Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm by Isabella Tree

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Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree

Summary:

In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life – all by itself.

Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible.

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My review:

I could give Wilding by Isabella Tree so many plaudits. But inspirational and outstanding are just two. This is a story of how a 3,500-acre farm in Knepp in West Sussex owned by Isabella’s husband Charlie Burrell was returned to nature. I am so delighted to see this book now longlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.

The project on the farm started back in 2000 and the difference now is nothing short of incredible. From the intensive modern farming methods to the point where the farm was no longer a viable going concern and something had to be done to turn this around.

This was a risk but it was a risk well worth taking despite some complaints and objections they tore down the fences and slowly returned the farm to its past. They brought in a select breed of pigs as well as cattle and Exmoor ponies and let them roam free. The ‘rewilding’ of the farm was underway.

The UK has a whole has seen its wildlife plummet with some of our species flora and fauna close to extinction. What has been created on their farm is nothing short of incredible. To see what the farm has become today and the species that have now returned to the farm. Nightingales have returned to the farm where nationally they have crashed and Turtle Doves have started to return to the farm and Purple Emperor Butterflies have also been seen and are now breeding on the estate long with Orchids and other rare plants have been found. This is no coincidence.

This is a part memoir and also I believe a book of hope for the future of farming. A move away from the intensive agricultural policies of the past and what I liked was that Isabella talks about rewilding of farms and also that you can at the same time feed the populations of the world.

Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm is nothing short of astonishing and proves we can bring back nature to our countryside and also farm at the same time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

The Shortlist for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Prize will be announced at midday on the 2nd July.

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384 Pages.

Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree was published by Picador and was published in Paperback on 21st March 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

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Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Summary:

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

AUTHOR

My Review:

I have loved nature since I was a young boy. But the one thing I have always felt is that nature has a way of mending. But I have always felt the same way about books and reading. Many months ago I had a phone call from Joe Harkness and we had a long conversation and he told me all about himself and the book he wanted to write after all the planning and the writing and the worry Joe Harkness has written an astonishingly open book called Bird Therapy (Unbound) and this is a book that really does go a long way to heal.

Joe was a broken sole, he was at the lowest point any human being can get, life seemed dark and devoid of any hope. Jo had suffered a breakdown in 2013 and was looking into a void with no light.  There is hope and there is help even when we don’t think there is.

Thankfully Joe got the help he needed and through this the first steps were taken and it was then Joe started bird watching and whether Joe found nature or nature found Joe it does not matter as in the end the light at the end of the tunnel was this. It has been proven how important nature is to mental health. Taking time out and looking at and even listening to nature is so important to all of us.

Joe has written in Bird Therapy a book from the heart. At the very start he talks in great courage to us about how low he mental health problems had got. But kit is through watching birds that has really helped Joe and his passion just pours out of the pages. Nature and people are connected and without nature we literally do not have a soul. Watching and studying birds requires time and patience not chasing around after rarities that are just a tick on a spreadsheet. But watching how birds interact with each other. We learn many things by watching each species and we learn many things that in turn help us.

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I have spent many happy days in Norfolk birdwatching as it is one the premier counties from the coasts to the Norfolk Broads to the marshes and this is also home to Joe Harkness and how he talks about his home as he travels to watch birds. Home is where the heart is and this is really where Joe’s heart belongs.

The first pages of Bird Therapy may seem dark and difficult to read but to understand a broken soul you have to be honest and open and Joes does this. There is a foreword by Chris Packham that discusses the stigma about Mental Health even in today’s world and there should not be any stigma at all. Being allowed to talk about problems is the start of the journey to recovery.

As Chris Packham says in his foreword this book will save lives. It will. Joe it was a real pleasure talking to you all those months ago. I knew just by talking with you that something incredible was coming. You have created something very special in Bird Therapy I wish nothing but success. Many will read your book and empathise with your words and your honesty. Bird Therapy is Natures Cure in its own right.

272 Pages.

Thank you to Unbound and also Joe Harkness for the review copy of Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness is published by Unbound and will be published on 13th June 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Good Bee: A Celebration of Bees and How to Save Them by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

 

The Good Bee

The Good Bee: A Celebration of Bees and How to Save Them by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

Summary:

Bees are our most loyal ally. These fascinating, enigmatic creatures are a key lynchpin in the working of our planet. Without them the landscape, as well as every aisle in our supermarkets would look radically different.

And we’re not just talking about honey bees. There are more than 20,000 species of bee worldwide and only a handful make honey. Some live in colonies and others are solitary. We can all help protect them – and they desperately need protecting – but you can’t save what you don’t love. And you can’t love what you don’t know.

The Good Bee is a celebration of this most vital and mysterious of nature’s wizards. Here you’ll discover the complexities of bee behaviour – as well as the bits that still baffle us – the part they play in the natural world, their relationship with us throughout history, how they are coming under threat and what we can all do about it.

Beautifully produced, with hand-made illustrations throughout, it is a story for our times and a book to treasure.

 My Review:

Honeybees have been around for around 100 million years, just think about that for a moment. Pollinating flowers and making honey. Yet in 2019 they are facing extinction, but the fate of the bee goes hand in hand with the fate of mankind. In simple and plain terms if we allow the bees to be wiped out then life on our planet will never be the same again. They need our help.

Both Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum have written the most wonderful book on the subject of bees. A look at the life of an insect that is so close to man.

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With superb illustrations from James Nunn we embark on a journey into the private life of the bee. There are over 25,000 species of Bees but not all make bees make honey. Yet all the species have one thing in common. They are great pollinators and that is why they play such a vital role in our planets existence.

Bumblebees are the first bees to appear but their body temperature must be around 80 °F or they cannot take off and at any one time they are only 40 minutes from starvation.

In this beautiful little book, we take a look at some of the species you may see as they go from one flower to another. There is also a look at why bees are so close to being lost forever and how each of us can create a garden that will attract different species of bees.

If we all just created a little space for nature and bees, then we would not be facing such a dramatic loss that would impact every single human on our planet.

The fate of the bee is in our hands and so is our future and it is only now that we are just beginning to understand what is at stake. We can all make a difference. Time to show a little love to the bees we see every Summer and give them a hand. Next time you spread some honey on your morning toast, just stop a moment and think about how this came to be.

192 Pages.

Thank you to for the review copy of The Good Bee: A Celebration of Bees and How to Save Them by Alison Benjamin & Brian McCallum

The Good Bee: A Celebration of Bees and How to Save Them by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum was published by Michael O’Mara Books and was published on 2nd May 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 

The Good Bee Blog Tour

The Good Bee Blog Tour Card

 

One Hundred Miracles: A Memoir of Music and Survival by Wendy Holden

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One Hundred Miracles: A Memoir of Music and Survival by Wendy Holden

Zuzana Ruzicková grew up in 1930s Czechoslovakia dreaming of two things: Johann Sebastian Bach and the piano. But her peaceful, melodic childhood was torn apart when, in 1939, the Nazis invaded. Uprooted from her home, transported from Auschwitz to Hamburg to Bergen-Belsen, bereaved, starved, and afflicted with crippling injuries to her musician’s hands, the teenage Zuzana faced a series of devastating losses. Yet with every truck and train ride, a small slip of paper printed with her favourite piece of Bach’s music became her talisman.

Armed with this ‘proof that beauty still existed’, Zuzana’s fierce bravery and passion ensured her survival of the greatest human atrocities of all time, and would continue to sustain her through the brutalities of post-war Communist rule. Harnessing her talent and dedication, and fortified by the love of her husband, the Czech composer Viktor Kalabis, Zuzana went on to become one of the twentieth century’s most renowned musicians and the first harpsichordist to record the entirety of Bach’s keyboard works.

Zuzana’s story, told here in her own words before her death in 2017, is a profound and powerful testimony of the horrors of the Holocaust, and a testament in itself to the importance of amplifying the voices of its survivors today. It is also a joyful celebration of art and resistance that defined the life of the ‘first lady of the harpsichord’- a woman who spent her life being ceaselessly reborn through her music. Like the music of her beloved Bach, Zuzana’s life is the story of the tragic transmuted through art into the state of the sublime.

Wendy Holden

In 2015 I reviewed Born Survivors (Bloomsbury) by Wendy Holden which told the story of three mothers and their newborn babies survived the horrors of the Holocaust and then 65 years later the three ‘babies’ met for the first time. A powerful story that has stayed with me to this day.

Wendy Holden the author of over 30 books now has released a memoir One Hundred Miracles: A Memoir of Music and Survival (Bloomsbury) the powerful memoir of Zuzana Ruzicková the Czech Harpsichordist who faced the horrors of the Nazis after they invaded her homeland.

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It was March 1939 when the German troops arrived and soon after Zuzana and other young Jewish boys and girls were forced to act as ‘messengers’ delivering the dreadful letters that informed those families that they were to be transported away from their homes. Many already feared the worst. These letters were the final confirmation of what was to come. In October 1941 these transports to hell started and this included Zuzana and her own family. Life was never to be the same again. The family were sent to Auschwitz their fate was almost certain death and it was here that her father was murdered by the Nazis.

Zuzana and her mother survived the horror of Auschwitz only to be moved to hell that was Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp. By now they were barely surviving on next to nothing and the only way to survive from one day to another was to work in the camp by moving the dead to the ovens. By doing this it meant a little more food for her and her mother. From an early age Zuzana loved music and learnt to play the piano and throughout her time in the concentration camps she kept her music alive in her head. To be free and to play again.

It was a date that would live with Zuzana for the rest of her life. 15th April 1945 she was liberated from Belsen by the British Army. At this time Zuzana only weighed around four stone. But she had survived. All through these years and through the hell and horror of Auschwitz and Belsen she carried a piece of printed music paper with favourite J.S. Bach music on it.

The war was over but the suffering was not over as she now lived under the Soviets and the Communist regime. Zuzana went back to her music studies but only as per the Soviets perspective. From the pianist she switched to playing the Harpsichord after she met Victor Kalabis who would be her future husband. Now she could learn some of her favourite Bach pieces. Following this she became famous and performed all over the world for decades to come and also recorded over 100 albums. J.S. Bach had saved her life.

Wendy Holden conducted many interviews with Zuzana Ruzicková and two weeks after her final interview Zuzana passed away never to see her memoir published. The dedication in the book reads as follows: Dedicated by Zuzana to Johann Sebastian Bach whose music reminds us there is still beauty in this world.

368 Pages.

Thank you to Bloomsbury Books UK for the review copy of One Hundred Miracles: A Memoir of Music and Survival by Wendy Holden

One Hundred Miracles: A Memoir of Music and Survival by Wendy Holden was published by Bloomsbury and was published on 18th April 2019 in Hardback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

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Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot.  Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace.  Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure. 

Gabriel Hemery Author Picture

My Review:

Since my early days in studying horticulture plant species I have always had an interest in those pioneers and plant hunters who travelled to far off lands to seek new species of trees and rare plants. So it great delight I was sent a copy of Green Gold (Unbound) by Gabriel Hemery.

This is the true story of the Victorian plant hunter John Jeffrey told in a fictional account of his epic solo adventure from Scotland to North America. It is 1850 and the journey begins after being asked and financed by a group of wealthy plant collectors. John’s journey would take him from the shores of Scotland to Canada through to Oregon and California the landscape was harsh and unforgiving from the frozen wastelands across mountains. He would send back on a regular basis specimens and seeds and also rare Beetles. It was requested by Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens that John Jeffrey would keep regular journals of his travels and findings to be sent back.

The story moves from present day to the past as John’s journals are discovered and from here the story is constructed in a fictional account. I have to say just how much I really enjoyed reading the account of John Jeffrey’s expedition even if it was told in a fictional narrative. The old plant hunter in me came out from the past as I read of the new specimens that John wrote about on his travels.

There is a real human story here not just a story of the plant hunter. The promise of sending back details of his travels and findings never happened and eventually the backers lost their faith in John Jeffrey but before they could take any further action, John had disappeared but disappeared without trace. Nothing was heard from the plant hunter. So many theories as to what happened to John Jeffrey. Did he get lost and perished, was he murdered, or did John find a love he could not leave.

I have to say that Gabriel Hemery has done an amazing job in telling the story of the plant hunter and his expedition through his journals. For anyone who loves history or the study of plants then Green Gold is a book you will enjoy reading.

302 Pages.

@GabrielHemery   @Unbound   @Unbound_ Digital 

@annecater #RandomThingsTours

Thank you to Anne Cater (Random Things Tours) and Unbound for the review copy of Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery was published by Unbound and was published on 18th April 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

 The Blog Tour

Green Gold Blog Tour Poster

 

Under the Rock – Benjamin Myers

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Under the Rock – Benjamin Myers

Under the Rock is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain – lots of rain – and a great big rock.

From the author of the awarding winning The Gallows Pole, Benjamin Myers now turns to non-fiction with his stunning Under the Rock. (Elliott & Thompson).

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I was so looking forward to reading Under the Rock, the thought of the astonishing writing of Benjamin Myers now turning to the landscape and in particular a step craggy rock called Scout Rock, which overlooks Mytholmroyd near The Upper Calder Valley in West Yorkshire.

It is here that Myers spent a decade exploring the ten acres of woodland that has inspired this beautiful book. And oh that cover design. It is a thin g of real beauty.

This is a book of such incredible prose. In four parts: Wood, Earth, Water and Rock. The writer conjures up words that have been ‘Stories carved from the land’. Each of the four parts are very much in the form of poetry. After all this the part of the country were the poet Ted Hughes grew up.

This is a place that Ben and his wife have now made their home after leaving the noise of the big city behind them. This place is a land that was left and forgotten, scarred by the past and described as once being a toxic dump after asbestos was buried here. Now a place that wants to be explored and in a series of field notes that is poetry and also there are photographs through the book. I love this style of nature writing, maybe for someone like me who loves the writing by Helen Mcdonald, Amy Liptrot and Robert Mcfarlane to name a few and that this will also appeal to those who will really enjoy Under the Rock. This is an exceptional book, both compelling and elegant and one of my highlights of the year. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

384 Pages.

Thank you to Elliott & Thompson for the review copy of Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers

Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published on 25th April 2019 in paperback and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshops.

The Blog Tour – Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers

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Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

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Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar

Can you mend a broken heart? It is a real pleasure to bring you my thoughts on Heart: A History by Sandeep Jauhar which has been shortlisted for the 2019 Wellcome Book Prize.

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For anyone who has as interest in this the most powerful of the organs in the human body yet many know and understand so little of the heart. For those of us who have experienced heart related problems and surgery you begin to take a closer interest on every beat in your chest. It is after all human nature.

For author Sandeep Jauhar he too has suffered as he tells his own story at the beginning of the book which led to a blockage in the main artery leading to the heart.

The heart is a very strong organ and it can withstand so much, as I found out reading Heart: A History it is the first organ to develop. Beginning to beat 3 weeks into life blood is not formed at this point. A remarkable fact that literally made me own heart skip at that thought. But when things do go wrong time is of the essence.

When Sandeep was young he knew of the problems related to the heart through his own family. It was as we learn when Sandeep was young did he take an interest in the heart and later decided he wanted to study Cardiology.

I became absorbed in the book as I learned more and more especially as Cardiology has been a fast paced part of medical study, it has advanced so fast in recent decades but yet there is still so much to learn and understand.

A few medical facts: The first coronary bypass operation I learned was in 1967 and the first coronary angioplasty was conducted as only in recent years back in 1977 yet this procedure seems to have been around for so much longer.

A fascinating and also moving book on the heart but one that is vital. A superb writer and Sandeep writes with such great prose. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

288 Pages.

Thank you to Charlotte Cooper from Midas PR for the review copy of Heart:  History by Sandeep Jauhar

Heart:  History by Sandeep Jauhar was published by Oneworld and was published on 27th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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The 2019 Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist:

  • Amateur: A reckoning with gender, identity and masculinity (Canongate Books) by Thomas Page
  • Heart: A history (Oneworld) by Sandeep Jauhar (India/USA) Non-fiction
  • Mind on Fire: A memoir of madness and recovery (Penguin Ireland) by Arnold Thomas Fanning (Ireland) Non-fiction
  • Murmur (CB Editions) by Will Eaves (UK) Fiction
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Jonathan Cape) by Ottessa Moshfegh (USA) Fiction
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One woman’s extraordinary life in death, decay and disaster (The Text Publishing Company) by Sarah Krasnostein (Australia/USA) Non-fiction

The winner will be announced on Wednesday 1st May at Wellcome Centre, London.

Shortlist

 

How to follow the 10th Anniversary Wellcome Book Prize Blog Tour

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Britain’s Jews in the First World War by Paula Kitching

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On the 4th August 1914 Britain led by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith declared war on Germany after the call by the British government for Germany to get out of Belgium by midnight on 3rd August. So it was Britain went to war with the might of Germany.

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Now the call went out for young men across the country to sign up and fight for King and Country. Britain’s Jews in the First World War by historian Paula Kitching tells the story of the Jewish community and how they contributed to the First World War.

At this time Britain had a global empire and navy with many ships but what it lacked was men on the ground to fight. To take on Germany on a European battlefield would take a huge army. Britain had only a small professional army during the run up to WWI. The Jewish community despite being seen as outsiders responded with more than 40,000 men to fight after the call went out.

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With many more providing support on the home front both as nurses and doctors in hospitals and other support services the Jewish community had responded to the call.

In this well researched account it tells the story of the Jewish involvement in World War One. There is a chapter towards the back of the book that tells of the Awards and Bravery of some of the Jewish Community who served. There were 5 recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC), 144 were awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) as well as 263 recipients of the Military Cross (MC; Commissioned Officers only).

The story of Frank de Pass who on the 24th November 1914 was awarded the Victoria Cross for his conspicuous bravery in the face of a bombardment from the German line and then went about rescuing a wounded soldier. Sadly, de Pass was never to know he was going to be awarded the VC as he was killed the following day. Just one of the heroic actions by Jewish soldiers. His VC is held at the National Army Museum in London which I saw at the launch of ‘On Courage: Stories of Victoria Cross and George Cross Holders’ (Constable) in May last year.

Break of Day in the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg

The darkness crumbles away 
It is the same old druid Time as ever, 
Only a live thing leaps my hand, 
A queer sardonic rat, 
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear. 
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew 
Your cosmopolitan sympathies, 
Now you have touched this English hand 
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure 
To cross the sleeping green between. 
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass 
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes, 
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder, 
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth, 
The torn fields of France. 
What do you see in our eyes 
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens? 
What quaver -what heart aghast? 
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins 
Drop, and are ever dropping; 
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust. 

I have learned so much by reading Britain’s Jews in the First World War and if military history or history in general is something that you enjoy reading then I am more than happy to recommend.

#greatjewishbooks

288 Pages.

Thank you to for the review copy of Britain’s Jews in the First World War by Paula Kitching

Britain’s Jews in the First World War by Paula Kitching was published by Amberley Publishing and was published on 15th February 2019 now available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw

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The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw

What an absolute gem The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw (Elliott & Thompson) really is. Imagine two friends Matt and James decide to paddle their way through the waterways of the heart of Britain. This is exactly what they both do. Not only that but they build the canoe themselves.

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The red canoe is christened ‘Pipe’ for reasons that become clear early in the book and after putting the canoe through some trials off they both set to explore the rivers and not only that but explore and discover nature.

The real beauty is that you can imagine the two in their red canoe silently paddling the waterways of Britain which gives them both the perfect way to get back to nature and to pause real life in their year long quest to examine our rivers and the wildlife that makes this their home.

Not in any way was this an easy relaxed year long quest there was at times real life drama and peril. Examining the rivers from The Waveney and The Stour and Alde, through to the Upper and Lower Thames to the River Severn.

At times you can almost hear the birdsong as they paddle gently through the rivers but at times you sense their real fear. The beauty of knowing that both become at one with our watery arteries of Britain but also at one with nature even glimpse of wild Beavers. There are Kingfishers, Otters and Damselflies to name a few that the reader discovers on the journey with Matt Gaw and James Treadaway.

I for one would not even dream of paddling some the extreme rivers and Lochs this is not for the faint hearted but the message that comes across to anyone reading this is simple. Life is for living and live in the now. Beautifully written and told but I would have loved a few photos as this would have made this book. Definitely one I would really recommend reading sat by a river when the sun shines listening to the birdsong.

288 Pages.

Thank you to Alison Menzies for the review copy of The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw.

The Pull of the River by Matt Gaw was published by Elliott & Thompson and was published in Paperback on 21st February 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter by Robert Hutton

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Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter by Robert Hutton

Delighted to share my thoughts on the story of the MI5 agent at the very heart of Operation Fifth Column, which was the covert WWII operation that was to flush out Nazi sympathisers on British Soil.

Just a few words on what the book is about: June 1940 and Britain stands alone as Hitler eyes his next prize across the channel. Codenamed ‘Jack King’ Eric Roberts who was a former Bank Clerk from Epsom in Surrey. He was recruited into MI5 and then went on to become Hitler’s man in London. This whole operation has only recently come to light. In Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5’s Secret Wartime Nazi Hunter Robert Hutton goes on to tell the story through newly declassified documents and private family archives.

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The enemy within during the war was a fear at the heart of the government getting to know who they were and then infiltrate them was key to identifying the key players and also the spies who would pass on information to their spy masters in Berlin.

Author Robert Hutton must be congratulated for his well-researched book that is an incredible read that delves deep into this story of Eric Roberts.

It is hard to imagine that even when that dreadful Oswald Mosely was taken out circulation that there ordinary Britons willing to work for the Nazis and put this country at real risk of invasion.

Eric Roberts hailed from Cornwall and was spotted by spymaster Maxwell Knight. Roberts was nothing short of brave as he set about infiltrating British Union of Fascists at any time he could have caught out and then what? It was later that he rose through the ranks. This an ordinary bank clerk. Nothing short of remarkable.

As the war went on, it was decided the best way to play them was to set up their own ‘Fifth Column’ and so it was the under the name of ‘Jack King’ Eric Roberts played his best part.

‘Jack King’ was to play the Nazi’s man in London pretending to be the link and the key to the very heart of Nazi Germany. Hard to imagine that here in Briton as men and women risking their lives to destroy the Nazis that there were those who believed in the Nazi cause and wanted see their own country defeated. These were the vile anti-Semitic Nazi sympathisers that Eric was infiltrating. This was dangerous work at any time he could have been found out and almost certain death awaited. It was indeed that ‘Jack’ already being eyed as an MI5 spy and her name was Marita Perigoe who was in her own right an extremely dangerous woman who was very suspicious of ‘Jack King’ These were the people plotting against their own country passing vital information to the Gestapo but plotting Churchill’s downfall. These were the enemy within and needed to be brought to justice but at the end of the war were they indeed brought to justice. There are some surprising findings and facts that even opened my eyes while reading this riveting account.

At the end of the story the country owed Eric Roberts a great deal but did he get the rewards he deserved. I won’t reveal that here as I think this is one book that finally opens the story of a man with a smile that opened doors and revealed many secrets.

 336 Pages.

Agent Jack: The True Story of MI5’s Secret Nazi Hunter by Robert Hutton was published by W&N and was published on 6th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.

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