Redemption Falls

By Joseph O'Connor

The year is 1865. The American Civil War is ending. Eighteen years after the famine ship Star of the Sea docked at New York, the daughter of two of her passengers sets out from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a walk across a devastated America. Eliza Duane Mooney is searching for a young boy she has not seen in four years, one of the hundred thousand children drawn into the war. His fate has been mysterious and will prove extraordinary. It's a walk that will have consequences for many seemingly unconnected survivors: a love-struck cartographer, a haunted Latina poetess, rebel guerrilla Cole McLaurenson, runaway slave Elizabeth Longstreet and the mercurial revolutionary James O'Keeffe, who commanded a brigade of Irish immigrants in the Union Army and is now Governor of a western wilderness where nothing is as it seems. "Redemption Falls" is a tale of war and forgiveness, of strangers in a strange land, of love put to the ultimate test. Packed with music, balladry, poetry and storytelling, this is a riveting historical novel of urgent contemporary resonance, from the author of the internationally best-selling "Star of the Sea".

Face of Britain

Written into our facial features is a story going back generations. It is the story of who we are and where we are from - the history of Britain through war and conquest, migration and racial integration. The Channel 4 series, The Face of Britain, begins with the largest ever research project into the genetic make-up of the British public. The Welcome Trust has given a GBP2million grant to Oxford geneticist Sir Walter Bodmer to take DNA samples from hundreds of volunteers throughout Britain and find tell-tale fragments of DNA that reveal the biological traces of successive waves of colonisers - Celts, Saxons, Vikings, etc. - in various parts of Britain. These traces in part determine our facial features. In effect, this project will produce a genetic map of our islands revealing where today's Cornish or East Anglians originally came from. The project is unique in that it uses cutting edge technology to question our accepted notions of our history. Added to this, the series and the book will meld science, history and personal stories to investigate our linguistic history, our surnames and placenames and compare findings with the results of the Bodmer study.

The Face of Britain will be a launch pad to explore Britain's earliest history while investigating why we look the way we do. A must read for anybody interested in geneology

Holbein in England

By Susan Foister

Hans Holbein (1497-1543) is regarded as one of the greatest artists of the sixteenth century. His prolific production of precise and realist portraits of the great figures of this period, including, most famously, King Henry VIII, earned him an international reputation in his own time. "Holbein in England" allows the reader to gain greater insight into the artist's movements between the 1520s and the 1540s, when he moved from Germany and Switzerland to England. Although Holbein gained high acclaim while working in Basel, his periods in England proved equally key in establishing his reputation. Susan Foister, a leading expert on Holbein, considers the ways in which England both influenced, and was influenced by the artist and his work. She guides us through Holbein's background and artistic traditions in the context of Tudor England, and explains how important contacts, including Erasmus, Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, led him to gain patrons ranging from prosperous merchants to the King himself, for whom he later became exclusive court portraitist. Holbein's methods and techniques are also explored in relation to the artistic culture and religious sentiments of his time.

Stunningly illustrated with over one hundred colour images, "Holbein in England" includes the artist's best-known and loved portraits alongside lesser known but equally important paintings, drawings and designs created for goldsmiths and jewellers. Accompanying a major exhibition at Tate Britain, this book offers a unique insight into Holbein's working methods and techniques, and throws new light on the mutual influence between this most famous of artists and England.

Further Reading:

Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans: A Brief History

It is hard to let go of Pythagoras. He has meant so much to so many for so long. I can with confidence say to readers of this essay: most of what you believe, or think you know, about Pythagoras is fiction, much of it deliberately contrived. Did he discover the geometrical theorem that bears his name? No. Did he ponder the harmony of the spheres? Certainly not: celestial spheres were first excogitated decades or more after Pythagoras’ death. Does he even deserve credit for his most famous accomplishment, analysing the mathematical ratios that structure musical concordances? Possibly, but there is little reason to believe the stories about his being the first to discover them, and compelling reason not to believe the oft-told story about how he did it. Allegedly, as he was passing a smithy, he heard that the sounds made by the hammers exemplified the intervals of fourth, fifth and octave, so he measured their weights and found their ratios to be respectively 4:3, 3:2, 2:1. Unfortunately for this anecdote, recently rehashed in the article on Pythagoras in Grove Music Online, the sounds made by a blow do not vary proportionately with the weight of the instrument used. There are many myths surrounding this figure: who was the real Pythagoras? [read more]

Further reading:

The Glass Books of The Dream Eaters

G. W. Dahlquist

A spy, a killer, and an impostor - this book features three extraordinary heroes. Miss Temple didn't come to the city for an adventure - she came to find a husband. But when her fiance, Roger Bascombe threw her over for no apparent reason, Miss Temple decided to find out why. Yet, following Roger to a masked ball (one with a most sinister purpose) will take Miss Temple very far from the respectable world she has always known ...Cardinal Chang, so thoroughly disreputable that he has been hired to kill a man, is disconcerted to find his masked target has already been assassinated. No longer able to trust those who hired him (if ever he did), he sets out to find who has beaten him to his quarry - and why ...Dr Svenson did not ask to be a chaperone to his Prince, but he is loyal all the same, even when the young prince's debauched appetites put him in the clutches of a cabal of very nasty characters and involve him in a diabolical 'process' that has singular effects on the human mind ..."The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters" is an adventure like no other, set in a city few have travelled to, featuring three heroes you will never ever forget.

The Italian Job

Gianluca Vialli Gabriele Marcotti

Football lies at the heart of popular culture in both England and Italy. It is played, watched, written about and talked to death by millions virtually every day of the year. But how do the characteristics of England and Italy affect the game in these two footballing nations? Do the national stereotypes of Italians as passionate, stylish lotharios and the English as cold-hearted eccentrics still hold true when they kick a ball around? In "The Italian Job", for the first time, a footballer of the first rank, Gianluca Vialli, in conjunction with sportswriter and broadcaster Gabriele Marcotti, tackles this debate head on. Uniquely positioned across both the English and the Italian games, they provide a fascinating and highly controversial commentary on where football is now and where it's headed. And they have invited some of the biggest names in the sport to join in their discussion. Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Arsene Wenger, Sven Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Marcello Lippi, amongst others, add their not inconsiderable weight to the highest-profile symposium on football ever convened.

Gianluca Vialli and Gabriele Marcotti explore every aspect of football, be it tactical and technical or cultural and sociological. Stuffed full of controversial opinions and gripping revelations, "The Italian Job" takes you on a journey to the very heart of two of the world's great footballing cultures.

Shadow of The Silk Road

By Colin Thubron

There was never one Silk Road - but several. The route chosen by Colin Thubron passes through China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, taking in the most sterile desert on earth (the Taklamakan) and the strife-torn mountain valleys of today's conflicts, as he travels from the tomb of the Yellow Emperor (the mythic progenitor of the Chinese people) to the ancient port of Antioch, by local bus, truck, car - occasionally Landrover, horse or camel. He covers 7,000 miles in 8 months, and confesses that it is the most difficult, complex and ambitious journey he has undertaken in 40 years of travel. The Silk Road is a huge network of arteries and veins, splitting and converging across the breadth of Asia. Chinese silk has turned up in the hair of a 10th-century-BC Egyptian mummy; equally, the tartan plaids of 3000-year-old mummies in the Chinese desert echo those of early Celts. To be travelling the Silk Road, writes Colin Thubron, is to be travelling the history of the world: tracing the passage not just of trade and armies, but of ideas, religions and inventions. Yet - despite the lure of the history - this book is as much about Asia today.

Its themes include different Islams (oppressed in China; fervent in Afghanistan and Iran; cautiously monitored in Uzbekistan); contrast (no cities could be more different than ancient Samarkand and modern Teheran); and the way that today's borders are meaningless because the true boundaries are made by tribe, ethnicity, language and religion. "Shadow of the Silk Road" is a brilliant account of an ancient world in modern ferment.

Sea of Thunder

In 1943, American sailors and soldiers entering the harbor at Tulagi, the front-line U.S. Navy base in the South Pacific, passed a billboard telling them to

Kill Japs, kill Japs, kill more Japs!

The billboard was signed by Adm. William F. Halsey, Jr., their commander. As the war progressed, newspapers quoted Halsey as saying about the Japanese, "We are drowning and burning them all over the Pacific, and it is just as much pleasure to burn them as to drown them."

To twenty-first-century ears, Halsey sounds like a racist monster or a sadist. In his own time, however, he was regarded by the public as a war hero, a little outspoken, too crude perhaps, but refreshingly blunt about the true nature of the enemy and the hard job ahead. In the wartime America of the 1940s, Halsey's attitude was unexceptional. Americans routinely referred to the Japanese as "Japs" and "Nips," and often as animals or insects of some kind (most commonly, monkeys, baboons, gorillas, dogs, mice, rats, vipers and rattlesnakes, and cockroaches). The Japanese were just as bigoted. They depicted Americans and other Westerners as reptiles, worms, insects (rendered in cartoons with the faces of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill), frogs, octopuses, beached whales, and stray dogs. Dehumanizing the enemy to make it easier to kill them is an ancient practice between warring nations, but rarely has it been practiced with more depraved creativity than in the Pacific War...[read more]

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment

By James Gaines

In one corner, a godless young warrior, Voltaire's heralded 'philosopher-king', the It Boy of the Enlightenment. In the other, a devout if bad-tempered old composer of 'outdated' music, a scorned genius in his last years. The sparks from their brief conflict illuminate a turbulent age. Behind the pomp and flash, Prussia's Frederick the Great was a tormented man, son of an abusive king who forced him to watch as his best friend (probably his lover) was beheaded. In what may have been one of history's crueler practical jokes, Frederick challenged "old Bach" to a musical duel, asking him to improvise a six-part fugue based on an impossibly intricate theme (possibly devised for him by Bach's own son). Bach left the court fuming, but in a fever of composition, he used the coded, alchemical language of counterpoint to write A Musical Offering in response. A stirring declaration of faith, it represented "as stark a rebuke of his beliefs and world view as an absolute monarch has ever received," Gaines writes. It is also one of the great works of art in the history of music. Set at the tipping point between the ancient and the modern world, the triumphant story of Bach's victory expands to take in the tumult of the eighteenth century: the legacy of the Reformation, wars and conquest, the birth of the Enlightenment. Brimming with originality and wit, Evening in the Palace of Reason is history of the best kind -- intimate in scale and broad in its vision.

Utopian Dreams

The original Utopia, Sir Thomas More’s, was a refuge from poverty. Modern readers find its regulations authoritarian. But the starving, homeless peasants More had in mind when he wrote it would have gladly accepted them in exchange for shelter and a full stomach. Tobias Jones, by contrast, is a refugee from affluence. Consumerism saddens and sickens him. His possessions do not bring him happiness, and our crazy addiction to travel, rushing round the globe in search of the perfect place, is, he believes, a recipe for discontent. Reared, like other thirtysomethings, in a secular society that values individual freedom above all else, he feels he has missed out on religious experience, and does not know what it would be like to live in a community. The quest to fill these gaps is his book’s subject...[read more]

Alexis De Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution

In 1927 Paul Valéry wrote that Europe dreams of being ruled by an American Commission, and for many Europeans America is still seen as having an enviable freedom from the burdens of the past. There may be few who would now want to be subject to American rule but there are still many who see America as standing for a kind of freedom and equality to which Europeans can still only aspire. It is a view as common on the left of politics as on the right. There seem to be plenty of ex-communists and former Trotskyites who regard the United States with a loyalty and reverence of a sort they once reserved for the Soviet Union, and who round on critics of US policies as enemies of progress. Right across the spectrum of opinion America is seen as the supreme modern society, which more than any other embodies the future. [read more]

In the Line of Fire: A Memoir

If there is a single consistent theme in Pervez Musharraf’s memoir, it is the familiar military dogma that Pakistan has fared better under its generals than under its politicians. The first batch of generals were the offspring of the departing colonial power. They had been taught to obey orders, respect the command structure of the army whatever the cost and uphold the traditions of the British Indian Army. The bureaucrats who ran Pakistan in its early days were the product of imperial selection procedures designed to turn out incorruptible civil servants wearing a mask of objectivity. The military chain of command is still respected, but the civil service now consists largely of ruthlessly corrupt time-servers. Once its members were loyal to the imperial state: today they cater to the needs of the army.

Pakistan’s first uniformed ruler, General Ayub Khan, a Sandhurst-trained colonial officer, seized power in October 1958 with strong encouragement from both Washington and London. They were fearful that the projected first general election might produce a coalition that would take Pakistan out of security pacts like Seato and towards a non-aligned foreign policy. Ayub banned all political parties, took over opposition newspapers and told the first meeting of his cabinet: ‘As far as you are concerned there is only one embassy that matters in this country: the American Embassy.’ In a radio broadcast to the nation he informed his bewildered ‘fellow countrymen’ that ‘we must understand that democracy cannot work in a hot climate. To have democracy we must have a cold climate like Britain.’[read more...]

The Uninvited

Geling Yan

This is the fantastical tale of Dan Dong, an unemployed factory worker whose life takes a series of unexpected twists upon his discovery that simply by posing as a journalist he can eat exquisite gourmet meals free of charge at state-sponsored banquets. But the secrets Dan overhears at these events eventually lead him down a twisted, intrigue-laden path, and his true and false identities become increasingly harder to separate. When he becomes privy to a scandal that runs from the depths of society up to its highest rungs, Dan must find a way to lay bare the corruption - without revealing the dangerous truth about himself.

The Naming of The Dead

Ian Rankin

July 2005, and the G8 leaders have gathered in Scotland. With daily marches, demonstrations, and scuffles, the police are at full stretch. Detective Inspector John Rebus, however, has been sidelined, until the apparent suicide of an MP coincides with clues that a serial killer may be on the loose. The authorities are keen to hush up both, for fear of overshadowing a meeting of global importance - but Rebus has never been one to stick to the rules, and when his colleague Siobhan Clarke finds herself hunting down the identity of the riot cop who assaulted her mother, it looks as though both Rebus and Clarke may be up pitted against both sides in the conflict.

THE NAMING OF THE DEAD is a potent mix of action and politics, set against a backdrop of the most devastating week in recent British history.

By John Stubbs

John Donne's life story is inextricably tied up with the fabric of a society in the throes of religious persecution. His family had long been subject to the terror inflicted upon Catholics under the reign of Elizabeth I, and while his brother languished in prison, and his mother and uncles fled to exile in Europe, Donne was consumed by the question of his own faith and by trying to figure out what it is that connects human beings - and keeps them apart. In his biography of Donne, John Stubbs chronicles not only a long and bitter sectarian conflict, but also the love story of a young couple who broke the rules of their society, and paid the ultimate price. From the raucous streets of late sixteenth-century London to the personal and political intrigues of Donne's family and public life, from the horrors of the Reformation to the delight of Donne's poetry, John Stubbs' book is a vivid, dazzling biography of an extraordinary man, as well as a compelling portrait of England at a time of bewildering transformation.

The Thirteenth Tale

Vida Winter, a bestselling yet reclusive novelist, has created many outlandish life histories for herself, all of them invention. Now old and ailing, at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to biographer Margaret Lea - a woman with secrets of her own - is a summons.

Vida's tale is one of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family: the beautiful and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling, but as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction and she doesn't trust Vida's account.

As she begins her researches, two parallel stories unfold. Join Margaret as she begins her journey to the truth - hers, as well as Vida's.

The Penguin Freud Reader

In 1936 Freud wrote a letter to Romain Rolland, offering him a speculation about a particular memory as a 70th birthday gift. The memory concerned a trip Freud took to Athens with his brother, and his own ‘curious thought’ at the sight of the Acropolis: ‘So this all really does exist, just as we learned in school!’ Freud describes himself as two people, one making the comment and the other perceiving it.

Perhaps, Freud says, he was just registering the difference between knowing about something and seeing it with one’s own eyes, but he thinks ‘that would be a strange way of dressing up an uninteresting commonplace,’ and quickly moves on to develop an argument suggesting that his reaction was a disguised expression of a continuing disbelief not in the Acropolis, but in his own chances of getting there. But why didn’t he say just that? Why was his disbelief ‘doubly displaced’, as he puts it, shifted into the past and ‘away from my relation to the Acropolis to the Acropolis’ very existence’? He didn’t actually doubt the existence of the Acropolis in the past and he couldn’t doubt it in the present, since he was there; but his unmistakable feeling was that ‘there was something dubious and unreal about the situation.’

Freud doesn’t profess fully to understand this or the many similar occasions of what he calls ‘estrangement’, but he sees that his mind was falsifying both past and present: that is, telling him fables about them, in order to signal and avoid an unwelcome thought. He settles on what may seem a rather narrow and self-regarding interpretation of what he calls his ‘disturbance of memory’. His doubt about getting to Athens, he says, ‘had to do with the strictures and poverty of our living conditions in my youth’. He didn’t think he would ‘come so far’, and the story is now fully metaphorical, and all about making it.

Freud’s arrival at the Acropolis is a measure of his professional and financial success, and his reaction is veiled and tilted towards the past because ‘there must be a feeling of guilt associated with the satisfaction of having come such a long way.’ ‘It seems as though the essential aspect of success lies in getting further than one’s father, as though wishing to outdo one’s father were forbidden.’ This is a general proposition, but there is also the particular case. Freud père was not an educated man, and ‘Athens would not have meant much to him.’ The son’s pleasure at getting there is complicated by ‘an impulse of piety’: he has not only outdone his father but abandoned his world. [read more]

The Secret

The real secret of a happy and fulfilled life, revealed by renowned
Kabbalist Michael Berg, author of the acclaimed and bestselling book, The
Way. Containing a simple truth, simply explained through moving tales, this
book cuts across religions and has a powerful and inspirational message -
for the whole of humanity. Like a jewel that has been painstakingly cut and
polished, The Secret reveals life's essence in its most concise and powerful
form. It is a saying that Berg's teacher, the late Rav Ashlag, learned from
a mysterious stranger who became his own teacher, years ago in Jerusalem:
"The only way to achieve true joy and fulfilment is by becoming a being of sharing." Our destiny is to experience joy, not suffering, if we know how to connect with the Secret. Michael Berg shows us how our everyday understanding of our purpose in the world is literally backwards. Whenever there is pain in our lives - indeed, whenever there is anything less than complete joy and fulfilment - this basic misunderstanding is the reason. The strength and significance of this simple truth unfolds through the sheer inspirational power of the stories and insights from the greatest sages of Kabbala. The Secret is a guidebook for applying the principles of Jewish mysticism to everyday life with a universal truth, whatever your religion.

Balderdash and Piffle

'Balderdash and Piffle' looks into words and phrases, their origins and usage and how they have developed over time. The beginnings of speech - who spoke first and what did they say? How are words connected to thought, how does irony add meaning to words. What are people?s favourite words?

Dr Johnson?s dictionary was 250 years old in 2005 ? why did he write it how has it inspired all subsequent works?

In more depth, the book will look into the origins of the alphabet, the story of print and typography. New words, new usages, turns of phrase and outstanding phrases will be discussed as will local and global lingo. The more recent popular culture phenomenon and its effect on language will also be explored.

Ignore the title - this is not tommyrot and tosh, but a treasure-trove: an entertaining and informative romp through the English Language - particularly the origins and peculiarities of words and phrases. Whether it's the words of sport, foreign languages or science that tickle your fancy, whether you find Shakespeare or JK Rowling gets your goat, you'll find something in this volume that's the bee's knees.

It's an accessible and attractive book that manages to cram in a huge number of interesting facts. Written with authority that doesn't give credence to urban word myths (unlike some other books which less successfully tackle this subject matter), the author has stamped great humour and attitude across each chapter.

It's the sort of book it's hard not to read out loud to anyone else who happens to be in the room - bound to appeal to the same wordy audience first tapped by Lynne Truss. It sits happily alongside the excellent BBC series of the same name, but also stands alone as a rattling good read - definitely recommended.

A Better Way

By Delvin Dresser

Ralph Mosco often felt different from the other children his age. The son of a preacher, Ralph lived his life a little differently than many of the other teenagers his age with whom he went to school. While he always had the support of his girlfriend, Cherie, punks such as the unruly Desmond often tried to make trouble with Ralph. And the drunken principal and science teacher with a questionable past often seemed to go out of their way to make life difficult for young Ralph.

But the discovery of a stolen CD player involves Ralph in a web of crime, drugs, and intrigue. How far will Ralph go to help save the life of his nemesis and to rid his town of the scourge of the local drug lord? What secrets does Ms. Martin hide behind her angry scowl? And how does a shamed ex-preacher fir into the puzzle?

Delvin Dresser answers these questions and more in A Better Way, offering reader a look at one young man’s moral and ethical choices.