Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Social realism and lion-tamers

The Lion Queen, Gibson & Co. Lithographers; Library if Congress, no known rights restrictions;    

‘Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.’
-Lewis Carroll

It's been a while since we've had a look at the books on Henry Wilkinson's prisoner of war reading list.  These are another five books of a variety of themes.

The Sea Hawk, Rafael Sabatini, published 1915, read 19 August 1918

Beginning in 1588, Sir Oliver Tressilian lives in Cornwall where he is betrothed to Rosamund Goldolphin. His brother, Lionel, kills Rosamund’s brother in a fight over a woman, but circumstances lead people to believe Oliver is the culprit, and Lionel does not correct them. Lionel then has Oliver kidnapped and he ends up a slave on a Spanish ship. When the ship is boarded by buccaneers, Oliver escapes his shackles and joins the men. He eventually makes his name as Sakr-el-Bahr, the Hawk of the Sea. A chance meeting with his original kidnapper gives Oliver the opportunity to take vengeance on his brother and try and win back Rosamund. (Summarised from Wikipedia)

The Star Dreamer, Agnes and Egerton Castle, published 1903, read 23 August 1918

The book begins with a detailed history of the house at the centre of the story, Bindon-Cheveral, in the Wiltshire countryside. The owner of the house, David Cheveral, is a recluse who spends his time watching the stars for his observatory tower. That is until the daughter of an alchemist, also living at the house, arrives and love pulls him from his solitude. (Summarised from The Spectator review)

The Weaker Vessel, EF Benson, published 1913, read 27 August 1918
Harry Whitaker has a talent for writing plays but begins to rely more and more on alcohol to make them great. The book is about the battle between a wife’s love and whisky’s inspiration.

EF [Edward Frederic] Benson wrote many novels but is most well-known for writing the Mapp and Lucia books, which were most recently adapted for television in 2014. He was also the younger brother of Arthur Christopher Benson who wrote the word’s to Land of Hope and Glory.  (Summarised from a review in the Liverpool Echo via

Simon the Jester, WJ Locke, published 1910, read 29 August 1918

Simon de Gex discovers he is ill and has 6 months to live. He disposes of his time and wealth to charity and good causes but then finds he is not going to die after all. He must once again find a life worth living. Summarised from several good reviews on Good Reads, the book’s other characters include Lola, a lion tamer and horse trainer, a Greek dwarf, and a fiancĂ© of ‘a thousand virtues’.

The book was made into a film in 1915 and Locke had many of his works adapted for stage and screen, including Ladies in Lavender in 2004 starring Judi Dench and Charles Dance.

The Splendid Idle Forties, Gertrude Atherton, published 1902, read 2 September 1918

It is difficult to find anything specifically about this book but it is part of what is known as the author’s California Series. Atherton wrote many of her stories about the social history of her home state of California. She is also considered an early feminist. (Summarised from Wikipedia)

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