Book Review: Castles In The Air by Judy Corbett

Castles in the Air by Judy CorbettI’d never heard of this book before I picked it up a few months ago.  Nobody I know has read it, and I hadn’t seen any online reviews about it.  I just saw it in a Bargain Bin in a second-hand bookshop and was taken in by the blurb on the back cover.

Blurbs are funny things, aren’t they?  I love them: a browser like me relies heavily on them to persuade me to buy the book (and I am also swayed by a beautiful cover… I’m only human).  A bad or misleading blurb can be fatal for me, as was almost the case with One Day.  On the flip-side, I know people who refuse to ever read blurbs, preferring to be surprised by the content of a recommended book.

The blurb for Castles in the Air, a non-fiction read about a couple who buy a derelict Welsh castle and lovingly renovate it, made me stop for a moment and long to be a part of their adventure.  When I started reading the book itself, I wasn’t expecting an action-packed adventure; I anticipated a slow-paced, romantic (in the traditional sense) tale of a historical building, its inhabitants and the surrounding countryside.

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Book Review: Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Wild Swans by Jung ChangReading this book, totally caught up with the unfolding terror, I kept thinking that Wild Swans ought to be a set text in schools.  I am shocked at how ignorant I was about China and its history.  The events of the country’s last century alone would have kept me enthralled with horror during my history lessons if they had been mentioned on the curriculum.

The novel recounts the lives of three generations of women: the writer Jung Chang, her mother, and her grandmother.  In her youth, her grandmother lived the traditionally repressed life expected of a Chinese woman of her time, with no voice and no freedom.  She was forced to become a concubine to increase her father’s power and standing in society, but was lucky to escape this “gilded cage” when her daughter was two years old and was eventually able to forge a new life somewhat more on her own terms.

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Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel“The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to towards the rocky beach at the bend in the small river.  It didn’t occur to her to look back.  Nothing in her experience ever gave her reason to doubt the shelter and those within it would be there when she returned…”

So begins the first in the Earth’s Children® series of seven novels.  It’s been a bestselling series, but somehow I’ve only discovered it just prior to the release of the final instalment in March 2011.  I was intrigued by the prehistoric setting (I lap up historical novels like whipped cream) and I wanted to know more.

I can’t bear to start a series in the middle, never mind the end, so I decided to try the first book, first published in 1980.  The novel is about a Neanderthal tribe which takes in an orphaned child.  The child is not of their clan; she’s not even of their race.  Ayla is one of the Others, and she is tall, blonde and blue-eyed, standing out from everyone around her and deemed ugly next to their short, dark and hairy bodies.  Her personality is also vastly different from theirs: she shocks them by wanting to hunt with the men, talking too much and being able to count.  Luckily she is keen to learn their ways, and so step by step we and Ayla are initiated into the clan’s way of life.

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The Woman Who Shot Mussolini by Frances Stonor Saunders

I don’t know about you but I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.  In fact, I hardly read any non-fiction books for pleasure until I joined my book group last year.  There’s so much wonderful fiction to read, transporting me to so many imaginary worlds, that I’ve never really wanted to give my time to reading anything else.

But I’ve recently discovered the joy of being introduced to extremely accessible historical non-fiction, which takes me on an equally fascinating journey into the unknown, yet concludes leaving me with a deeper insight into the focus of the book.  Plus I’m not left with fiction based on fact.  I’m left with the sometimes astonishing, sometimes shocking, realisation that these events really happened and are backed up with actual evidence. More