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Debutantes by Cora Harrison

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “It’s 1923 and London is a whirl of jazz, dancing and parties. And Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington are desperate to be part of it. Stuck in an enormous crumbling house in the country, with no money and no fashionable dresses, the excitement seems a lifetime away. Luckily the girls each have a secret ambition:

Rose – The Novelist

Poppy – The Jazz Musician

Daisy – The Film Director

Violet – The Perfect Debutante who will catch the eye of a Prince…”

REVIEW: I do still love to read some YA fiction every now and then, especially if it’s historical, as it keeps me interested without me having to think too hard like I do with uni books! The story of the four Derrington sisters is a fun and engaging story, simple and easy to read, although many parts of it often felt a little rush. The sisters, however, are all extremely relatable and the reader grows very fond of them; particularly Daisy, the sister through whom the story is focused. The idea of each sister having a different ambition – and very different personalities – allows many different kinds of reader to find a sister that they can relate to, giving the book a high level of accessibility to a wide range of teenage girls. The idea of the high society and a debutante ball is also something that will appeal to many teenage girls, and is something I myself still find fascinating and exciting – Harrison’s descriptions of such social scenes bought them vividly to life and made them all the more enjoyable. I would recommend this if you’re looking for a very light read, particularly if you enjoy YA fiction with a bit of history thrown in 🙂

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The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo

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RATING: 4.5/5

BLURB: “Part biography, part cultural history, The Creation of Anne Boleyn is a fascinating reconstruction of Anne’s life and an illuminating look at her afterlife in the popular imagination. Why is Anne so compelling? Why does she inspire such extreme reactions? And what really was the colour of her hair? And perhaps the most provocative question concerns Anne’s death, more than her life: how could Henry order the execution of his once beloved wife? Drawing on scholarship and popular culture, Bordo probes the complexities of one of history’s most infamous relationships and teases out the woman behind the myths.”

REVIEW: Considering that this book is essentially a book exploring the historiography of Anne Boleyn, and considering the fact that historiography is generally extremely dry, I was not expecting to fall in love with this book as much as I did. In exploring the myths surrounding Anne Boleyn from both during and after her lifetime, and looking closely at her portrayal in media and historical fiction/non-fiction, Bordo dispels many of the legends surrounding in a way that is sometimes ruthless, but always brilliantly researched and often highly amusing. Bordo says many of the things I have often thought myself about some of the portrayals of Anne in popular culture; particularly how she is portrayed in The Other Boleyn Girl, in which her brother George is also depicted terribly. I originally read this book as part of my dissertation research, not for enjoyment; but I found myself liking it so much that I read it too quickly to take notes, and had to go back and go over the relevant sections! I especially enjoyed reading of the interviews Bordo had with various actresses who have played Anne Boleyn, which shows us not only how they feel about Anne, but also how this influenced their enactment of the role. This book is highly informative, witty and brutally honest – and I loved every page. I would highly recommend it.

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Courtiers by Lucy Worsley

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RATING: 4/5

BLURB: “Ambitious and talented people flocked to become courtiers at Kensington Palace in search of power and prestige. But the palace was also full of skullduggery, politicking and secrets – successful courtiers needed level heads and cold hearts. From the Vice Chamberlain with many vies to Peter the Wild Boy, treated by the court as a pet, to the long list of discarded royal mistresses, Worsley throws new light on the dramatic lives of these eighteenth-century royal servants.”

REVIEW: In this book Worsley presents a fascinating insight into the inner workings of the Georgian court during the reigns of George I and George II, the estranged father and son who were far more alike in their rulings than either could ever have imagined. Worsley takes as her focus sixteen courtiers, who can be seen by the public in a beautiful painting by William Kent. This painting rests alongside the grand staircase at Kensington Palace, and depicts numerous figures including George II’s mistress Henrietta Howard, George I’s Turkish servant Mustapha, and the infamous Peter the Wild Boy, who turned up at court one day and found himself an instant sensation. Worsley makes case studies of each of these characters, and each of their individual stories tells us something not only about the Kings they served, but also about how the court was run. To be successful at court, each of these figures explored by Worsley makes their own sacrifices, fearing for their position and in terror of any scandal. This book is hugely entertaining and very informative, and ignited my interest in a great many Georgians that I hadn’t previously heard of or read much about – for example, Henrietta Howard, whom I shall definitely endeavour to learn more about. I would highly recommend this book, and would suggest that it might be particularly useful to someone who has previously not studied much on the Georgian court, as it gives an insight into a wide variety of people and allows us to see what their lives would have been like individually.