The Domestic Revolution – Review #History

The Domestic Revolution by historian Ruth Goodman is an interesting insight into how coal, and later soaps changed Britain, and the Empire. Everyone has heard of the Industrial Revolution, but in many ways the changing habits of how humans burned fuel for warmth, food-making and the domestic domain was more significant, if less well known.

For thousands of years humans have burned wood, peat, or variations thereof in the home – cooking and keeping warm. This practice shaped the landscape – wood was used everywhere – fuel, building, weapons, war, ships, homes etc. Land was managed, farmed, coppiced and the industries around this were important. Many folks did not travel far, and so utilised what was around them. Certain foods and ways of cooking do not manage on wood or peat, and others do not manage well on coal. 

Ms Goodman describes cooking on wood, peat, dung and charcoal, how it was sourced and the foods which worked best. Cleaning was done, largely with wood ash, lime and various other intriguing ways.  Ash doesn’t work on coal dirt and so hot water became the norm, and new vessels for boiling, new detergents and new roles.

Then came coal – which burns differently from wood, cooks differently, is used in industry differently, heats differently. People, pots, manufacturing, transport, food, housing, cleaning and pretty much every aspect you can think of changed with it, or as a result. Coal creates smoke which leaves smuts, dirt and dust. It produces pollution and is much harder to clean off. All those coal fires – say goodbye to your family tapestry, and your old cleaning habits. Bring on different smelting, transport, industry, soap-making, production and recipes.

The domestic hearth was, for much of history, the female domain, and although the records from women are scarce, from the 19th Century the records do bring to life the challenges, solutions and habits of women, from highborn ladies, to the lower classes. Status was important, and coal and soap brought with them status. 

The book is a little slow to start, but the author knows her stuff and the book brings an interesting view on the lives of our ancestors, and how change, once it starts can be inexorable.

A good book for writers, and readers of history/historical fiction/fantasy as a reference to living with wood fires and coal, foods, cleaning and the role of women in these times (who became more tied to the home as things changed).

4 stars

 

 

Book Review – A Dog called Hope

5 Stars

A Dog called Hope

This truly moving book is un-put-downable. The story of a service dog – Napal and those whose lives he touches will make you exalt at the bond and love between man and dog, marvel at the courage of some people and cry your heart out.

When Jason Morgan is critically injured on a secret mission he believes his life is over – unable to walk, in constant pain, unable to be a father to his young family, no job, no hope of anything but a life of pain and depression. Then a remarkable dog joins his household.

Napal is a miracle on four legs. Intelligent, loyal, and loving. He not only brings the family back, he gives Jason something to live for, a non-judgemental helper, a talking point, and eventually a new relationship. With Napal at his side Jason achieves more than he ever thought possible.

The book is incredibly engaging, if in places covering very emotional and dark issues. I found myself entranced by the delightful Napal, his first human raiser – who himself was disabled, and developed a bond for life with the puppy he’d selflessly raised to help another. Jason himself is a warrior – broken – but able to rise up and overcome almost insurmountable odds to regain his life, and his independence.

If you aren’t moved by this book, if you don’t have tears in your eyes, you have no heart, and no soul.

The best book I’ve read all year!

#Book Review #Animals #Disability #Love

 

 

Elfhame – Anthea Sharp – Review #Fantasy #Fairytales

Elfhame – Anthea Sharp

51R7lsxCDEL

Mara is a girl with adventure in her soul, and she wants more than her mundane village and boring suitor can offer. Her life is one of few future prospects save a dull marriage, hard work and popping out children. She has no special skills of which she is aware, save more intelligence than usual, courage and a curious nature.

Prince Bran is the heir to not only the Hawthorne Throne, an-end-of-the-world prophecy, but he’s a fearsome Dark Elf. His life is filled with duty, war and magic. He is taciturn, a powerful sorcerer and fearsome warrior.

These two are linked – by a prophecy one has lived by and the other is blissfully unaware of. Aside from that, they have little in common.

Fate has her way and our two fine heroes meet; there are deceptions, battles with unpleasant monsters, surprises, unlikely friendships and a rollercoaster ending.

Told like a fairytale, the story is engaging (I read it through in a couple of hours as I couldn’t put it down), and the characters are great. Mara quickly captures the readers – feisty and brave, a bit naive but knows her own mind and is not afraid to say so. She is not a wallflower.

Bran is a sympathetic character – doing his duty and fulfilling a prophecy that will save his people, despite his own reservations, safety and happiness. The elves are seen by the humans as alien and ‘hideous’, with strange and mythical ways; the humans are viewed as primitive and weak. And both factions are proven wrong.

Well-crafted and filled with adventure this fantasy tale is definitely one for readers of mythic tales and fairy tales. Younger readers may find the monsters and the battles unsettling but this is a good read for any age.

5 stars.