Friday, February 4, 2011

What Better Time for Reading...

What better time for reading than the middle of winter, when the snow piles high and the thermometer sinks low. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and I thought I would share the books I am enjoying with you.

Mr. Langshaw's Square Piano: The Story of the First Pianos and How They Caused a Cultural Revolution 
by Madeline Goold
This book caught my eye in the library, I have to admit,  because of the lovely cover. The delightful Regency lady is from a painting titled "The Duet" by G. G. Kilburne, a Victorian painter. A closer examination of the book led me to bring it home, and I am enjoying it very much. Ms. Goold has a pleasant, vivid style of writing. She begins her story with her purchase of square piano #10651 (built in 1807) in a dilapidated state. She recounts its restoration and then traces its history, covering as she does so, the development of pianofortes in Britain and their effect on British society. Along the way, we meet Mr. Langshaw the piano's first owner, and John Broadwood, who founded a piano-building dynasty.

This book is an admirable social history, and I heartily recommend it to anyone interested in the period. It has a lovely companion website, here

Becoming Queen Victoria: The Tragic Death of Princess Charlotte and the Unexpected Rise of Britain's Greatest Monarch
by Kate Williams
The first third or more of this book is about Princess Charlotte, her father the Prince Regent and her disreputable, often unpleasant uncles.Williams has a fiction writer's style, dramatic and rather sensational, which makes the oft-told story fresh and new. And the point of course is that if Princess Charlotte had not died, Victoria would not have become queen.

I learned much I did not know about Charlotte, the beleaguered princess, and her short life from the book. And I found my imagination stirred--what if she had lived? Victoria has always interested me as well, so it is no hardship to read all of the book, even for a Regency period devotee.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen
by Susannah Carson
This excellent book, offering many fascinating insights into our favourite author and her work, has been reviewed with great thoroughness and intelligence elsewhere. See Jane Austen's World Blog and Austenprose Blog for two excellent reviews. I need only say that I am enjoying it immensely and recommend it to any lover of Jane Austen.

In a slight digression from the Regency, I am also reading Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell. Her fictionalized retelling of the great romance of Claude Monet's life is very enjoyable. The great Impressionist painters come alive as they move through Monet's life. Their struggles for recognition wring the heart and Monet's difficult life makes his fabulous artistic output all the more astonishing. This is an enjoyable read--best done with a book of Monet's art at one's side.

To return to the Regency, I am looking forward to reading the wonderful Tracy Chevalier's latest book Remarkable Creatures. The author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, in this book takes on the life of Mary Anning. Mary as a little girl found the first complete dinosaur skeleton on a beach near Lyme Regis and spent her life hunting fossils (1799-1847). I will be interested to read Chevalier's interpretation of the Regency world.

All of these books are available at your favourite book store in North America, and hopefully, also for those of you outside NA. I hope you are enjoying some good books this winter--I'd love to hear about them.

'Til next time,



Janet said...

Love hearing about books, Lesley-Anne - and you have some great ones listed here. I'm noting the one about Charlotte and Victoria specifically. Have you seen the movie "The Young Victoria" yet? It's on my list to rent - fascinated by that era.

I just came back from the library and have Andrew Davidson's "The Gargoyle" - a Manitoba writer's debut novel (2008) that a friend recommended. Our book club is doing 'romance' this month and I wanted to steer away from my usual romance reads (which everyone is expecting me to bring/talk about).

Have a great weekend - and happy reading :)

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

Oh, yes, I've seen The Young Victoria--really enjoyed it. Better done even than I hoped. 'The Gargoyle' sounds interesting; I'll have to check it out.

Take care...lovely to hear from you!