An absorbing and scathing indictment of 19th-century British government and society that ends on an unexpectedly hopeful...

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SARAH VALENTINE, NO GREAT EXPECTATIONS

This second volume of a trilogy focuses on the life and times of Sarah Valentine, the author’s great-great-grandmother, in London.

Coates’ (Sarah Valentine, No Great Expectations, 2016) sequel covers seven years, beginning in early 1839 when Valentine turned 18 and was moved from the children’s ward to the adult ward in the Shoreditch Workhouse (a government-sponsored refuge of sorts offering food and shelter) in London’s East End. Here she discovered that nearly half of the inmates were mentally ill; with few available facilities, they were just warehoused with the other indigent women. The ward remained filthy and dangerous. But salvation appeared in the form of Freddy Linford, one of two brothers Valentine met while working as a cleaner in a tailor shop (“Freddy was quite the dandy with bright shirts and colourful cravats; his personality matched his loud clothing and it was during the period Sarah worked at the shop that he often flirted with her. Sarah did not discourage him, finding his attentions not unpleasant”). He was at Shoreditch teaching some of the workhouse women how to set up a sewing operation in the institution. Ultimately, Linford arranged for Valentine to be released and proposed marriage to her. But he possessed a dark side, and his intervention led to a whole new series of catastrophes for young Valentine. Despite these setbacks, she started to take shape as a resolute adult, still vulnerable but with ever strengthening determination. Coates has developed more of a narrative footing in this volume. The story focuses on Valentine and her family, and the work begins to read a bit like engrossing historical fiction (complete with invented dialogue), although the author states clearly at the start that the details have been carefully researched and are accurate. In this sequel, the conditions of poverty in East London form the context and backdrop, rather than the bulk of the text. Coates’ tale presents a tapestry of rigid 19th-century British society and the extraordinary physical and mental cruelty that defined the treatment of the lower classes by those of a higher social station. In one particularly brutal episode, Valentine, toiling as a live-in “Maid of all Work” for an upper-middle-class family, was severely beaten for having committed the unforgivable faux pas of hanging the family’s clean laundry outside to dry.  

An absorbing and scathing indictment of 19th-century British government and society that ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5246-6414-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2016

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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