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Book To Read in November


Ettie neil-gallacher shares her favourites and must-reads

White gloss bookcase filled with Penguin Classics The Woman in White IH Not Used 02/2012

Penning Poison

Emily Cockayne

Who among us wasn’t morbidly fascinated by the anonymous email sent the day before to all the guests attending George Osborne and Thea Rogers’ wedding? Many of us have found the anonymous email online and reveled in the sexual intrigues and passions described.

The internet’s immediacy, lack of nuance and quaintness make actual poison-pen letter seem like a quaint homage to an Agatha Christie story, yet they are much more powerful, threatening, and dangerous. The idea that someone knows where you live, rather than just how to reach you electronically, is much more intrusive. Emily Cockayne guides the reader through the history anonymous letter writing between 1760 and 1939. She romps through gossip, tips, threats, obscenity and libels. They are by turn frightening, scandalous and bizarre, and make for a thrilling read as Cockayne writes with an academic’s attention to detail and a novelist’s lightness of touch.

Review by Ettie N. Gallacher

Buy Penning Poison Emily Cockayne: Click here.

The Ethnobotanical

By Dr Sarah Edwards

Those of us who relish a fillet steak or a haunch of venison may baulk at the bold claim with which Dr Sarah Edwards starts this fascinating book, namely that ‘plants supply us with everything required for our survival’. She quickly justifies it by explaining how we rely on them to convert energy and create oxygen through photosynthesis, provide us with food, medicine, fuel, and the materials we need to build and create furniture and instruments and clothes: ‘They even have entheogenic substances which are used to commune with the Divine.’

It’s this relationship that lies at the heart of ethnobotany: the scientific study of how people make use of indigenous plants. We should be concerned that a little under 40% of plants face extinction due to habitat loss. The UK lost almost half of its biodiversity. This is more than anywhere else in Western Europe.

This is an extremely absorbing work, with vivid illustrations.

Review by Ettie N. Gallacher

Buy The Ethnobotanical Click here to read more about Dr Sarah Edwards

The German Occupation of Jersey – Agriculture and Survival during Wartime

Andrew Gilson

In June 1940, the Germans were expecting to win the Second World War quickly. When they occupied the Channel Islands, it looked like this was going to happen. This was all they achieved. Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney were the only British territories occupied by the Nazis (although Italy and Japan would also occupy parts in Africa and Asia). The Channel Islanders therefore had a very distinct wartime experience from the rest.

After occupation agriculture was the sole industry on Jersey. The Germans, civilian government, and local farmers all had to work together in order to survive, leading to complex relationships. Retired history master Andrew Gilson’s gripping book is full of intrigue – stories of sabotage, collaboration, the black market, tobacco and Nazi plans for a bovine ubermensch This is a page turner.

Review by Ettie N. Gallacher

Click here to purchase The German Occupation of Jersey : Agriculture and Survival at a Time of War, by Andrew Gilson.

Slim Aarons The Essential Collection

Shawn Waldron

‘Attractive people who were doing attractive things in attractive places’: an epigrammatic summary by Slim Aarons of his own work, which stretched over six decades, but one that fails to do justice to how evocative his images were and how powerful they remain nearly two decades after his death at 89.

Aarons, who captured the best of American society in action, considered himself a photojournalist and not a society photographer. Aarons was born to New York immigrants in 1916. Aarons was an accomplished war photographer, earning a Purple Heart (after being wounded). However, his charm made him a favorite of American high society. Aarons also traveled extensively in Britain and Europe where he photographed Princess Margaret, Earl Mountbatten and the Duke and Duchess Marlborough as well as polo and fox-hunting enthusiasts. This is a richly detailed chronicle of the world they lived in.

Review by Ettie N. Gallacher

Buy Slim Aarons – The Essential Collection Click here to read Shawn Waldron’s article.

The Field This section is jam-packed with additional book reviews. Click here to learn more. Also, you might enjoy our guide on the best dog presents and best backgammon sets.

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