Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mr. and Mrs. Edward Burne-Jones visit The Tennysons

I have been reading my copy of, 'Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones' by his wife, Lady Burne-Jones, Georgiana Burne-Jones. In it, she records a remembrance visit to their friends, Alfred and Emily Tennyson.  I just thought it was so sweet and gave a rare glimpse into how the couples interacted privately while spending time together.

 Alfred, Lord Tennyson photographed by JOHN JABEZ EDWIN MAYALL (1813-1901) National Portrait Gallery, UK
"Whilst Tennyson was in London for the season this year (1880) Edward took me to see him for the first time. Mr. Hallam Tennyson kindly arranged an evening when we should find Tennyson his father and mother alone; he himself had to go out after welcoming us. Mrs. Tennyson, who always went early to bed, rose from her sofa about ten o'clock, and when her husband put his arm round her to help her to her room I thought that her gentle farewell ended the evening, but to my joy, Tennyson asked us to await his return, and afterwards came back and carried us to his study, where we sat an hour with him and found him in his talk powerful, beautiful and simple. When we left he came down to the hall with us, and stopped there talking--leaning as he talked against the doorpost of the room where I was putting on my cloak. As I came out he asked what children we had, and especially about the girl. I told him with truth that he was a hero to her already, and how much she treasured the remembrance of his only call at the Grange, when we were out and she had seen him. "Give her my love," he said, in a slow, deep voice, "and tell her I remember her" -- then, catching himself up, he added with a half chuckle, "it would be a lie, though, for I don't"; and our visit ended in laughter. This was the only time I saw Tennyson, and it was in a good hour."  Memorials of Edward Burne-Jones, pgs. 102-3, Volume 11 (1868-1998), Macmillan & Co., London, 1904. 


Sunday, March 22, 2015

An upcoming read and review: Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf by Norah Vincent

In this boldly imagined, richly textured novel, a New York Times bestselling author envisions the life of Virginia Woolf--along with her marriage to Leonard, and their legendary social circle--from the summer she began working on To The Lighthouse to the winter she finished her final book, shedding new light on the events both actual and interior that led up to Virginia's suicide in 1941.

On 18 April 1941, twenty-two days after Virginia Woolf went for a walk near her weekend house in Sussex and never returned, her body was reclaimed from the River Ouse. Norah Vincent's Adeline reimagines the events that brought Woolf to the riverbank, offering us a denouement worthy of its protagonist.

With poetic precision and psychological acuity, Vincent channels Virginia and Leonard Woolf, T. S. and Vivienne Eliot, Lytton Strachey and Dora Carrington, laying bare their genius and their blind spots, their achievements and their failings, from the inside out. And haunting every page is Adeline, the name given to Virginia Stephen at birth, which becomes the source of Virginia's greatest consolation, and her greatest torment.

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
 ISBN-13: 978-0349005645

 Above cover is the US Publication hardcover. I prefer the UK and Australia cover but you form your own opinion:
 About the Author
Vincent was a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies from its 2001 inception to 2003. She has also had columns at, The Advocate, the Los Angeles Times, and the Village Voice. Her essays, columns and reviews have also appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Washington Post and many more regional newspapers around the country.

Vincent is a freelance journalist and in 2003 she took a leave from writing her nationally syndicated political opinion columns in order to write her New York Times bestselling book Self-Made Man, the story of a woman living, working and dating in drag as a man.

She holds a bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Williams College. She currently resides in New York City.

 NOTE:  The UK publication date is 2 April, 2015 and the US publication date is 7 April, 2015. I will be reading and reviewing, Adeline: A Novel of Virginia Woolf later in the month of April. I am happy to discover that author, Norah Vincent will be doing a book reading and signing on April 7th, 2015, in NYC, at Barnes and Noble. I will be there and will share my observations with you. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My review of Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

DRAMA, PASSION, TRAGEDY, AND BEAUTY: C.W.’s new novel stunningly imagines the life of Coco Chanel—the iconic fashion designer whose staggering creativity built an empire and made her one of the 20th century’s most influential, and controversial, figures.

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her sisters are sent to a convent orphanage after their mother’s death. Here, the nuns nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel her into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny. 

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. Her little black dress, her signature perfume No. 5; her dramatic friendships, affairs, and rivalries with luminaries of her era increase her wealth and fame. But as the years pass, success cannot save her from heartbreak. And when Paris falls to the Nazis during World War II, Coco finds herself at a dangerous crossroads, forced to make choices that will forever change her. 

An enthralling portrayal of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel is Coco’s intimate story.

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 17, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062356402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062356406
There is nothing left of the pliant skin of my youth. And my hands, covered in precious rings, are as raw as a stonemason’s, knotted, marred by a thousand needle pricks-the hands of the Auvergne peasant I am at heart, the foundling, the orphan, the dreamer, the schemer. My hands reflect who I am. I see in them the struggle that has always existed between the humble girl I once was and the legend I deliberately created to hide my heart. 

And as I behold my uncertain future, I will reflect on my past and do my best to tell the truth, though myth and rumor clothe me as much as my signature crepe de chine or tweed.

I will try to remember that for all my triumphs and mistakes, I am still only a woman. (Source:  Mademoiselle Chanel, C.W. Gortner, Paris, pg. 2).

In, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ you will meet little Gabrielle born to loving parents who ends up orphaned in a rural French convent. Her one saving grace is the fact that she could sew most any pattern, given her, almost to perfection.  C.W. Gortner captures the little girl lost inside the woman whose life becomes as unpredictable as she was. Broken up chapters into five acts covering 1895-1945, ‘Mademoiselle Chanel’ highlights her most pivotal years graced by the author’s beautiful writing style. 

As Gabrielle grows up, C.W. Gortner focuses on her male relationships, friendships, lovers and loves lost showing us the dichotomy between the innocent girl and the independent woman who stands on her own truly finding her own way in the world.  Gortner makes Gabrielle likable but not pitiful. The reader begins to understand why and how fashion would become her salvation. However, if you are expecting numerous fashion, clothing or fabric descriptive chapters they are not here in abundance. The Mademoiselle Chanel that author, C.W. Gortner writes about and brings to life is the rural French girl who falls in love with sewing to become Coco Chanel the world’s most beloved fashion designer. This is not the novelized biography of the already famous Coco Chanel. It is instead a breathtaking story of the woman behind the icon and I for one am thankful to have read it. 

If you want to meet the real woman behind the designer and find out about her early life and most life changing events that shaped her into Coco Chanel, then this is the novel for you. I loved it and I hope you do too.  

Thank you for my review copy, William Morrow, HarperCollins

To buy a copy of Mademoiselle Chanel,  Amazon US and Amazon UK

To visit the author's webpage,  C.W. Gortner

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Alfred Tennyson's thoughts on Idylls of the King and Tintagel


“So great had been the success of the first four “Idylls of the King” that my father’s friends begged him to “continue the epic.” He received a letter from the Duke of Argyll again urging him to take up as his next subject the Holy Grail, but he said he shunned handling the subject, for fear that it might seem to some almost profane.” Hallam Tennyson

Alfred Tennyson writes to the Duke of Argyll, “As to the Sangreal, as I gave up the subject so many long years ago I do not think that I shall resume it”. 

Excerpts from Alfred Tennyson’s letter-diary. Tour in Cornwall and the Scilly Isles. 1860:
August 21st.  Bideford. We came here last night at 7 o’clock. I and Woolner are going down the coast to Tintagel, where we shall stop till the others join us. 

August 23rd. Bude. Fine sea here, smart rain alternating with weak sunshine. Woolner is very kindly. We go off to-day to Boscastle which is three miles from Tintagel. 

August 23rd. Arrived at Tintagel, grand coast, furious rain. Mr. Poelaur would be a good name to direct to me by. 

August. 25th. Tintagel. Black cliffs and caves and storm and wind, but I weather it out and take my ten miles a day walks in my weather-proofs. Palgrave arrived to-day. 

A very sweet letter that Tennyson wrote to his first born son, aged eight years old at the time. His brother Lionel was six years old: 

To Hallam.


Aug. 25th, 1860

My Dear Hallam,

I was very glad to receive your little letter.

Mind that you and Lionel do not quarrel and vex poor

 mamma who has lots of work to do; and learn your

 lessons regularly; for gentlemen and ladies will not take

 you for a gentleman when you grow up if you are

 ignorant. Here are great black cliffs of slate-rock, and

 deep, black caves, and the ruined castle of King Arthur,

 and I wish that you and Lionel and mamma were here

 to see them. Give my love to grandpapa and to Lionel,

and work well at your lessons. I shall be glad to find

you know more and more every day.

Your loving papa,  A. TENNYSON.

August 28th. Tintagel. We believe that we are going to-morrow to Penzance or in that direction. We have had two fine days and some exceedingly grand coast views. He is an artist, a friend of woolner’s (Inchbold), sketching now in this room. I am very tired of walking against wind and rain. 
 Say what you like but for me this is Alfred Tennyson as captured during that Cornwall
trip by John William Inchbold himself!  
Tintagel by John William Inchbold, 1861, Graphite, watercolour and goache on paper, Tate Gallery
The image is painted in watercolour with detail in gouache applied over a pencil underdrawing on blue wove paper. It has been lined onto a one-ply board, which has been inscribed by the artist (I'm telling you, just as Tennyson described).

{Mr. Palgrave writes: following the publicationof the first four “Idylls of the King” in 1859, when he was intending to write further Idylls, this was, perhaps, specially entitled to be named Tennyson’s Arthurian journey.

At a sea inlet of wonderful picturesqueness, so grandly modeled are the rocks which wall it, so translucently purple the waves that are its pavement, waves whence the “naked babe” Arthur came ashore in flame, stand the time-eaten ruins of unknown date which bear the name Tintagel. To these of course we climbed, descending from “the castle gateway by the chasm,” and at a turn in the rocks meeting that ever graceful, ill-appreciated landscapist, Inchbold: whose cry of delighted wonder at sight of Tennyson still sounds in the sole survivor’s ear. Thence, after some delightful wandering walks, by a dreary road (for such is often the character of central Cornwall), we moved to Camelford on the greatly-winding stream which the name indicates. Near the little town, on the edge of the river, is shown a large block of stone upon which legend places Arthur, hiding or meditating, after his last fatal battle. It lay below the bank; and in his eagerness to reach it and sit down (as he sat in 1851 on that other, the Sasso di Dante by Sta. Maria del Fiore), Arthur’s poet slipped right into the sea, and returned laughing to Camelford. 

The next halting-halting place I remember was Penzance; whence, by Marazion, we crossed to and saw our English smaller but yet impressive and beautiful St. Michael’s Mount}.  Excerpts from Alfred Lord Tennyson A Memoir by Hallam Tennyson, pgs. 460-464, The Macmillan Company, London, 1897, Volume 1

NOTE:  When I read the name Inchbold in Tennyson's entry, I googled it, not recognizing it and discovered it was nineteenth century painter, John William Inchbold (1830–1888).  

Artist biography

English painter. He exhibited watercolours at the Society of British Artists in 1849 and 1850 and at the Royal Academy in 1851. At this period his work has a fluidity and a freedom of handling that is closer to Richard Parkes Bonington than to the prevailing style of Victorian watercolours. Around 1852 he came under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelite movement and radically altered his style.

It is not known how Inchbold met the Pre-Raphaelites, but the Rossettis knew him well, and he became a close friend of Algernon Charles Swinburne. John Everett Millais admired his work. Inchbold's pictures soon attracted the attention of John Ruskin, and in 1858 he visited Switzerland to paint alpine subjects under Ruskin's supervision. From this point onwards Inchbold's painting changed direction, possibly as a reaction against the bullying he had received from Ruskin. Visits to Venice in 1862 and the following years resulted in a series of ethereal pictures painted with the freedom of his early works and entirely lacking the highly finished technique of his Pre-Raphaelite pictures.

Inchbold never married and seems to have had a rather melancholy life. Dante Gabriel Rossetti complained that he was a bore, and Swinburne wrote, ‘He had not many friends, being very shy and rather brusque in manner, so that people were apt to think him odd.' Overshadowed by the leading figures of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood his work sank into obscurity after his death.  Source:  Tate Gallery

To my absolute joy, three paintings are housed at Tate Gallery, London, UK, all entitled, Tintagel from 1861.  Remember Tennyson's trip was the year before where he noted Inchbold drawing. It makes sense to me that upon their return to England, Inchbold painted his watercolours finished a year later in 1861.  I am thrilled at this connection. The timing makes sense to me. Although, the name Inchbold may be known to others I am sure. Still, made me smile at the discovery. This is partly why I never tire of researching Alfred Tennyson. There is always something new to find, a connection to be made. 

I focussed briefly on Idylls of the King and Tintagel because I read Malory's Morte de Arthur while in college, twenty years ago now, and have always loved the myth of the Arthurian legend.  For me, it never gets old! 

Tintagel by John William Inchbold, 1861, Graphite, watercolour and goache on paper, Tate Gallery

Inchbold's Tintagel below as he drew it in 1861 and to the right as it stands on the spot in Cornwall, today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lynn Truss book reading for Cat out of Hell at Barnes and Noble on Thursday, March 12th, 2015, NYC!

I cannot begin to explain, coherently, how excited I am for tomorrow night's book reading. Lynn Truss in New York City for her U.S. publication of her latest novel, 'Cat out of Hell'. Yes, I read the UK publication and just loved it. However, my introduction to her novels came in a novel which I reviewed a few years ago, Tennyson's Gift.

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots & Leaves) is back with a mesmerizing and hilarious tale of cats and murder

For people who both love and hate cats comes the tale of Alec Charlesworth, a librarian who finds himself suddenly alone: he’s lost his job, his beloved wife has just died. Overcome by grief, he searches for clues about her disappearance in a file of interviews between a man called "Wiggy" and a cat, Roger. Who speaks to him.

It takes a while for Alec to realize he’s not gone mad from grief, that the cat is actually speaking to Wiggy . . . and that much of what we fear about cats is true. They do think they’re smarter than humans, for one thing. And, well, it seems they are! What’s more, they do have nine lives. Or at least this one does – Roger’s older than Methuselah, and his unblinking stare comes from the fact that he’s seen it all.

 The mesmerising tale of a cat with nine lives, and a relationship as ancient as time itself and just as powerful. The scene: a cottage on the coast on a windy evening. Inside, a room with curtains drawn. Tea has just been made. A kettle still steams. Under a pool of yellow light, two figures face each other across a kitchen table. A man and a cat. The story about to be related is so unusual yet so terrifyingly plausible that it demands to be told in a single sitting. The man clears his throat, and leans forward, expectant. 'Shall we begin?' says the cat
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 3rd 2015 by Melville House

About the Author
 Lynne Truss is a writer and journalist who started out as a literary editor with a blue pencil and then got sidetracked. The author of three novels and numerous radio comedy dramas, she spent six years as the television critic of The Times of London, followed by four (rather peculiar) years as a sports columnist for the same newspaper. She won Columnist of the Year for her work for Women's Journal. Lynne Truss also hosted Cutting a Dash, a popular BBC Radio 4 series about punctuation. She now reviews books for the Sunday Times of London and is a familiar voice on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Brighton, England.

For more information about the author,  Lynn Truss

 So, tomorrow night I will go to Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side of Manhattan after work and get to meet one of very favorite writers/authors who served as part of my introduction to Alfred Tennyson!  How lucky am I?
Expect a full follow-up report later...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Happy World Book Day!

Now, today is World Book Day a day dedicted to reading, literature, books, childhood. So, here is my first post dedicated to it.  I wanted to concentrate on my favorite books I loved as a child. For the first ten years of my childhood, these were my friends and still are:

and then there was a very special rabbit by the name of Peter

and one very special little girl who wanted adventure and found it!

Of course, these beautiful stories all led me to discover the beautiful poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson of The Freshwater Circle.

Far-Far-Away by Alfred Lord Tennyson
What sight so lured him thro' the fields he knew
As where earth's green stole into heaven's own hue,

What sound was dearest in his native dells?
The mellow lin-lan-lone of evening bells

What vague world-whisper, mystic pain or joy,
Thro' those three words would haunt him when a boy,

A whisper from his dawn of life? a breath
From some fair dawn beyond the doors of death

Far, far, how far? from o'er the gates of birth,
The faint horizons, all the bounds of earth,

What charm in words, a charm no words could give?
O dying words, can Music make you live

 Nineteenth century pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron

Sunday, March 1, 2015

My review of A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects. 

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise. 

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (April 7, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1492602027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1492602026

'A Desperate Fortune' is simply beautiful from beginning to end. If you love historical fiction, then the past life storyline concerning Mary Dundas and the Jacobites will keep you guessing until the end. There are many twists and turns within this storyline and surprises to come. I won't spoil it for you. As for the present day storyline concerning Sara Thomas being a code breaker who finds herself in Paris, France, helping out a British historian decode Mary's diary is a gorgeous story in and of itself. I found Sara to be a character refreshingly humble with romantic innocence and a passion for history. The author is to be applauded for working in Sara's having Asperger's Syndrome while not letting it stop her from living a very fulfilling life. Sara's romantic life gets a boost and I must admit to those chapters being some of my favorites for Susanna Kearsley's tender and heartwarming dialogue scenes truly made me weep.

I have read numerous novels of the author's and, 'A Desperate Fortune' is one that I have fallen in love with and one that will stay with me for a very long time. Two storylines both with stark differences and similarities, the writing is skillfully crafted and gripping. The characters are fully formed, the plots are fleshed out, and you just can't stop reading. I hope everyone reads it and falls in love with the characters as I have.

Again, A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley will be published worldwide on April 7, 2015. You can pre-order now on,  AMAZON UK and if you live in the U.S.,  AMAZON 

For more information on the author and her othr novels,  Susanna Kearsley


A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times  bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with  The Ghost Ship , a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas. The B...