Welcome to the November 2018 issue of Books Monthly – time to start thinking about book gifts for Christmas, beginning with a stunning new Lord of the Rings book from Harper Collins and a beautiful reminder of the girls and women who’ve appeared with the thirteen doctors from BBC Books… Watch out also for a new Enid Blyton biography and a new book by Michael Caine… Do please let me know what you think by email at paulenorman1@gmail.com

 

811iwmLaura Clouting: A Century of Remembrance

  Published by The Imperial War Museum 1st November 2018

The scale and nature of the First World War, and the manner in which the dead were treated, created conditions in which a very particular language of grief and remembrance of the war dead flourished.
A Century of Remembrance explores the deeply personal ways in which people mourned their loved ones, and memorialised them, and examines the cornerstones of national-scale remembrance that took hold in Britain throughout the 1920s, from the poppy to the cenotaph.
Featuring approximately 150 images of objects from the IWM collections, including photographs, film stills, posters and paintings, this highly illustrated book will be published to accompany the Making a New World season at IWM London and IWM North in 2018, and coincides with the centenary of the end of the First World War.

This stunning book, published by the Imperial War Museum, looks at how we have remembered the fallen from “the Great War” over the past one hundred years. Author Laura Clouting has uncovered a multitude of facts and figures that were largely unknown to me, for example the fact that Lutyen’s Cenotaph was originally made of wood and plaster and was intended to be dismantled after only one week. It was public pressure and the clamour for a permanent memorial that led to it staying in place until 1920 and then being replaced by the permanent erection we know and respect today. In this centenary year of the end of the conflict that saw more than one million British and Commonwealth soldiers perish, Laura examines the changing attitudes to the first world war, looks at how different groups of people chose to mark the passing of their loved ones, and gives, amongst other things, a full and fascinating account of how the poppy became the symbol of remembrance around the world. There are, of course, a number of images of dead soldiers, be they British, Canadian, French, or German. They are all images I have never seen before, and I have been studying the vast number of books about WW1 from Pen and Sword over the past few years. These images make you stop and think. To reflect. I’ve been searching all of Pen and Sword’s books about the Somme in the hope of one day finding a published account of my grandfather’s short time there before he became just one of more than three hundred “other ranks” who died in August 1916 and was subsequently lost to me. I have done as much research into his life and death as Ancestry.co.uk can give me, and although I know what he looks like, at one particular point in his life, I still know far too little about him and his early life. Laura’s book doesn’t go into that kind of detail, but it has many photographs and stories of tommies and officers who never came back. There is excellent and poignant coverage of the War Poets, and finally, there is a superb, very readable text that make this a book that you will want to keep forever as one of the finest and respectful reminders of “the Great War” and the very real people that took part and often didn’t make it back home to their loved ones. An amazing keepsake of the very highest quality.

John Howe: A Middle-Earth Traveller

  Published by Harper Collins 4th October 2018

811aLet acclaimed Tolkien artist John Howe take you on an unforgettable journey across Middle-earth, from Bag End to Mordor, in this richly illustrated sketchbook fully of previously unseen artwork, anecdotes and meditations on Middle-earth. Middle-earth has been mapped, Bilbo’s and Frodo’s journeys plotted and measured, but it remains a wilderland for all that. The roads as yet untravelled far outnumber those down which J.R.R. Tolkien led us in his writings. A Middle-earth Traveller presents a walking tour of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, visiting not only places central to his stories, but also those just over the hill or beyond the horizon. Events from Tolkien’s books are explored – battles of the different ages that are almost legend by the time of The Lord of the Rings; lost kingdoms and ancient myths, as well as those places only hinted at: kingdoms of the far North and lands beyond the seas. Sketches that have an ‘on-the-spot’ feel to them are interwoven with the artist’s observations gleaned from Tolkien’s books as he paints pictures with his words as well as his pencil. He also recollects his time spent working alongside Peter Jackson on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film trilogies. Combining concept work produced for films, existing Middle-earth art and dozens of new paintings and sketches exclusive to this book, A Middle-earth Traveller will take the reader on a unique and unforgettable journey across Tolkien’s magical landscape.

In case anyone might have forgotten that the Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies is the greatest ever cinematic achievement (so far), this beautiful collection of sketches and paintings by the best ever Middle Earth artist, John Howe, is a timely and suitable reminder. You will be in awe of the sheer brilliance of the illustrations contained in this superb book from Tolkien publisher Harper Collins, as Howe transports you through the delights, the horrors, and the characters contained in the three volumes of the Lord of the Rings, which remains the greatest of all fantasy adventure stories. The three Hobbit movies were celebrated by Harper Collins in stunning style with six landscape volumes containing an amazing wealth of material, including sketches by, among others, John Howe and Alan Lee. The three Lord of the Rings movies were not, and this is the publisher’s attempt to redress the balance – it works in spectacular style. This is a sumptuous celebration of the artist’s craft and the amazing subject matter contained in Middle Earth – it is a gift book, but it is a book also that has to be read as you allow the master artist to guide you through Middle Earth. Absolutely fantastic!

Christel Dee & Simon Guerrier: The Women Who Lived

 Published by BBC Books 27th September 2018

811bMeet the women who run the Whoniverse. From Sarah Jane Smith to Bill Potts, from Susan Foreman to the Thirteenth Doctor, women are the beating heart of Doctor Who. Whether they’re facing down Daleks or thwarting a Nestene invasion, these women don’t hang around waiting to be rescued – they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in. Scientists and soldiers, queens and canteen workers, they don’t let anything hold them back. Featuring historical women such as Agatha Christie and Queen Victoria alongside fan favourites like Rose Tyler and Missy, The Women Who Lived tells the stories of women throughout space and time. Beautifully illustrated by a team of all-female artists, this collection of inspirational tales celebrates the power of women to change the universe.

Jodie Whitaker has made millions of people want to watch Dr Who again – me and my family among them. The last time I watched the series regularly was when Tom Baker was playing the doctor. I saw a few of the David Tennant episodes, but the series had gone off the boil for me. It has taken a female doctor to regenerate my interest. I was always interested in the doctor’s female companions, of course, my all-time favourite being the wonderful Sarah Jane Smith played by the fantastic actress Elizabeth Sladen, now, sadly, no longer with us. She would have loved the concept of a female doctor. This celebration of the females in the “whoniverse” is all paintings, not photos from the show. I have to say that one artist in particular, Sophie Cowdrey, stands out as the most spectacularly outstanding of all of the various artists that contributed to this volume. For the most part, the paintings look like who they’re meant to be. Personally, I would have preferred Sophie to do the lot! Having said that, this is a brilliant concept and a handsome companion to the new series that all Doctor Who fans will want to get their hands on! If you want to read a brilliant first novel featuring the new Doctor, you’ll find it on the books for children page in this issue…

Nadia Cohen: The Real Enid Blyton

 Published by Pen and Sword 4th October 2018

811uShe is the most prolific children s author in history, but Enid Blyton is also the most controversial. A remarkable woman who wrote hundreds of books in a career spanning forty years, even her razor sharp mind could never have predicted her enormous global audience. Now, fifty years after her death, Enid remains a phenomenon, with sales outstripping every rival. Parents and teachers lobbied against Enid s books, complaining they were simplistic, repetitive and littered with sexist and snobbish undertones. Blatant racist slurs were particularly shockingly; foreign and working class characters were treated with a distain that horrifies modern readers. But regardless of the criticism, Enid worked until she could not physically write another word, famously producing thousands of words a day hunched over her manual typewriter. She imaged a more innocent world, where children roamed unsupervised, and problems were solved with midnight feasts or glorious picnics with lashings of ginger beer. Smugglers, thieves, spies and kidnappers were thwarted by fearless gangs who easily outwitted the police, while popular schoolgirls scored winning goals in nail-biting lacrosse matches. Enid carefully crafted her public image to ensure her fans only knew of this sunny persona, but behind the scenes, she weaved elaborate stories to conceal infidelities, betrayals and unconventional friendships, lied about her childhood and never fully recovered from her parent s marriage collapsing. She grew up convinced that her beloved father abandoned her for someone he loved more, and few could ever measure up to her impossible standards. A complex and immature woman, Enid was plagued by insecurities and haunted by a dark past. She was prone to bursts of furious temper, yet was a shrewd businesswoman years ahead of her time. She may not have been particularly likeable, and her stories infuriatingly unimaginative, but she left a vast literary legacy to generations of children.

Everyone loves a good biography (or autobiography, see: Michael Caine’s Blowing The Bloody Doors Off, below) and this brand new biography of Enid Blyton is most welcome, telling me a great deal I didn’t already know from other sources, including the most famous one, the Barbara Stoney biography. Nadia’s work on Enid Blyton is enthralling, engaging stuff, bringing me a lot closer to the woman I revere so much; however, some of it makes for difficult reading, as Nadia assesses Enid’s attitude to her daughters Gillian and Imogen, an attitude reinforced with quotations from Imogen’s own autobiography. I can live with that – it often transpires that our hero-worshipping of our favourite authors (or any other celebrity, for that matter) is misplaced when it comes to their personal lives. And nothing I’ve read in Nadia’s wonderful book detracts from my admiration of Enid as a writer. It’s sometimes difficult trying to reconcile how important Enid’s work was when it came to advising other teachers on how they should teach with the sudden revulsion for her work in the 1950s and 1960s when libraries stripped their shelves of her novels. It’s also very revealing that other people had written about golliwogs as characters in their books long before Enid did; and the comments about Noddy by so-called eminent literary critics are just simply laughable. Stephen King makes the point often enough – stories don’t have to mean anything, they should be accepted simply for what they are – stories. Why should we have to look for meaning in every story we read? Noddy’s adventures are quite simply escapist fantasy. Nadia’s biography of Enid Blyton is a welcome addition to the library of information we have about one of the world’s greatest writers. Let the children she wrote for be her fiercest critics – they love her, and we love her too. I have a small library of Enid’s books in my collection, including some 1950s Barney mysteries, which I still read. And reading more about her in this superb new biography has been my absolute pleasure.

Richard Van Emden: 1918 The Decisive Year in Soldiers’ Own Words and Photographs

 Published by Pen and Sword 11th October 2018

811ad1918: The Decisive Year in Soldiers Own Words and Photographs is the next volume in the remarkable series of books from the best-selling First World War historian, Richard van Emden. Revisiting the winning formula of diaries and memoirs, and above all original photographs taken on illegally-held cameras by the soldiers themselves, Richard tells the story of 1918, of both the ferocious spring offensive that so nearly brought victory for the Germans in the West, and the tenacious British rearguard fight that thwarted them. The book also tells the vivid story of the Allied breakthrough and the return to open warfare that was to bring victory in November 1918. His previous books, The Road to Passchendaele and The Somme have sold over 30,000 copies in hardback and softback, proving that the public appetite is undiminished for new, original stories illustrated with over 150 rarely or never-before-seen battlefield images. The author has an outstanding collection of over 5,000 privately-taken and overwhelmingly unpublished photographs, revealing the war as it was seen by the men involved, an existence that was sometimes exhilarating, too often terrifying, and occasionally even fun. This book will be published in September 2018, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and the national commemorations that will mark the end of the four-year-long series of centennial events to mark the Great War.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard friends and relatives say “my Granddad was at the Battle of the Somme (or other WW1 battles, of course) but he refused ever to talk about what happened, what he saw, what he did”… Reading Richard Van Emden’s conclusive book about the final year of the Great War will give you some idea of why that would be. I worked with a survivor of WW2 at one point during my life; he was a huge man, a labourer at a scientific establishment where I worked in the offices, and he had been a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He gave the appearance of being a little simple, but he wasn’t. He was softly spoken, gentle, and a gentleman, and he would never speak of how he had been treated. The words in Richard’s book are chilling, the photographs even more so, and we should never, ever question those men’s decisions not to talk about what they saw and experienced during that horrific time, those horrific five years that changed the world forever. Neither must we ever forget their sacrifices, their endeavours, their bravery and their courage. This book is the most telling of all the WW1 books I have ever read. Now that there are no more survivors of the Great War, we should use this amazing book to remind ourselves of how it really was for the men involved, and not how the historians say that it was. There is humour, yes, and there is horror, too. If you only read one book about WW1, make it this one, because it is the real story of the war to end all wars.

Michael Caine: Blowing The Bloody Doors Off

 Published by Hodder & Stoughton 18th October 2018

811yHollywood legend and British national treasure Michael Caine shares the wisdom, stories, insight and skills that life has taught him in his remarkable career – and now his 85th year.

One of our best-loved actors Michael Caine has starred in a huge range of films – including all-time favourites – from the classic British movies Alfie, Zulu and The Italian Job to the Hollywood blockbusting Dark Knight trilogy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Hannah and Her Sisters and Cider House Rules. Caine has excelled in every kind of role – with a skill that’s made it look easy.

He knows what success takes – he’s made it to the top of his profession from the toughest beginning. But as he says ‘Small parts can lead to big things. And if you keep doing things right, the stars will align when you least expect it.’ Now in his 85th year he wants to share everything he’s learned.

With brilliant new insight into his life and work and with his wonderful gift for story, this is Caine at his wise and entertaining best.

Michael Caine is one of those amazing people who made it to the top of their profession against all the odds. His new book is as engaging, as funny, as interesting as he is in person – a rare gift. Full of brilliant anecdotes and sage wisdom, this book traces his life from earliest times to the present, and presents a massive cast of A-listers. It’s not name-dropping, they are real people with whom Michael has interacted throughout his long and illustrious career. Yes, he’s made some bad movies, but who hasn’t? And, thankfully, he’s remembered chiefly for his good and great performances, and not for the bad ones. This is the best autobiography on the shelves this Christmas – it’s the modern equivalent of the Photoplay annual we coveted back in the 1950s/60s. It’s pure Hollywood, it’s fascinating, entertaining, hilarious, everything we associate with the great man. Best of all, he’s unchanged from the cockney background that made him what he is, one of Britain’s greatest ever actors and raconteurs. A superb autobiography – put it on your Christmas list today!

Elisabeth Galvin: The Extraordinary Life of E Nesbit, the author of Five Children and It and The Railway Children

 Published by Pen and Sword 26th September 2018

811ae.jpgImagine being one of the most well-loved children’s authors of all time, yet your readers don t know if you’re a man or a woman. Or even your real name. E. Nesbit is really Edith Nesbit, who wrote an extraordinary 98 novels, plays and poetry collections for children and adults between 1885 and 1923. She is credited as the first modern writer for children whose work has influenced authors from Oscar Wilde to C.S. Lewis, Noël Coward to J.K. Rowling. Even though it was published more than 100 years ago, The Railway Children remains one of the most popular children’s books ever written and it has never been out of print. But for Edith, the truth of her life is stranger than her fiction and it’s a truth she was keen to hide from the public. Edith’s father died when she was four, resulting in a peripatetic childhood across Europe. At 21 years old she was seven months pregnant when she married a penniless libertine who became a famous journalist, Hubert Bland. Together as early socialists they were founding members of the Fabian Society, from which the Labour Party has its foundations. A Bohemian and an eccentric, Edith became a mother of five children two of whom she adopted in secret after her husband had an affair with a close friend (who subsequently lived with them as their housekeeper). It was shortly after the sudden death of her beloved son that Edith wrote her first bestseller in 1899, a groundbreaker that dramatically changed the course of children s literature. On the eve of World War I, Edith’s husband died and she married a captain of the Woolwich Ferry. A cheerful cockney sparrow, Tommy Tucker proved to be Edith’s unwitting romantic hero who loved and cherished her until she died in near-poverty on the Romney Marshes of Kent.

I have a vast number of favourite books and films, many of which were written for or, in the case of films, intended for children. The Railway Children came my way initially by way of the outstanding film starring Jenny Agutter. As with all films based on classic fiction, I purchased a copy of the book to read as soon as possible, and was as enchanted with the book as I had been with the film. I am now the proud owner of an Alma Classics copy of the book, and still read it regularly. I was intrigued to know more about the author, Edith Nesbit, and welcomed this new biography by Elisabeth Galvin with open arms. Her story is as fascinating and unusual as that of Enid Blyton, but with the sad ending of living her twilight years in poverty with her second husband Tommy Tucker in Kent, whilst Enid enjoyed superstar status and retained her extraordinary talent for making vast sums of money from her brilliant creations. Elisabeth tells Edith’s story with clarity and verve, whilst uncovering the many layers of secrets that surrounded her adult life, and the result is a sparkling and hugely entertaining biography of one of our best-loved children’s authors of all time. Magnificent!

Marvel Studios Visual Dictionary

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 13th September 2018

811cJoin Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Black Widow, and the Guardians of the Galaxy on a stunning journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe! DK is bringing its expertise in creating beautiful illustrated non-fiction to this modern pop culture phenomenon; Marvel Studios: The Visual Dictionaryshows the world of the Avengers as it has never been seen before. Iron Man’s armour, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s helicarriers, the soaring towers of Asgard, Hawkeye’s bow, Thor’s hammer, mighty Thanos and the Infinity Stones, Star-Lord’s quad blasters – each subject is shown using beautiful movie stills and stunning prop photography, accompanied by engaging text explaining their key features and role in the Marvel saga. A unique and captivating showcase of the first ten years of Marvel Studios, this is the book that every Marvel movie fan has been waiting for!

I never paid much attention to the world of Marvel movies until I caught some of Iron Man. I’m a huge fan of Robert Downey Jr, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Thor series of movies, or Dr Strange… Then came Guardians of the Galaxy, parts 1 and 2, which blew me away, and after that came Avengers Infinity War, and that was it, I was hooked. I didn’t know the backgrounds to hardly any of these marvellous characters, and so I welcomed with open arms this superb guide from DK to the worlds of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There isn’t enough material on the Guardians of the Galaxy for my liking, they look almost like they were added as an afterthought, after huge entries for Iron Man and Thor, for example, but what there is is great, and it’s something that can be addressed in a second edition, maybe. If you follow Guardians and the Avengers, this book is a gigantic, hugely enjoyable treat! 

Justice League The ultimate Guide

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 27th December 2017

811dEnter the world of the Justice League(TM) and discover the heroes, villains, and adventures. This comprehensive guide celebrates the exciting world of the iconic Justice League Super Heroes, a roster that includes SUPERMAN(TM), BATMAN(TM), WONDER WOMAN(TM), GREEN LANTERN(TM), THE FLASH(TM), AQUAMAN(TM), and CYBORG(TM). A must-have for fans, this book showcases major in-world events in the Justice League’s pulsating story, spanning nearly 60 years of comic book history, and is packed with info on the team’s allies, enemies, bases, origins, and more. Includes artwork from the first Justice League comic book in March 1960 to the crucial Rebirth issues and beyond. The stunning design contains lots of in-world information, including in-depth profiles of characters, key comic book issues, and special features on the Justice League’s greatest adventures.

There were once only two players in the superhero comics market, DC and Marvel. My childhood was filled with DC comics, I don’t remember seeing a Marvel comic until I was grown up and they started publishing the adventures of Conan the Barbarian. This magnificent book about the JLA was published a year ago but has just found its way to me and is a strong contender for going on your christmas gift list of books. DK is the only publisher that could bring off this kind of publication, the illustrations are simply mind-blowing and literally out of this world, and the text will grab you as soon as you open the book. Outstanding!

Flora – Inside the Secret World of Plants

 Published by Dorling Kindersley 4th October 2018

811eDiscover the extraordinary diversity of the plant world – and how plants work – with this photographic celebration of the trees, flowers, and foliage plants that share our planet. From tiny mosses and delicate ferns to vibrant blooms and stately palms, Flora invites you to explore the plant kingdom from the ground up, and from root to leaf tip. DK’s elegant introduction to botany is packed with sumptuous photos and crystal-clear artworks that explain the mechanics of photosynthesis, why leaves change colour, how cacti store water, and how seeds know when to grow. Filled with fascinating stories of how plant roots and leaves communicate with their neighbours and how flowers use colour and scent to interact with – and manipulate – the creatures around them, Flora is a fresh and engaging introduction to the mysterious inner workings of the plant world.

Biology was never terribly interesting when I was in my first year at grammar school back in 1957, and it was the first subject I dropped at the end of year one. I wasn’t interested in flowers and plants, really, the only plant I actually remember from my childhood is one my Mum planted in the back garden – Golden Rod. Now I look out for wildflowers every time I take my dog for a walk, marvelling at their beauty and complexity, and when we’re walking in the woods, I am in awe at the structure and he majesty of the huge variety of trees… This stupendous new book on every aspect of flora from DK is so unusual, no novel, it is breathtaking in its beauty. 

Amy Ratcliffe: Star Wars Women of the Galaxy

 Published by Chronicle Books 30th October 2018

811hThey are heroes and villains, Sith and Jedi, senators and scoundrels, mothers, mercenaries, artists, pilots. . . . The women of the Star Wars galaxy drive its stories and saga forward at every level. This beautifully illustrated, fully authorized book profiles 75 fascinating female characters from across films, fiction, comics, animation, and games. Featuring Leia Organa, Rey, Ahsoka Tano, Iden Versio, Jyn Erso, Rose Tico, Maz Kanata, and many more, each character is explored through key story beats, fresh insights, and behind-the-scenes details by author Amy Ratcliffe. Also showcasing more than 100 all-new illustrations by a dynamic range of female and non-binary artists, here is an inspiring celebration of the characters that help create a galaxy far, far away.

This is another book celebrating female characters in science fiction (and demonstrating the real power of women in a positive and enjoyable way) but once again, I have to say that I was a little disappointed by some of the drawings (paintings, as they’re all in colour, as with the Dr Who book, above). I’m not a fan of primitive illustrations, if someone is going to paint a character from one of my favourite SF series, I want to be able to recognise that character. A proportion of the illustrations are reasonably like the people they are supposed to be portraying, but another, larger proportion are not. I think that on both occasions, with the Dr Who book and the Star Wars book, the publishers/editors would have been better served using stills from the films/TV series.

Lara Starr: Star Wars Cookbook – Han Sandwiches and Other Galactic Snacks

 Published by Chronicle Books 25th September 2018

811iTake your sandwich game to the next level with Star Wars–shaped sandwich cutters! From sandwiches to sides and desserts, these easy-to-make, irresistible recipes feature iconic scenes from across the saga. Photographs featuring Star Wars figurines re-creating epic moments from the films provide an extra helping of humor.

This edition of this best-selling Star Wars book comes complete with two cookie cutters – the Millennium Falcon and a Wookie! Excellent stuff, just right for getting children interested in baking whilst at the same time celebrating the majesty of Star Wars.

Axel Scheffler etal: Drawing Europe Together

Published by Pan Macmillan 1st November 2018

811kAre we still ‘United in Diversity’? Forty-five artists from across Europe share their powerful illustrations of the European Union’s shared past and our unsure future. From Brexit bees to wall-jumping bulls, Drawing Europe Together is a unique collection portraying the European community . . . with or without Britain. This is a passionate and heartfelt exploration of Europe and what it means to many of the people who live and work within its borders. The book brings together forty-five renowned illustrators who, through their drawings and accompanying words, share their vision of Europe in this beautiful and timely collection, with a foreword by the British Book Awards Illustrator of the Year 2018, Axel Scheffler. Inspired by the Drawing (for) Europe exhibition which took place at the Institut Français in London in 2018, Drawing Europe Together showcases the original artwork from the exhibition as well as never-before-seen illustrations from additional leading artists. With contributions from many of the world’s best book illustrators including Quentin Blake, Claude Dubois, Jim Field, Emily Gravett, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers, Sarah McIntyre, Lydia Monks, Thomas Müller and Chris Riddell.

Those of us who voted to remain in the EU will welcome this collection of drawings celebrating the benefits of belonging to such a huge and powerful family, but once again I have to take issue with some of the illustrations being so primitive that they could have been done by three- and four-year-olds. I really don’t appreciate modern illustration. especially that aimed at children…

Thomas O’Brien: Library House

Published by Abrams 26th October 2018

811vThomas O’Brien’s name has long been synonymous with vintage elegance, modernism, and warm, livable design, so it’s no surprise that his luxurious homes in Bellport, Long Island, have attracted significant attention. Thomas O’Brien: Library House captures the gorgeous architecture, interiors, lush gardens, and myriad collections of the effortlessly formal and classic home and design studio (The Library) next door to his celebrated Academy house. In describing the process of imagining and building this dream project—a new house that looks as if it had been built over generations—the book also provides a view into how the author and his husband and fellow AD100 designer, Dan Fink, live and work. Stunning original photography documents this incredible, historically detailed residence and showcases O’Brien’s keen design sense and his expert eye through a lifetime of collecting art, antiquities, furniture, books, tableware, textiles, and more. Including behind-the-scenes stories about the extraordinary property and exclusive insight into O’Brien’s passion for gardens, this new book is an obsessive design companion and an aspirational guide to living a beautiful life in a beautiful home.

I have seen and reviewed many books on interior design during the past several years, but never one as amazing as this one. To begin with, the photography is quite simply out of this world. Then there is the incredible fact that this is not an old house, but a new one. To look at the photographs, you could be forgiven for thinking that it had been around for a couple of centuries, but it’s a new build. The furnishings and the soft furnishings are sumptuous, the photographs are glorious, and the whole experience of this book is breathtakingly beautiful. This has to be the interior design book of the century!

Elinor M Brent-Dyer: Highland Twins at the Chalet School

Published by GGBP 9th October 2018

811xThis is the book which introduces Flora and Fiona Macdonald. Settled now in Armishire, the School sees several old friends reappear, including Joanna and Emmie Linders, and Elizaveta. It is also the term that sees the School’s second (and final) expulsion, involving the Highland Twins, and when great sorrow comes to Jo it is Fiona’s second sight which gives her hope. Throughout the story, Jo is never far away, and we are given a lovely view of her home-life, as well as school-life amongst both Juniors and Seniors. First published by GGBP in 2003, this new edition of Highland Twins has a very moving short story by Helen Barber, ‘A Song for Freedom’. Emmie Linders, recovering from the ordeal of her escape, is reminded by one of Mademoiselle’s lessons of something that happened when she was on the run …

Elinor Brent-Dyer was beginning to write to a formula by this time – nothing wrong with that, all of the best and most readable authors do it, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Enid Blyton, Leslie Charteris, Stephen King, Stuart MacBride, Bernard Cornwell et al have all made their fortunes writing exactly what their readers want and expect from them. There are no surprises in “Highland Twins”, just more of the same, and that’s simply perfect, as is the book. The thing about GGBP’s books is that they look so colourful on my bookshelves. The vast majority of published books nowadays have black spines. The variety of colours used by GGBP ensures that the books on the shelf look so much nicer than any other collection of mine! The Enid Blyton Famous Fives are all the same except for the number in the series, which is OK, but doesn’t compare with my Chalet School set from GGBP. This is a super book, a super read, a beautiful Christmas gift for anyone of a certain age…

See you all in December for another selection of great new books for Christmas! Lots of new titles have arrived in the last week or so, too late for me to include in this issue, so make sure you bookmark the new site, and I’ll see you all on December 1st!

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