King of the Blind

King of the Blind ISBN: 9780980689488 Matrayah Media, 2018 Australia, written by Caiseal Mor.

The author opens his tale with a few words from a very wise old man who once told him there was “a way to avoid all of the trials and tribulations of mortal existence. Those who know this secret are always merry and forever blessed with good fortune. They are well-loved and welcomed.” He further instructed that “if you carry a pocketful of this magic ingredient with you, you’ll never go hungry and you’ll never want for laughter, music and good company. The secret that unlocks all these wonders is a simple one. Gratitude.” The author further states “This is the story of a man who learned how to be grateful.”

The tale then is presented of Turlough O’Carolan, purportedly the most famous of harp players of the 1700’s, an era when such travelling entertainers were much in demand. Actually, this is a story within a story as told by Turlough’s faithful servant who had accompanied him on his travels for many years. It includes quite precise descriptions of the devastating stages and effects of the often encountered Small Pox disease which had blinded Turlough; quite complete descriptions of various houses and dress of the day; Harps of the time compared with more modern versions; the gradually increased influence of music from the continent; the Irish involvement in many insurrections; involvement of the ‘Good People’ who only the English would designate as ‘Fairies’; and more.

Discussion: This is a charming Irish tale replete with whisky, blarney-tinged facts, stories hinting of the fallacies of Bonnie Prince Charles and his battlefield inadequacies as well as those of other Kings; the inter-relationship of the King’s soldiers and the rebellious Irishmen; humor; music and a romance of sorts. All contained in a tale which takes too much time ‘in the telling’. However, if it were shortened, it wouldn’t be an Irish tale.

5* Charming blarney tinted tale of music, mirth, history, romance.

Seeds of Slavery

Seeds of Slavery ISBN: 9781733303323 Abura Publishing copyright and written by Joseph F. Baiden.

This is a novel based upon many true events that frequently occurred and re-occurred during the days of slavery. The plot follows a number of individuals as they proceed through their various parts in this tale of the nefarious trade. It opens by introducing one of the intended slave buyers. He is a London brothel owner, on board a ship headed for the Gold Coast of Africa where he kills his partner in the intended action during an altercation. The ensuing activity describes: His subsequent actions to bring a cargo of slaves to America – attainment of a new partner, involvement with the British Governor of the African nation through whom he is provided sub-contractors along with his further activities. The sub-contractors’ long standing joint relationship is provided along with development and consequences of their actions and their effect on the overall plot. Another sub-plot follows the relationship of a man and woman of interior Africa who are in an illicit relationship by which they are caught-up in the slaving activity. Then there is a ship captain who strictly adheres to the rules of the sea as they apply to others but not himself, a first mate who is uncertain in his position, a second totally inefficient second mate, numerous other shipmates, slaves and assorted other characters. The plot slowly follows these numerous characters through to the volume’s end which is where it began – at sea.

Discussion: In spite of the rather rambling nature of this journey, a reader finds a certain amount of fascination in the characters as they stumble through their individual parts. And even the book’s ending makes one wonder what will have happened to them since termination of this volume.

4* Activities of an assembled group of disparate, but often somewhat alike characters.

White Australia has a Black History

White Australia has a Black History. Barbara Miller Books copyright and written by Barbara Miller.

The author has set forth a monumental production examining injustice perpetrated upon an indigenous people. In her exhaustive examination of the basics upon which the moves were initiated and the manner in which they constantly were re-initiated and enforced she has presented a quite scholarly work supported by a large number of references as well as a hundred and ninety pertinent end-notes. Truly a remarkable accomplishment that does indeed show a dark history of disdain for the rights of individuals. It also is a tribute to William Cooper and the many others that attempted to regain not only the aboriginals land but their self-respect. The government’s demonstration of utter disdain is so reminiscent of that of the United States and its rough shod over-ride of the American Indian by their false treaties and promises, and the resulting “Trail of Tears”, the massacres and more. These quite parallel situations bring to mind a most interesting situation extant in each country – a basic and undying pride in their heritage demonstrated by an Australian woman and an American Indian man. Both often have been criticized for their early actions when others were immersed in the struggle for their people. Again simply demonstrating a somewhat similar lack of understanding with little knowledge of a situation and similarly lacking empathy. Isn’t it often said the “Everyone should have a dream to pursue and the more dire one’s circumstances, the greater the need for that dream”? And after the younger age at which they forged ahead with their dreams, both later returned to their roots with pride and proceeded to provide extensive help for their people.

The young Australian woman was Evonne Goolagong, daughter of a locally famous athlete mother who persisted in urging on her daughter, who became one of tennis’ multi-winning champions, including Wimbledon, in the 1970’s – 80’s. The young Indian was Billy Mills, the Oglala Sioux boy who against all odds gained the 1964 Olympic Gold Medal following a dream implanted by a desperate father in the mind of a grieving 8-year-old who had just lost his mother.

Discussion: Thus to reiterate, the author has provided a well-documented, exhaustive history of the manner in which still another group of indigenous people have been severely mistreated. Her extensive research has set forth and examined in detail each abominable act and has provided more than ample supportive data. It is a treasure trove of indisputable fact. The almost overwhelming detail leaves no space for any type of denial. Regrettably however, this makes movement through the material quite slow so readers, other than those interested in the many unacceptable actions perpetrated by governments, may find this to be somewhat of a deterrent to acquiring this fascinating material.

3* 5* Comprehensive expose; regrettable caveat for many readers.

Hope of Ages Past

      Hope of Ages Past ISBN: 9780999881101, an e-book 1st edition 2018 by Zeno Publishing written by Bruce Gardner.

The author has presented “An Epic Novel of Enduring Faith, Love, and the Thirty Years War” fought in Germany between the newly advancing members of the Lutheran faith and the proponents of the long-established Catholic church. The story’s protagonist, around whom part of the story centers is Peter Erhart as he follows a calling to the ministry rather than following his father’ desires to have him be an accountant. The young man first becomes an assistant Lutheran pastor and with training from his particularly gracious mentor a seemingly gifted orator gradually ascending in position. The second protagonist sharing the trials and tribulations of the horrendous conflict and resultant chaos is Anna Ritter, a peasant girl who falls hopelessly in love with Peter, although he is married to the lovely Ursula, the mother of his two small children. Most of the early action takes place in the wealthy trade center of Magdeburg and the surrounding area and gradually shifts to Leipzig. The tale is a brutal account of the destruction of Magdeburg and the results thereof as affecting all of its citizens and particularly Peter, Anna and their immediate families followed by their subsequent activities as they continue on to again meet in Leipzig.

Discussion: This is a book of historical fiction featuring fictitious protagonists but populated additionally by numerous historical figures. The whole has been rendered into a highly readable account of the actions of individuals under the most devastating circumstances. The prose appropriately and graphically descriptive, the characters easily acceptable and empathetic and the horrendous actions taken in the name of religious faith almost impossible to understand, as are some of the Godly reactions of ‘true believers’. For any person interested in this rarely described era, this is a scholarly book, written in an interestingly manner about a rarely illuminated era in history that is a MUST READ.

5* Must read historical novel.

The Winter Sisters

The Winter Sisters: A Novel ISBN: 9780984974894 QW Publishers, Copyright and written by Tim Westover.

The story opens with a prologue set in 1811 that introduces the three Winter Sisters – Rebecca, the oldest, Sarah and Effie the youngest. They are ‘healers’, taught by their now deceased mother, well known for their abilities by residents of the nearby town of Lawrenceville and the surrounding area of Georgia. Raised in Hope Hollow in which the mother had settled long before the town existed, they had moved to town, largely because of Rebecca’s association with one of the town’s inhabitants and lived there for some time until driven out by a ‘fire breathing’ minister who had incited the townspeople to riot against these ‘devil’s advocates and witches who produced their cures through potions and other demon-directed methods’. In the resulting action, the man with whom Rebecca related was badly burned and even Effie, the youngest who did appear to have some manner of occult power, could or would not save him (causing something of a rift in her relationship with Rebecca). The sick, if still desperate enough, still followed them when they returned to Hope Hollow, but now were threatened on the journey by a rabid panther that roamed the forest. An animal that the minister insisted was the Devil’s own creation serving the desires of these witches. Because of the new difficulty encountered by the sick and infirm residents, the Mayor persuades Dr. Aubrey Waycross, an urban hospital trained physician to move there. The story gradually unfolds as Waycross arrives with his training of the day that still embraced Galen and Hippocrates. This consisted of using lancets, emetics, enemas and blistering agents, with bloodletting when called for, as well as other treatments obvious to the names of the agents employed. Thus, his practice vies with the herbal and holistic approach as developed to that time because he sees their results effective in many instances. So, simultaneously he attempts to combine the two approaches as he also becomes enamored of Rebecca. During the development of the plot, the characters of each of the three sisters proceed along quite different lines that aid in its development and a number of supporting characters including a travelling medicine man, the minister, and several other town characters, also provide different aspects of the story.

Discussion: The author has set forth a fascinating description of medicine as it existed, and was practiced, in rural (often to a degree urban as well) areas and populations of the era. As such, the tale is well worth reading. Unfortunately, a number of hiccups occur in recounting the tale. Most prominent, from this reader’s perspective, is difficulty attempting to define and empathize with the main characters. Waycross’ activities frequently appear quite thoughtless, even at times ridiculous; Rebecca appears to act in accord with her position in that place and time, but still is rather wraith-like in presenting a persona; Effie is even more of a wraith as she wanders about with her apparent occult power, and her ultimate close relationship with Thumb, a typical medicine man, seemingly unpredictable; Thumb, in turn offers his share of question marks; Sarah is a ‘loose cannon’ wandering around; Other, supporting characters also provide interesting, often amusing additions to the story. The ending, at least for this reader, was abrupt, somewhat inexplicable and unfulfilling.

Summary: A look at the practice of medicine in the 1800’s, perhaps particularly of interest at this time because of the surging interest among patients and even physicians in the holistic approach to treatment.

4* Special interest for current holistic medicine interest; hiccups as noted.

The Chosen Man

The Chosen Man ISBN: 9781942756057 Penmore Press LLC, an adventure/Romance copyright 2015 and written by J. G. Harlond.

Time and Place: The first half of the seventeenth century was a period of intense political and religious intrigue. The Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand had vowed to impose Catholicism throughout the empire before his death and was harrying the Spanish monarch, Don Felipe, to regain the Netherlands. Cardinal Richelieu of France signed a treaty with the Dutch, and French ships raided the Spanish galleons as they brought supplies to their troops as they attempted to regain the lost terrain. The Vatican aligned with the side espousing Catholicism, of course, and wide-ranging attacks by the Mediterranean corsairs known as Turks in such places as Cornwall estates in England for plunder and slaves was a constant concern throughout Europe.

Plot: John Hawthorne, a somewhat frail English priest is given the assignment by a conniving Cardinal of the Vatican aligned with Spanish Noblemen to make an offer to the “chosen man” to manipulate the tulip market in Holland so it eventually would collapse. The underlying idea was to take advantage of the “Tulip Mania’ affecting the country by undermining the country’s monetary system, thus a need to curtail funds for continuing war with Spain. “In the 1636 tulip bulbs in Holland were weighed on ‘goldsmiths’ weights but many of the bulbs were worth more than their weight in gold. One Dutch merchant paid 6,650 guilders for a dozen bulbs at a time when 300 guilders would have kept an entire family for a whole year.” The priest finds the ‘chosen’ Ludovico da Portovenere, a large, handsome, competent, purported Genoese Merchant who also appeared to have an unexplained working relationship with the Mediterranean corsairs. The story develops following Ludo’s activities but simultaneously rather equally interspersed with those of several others: Marcos Alexendro, son of a Spanish tavern keeper with ideas and hopes of upward mobility beyond his present station in life; Alina, the oldest daughter of a deceased mother and still living Spanish Grandee father impoverished by his constant attempts to continue court life, has dreams of romantic rescue and return to the life she had known; Sir Geoffrey, owner of the large estate, Crimphele in Cornwall England; Thomas, frail son and close friend of John Hawthorne since childhood who inherits the land. Additional interesting characters that contribute variously to the story include: Crook-back Aggie, the estate’s hunchback (?) cook who has occult powers; Meg, a young maid: Molly, another and sometimes caretaker of the young heir-apparent to the estate with her husband; McNab, the estate’s hired controller who had a hidden dark background and numerous nefarious plans; Elsa, a wealthy widow now enamored of the tulip market, as well as Ludo; and even more characters with still lesser influence on the plot, or rather intermingled plots.

Discussion: This is a tale consisting actually of quite complicatedly interwoven plots with a large number of characters. They are wrapped together in a manner that provides details of a most fascinating occurrence in history in just as fascinating and chaotic period of world turmoil. If the prospective reader is interested if fictionalized history with action and romance thrown in, this book is for you.

5* For readers as designated.