Book Review – Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex #History #Science #Social

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex by Alice Domerat Dreger

Synopsis

Punctuated with remarkable case studies, this book explores extraordinary encounters between hermaphrodites–people born with “ambiguous” sexual anatomy–and the medical and scientific professionals who grappled with them. Alice Dreger focuses on events in France and Britain in the late nineteenth century, a moment of great tension for questions of sex roles. While feminists, homosexuals, and anthropological explorers openly questioned the natures and purposes of the two sexes, anatomical hermaphrodites suggested a deeper question: just how many human sexes are there? Ultimately hermaphrodites led doctors and scientists to another surprisingly difficult question: what is sex, really? Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex takes us inside the doctors’ chambers to see how and why medical and scientific men constructed sex, gender, and sexuality as they did, and especially how the material conformation of hermaphroditic bodies–when combined with social exigencies–forced peculiar constructions. Throughout the book Dreger indicates how this history can help us to understand present-day conceptualizations of sex, gender, and sexuality. This leads to an epilogue, where the author discusses and questions the protocols employed today in the treatment of intersexuals (people born hermaphroditic). Given the history she has recounted, should these protocols be reconsidered and revised? A meticulously researched account of a fascinating problem in the history of medicine, this book will compel the attention of historians, physicians, medical ethicists, intersexuals themselves, and anyone interested in the meanings and foundations of sexual identity.

4 stars.

I’d had this book on my shelf for ages, but I wish I’d picked it up before. The accounts are tragic (in some cases), interesting and well researched, but more than that this is a book which makes one think. What does it mean to be male or female? When are where does a person become either a man or a woman, and more importantly does it actually matter? How much of our sex and gender are biology and how much is societal? All the cases discussed were French or British cases from the Victorian era – when the gender roles were very distinct, and sexuality was far more rigidly enforced. Homosexuality was illegal and it was ‘one sex, one body’. A woman was a woman, and she loved men, produced babies and was mild, retiring and gentle. A man was a man, and he loved women, was the breadwinner, stronger, more forceful. So what happened when these lines were blurred?

Biology is complex, and the biology of sex even more so. What happened to the people who were both male or female, or neither? Was assigning a sex and forcing that person to live according to those social mores, or even finding someone was actually the other sex and making them change for the good of the person or to ‘protect’ society?

The book is a good insight into the trials of medicine, social expectations and the often difficult lives of the hermaphrodites themselves, although with the exception of one of the people there were no diaries of the hermaphrodites themselves.

Changes in attitude, definitions, and advances in medicine shifted boundaries, but many of the intersex persons had sad, confused lives – being forced to be a gender they did not identify with. Some lived as they chose, and damned what the doctors thought, and some ignored the ‘advice’. But it wasn’t easy.

Many of the issues are still relevant – fortunately Britain is more open-minded these days. There are equal rights in marriage for all, gay people, and intersex people can live (relatively) free lives without fear of prosecution or ostracism. But there are still discussions on transgender, sexual and gender identity and ‘normality’.

I’d recommend this book for those who are interested in the development of science, medicine, identity, social issues and Victorian history.

 

Review – A Sword’s Poem – Leah Cutter

Review – A Sword’s Poem – Leah Cutter

https://amzn.to/2LuiVmc

#Fantasy #Fairytale #Japanese

When Hikaru’s new husband is murdered by a wicked sorcerer, his soul stolen and forged into a mystic sword she risks all to find her love. Magic, betrayal, courage and love weave an intricate tale in Heian-era Japan; the author spins the world beautifully – as seen by the fox-fairy, and the human heroine. This is a tale of love, sacrifice, revenge and self-understanding – but more than that it’s a wonderful fairy-tale set against a background with which many Western readers will be unfamiliar. Ms Cutter brings this world to life, and its vibrancy and ritualism are everywhere in the story. Poetry features everywhere, and the language is very lyrical. I can imagine sitting around a campfire as someone recounts this as a heroic tale and getting totally caught up in it.

It’s primarily told from the point of view of the female characters – in a largely male-oriented world, which makes a nice change. These women are powerful, resourceful, braver than the men (in many cases), dutiful and self-reliant and such characters bring this sword and sorcery tale to life.

Recommended! 5 Stars

Swords Poem

Reviews – do they influence you?

I ran a poll similar to this a while ago but I am interested to know if your views have changed.

How influential are book reviews to you? There are some folks who say they will not buy a book with negative reviews (of course that’s relative – what constitutes a ‘negative’ rating? 1 star out of 5? 2? 3?). Some people read reviews to look for opinions similar to their own. There are people who never read reviews. And everything in between.

Personally, I will review a book I read, but not every book – I don’t have the time – and if I really can’t think of anything beyond a line or two then it probably isn’t worth it. I am contrary – I usually don’t read the reviews before I buy. Usually. Unless it’s only got a couple of 1 stars.  What appeals to me in a book is rather genre dependent – so it can be hard to judge one against another.

The poll runs for 1 week – and I will report on the findings afterwards. Get voting peeps.

Reviews 2018 – The Hinge Factor – Erik Durschmied – History/Military History

Amazon UK link The Hinge Factor: How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History  

Amazon.com link The Hinge Factor

From the wooden horse at Troy to a harrowing photograph snapped in Vietnam, from Robert E. Lee’s lost battle plans to the evacuation of Dunkirk, world history has been shaped as much by chance and error as by courage and heroism. Time and again, invincible armies fall to weaker opponents in the face of impossible odds, when the outcome had seemed a foregone conclusion. How and why does this happen? What is it that decides the fate of battle?

The Hinge Factor is an instructive, fascinating look at how the unpredictable, the absurd, and the bizarre have shaped the face of history in war.

5 Stars.

What is the ‘hinge factor’? Basically, it is the pivotal event that led to a particular outcome of battle – from generals despising each other and not coming to one another’s aid, to the weather, to misunderstood orders, to a war-journalist capturing an iconic shot – which turned a nation against a war. It’s a ‘what if’.  What if it hadn’t rained at Agincourt? What is it had been cloudy when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb? What if the Trojans hadn’t fallen for the ruse of the Wooden Horse? In many cases, the outcome and possibly history itself would be very different.

The accounts are fairly lengthy but taken from reliable sources (relatively). Yet each and every one reads like a tale of heroes, courage and, often, sheer bloody stupidity. The author is a correspondent – and it shows. He knows his stuff, and he knows what makes a good story and what is important. (check out his Wikipage Erik Durschmied). 

The Vietnam account is actually the author’s own account of what happened in those terrible years, and how news coverage changed the tide of that particular conflict.

The accounts make one wonder how many lives would have not been lost if only the General’s hadn’t behaved like morons, if only it had been cloudy, or hadn’t rained, or the retreating soldiers had spiked their own guns.  I found it quite a moving book – history does indeed repeat itself first as tragedy and then as farce (Karl Marx).

The account I found most interesting was the Berlin Wall. I remember seeing that on TV – something many people would never believe could happen. Within a few hours the tide that had been building suddenly erupted and flowed inexorably towards freedom for East Germany (as it was then). It was the only revolution and ‘battle’ in history where no blood was shed. But what if the border guards had started firing at the crowds? What if the orders had come to stop the tide of humanity? There would have been a bloodbath.

As usual, I am meandering into history, so back to the book.  It’s well written, well researched, thought-provoking and a must for lovers of history, fate and military history.

Review – Schotts Miscellany

Schotts Miscellany is one of those ‘dip in and out of’ books. It’s a collection of the interesting, the weird and the varied – from Morse Code signs, to collective nouns, to country flag colours, to cricketing terms – there is something of interest to everyone.

It’s not the sort of book to read in one sitting, largely because there aren’t really any links between the facts and thus can be a little confusing. That said, it a lot of fun and if you’re the sort of person who likes to toss in weird knowledge or be the smart arse in a conversation (like me), then this is the book for you.

You can never have too many odd, weird and possibly useless facts.

5 stars. (Although the print is VERY small so get your specs out….)

 

Blurb

Schott’s Miscellany” makes few claims to be exhaustive or even practical. It does, however, claim to be essential. It will afford you great wisdom in the morning, several conversational bons mots for the afternoon, and many an enlightened smile after dark. Where else can you find, packed on to one page, the thirteen principles of witchcraft, the structure of military hierarchy, all of the clothing care symbols, a list of the countries where you drive on the left, and a nursery rhyme about sneezing? Where else, but “Schott’s Miscellany”, will you stumble across John Lennon’s cat, the supplier of bagpipes to the Queen, and the brutal methods of murder encountered by Miss Marple? An encyclopaedia? A dictionary? An almanac? An anthology? A treasury? An amphigouri? A commonplace? A vade-mecum? Well – yes. “Schott’s Original Miscellany” is all these, and, of course, more. A book like no other, “Schott’s Original Miscellany” is entertaining, informative, unpredictable and utterly addictive.

Schotts Miscellany on Amazon.com

Review – Storm Seed – Janet & Chris Morris #Fantasy

Storm Seed is the penultimate Sacred Band novel and it’s all you’d expect from Janet and Chris Morris – dark in places, complex and multi-layered, exciting and full of action, sad and yet joyous. As with all of these novels it’s not for the faint-hearted, those who like an ‘easy read’ or those who don’t understand the nuances and lyricism of these two writers. This novel ties up many of the plotlines from previous books; the complex relationships between the Sacred Band members, estranged though they are; the re-emergence of old enemies and old bonds; the reaffirming of loyalty and friendship and, of course, a great big fight😊

What I love most are the characters in these novels. Nikodemos, especially, is such a wonderful creation. He’s the most human, the most troubled and the most courageous. Of all the characters Niko loses the most, but is, perhaps, the only one who can truly understand what it means to retain one’s humanity and sense of self. Surrounded by immortals Niko understands mortality and death more than the others, yet faces it head on and doesn’t quaver. Surrounded by the immortal Commander Tempus, Jihan the Froth Daughter, and a host of more than humans Niko, Strat and Crit fight and work as only those commanded by an immortal can – doing more than they thought possible, for the love for Tempus and each other.

Past decisions and mistakes come a-knocking and when a half-god and Death’s Queen seek revenge a world or two are ravaged. Prepare for blood, for sacrifice and for loss in this book. But be heartened by the unbreakable friendships, the courage and the glory of the Sacred Band. Cleverly woven in is the land of Sandia – a place where the inhabitants plundered their land and seas until their world was mostly barren, their children born in a laboratory and a people dying the slow death of a world ravaged at their hands. Sandia is not so far from home for us. A warning and a lesson, perhaps. Tempus himself finds it hard to understand how a people could destroy their own world in such a way.

It’s a great adventure, a great saga and a great read.

Life to you and everlasting glory.

5 stars.

The Elements of Murder – Book Review and Brief Summary.

The Elements of Murder

This is not your run of the mill true crime book, it’s a good deal more – with scientific analysis of the poisonous elements and interesting chapters on other uses. Each element only has one or two murder cases discussed in detail, and the rest comprises of more scientific information, such as a particular element’s place in the natural world, whether we need it to survive and medical or industrial uses. There are cases discussed dealing with accidental imbibing, including historical hypotheses (such as Napeoleon’s arsenic-laced wallpaper, Roman emperors and lead poisoning, and unsolved cases where poisons may have been involved. Some of these deaths turned the course of history (such as the mental illness and infertility of many of the Roman leaders, the madness of King George III, and the death of Bonaparte.

It’s interesting to trace the history of such elements, some of which were (or are) used in a medical capacity. One such example is Fowlers Solution – a medicinal tonic and treat-all which was arsenic-based; overdoses were a reality and adding a little extra to the mix was not unheard of. This concoction was responsible for more than one end – a helping hand was given or self-inflicted. James Maybrick (who was at one point considered a candidate for Jack the Ripper), was poisoned with arsenic. He was, by many accounts a self-dosing hypochondriac and was using Fowlers Solution, amongst other ‘medicenes’. His wife, Florence, was tried for his murder (after distilling arsenic from flypapers – also a Victorian practice to produce a face wash). Florence had an affair (or a couple) and was mostly tried on this behaviour, proving the hypocrisy of the time as James had a mistress and five illegitimate kids. Did she do it? The jury thought so but many advocates of her cause say she was innocent and the poison was taken by James himself, or planted by family members who didn’t like her.  My point is – there were legitimate uses for poisons in the right quantities.

The rising technology and scientific method in the 19th century led to arsenic, antimony and other poisons being more easily traceable. Many of the symptoms of the poisoning would resemble other illness, particularly gastrointestinal disorders, dysentery etc. at a time when food hygiene and personal hygiene were rather lacking.

See links for Marsh Test

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_test

Mercury based medicine came to be used in the treatment of syphilis, but mercury and mercury vapour are toxic. In many cases the mercury would kill the patient if the syphilis didn’t. Mercury was often seen as a wonder element;  it was even thought to prolong life in China and Tibet, and the ancient Egyptians used balms and tonics made from mercury compounds, and the Romans used mercury cosmetics.

This unusual element was at one time thought to be First Matter, from which all other metals derived, and alchemists used it (and were poisoned by it) in the search for transmutation.

Its unusual properties gave an almost mythic status but this dangerous metal caused all sorts of unpleasantness. Mercury usages in industry include use in batteries, dentistry, paper and paint manufacturing, and gold and silver mining. Artists used vermillion paint, which is made from cinnabar (a mercury compound) and it’s thought many of Van Gogh’s mental health illnesses could be linked to mercury poisoning from his paints.

The wiki page for mercury poisoning states: ‘ Common symptoms of mercury poisoning include peripheral neuropathy, presenting as paresthesia or itching, burning, pain, or even a sensation that resembles small insects crawling on or under the skin (formication); skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingertips and toes); swelling; and desquamation (shedding or peeling of skin).

Mercury irreversibly inhibits selenium-dependent enzymes (see below) and may also inactivate S-adenosyl-methionine, which is necessary for catecholamine catabolism by catechol-O-methyl transferase. Due to the body’s inability to degrade catecholamines (e.g. epinephrine), a person suffering from mercury poisoning may experience profuse sweating, tachycardia (persistently faster-than-normal heart beat), increased salivation, and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Affected children may show red cheeksnose and lips, loss of hairteeth, and nails, transient rashes, hypotonia (muscle weakness), and increased sensitivity to light. Other symptoms may include kidney dysfunction (e.g. Fanconi syndrome) or neuropsychiatric symptoms such as emotional labilitymemory impairment, or insomnia.

Thus, the clinical presentation may resemble pheochromocytoma or Kawasaki diseaseDesquamation (skin peeling) can occur with severe mercury poisoning acquired by handling elemental mercury.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_poisoning

https://www.medicinenet.com/mercury_poisoning/article.htm#what_are_the_side_effects_signs_and_symptoms_of_mercury_poisoning

Thallium:

Thallium was used in medicine as a ringworm treatment – one of the effects is hair loss so a patient would be given thallium so any ringworm or other parasites could be treated. It was the standard use for hair removal for 50 years. Thallium is used to make lenses, in smelting, and insecticides. There have been ancient and modern cases of it being used for evil. For me the most interesting case example was the Graham Young case, as the man in question came from a town not far from where I grew up (Bovingdon). I’m familiar with the case from previous books but this account was detailed and complimented the scientific accounts of this metallic poison.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Young

The great Agatha Christie used thallium as the murder element in her story The Pale Horse – where she describes the effects of this poison, which was little known at the time. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-poison-prescribed-by-agatha-christie-thanks-to-the-mystery-writer-the-deadly-properties-of-1534450.html

Overall as a book on poisons and murder this is certainly one of the better offerings. The author clearly has done a good deal of research, and chosen suitable but not always common cases to review. The scientific side of the poisons is rarely put forward in such books. Perhaps not a book for the casual reader, as some knowledge of chemistry would be a help.

Recommended for true-crime buffs, historians, and those who enjoy the science of crime.

5 stars.

Reader Interview – Victoria Zigler #Reading #interviews

I don’t often do reader interviews these days, but it’s great to be offering this. As an author readers are vitally important – they are our customers, our critics and our audience.  Many authors are avid readers, but of course, not all readers are authors.

Words are power, they are knowledge and they are freedom.  Readers play an important role in the life of books and words, for without readers books would sit unread, unloved and unknown.  What makes a good book, or for that matter a bad one?  Why do people read and how do they find their books?

Welcome to Victoria Zigler (or Tori, if you prefer).

Where are you from? I’m originally from South-West Wales, UK, and was born and raised in the shadow of the Black Mountains… Well, other than a short time in my teens when I lived on the South-East coast of England, and again later in my teens when I lived in Canada for six months.  But these days I live on the South-East coast of England, UK… Yes, the same part of it where I lived in my teens.

Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a bookaholic.  Seriously! I’ve loved to read since I learned how, and been writing almost as long.  If I’m not either reading or writing, chances are I’m either spending time with my hubby and pets, dabbling in one of the other activities that sometimes manage to capture my attention for a while, such as watching movies, listening to music, playing roleplaying games (like Dungeons & Dragons, and that kind of thing) or doing crafts.  Either that or it’s because I’m sorting emails, putting in an appearance on social media sites, pretending to work while really playing Scrabble or Solitaire on my computer, or it’s because I still haven’t managed to get a house elf and am therefore forced to worry about things like housework and household errands.

Oh, yeah, I’m also completely blind, having lost my sight to Congenital Glaucoma.

On average how many books do you read in a month? Judging by the 317 book total for 2016, I read on average something like 26 books a month.  Of course, that varies, since some years I read more than the 317, other years I read less.  Basically, it depends on how long the books I’m reading at the time are, and what else is going on in my life that may cut in to my reading time.

Where is your favourite place to read? I’ll happily read anywhere, but most of my reading is done in my bedroom, which is where my stereo is, and where my Kindle spends most of its time.

What genres do you prefer and why? Do you have any genres you avoid? My favourite genre is fantasy, because anything can happen in it, and I enjoy the experience of being carried off to magical lands.  I’ll read almost anything though, regardless of genre or age range.  It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a children’s book or an adult book, or if it’s a fairy tale or a historical romance.  As long as it’s not Christian fiction, chances are I’ll give it a go.  I tend to be more concerned with whether the story appeals to me, rather than what genre it falls under.  Like I said though, the exception is Christian fiction.  That’s the only genre I completely steer away from.

Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life? Reading offers me an escape from reality when I don’t want to face it.  It also allows me to see the world in a way I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.  Not to mention, reading is one of the few areas where I’m not at a disadvantage from others due to my lack of sight; reading is one of the few activities where being blind doesn’t change the amount of information I absorb from the experience compared to a sighted person.

Do you have a favourite book or author, why do you think you like this book/author so much? To be honest, I have several favourite authors and books, and we’d be here all day if I listed them all in this interview.  Besides, my favourites depend on my mood to some extent.  Although, having said that, I fell in love with Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “A Little Princess” when I first read it as a child of maybe ten or so, and have adored the book ever since.  I don’t know what it is about the book, but it’s always my go to book when someone says I absolutely have to pick a favourite.

What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this? Most of my books are eBooks, because they’re cheaper than audiobooks, and easier to get hold of and store than Braille books.  Of course, with my lack of sight, reading a physical book is only possible if it’s in Braille, otherwise I’d be perfectly happy to read my books in any format.  I literally only stopped reading paperback and hardback books when I couldn’t see to do so any more.

How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know? Mostly it’s either from following authors I already know and love, or getting recommendations from friends or family members.  Other times it’s from someone randomly buying me a book they think I’ll like, from seeing a movie and learning it’s based on a book, or from being bored and typing random keywords into the search box of online bookstores or Goodreads.

When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look?  What makes you turn away? It’s usually the title that I pay attention to first.  Sighted people may judge a book based on the cover, I do so based on a title.  If the title gets my attention, I’ll check out the book blurb.  If the blurb makes it sound like something I might enjoy reading, I’ll give it a go.  At least, I will as long as the blurb isn’t filled with typos and things; I’m always reluctant to read a book if the author can’t even make sure there are no editing issues in their blurb.

Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice? I pay attention to reviews of family and friends on Goodreads, because I like to know what my family and friends have been reading.  When it comes to choosing a book to read though, I only sometimes glance through reviews, especially if they’re by people I know, but only usually if the book has already captured my attention, and I’m already thinking of reading it anyway.  Bad reviews don’t generally stop me buying a book, unless the bad reviews are because of poor editing, in which case I’ll think twice about reading something, and be reluctant to do so.

What do you think is the most important aspect of a book for you? Plot, world-building, strong characters etc.? What turns you off? All those things are important, and it depends on the book in question to which matters most to me when I’m reading it.  Things that turn me off though are poorly edited books, and excessive use of curse words in inappropriate situations.  When it comes to the editing, I can let some mistakes slip by, since I do appreciate that even the best editors can miss things, but when there’s a mistake every other word – or it feels like there is – it stops me enjoying the book.  When it comes to the curse words, it’s not that I’m prudish or anything, it’s just that some people seem to use curse words excessively, in situations where people wouldn’t normally swear, or just to save themselves the trouble of thinking of better replacement words.  There are also times when it feels like the curse words were only added to make up the word count.  While I can accept the use of curse words in some books… Especially during steamy scenes in books of an adult nature… Excessive and inappropriate use of them seriously irritates me, and the use of them at all in books aimed at middle grade readers or younger is entirely unacceptable to me.

If you are a reviewer why do you review? I write reviews to help other readers decide if an author’s book is worth reading, and to help out other authors looking for some attention for their books.  I admit some of my reviews are vague, and most of them are really short, but at least I do them.

If you’re wondering, I post my reviews on Goodreads, as well as in a monthly review round-up post I do on my blog, and sometimes post reviews on Smashwords too (the latter only being if I got the book via Smashwords, of course).  I’ve also done reviews on Amazon and Audible on request.

What factors are important in a review? This is a tough one.  If I enjoyed a book enough that I gave it the full five stars, I feel just a few words saying how awesome it was is enough (though I’ll expand on that if I’m dealing with a review request, or feel there’s something I want to specifically compliment).  If I gave it less, I feel it’s important to explain what stopped me giving it the full five stars.  Beyond that, I think it varies from book to book.  Although, it is often helpful to say something about the quality of the writing and world building, and the believability of the characters, I think.

Do you think it is appropriate to discuss author behaviour in a review? No.  Reviews are about the books, not the author’s behaviour.

What are your views on paid for reviews? I don’t agree with them.  By all means give someone a free copy in exchange for an honest review, but I don’t think you should pay them to review your book.  I’ve never been paid for a review, and never expected to be.  I mean, I’ve been given free copies of books in exchange for reviews, and there are a couple of authors who regularly send me advanced review copies of their books because they know I’ll want to read their books anyway, and have learned that sending me copies in exchange for my review will get their books bumped to the top of my to-read pile.  But, as I said, I’ve never been paid for a review.  I’d also like to stress that any review I write in exchange for a free book is an honest one, based on my own personal opinion, and nothing else.

Some readers believe all 4 and 5-star reviews on a book must be fake. What are your thoughts on this? Some people just like to find a reason to criticize others, and whether or not some books have all four and five-star reviews that are genuine or fake is just another example of this.  Sure, it’s possible that some of those reviews might be fake.  But for the most part I don’t think they are, and don’t think it’s fair to assume they are.  For the most part those books are just examples of authors who did a great job in producing a book worthy of high praise.  If people can’t see that, then they’re obviously blinder than I am.  Either that, or they’re the kinds of people who only feel pleasure when saying or doing things to hurt others, in which case I feel sorry for them, because it must be a lonely existence only feeling pleasure when causing others pain.

Website: http://www.zigler.co.uk
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/toriz
CreateSpace: https://www.createspace.com/pub/simplesitesearch.search.do?sitesearch_query=Victoria+Zigler&sitesearch_type=STORE
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/toriz
Personal Facebook profile: http://www.facebook.com/tori.zigler
Facebook author page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Victoria-Zigler/424999294215717
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/victoriazigler
Blog: http://ziglernews.blogspot.com
E-Mail: keroberous2004@gmail.com

Review – Eureka – Everything You Wanted to Know About the Ancient Greeks But Were Afraid to Ask

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23510605-eureka-everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-ancient-greeks-but

History, Greeks, Ancient History.

5 Stars

A fun read with bite size chunks of Ancient Greek history until the Romans arrived. Ancient Greek culture and language still influence us today – the Greeks birthed democracy (although in a different hue than hours), many of our words stem from Greek terms, then of course there are the Olympic Games.

The author covers many aspects of culture, language, history and myth – in a manner which is easy to follow and gives enough of a taster to get the reader interested in the subject. He’s done his research too – with references to ancient sources and writers/thinkers and archeologists.

Recommended for anyone with an interest in the era/area – easy to read and not overwhelming. Not exactly a deep and meaningful – as with such a broad selection of subjects covered it could not be – but a good insight.

Book Review – Inconvenient People – Victorian History

Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and Mad-Doctors in Victorian England.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13154147-inconvenient-people

5 stars.

This is a fascinating book covering the lives of lunatics and alleged lunatics in Victorian England. Mental illness was little understood and feared. Many people found it shameful to have a lunatic relative and so often such people were hidden away. The book covers several persons who, although eccentric, were misdiagnosed as insane, hauled away to either ‘private’ asylums or larger establishments, with little or no recourse to law.

The author often mentions fiction in which this occurs – namely Jane Eyre and Women in White but the truth was often not far, or sometimes even worse than fiction.

The reasons for incarceration ranged from relatives wanting control of finances; inconvenient wives; women who spoke out and behaved against the rigid, masculine status quo, and in one of the case studies a group involved with a cult. Each case is discussed in depth, sympathetically and the changes in law (if any applied) mentioned.

It is a good insight into the world of Victorian England, the rules governing the role of women, the sick, the upper-classes and how the populace reacted. Ignorance, spite, greed and misdirection fill these pages, along with love gone sour, obsession and most importantly – courage.

For anyone interested in Victorian history, the history of mental illness treatment or psychiatry might find this book a good read.