Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen

Here is a new and challenging appraisal of Norway, the author’s country of birth, that redefines its history, culture and heritage -‘after Ibsen – and looks, with a degree of ominous foreboding, at its future and the future of Europe.  Ex-diplomat and widely published author Jørgensen explores an array of topics, from Norway’s Viking pat, its pursuit of independence, the German occupation, its politics and cultural heritage, the defence of NATO, the relationship with Europe, and the challenge of Russia, concluding with ‘self-image and reality’.  In Northern Light, the author challenges many existing perceptions and stereotypes, making this an essetial reference for anyone interested in Norway and its people, international affairs, European history and its cultural legacy.

Back with another book by blog favourite Nils-Johan Jørgensen, Northern Light, much like his other nonfiction books, An Image of the Times and Four Days in January, is an insightful look at his chosen topic, which in this case is a well-rounded, authoritative insight into his country of birth. One that is not too well known on the international stage, especially considering the dramatics of other countries, but is nonetheless worthy of thorough investigation.

After the Vikings, and the discovery of America, the history books tend to go quiet when it comes to Norway, and Scandinavia in general, up until the second world war in the case of the UK education system.  This book allows for the discovery, or rediscovery, of Norway’s role in such diverse events as the Napoleonic Wars and its relationship with Russia, a nation whose shadow looms large with aggression over the whole arctic region.

A country of mystery with the Aurora Borealis, the picturesque fjords, as well as its international exploration, and being the so-called best place to live, there is so much more to uncover.  Not least its inhabitants attitudes of both isolationism yet at the same time the wish to embrace the world. Continue reading “Northern Light: Norway Past and Present, A Critical Analysis – Nils-Johan Jørgensen”

The Library Book

Whether brand new or steeped in history, real or imagined, libraries feature in everyone’s lives.  In memoirs, essays and stories that are funny, moving, visionary or insightful, twenty-three famous writers celebrate these places where minds open and the world expands.

Public libraries are lifelines, to practical information as well as to the imagination, but funding is under threat all over the country.  This book is published in support of libraries, with all royalties going to The Reading Agency’s library programmes.

Fetishes, a (natural) death, streakers, and the occasional ram raid by an old lady on a mobility scooter, libraries can sometimes be dramatic places to work, although in the main, peaceful citadels of book worship.  The Library Book, is a celebration of our best free institution, long may it continue.

As books of this nature usually are, this tome ends up being a mixed bag, my favourite essays were the personal reminiscences of libraries from writers such as, Susan Hill, Stephen Fry, Hardeep Singh Kohli, and Val McDermid, to name a few. Even so, many of these memories take on a similar vein and as such are probably best enjoyed over a lengthier time than the two days in which I flew through this book.

The insights featured are mainly focused on British libraries, which makes it as much of a nostalgia trip, as it is a quirky insight into our national character. There are plenty of interesting facts on offer too, for example, during World War Two, a disused tube station in Bethnal Green was turned into a library during the blitz so people could distract themselves with a good book.  Perhaps surprisingly the readers were most interested in Plato’s Republic, Burton’s the Anatomy of Melancholy, as well as Schopenhauer, Bunyan, and Bertrand Russell. Continue reading “The Library Book”

Library Lives

The day after I gathered my previous library pile (see last post), I went to my other local library to have a look at their collection.  The last time I visited was probably sometime during the late 80’s.  A lot had changed, the main theme – as across all libraries – being more space to manoeuvrer, and sadly as a consequence, less book choice.

It’s still incredible value to be able to take out mountains of literature with no cost whatsoever, and although many libraries have closed or at best contracted in recent years, I find myself extremely lucky to be able to source such quality books whenever I wish.

I took a punt on the books left and right (above), as I hadn’t heard of either but wanted to bulk out my pile.  When it came to the Barnes offering, again an author I haven’t read before but one I was at least aware of and have seen several bloggers cover before. Continue reading “Library Lives”

The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell

As soon as she arrives in Wellow, Polly Flint knows there is magic in the place. And she should know, because she is an unusual girl who can see things others can’t. She seems to be able to call up a village that had disappeared from the face of the earth – and the people who lived in it, as they slip in and out of time.

Helen Cresswell was a staple of my childhood back in the day, this book, and Moondial were both wonderful and their accompanying TV shows were just as compelling.  Not only did Helen Cresswell  create compelling stories but she was a local author, and set this story in the grounds of Rufford Abbey, a place I last went to last Christmas, and had at least three school trips to, as well.

The story is crammed full with so many wonderful ideas, especially for the minds of children. There is a feeling of history, tradition passed down – the inherent idea of magic that lurks behind so much of it – and of the weight of time and our participation in it.

Time plays a huge part in the book, both as a barrier, and a contributor to the sense of dislocation felt throughout, but also to the passing of days and the rhythm of the seasons. It seems as important for Polly to understand what isn’t there and exists, as it is to interpret what is present and can be seen. Continue reading “The Secret World of Polly Flint – Helen Cresswell”

Shining a Light on Things.

Recently, I had the good fortune to yet again be sent a book from blog favourite Nils-Johan Jørgensen.  Having commenced reading briefly (due to last week being the busiest week for the university), I’m already enjoying  this a great deal and learning a lot about Norway and its history, which can only be a good thing, I do hate to be uninformed.  Full review – and others – coming soon.

UK RED

Whilst helping students get sorted for their studies, I had the good fortune to stumble upon a great resource called UK RED, that will interest anybody who has a curiosity in reading, it’s history and the myriad contexts that make up the rich fabric of our cultural experience.

From the about page:

UK RED is an open-access database housed at The Open University containing over 30,000 easily searchable records documenting the history of reading in Britain from 1450 to 1945. Evidence of reading presented in UK RED is drawn from published and unpublished sources as diverse as diaries, commonplace books, memoirs, sociological surveys, and criminal court and prison records.

UK Red captures the literary experience as told by everyday readers.  The search options are comprehensive, covering century, socio-economic group, whether the source is from a reader, listener, or reading group.  It even goes so far as to check through translations, publishers, etc.  The choices allow the reader to go deep into history for study, or just for curiosity.  The room for context of a particular book to a specific group of people at a specific time (and also the changing opinions of society over time) can be fascinating.

Poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon spoke of her experiences reading Robinson Crusoe: Continue reading “UK RED”

Wholly Consistent Haul

last Sunday was Crissy’s birthday, and after e had lunch with my parents we hooked up with some good friends and ended up wandering around Southwell and having a look around the cathedral.  Disconcertingly, everyone noticed the books for sale at the back end of the building  before I did.

Unsurprisingly the books on offer all had a religious theme and most were of little interest to me, but I did manage to find a few books that tickled my fancy.  The technical side, so to speak, of faith really interests me, the arguments for and against, and three of those books fit the bill.

The fourth book has a wonderful title Modern Art and the Death of Culture, and of course its all doom and gloom hating on modern art whilst talking about the Christian way being the way forward as a potential to reverse the trend.  I think the premise is interesting and it sits forlornly on my work desk begging to be read as I go about my daytime work. Continue reading “Wholly Consistent Haul”