[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.


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.

[Review] The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime. 2014.
Genre: Nonfiction.
Pages: 312.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the history of murder in Great Britain. Readers of British detective murder mysteries.
Rating: Good to very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Includes 40 illustrations, several of them are in color.

Webpage of Lucy Worsley.

An interview with Lucy Worsley:


The Art of the English Murder is less about the act of murders, and more about the English crowds and fans these murders created as well as their legacies.
Beginning with Thomas DeQuincey (1785-1859) in late Georgian London. His use of Laudanum and its contributing factor to his essay, On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts, began a sensationalist view of murder for its readers.
The Art of the English Murder is a brief historical record of several murders that happened during the 19th century. Some of them influenced writers. For example, Charles Dickens and Alfred Hitchcock.
The murders in the early 19th century brought about a central Metropolitan Police force in London, instead of individual parish police.
The murders recorded in this book are the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, Estrel Murder, William Corder and the Red Barn Murder, Bermondsey Murder, the Road Hill House Murder case, and the murders done by Jack the Ripper.
There are chapters devoted to the impact of the murders on writers. There are chapters devoted to screenwriters and film. The final chapters are the mystery writers, specifically the women who made a name for themselves: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. There is also information on the history of the Penny Dreadful serial stories and the Wax Museum.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book, but I’d hoped for more. My hopes were that the book would go into more detail about the murder cases-including the detective work on those cases. I love to read true crime books. This book is brief about the murders. It is extensive about the impact on people who have a morbid sense of excitement about viewing the murdered bodies, etc. I don’t want to see the bodies who are carved up and oozing. I do enjoy reading about the crimes and how the murders are solved. However, The Art of the English Murder is a good book. A solid narrative nonfiction account.

What I love (and learned):

1. The introduction gave me the reason for this book and the direction of it.
2. I didn’t know the history of police and detectives in London until reading this book.
3. The perspective of how citizens viewed dead bodies is explained as not out of the ordinary for that time. I didn’t know this.
4. I feel the book is thorough in the impact on writers, screenwriters, films, and magazines.
5. Medical students used to dig up dead bodies to do research. I didn’t know this either!
6. Lucy Worsley is a charming, personable, knowledgeable, and engaging person. Whether she is speaking in a documentary or has written a book: both are engaging and entertaining!

[Review] Writers: Their Lives and Works, Foreword by James Naughtie

Publisher and Publication Date: DK, Penguin Random House. 2018 is the first American edition.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biographies of writers.
Pages: 360.
Format: Hardcover. 8 by 10 1/2.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers who want to read about the lives and works of writers.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

At this link, you will see several pages from the inside of the book. DK.


Writers is a delicious hardcover, large book to pour over.

Beginning with Dante Alighieri and ends with Arundhati Roy.

Six chapters in total. “Chapter 1 is Pre-19th Century.” “Chapter 2 is Early 19th Century.” “Chapter 3 is Late 19th Century.” “Chapter 4 is Early 20th Century.” “Chapter 5 is Mid-20th Century.” “Chapter 6 is Writing Today.”

My Thoughts:

Overall I love this book. I poured over it and devoured each page.

Several of the writers I’d not heard of before because they are from countries that I’d not read fictional works (at least very little.) For example, Mo Yan, Chinese. He was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature in 2012.

Writers is a compiling of writers from all over the world and through the centuries. It is an eclectic group. I like this. I appreciate this. However, the compiling is organized not by who I would chose. For example, J. R. R. Tolkien is given only a snippet and located in the Directory section. I am shocked! I’d like to see him given six pages. Not a mere snippet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. It gave me an education on a broad range of writers that I had been unfamiliar.

And, one more thing I am disappointed about: C. S. Lewis is not mentioned.

What I love:

1. Visually appealing with illustrations on most pages.
2. Some of the writers are given four to six pages for a write-up. Most have two pages.
3. I enjoyed reading about their early life, writing journey, personal lives, and other experiences in life. For example, their journalism work during wars or travel adventures. I also enjoyed reading about those writers who were friends. They encouraged one another. A few had disagreements and went their separate ways.
4. Several, if not most of the women writers, were trail blazers. I admire their tenacity and perseverance.
5. Small personal stories are shared. For example, a writer friend came to visit Charles Dickens in his home. He overstayed and Dickens became impatient. The guest became embarrassed.
6. I love the desks and writing spaces that are included.
7. I love reading about the impact of writings that led to other writings which led to screen adaptions.

[Review] Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis

Publisher and Publication Date: Gallery Books, a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 384.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of WWII history and SOE British agents.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
Barnes and Noble link

SOE is the initials of Special Operations Executive.
List of female SOE agents during World War II:
WordPress blog of Alan Malcher. He has a post about SOE female agents.
Nigel Perrin. This site has a photo archive of the SOE agents and profile information.
Biography Online about Odette Sansom.
Imperial War Museum about Odette Sansom.
History101.com about Odette Sansom.


In 1912, Odette Marie Celine Brailly was born in Amiens, France. Her father fought and died in World War I. Odette had a younger brother, Louis. Odette married an Englishman, Roy Sansom, and they had three daughters. After the birth of the first daughter, the family moved to England where the other two daughters were born.
Odette’s grandfather predicted another war. He told his grandchildren to do their “duty, both of you, to do as well as your father did.” From page 2.
When World War II began Odette wanted to serve in some way but hesitated because of her young daughters. In 1942, Odette contacted the War Office and she eventually joined the SOE.
Code Name: Lise is the story of Odette Sansom and her work as a SOE during World War II. The book gives a little background information of her life before 1942, but the book is primarily about her role as an agent.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few other books about SOE agents. I’d been a little familiar with her name and history. I am pleased to finally know her full story in history.

Several reasons that led me to give this book an excellent rating:

1. Odette is portrayed as a remarkably strong person who endured separation from family, injuries, imprisonment, and torture. Several times I have been amazed at how she handled herself in a crisis or during those periods when she was tortured. She is a hero.
2. I love it that several black and white photographs are included in the book.
3. The appendix addresses criticism and problems that were brought up in the 1950s with the SOE. Odette was criticized by other agents. In one example, her report of what happened to her were made up-untrue. I am glad Loftis added this chapter to the book for clarification.
4. Code Name: Lise gave me an education of how the SOE agents were trained and how assignments were implemented; and how they were treated by the Gestapo, especially the techniques of interrogation and torture.
5. The book is told in narrative nonfiction and the author narrating.
6. Odette is a compelling historical character. The life she lived during the time period of the book is strong, and it is more than engaging, it is on the edge of your seat drama unfolding.

[Review] The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. First published 2010. Published by Vintage 2011.
Genre: Nonfiction. History.
Pages: 634 total reading pages.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase
Audience: Readers of American history, biographies, and African American history.
Rating: Excellent.

National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, as well as several other awards.

To read more information about the book: Penguin Random House.

Link @ Amazon

Link @ Barnes and Noble

This is the 2nd book I’ve finished for the Chunkster Reading Challenge 2021.

Isabel Wilkerson’s Goodreads page

Isabel Wilkerson’s Twitter

Isabel Wilkerson’s website


The Warmth of Other Suns is a narrative nonfiction account of the migration of Black Americans in the 20th century. It began in 1915 and ended in 1970. Millions of men, women, boys, and girls left the southern states of the United States and relocated to the Northeast, Northern states, and the West coast.

Wilkerson interviewed more than a thousand people for this epic history book (and includes many of their stories), but the focus is on three people.
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney
George Swanson Starling
Robert Joseph Pershing Foster

My Thoughts:

I’d not heard of this book until 2020. I love history. I love biographies. I love reading about a history that had been unknown to me. On that last point, I am unsure how this book had not crossed my path before. I wonder how many other books are out there that are important reads just waiting for me to discover?

Several reasons why I love this book and believe it is an important book!

  • Narrative nonfiction is alongside historical facts and statistics.
  • The three people who have full biographies give a personal warmth to the whole of the book.
  • There is a palpable energy starting at the first page.
  • Extensive and fascinating notes section.
  • A solid foundation is laid about the history of Jim Crow South (1880s-1960s).
  • Examples of the hardships and sufferings: lynchings, sharecropper system, how they traveled out of the South, problems that occurred in the new state they’d moved to, leaving family and friends behind, finding a job, marriage and family, education, and housing. All of these examples are hard to read about, but they showed me how this people group endured and persevered.
  • The epilogue told me the rest of the story about the three who have been the focus. Wilkerson gave me a solid closure for the book.
  • Ida Gladney’s story resonated with me the most. Possibly because she’s a woman. She was a remarkable woman. A remarkable person. If her story had been the only one, this book would still be excellent.
  • The front cover of the book is perfect. Conversation worthy.