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New Book Wednesday: 10th June 2020

Hello and Happy New Book Wednesday! There are five new titles from us this week with plenty to be excited about! Here are this week’s books: 

Murder in Abbot’s Folly by Amy Myers 

First is the final book in the Marsh and Daughter series, 7 previous tales of mystery have led us here with Peter and Georgia Marsh thrust into their most dangerous and mysterious case yet.

Curiosity about a murder that took place in an eighteenth-century folly draws father and daughter team Peter and Georgia Marsh to attend a summer gala in honour of Jane Austen at Stourdens, a fast decaying Georgian mansion in Kent. 

But instead of enjoying a literary day out, they are thrust into a tense situation rapidly approaching boiling point. Robert Luckhurst, the murdered former owner of Stourdens, was an avid collector of Jane Austen memorabilia, and his collection is thought to contain thrilling secrets about the novelist’s love life. Whether the Fettises, the new owners of both Stourdens and the collection, should reveal them or not is fiercely debated. 

It is a battle in which Peter and Georgia are caught up in their search for the truth about Luckhurst’s death – and a battle which pitches Georgia into danger as murder once again strikes at Stourdens …

Children of the Benares by Ralph Barker

Next, from retired RAF serviceman Ralph Barker comes this chronicle of the sinking of the SS City of Benares in 1940, a passenger liner carrying evacuee children that was sunk by a U-boat. Barker argues that the story goes further than this and reveals a scandal that has been covered up ever since. 

When the passenger liner SS City of Benares sailed from Liverpool on Friday, 13 September 1940 she was carrying 90 evacuee children from the bombed cities of Britain, bound under a government-sponsored scheme for a safe haven in Canada.

Her sinking by U-boat four days later, without warning, in total disregard of the plight of survivors and in defiance of international law, shocked and horrified the civilised world. Of 406 people on board 256 were lost — including, at a first count, 83 of the evacuee children.

In Britain and the Commonwealth the reaction was one of righteous indignation, accompanied by an intense desire for retribution. Nor was the propaganda value neglected, a broadcast by King George VI the day after the news broke being clearly directed at neutral America. ‘The world,’ he said, ‘could have no clearer proof of the wickedness against which we fight than this foul deed.’

Suspicions subsequently arose, however, that the British authorities had quite as much to answer for as the Nazis. Parents who, despite many misgivings, had entrusted their children to the scheme when invasion threatened, began to ask questions when they learned that the promised naval escort had abandoned the convoy twenty-one hours before the Benares was sunk. Allegations that crew members had rushed the boats, that emergency equipment had failed, and that the whole voyage had been undertaken under the blight of racial prejudice, demanded a formal investigation. But somehow this was avoided, and the scandal was successfully hushed up.

Children of the Benares is a vivid and poignant reconstruction of the disaster, as well as an investigation into what really happened behind the scenes at the Admiralty and the Ministry of Shipping. The result is a harrowing story of human fallibility and human survival.

Fighter Aces of World War II by Robert Jackson 

Robert Jackson has been praised for his accounts of the war in the skies. The New York Times has praised his ‘precise, controlled writing’ and noted his ‘valuable contribution to our knowledge of the air war’. In this book Jackson explores the careers of fourteen of the best fighter pilots in the Second World War. 

It is World War Two, and the battle for control of the skies is proving to be just as fierce as the battles raging on land. 

In this powerful account, Robert Jackson explores the true stories of fourteen top fighter pilots during the Second World War. The pilots, of various nationalities, have been carefully selected from hundreds of other distinguished fighter pilots due to their exemplary qualities which set them apart from the rest. 

They include Irish Wing Commander Paddy Finucane — the youngest person ever given command of a fighter wing; Japanese aviator Saburo Sakai, who survived a bullet to the skull in mid flight and returned to make his mission report before collapsing; and German Luftwaffe general Adolf Galland, credited with 104 aerial victories. 

The expertly narrated stories provide a powerful insight into the lives of the legendary fighter pilots, whose awe-inspiring achievements make Fighter Aces of World War II a must read for lovers of military aviation. 

The French Foreign Legion by Douglas Boyd 

Next Douglas Boyd discusses the French Foreign Legion, an army with soldiers drawn from across the world. 

What attracts men from 136 different nations to embrace the harsh military code of an army that requires them to lay down their lives for a country not their own, if ordered to do so by politicians whose language many of them hardly speak?

Founded in 1831 to fight France’s colonial wars without spilling French blood, this mysterious army is today a world-class fighting force. Training is so tough that five recruits out of six are rejected, never to wear the coveted white kepi. 

This is a world where fact exceeds the wildest fiction: men fighting literally to the last bullet at Camarón in Mexico in 1863; cooks and clerks with no parachute training volunteering to be dropped into beleaguered Dien Bien Phu in 1954 with the intention of dying beside their comrades; the paras who mutinied in Algeria to bring down the government of France; the heroes who dropped on Kolwezi to rescue thousands of European hostages. 

Douglas Boyd’s The French Foreign Legion explains the history and the aura, with fifteen historic photographs and eleven battle/campaign maps. Perhaps the greatest praise of the book is the fact that legionnaires liked this history of their incredible army so much that they elected author Douglas Boyd an honorary ex-legionnaire.

Of Virtue Rare by Linda Simon 

Finally, Linda Simon explores the life of one of the most influential women in English history, Lady Margaret Beaufort. She was the key architect of the Tudor dynasty, a dynasty whose legacy which still shapes Britain today.

Lady Margaret Beaufort, founder of the royal House of Tudor, was one of the most influential figures of medieval England.

A descendant of Edward III, she relinquished her own claim to the throne in favour of her son and shaped the course of history as she fashioned destiny for Henry Tudor and his offspring.

Last living grandchild of John of Gaunt, wife, widow, and mother by the age of fifteen, Margaret Beaufort survived the decades of bloodshed later romantically dubbed by historians as the Wars of the Roses; defeated Richard III; ousted the Yorkists from power; put her son on the throne; and united England through the marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York. 

Recognising that a dynasty is only as lasting as its successions, Lady Margaret then ensured Tudor endurance by taking in hand every detail of the royal household, from the young queen’s bedchamber during her confinements to the rearing of the royal grandchildren. The result was over 100 years of Tudor rule, the glorious Age of Elizabeth I, and the establishment of the nation states that were to dominate Western history for 300 years.

She was powerful, rich, and widely loved, but only by leading an exemplary life could she justify her existence to herself and expiate the sins of the violent world in which she lived. Her piety dictated that, just as one had to look over one’s shoulder, one must look inside the soul as well. 

Of Virtue Rare brings to life one of England’s great dynastic struggles and the central role in it of a mother with a driving ambition to see her son king. Fleshing out the shadowy figure of Margaret Beaufort, Linda Simon writes vividly of late Medieval Europe, its extraordinary people and events from Joan of Arc to the young Henry VIII. With contemporary folklore and culture as much as with historical documents, Simon re-creates the mixture of supernatural and mundane evident in fifteenth-century life.

Lots of history this week, another important history is that of colonialism and systematic racism so if you haven’t already please check out our blog on Black Lives Matter and how we can all address the issues protests around the world have raised. 

We’ll be back next week for another New Book Wednesday, stay safe! 

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