The books I am currently reading


I love books . . . I was a late reader, it wasn't until I was 10 did I pick up a book and read it all by myself.  From that point onwards I have not put one down.  I use to read a wide selection of novels . . . some of which I would like to forget as they were not very nice!  But like most naughty teenagers, I wanted to "find out" why I wasn't allow to read "those" books, by reading them.  Anyway, I grew out of novels and now mostly read non-fiction.  I am drawn to historical non-fiction, the lives of people past.  I am fascinated about the lives of others, how they lived, what they did, their choices in life, who they mingled with and how their lives have changed ours.

My choice of books may not be to everyone's taste, so I am always reluctant to recommend a book to others.  Not all my of selection are about Christians or missionaries or about people who led up-right lives, in fact some mostly certainly didn't. However, I still find their lives interesting and worth reading. 

A book I recently finished and most enjoyed was "Singled Out" by Virginia Nicholson.  By the end of World War I, two million British women became known as "The Surplus Women".  They either had lost loved ones (spouses, fiances, boyfriends) or could not find a husband due to the number of men  who had so tragically died during the war.  As a result most of these two million women never married. Some of the women were so heart-broken after loosing their future husband that they vowed never to marry and others simply couldn't find a husband within their own society. This books looks at their lives and how the war changed things so dramatically for them, some for the better, others for the worse.

Having so many single women changed British society.  Who was going to look after them . . . no one.  These women had little choice but to become independent women. The church wasn't there for them, their families couldn't support them for their entire life and there was no welfare system.  Only those from wealthier families could have some financial security. 

I hear so often the "evils" of feminist movement . . . however these women didn't become independent be choice but by necessity, and out of this necessity, the labour force and welfare system in Britain was forced to change. Some of these women did push for change . . . but for no evil purposes, simply so they could survive - the fight for equal pay and the need for the government to provide financial support to elderly spinsters.  Married men were not happy with these "spinsters" in the workforce, but there really wasn't any other choice, not for such a large number of women. 

I am not recommending this book to all, as some chapters cover topics that may not be areas of interest to some readers, however overall this is a very interesting part of British history.  This is not a feminist book, rather a historical examination of changes in British society as a direct result of war.


Lizzie Siddal (link) went from a working class girl to a super model.  If she lived today her face would be in every magazine. She was not beautiful as such, however she had a mass of red hair, and during the Victorian era, red hair was not fashionable until the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood discovered her working in a hat store.  She is best known as the model for Millias painting "Ophelia" and for being the love-interest for the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (whom she later married).  This book tracks her life from an unknown to a famous model. However it has no happy ending, as Lizzie, along with many Victorians was addicted to Laudanum and died at the age of 32.  If you aren't into art, then this book isn't for you.  If you are interested in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood then you might find this an interesting read.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, but I am a little arty!


What am I about to read . . . something very different.  I am about to start "The secret life of Bletchley Park: The WWII codebreaking centre and the men and women who worked there" (link) by Sinclair Mckay.  I have watched a number of documentaries on Bletchley Park and always fascinated by the code breakers, this book looks very promising.  I will let you know when I have finished it.   As you can see, I like diversity in my reading and tend to read quite a wide selection of non-fiction as these three books show. 

What types of books do you like to read?

What are you reading at the moment?



  1. These do sound very interesting - and I enjoyed reading your reviews, Jo! I wouldn't read them personally (I simply don't get enough time to read!), but they are on very interesting topics!
    Wouldn't there have been huge numbers of unmarried or widowed women in all the countries involved in the World Wars, not just Britain? I guess the movement of women into the work force and independence was on some kind of world-wide scale because of that.

  2. Clara - I read in my lunch hour, usually one chapter per day. It’s nice and quiet with no disruptions - in summer I sit outside in the garden and it just lovely!! Your lunch hour isn’t quite as quiet as mine!!

    Yes, across Europe there was a similar problem, in particular in Germany and France. However in Australia and the USA the problem was no way near as big due to the numbers lost. The author does cover this briefly. What was interesting in Britain was the number of middle class men that died in the war (the ranks were full of middle and upper class soldiers), compared to working class men. In fact some of these women could have married working class boys (as the shortage wasn’t as great among these men), but at the beginning of the 20th century women just didn’t marry under their class —so they chose a life of a single woman that crossing that “class barrier”. This class barrier may not have been as big an issue in Europe as it was in Britain.

  3. Jo, the third book sounds VERY interesting. During my school years particularly, but also since I have read hundreds of books from all points of view about WW2, so that book sounds fascinating to me. Let me know how it goes and if I should chase it at the library! =)

  4. thanks for these reviews Jo. I like to hear of "different" books and they sound interesting. Particularly 1 & 3 for me. Sadly, I am going through a period of very little reading but I am sure as my health improves I will get back to it. That seems strange doesn't it? You might think being unwell gives lots of time for reading but it has not since I sleep a lot and find it hard to concerntrate.

  5. Bets - will do, will be starting it in a day or two!

  6. Ruby - I completely understand - sick days do not make good reaading days at all for the very reason you gave, it is hard to focus. I tend to sleep more when I'm unwell. Praying that you will feel better soon and be able to read - I always feel a little empty when I'm not reading, as if a friend is missing.

  7. Jo, I've read the one on single women & agreed ~ very interesting indeed. I've also read a fair bit about the code~breakers in WWII so that will interest me as well ~ & yes, I know Lizzie too! ☺ Such interesting choices ~ & diversity is always the name of the game. ☺

  8. Ganeida - I got to the end of Lizzie's story last night and felt so sad. Her life with Rossetti was almost a Shakespearean tragedy – it really was doomed from the start. A woman who had so much going for her but brought down by opium. It isn't until you read her life (and that of the other models) do you look at these PRB paintings in a different light.

    As a teenager I loved Millias painting of "Ophelia", now that I now that Lizzie almost died modelling for it makes it even amazing.

  9. Jo- you do read the most interesting book- and I am always excited to see what you are reading and what movies you've watched. I too love historical stories- both fiction and non fiction. Right nuw I am reading - A Soldier's Wife- a story about the German occupation of the Gurnsey islands during World War 2. I think you'd like it--


Post a Comment