Reviews and recommendations for adults
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Jeremy Black - A History of the British Isles
I borrowed a history book from Edgware library recently, as I wanted to understand more about the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Britain. I concentrated on the chapters about the Middle Ages and the Sixteenth Century. Both chapters have been very rewarding: I learnt a lot about the Normans and their influence, the conflicts of the middle ages, the relationship between England and France, the role of the Christian Church, the economic conditions of the 1200s, and the lives of ordinary people. The book is very good at giving an overview of the whole period, and has helped me to understand the development of kingship and political power, and the expansion of trade, learning, publishing and the arts in the Elizabethan age. Not an easy book to read but a rewarding one, and I feel that I can tackle other history books on the shelves in Edgware in future, as I have a better understanding of how history is written.
Eleanor Catton - The Luminaries
A beautifully crafted novel that deservingly won the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Eleanor Catton's weighty tome (and at over 800 pages it is weighty) is written in the style of a Victorian thriller, but while the tale of murder and intrigue among New Zealand's gold-rush pioneers is gripping stuff, Catton's book is so much more than that. The book is peppered with astrological charts and references, and asks big questions about fate versus free will; each section (12, one for each sign of the zodiac) is half the length of the last, drawing the reader on as the tension builds to a thrilling conclusion. A deep literary read, if that floats your boat, but an unputdownable murder mystery either way.
China Mieville - King Rat
I started reading this because I love books about London, and this is certainly set in London, just not the parts of the city you'd expect. The hidden parts of the city are exposed as the rooftops and sewers become the backdrop for this strange tale. Have you ever thought, if I was an animal, what animal would I be? Would you chose to be half cat, half giraffe, half butterfly? Maybe not half rat. But Saul finds himself becoming just that. A brilliant concept, and a fast paced, sometimes gory read.