[Review] Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd. Distributed by Simon and Schuster. September 6, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 428 written pages. And 52 black and white illustrations.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Fans of Agatha Christie. Readers of women in literature.
Rating: Excellent!

Link at the publisher for more information: Pegasus Crime.

Link at Amazon.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Lucy Worsley Goodreads author page.

Website for Lucy Worsley/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter.

Summary:

Lucy Worsley expresses that Agatha Christie wanted people to have the impression she was an “ordinary” person, an “ordinary” woman. This is untrue. How can a woman who was born in the late Victorian era who rose above the culture and society of that day to become a successful author of mystery books be considered ordinary? Agatha Christie was a trail blazer in this genre. She was a trail blazer as far as her generation of women having a successful writing career.

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a biography of the whole life of an amazing woman. It touches on every area of her life. It does not focus on one aspect. For example, her writing career.

Lucy Worsley is a historian and curator. She is knowledgeable about the research process. Her expertise is strongly noticed in this new work.

My Thoughts:

I have An Autobiography by Agatha Christie on Kindle but have not read it yet.

I have three other books, one a collection of her stories, all on Kindle.

I am currently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I’m planning to read as many of her mysteries/crime fiction as possible.

I’m a newbie to Agatha Christie. I knew very little about her personal life before reading Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley. This is a good thing in that most of what I read is fresh. I consider this book a fresh perspective of the whole of Agatha Christie. This is the first reason why I love this book!

Additional reasons why I love this book:

  1. It does not leave me with an unfulfilled curiosity about parts of her life that was left untouched in the biography. What I mean is the bio takes in every area of her life as a person, wife, mother, daughter, writer, traveler, divorced woman, single mother, and career woman.
  2. I enjoyed reading about her work during WWI and WWII. She is quick to enlist in helping with the war effort and wounded.
  3. I enjoyed reading about her life as a child, especially the parenting roles of her parents, and their homelife.
  4. I enjoyed reading about her unique personality and character. Even as a child, there is something about her that stood out as unique and gifted.
  5. Worsley points out Christie’s prejudice opinions about domestic help and people of other races are common for that era. The reader should not be quick to dismiss her or judge her books based on our current history, society, culture, and beliefs.
  6. Worsely reminds me where most of the females of the early 20th century worked. In 1901, there are only 31.6% of females in Britain employed. Most of them worked in the textile and domestic areas. This book will not give a strong history lesson in females in the work force during Agatha Christie’s life. The statistic is given to share the standard in respect to her life. She was expected to marry and marry well. She was not expected to have a paid writing career.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the first serious relationship Agatha had with her first husband, Archie. World War I started to put a damper on their courting. However, they sped things up by a quick marriage in late 1914.
  8. I enjoyed reading about her crafting of the characters in her books. For example, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
  9. I love how Worsley included the writing and publishing of Christie’s books plus what was simultaneously going on in her personal life.
  10. I enjoyed reading about what Christie thought about her own writing, especially in regard to her contribution to the mystery literature world.
  11. The period of time in 1926 when Christie is missing. This period in time is a strength of the book. Worsley takes her time in piecing together the steps during Christie’s disappearance, as well as her return and her own remembrance. It was during this part of the book that I became so captivated I lost track of time.
  12. I read the book in two days!
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[Review] Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scout to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” by Colonel Richard Ernest Evans and Barbara Evans Kinnear

Publisher and Publication Date: Kieran Publishing. July 3, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. War memoir.
Pages: 508.
Format: Large Paperback. 8×10 size.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Books Forward and Barbara Kinnear. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

Site for the book: Richard Eager.

Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram

A write-up about the book is located in the Knoxville Daily Sun.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Summary:

Barbara Kinnear and her late father’s debut release, Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” (July 3, 2021, Kieran Publishing Company) showcases the humanity and personalities of war heroes in a charming biography. The family of U.S. Air Force veteran, Richard Earnest Evans, has preserved his history in a captivating new book. A detailed account of the golden age of aviation, spanning the 1930’s to the 1960’s, told through the firsthand stories of beloved son, brother and father and heroic pilot, Colonel Richard Ernest Evans.

A bet between WWII commanders. An Eagle Scout from Tennessee assigned to pilot one of the greatest leaders of the Allied Forces. This is the story of how young Captain Richard Evans became the B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot for Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, during missions throughout North Africa and Italy.

My Thoughts:

My first thought is this book targets a specific group of readers because not all readers will want to read detailed information about flight details, the mechanics of flying, and military words. For me, I enjoy reading war memoirs. I enjoy reading a story I’ve not heard before.

Second, the book shares stories of Richard Eager as a child growing up and personal details of life as a family man. The book is not completely chronological in time. As far as his military experiences it follows chronological time, but he reminisces in whole chapters about his childhood.

Richard Eager’s personality is displayed in his writing style. He is matter of fact, determined, confident, detailed, and freely expresses himself. He has a keen sense of humor.

The story is told from Richard’s voice. He is the narrator.

This is a large paperback filled with both story, and black and white photographs of people and maps. I want to mention this because it’s a chunkster size book.

The dedication of the book (located in the opening) is memorable.

I believe this is a splendid war memoir!

[Review] Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Square Fish. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. Memoir.
Pages: 352.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Young adult nonfiction.
Rating: Excellent!

Link @ Amazon.
Link @Audible.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

There are several YouTube videos with Michael or his daughter Debbie who are co-authors of the book. These are two I’ve shared.

Summary:

On January 27, 1945, the Russians liberated Auschwitz. Of the 2,819 prisoners, 52 were children under the age of eight. Michael Bornstein was one of those children.
Michael, with the help of his daughter, Debbie, has documented this narrative style account. He felt his story needed to be shared about this traumatic event. He did not want to remain silent on what happened to him, his family, and the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The story begins in October 1939 when the Germans invaded Zarki, Poland. Michael’s family lived in a home in Zarki. Michael’s older brother, Samuel, is age four. Michael will be born in May of 1940.

Michael’s parents are Israel and Sophie Bornstein. There are several family members who live in the Zarki area. For a while, they are able to continue living in their home, later, they will be resettled, and then, transported to Auschwitz.

In this story, the focus is on his family but shares the chronological history of what happened to the Jews in Zarki, and in great detail the hellish life in Auschwitz.

My Thoughts:

I have read a lengthy list of memoirs of the Holocaust. It is rare to read an account through the lens or perspective of a small child. This brings a unique nature to the story. I believe, Survivors Club, is in the top five books I’ve read of Holocaust memoirs because of the unique structure and feel to the story. Michael was born during the Holocaust. He was an innocent babe in peril at his first breath.

Other reasons why this is an excellent book.

1. A detailed chronological timeline of the events happening in Zarki, Poland, starting in October 1939. This is not a sterile type of account, but deeply personal.

2. Most Holocaust stories that share the experiences in Auschwitz do not share thoughts and daily life in great detail. What I mean is Michael shares perspectives and thoughts not usually shared. For example, on pages 126-127, “Men who reached for suitcases that weren’t there.” “Women reached for children who had been pulled from their grip.” My takeaway is the shock of what is happening has not registered yet in their brain that the item or beloved person is no longer there. This is startling, shocking, and a surreal moment. This illustration is one of many that caused me to pause and ponder.

3. Further events in the book: the processing of the prisoners, the work details, the bathhouse, Mengele’s selection of children, the infirmary, the “Death March” out of Auschwitz, liberation, and rebuilding a life afterwards. The story is a solid view Michael’s life and what he has experienced.

4. Thirty-six illustrations. Most are in black and white, a few are in color.

5. A glossary is included

6. Notes on their research is included.

7. In the preface, the authors explain what has been pieced together through research, interviews, and memories (factual), and what they have constructed (conversations and emotions.) I love it when the author lets me know what is factual and what has been pieced together in the story.

Themes: war, survival, grief, intolerance, hope, resistance, suffering, sacrifice, family honor, good and evil, fear, heroism, power of love, courage, and bravery.

Survivors Club is a powerful story. It is an important story. It is a story I will not forget.

And, considering the events happening in the Ukraine, this story is more than just a memory, both remind us that evil exists. We cannot ignore, we cannot take a nap thinking this will all be over when we wake up. This story makes me feel firm in my convictions that freedom is important; and a huge part of that freedom is the ability to have free speech, and to live in a humane, safe, and free society.

[Review] Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy by Kate Clifford Larson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Publisher and Publication Date: Blackstone Audio, Inc. October 6, 2015.
Genre: Biography. Nonfiction.
Listening Length: 7 hours and 44 minutes.
Format: Audible audiobook.
Source: Self-purchase through membership in Audible.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Readers of mental health’s impact on a family. Readers with an interest in the Kennedy family.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon Audible link

To read more information about Rosemary Kennedy:
National Parks Service
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This is an hour-long video, but important photographs are shared by the author, Dr. Larson.

Summary:

Rosemary Kennedy was born September 13, 1918. She was the 3rd child born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She was the eldest daughter. Her older brothers were Joseph Patrick and John Fitzgerald. The other Kennedy children in order: Kathleen Agnes, Eunice Mary, Patricia, Robert Francis, Jean Ann, Edward (Ted) Moore.

Rosemary’s birth was difficult; and it is important to note the circumstances of her difficult birth led to her intellectual disability. Rosemary’s developmental progress was slow: walking, feeding herself, and talking.
Rosemary was tutored privately in the home, and she attended private schools. Later in life she lived at a private school in Wisconsin. Rosemary died in 2005.

Rosemary: The Hidden Daughter shares the struggles in Rosemary’s life and how her family responded. Their response changed through the years from trying to hide her (or cover-up) to becoming involved in helping the intellectually disabled through conversation, educating the public, education for the disabled, and the Special Olympics.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed listening to this Audible book. I’m a visual learner, but I am beginning to listen to more Audible books.

The narrator is Bernadette Dunne. She has a rich deep voice that is easy to listen.

What I learned through reading Rosemary:

1. Rosemary shows the rest of the family. The focus is Rosemary, but her parents and siblings are a huge part of the book. I have a better grasp of the dynamics of the whole family. I have a better understanding of how they felt about her disability (especially their lack of knowledge about her condition.) And how through the years their mindset and opinions changed about her condition. Some of her siblings, for example, Eunice, became outspoken and actively involved in how to help those with intellectual disabilities.

2. This is not an enjoyable feature of the book, but I feel it needs to be included, the lobotomy treatment on Rosemary when she was 23. This is heart-breaking to read. Gut-wrenching is more descriptive. Her father, Joe Kennedy, felt this treatment would help her. Instead, her condition became worse.

3. Joe and Rose had high expectations of their children. The Kennedy children were to be high achievers. They were to be physically fit and active. Rosemary could not accomplish their ideas and dreams. It is easy for me to disagree with her parent’s choices, especially the lobotomy. I live in a different generation. A generation that reads and studies, searches the Internet to find answers, and engages in conversation about the hard stuff in life. Previous generations did not have medical advancement and knowledge, and they did not talk about the hard stuff. Once upon a time, Children with intellectual disabilities or other types of disabilities were either cared for in the home by parents or they were sent to a state school. In some instances, the families never went to visit the disabled person.

4. What I enjoyed reading the most in the book is how Eunice became a huge advocate for the disabled. She grew close to Rosemary. She adored Rosemary. Eunice became, in essence, Rosemary’s angel.

[Review] The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts by Mary Wellesley

Publisher and Publication Date: Basic Books. October 12, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Medieval history. Europe. Church history in England.
Pages: Hardcover edition holds 352 pages.
Format: E-book copy. The review copy does not have illustrations included. The hard copy does have illustrations.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of medieval history especially those who love English church history.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Basic Books.

Author webpage: Mary Wellesley/ Goodreads.

Summary:

The Gilded Page is a complete study of medieval books and manuscripts. The book begins with how a page is created. It includes the transition through the years of the types of materials that were used to create pages in the Middle Ages.

The Gilded Page is a history of the people who were involved in the creation of; and those who owned and treasured the manuscripts and books.

The Gilded Page is a book for book lovers to pour over and enjoy!

My Thoughts:

The Gilded Page is an informative, descriptive, well-researched, insightful, and fascinating study of the written page in medieval England.

Medieval history is one of my favorite time periods to read and study. I especially enjoy reading about early Christian history in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I love reading about the monarchy. I love reading about the common people of the Middle Ages. For example, Margery Kempe.

A jewel of this book, and it is a pleasant surprise, is the history of the people who were involved with these manuscripts and books. This includes information about those who rescued these artifacts from doom. I especially love the stories of the Cuthbert Gospel, the Cotton Library, Queen Emma, Henry VIII’s private prayer book, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and Welsh poetry.

I’ve read several books on Henry VIII. This is the first book with information about him that personalized and showed a humane side of him. In his prayer book he made notations at certain passages. These passages resonated with him in his mind and spirit. I love this!

The Gilded Page is one of the top books that I’ve enjoyed reading in 2021. Bravo, Mary Wellesley!

*The review copy held no illustrations for me to view. I found the following illustrations at Wikipedia, and they are in the public domain. I am sharing with my readers what I found online.

St. Cuthbert Gospel. The beginning of the text.
Emma receiving the book, Encomium Emmae. This work is a selection of her life during the period she was married to Cnut. Emma of Normandy was Queen of England twice (married to two different Kings.)
Winchester Bible. From the page on the life of King David.
From the Lindisfarne Gospel. The illustration is from the Gospel of Matthew. It is Matthew the Evangelist.