Heartstone By C. J. Sansom

Heartstone is the 5th Mathew Shardlake mystery by Sansom.  Set in the summer of 1545, when Henry VIII is building up his maritime navy.  Queen Catherine Parr has an old lady servant who’s son dies mysteriously and who divulged to his mother a concern for a brother and sister who he used to tutor.  They have been made Wards of Court and are now living with their father’s business partner and family.
Shardlake is summoned by Queen Catherine to investigate the well being of the orphans. He travels with his man servant Barak to the Portsmouth area to investigate this legal case.  Many are travelling the same road as the King is building up forces in case of a French invasion.  Some of the travellers are the famous long bowmen archers and are very skilled.
Eventually they arrive at Hoyland Priory to investigate the welfare of the children.  The girl has died and there is only the boy to check on his welfare.  What has happened to his inheritance?
Great detail is gone into as to how the Wards of Court arose, how it was administered and what a money making racket it was.  Quite fascinating because it touches on the whole Bleak House, Charles Dickens characters who were Wards of Court.  An institution which went on for hundreds of years once it was established. 
The whole mystery ends with the sinking of the famous Mary Rose.
I enjoyed the history I learned about the Wards of Court.
I’ve only read two Mathew Sharlake mysteries, but enjoyed Dissolution more.


Loving Frank, By Nancy Horan

Loving Frank is of course is about a love affair. An illicit  love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick.

I had no idea that Frank Lloyd Wright was such a bounder.  You see books of his architecture and visit his houses, you see interviews of him on TV and you haven’t a clue of what he was really like.  I think this book gives you some idea.  Frank Lloyd Wright was egotistical and self centered. But maybe those very traits produced his wonderful eye riveting architecture, but in human relationships led to a lot of broken hearts and grief.

Edward Cheney commissions Frank to build him a house in the Chicago suburbs.  Mamah, wife and mother of his two children, is somewhat bored with her life.  The youngest child who has done well for herself, who’s sister lives with them and has a housekeeper too, really does not have too much to do.  She is an intellectual and is interested in philosophies of the day, including Ellen Kaye the Swedish feminist.  Edward is good, loving and to her boring.

She starts an affair with Frank, eventually they both leave their respective partners under a great cloud of scandal in 1907-1914 era and cruise to Europe where they take up residency in Italy.  Here although a free thinking Mamah has to conform to Frank’s idea of the traditional wife, although not married, because Frank’s wife will not give him a divorce.  She must take second fiddle to his creative time and desire, he must shine, she must support him.

Eventually they go back to Frank’s hometown and he starts to build a beautiful house on the family property, Taliesen in Wisconsin.  He recruits local builders and artisans to carry out his every whim of creation.  It is a showpiece it is their house, it is beautiful.

It is at this time that Mamah starts to see Frank in his more narrow aspect of pettiness.  His buying of expensive furniture, when he hasn’t even paid the local lumber store, his workers, or the grocery bills.  Frank feels it is his unalienable right to be surrounded by beauty,even luxuriousness, never mind that the local carpenter is not paid.

Frank is away on other projects and all the trades people, and that is how Frank views them “Trades People”  not an artist, creative person that he is.  Mamah has to take things in hand and start the mundane every day life of paying these huge debts.  A new side of Frank is revealed to her.

She has left everything for Frank and is willing to make a go of it, especially since here children have now been allowed to visit her.  At this point a terrible tragedy happens.  All lives of the people involved are burnt up in fire, except for Frank, who seems to come through in an asbestos suite.  To live in the house of his creative dreams with a new love.

Read the book it’s quite riveting.


Dissolution, By C. J. Sansom

I read this book back in March, it was on my Inaugural World Book List from the UK.
Dissolution is a mystery set in the time of Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Catholic monasteries (1536 – 1540) The main character is Mathew Shardlake, a lawyer and hunchback, who is commissioned by Cromwell to investigate the murder of one of his agents sent to St. Donatus of Scarsea, to make an assessment of the monastery with a view to closing it down.
Mathew Shardlake with his young assistant travel the long arduous route, to be received with coldness and surrounded by suspicion.  Why is there a young girl working in the apothecary?  Who will be the next victim?
The setting of the south-east marshlands of England both lonely, isolated with creeping mists is an ideal setting for intrigue and murder at a Benedictine Cloister.
Dissolution is wonderfully rich in historical detail, also architectural detail of how a monastery would be laid out and the everyday routine of the monks.  The Latin terminology of the different rooms, their clothing and life all add to the richness of text.
I enjoyed this historical mystery and will read more of C. J. Sansom’s books.

Knitting In Tuscany, by Nicky Epstein

A long while ago I said that I would include some craft books in my reviews.

Well here is a lovely knitting book by Nicky Epstein.  I personally am not a knitter but who could not resist the thought of knitting in Tuscany, one is quite green with envy just thinking about it.

The presentation is of course total eye candy, one is taken to little yarn shops in tucked away places, along with little restuarants to eat at.  Some history of yarn and knitting in Tuscany along with the little hillside towns to visit. 

You will love this book and if you’re a knitter I’m sure it will give you even more practical joy.


High Wages. by Dorothy Whipple

I got this book from the library, it came all the way from the Oswego Lake Library, doesn’t that conjure up some rather picturesque images in your mind.

Actually one year when Rob was about eight we took a trip up to Canada, past the One Thousand Island in the St. Lawrence River.  We camped at a State Park campground on this Lake Oswego, in New York State.  It was a very nice campground, with some sites right on a sandy beach by the lake.  Quite sort after I’m sure.

High Wages set before and after the WWI  Is about a young girl Jane who works in a haberdashery, that’s where people would come and buy all the things they would need and then send to the dress maker to have a costume made up.  It gives a full picture into the life of a shop girl in Lancashire then, living on the premises and being over frugally kept by the shop owner.

This was the time when ready made dresses and clothes were just becoming available.  Jane sees that this will catch on and dressmakers will be a thing of the past.  A kindly benefactress lends her the money to set up a shop of her own.

There are two love interests.  The ever faithful Wilfred and Noel, good looking and from the upper class. 

Of course the class system of that era was very strong and it comes out in all it’s vagaries in this book.

I did enjoy this book, it gives you a wonderful insight into a shop girls life then, moves along at a good pace and has a satisfactory ending.

Of course you could probably tell by the grey cover and inside frontispiece that this is a Persephone Book.  I always love their face cover designs which they choose from the era of the book.

There is a forward by Jane Brockett.