Category: Non-fiction

Review: Elizabeth & Leicester: Power, Passion, Politics – Sarah Gristwood

Elizabeth and Leicester, the Virgin Queen and her ‘sweet Robin’, are one of the great romances of history, immortalised in history books and Hollywood movies alike. Most people have some awareness of their relationship: the great queen and the man she loved but could never marry; the age-old question of whether the Virgin Queen truly was a virgin and whether… Read more →

Review: The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War – Ben Shephard

Read any history of World War 2 and it’ll probably finish up in the summer of 1945, maybe with VE Day, perhaps with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There might be an epilogue chapter, a wrapping up that encompasses Nuremberg, the Marshall Plan, the Iron Curtain and the Cold War. But what is rarely addressed is what this book is entirely concerned… Read more →

Review: The Taste Of War: World War Two And The Battle For Food – Lizzie Collingham

This was a fascinating read, far more so than I’d expected. I’d picked this book up hoping for some kind of history of rationing and the British wartime food drive – ‘Dig for Victory’ and all that. What I actually got was an incredibly well-researched, comprehensive and thoroughly interesting history of the role food played in the Second World War… Read more →

Review: Pathfinder: John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire – Tom Chaffin

I picked up this book hoping for a biography of John Charles Frémont, a man whose exploits and explorations I’d come across numerous times in other biographies, other history books. An explorer, a presidential candidate, a Civil War general – a fascinating figure for a biographer! What I got was a book very much more about Frémont’s expeditions than it… Read more →

Review: Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World – Laura Spinney

The First World War looms large in our collective cultural memory, arguable even larger than the Second World War, though more people died in that conflict. This has been ascribed to a multitude of factors – the pointless, the waste, the static pace, the fact that the ‘War to End All Wars’ only served to give rise to another, the… Read more →

Review: Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939-1962 – Blanche Wiesen Cook

This final volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s three-part biography of Eleanor Roosevelt disappointed me. Not so much for the writing or research or approach, all of which are just as good in this book as the previous two, but purely for reasons of content. For all intents and purposes, Cook finishes up with FDR’s death in 1945 – the remaining… Read more →

Review: Eleanor Roosevelt: The Defining Years: 1933-1938 – Blanche Wiesen Cook

This book, the second volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s three-part biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, covers the first five years of her role as First Lady of America, from 1933-1938. It’s quite a brief interlude in a life, considering the first volume covers the first forty-plus years of ER’s life before the White House, and the final volume covers the next… Read more →

Review: The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain – Ronald Hutton

Even today, the idea that many folk traditions and festivals are the remnants of some pagan pre-Christian Celtic religion, transmogrified and surviving furtively in the countryside, has a peculiar potency. What few people realise is how recent a notion that is and how much it relies on a particular handful of archaeologists, folklorists and historians writing at the end of… Read more →

Review: Eleanor Roosevelt, vol. 1, 1884-1933: The Early Years – Blanche Wiesen Cook

It’s a rare individual for whom I could stand to read a three-volume biography but I think Eleanor Roosevelt deserves one. Her life was so full, so involved and dynamic and controversial than any less would simply not be doing her justice. In many ways Eleanor’s life can very easily be divided into three parts this biography takes – her… Read more →