Rupert Thomson’s teenage years and events after his father’s death, plus a decades long estrangement from one of his brothers in ‘This Party’s got to Stop” was light relief after that Bach book.
I don’t know why, but I’d taken some comments in the reviews a little more literally than I should have – anticipating a hostage / life threatening situation, I was on edge the whole time I read it. Surprisingly, it ended with some gentle reconciliation. The thing that set it apart from any old recollection was Thomson’s fearless honesty about his feelings towards his siblings, perhaps motivated by guilt at his own behaviour. An easy read – 3.5 stars.
I’ve read a fair bit of history since the last volume of The History of England by Peter Ackroyd, so this time, with “Civil War” (volume 3) I was curious as to how his style holds up. Luckily it wasn’t a struggle – the early section on James I and his miscomprehension of the workings of the English parliamentary system was really interesting, and it was only the rhythmic drudgery of the continual popery accusations and plots in the time of Charles II and James II that it became a little tiresome. Will our current political battles appear similarly when written with sufficient distance? Probably – but with less blood spilt! The constant back and forth battles between Parliament and the king, the need for royal funding, the diplomatic marrying of enemies daughters for peace, but which then gave source to gossip about sympathisers and the possible spread of their religions. It was an exhausting time.
This history shows Oliver Cromwell as the most competent of the lot, trying many governing options in his new republic, but after a decade, losing out to popular sentiment and a certain melancholy for a royal figure – hence the Restoration. Growing up a Catholic myself, until a few years ago, I’d been largely oblivious about the historic distrust of my kind in Britain – all over a little thing called transubstantiation, which I find completely ridiculous, especially when compared to the more radical Calvinist or Presbyterian faiths of the time. Let’s not forget the Levellers too!
I like how Ackroyd wrote a few small chapters to give context to the times and provide relief. The design of Inigo Jones for the lavish masque sets. The observations of Samuel Pepys about Charles II’s mistresses. The self experimentation of Isaac Newton and the growth of the evidence-based Royal Society in 1660. The small chapter about how people walked, talked, drank and pissed. The observations that Worcester and Oxford were the most royalist of cities.
The book ended with the flight of James II to France, and with most of his men defecting to William (of Orange) and Mary. I really have to read about the Georgians soon, as apart from a mad king, I know nothing about them really. 4 stars.