I am an avid eclectic reader.
This is a story of Charles Dickens and his mistress Nelly Ternan. He was 45 and she 18 when they met in 1857. I almost got more interested in Claire Tomalin detective search for information about Nelly Ternan. Apparently both Ternan and Dickens destroyed most of the written material about themselves and lived in a discreet way. The divorce of the Dickens was shocking to Victorian England, so they kept a low profile. I found it interesting to note that a life in the theater (acting) was an unfavorable occupation and more so for women at the time, they were social outcasts and were thought of as whores. Things sure changed in the 20th and 21 century we put actors at the top of our society. Claire Tomalin did a great job trying to provide an accurate biography of the two but I am sure she had to do some speculation and deduction also. Wanda McCaddon did a good job of narrating the story. Tomalin's discussion of Dickens and his contemporaries was interesting as I had recently added to my wish list a book by Anthony Trollope, apparently he and Dickens were friends. Tomalin did a good job of bringing to life the era of the 1850s. If you enjoy literature and history you will enjoy this book.
It is obvious that Andrew Graham-Dixon has done a lot of research before writing this book. The book is well written and keeps one interested throughout the book. Graham-Dixon not only covers the life of Caravaggio but also provides the history of the catholic church and Italy during the life of the painter. This in-depth coverage made me feel as if I was there. Edoardo Ballerini did an excellent job with all the Italian names. Before reading this book I knew nothing about Caravaggio. Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio was born in Milan on 27 September 1571 and died 18 July 1610 in Porto Ercole. He studied in Milan then in his twenties moved to Rome. He apparently had no problems obtaining commissions but he had a violent temper and was frequently in brawls and in jail. His style of painting had a formative influence on the Baroque School of Painting. He created the style of shadows that make his pictures unique. Graham-Dixon explains each of his major paintings in depth about his technique as well as who hired him and how he worked on the painting. I liked the fact that Graham-Dixon explained the findings of other authors about Caravaggio and if there was new evidence on the subject he explained the findings. This was most evident in his discussion about Caravaggio killing a man in Rome and then his flight to Naples and eventually Malta. Of course, Caravaggio produced paintings in all the cities he visited during his flight. He thought his patron had obtained clearance from the Pope to return to Rome but Caravaggio caught a fever on his trip to Rome from Malta and died at Porto Ercole. I wanted to see some of his painting and I found the Caravaggio foundation has them available on the web. I came into this book knowing nothing but I now feel I have a good understanding of the man and the times he lived in. If you are interested in art or history I am sure you will enjoy this book.
This is a true story of Alexander Dumas's father, a General in the French Army during the French Revolution. General Alex Dumas was born in Saint Dominique (Haiti) of a black slave woman and a white French Marquis. The book does discuss some of the history of Haiti. I recently read a book "Island Beneath The Sea" by Isabel Allende that covers the history of the island. If this story of Dumas interest you at all the Allende book will also be informative. I found the information about equality during the revolution interesting, the blacks found freedom in France while the U.S. and England still were slave traders. Dumas goes from commanding 53,000 men to secure the Alps for France to Egypt to being imprisoned in Naples. His story is the bases of all the stories written by his son. I was fascinated by tales of his imprisonment and the medical treatment he received. If you are interested in history you also will find this a must read book. Tome Reiss did a great job documenting the story and Paul Michael did a good job narrating the book.