Flash Reviews: Non-Fiction (24th May 2014)

Millions Like Us: Women’s Lives in the Second World War by Virginia Nicholson **** (2011)

‘Millions Like Us’ by Virginia Nicholson (Penguin)

1. I adore history, particularly that which deals with women, and Nicholson has presented her information so well in this book.  She states that she ‘wanted to find out not only what the did in the war, but what the war did to them and how it changed their subsequent lives and relationships’.
2. Nicholson has focused upon a wealth of women from so many different walks of life, merging history with biography, and bringing some fascinating characters to the forefront of her work.  We meet, through her words, famous diarists like Nella Last and Mollie Panter-Downes, the privileged in society, and novelists such as Nina Bawden and Barbara Cartland.
3. The chronological structure which Nicholson has adopted works so well, as did the sectioning of information into short chapters, all of which dealt with a different element of wartime life for women – from rationing to conscription.

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In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, His Poem and The Poppy by Herwig Verleyen **** (1995)

‘In Flanders Fields’ by Herwig Verleyen (de Klaproos)

1. My Dad visited Ypres recently with my uncle, and purchased this lovely little book for me.  It was originally written in Flemish, and has been translated so carefully.
2. I am fascinated by John McCrae – he has been one of my favourite poets since I was about twelve – and I oddly knew very little about him.  Verleyen, as well as writing of his subject, sets out McCrae’s fascinating family history, and how the family came to settle in Canada, where John was born.
3. Verleyen writes with such clarity about McCrae’s use of poetry as an outlet for the horrors which he witnessed during the First World War, whilst he was stationed between Boezinge and Ypres.

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Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal **** (2013)

‘Spell It Out’ by David Crystal (Profile Books)

1. I have never read a David Crystal book in its entirety, but I have read many passages and partial essays of his as part of my English Language module at University.  I thought that it was high time to purchase one of his books at the start of the year, and couldn’t resist this lovely hardback edition.  As I am something of a Grammar Nazi (yes, I have been called this many a time), Spell It Out looked right up my street.
2. Crystal has set out to show the peculiarities of spelling in the English language, and has written about how each came about over time.  The structure which he has adopted is chronological, starting with the Anglo Saxon monks who tasked themselves with writing down the English language, and how the flaws in their system were rectified over time.
3. The whole is very succinctly and skilfully written, and Crystal is such an engaging author.  I presume that this book would make spelling of interest to even the most reluctant learners.

Purchase from The Book Depository

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