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My blog will review books from the shop. Some will be familiar, others might be unknown to you. I hope you find the reviews interesting. You are probably a keen reader already, or you wouldn’t be visiting this site, and I hope the blog will add to the pleasure you have from reading and knowing what books are out there for you to discover for yourself.
Today I’m writing about a book that you may not have discovered. It’s a novel, but full of detailed information, and entrancing for anyone who loves the sea and boats, and, a surprising find, describes the working challenges and of managing a harbour. Politics and the weather influence the complexities of the lives of people whose lives are deeply engaged with a major harbour. ‘ Dover Harbour’ was written by Thomas Armstrong in 1945, and focuses on shore life in Kent during the Napoleonic Wars. It’s published date lends a patriotic slant to the writing, sometimes sentimentally so, but forgive it. The writer is hugely knowledgable about the history and challenges of this harbour in recent centuries and tells us about tides, ship building, storms, and intelligence impacts of French/English spying. There is a substantial amount of well-researched material, and a derring-do plot to take us to the next page. Harbours play a significant role in the trade routes between Britain and the rest of the world, and if you’ve ever travelled by ship and witnessed the busy logistics of loading passengers and freight you’ve probably wanted to know more – this book will give you the history of harbours and provides an entertaining novel at the same time. It’s a lost gem worth discovering.
The 8.55 to Baghdad Andrew Eames
This is a travel book with a specific theme, and a big surprise. Eames chose to follow the route of the old Orient Express, long since changed and truncated, on the eve of the Iraq war. He’d had an encounter with an elderly lady who’d once met Agatha Christie, and, as a consequence decided to combine a journey uncovering the old route with an exploration into Christie’s life outside of her novel-writing; although to many people she was the author of domestic suburban murders, in reality she was an intrepid archeologist who spent much of her time living in challenging climates and basic accommodation. She’d met her second husband, Max, an interesting, intelligent archaeologist, in Iraq, to where she’d travelled on the Orient Express on an adventurous solo holiday. They had a long and contented marriage, spending many months a year at archaeological sites in Iraq, living in conditions that would have horrified the delicate people who populated her novels.
Eames’ weaves the events of his journey, sometimes luxurious, at others uncomfortable, and often tedious, with Christie’s interesting life in Iraq. He meets people from wide and sometimes bizarre backgrounds, sees countries recovering from, and heading towards, war, contrasting landscapes, and observes plentiful or bleak existences. Eames writes beautifully, and won the British Guild of Travel Writers’ book of the year Award. He opens up the world of the middle East to us, and for that alone is well worth reading. Don’t miss the opportunity to read it.
For students, parents and teachers
This book is one of the best I’ve ever seen in explaining how to write in good quality, uncomplicated English. (I taught English for several years, so am selective about such books.) It helps students, whether adults aiming to improve their English for use in a professional context, or as a second language, or young adults and their parents perfecting written work for examinations. All can benefit in this clearly-presented set of explanations and exercises. It can be worked through in small sections at a time, so is not daunting, or topics can be cherry-picked to clarify areas of English that cause concern. I used it with professionals whose first language wasn’t English, and they enjoyed using it because it is so clear in its presentation.