Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sunday Wrap Up: Week ending July 6, 2014

This being a pretty fab week for our American friends, who have been preparing for their Fourth of July hols, it's also been a semi-relaxing week here at The Review. Who doesn't want to get in on celebrations of independence? After all, we celebrate the freedom to read books of our own choosing: banned, unapproved, controversial--all kinds of literature that unfortunately in some spots on the globe are permitted only when approved by the government. For all of us here at The Review this is a sad state of affairs and we did a bit of contemplation over the week. 

While nothing in this week's Wrap Up is banned or unapproved in any way (as far as we know), we celebrate them because they, like the other magnificent books and interviews we have reviewed and conducted, add to the lexicon of knowledge, curiosity, creativity and sharing of ideas and fascinations across the world, person to person, in turn inspiring others to seek and achieve their own dreams. 

Happy birthday, America! And may all peoples achieve the freedom to read whatever it is they choose to do. 


Babus Reviews: Wynfield's Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary

Wynfield's Kingdom by Marina Julia Neary is a dark historical novel set from 1830, Victorian England. Dr. Thomas Grant, a newly qualified young physician from Cambridge, is relieved of his position in the household of a nobleman; he also is relieved of his license to practice medicine.

Marina Julia Neary creates her characters with much allure; she describes Dr. Thomas Grant:

There was nothing in his demeanor that would inspire suspicion, no distracting gestures or eccentric habits. One would expect neither heroic deeds nor crimes from him. He exuded composure, equanimity, an impartiality.

He vows never to medically treat the rich again and opens a tavern in Bermondsey to support himself. Whilst contentedly living the life of a self-confessed misanthrope, he saves the life of 10-year-old orphan Wynfield, whom he finds breaking into his cellar. After Dr. Grant treats his injuries Wynfield leads the local police and Dr. Grant to two-year-old Diana who is also an orphan. Not expecting the two-year-old to survive from her fragile condition through the night, Dr. Grant surpasses his own rather elevated expectations when she survives, albeit with a weak heart.

The stoic Dr. Grant houses the children as tenants. Wynfield grows up to be an affable young man of many talents. He entertains those around him with knife-throwing and dancing, but primarily works on the docks and contributing most of his wages to his landlord. Wynfield practically raises Diana, who works in the tavern for Dr. Grant and makes her romantic feelings for Wynfield abundantly clear. Their relationship is a complex one as the dividing line between love and hate is quite a fine one.

Wynfield goes from being a well-read misfit in society to the “King of Bermondsey,” and is revered by the local community for his entertaining skills, which include knife-throwing and stealing. A tragic event which results from his illegal activity makes him question what he has become and leads him to write and produce a play about his hero Cromwell. He casts Diana and his friends in this play and he showcases his anti-monarch ideals, which brings him to the attention of those who have a larger political agenda. Among these activists Wynfield discovers more about his origins.

What about these mysterious origins? Click here to see if the rest of the review gives any clues


Louise E. Rule Interviews Richard Abbott for The Review's Author Interview 

Richard Abbott is the author of Scenes From A Life, which was reviewed by Margaret Skea in March here at The Review Group. If you would like to read Margaret's review, please click the above link.

The product description on tells the reader that:

[M]akty-Rasut is a scribe in New Kingdom Egypt, fashioning tombs for the elite. He lives a comfortable but restless life, moving every few years further upstream along the river Nile. He is content to exercise his talent without examining his origins.

Then a series of vivid dreams, interpreted with the help of a senior priest, disrupts this pattern. To solve the riddle, he must go on a journey that will take him outside the Beloved Land and away from the life that he knows. His travels take him into the neighbouring province of Canaan, to a hill-country village called Kephrath, and to a way of life he has never considere[d].

About Richard Abbott (from

Richard Abbott lives in London, England. He writes about the ancient Middle East - Egypt, Canaan and Israel - and has also contributed to the lively academic debate about these times. His first book, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, explores events in the Egyptian province of Canaan at the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. It follows the life, loves, and struggles of a priest in the small hill town of Kephrath. A second novel, Scenes from a Life, follows on from and is set around twenty years later than In a Milk and Honeyed Land. The short story "The Man in the Cistern" is set in the same location in the years between the two novels. The short story "The Lady of the Lions" is set in the same location but around one hundred and fifty years earlier. Triumphal Accounts in Hebrew and Egyptian is the ebook version of his PhD thesis which, for those who want the technical details, supplies academic underpinning for some of the ideas and plot themes followed up in fiction. When not writing words or computer code, he enjoys spending time with family, walking, and wildlife, ideally combining all three pursuits in the English Lake District. He works professionally in IT quality assurance, and also develops mobile and tablet apps with a focus on the ancient world. 

Hello, Richard, welcome to The Review's Author Interview, thank you for taking time out to answer some questions.

Thanks, Louise, for the invitation!

You have an obvious passion for the ancient Middle East. Could you tell our readers what drew you to that time, what was it that captivated you?

Originally I got intrigued by the chronology of the ancient world, and looked into both mainstream views and some of the more alternative ones. But as I started to read actual ancient sources, initially in translation and then more directly, I abandoned chronology in favour of literature, especially poetry and its various forms. It is so much more fascinating! Plus, of course, it gives much more direct insight into the minds of people in the ancient world, rather than just modern ideas of how best to create an exact timeline.

Once hooked by the language and literature, I narrowed in on the particular period in question since it was a time of flux. The Late Bronze Age had been a long period of stability, and in a very short span of time, perhaps fifty years or so, it completely collapsed. Religious freedom, international trade, and cultural interchange gave way to a narrow parochialism. the role of women shrank from a position of importance and respect to one which, in many places, amounted to simple ownership. Many reasons for this have been proposed, and none is entirely convincing, so it is an open field for the writer. My characters live in their world with customs and habits of thought built up in one age, having to adapt to a very different one.

In your first book, In a Milk and Honeyed Land, published in June 2012, you explore events in the Egyptian province of Canaan at the end of the Bronze Age, around 1200 BC. Even though it is a time that you have already researched, and on which you had written a PhD thesis, did you have to do a different type of research for your novel, for example, your characters, and their lives?

Yes indeed. The PhD focused mostly on the language and poetry of the time, so I was pretty comfortable with that. However, for the novels I needed to have a sense of what regular life was like - housing, food, journey times, vegetation, clothing and so on. I put a lot of thought into what village religion would be like - no large temple or priestly hierarchy, for example, and existing mainly to serve the daily struggles and delights of village life. I had a lot of fun thinking how the society might signal things like social or marital status through designs on the headscarves worn (I call these "kefs", which is an adaptation of modern Hebrew and Arabic words) - no gold wedding rings here! We do have a very modest amount of pictorial evidence for headscarves, but nothing to help us interpret the visual differences.

The novels also gave me the chance to speculate on things that are credible but unprovable. For example the society I write about in Kephrath is based around the idea that property passes from mother to daughter rather than father to son. A man moves into his wife's family home rather than the reverse. This did happen occasionally back then, but we don't know if it actually did in that particular place and time.

Jump on over to Louise's fab and extensive interview to see what other delights Abbott gifts us with!

You can also jump back in time to see last week's Wrap Up!

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