book of the month

As an end-of-the-summer-holiday treat my little family and I went on a road-trip from Devon to Portsmouth to visit the Mary Rose Museum. I would highly recommend you to visit if you are nearby, or are particularly interested in Tudor life or the famous ship that was brought back to the surface in the 1970s.

The Mary Rose was sailing from 1511 to 1545 and saw a lot of action, serving Henry VIII well until her sinking at the Battle of the Solent. Out of the 400-strong crew, only around 35 men survived. The men aboard were a mixture of ordinary soldiers and higher order officers, and their personal items have been found amazingly preserved including shoes, tools, and books.




The Mary Rose

I find Tudor life fascinating and it is easy to romanticise the period what with its dresses, courtships, and seemingly simpler lives, but you soon realise that unless you are a rich man you wouldn’t fare well. Practical skills were generally held in higher regard especially in the lower orders. Learning to create, mend, and grow produce are essential life skills when you cannot afford to pay someone to do it for you. Academic education was reserved for those with the financial stability to educate the child and pay for a tutor. The luckier children had literate parents who could pass their knowledge on to them.

Horrifyingly to us Reading Addicts of the female persuasion we would have even less of a chance to read and write. Women and girls were seen as inferior, and their education seen as a waste. If a 16th century girl is lucky, or has particularly progressive or aspiring parents, then she may be permitted to read the Bible or her prayer book, but anything more than that was considered a waste of everyone’s time.

It seems it wouldn’t even matter if you were destined to be Queen: two of Henry VIII’s wives, Jane Seymour and Catherine Howard, could barely read a word. Despite this injustice many privileged women of the Tudor court were permitted to read and write, including Anne Boleyn whose golden book of psalms is now held in the British Library.

Anne Boleyn’s golden book of psalms.

Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth I) c. 1559

Beautiful prayerbooks were popular among the wealthy women, above is Elizabeth I clutching her own copy in pious readiness.



As soon as I saw this book cover I thought about you lot- our Reading Addicts- and how you would understand my excitement at seeing a 500 year old book. Back then books were rarer than they are today, they were very expensive and so only the higher orders on the Mary Rose would own such an item. This beautifully decorated, calfskin book cover belonged to an officer aboard the fateful ship. The Mary Rose organisation says: “It is one of only two covers found on the Mary Rose to incorporate human likenesses within the design. Within small panels on the front and back are the letters ‘MD’, originally assumed to represent 1500 in Roman numerals, but now believed to represent Martin Doture, a London-based bookbinder and stationer during the period 1527–57.”

I have read many Philippa Gregory books about the royal courts during the 15th and 16th centuries, so this visit brought some realism to the characters I had come to know and the events that had unfolded. To see the leather boots the men wore and the tools they used, touched me deeper than I imagined it would. Life was cruel for many who lived through the reigns of bitter feuds of entitled royals and consequential religious turmoil, but it had always been just stories. Since seeing the bowls they ate from, etched with their personal symbols for easy identification, and the clothes they wore for comfort or protection, it has brought them to life again.




‘So You Want To Talk About Race’? Then buy this book…

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book of the month
So, you want to talk about race?

If you are one of those folk who tell others not to talk about politics, or that racism no longer exists, then you probably won’t want to read this article… Despite the fact you are the very type of person who should. 

In both the USA and the UK, and much of the world if we are absolutely honest, there is still an on-going issue with race. People of colour are disproportionately affected by the power imbalance created by centuries of systemic oppression. We have yet to evolve, learn, and grow, especially when many white folk bury their heads in the sand and do their best to ignore the obvious racial prejudice that permeates their own culture.

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Charles Dickens’ Contribution to Science to Feature in Exhibition

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Charles Dickens: Man of Science is a current exhibition running at the Charles Dickens Museum until November 11th and the exhibition is looking at the author’s contribution to science, and notably medicine.

Dickens astute observations on human behaviours means he spotted many illnesses and their symptoms before they were recognised by the medical community and his descriptions so accurate that they can be used to build correlation between symptoms and disease.
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£2m Revamp Complete for National Centre for Writing

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book of the month
The National Centre for writing relaunches in Norwich this week following a £2 million revamp for the historic Dragon Hall. It was previously known as the Writers’ Centre, Norwich but now the facility is to be a “Physical and digital space to explore the artistic and social power of creative writing, and support the creation and enjoyment of world literature” according to a spokesman interviewed by The Bookseller this week.

Parts of the historic Dragon Hall date back to 1430, meaning any renovations had to be sympathetic. The project was given the go ahead back in 2016 and was backed by a number of high profile patrons including Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, Elif Shafak, J. M Coetzee, and Sarah Perry.
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Women’s Storybook Project Celebrates 15 Years of Helping Incarcerated Mothers Read to Their Children

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book of the month
For the past 15 years, the Women’s Story Book Project of Texas has been helping women in prison remain connected to their children by allowing inmates who have maintained good behaviour to read to their children. The organisation provides the mothers with a range of books to choose from and helps record them onto CD’s so their children can still hear their mother’s voice reading to them.

One inmate, named Myeisha Garcia, who a part of the programme finished her recording by saying “We’ve come a long way, and I love you,” to her two daughters who currently live with their grandmother. She was sentenced to 10 years after she was charged for manslaughter after killing her boyfriend in a domestic violence fight which she claims was self defence.
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The Great American Read Coming to PBS

By | Culture, News, Reading Habits, Television | 2 Comments
book of the month
If there’s one thing I’m sure we can all agree it’s that there aren’t enough books on the television, but all that is about to change with several bookish shows lined up this year. Just a few weeks ago we brought you the news that Zoe Ball is to front a television bookclub in the UK and now it’s announced that an eight part series ‘The Great American Read’ is to air on PBS. Read More

Neil Gaiman to become a King Neptune in 2018

By | Arty, Culture | No Comments
book of the month
Award-winning fantasy and sci-fi author Neil Gaiman has announced that he will be becoming King Neptune this Summer.

At his side will be his queen- the wonderfully talented musician and artist, Amanda Palmer, and they will be jointly be ruling their watery subjects from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade float.

Coney Island prides itself on honouring American pop-culture through fresh and original shows and acts. Drawing from circus and theatrical traditions of P.T. Barnum, the people of Coney Island present uniquely American visual arts. This year the mermaid float will carry Queen Mermaid Amanda Palmer and King Neptune Neil Gaiman along the Coney Island Boardwalk before arriving at the beach for the official Beach Ceremony: the ‘opening’ of the ocean for the summer swimming season.

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