Traitor King by Andrew Lownie is an account of the events which followed Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne in 1936 to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Lownie puts forward a convincing case that the newly created Duke and Duchess of Windsor were not just fascist sympathisers but also actively colluded with the Nazi regime. Living in various luxury apartments in Paris and the Bahamas, the couple rarely returned to England in order to avoid paying income tax and were obsessed with their social status and keeping up the appearance of a successful happy marriage when the reality was very different. ‘Traitor King’ is a well-researched book drawing on extensive archives to produce a damning portrait of a truly appalling couple who had no redeeming features whatsoever. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Craig Brown
‘One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time’ by Craig Brown is not a biography which claims to reveal vast amounts of new information or insight about the most famous rock band of all time. As with his 2017 biography of Princess Margaret, Ma’am Darling, Brown favours an anecdotal format, tackling the band’s history from John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s early childhoods in 1940s Liverpool to the band’s split in 1970 across 150 short chapters rather than a straightforward linear narrative.
Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages by Jack Hartnell makes a convincing case against the widely held perception of the Middle Ages as a bloodthirsty and violent period of history where beliefs about medicine were guided primarily by superstition. Instead, the reality is shown to be very different in Hartnell’s examination of how medieval people experienced their physical selves. Each chapter of this lavishly illustrated book focuses on a different part of the body and explores their cultural significance and how medieval attitudes towards them were shaped by a range of influences.
Drawing on art, medicine, literature, science, politics, history, philosophy and much more, I think Hartnell sometimes tries to tackle too much here. The geographical range of sources spanning across Europe and the Middle East is impressive but the scope is so wide that it is a lot to grasp for non-expert readers, whereas I think those who are more knowledgeable about this period of history may find the analysis too thin in some areas. However, Hartnell’s evident passion for his subject is infectious and I think ‘Medieval Bodies’ could be a possible contender for the next Wellcome Book Prize longlist. Continue reading