Sacred Summits: A Climber’s Year – Peter Boardman

Sacred Summits: A Climber's Year - Peter Boardman
Sacred Summits: A Climber’s Year – Peter Boardman

Career mountaineer Peter Boardman‘s account of the three alpine-style climbs he completed in 1978/1979: South Face of the Carstenz Pyramid in the Snow Mountains of New Guinea, the North Ridge of Kangchenjunga without oxygen, and Gauri Sankar’s South Summit.

Lots of honest introspection about group dynamics and what drives men (and if I’ve one criticism of this book is that in places it shows its age in how women feature and are talked about) to obsess about getting to the tops of mountains, and how, for some, age mellows that obsession into a love of just being in the mountains and becomes more balanced with a love of family and friends.

Publisher’s page: Sacred Summits: A Climber’s Year – Peter Boardman

Golden Hill – Francis Spufford

Golden Hill - Francis SpuffordLeaving the Roman Empire on the cusp of change, Golden Hill brings me to the British American Colonies in 1746 – and the arrival of mysterious Mr Smith in New-York, where the city’s Dutch heritage is still strong and the sugar/slave trade profitable.

A modern take on the 18th century page turner, done in a day down in Walton – and with great pleasure.

Publisher page: Golden Hill – Francis Spufford

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome – Mary Beard

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary BeardMary Beard’s book on Rome’s first millennium took me a while to work through. Highly readable but dense with ideas and perspectives to think about. I found the first and last sections – on the early history of the town on the Tiber and the lives of “ordinary” people in Rome and beyond – the most interesting; the political history of the Republic and Emperors less so.

Publisher’s page: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome – Mary Beard


The Queen’s Sorrow – Suzannah Dunn

The Queen's Sorrow - Suzannah DunnFollowing straight on from Lady Jane Grey / Queen Jane The Lady of MisruleThe Queen’s Sorrow covers the first year of the reign of Queen Mary – her marriage to Philip II of Spain, her first phantom pregnancy, and England’s return to Catholicism 20 years after Henry VIII’s break with Rome and 6 years of pure Protestantism under Edward VI.

It’s an oblique telling, through the eyes of Spanish sundial-maker Raphael. Far from home and family, he finds himself lodging with an English family, the Kitsons, and becomes friends with their housekeeper, Cecily, and tries to befriend her four year old son, Nicholas.

A chance encounter with the Queen and a misunderstanding of her faith ultimately have terrible consequences.

Publisher’s page: The Queen’s Sorrow – Suzannah Dunn

The Lady of Misrule – Suzannah Dunn

The Lady of Misrule - Suzannah DunnAnother easy read as a break from SPQR. In this case, literally – larger font and wider spacing than Mary Beard’s book.

The Lady of Misrule is the story of sixteen year old Lady Jane Grey‘s 8 months in the Tower of London following the death of Edward VI and the accession of Queen Mary I. For 9 long summer days in between these two Tudor monarchs,  Lady Jane Grey was Engand’s first Queen, Queen Jane.

We’re shown the story through the eyes of Elizabeth Tilney, Lady Jane’s newly appointed Catholic lady-in-waiting. Also sixteen.

Each in their own way were victims of powerful men: Lady Jane Grey’s 9 days as Queen Jane were engineered to allow her father-in-law and Edward VI’s Lord President of the Council, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, to continue in power; Elizabeth Tilney, unwittingly (and I’d say fictitiously) pregnant by her father’s best friend.

Publisher’s page: The Lady of Misrule – Suzannah Dunn