English Books

This England - - Contents -

Mrs. Guin­ness The Rise and Fall of Diana Mit­ford, the Thir­ties So­cialite

by Lyn­dsy Spence (History Press, £17.99) ISBN 9780-75095-9735


Mit­ford was both con­tro­ver­sial and cap­ti­vat­ing. As the third of the Mit­ford girls she be­came in­fa­mous for her sec­ond mar­riage to the leader of the Bri­tish Union of Fas­cists, Oswald Mosley, and her links — via her sis­ter Unity — to Hitler.

Once re­ferred to as “the most hated woman in Eng­land” Diana was im­pris­oned with Mosley for four years be­cause of their po­lit­i­cal be­liefs and as­so­ci­a­tions with the Nazi leader. This book charts Diana’s less com­pli­cated early life through the tu­mul­tuous years lead­ing to her in­car­cer­a­tion at Hol­loway.

As one of the Bright Young Things she daz­zled count­less suit­ors in­spir­ing artists and writ­ers with her grace, beauty and in­tel­li­gence. Win­ston Churchill, whose wife was a cousin of the Mit­fords, nick­named her “Di­na­mite” and, in 1929, she mar­ried Bryan Guin­ness, heir to the brew­ing dy­nasty. But, de­spite an ador­ing hus­band, chil­dren, wealth and a com­fort­able so­cial po­si­tion, she felt that her life was shal­low and empty. Her in­ter­est in pol­i­tics led to her meet­ing Mosley in 1932. This — and her blind, un­ques­tion­ing de­vo­tion to the man and his po­lit­i­cal ideals — proved to be fa­tal.

The cou­ple’s af­fair, mar­riage in 1936, and the hurt caused to their for­mer spouses and fam­i­lies re­sulted in Diana’s so­cial down­fall. All this was set against a back­drop of po­lit­i­cal up­heaval across Europe and a world on the brink of war.

Us­ing pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished first-hand ma­te­rial, the au­thor presents a por­trait of a woman whose ul­ti­mate choice in love and pol­i­tics made her a con­tentious fig­ure un­til her death in 2003.

(224pp, hard­back)

MRS. GUINES The Rise and Fall of Diana Mit­ford, the Thir­ties So­cialite is avail­able by post from This Eng­land. For fur­ther de­tails see page 75.


by Nick Baker (Bloomsbury, £25) ISBN 9781-47291-2077


of of our pop­u­la­tion is brought up in towns and knows rel­a­tively lit­tle about the coun­try­side. Help is at hand, how­ever, be­cause this ex­cel­lent and well-il­lus­trated book gives a su­perb in­sight into what we usu­ally miss on ru­ral out­ings.

Dif­fer­ent chap­ters cover birds, fish, mam­mals, rep­tiles, plants, am­phib­ians, in­sects and in­ver­te­brates. Help­ful hints and tips make this a most worth­while pub­li­ca­tion.

(352pp, pa­per­back)


by Robert Hutchin­son (Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, £20) ISBN 9780-29787-0180

Oneof the most mys­te­ri­ous and charis­matic char­ac­ters in history, Thomas Blood was in­volved with an at­tempted coup in Ire­land, plots to as­sas­si­nate King Charles II and an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to steal the Crown Jewels. Amaz­ingly, af­ter he had been taken to the king in chains, he some­how man­aged to es­cape ex­e­cu­tion, pos­si­bly be­cause roy­alty feared an upris­ing from his fol­low­ers.

There­after the for­mer Roy­al­ist turned Round­head turned Roy­al­ist again, acted as a spe­cial agent for the monar­chy although never far from con­tro­versy and even af­ter he was buried near St. James’s Park in 1680, was rein­terred to check if it was re­ally him.

(340pp, hard­back)

WILD RU­INS The ex­plorer’s guide to Bri­tain’s cas­tles, fol­lies, relics and re­mains

by Dave Hamil­ton (Wild Things, £16.99) ISBN 9781-91063-6022

The­lat­est in this splen­did se­ries cov­ers all the best prop­er­ties which have fallen into de­cay. Some are re­mote and re­quire a lengthy walk across bar­ren coun­try­side, no­tably Top Withens, the de­serted El­iz­a­bethan farm­house on the York­shire Moors which re­put­edly inspired Emily Brontë’s Wuther­ing Heights.

More than 250 ru­ins, rang­ing from crag-top cas­tles to crum­bling houses in hid­den forests, make this a su­perb ref­er­ence book for fam­ily trips.

(256pp, pa­per­back)

Un­less stated at the end of the re­view, books fea­tured on these pages are not avail­able di­rect from This Eng­land. For de­tails of books that can be or­dered from us, please see “Books by Post” on page 75.

HEATH ROBIN­SON ON TRAVEL (Am­ber­ley, £10) ISBN 9781-44564-5957


Heath Robin­son de­scribed him­self as hav­ing “A se­cret sat­is­fac­tion in be­ing con­sid­ered rather mad.” His wacky draw­ings are leg­endary and this de­light­ful col­lec­tion con­cen­trates on travel by road, sea and air. Although many of the car­toons ap­pear dated be­cause of the pe­riod in which they were cre­ated, some are fu­tur­is­tic. Although he lived un­til the end of the Sec­ond World War, many of his best cre­ations came be­tween 1914 and 1918 when he was par­tic­u­larly clever when pok­ing fun at the en­emy.

(98pp, pa­per­back)


by Tessa Ward­ley (Bloomsbury, £14.99) ISBN 9781-40818-7036

Theau­thor and her young fam­ily love play­ing in the great out­doors and this ex­cel­lent vol­ume, a se­quel to her River Book and Wood­land Book, is a splen­did guide for all those keen to ex­plore what na­ture has to of­fer. Whether it be down on the beach or trekking high in the hills, there is some­thing here for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing camp­ing un­der the stars. Other ac­tiv­i­ties men­tioned in­clude cheese rolling, was­sail­ing and may­pole danc­ing. Highly rec­om­mended.

(208pp, pa­per­back) FIRST LADY The Life and Wars of Cle­men­tine Churchill

by So­nia Pur­nell (Au­rum, £25) ISBN 9781-78131-3060


Churchill is widely re­garded as the out­stand­ing English­man of his gen­er­a­tion but be­hind him was a woman who sup­ported and cheered him up when things were look­ing bleak. This in-depth anal­y­sis of their mar­riage and wider fam­ily, chron­i­cles the ups and downs of their po­lit­i­cal and pri­vate life.

(392pp, hard­back)

FIRST LADY The Life and Wars of Cle­men­tine Churchill is avail­able by post from This Eng­land. For fur­ther de­tails see page 75. THROUGH THE YEAR WITH WIL­LIAM BOOTH

by Stephen J. Poxon (Monarch, £12.99) ISBN 9780-85721-6144


Booth of the Sal­va­tion Army packed more into his 83 years (1829-1912) then most peo­ple could in sev­eral life­times. Amaz­ingly, these 365 daily read­ings are as fresh and rel­e­vant as the day they were writ­ten. If you are look­ing for ser­mon il­lus­tra­tions or sim­ply an in­ter­est­ing short daily de­vo­tion, then you can do no bet­ter than ac­quire this splen­did vol­ume. Few peo­ple have had such an in­flu­ence on so­ci­ety as Booth and it is crys­tal clear from his writ­ings ex­actly how and why he was so well-re­spected by young and old, rich and poor, sin­ner and saint.

(380pp, hard­back)


by Mar­tyn Beard­s­ley (Am­ber­ley, £20) ISBN 9781-44561-9828

Ifyou would like to know what the Bat­tle of Waterloo was re­ally like then these first-hand ac­counts will tell you all about it. The deaf­en­ing roar of the can­nons, the cries of the in­jured and the dy­ing, and the hero­ism shown by both sides are de­scribed by those who ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­enced them.

(284pp, hard­back)


by Mary Gwynn (Ban­tam, £20) ISBN 9780-59307-5241


“From spam to sushi: How we’ve changed the way we eat” this is an ex­cel­lent ac­count of how meals have changed in re­cent decades. The ar­rival of frozen foods such as fishfin­gers caused the demise of some tinned-food com­pa­nies and other changes saw off names like An­gel De­light and Vesta cur­ries. Re­mem­ber them?

Il­lus­trated with ad­verts from 1955 on­wards this is pure unadul­ter­ated nos­tal­gia. Great!

(300pp, hard­back)

by Nigel Sharp

DUNKIRK LIT­TLE SHIPS (Am­ber­ley, £14.99) ISBN 9781-44564-7500

In­May 1940 a huge fleet of around 700 small boats helped 200 mil­i­tary ves­sels with the evac­u­a­tion from Dunkirk, res­cu­ing an as­ton­ish­ing 338,226 troops over the space of nine days. Where the big ships had to an­chor off­shore, how­ever, the lit­tle boats were able to go close in to the beaches where men were able to climb aboard. Many of the boats made sev­eral trips and more than 100 still sur­vive.

This mag­nif­i­cent book is packed full of colour pic­tures of many of those re­main­ing, some of which have made sev­eral com­mem­o­ra­tive trips back across the Chan­nel, plus the Queen’s Ju­bilee pro­ces­sion down the River Thames. A fine pub­li­ca­tion.

(96pp, pa­per­back) BRAD­SHAW AT THE SEA­SIDE Bri­tain’s Vic­to­rian Re­sorts by John Christo­pher and Camp­bell Mccutcheon (Am­ber­ley, £14.99) ISBN 9781-44564-3823

Thiswell-il­lus­trated book sum­marises Brad­shaw’s ac­count of ev­ery sea­side re­sort in Eng­land and Wales, ac­com­pa­nied by ex­cel­lent de­scrip­tions.

(96pp, pa­per­back)

In The Story of the Thames by An­drew Sar­gent we learn all about the long­est river wholly within Eng­land, and ar­guably the most im­por­tant be­cause it flows through our cap­i­tal city. Up­stream from Lon­don it is now used mainly by plea­sure craft but that was not al­ways the case and this read­able ac­count goes back to ear­li­est times in or­der to sat­isfy our cu­rios­ity about what is still a work­ing wa­ter­way. (Am­ber­ley, 222pp, pa­per­back, £20)

ISBN 9781-44564-6626

If you are in­ter­ested in walk­ing the length of the same river then you will be keen to ac­quire Thames Path by Joel New­ton. It con­tains 99 largescale walk­ing maps as well as guides to 98 towns and vil­lages along the way, in­clud­ing places to eat and stay. (Trail­blazer, 272pp, pa­per­back, £11.99)

ISBN 9781-90586-4645

Stay­ing afloat, Stu­art Fisher’s ad­mirable Guide to Bri­tain’s 50 Best Canals, is beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated with colour photos and maps and will have you pin­ing for a nar­row­boat to wend your way slowly around the coun­try. (Bloomsbury, 334pp, pa­per­back, £14.99)

ISBN 9781-47291-8529

An al­ter­na­tive to boating is hik­ing and if you are a hardy type then maybe the Lake Dis­trict will ap­peal in which case the latest re­print of Wain­wright’s Walk­ing Guide to the Lake Dis­trict Fells (Book 1: The Eastern Fells), might find a home on your book­shelf or in your anorak pocket. (Frances Lin­coln, 280pp, pa­per­back, £12.99)

ISBN 9780-71123-6288

Matthew Oates is a keen lep­i­dopter­ist who has spent a life­time wan­der­ing across peat bogs, chalk downs, hills, sea cliffs and any­where you can find our most glo­ri­ous in­sect. In Pur­suit of But­ter­flies is a re­sume of his many de­tailed di­aries. (Bloomsbury, 478pp, hard­back, £18.99)

ISBN 9781-47292-4506

We owe a great debt of grat­i­tude to all who serve in wartime and women are def­i­nitely in­cluded among their num­ber. To mark the 70th An­niver­sary of VE Day, Dun­can Bar­rett and Nuala Calvi have put to­gether a com­pi­la­tion of sev­eral ser­vice­women in a well-writ­ten book called The Girls Who Went to War. Sub­ti­tled “Hero­ism, Heartache and Hap­pi­ness in the Wartime Women’s Forces”, the reader must there­fore be pre­pared to hear about both tri­umph and tragedy. Dame Vera Lynn de­scribed it as “im­por­tant and in­spir­ing” and you can’t say fairer than that. (Harper Collins, 340pp, pa­per­back, £18.99)

ISBN 9781-47292-4506

Frank Binder was a distin­guished English aca­demic at Bonn Univer­sity from 1921 to 1933. A Jour­ney in Eng­land, edited by Michael Rines, cov­ers sev­eral English cathe­dral towns which formed the ba­sis of some of Binder’s many eru­dite lec­tures on his home coun­try be­fore he was ex­pelled by the Nazis. (Far­things, 222pp, pa­per­back, £11.50)

ISBN 9781-44660-6650

Pocket books are al­ways use­ful, es­pe­cially out­doors and Matt Sewell has come up with a dinky lit­tle vol­ume en­ti­tled Spot­ting and Jot­ting Guide — Our Bri­tish Birds. In­stead of the usual real-life paint­ings or photos, how­ever, he has drawn al­most 90 quirky coloured car­toons such as the one be­low of the Great Spot­ted Wood­pecker. (Ebury, 222pp, hard­back, £6.99)

ISBN 9780-09196-0001

Left: A wood­pecker feed­ing its young (see The Com­plete Nat­u­ral­ist).

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