The Tudors according to Cromwell
Get caught up in the politics and drama - 16th Century style
Enter a world of politics, power, scandal and political spin-doctoring. Is the year 2013? No. England 1535. In Bring Up the Bodies, Mantel presents a dazzling journey back in time. Fans of the popular television series The Tudors will be familiar with this era of political turmoil, but Bring Up the Bodies does not travel that bodice-ripping, mistress-to-scaffold path. Main character Thomas Cromwell provides the lens through which readers see the ruin of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry XIII, and the rise of Jane Seymour, who is destined to become the king’s third wife. At the start of the story, Cromwell is the chief minister to the king, and as part of the royal entourage takes the reader inside palace walls to witness gossip, scandal, and the upheaval of religious and political change. Privy to all the intrigue, Cromwell carefully plots a chain of events that will permit the king an early exit from his marriage to Anne, who has failed to produce a male heir. At the same time, he creates an entrance into a relationship with Jane that must be carefully manipulated and presented to the nation.
This immersive tale has a large cast of characters with family trees whose historical roots are deep and tangled. Throughout, history blends easily with fiction as Mantel provokes the reader into blurring what is historically documented and what might have been. Bring Up the Bodies leads to the expected ending. After all, many of Henry’s wives had one thing in common — an early demise. But as Mantel writes, “There are no endings. If you think so you are deceived as to their nature. They are all beginnings.” The 2012 Man Booker Prize-winning Bring Up the Bodies can be a stand-alone summer read or better yet, the sequel to Wolf Hall, which earned Mantel the same prize in 2009. The much anticipated third book in the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, is yet to be released.
Bring Up the Bodies, HarperCollins Publishers, Toronto, 2012, softcover,
ISBN 978-1-55468-779-4, 411 pages, $24.99, harpercollins.ca
Anne Marie Landon, OCT, is a teacher with the Renfrew County Catholic DSB.
The Energy of Slaves
By Andrew Nikiforuk
Didn’t we free the slaves more than 150 years ago? Perhaps. But this new book describes a new slave economy, one in which we have enslaved millions of oil guzzling machines to do the work of the human slaves who drove the economies of the past. According to Nikiforuk, in North America, we are all living like ancient pharaohs, employing a gas-guzzling multitude of servants to feed, clothe, shelter, transport and amuse ourselves. But at what cost? That is the question the author tries to answer in this new and very provocative book. His conclusion is that the kind of energy servitude he describes must change dramatically if our world is to survive. It is most definitely time for “a global abolition movement.”
The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, D & M Publishers, Vancouver, 2012, hardcover,
ISBN 978-1-55365-978-5, 282 pages, $29.95, dmpibooks.com
Andrea Murik, OCT, is a secondary school teacher with the Grand Erie DSB in Brantford.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,
by Rachel Joyce
In this wonderfully written novel, the theme of enduring friendship is explored, capturing the deep desire in all of us to be loved and valued. Harold Fry is a retired man who has never done anything extraordinary in his life. But when he receives a letter by mail one morning from his former work colleague (whom he hasn’t seen for years) telling of her terminal illness, he feels compelled to do something remarkable. He begins walking from his home in the south of England to her hospice in the north. Along the way, he meets scores of people who prompt in him a desire to revisit the sorrows and disappointments of his own life — his spiritless marriage, his failure as a father and his longing to see his friend before she dies. This is a simple book with profound insights about connecting with life and finding redemption. Not fancy but deeply human.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Random House, New York, 2012, hardcover,
ISBN 978-0-8129-9329-5, 336 pages, US$25, randomhouse.com
Laurel van Dommelen, OCT, is the branch services supervisor at Sarnia Library.
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep
By David K. Randall
I’m so tired. I went to bed too late. Then I woke up several times in the night and got up early. Does that sound familiar? Of course it does because in conversational popularity, complaining about sleep is probably second only to talking about the weather. While everyone may talk about sleep, journalist David Randall has actually done something about it. After an alarming personal sleepwalking incident, he started investigating the science of sleep. Dreamland is the enlightening distillation of his exploration.
One conclusion he draws is that our way of life is increasingly at odds with our biology. Your great-grandmother could identify the ingredients of a proper sleep — a physically active day followed by a soothing evening and then about eight hours in a comfortable bed in a quiet, cool and very dark room. But given the pace, scheduling and demands of life in the brightly lit, 24-hour world we live in, this quintessential sleep is a faint hope for more and more people. That is particularly true for adolescents who don’t need any encouragement from digital devices to stay up late, and who are in fact, biologically programmed to sleep later in the morning.
Another conclusion: What we don’t know about sleep could fill a much larger book. While over time virtually all cultures have had religious or philosophical theories about the nature and meaning of sleep, real scientific research has been relatively recent. While we know that for optimal health we need to sleep and dream every night, we don’t yet thoroughly understand how this process works in our brains and bodies. What we do know is that limited or poor sleep has a major impact on all other parts of life including health, learning, social interaction, decision-making and public safety. “Health, sex, relationships, creativity, memories — all of these things that make us who we are depend on the hours we spend each night with our heads on the pillow… And yet sleep continues to be forgotten, overlooked and postponed.”
Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., New York, hardcover,
ISBN 978-0-393-08020-9, 304 pages, US$25.95, norton.com
Wendy Harris is the book reviews editor for Professionally Speaking.
The Emperor of Paris
By CS Richardson
This is a circuitous story of how the illiterate Octavio Notre-Dame and the frightened Isabeau Normande find love. Set during the Paris of the early 20th century, it is a poetic tale of a gift, a flood, a fire and men marching off to war, only to return broken in spirit and bones. Packed with finely crafted sentences and poignant prose, it entices the reader into all things French — the boulangeries, the boulevards, the bookshops and galleries.
Much like a fine French wine, the sparse, elegant prose is meant to be savoured, possibly over and over again. Because when you get to the end of the story, you realize it is also the beginning. And then you’ll be tempted to reread it. It’s that good.
The Emperor of Paris, W.W. Norton & Company Inc., New York, hardcover,
Doubleday Canada, Toronto, 2012, ISBN 978-0-385-67090-6, 288 pages, $25, randomhouse.ca
Cindy Matthews is a recently retired vice-principal in the Rosemount Family of Schools, including Section 23 sites, in Kitchener.
The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach
The Art of Fielding is more than a book about baseball, although that is the central metaphor for this melancholy coming-of-age story. Baseball is crucial to everything and everyone in the story — a repository for hopes, dreams and disappointments but also the exit ticket that so many of the characters strive for from their mundane, Midwestern lives. Harbach illustrates how a persistent ambition can overwhelm life itself, preventing a person from actually living. The Art of Fielding is Harbach’s first novel and distinguishes him as an author to watch. It is a book that will keep both fans of baseball and fans of good literature well entertained.
The Art of Fielding, Little, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2011, softcover,
D978-0-316-12667-0, 512 pages, US$14.99, hachettebookgroup.com
Jennifer Wyatt, OCT, is the junior school vice-principal and director of curriculum at The York School in Toronto.
By Susan Cain
Being quieter and more reserved, introverts are not very inclined to broadcast just who they are and what makes them tick — much less honk their own horns. However, given that Western culture has increasingly pushed introverts aside and is intent on celebrating their more showy opposites, it is high time that they stepped into the limelight and proclaimed what they have to offer to the world. This is the campaign that Susan Cain launches in her new book.
Cain begins her account by establishing that Western culture has increasingly adopted an extrovert ideal, in which louder, bolder, more effervescent individuals are valued over their quieter, more reserved and contemplative cousins. While Western culture has a long history of favouring the extrovert, Cain argues that this bias has deepened since the Industrial Revolution, and particularly in the past century, as the West has become ever-more urbanized and commercial.
Her argument focuses on the important tools introverts bring to many areas of society — their greater willingness to listen to the input of others, their more cautious temperaments, their heightened moral sense, their added thoughtfulness and capacity for independent work. But it is also true that their sensitive natures tend to make them more fragile than others and particularly susceptible to having their talents stifled. For this reason, Cain argues, it is especially important for parents and educators to know the best approaches when it comes to both raising and educating introverts. Cain touches on how introverts learn and work best, and she offers up some very good advice on how to accommodate them and nurture their quiet talents in the classroom. At the same time, she stresses the importance of challenging introverts to come out of their shells as much as they are able and to make their voices heard. Her work is very well researched and deeply insightful. As an introvert myself, the book was a revelation.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Broadway Paperbacks, New York, 2013, softcover,
ISBN 978-0-307-35215-6, 352 pages, US$18, broadwaypaperbacks.com
Aaron Thibeault, OCT, is an occasional teacher with the Toronto DSB.
By Julie Zauzmer with additional reporting by Xi Yu
Conning Harvard By Julie Zauzmer with additional reporting by Xi Yu
“It is hard to get into Harvard nowadays.” That is the understatement with which Julie Zauzmer starts her book. Yes, it is hard, very hard, but Adam Wheeler managed that feat and many more during the course of his elite university career. The book reads like a script for a Hollywood fraudster movie but it is a real-life tale focused on a young guy who conned the system and manipulated his way into the Ivy League school.
Wheeler had good, but unremarkable grades in high school. He was admitted into a college in Maine but soon showed signs of his later career as a con artist by submitting a famous poet’s work as his own and winning a student writing award. Two years later, he used fake documents to gain entrance to Harvard. Wheeler plagiarized his admissions essays and forged his transcripts. Not only that, he provided unbelievably good test scores — none of which were his own. Once he was admitted to Harvard, Wheeler submitted graduate dissertations found online so that he could ensure acing his undergraduate essays. What is really surprising is how often he copied work from Harvard professors themselves, and got away with it. Wheeler went to such lengths to cover his lies that after his eventual sentencing for college credential fraud (he was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison), mental health counselling was ordered. Zauzmer never goes into much detail about his psyche or possible emotional problems, leaving the reader wondering “Why?” The time Wheeler invested into concocting all his forgeries makes one wonder what this young man could actually have accomplished if he put his obvious talents to better use!
Conning Harvard provides a window into the private world of Ivy League school admissions offices. Keeping in mind that Wheeler’s deception was only caught late in the game when he started applying for prestigious graduate scholarships such as the Rhodes and Fulbright, you realize how close he came to getting away with it all.
Conning Harvard: Adam Wheeler, the Con Artist Who Faked His Way into the Ivy League, Lyons Press, Guilford, CT, 2012,
ISBN 978-0-7627-8002-0, hardcover, 240 pages, US$23.95, lyonspress.com
Mary Shaughnessy, OCT, is an adjunct instructor at Queen’s University in Kingston.