Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Salon: Mitchell and ...Smiles (and Gwynn and Bryson)

Yesterday in the post I was delighted to receive this:

Front of proof

a proof copy of 'The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet' by David Mitchell which is out in May. I read the first chapter at once and found it stunning - an amazing blend of research and characterisation... (I really like the cover of this proof too - an antique gold with some abstract patterning around the edge reminiscent of the covers of 'Cloud Atlas and 'Number 9 Dream' and I am now beginning to think of as the 'Mitchell brand').

The back of the proof.

I am saving this up for a treat for when I have finished my research on the Huguenots. Although three-quarters of the population are descended from these early refugees there is very little written about them so it is easy to become a relative expert. After my all-too--brief perusal of texts in the Huguenot library I am now working through a couple of books I'd bought earlier: The Huguenots - Their Settlements, Churches and Industries in England and Ireland' by Samuel Smiles (published 1808 and I bought by POD (print on demand*) - presumably John Murray still own the copyright),

and a faded copy of 'Huguenot Heritage -the history and contribution of the Huguenots in Britain' which I was told is the Huguenot bible.

It is by Robin D Gwynn, an academic in New Zealand, and apart from being very well written I think will provide an interesting modern contrast to the Smiles. Already I am seeing some weird similarities between ha happened to the Protestants in Sixteenth Century France and intellectuals in twentieth century China: ailing despots acquire mistresses and through becoming the eyes, ears and mouth of the man they serve they become extraordinarily powerful.

Apart from that I have now finished the 'Seeing Further' book on the Royal Society and science over the last 350 years. This gave such a wide-ranging and interesting summary of learning and opinion that I think it has changed the way I see the world around me. I have not written the review for BookMunch yet because I think there were just so many ideas that I felt I needed to let them settle a while before I could make sense of them and establish something coherent to say.

But maybe before anything else I have to go over my talk on 'the diagnosis and treatment of insanity (especially in women) in the nineteenth century' which I am due to give on Tuesday night - because it's a long time since I gave it last.
* added with thanks to journalist Andreia Azevedo Soares


Blogger Anne S said...

Lucky you having a chance to read the new David Mitchell book before the rest of us. Still, it is something to savour, even if I can hardly wait for it to be available.

Mon Mar 01, 01:43:00 am  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Yes, Anne, I am feeling disgustingly smug that I have my mitts on a copy...and I have to say it is really, really good so far.

Mon Mar 01, 02:40:00 am  

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