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Gillian Tindall is well known for her ability to breathe a passionate life into the generations of those who have walked the earth before us. Here, using a handful of lives, she evokes the texture and atmosphere of a hidden Paris which has survived against all the odds of time and chance. Her study shows how Paris has drawn into its magnetic field people who have variously found there education or enlightenment, a refuge or a secret garden, even a different identity.
Five individuals, all related in some way, reveal a web of human feeling and experiences across two centuries. There is the young doctor who walked from Edinburgh to Paris at the time of Napoleon's downfall; the self-made Victorian businessman who traded with the brash capital of the Second Empire; his reserved son who found in the old stones of Paris a refuge from his fraught childhood; Maud, the archetypal English spinster, who somehow managed to construct an alternatative experience in Paris; and Julia , young and desperate, who found her own unlikely salvation there in a very different era.
Gillian Tindall brings Paris alive - whether it's the network of streets that form the Left Bank, the resonance of 'Bohemia' and its garrets, cafes and artists, 'Gay Paree' with its music halls and courtesans or the past chroniclers of the city such as Zola, George du Maurier and Orwell. But featured far more than the famous, are the unsung citizens for whom Gillian Tindall has such empathy.
In 1952 Alberto Granado, a young doctor, and his friend Ernesto Guevara, a 23-year-old medical student from a distinguished Buenos Aires family decided to explore their continent. They set off from Cordoba in Argentina on a 1949 Norton 500cc motorbike and travelled through Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. They worked as casual labourers along the way, as football coaches, medical assistants, and haulage hands. The poverty and exploitation of the native population changed them for ever. Each man later wrote an account of the journey.
Alberto Granado realised later in his life that what they saw and encountered on their journey represented a crucial turning point. It strengthened Alberto's determination to forge his career as a scientist. And it started the process that was to turn Ernesto - the debonair, fun-loving student - into Che, the man who fought for the liberation of Cuba and became the heroic and glamorous warrior fighting for freedom and social justice, who remains to this day in people's minds Latin America's foremost hero and one of the world's great revolutionaries. A companion to Che's Motorcycle Diaries, Alberto Granado's book is a moving and at times hilarious account of how two carefree young men found their true purpose in life.
Published: 4 Dec 2003
As the creator of Sherlock Holmes, 'the world's most famous man who never was', Arthur Conan Doyle remains one of our favourite writers; his work is read with affection - and sometimes obsession - the world over. Writer, doctor, cricketer, public figure and family man, his life was no less fascinating than his fiction.
Conan Doyle grew up in relative poverty in Edinburgh, with the mental illness of his artistically gifted but alcoholic father casting a shadow over his early life. He struggled both as a young doctor and in his early attempts to sell short stories, having only limited success until his Sherlock Holmes stories became a publishing phenomenon and propelled him to worldwide fame. Whilst he enjoyed the celebrity Holmes brought him, he also felt that the stories kept him from more serious work.
Beyond his writing, Conan Doyle led a full life, participating in the Boer War, falling in love with another woman while his wife was dying of tuberculosis, campaigning against injustice, and converting to Spiritualism, a move that would ultimately damage his reputation.
During his lifetime Conan Doyle wrote more than 1,500 letters to members of his family, most notably his mother, revealing his innermost thoughts, fears and hopes: Russell Miller is the first biographer to have been granted unlimited access to Conan Doyle's private correspondence. The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle also makes use of the writer's personal papers, unseen for many years, and is the first book to draw fully on the Richard Lancelyn Green archive, the world's most comprehensive collection of Conan Doyle material.
Told with panache, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle is an unprecedentedly full portrait of an enduringly popular figure and an outstanding literary biograhy.
Karolina Lanckoronska was an aristocrat and art historian who taught at the University of Lwow, then part of Poland. When the Soviets came to occupy Lwów, Lanckoronska became active in the Polish resistance and moved to Krakow. She was arrested by the Germans in Kolomyya in 1942, imprisoned and later sentenced to death; incarcerated first in Stanislau, then in Lwow and Berlin before being placed in the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp for women.
As a countess, Lanckoronska was subjected to varying treatment, suffering near starvation at times only to receive extra food and medical care at others according to the fluctuating and often conflicting orders from the authorities in Berlin. With the intervention of some influential friends and the honourable actions of one Nazi, she was saved from death on several occasions. Thanks to efforts by the Swiss diplomat, scholar and International Red Cross President Carl J. Burckhardt (whose correspondence with Heinrich Himmler was found among Lanckoronska's personal belongings) she was finally released in April, 1945.
Throughout her imprisonment, Lanckoronska remained defiantly resilient, loyal to Poland and committed to her fellow prisoners, including women used by Nazi doctors as guinea pigs for horrific medical experiments. Her magnetic personality and superb story-telling makes this a powerful narrative and sustains our interest through harrowing reading. Her ability to view her own horrific
situation with objectivity gives us insight into the motives and behaviour of the Soviets and the Germans not simply as oppressors, but as human beings. Hers is an extraordinary story of courage and will.
Published: 2 Oct 2012