Friday, 12 January 2018

Blog Tour and Review: Beautiful Star and Other stories by Andrew Swanston



BEAUTIFUL STAR AND OTHER STORIES

If you take the coastal path from the Fife village of Elie to neighbouring St Monans you will come to the little church of St Monan, where at the back of the nave you will find a framed newspaper cutting from November 1875.  The cutting is of a letter to The Times from Sir Robert Anstruther, asking for donations to a fund set up for the families of the Fife fishermen lost in the storms that had recently swept the east coast of England and Scotland.  One of the boats in the fishing fleet, Beautiful Star, was on its maiden voyage.

When I first read Sir Robert’s letter, I was much taken with this story and determined to learn more about it. Little did I know then how much I would discover of the extraordinary way of life of Scottish herring fishers and their families before the advent of steam and of the total dependence of whole villages, and of the itinerants who ‘followed the fish’, on their fishing fleets.  Boat builders, coopers, sailmakers, merchants, net menders, fisher ‘lassies’ who gutted and packed the fish – all made their livings from the ‘silver darlings’.

Nor did I know that Beautiful Star would lead me to write the six stories that go with it to make up this collection and five (so far) other historical novels. A summer walk, a peek in the church and a newspaper cutting. Who would have thought it?

The stories of Jane Wenham (A Witch and a Bitch) and Eilmer (The Flying Monk) soon followed. Like Beautiful Star, I learnt of both by chance and thought they would reward further research. Try asking ten people when the first recorded, manned flight took place.  I bet not one will know, any more than I did before visiting Malmesbury. Likewise Lady Mary Bankes’s gallant defence of her Corfe home, related in The Castle, is a little-known tale of great courage and loyalty.

The separate stories – combined for this collection - of the English Button Seller and the French Drummer Boy at the battle of Waterloo I discovered when researching Waterloo:The Bravest Man, a fictionalised account of the defence of the chateau and farm at Hougoumont. Footnotes to history are often rich sources for the story-teller,

The fate of the magnificently named Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s flagship, HMS Association seemed to me worth telling because of the mystery that surrounded it and because it led directly to the solving of the problem of calculating longitude by the brilliant clockmaker John Harrison.

The Tree, finally, is the Boscobel oak in which Charles II hid after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester.  It is known that he was not alone but was there more than one other in that tree?  

All the stories combine fact and fiction, real characters and imaginary. They seek to entertain and inform.  I hope they do.

Thank you Andrew! Now to my review

History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it.

In Beautiful Star
This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.

Paperback, 256 pages
Expected publication: January 11th 2018 by The Dome Press
Historical fiction
For review

My thoughts
This book consists of a few novella/short stories. So yes I will review each one with a few short sentences then.

Beautiful Star
I think I liked this one the most *thinks about it* Most definitely. It is about a fishing village and how a new ship is being made. All while we as the reader know there will be a terrible storm. The devastation it caused since everyone relies on their families. It was sad and good and based on real people.

The flying Monk
Did you know that in the 11th century a monk named Eilmer tried to fly using wings? I sure did not! Omg, this guy needs a movie. Sure, sure, only monks in it, but still so interesting. Very cool.

HMS Association
A short one about a man being pressed into the war. Honestly people, listen to fishermen!

The Tree
Another short one about two men and a boy in a tree. Kind of like a nice little interlude.

The Castle
Another fascinating tale. Lady Mary Bankes held this castle against Parliamentarian forces and she would not give in. You go girl!

A witch and a bitch
The more I read the sadder I got. People are cruel. Sure she did not always make good choices, but the way people hounded on a woman alone and old. "My cow died. She is  a witch!" I really liked the granddaughter in this one.

The Button seller and the drummer boy.
I fear the one where I could muster the least bit of interest. Dunno why really. Since it did have promise.

Conclusion
These are people lost in the pages of history. I sure had not heard of any of them...well except for the obvious one. But I am glad I have now. Also, some would make awesome movies.


Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. 

Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration.  

Andrew’s novel, Incendium, was published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France.  

The Dome Press will publish Beautiful Star, a collection of short stories documenting a journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875. 


Beautiful Star - 11th January 2018 

History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it. In Beautiful Star, we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her granddaughter.  

This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875. 



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28 comments:

  1. Does sound like some interesting stories. I agree that a monk trying to fly with wings needs a movie.

    Melanie @ Hot Listens & Rabid Reads & Books of My Heart

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    1. And *coughs* make him hot *whistles*

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  2. it's a new one to me and I confess I usually stay away from novella except when there have some authors or series I follow closely

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  3. Aw Blodeuedd I sure hope this is available in the US because I'm all over a book like this. What a thoughtful excellent review!!!!

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  4. A nice post, thank you! If only I liked short stories...

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  5. It's always nice to learn something new and this sounds like a great collection.

    <a href="http://www.fwiwreviews.net/</a>

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  6. This is not my typical read but it sounds intriguing.

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  7. Sounds like a good mix of stories!

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  8. I like that these stories blend fact and fiction and have basis in real events. Sounds like an interesting, eclectic bunch of stories. Happy Friday!

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  9. So fascinating- I love history like this.

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  10. I have not heard of this one before but it sounds like it has some great stories.

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  11. Interesting post, and this sounds like a good collection. I'm not a big reader of short story collections, but I like historical fiction and tales of life at sea.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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    1. I like tales at sea too for some reason

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  12. "History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather than those who created it." — I love that quote, and it's so true!

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  13. I'm glad you had this book highlighted, it sounds like a great read! Short stories aren't normally my thing, but the blend of history and nautical caught me.

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