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Thursday, 16 December 2010

BBC TV's "The Georgians"

Rousham House where Robert Dormer
kept tyrannical control over his wife
Just finished watching the BBC TV programme about the Georgians, and wanted to say what fantastic viewing it has been. The wonderful Professor Amanda Vickery is a presenter that never gets in the way of the material but presents it with insight and humour. Some of the stories from the diaries of the period would make great novels.

Today we were treated to the diary of poor persecuted Ann Dormer who was kept a virtual prisoner by her jealous husband. The fact that her house was a gorgeous mansion hardly made up for the fact that she was spied upon night and day, even in the gardens.

We were also treated to a close-up of the bane of the historical novelist's life - pockets. (If you put them in your historical novel, you get complaints from readers that pockets did not exist then, but of course they did, just not in the form they are today - and where else is a lady to store her whalebone comb, the key to her secretaire, her much-thumbed love letters?)

These two items were just a couple of the treats we were shown on tonight's episode - I hope they bring it out on DVD - I for one will be adding it to my collection.
The pocket picture is from the lovely blog titled the Gossip Guide to the Eighteenth Century, why not check it out -

Monday, 13 December 2010

Review - The Master of Bruges by Terence Morgan

The Master of Bruges is the story of Hans Memling, a fifteenth century portrait painter whose voice is masterfully brought to life in this debut novel.

In his newly-inherited position as portrait painter to the nobility at home and abroad Memling is privy to the lives of the rich and the powerful. He is also able to observe the political and personal machinations that motivate them. The story moves Memling from Bruges to England and includes insights into Memling's role in the War of the Roses and the mystery of the Princes in the Tower.

Talking of a portrait of the Madonna, Memling says the "red rose she wears at her breast is painted from a compound of alum and powdered wood, lye and urine. If you could smell it, the odour would be the stale of horses." He tells us that in the world of painting, "all is artifice", nothing is as it seems. And so it is too with the life and loves of Memling. He has his own dark secrets, and they are not just the secrets of the mixing of paint.

This is refreshingly unlike any other historical novel I have read. It has the scholarship of non-fiction combined with a character that will hold your interest as he tells his true story.

At the heart of this book is the loving recreation in words of Hans Memling's art. In one respect I found it frustrating not to have the illustrations there in front of me, but in another it allowed Morgan to do his job and create them through the writing - a job he does remarkably well. Morgan sticks rigorously to the known facts of Memling's life whilst introducing a plausible sub-text of Memling's own fascinating opinions of those he paints.

This book will delight anyone who paints, anyone who likes fifteenth century history, or indeed anyone who likes a period skilfully brought to life.

Friday, 3 December 2010

"Raining Men" and raining reviews

On Historical Belles and Beaus blog Ann Whitfield has posted a hilarious video of period beaus and belles set to a soundtrack of "It's raining men" -

And it seems to be raining reviews as well right now. Here's the latest for The Lady's Slipper on Reading the Past. You can also win a copy of the book by leaving a comment on the blog.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Lady's Slipper Interview on Goodreads, and Wellington Boots

Here's my interview with Jessica Donaghy on Goodreads in their December Newsletter.

And here is the view from my window today!

Just about managed to get out to my Tai Chi class in the neighbouring village, followed by coffee at Zeffirelli's Cafe. No Lady's Slippers for me only Wellington Boots.The snow keeps coming and going, so its a lovely excuse to light the wood fire and sit down to my third novel. I'm now in Chapter Three and buried under research books and notes.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Publishers Fake Reviews on Amazon

The Daily Mail had an article on Monday about how publishers are paying PR agencies to write favourable reviews and put them on Amazon. Nathan Barker of Reputation 24/7 offers a service starting at £5000. "We'd say we like this book but add a tiny bit of criticism and compare it to another book." Barker claims this is common practice in the publishing industry.

Well, I'm pretty sure none of my Amazon reviews have been paid for by the publisher. And I'm glad. If my publishers were to think the book so bad that they need to pay someone to write me good reviews then they can't have much confidence in the book!

I have the usual mix of reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Librarything - some love it, some like it less. This is normal as the public has idiosyncratic reading tastes. The women in my book group don't all love the books I do, even if they are well-written, thoughtfully edited and brilliantly marketed.

I usually click on the reviewer to see what else they have reviewed if I am reading a review. Some reviewers review up to twenty books a month. Are they reading all these? Big Warning Bell.

However - I am grateful to the readers who have made the time and effort to review The Lady's Slipper with their genuine thoughts, particularly in the US where I know not a soul. I am grateful for anyone who raises its profile and opens debate about it, whether the review is good or bad, and don't take it too personally. We can't all like the same books!

More debate on a similar topic can be found at a post by writer Eliza Graham at  Macmillan New Writers