Tag Archives: Fiction

Three Powerful Books for Holocaust Memorial Day

Books featuring the Holocaust, including legal history and personal accounts

Today marks Holocaust Memorial Day and, for as long as I can remember, this leads to annual news stories not just about commemorative events, but about the ignorance that a lot of us have around the Holocaust and everyone affected by it.

For a prime example, see the idiotic posers at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, called out by the brilliant Yolocaust web project, which has now been taken down after mixed but generally positive feedback.

Sadly, anti-Semitism has never totally disappeared. There have been reports of Holocaust survivors being abused in the street and, in a cruel modern twist, Jewish Twitter users being targeted and mercilessly trolled because of their religion and heritage. Even Google search results have been manipulated by the far-right.

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Brontë Country: Exploring the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth

Miniature book by Charlotte Bronte, 1830, held at Bronte Parsonage Museum, Yorkshire, in glass case

In 2017 it will be 170 years since three Yorkshire sisters exploded onto the literary scene with their debut novels. Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey are all classics, written under the same roof: the parsonage at Haworth, which is now the Bronte Parsonage Museum.

Anyone in search of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë will have this museum on their wish list. Over 7 million visitors have traipsed through the door, despite a dip in visitor numbers in 2015. This is why they keep coming.

Brontës in Haworth

The Brontë family lived in Haworth from 1820-1861, having moved from Thornton so Patrick Brontë, the head of the family, could take up his position as curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope. There were six Brontë children, but their mother Maria, followed by the two eldest children, Maria and Elizabeth, were all dead by 1825.

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Life Lessons from the Grazia Collective: Overcome Your Creative Barriers

August edition of Grazia UK magazine on marble table with candle

Last night, for the princely sum of £5 (plus free Prosecco, guys!), I joined a room full of other ambitious 20-somethings and 30-somethings to learn about the barriers blocking our creativity. The venue, Angela Hartnett’s Cafe Murano in Covent Garden, was the ideal backdrop to a Grazia Collective panel of talented women from across the literary board.

“Give yourself permission for the first draft to be rubbish.” Laura Jane Williams

This wasn’t an evening of airy motivation talks about releasing the novel inside us all (bleurgh), or patronising sermons on ‘how to live your best life’ (further bleurgh). It was aimed at any kind of creative woman who struggles to get their project off the ground, whether because of time constraints, work-life balance or the propensity to procrastinate.

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Poldark Filming Locations in Cornwall: Series 1 and 2

It’s not long now until Series 2 of Poldark hits our TV screens, bringing Winston Graham’s popular saga back into the forefront of our minds and making everyone long for a Cornish holiday (preferably with Aidan Turner, a.k.a. Ross Poldark, to feed us a cream tea).

Whilst a few of the filming locations fell outside Cornwall, I’m going to ignore those anomalies and focus on the gorgeous Cornish settings used to bring these local novels to life once again.

Bodmin Moor

Both St. Breward and Minions village were used for their stark landscapes. This created the perfect mood for Ross Poldark’s family home, Nampara, and for the views between Nampara and Ross’ cousin’s estate. The crossroads in Minions ramped up the cinematic quality of these scenes, as did the rising sun at St. Breward as the backdrop to a duel.

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Writing Reykjavík: Literature and the Iceland Writers Retreat

Iceland Geological plate site of Thingvellir and Althing historic parliament area beside lakes

Langt síðan við höfum sést means ‘long time no see’ in Icelandic; in 2016 it’ll be three years since I visited Iceland, so that phrase feels quite fitting. I don’t know where the three intervening years have gone, but I do know I spent a good portion of that time waxing lyrical about the other-worldly landscapes and the witty Reykjavík street art. The people were genuinely the friendliest I’ve ever met – for example, cashiers were rarely bothered about me paying the correct amount, a tour bus driver gave me an impromptu crash course in bird spotting, and fellow pub-goers sat down for a chat with genuine curiosity and warmth.

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Quick and Fun Things to Do Between Edinburgh Fringe Shows

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Posters on Board Near Gilded Balloon and Underbelly

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is nearly upon us for another year – where does the time go? In fact, time is all too precious when you’re at the Fringe, and it can feel as though you need to be a logistics expert to pack as much into your day as possible.

However, taking a breather in between shows doesn’t have to involve lurking in the nearest Starbucks. Those tiny bits of free time can be maximised by doing something fun, unusual and also cheap.

Dine student-style in Southside – 30 mins

Nearby venues: Underbelly Med Quad (V302), BBC@Potterow (V25), Assembly George Square Theatre (V8).

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South West England’s 2015 Hotspots

Docks and Painted Houses overlooking Bristol waterfront

2012 was all about London courtesy of the Olympics and the Golden Jubilee, whereas 2014 saw Yorkshire in the spotlight thanks to the Tour de France, resulting in a tourism boom that lasted long after the cyclists had left. As for 2015, I predict it’ll be South West England’s year. Here’s what you should aim to do when you visit the region.

Step Inside Wolf Hall at Montacute House, Barrington Court and Wells Cathedral, Somerset

The latest BBC period drama is based on Hilary Mantel’s hugely popular novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, which cover life at Henry VIII’s court for Thomas Cromwell and others close to the king. Historic locations across England, particularly in the South West, were used as backdrops to the program. Montacute House (open for the season from 3rd March) stands in for Greenwich Palace, with scenes shot here including jousting sequences and Anne Boleyn’s arrest. The house itself is Elizabethan and contains a series of Tudor and Elizabethan paintings loaned by London’s National Portrait Gallery. A whole generation of my ancestors used to work at Montacute so I’m particularly fond of it!

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Hunting for Second-Hand Books Around the World

Traditional Penguin books in a row

There’s nothing like the joy of finding a great pre-loved book – set me up in a branch of Oxfam or a car boot sale and I’m happy as a sandboy, browsing through the goods. I also find they make great souvenirs when I’m travelling (not so much souvenirs for other people, as not everyone appreciates a dog-eared Penguin classic when they were hoping for a nice fridge magnet). Over the last few years I’ve been on quite a few bookish adventures, and these are some of the best…

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The Grand Budapest Hotel: Tourism on Film

Who fancies a trip to the fictional state of Zubrowka, across several decades? You’ll need to bring an enthusiasm for stealing priceless paintings, an appetite for Mendl’s cakes (think pimped up Laduree macarons and you’re half way there) and an eyeliner pencil to draw on a false moustache like the lobby boy in the very best hotel Zubrowka has to offer. Oh, and a rich old lady clad in Fendi and Prada, if you know any.

No, I haven’t gone completely mad: I’m talking about Wes Anderson’s brilliant new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is an unashamedly quirky tale of tourism, family ties, money, murder and prison etiquette. I fell in love with the film at a recent screening, and I wanted to share some of its best travel-related talking points in more detail.

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Photo Essay: Vintage Fever at Plaza de Armas, Havana

Ok, so it’s time to focus on the kind of sights that drew me to visit Havana in the first place. Of course, I knew that the crumbling buildings in candy colours would appeal to my love of all things vintage, but one particular spot leapt out during my research: Plaza de Armas, a beautiful square lined with independent stalls selling all kinds of retro pieces, including a hefty amount of books. As a regular visitor to vintage fairs across the south of England, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find my own piece of kitsch in Cuba.

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