main concern isn't the machinations of power, the march of armies, and that isn't the start of a trilogy....more