Category Archives: Hallie Rubenhold

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books of the Year 2019

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books of the Year 2019

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As the old year comes to a close it is time to look back at the books I have read and loved through the year. This year I am going to do something a little different rather than just select my favourites I am going to simply select my best fiction and non-fiction. Two books that really made my year and really got my attention. So many books could have made the list that I had trouble just choosing the top ten.

FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

 

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

(Harper Collins)

Summary:

EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
AND EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT IT.

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

Fiction Book of the Year 2019:

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was my first read fiction read that I started on New Years Day and it was the perfect read for the time of year. It screamed Agatha Christie very quickly into the book. I was hooked and this is a story based at a Hunting Lodge on The Loch Corrin Estate in the Highlands of Scotland a group of friends who have known each other for many years gather again to bring in the New Year Hogmanay style. The weather is closing in with heavy snow falling and there is a murder. Nobody can leave. Among the group trapped in the lodge are the guests and a small number of staff and there is a murderer among them. But who is it?

A chilling and atmospheric crime thriller and a cast of characters that you will come to know and one of them could be the killer, but then again what of the staff? You will also get to hear their thoughts as well.

My Review from January 2019:

What a cracking start to 2019 with a good old fashioned murder mystery and The Hunting Party (Harper Collins) the debut crime novel Lucy Foley and what a cracking edge of your seat thriller it turned out to be. The perfect read between Christmas and New Year as you will see why.

It is New Year’s Eve at a group of friends have come together to see in the New Year in style at The Loch Corrin Estate which is a typical out of the way hunting lodge in the Highlands. A Hogmanay to remember as it turned out for all the wrong reasons.

Snow is falling and it is turning out to be a white out, real blizzard conditions. So a group of friends who all went to oxford spend their New Year’s Eve year on year together. The story starts on New Year’s Day and something is very wrong as one of the guests is missing and a body has been found. This was no accident in the snow. This is murder. So who done it and why?

This group of friends now in their thirties have known each other for some years so who has been murdered and it is clear the killer is one of the party. With the snow getting worse. No-one is leaving and the police cannot get to the lodge due to the bad weather.

We do not know who has been murdered as Lucy Foley keeps us guessing as we work back and forth and are introduced to each of the characters and what a group of characters they are. Then there are the staff. There are three on duty for the Hogmanay celebrations and we get to know each of them. The plot is thickening and past history is bubbling to the surface.

There is something brilliantly old about reading The Hunting Party, knowing you are trapped inside this old lodge and there is a killer among you and will they strike again?

The characters really do bring something to the party and eerie setting makes for a chilling and twisty plot.

This will keep you gripped to the very end. Brilliant writing from Lucy Foley makes The Hunting Party a one to watch for January 2019. I would order your copy today. How well do you know your friends?

So many great fiction titles I have read through the year and so many of them came very very close but The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley was the book that I just kept talking about through the year.

NON -FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

(Doubleday)

Summary:

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, in this devastating narrative of five lives, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019

Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019

NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019:

If my choice of the fiction book of the year was my first book to have been read of 2019, then my choice of Non-Fiction book of the year was my last book to have been read of 2019 and what a book it was.

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold was released in late February of this year and I never got to read this until December despite many people recommending this to me and what an outstnading piece of work by Hallie Rubenhold. For over 130 years the five Women were all labelled as protitutes and finally Hallie Rubenhold tells the story of the five women and their lives. There only crime was that they were homeless and many of them turned to drink and so when their bodies were found they were labelled as protitutes. What Rubenhold tells in her account is the story of the five women. This book will leave a mark on me for many years and will make you angry at how badly each of the victims have been treated for over 130 years. A briliant book that will finally give a voice to the five women.

My Review from December 2019:

The brutal murders by Jack the Ripper took place in 1888, that was 131 years-ago and at last a landmark book has been written of the real lives of the five women that were murdered in London by a killer that has never been identified. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Historian Hallie Rubenhold (Doubleday) gives a voice to the five women and it is without doubt one of the greatest books of 2019.

If you searched for books on Jack the Ripper it would take you the best part of the day to look at each one as each book sets out trying to identify who the killer was, but how many books have there been that give a voice to the five women: Mary Anne ‘Polly’ Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. The research done by Hallie Rubenhold has been extensive and deserves the many plaudits she has received for this vital book. The misogyny that surrounds the many stories of Jack the Ripper through the years and even still today.

Each of the women has a chapter dedicated to them and follows their lives from day they were born to when they died. Each one found themselves alone and in poverty in the Whitechapel part of London. Each of the women led a life and someone’s daughter, friend, lover and deserves better than history has given them. At last in Hallie Rubenhold’s book their lives are detailed and the myths finally buried.

What Rubenhold explores is the extreme hardship of the times and being a woman meant having little or no support. Being born into hardship and spiralled downwards, alcohol dependency and being homeless, the police investigation tells of the women being prostitutes but this Hallie Rubenhold after extensive investigations finds that there is no evidence stating that three of the five being Nichols, Chapman or Eddowes were not prostitutes but they were preyed upon because they were just intoxicated, homeless and asleep. To Jack the Ripper they were targets.

Never has a book held me in its grasp as The Five has. History has been extremely shameful in what has been said of the five women but 131 year later, Hallie Rubenhold has provided justice for each of the victims for which I congratulate the author. It is though shameful that it has taken over 130 years for this wrong to be righted. Highly Recommend.

Books of the Year 2

 

So there we have it. Another year in books has come to a close. A year that I will remember for many great reasons. We celebrate books and the writers through the year and looking ahead to 2020 and a new decade it promises to be another exciting literary year.

To those who follow me here or through my Twitter feed, thank you for all your kind words and to the those who I have had the pleasure of meeting here is to the next time.

Let us hope for a more peaceful year ahead.

Happy Reading and Happy New Year.

 

 

Meet the Author Interview and review of The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

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The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold

 

 MEET THE AUTHOR

HALLIE RUBENHOLD

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In the latest in a series of Meet the Author Interviews I talk Hallie Rubenhold about her latest historical novel The French Lesson which is has just been released through Doubleday and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.

I began by asking Hallie about her latest novel.

Congratulations on your latest book The French Lesson published by       Doubleday. Being a lover of history and historical novels, I have to admit at enjoying it very much. As it is just published can you give a brief synopsis of The French Lesson?

 I’m so pleased you enjoyed The French Lesson! I always have a very hard time giving a synopsis of this book because I feel I’m too close to it to be able to discern the woods from the trees.

 It’s about a lot of things, but I think it’s quite well summarised in the phrase, ‘it’s Dangerous Liaisons meets A Tale of Two Cities’, with a little bit of Thackeray thrown in for good measure. The French Lesson is the second book in a trilogy about my heroine, Henrietta Lightfoot and how she evolves from being an innocent girl to a scheming woman (which hints at what’s to come in the third novel). It’s told in first person, as a memoir when Henrietta is much older and involved in an on-going battle over reputation with her very dysfunctional family.  I won’t reveal anything more than that as there are many twists and turns in this story and I don’t want to give anything away. Although it’s part of a trilogy, it’s also very much a stand-alone read.

 What made you want to be an historian and historical writer and become involved in broadcasting and historical consultancy work for television drama’s such as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell?

 I’ve always loved history, writing and filmmaking since I was a child. In fact they really are just extensions of the same thing – story telling. I find the past fascinating and I think that growing up somewhere where a sense of the past was so noticeably absent – Los Angeles – made me more desirous of connecting with it on some level. I also blame the place of my birth for my interest in film. 

 Do you think history is important today?

History is absolutely important today, however if we define history as simply a memorised roll call of names and dates, then it loses all meaning. I feel very sad when I hear that this definition of history is what so many people associate with the subject.

 Personally, I feel that social history has the most relevance in our lives – it’s fundamental that we understand how we lived and how we have evolved as a society. History is and should be the study of what it means to be human. 

 Is there a favourite period in history that you like to write about?

 The period called the Long Eighteenth Century (c. 1680 – 1837) really is the era that I most love, though I find the nineteenth century and the seventeenth century pretty fascinating too.

 If you were about to make a long journey and could take only one historical book with you what would that book be? Apologies for putting you on the spot with this one?

 I’m assuming you mean historical novel.  I’d take Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, which is one of my all-time favourites. This novel is so layered that I’d never tire of re-reading it and contemplating the complexities of its characters.

 I like talking to authors about their writing routines, some can be creative in the early hours and others like to write in busy coffee shops with the hustle and bustle of everyday life around them, can you tell me about your writing routines and what motivates you.

 I’m useless in the morning and have always been so. I’m not a great sleeper so my brain usually doesn’t kick into gear until after 10 am. If I’m working from home I try to do my chores in the morning – answer emails, go to the gym, the supermarket, etc and then settle into work around lunch time. I try to work from the London Library at least a couple of days a week when they have late opening. This means I can interact with other people, which keeps me sane. The London Library is a great resource for writers – there’s a nice community of us there and we’re all quite supportive of each other’s work. 

I tend to work fairly late into the evening, unless I’m going out. Often I’m writing until midnight, with breaks for dinner and coffee. I seem to really hit my stride after 4pm, which annoyingly is when many people are just starting to wind down their working day.

I love the silence of a deserted library in the evenings. I love it when my mobile stops ringing and the emails taper off. That’s pure writing bliss.

 With your busy schedule do you get time to read? Are you currently reading a book at present?

 I’m a very peculiar and fussy reader. When I’m writing fiction I can’t read fiction as I find that the voices of other authors start to intrude on my own. I read nonfiction when I’m writing my novels, and I read novels when I’m writing my nonfiction.  At the moment I’ve been reading a lot of late nineteenth century journalism and commentary about the lives of the poor which will factor into my next book.  I’ve just finished Jack London’s People of the Abyss, which was completely absorbing.

 Are currently working on another project?

My next book is going to be a nonfiction book about the five women who were killed by Jack the Ripper. It’s absolutely shocking that in nearly 130 year’s no one has ever thought to write a collective history of these women’s lives. The amazing thing is that everything we think we know about them is wrong. Only one among the five was what might be considered ‘a career prostitute’.  None of them came from the East End – they were from all over. One of them came from Sweden, another had lived on a country estate as the wife of a coachman. With the exception of one, all of the women were in their 40s, and most had been married and had children.

I’m really excited about writing The Five, which hopefully should be completed within two years. Watch this space!

I am extremely grateful to Hallie Rubenhold for taking the time out of her busy schedule to take part in ‘Meet the Author’. If you would like more information on Hallie’s work or further details of The French Lesson  please visit Hallie’s website:  HallieRubenhold.com

 

My thoughts on The French Lesson

The new historical novel by Hallie Rubenhold called The French Lesson is the second book in a trilogy about Henrietta Lightfoot and is written looking back at her time in Paris during the bloody French Revolution.

We find Henrietta caught up in the bloodletting that has set neighbour against neighbour and friend against friend and even Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are not immune from the Revolution and are imprisoned. Henrietta’s lover has let her go and despite the fact she could have escaped the fighting and gone back to London our heroine chooses to stay and sets off in pursuit of her one great love George William Allenham and soon there is trouble for Henrietta as well as grave danger and she needs help and support to survive.

Along comes Grace Dalrymple Elliott no ordinary woman is our Grace, she has a reputation and soon Henrietta soon falls under the protection of Grace but with this comes one very heavy price to our heroine and she comes face to face with some of the most powerful women in France and she put her own life on the line as she tries to find her lover.

The French Lesson is a fabulous gripping account at a time of war and tyranny and the smell of blood is in the air and heads are rolling literally. This is so wonderfully written with a blend of factual and real life people put together in a tale of love and lust and nothing is as it seems as the old order is put to the sword or the guillotine. This is not to be missed.

The French Lesson follows on from the first book Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot- Mistress of Fate and the third book will follow in time but The French Lesson can be easily read as a stand-alone book.

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My thanks to Patsy Irwin at Transworld Publishers for a review copy.

The French Lesson written by Hallie Rubenhold and published by Doubleday and is available through Waterstones and all good bookshops.  

FREE PRIZE DRAW

Now here is your chance to win a copy of the excellent The French Lesson by Hallie Rubenhold. Just head over to my Twitter feed @Thelastword1962 and follow and Retweet the pinned review tweet. You will be entered into the draw.  Terms and Conditions: Open to UK residents only.  The free draw closes on Monday evening at 20.00hrs 25t April 2016 and entries after this time will be excluded.  The winner will be selected at random and a copy will be sent out by the publishers.

 

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