Women’s Experiences in the Holocaust by Agnes Grunwald-Spier Book Review

Author: Agnes Grunwald-Spier

Genre: History/Nonfiction

Rating: 5/5 stars

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Release Date: 15th January 2019

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go out to the author and publicity team for the copy and this in no way affects my opinion of the book.

Women’s experiences in the Holocaust: In their own words is a striking and powerful new book by Agnes Grunwald-Spier, author of Who Betrayed the Jews?. It features letters, postcards and stories from women who were victims of the Holocaust during WWII, some of which survived and many that did not. It is a crushing and very heartbreaking reminder of just how strong and resilient women can be under the most extreme cases of duress. It’s a strikingly inspiring read and one I feel is incredibly important reading.

The author herself is a survivor and to me, that makes this book even more awe-inspiring and important. The way she writes is wonderfully engaging and emotional, giving a clear insight into both the authors mind and also those of the women who are telling their stories, It is impossible not to feel fear, worry and anxiety right alongside them – even cry for them. I can’t really put into words how much this book has moved me. It’s such an important piece of writing, a book that I feel should be essential reading for everyone.

Basically, you need to read this book. It’s not a fun read, it’s not enjoyable, it’s heartbreaking and terrifying and painful… but these voices need to be heard and these stories need to be told and the more people who hear them, the better and more understanding the world might become.

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Women of Inspiration – Agnes Grunwald-Spier

(Photo from agnesgrunwaldspier.com – NOT my own)

Agnes Grunwald-Spier was born in July 1944 and sent to the Budapest Ghetto with her mother in November 1944. She was liberated, age 6 months, and came to England in 1947. Her father, who had been a forced labourer, committed suicide in 1955. Agnes is a Founder Trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and was awarded an MBE in 2016 for her work on the Holocaust. She has an MA in Holocaust Studies from Sheffield University and was a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews for 15 years. She was set to receive two honorary doctorates in 2018 for her work on the Holocaust. She is the author of three nonfiction books on the Holocaust of two are published by Amberley Publishing and one published by The History Press in the U.K.

I am endlessly fascinated and curious about people (particularly women) who survived, took part in or lived through the war. My grandparents were both part of it and their stories have made me curious to the experiences that people had during this awful time. Hearing stories like those of Agnes’ really inspire me because it is like she is a Phoenix risen from the ashes of a terrifying and horrific experience to stand tall and share her story and those of others and make sure that dreadful experience is never repeated in the future. It’s absolutely awe-inspiring to read about someone who must have so much inner strength and wisdom. I want to hear her story, I want to hear what she has to say and I want others to hear it too.

I will be sharing reviews of two of Agnes Grunwald-Spier’s books (Women’s experiences in the Holocaust and Who Betrayed the Jews?) on my blog. Please keep your eyes peeled for them as they’re important works that I think everyone needs to have read. My review for Women’s experiences in the Holocaust will be live over the next few days and I hope to have the other available before the month is out.

La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor A Life in Letters by Sarah Bryson Book Review

Author: Sarah Bryson

Genre: History / Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Out now!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go out to the author and publicity team for the copy and this in no way effects my opinion on the book.

La Reine Blanche: Mary Tudor, A life in Letters is a wonderful look into the life of Mary Tudor, Queen of France in her own words via her Letters. Bryson composes Mary’s actual letters alongside letters from other contemporaries writing about her in word for word extracts to aid and reveal who Mary really was when the powerful men in her life are peeled back. It’s insightful and interesting to read about this mostly forgotten Tudor and fascinating to find her as fierce as any male counterpart she had!

The book isn’t a tome, it’s less than 300 pages and proved a quick read but it also proved invaluable. This unique and wonderful way at discovering the thoughts and feelings of a figure from the past is an experience I didn’t know I needed until I was reading it. It’s so very easy to forget that these historical figures we study are actually people who lived and breathed and laughed and cried just as we do. Mary’s Letters certainly gave me a stark reminder.

The book features some beautiful and glossy illustrations and photographs to highlight people and places of interest which was also a marvellous touch. It was a lovely read and one I can actually see myself picking up to read again. I’d certainly recommend it.

Cavalier: The Story of a 17th century Playboy by Lucy Worsley Book Review

Author: Lucy Worsley

Genre: History / Nonfiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Out Now!

Cavalier: The Story of a 17th century Playboy is a remarkable look into the life and times of William Cavendish, Duke of Newcastle. This ambitious, poetic and passionate cavalier has a great story to tell and is all evidenced by the beautiful Stuart castle, Bolsover Castle and it’s surrounding lands and buildings. As I have grown up living in the shadow of Bolsover Castle and it’s surrounding manors and houses, the Cavendish family has always fascinated me, for this reason I needed to devour this book and I certainly won’t be able to look at the castle in the same light again now I have.

The book isn’t a cradle to grave biography, but starts with the death of Charles Cavendish, William’s father and his wishes for the unfinished castle at Bolsover to be finished by his son. We then look into certain details of Williams life before fast forwarding at points throughout the rest of the book until Williams passing. It’s informative and interesting but not by any means Definitive. Like the title suggests, the book is written like a story, fully factual and any presumptions are clearly marked as presumptions, but in a literary style that makes it almost impossible to put down.

It’s a wonderful book, about a truly interesting figure and his family of colourful characters. I’ve learned a lot from these pages that will stay with me and I’ve deepened my affection for this ambitious fellow and his two wives. I highly recommend it.

Booklover’s desert island survival guide 🏜

So, when I was browsing posts on bookstagram this morning, my friend Madalina @thereaderswardrobe posted the eight books she’d take if she were stuck on a desert island and asked what books everyone else should choose. This got me to thinking, what books indeed would I take with me? Favourites? Big ones? Unread ones? What would be the best choice!? I figured with my mood reading tendencies that I’d most likely benefit from a mixture of two! Soooo, what would be in my booklover desert island survival guide and why…?

Firstly, the eight books! Of course! I’d have to begin with four of my favourites that I know I enjoy rereading.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie – I choose this because a) Agatha Christie is my favourite author and b) it’s my favourite Christie book!

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – I choose this because I absolutely adore Jurassic Park. It’s a forever favourite of mine.

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome – I choose this because it was the first real novel I ever read. I read it with my grandma, who brought it and read it with me because it was her favourite book. It reminds me of her and whenever I read it I hear her voice. I couldn’t survive without it.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie – Again, I’d choose this because of my love for Agatha Christie, but also, this is a new favourite by her that I’d like to read again.

After these I’d then pick my four unread books. Ones that I’d really like to read but haven’t had chance to pick them up yet or time to commit to them.

Hercule Poirot and the Greenshore Folly by Agatha Christie – I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet but it’s one of the first books that I wanted to read when I discovered Agatha Christie four years ago.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – I brought this last year as I vowed to read and discover more Russian classics, I read bundles of Vladimir Nabokov and Leo Tolstoy was my next stop but I never got round to starting it. I still want to read more Russian classics so I need to pick this up!

The Terracotta Army by John Man – I really want to learn more about this amazing archeological find and my growing fascination for ancient China is making me lean ever more towards looking into this terracotta wonder.

Unquiet Women by Max Adams – I really enjoy Max Adams books and I found this at the end of December, it’s got women from all eras of history including Ancient China so I couldn’t resist, sadly I then haven’t had time to start it but want to really soon!

Now I have my eight books. Wonderful! But how could I survive with just eight books? I could learn to catch fish or pick berries and revert to a wise wild woman and that would be fine, but I’d go mad without some bare essentials after time so I’d need to pick four essential supplies to come with me too.

Firstly Tea! Lovely, delicious, comforting tea. Preferably Ceylon or afternoon tea with sweeteners and milk.

Then of course, Fry’s Turkish Delight. This is my kryptonite. I am addicted to the stuff and whilst I try to limit my intake to a responsible and healthy one, if I was stuck on an island with no outside contact I’d definitely need a supply!

Patisserie de Bain Sugared violet hand cream – I have crazy wild eczema and dermatitis so hard cream for me is an HOURLY essential.

A big big long lasting candle would make the final spot. It’s an essential for feeling cosy and homey, but could also double up as a light, a heat source, and a spell candle if I need a touch of magic.

And that would be what I would pack into my booklover’s desert island survival bag!

What would you pack, and why?

Thanks go out to Madalina for the great post idea! And I need to specify that this is of course for FUN and I have purposely omitted realistic necessary things like blankets, matches, canned goods. Etc that would be ACTUALLY useful in the case of survival. 💁🏼‍♀️

An illustrated introduction to The Stuarts by Pamela Womack Book Review

Author: Pamela Womack

Genre: History

Rating: 4/5 stars

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Out now!

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go out to the author and publicity team for the copy and this in no way affects my opinion of the book.

An illustrated introduction to The Stuarts is a basic introductory guide to the Stuart monarchs and is part of a great series of illustrated introduction guides published by Amberley Publishing. It offers factual and detailed information on each Stuart monarch from James I to Queen Anne and lots of tidbits and additional information besides, like recipes! It’s wonderful. The book is aimed as an introduction to casual readers and those new to The Stuarts and is very accessible and easy to read, but also proves a wonderful refresher read for fans of the Stuart Dynasty or British monarchs and history in general.

I read this book in one sitting as it is very short at 93 pages, but despite its small size, I felt completely filled with information when I finished reading. It’s condensed but it certainly isn’t lacking. I found the recipes and little tidbits particularly fun to read, imagining Charles II enjoying cinnamon toast and fried bread !! I also enjoyed the luscious illustrations throughout the book. It’s certainly one to look out for if you’re interested in history or the Stuarts.

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney Book Review

Author: Kara Cooney

Genre: Ancient History / Biography

Rating: 5/5 stars

Publisher: National Geographic

Out now!

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens Of Egypt is a new egyptological book by Egyptologist Kara Cooney. It is a collection of six mini biographies looking at the reigns of six of Egypt’s most powerful women, Merneith, Nefersusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret and Cleopatra. Not all of these Queens reigned as pharaoh but some did, and all of them became the most powerful women of her own dynasty. This fascinating book reveals up-to-Date academic discovery and interpretations for these inspiring Queens and evidence for the facts claimed. It’s a marvellous book.

The big selling point for me on this one was Nefertiti as she’s a major obsession for me alongside her heretical husband and her family. I was interested to see a truly up to the minute look into her life and reign and learn something new, and I did! But what’s more… I also found out about three different and equally important Queens I’d never heard of before as well as some wonderful information about Hatshepsut and Cleopatra. It’s a great all rounder, informing and teaching serious readers whilst still being “popular history” enough to appeal to casual readers and armchair historians.

I definitely enjoyed the book and it was certainly a great read to start off 2019 for me. I wholeheartedly recommend it.