Checking out letter F to see which authors and books I have saved because I love these books.
Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais by Suzanne Fagence Cooper
An interesting story about a woman at the centre of the Victorian art world. A woman who had to fight herself out of an unhappy marriage.
"The scandalous love triangle at the heart of the Victorian art world. Effie Gray, a Scottish beauty, was the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at nineteen to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union. When her husband invited his protégé John Everett Millais away on holiday, she and Millais fell in love. Effie would inspire some of Millais's most haunting images, and embody Victorian society's fears about female sexuality.
Effie risked everything by leaving Ruskin. She hoped to find fulfilment as Millais's wife, becoming a society hostess and manager of his studio, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie's family letters and diaries to reveal the reality behind the scandalous love-triangle. She shows the rise and fall of the Pre-Raphaelite circle from a new perspective, through the eyes of a woman who was intimately involved in the private and public lives of its two greatest figures. Effie's charm and ambition helped to shape the careers of both her husbands. Effie is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the most famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings."
A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders
A fascinating story about four sisters who, by their social interactions, lived at the very heart of political and cultural society.
"THE MACDONALD SISTERS--Alice, Georgiana, Agnes, and Louisa--started life in the teeming ranks of the lower-middle classes, denied the advantages of education and the expectation of social advancement. Yet as wives and mothers they would connect a famous painter, a president of the Royal Academy, a prime minister, and the uncrowned poet laureate of the Empire. Georgiana and Alice married, respectively, the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones and the arts administrator Edward Poynter; Louisa gave birth to future prime minister Stanley Baldwin, and Alice was mother to Rudyard Kipling. "A Circle of Sisters brings to life four women living at a privileged moment in history. Their progress from obscurity to imperial grandeur indicates the vitality of nineteenth-century Britain: a society abundant with possibility. From their homes in India, America, and England, the sisters formed a network that, through the triumphs and tragedies of their families and the Empire, uniquely endured."
Hidden Lives by Margaret Forster
Here Margaret Forster takes a look at her own family in this fascinating biography of a woman having to make sacrifices.
"Margaret Forster's grandmother died in 1936, taking many secrets to her grave. Where had she spent the first 23 years of her life? Who was the woman in black who paid her a mysterious visit shortly before her death? How had she borne living so close to an illegitimate daughter without acknowledging her? The search for answers took Margaret on a journey into her family’s past, examining not only her grandmother's life, but also her mother’s and her own. The result is both a moving, evocative memoir and a fascinating commentary on how women’s lives have changed over the past century."
Daphne du Maurier by Margaret Forster
Margaret Forster is a favourite biographer of mine. Well researched and with a writing style that makes a take on anyones life an exciting experience.
"Rebecca, published in 1938, brought its author instant international acclaim, capturing the popular imagination with its haunting atmosphere of suspense and mystery. du Maurier was immediately established as the queen of the psychological thriller. But the more fame this and her other books encouraged, the more reclusive Daphne du Maurier became."
How to read novels like a professor by Thomas C. Foster
If you are interested in how to read and analyse novels this is the book for you. Interesting take on literature and its handicraft.
"Of all the literary forms, the novel is arguably the most discussed . . . and fretted over. From Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote to the works of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and today's masters, the novel has grown with and adapted to changing societies and technologies, mixing tradition and innovation in every age throughout history.
Thomas C. Foster—the sage and scholar who ingeniously led readers through the fascinating symbolic codes of great literature in his first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor—now examines the grammar of the popular novel. Exploring how authors' choices about structure—point of view, narrative voice, first page, chapter construction, character emblems, and narrative (dis)continuity—create meaning and a special literary language, How to Read Novels Like a Professor shares the keys to this language with readers who want to get more insight, more understanding, and more pleasure from their reading."
Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
Another favourite biographer, and what can be more challenging than to have a look into the life of Marie Antoinette. A thorough guide through her unhappy life.
"Marie Antoinette's dramatic life-story continues to arouse mixed emotions. To many people, she is still 'la reine méchante', whose extravagance and frivolity helped to bring down the French monarchy; her indifference to popular suffering epitomised by the (apocryphal) words: 'let them eat cake'. Others are equally passionate in her defence: to them, she is a victim of misogyny.
Antonia Fraser examines her influence over the king, Louis XVI, the accusations and sexual slurs made against her, her patronage of the arts which enhanced French cultural life, her imprisonment, the death threats made against her, rumours of lesbian affairs, her trial (during which her young son was forced to testify to sexual abuse by his mother) and her eventual execution by guillotine in 1793."
Catherine de Medici: Renaissance Queen of France by Leonie Frieda
Catherine de Medici must be one of the most fascinating women in history. Here we get all the nitty gritty details of a woman who were put at the throne and had to survive.
"Poisoner, despot, necromancer -- the dark legend of Catherine de Medici is centuries old. In this critically hailed biography, Leonie Frieda reclaims the story of this unjustly maligned queen to reveal a skilled ruler battling extraordinary political and personal odds -- from a troubled childhood in Florence to her marriage to Henry, son of King Francis I of France; from her transformation of French culture to her fight to protect her throne and her sons' birthright. Based on thousands of private letters, it is a remarkable account of one of the most influential women ever to wear a crown."
The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
An historical fiction on Edith Wharton's time in Paris.
"She is the darling of Parisian society. A famous author whose novels have captivated readers. He is a charming young journalist with nothing to lose.
While novelist Edith Wharton writes of grand love affairs, she has yet to experience her own. Her marriage is more platonic than passionate and her closest relationship is with her literary secretary, Anna Bahlmann.
Then Edith meets dashing Morton Fullerton, and her life is at last opened to the world of the sensual. But in giving in to the temptation of their illicit liaison, Edith could lose everything else she holds dear..."
I followed up this historical novel with a nonfiction. Mysteries of Paris: The Quest for Morton Fullerton by Marion Mainwaring, where she follows in Wharton's foot steps in search for the truth of the affair.
The African Queen by C.S. Forester
A classic tale, made more classic by the film with Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. It is both serious and funny, a great read.
"As World War I reaches the heart of the African jungle, Charlie Allnutt and Rose Sayer, a dishevelled trader, and an English spinster missionary, find themselves thrown together by circumstance in German Central Africa. Fighting time, heat, malaria, and bullets, they make their escape on the rickety steamboat The African Queen... and hatch their own outrageous military plan. Originally published in 1935, The African Queen is a tale replete with vintage Forester drama - unrelenting suspense, reckless heroism, impromptu military manoeuvres, near-death experiences - and a good old-fashioned love story to boot."
The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
A wonderful tale of a rabbit's view on the battle of Waterloo.
"The extraordinary debut of a classical pianist turned novelist, The Sage of Waterloo is a playful retelling of a key turning point in human history and a slyly profound reflection on our place in the world. William is a white rabbit living at Hougoumont, the historic farm on the site of the Battle of Waterloo. Under the tutelage of his grandmother Old Lavender, William attunes himself to the echoes and ghosts of the battle, and through a series of adventures he comes to recognize how deeply what happened at Waterloo two hundred years before continues to reverberate. Nature, as Old Lavender says, never truly recovers from human cataclysms. Brimming with the wonder and narrative power of Andrea Barrett or Anthony Doerr and full of vivid insights about Napoleon, Wellington, and the battle itself, The Sage of Waterloo is a beguiling tale of fate, human folly, and the wisdom of the natural world."