F Is for France
A Curious Cabinet of French Wonders
This alphabetical guide to the quirkier aspects of French life and culture ranges from absinthe to Zinedine Zidane, via cheese, garlic, sex and, of course, wine. It includes recipes (‘take a dozen frogs’ legs…), illustrations and curious facts rarely mentioned in regular guidebooks. Who knew, for example, that the French are addicted to McDonald’s, that the town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape has banned UFOs from landing, or that kangaroos roam the forests around Paris?
Plague, War, and Hellfire
The year 1666 saw England struck by numerous catastrophes, including a devastating outbreak of plague, the Great Fire of London and an intensification of the second Anglo-Dutch War. This colourful account of the fateful year (and events leading up to it) is peopled by actors, courtiers, politicians and scientists, including Samuel Pepys, Robert Hooke and Nell Gwynn, and evokes a nation in the grip of great artistic, social and scientific change.
The Untold Story of World War Two's Greatest Escape
The 'Warburg Wire Job' was an audacious escape plan by 40 British, Australian, New Zealand and South African POWs from Oflag VI-B in Warburg, Germany. With the camp lights fused, the prisoners laid scaling ladders constructed from bed boards over the high perimeter fence and 28 made it across. Mark Felton's history tells the story of the planning and execution of the breakout and the stories of the escapees' attempts to evade recapture and return home.
The Last Waltz
The Strauss Dynasty and Vienna
An empire was dying, but the band played on, reeling out one intoxicating waltz after another: Voices of Spring, Tales from the Vienna Woods, The Blue Danube… This absorbing narrative tells the story of the two Waltz Kings, Johann Strauss father and son, whose melodies beguiled Europe even as the family was riven with tension, jealousy and feuds, mirroring the dysfunction of the Austrian Empire as it danced and drank its way to catastrophe.
At War on the Gothic Line
Fighting in Italy, 1944–45
If much of the attention in Summer 1944 was on Normandy and the progress of the Allies through France, another enormous multinational army was also fighting doggedly further south and facing the last formidable barrier of German defensive positions, the Gothic Line, stretching from the Adriatic to the Mediterranean across mountainous northern Italy. This analysis of a year of fighting on the front tells the story through the varied experiences of 13 men and women from seven different countries.
Ted & I
A Brother's Memoir
Ted Hughes and his brother Gerald grew up in the Yorkshire countryside, pitching tents, making fires, fishing and hunting rabbits. In this touching memoir, Gerald records those carefree days, during which the love of nature that informed Ted's poetry was born. Further chapters reflect on the poet's marriage to Sylvia Plath, and the triumphs and tragedies of his later years. The book includes the author's sketches, family photographs and a foreword by Ted and Sylvia's daughter, Frieda Hughes.
Maeve Binchy (1939-2012) was one of Ireland's best-loved novelists, whose sympathetic but unflinchingly honest portrayal of small-town life won the loyalty of millions of readers. This bestselling biography offers a privileged insight into her life, against the backdrop of her favourite character: Ireland. It charts Binchy's progress from girlhood in Dalkey to international acclaim, and reveals how she came to question the narrow dogma that surrounded her and find her own path to success.
A Biography of the World's Greatest River
‘Without doubt the greatest and most influential river system in the world’, the Blue, White and lower Nile together are the subject of Robert Twigger’s idiosyncratic, discursive narrative. A resident of Cairo until recently, he combines personal experience of present-day Egypt with the history, geography and ‘stories red in tooth and claw’ of the river, from its elusive source to Mansoura in the delta, and from shifting tectonic plates in the mists of time to revolution in 2011.
The Victorian City
Everyday Life in Dickens' London
Much as Mr Micawber offered to guide the young David Copperfield, new to London, through 'the arcana of the Modern Babylon', Judith Flanders aims to explore the streets of the city as Dickens and his fellow Londoners experienced them. In four parts, the book covers travelling and working, markets, slums and food, street entertainments, nightlife and violence; and vividly describes every facet of city life from produce sellers arriving at dawn to prostitutes on the streets after dark.
The Spanish Armada
In a compelling, blow-by-blow narrative, Hutchinson follows the 125 ships sent by Philip II of Spain to invade Protestant England, and the response of Elizabeth I's navy. He describes the skirmishes in the Channel, actions at Calais and Gravelines, and the Armada's subsequent destruction on the Irish coast, but also explores less well-known aspects of the failed invasion – the lack of enthusiasm for the fight within England and the intense intelligence war. The appendices include orders of battle for both fleets.
The Ultimate Star
One of the grandest stars of the silent era, Gloria Swanson made a glorious comeback in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard in 1950, playing a faded movie queen. This biography considers her achievements in films, providing a template for stardom in Hollywood's early days, examines her private life and separates the real Gloria Swanson from the tragic Norma Desmond, with whom she will always be associated. Slightly off-mint.
The Scandalous Lives of Courtesans, Concubines, and Royal Mistresses
From the hetaerae of ancient Greece to the demimondaines of 19th-century France, professional mistresses enjoyed freedom and power unknown to most women. This book explores their colourful lives, including Ninon de L'Enclos, who accepted 50,000 crowns to spend the night with Cardinal Richelieu – then sent another courtesan in her place; Marie Duplessis, inspiration to Dumas and Verdi; and La Belle Otero, mistress of Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. Off-mint and felt-tip mark on upper trimmed edge.