Saturday, October 22, 2016

Globe Life in Shakespeare's London by Catherine Arnold

I enjoyed reading this fascinating book which describes the
times and life of William Shakespeare.  London was a bustling,
busy town during Tudor times and Shakespeare found his place
and popularity  as a well known playwright.   His success was not
always enthusiastically acclaimed as one writer referred to him
as shake-scene and was obviously at a loss to understand the
reason that people were flocking to see his plays.

Other playwrights and well known writers of the time are also
included in this book.  It certainly does give an understanding
of the development of theatre and plays in earlier times which in a
way was the beginnings of the mass audience crowd at a popular

Descriptions of the theatres are given, the professional and business
approach to theatres and the painstaking building of the initial theatres
and the losses often incurred.    Often people became jealous or for various
other reasons people wanted the theatres shut down and would complain
to the London authorities about them.  It may even have been because of
the narrow streets and people may have become encumbered walking down
the narrow alleys when horses and coaches were waiting outside the theatres.
There were also the puritans who wanted the theatres shut down and often in times
of plague the theatres were also shut down.  During one of these times of a plague
Shakespeare wrote some of his wonderful poetry.

The players and actors were very committed and passionate towards their cause.  Often
they needed patronage and at times their situation did seem grim.  This book tells the
story of the very early beginnings of theatre and plays and how the players initially
travelled to country homes to give entertainments and would receive food and board.
I loved reading this book as it is so full of interesting detail and fascinating anecdotes
about the life of Shakespeare and his associates.  It is a wonderful book and well recommended.


Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

Portrait of a Spy by Daniel Silva

This wonderful tale by the famed author of spy fiction weaves
magic and reality together.  I enjoyed reading this story of the Israeli
spy, Gabriel Allon and his glamorous wife, Chiara and also other members
of his team who stop terrorists in their tracks.  I am always amazed at how
prescient and contemporary Daniel Silva’s stories seem to be even though this
particular book was written seven years ago.

Following a complex trail of money and people Gabriel Allon and his team aided
by the assistance of a wealthy woman manage to infiltrate the terrorist mind-set
and also their network.
This is a compelling tale combining exotic locations of the desert of Saudi Arabia
and Dubai and beautiful windswept places on the Cornish coast of England.  London,
New York and Washington D.C. are also settings and it is fascinating to learn of the
intricate workings of the spy agencies. 

Gabriel Allon is also a fascinating character in his own right as he is a wonderful
art restorer and painter.  This aspect of his character is recognised in Portrait of a Spy,
where  as well as restoring noted art works he also paints a portrait of a beautiful woman.
However, events have often conspired to keep him away
from his favoured occupation and he is obliged to turn his hand to infiltrating the
terrorist networks and seeking out known terrorists.

This is another excellent book by Daniel Silva and I look forward to reading more of
the exploits of Gabriel Allon in other books.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino

This book of The Villa Girls is wonderful and a joy to read.  Nicky Pellegrino writes about life, beautiful landscapes and gardens, olive trees and celebrations.  The story involves four girls who become life-long friends and take their holidays together.
Rosie is alone in the world without a family and much of the story is about her interaction with Addolorata’s  family and Italian restaurant, Little Italy.  Rosie makes her own way in the world with a love of photography and works in this field in London.

On one of the holidays to Italy Rosie meets Enzo whose life evolves around his family’s estate of the olive trees.  This did seem to be a wonderful romance at the beginning but unfortunately life turned out differently at the time for Rosie and Enzo.

 I found the descriptions of the olive estate, the harvests, the celebrations, food and wine and family of Enzo, especially his Nonna  with her words of wisdom beautiful.  There was beauty in the olive groves and it was a life which seemed to be determined by the state of the trees and the weather.  However, at one time, Enzo’s grand-mother spoke to Enzo and told him to forget the trees for a moment and that if she had made him believe that the olive trees were the most important thing of all then she was sorry.  Nothing is more important than love.  Perhaps counsel such as this and wise words from his sister Concetta, may have made him see sense before he embarked on a marriage of convenience with a local woman, Maria Luisa, who saw him as a second best choice as her husband.

This story is well recommended and it is wonderful to read each new chapter with anticipation as the story unfolds.  The settings in London and also Italy with its winding little cobble stone lanes and pizza parlours, coffee shops  and pastries are quite beguiling.  Lovely descriptions of the scenery , the flowering gardens of fruit trees and blooms in the summertime, coastal roads, the villages, beaches of Triente and Amalfi  are also wonderful.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

Once again Daniel Silva has written a book which enthralls.  This book is very contemporary and the writer certainly keeps abreast of the political situation and world events almost as they are happening though this book was published in 2015.

It is almost uncanny the book seems so realistic.

Gabriel Allon, the Israeli spy, who is also a famous art restorer,  is sent on a mission with his colleague, Christopher Keller.  This is a wonderful story of beautiful landscapes and scenes in Vienna, England and Ireland.  Also of the beautiful island of Corsica, where Gabriel Allon renews his friendship with Christopher Keller, an Englishman who resides in his villa there but is induced to leave the island with Gabriel Allon.   They get on well together and work in unison as a team.  There are often traces of humour as well.

There are moments of sentimentality in the book as many past events come to the fore and it is often a revelation to understand the motives of the characters and the compelling reasons for the situations and actions in which they become involved.

 This book is very insightful and gives detailed descriptions of the workings of MI5 and MI6 in London.  Of course this book is fictional but seems very authentic when reading of the exploits of Gabriel Allon and Christopher Keller.  These two characters also featured in The English Girl by the same author.  This was also an enjoyable book to read and I have previously written a review of this book.

  There are several books in the series now of Gabriel Allon and his adventures in the spy genre.  The books which I have read are excellent and make compelling reading.  Gabriel has  a wife in Jerusalem and Christopher has his parents in London and this makes for fascinating reading as the reader also learns about their personal lives and private sorrows.  The characters in many ways are quite complex and the lifestyle which they lead would not be suited to many people.

Hope and good can often come out of a bad situation as the story unfolds and comes to its conclusion with its redemptive  qualities which are shown clearly in the end.  Christopher returns to his parents in London after a lengthy absence and Gabriel returns to his wife where she is expecting twins.


When in Rome by Nicky Pellegrino

This wonderful story set in Rome by Nicky Pelligrino is enjoyable reading.  I loved the descriptive writing of the streets of Rome. The fountains, the squares, the coffee bars and ice cream parlours.
This story of a woman, Seraphina, who was brought up in Rome with her three sisters by her mother is a fascinating tale where she eventually works in the Maria Lanza house-hold  and befriends his wife, Betty, during their stay in the villa in Rome, where the house-hold was based.

It is also  a tale of romance and the beauty of romantic meetings by the Trevi Fountain in the hot Rome sunshine with the cooling spray of the fountains and the tourists mingled and listened to the young street singers, including Seraphina’s sister, Carmela, who dreams of being a singer.  A charm of the story is the nostalgia of the setting in 1950’s Rome, which is described s as wonderful place to be during these years.

This story which is twinged with sadness regarding  Maria Lanza and his wife and their tribulations and troubles is also enhanced by the high points of the story with celebrations and happy holidays with the Lanza family.  This book is well recommended and seemed very authentic of the times and the people, the staff at the villa, Seraphina’s own family in Rome and the beauty of the times.

I have previously enjoyed reading The Gypsy Tearoom by Nicky Pellegrino which is also published under the title of Summer at the Villa Rosa and now look forward to reading another book by the same author, The Villa Girls.