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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Tyler

Read to keep sane!

I have just listened to The Prime Minister's dark announcement re new Covid rules.

Some of you will now be entering Tier 4, whilst many others will find their holiday family arrangements seriously altered, if not actually cancelled.

Thus some book suggestions from my own reading in 2020:-

  1. Two children's books. One an old friend, and one a new companion. Both books are not 'just for children', but like many first class children's books are read with enthusiasm by adults.

Children of The New Forest by Captain Marryat, first published in 1847. A story set in The Civil War; so a warning not to be read by Parliamentarians, although Marryat is a little more nuanced than that as he argues really for reconciliation, not a bad theme for 2021 and Brexit Year.

During the course of the year I managed to track down the very edition (1954) that I was given many many Christmases ago as a child. It is still delightful as it tells the story of the orphaned children of a Royalist family.

They are thrown out of their inheritance and take to a rough life in the Forest. In the end they emerge triumphant with the return of Charles II. Rereading it after all these years I was struck by the complexity of the language thought suitable for Victorian children. I must have glossed over a lot of the words I didn't understand in order to see the next twist in the plot!

The Midnight Guardians by Ross Montgomery, published this year. A book which some reviewers have hailed as a classic. I agree. A very difficult book to summarise. It is set in World War Two and involves a journey from Buxton to London. But the Guardians of the title are the imaginary friends of a boy, Yet, imaginary friends who come to life in the England of 1940 whilst bringing with them the alternative fantasy world of The Midwinter King and The Green Man.

If you dislike fantasy, then avoid. The Guardians themselves are a tiger, a badger, and a soldier. En route they and the boy are joined by a little Jewish evacuee girl. It is certainly a difficult read I would have thought for a younger child, say under 12. for it has references to The Holocaust and the war in general that would require a certain degree of knowledge. Incidentally, it contains one of the the best short pieces of writing I have come across about the evils of Nazism - just one paragraph in the historical notes appendix to the book.

Post War Reconstruction: Exorcising Hitler by Frederick Taylor

Thanks to Brian for getting me to research this book which deals with the Occupation and Denazification of Germany. There are very very few books that cover this subject, and Taylor is a first rate historian and author. It is of particular interest to me for my predecessor as Principal of Manchester's Adult College, Ronald Wilson, was one of those engaged in this work in Hesse.

Woodland Flowers by Keith Kirby

First an admission. I haven't read this book as yet as I bought it very recently with the intention of reading it over the holiday period.

It approaches its subject from an historical as well as botanical viewpoint. Not only does it illuminate our relationship to this flora over the centuries but also has a word about the uncertain future in the face of the global environmental crisis. The beautiful photographs are alone worth the purchase price. I am really looking forward to reading this, especially as we are now all of us having to spend a very quiet Christmas period.

Henfield's 19th Century Egg Basket by EJ Colgate

Not a book many of you will wish to buy as it is a series of short articles on the Sussex village of Henfield. For me, of course, Henfield is just down the road and therefore of interest for that reason alone.

I am quoting the book as an example of how well researched local history books by dedicated amateur historians can add tremendously to our fund of knowledge. So the message for everyone interested in history is search out a good well researched local history for your own area. This book on Henfield has articles on, for example, Invasion Threat [1803], Emigration [to Australia], Corn Law Opinions, and Christmas largesse.

Whatever you read over the holiday I hope you get much pleasure from it.

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