Top 10 Tuesday: Favourite Books To Complement A History Lesson!

Top 10 Tuesday!!!

This week’s topic is:

August 30: Back To School Freebie — anything “back to school” related like 10 favorite books I read in school, books I think should be required reading, Required Reading For All Fantasy Fans, required reading for every college freshman, Books to Pair With Classics or Books To Complement A History Lesson, books that would be on my classroom shelf if I were a teacher

I picked books to complement a history lesson, but instead of giving many examples of good books about a specific era, I tried to vary the historical context a bit. Enjoy!

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Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Check it out here.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Nazis Germany

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The Diviners Series by Libba Bray – 1920s New York

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Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon – Scotland and WW1

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Napoleonic Wars

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Animal Farm by George Orwell – Communist Russia

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – Racism in America, 1930s (ish?)

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – 1950s New Orleans

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Witch Child by Celia Rees – Salem Witch Trials

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The Muse by Jessie Burton – 1960s London/1930s rural Spain

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Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – Victorian Colonialism

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What about you? Any favourite books that would help liven up a history lesson? Please let me know!

lizard

 

 

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books With X Setting!

Hello Tuesday!

This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books With X Setting (top ten books set near the beach, top ten book set in boarding school, top ten books set in England, etc)

And I’m choosing to make this post…

Top 10 Books with a Historical Setting!

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Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

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The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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The Diviners Series by Libba Bray

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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Witch Child by Celia Rees

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish – link here if you want to know more/take part!

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So what about you guys? Any matches? Please let me know!

lizard

Book Review: The Muse

 

Author: Jessie Burton

Read: July, 2016

Genre: Historical Fiction

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Summary from Goodreads (link here):

From the internationally bestselling author of The Miniaturist comes a captivating and brilliantly realised story of two young women—a Caribbean immigrant in 1960s London, and a bohemian woman in 1930s Spain—and the powerful mystery that ties them together.

England, 1967. Odelle Bastien is a Caribbean émigré trying to make her way in London. When she starts working at the prestigious Skelton Art Gallery, she discovers a painting rumoured to be the work of Isaac Robles, a young artist of immense talent and vision whose mysterious death has confounded the art world for decades. The excitement over the painting is matched by the intrigue around the conflicting stories of its discovery. Drawn into a complex web of secrets and deceptions, Odelle does not know what to believe or who she can trust, including her mesmerising colleague, Marjorie Quick.

Spain, 1937. Olive Schloss, the daughter of a Viennese Jewish art dealer and English heiress, follows her parents to Arazuelo, a poor, restless village on the southern coast. She grows close to Teresa, a young housekeeper, and her half-brother Isaac Robles, an idealistic and ambitious painter newly returned from the Barcelona salons. A dilettante buoyed by the revolutionary fervour that will soon erupt into civil war, Isaac dreams of being a painter as famous as his countryman, Picasso.

Raised in poverty, these illegitimate children of the local landowner revel in exploiting this wealthy Anglo-Austrian family. Insinuating themselves into the Schloss’s lives, Teresa and Isaac help Olive conceal her artistic talents with devastating consequences that will echo into the decades to come.

Rendered in exquisite detail, The Muse is a passionate and enthralling tale of desire, ambition, and the ways in which the tides of history inevitably shape and define our lives.

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Review:

(HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I loved this book. For me, it was better than The Miniaturist.

Personally, I adore books that try and show the interlocking connections that exist between time periods, places and people and The Muse captures this brilliantly – half the story follows Odelle in 1960s London and the other half follows Olive in 1930s Spain. Out of the two, I found Odelle far more likeable – Olive was at times painfully naive and somewhat oblivious to others, although considering the novel does explore the idea of finding one’s independence and sense of purpose, Olive’s age (19) and rather sheltered upbringing, it is understandable. However Odelle was endlessly enjoyable to read about – an aspiring writing who suffers from a lot of self doubt, was stubborn and stuck to her values, had believable conflicts with other characters from which she learned and evolved as a person. Also, I really admired her determination – she moved from her family home in Trinidad to London to pursue her dream of being a writer, facing and overcoming a lot of ingrained racism as well as her own worries about not being good enough.

The two women are connected by a painting – Rufina and the Lion. Olive, an artist, painted the piece along with several others during her time in rural Spain in the lead up the Spanish Civil War. Olive’s father is a notable art dealer, but he has never taken his daughter’s work seriously –

Her father always said that of course women could pick up a paintbrush and paint, but the fact was, they didn’t make good artists. Olive had never quite worked out what the difference was.

(Side-note: Another reason I admire Burton’s writing is because it’s often got a feminist slant – her characters are usually working against some kind of confining gender discrimination, and in Odelle’s case it’s racial as well.)

Olive believes herself to be creating her best work during her time in Spain as a direct result of meeting Isaac Robles – Isaac and his sister Teresa are locals who arrive at the Schloss household seeking work for Teresa as a maid/housekeeper. Olive is quickly infatuated with Isaac; he becomes her muse. Olive becomes terrified of losing this creative ability she has found, desperately clutching at Isaac’s affection and the cover identity he provides for her work after Teresa, wanting Olive to receive more recognition for her paintings, switches one of Olive’s works with a portrait of Isaac’s. Olive’s father falls in love with the piece, setting about to sell it immediately, oblivious to the fact it was painted by his daughter.

Fast forward to London, 1960s. Odelle is given a job at an art gallery by the enigmatic Marjorie Quick, who tries to encourage Odelle’s writing talent, going so far as to help her publish her first story. Odelle goes on to meet Lawrie at her friend’s wedding party, and the pair share a moment in the kitchen, discussing the death of Lawrie’s mother and Odelle’s father, before going their separate ways. Lawrie later finds Odelle at her work, bringing with him a painting which draws a rather strange reaction from Quick and excitement from the gallery’s owner – it’s an Isaac Robles, a piece called Rufina and the Lion.

As both stories progress and interconnect, culminating in tragedy and hope, it becomes apparent that Marjorie Quick was in fact Teresa. I don’t know at what point in the story Burton intended for this to become known to the reader – I figured it out quite quickly, so it wasn’t a major revelation. I don’t know if it was supposed to be one, but I also don’t think that it matters. The very narrative structure of novel, split between two periods, grants the reader a sense of knowledge, an awareness, that the characters themselves could never possess. So it doesn’t matter, I feel, because the reader finding out isn’t the point – it’s Odelle finding out, it’s the validation of another person knowing the truth about the Isaac Robles painting, that matters. At least, that was my interpretation.

The Muse is not only about growing up, but also about art and the creative process. A lot of emphasis is placed on the freedom Olive gains from being able to paint anonymously – people do not attribute her work to her, but Isaac, and this gives her space to do what she likes. Quick advises Odelle, who is going through a period of writer’s block, to just write because her work would be separate from herself. It’s a strange but also not strange idea – once an idea leaves the confines of a person’s mind and is shared in any creative medium, the interpretation of that idea is up to its audience. The audience’s interpretation is separate from the intention of the artist. The artist themself is not their art, nor is their art them.

The idea that anyone might be able to detach their personal value from their public output was revolutionary. I didn’t know if it was possible, even desirable.

I feel that Burton’s own experiences must have influenced her here – The Miniaturist was a wildly popular debut; I think it’s sold over a million copies (it has, I just check The Muse’s book jacket – which is incredibly pretty by the way). How daunting to have to write a another book in the face of that success and inevitable expectation. That’s why I feel the whole idea of separating the art from the artist probably captured Burton’s interest – the idea of the creative freedom that would allow, that Olive experiences when Isaac becomes the face of her work, was probably something Burton would appreciate with her own writing.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was how Burton explored the finite nature of some relationships – the person who you fall in love with in your late teens/early twenties isn’t necessarily the person you’re going to be with forever, and that’s totally normal and okay. Odelle describes how her relationship with Lawrie changes and fades away after he uses his money from Rufina’s sale to travel to America:

In the end, Lawrie didn’t come back.

[…] I did not miss Lawrie as much as I might have missed my work. He had told me to keep writing, so I did. I would have preferred not to have to choose between writing and loving; because for me, they were often the same thing.

[…] Perhaps I didn’t have to choose. Perhaps that was a dichotomy I set up myself. Regardless; the phone calls became more sporadic, and then they stopped.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. Burton is a talented story teller and her historical settings are simply gorgeous – although I must say, 1960s London and 1930s Spain weren’t quite as beautiful as her depiction of 1600s Amsterdam. The Muse is a fantastic book – it made me consider creativity and the nature of art differently, as well giving brief glimmers of insight into two very interesting time periods. What are you waiting for? Go read it!

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If you like this try:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns

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What about you guys? Any other Jessie Burton fans? Please share your thoughts!

lizard

Top 10 Tuesday: Books Set Outside the US

Another week, another Top Ten Tuesday!

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly book meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Follow the link to find out more/how to take part.

This week’s topic is Books Set Outside The USA – which is a super easy topic for me, because that includes the majority of my bookshelf! I don’t know why, it’s not like I have an aversion to the US being a book setting – maybe it’s because I live in Britain? Or because my favourite genre is Fantasy?

So to narrow down my selection range I’m keeping this list within the known world – no fantasy lands, unless they are based in reality, e.g. Harry Potter is fantasy that happens in Britain whereas The Hobbit is fantasy that happens in Middle Earth (which is unfortunately absent from actual Earth). But I’m also excluding Harry Potter anyway because basically everyone’s read that/will pick it for list.

Anyways, here’s my list:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  Set: Germany, WW2.

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  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Set: Amsterdam, Holland, 1600s.

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  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Set: France/Germany, WW2. Mostly St. Malo on the North coast of France – which is a beautiful place to visit.

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  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Set: Lithuania, Soviet Union (WW2 Europe).

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  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Set: London/London Below.14497

 

  • Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Set: Britain (mostly – also spends time in France, Spain, Italy). 1800s.

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  • The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. Set: South Africa, Sweden.

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  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Set: England, Victorian era.

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  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Set: England, Victorian era.

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  • Animal Farm by George Orwell. Set: Britain – although based on communist Russia.

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  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Set: England, Victorian era.9780141199085

 

People who have counted might have noticed that this list contains not ten books, but eleven. *shocked gasp*. I know, I’m such a rebel.

Has anyone else read any of these? Liked them? Hated them? Please let me know!

lizard

Book Review: A God in Ruins

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Author: Kate Atkinson

Read: July, 2016

Genre: Historical – WW2, Fiction

 

 

 

Review:

Summary from Goodreads:

WINNER OF THE 2015 COSTA NOVEL AWARD
A God in Ruins relates the life of Teddy Todd – would-be poet, heroic World War II bomber pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century. For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

This gripping, often deliriously funny yet emotionally devastating book looks at war – that great fall of Man from grace – and the effect it has, not only on those who live through it, but on the lives of the subsequent generations. It is also about the infinite magic of fiction.Those who loved the bestselling Life After Life will recognise Teddy as Ursula Todd’s adored younger brother – but for those who have not read it, A God in Ruins stands fully on its own.

This book grew on me. I feel that it started out a little slow; the second section “Alouette” about Teddy’s childhood was rather meandering and uneventful, but still interesting and effective at establishing most of the main characters in Teddy’s life. After this section, the others were a lot more engaging and flitted between various points in Teddy’s long life – his experiences in WW2, the immediate aftermath, his married life, his daughter Viola growing up, his grandchildren, his old age. The scale of the novel’s story is quite impressive, and I admire how Atkinson has managed to distil an entire life into the pages of her book.

The omnipresent narrative took me a while to get used to – it’s weird reading about a child and being given information about his future daughter, but ultimately this style of weaving different threads of time together it what makes A God in Ruins so brilliant. It connects the dots between time period and generations of a family. It highlights the repercussions of history, most specifically the impact of WW2 on both the individual (Teddy) and wider society. It’s compassionate but honest in its depiction of its characters and their flaws, about life in general.

Overall, A God in Ruins struck me as being a book about consequences – of history, of our actions, of our emotions. It’s a beautiful book that had me shedding a few tears, especially in the scenes about (SPOILER! SPOILER!) Teddy’s wife, Nancy, dealing with her illness and the eventual end of her life.

Honestly, I recommend it for everyone.

Best Quote/s:

“One’s own life seemed puny against the background of so much history.”

“Moments left, Teddy thought. A handful of heartbeats. That was what life was. A heartbeat followed by a heartbeat. A breath followed by a breath. One moment followed by another moment and then there was a last moment.”

 

Has any else read this book? Thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

lizard

The Bookish Time Travel Tag!

Time is an illusion. – Albert Einstein
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Hello! Anyone else love time travel? 🙂

Basically, I’ve come up with ten questions around the theme of time travel about books and I thought I’d try and turn it into a book tag. Here are the rules:

  • Answer as many of the questions as you can/want.
  • Tag other people – as many as you like. Share the love!
  • Please leave a link to this post/blog. 
  • Tag the post as “Bookish Time Travel”.
  • Feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments!
  • Explore! Try and visit other people’s Bookish Time Travel posts and leave a comment.

 

The Questions:

1. What is your favourite historical setting for a book?

The Victorian era – I find it fascinating! The weird culture and social rules, the rigid class system, the rapid expansion of industry, poverty, gender inequality, the clothes (I wish I could wear a top hat as part of my everyday wardrobe)… Plus, there’s lots of good historical fiction or even fantasy/paranormal set in this time period and quite a few of my favourite classics are from the Victorian era as well.

2.What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

The Bronte sisters. I’ve read some of their work and loved it, so I feel like they’d be really interesting people to meet and have a cup of tea with. 🙂

Also, Shakespeare. I’d thank him for his sonnets, ask him to write an autobiography so we could know some half decent facts about him that aren’t all vague conjecture, and steal an unpublished copy of one of his plays so I can magically “find” it in the future and become rich.

3.What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

cone_of_shame*hides face in shame* The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I haven’t read it yet. Or, more accurately, I read the first twenty pages of the first book and gave up about two years ago.

I wish I’d been given it when I was about ten/eleven-ish – I feel that version of myself would have loved it a lot more than this version of myself. Not that I think books should be the-lord-of-the-rings-book-coverrestricted to certain age groups – I still read children’s books with 0% shame – but I feel like different versions of ourselves like/liked different things or appreciate them more. At that age I was just beginning to fall in love with books, especially fantasy, so I feel younger me would have loved The Lord of the Rings. When I tried reading it a few years ago, it just wasn’t clicking – I kept thinking about how I wished I’d read it sooner, so I think the regret/nostalgia kind of ruined the experience. However, I do want to give Lord of the Rings another go – as a lover of fantasy, it seems a bit bizarre that I haven’t.

4.What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

alice_in_wonderlandWeird question, I know. But what I meant by it was more along the lines of – what book do you want to remind your older self of because it was really important to you? For me, it would be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s been one of my favourites for years; I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve reread it. I think it’s important to never stop being curious or exploring – once that’s gone, you’ve lost your sense of wonder and that’s just too precious to lose and I feel that Alice really captures that.

5.What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book? E.g. Panem from The Hunger Games (said no one ever).

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This one’s tricky, because most futuristic societies are corrupt/evil, but I’m picking the setting from Sarah Crossan’s Breathe/Resist Duology. I mean, sure there’s hardly any oxygen left, but it seems pretty cool otherwise?

 

 

 

6.What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period 51a99tea6il-_sx317_bo1204203200_(can be historical or futuristic)?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s set in Nazi Germany. Narrated by Death. It’s amazing. I cried. Repeatedly. Go read it.

 

7.Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

….Very occasionally. I used to do it a lot more when I was younger and impatient, but now I only ever do it with books that I’m not enjoying all that much and want to finish quickly to see if it’s worthwhile continuing with it. Last time I did this was with Emma by Jane Austen, which I unfortunately didn’t like because I clearly have no taste in good literature, and I reviewed here.

 

8.If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

For understandable reasons, everyone’s tempted to go kill Hitler. But I’d make a shit assassin, so I think I’ll leave that up to someone else.

Personally, I kind of stumped myself with this question. There’s obviously things I regret or wish never happened, but if I changed them would I not be changing a bunch of other stuff as well by accident? Like if I went back and stopped ten year old me from splitting her head after falling off her chair because she was swinging on it, would I have learned to stop swinging on my chair? What if because nothing bad happened I kept on doing it and ended up getting hurt worse later on? Problems!

So I guess I wouldn’t change anything, but I would use it like an interactive history lesson instead and go back to the Victorian era. Just take notes. Wear a top hat.

 

9.Favourite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Such. A. Great. Book! This one is a favourite of mine and is actually six novellas that all sort of follow the main character, Holly Sykes, but from differing viewpoints (only the first and the last POVs are Holly’s). Each novella occurs in a different time period.

 

 

 

10. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

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I was trying to think of something to say other than Harry Potter, because it’s so popular and I think a lot of people would want to go back and read it again for the first time, but I can’t. So, my answer’s the Harry Potter series, for reasons that will be obvious for anyone who’s ever read it.

 

 

 

I’m Tagging:

If I’ve tagged you and you don’t want to take part – that’s totally okay! I just thought it would be fun to attempt to start a book tag of my own, especially because I love the theme of time travel. Also, if I haven’t tagged you and you want to take part – do it! Just make sure you leave a link to your post or blog in the comments so I can find it. 🙂

HAPPY TIME TRAVELLING,

lizard