Review of the Reads – February 2017

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February 2017

Scunthorpe born surgeon Professor Stephen Westaby’s memoirs Fragile Lives will be published in February by Harper Collins. Sharing frank and often extraordinary cases, Westaby reflects on the pressures and exhilarations of the operating table and the lessons he has learned from a long and eminent career.

Written by Marjorie Sargeant, Portrait of a Village 1914: Letters from Woodhall Spa compiles photographs of the village in the year of the outbreak of the Great War and supplements them with fictional letters that draw upon real events and people. The book is published by Woodhall Spa Cottage Museum.

Author Adrian Tchaikovsky will visit Lindum Books in Lincoln to talk about his new book The Bear and the Serpent on Saturday 18th February, 7pm. The fantasy writer recently won the 2016 Arthur C Clarke award. Tickets cost £4 to include a glass of wine or soft drink. Tel: 01522 262374.

Published by Society for Lincolnshire History & Archaeology, Price £16.50
Theatre in Lincolnshire was never as popular as it was during the Georgian period, according to writer Neil R Wright, who has undertaken extensive research into local and national archival material to understand why and bring this era back to vivid life.

The eighty-year period between 1750 and 1830, when local actors could earn a living touring Lincolnshire towns and villages alone, is rich with incident and character. Treading the Boards not only provides a detailed picture of the types of plays, and the theatres and touring companies that gave the county its full and varied programmes of entertainment during this time. It puts the spotlight on many little-known or forgotten actors and managers, gives readers a sense of their working lives and traces the locations that still exist today – if in different make-up – that featured heavily in the booming theatrical culture.

The popularity of theatre is also placed in its wider context: the growing wealth and industry that changed people’s lifestyles and social standing; the shifts in the governance and monarchy of England before, during and after the period discussed – which saw, by turns, restrictions and revitalisation within the theatre. Meeting opposition on religious grounds, owing to the spread of Methodism, this popularity eventually diminished.

Illustrated with portraits, drawings, maps, photographs and playbills, Wright’s book is the first of its kind to tell the story of Lincolnshire’s Georgian theatre and it uncovers a wealth of information and offers much insight into a county with drama very much at its heart. The book also features a foreword by actor Jim Broadbent – for whose family a theatre in Wickenby, today keeping this tradition alive in its small way, is named.

Published by The Choir Press, Price £7.99

As the title of this poetry collection hints, the four Scunthorpe born sisters behind it have a way with words and are up for a challenge. The verse compiled in Sibling Rhymery began as an email project. The Tyrrell sisters, who now live in different places and keep in touch mostly that way, were inspired to share their thoughts and memories with one another in a more creative way than usual.

Choosing one topic, or prompt, for each letter of the alphabet, each had to contribute an original poem. The headings range from obvious familial subjects, ‘Dad’ and ‘Mam’, to the unexpected and abstract: ‘Enthusiasm’, for instance, and ‘Yes’.

The writing strives to more than artless, dull rhyming couplets throughout – with haikus, Shakespearean sonnets and limerick forms used; a nod to Thomas Gray here and Gilbert & Sullivan song there. The poems for the most part belie their origins in online communication, presented as they are as conventional poems, although Terri Valrosa’s poem ‘????????????’ uses typographical features common to the email format, such as emoticons and an excess of punctuation.

Siblings can usually be trusted to knock us off our high horse, should we flatter ourselves as having poetic talent, which must have made the editing of this volume interesting, but the spirit of enjoyment and shared inspiration comes across. Siblings also share significant memories of early life, and it is intriguing to see how each expresses their different perspectives – sometimes marked, sometimes subtle – in the poems, especially those concerning the authors’ parents. A unique, playful approach to poetry that reflects one family’s fondness for the English language.

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