LNER 4472 Flying Scotsman

On November 30 1934 The LNER Class A3 Pacific steam locomotive No. 4472 Flying Scotsman   became the first Steam Locomotive to officially exceed 100mph. The Flying Scotsmanvwas built in 1923 for the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) at Doncaster Works to a design of H.N. Gresley. It was employed on long-distance express trains on the LNER and its successors, British Railways Eastern and North-Eastern Regions, notably on the 10am London to Edinburgh Flying Scotsman train service after which it was named.The locomotive is notable for having set two world records for steam traction; becoming the first steam locomotive to be officially authenticated at reaching 100 miles per hour (160.9 km/h) on 30 November 1934,and then setting a record for the longest non-stop run by a steam locomotive when it ran 422 miles (679 km) on 8 August 198]Retired from regular service in 1963 after covering 2,076,000 miles (3,341,000 km),Flying Scotsman gained considerable fame in preservation under the ownership of Alan Pegler, William McAlpine, Tony Marchington and finally the National Railway Museum. As well as hauling enthusiast specials in the United Kingdom, the locomotive toured extensively in the United States (from 1969 to 1973) and Australia (from 1988 to 1989).Flying Scotsman has been described as the world’s most famous steam locomotive

The locomotive was completed in 1923, construction having been started under the auspices of the Great Northern Railway (GNR). It was built as an A1, initially carrying the GNR number 1472, because the LNER had not yet decided on a system-wide numbering scheme’ Flying Scotsman was something of a flagship locomotive for the LNER. It represented the company at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924 and 1925. Before this event, in February 1924 it acquired its name and the new number of 4472. From then on it was commonly used for promotional purposes.With suitably modified valve gear, this locomotive was one of five Gresley Pacifics selected to haul the prestigious non-stop Flying Scotsman train service from London to Edinburgh, hauling the inaugural train on 1 May 1928. For this the locomotives ran with a new version of the large eight-wheel tender which held 9 tons of coal. This and the usual facility for water replenishment from the water trough system enabled them to travel the 392 miles (631 km) from London to Edinburgh in eight hours non-stop. The tender included a corridor connection and tunnel through the water tank giving access to the locomotive cab from the train to permit replacement of the driver and fireman without stopping the train. The following year the locomotive appeared in the film The Flying Scotsman. On 30 November 1934, running a light test train, 4472 became the first steam locomotive to be officially recorded at 100 mph (160.9 km/h) and earned a place in the land speed record for railed vehicles; the publicity-conscious LNER made much of the fact.

 

On 22 August 1928, there appeared an improved version of this Pacific type classified A3; older A1 locomotives were later rebuilt to conform. On 25 April 1945, A1-class locomotives not yet rebuilt were reclassified A10 in order to make way for newer Thompsonand Peppercorn Pacifics. Flying Scotsman emerged from Doncaster works on 4 January 1947 as an A3, having received a boiler with the long “banjo” dome of the type it carries today. By this time it had been renumbered twice: under Edward Thompson’scomprehensive renumbering scheme for the LNER, it became no. 502 in January 1946; but in May the same year, under an amendment to that plan, it become no. 103. Following nationalisation of the railways on 1 January 1948, almost all of the LNER locomotive numbers were increased by 60000, and no. 103 duly became 60103 in December 1948. Between 5 June 1950 and 4 July 1954, and between 26 December 1954 and 1 September 1957, under British Railways ownership, it was allocated to Leicester Central shed on the Great Central, running Nottingham Victoria to London Marylebone services via Leicester Central.All A3 Pacifics were subsequently fitted with a double Kylchap chimney to improve performance and economy. This caused soft exhaust and smoke drift that tended to obscure the driver’s forward vision; the remedy was found in the German-type smoke deflectors fitted from 1960, which somewhat changed the locomotives’ appearance but solved the problem

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In 1962, British Railways announced that they would scrap Flying Scotsman. Number 60103 ended service with its last scheduled run on 14 January 1963.Proposed to be saved by a group called “Save Our Scotsman”, they were unable to raise the required £3,000, the scrap value of the locomotive. Having first seen the locomotive at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924, in 1961 Alan Pegler had received £70,000 for his share holding when Northern Rubber was sold to Pegler’s Valves, a company started by his grandfather.Peglar stepped in and bought the locomotive outright, with the political support of Harold Wilson. He spent the next few years spending large amounts of money having the locomotive restored at Doncaster Works as closely as possible to its LNER condition: the smoke deflectors were removed; the double chimney was replaced by a single chimney; and the tender was replaced by one of the corridor type with which the locomotive had run between 1928 and 1936. It was also repainted into LNER livery, although the cylinder sides were painted green, whereas in LNER days they were always black. Peglar then persuaded the British Railways Board to let him run enthusiasts specials, then the only steam locomotive running on mainline British Railways. It worked a number of rail tours, including a non-stop London–Edinburgh run in 1968 – the year steam traction officially ended on BR. In the meantime, the watering facilities for locomotives were disappearing, so in September 1966 Pegler purchased a second corridor tender, and adapted as an auxiliary water tank; retaining its through gangway, this was coupled behind the normal tender.Flying Scotsman at Carnforth in 1982 with original single chimney and without the later German-style smoke deflectors

Pegler had a contract permitting him to run his locomotive on BR until 1972, but following overhaul in the winter of 1968–69 then Prime Minister Wilson agreed to support Pegler running the locomotive in the United States and Canada to support British exports. To comply with local railway regulations, it was fitted with: acowcatcher; bell; buckeye couplings; American-style whistle air brakes; and high-intensity headlamp.  the tour ran into immediate problems, with some states seeing the locomotive as a fire-hazard. However, the train ran from Boston to New York, Washington and Dallas in 1969; from Texas to Wisconsin and finishing in Montreal in 1970; and from Toronto to San Francisco in 1971 — a total of 15,400 miles (24,800 km).However, in 1970 Ted Heath’s Conservatives ousted Wilson’s Labour Party, and withdrew financial support from the tour; but Pegler decided to return for the 1970 season. By the end of that season’s tour, the money had run out and Pegler was £132,000 in debt, with the locomotive in storage at the U.S. ArmySharpe Depot to keep it away from unpaid creditors.Pegler worked his passage home from San Francisco to England on a P&Ocruise ship in 1971, giving lectures about trains and travel; he was declared bankrupt in the High Court 1972.Fears then arose for the engine’s future, the speculation being that it could take up permanent residence in America or even be cut up. However in January 1973, William McAlpine stepped in and bought the locomotive for £25,000. After its return to the UK via the Panama Canal in February 1973 the locomotive Was restored at Derby Works. Trial runs took place on the Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway in summer 1973, after which it was transferred to Steamtown (Carnforth)

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ln October 1988 the locomotive arrived in Australia to take part in that country’sbicentenary celebrations as a central attraction in the Aus Steam ’88 festival. During the course of the next year it travelled more than 45,000 kilometres (28,000 mi) over Australian rails, concluding with a return transcontinental run from Sydney to Perth via Alice Springs. Other highlights included Flying Scotsman double-heading with NSWGRPacific locomotive 3801, a triple-parallel run alongside broad gauge Victorian Railways R class locomotives, parallel runs alongside South Australian Railways locomotives 520and 621, and a reunion with GWR 4073 Class Pendennis Castle in Perth. 8 August 1989 Flying Scotsman set another record en route to Alice Springs from Sydney, travelling 679 kilometres (422 mi) from Parkes to Broken Hill non-stop, the longest such run by a steam locomotive ever recorded. A plaque on the engine records the event.

Returned to the UK, by 1995 it was in pieces at Southall Railway Centre in West London, owned by a consortium that included McAlpine as well as music guru and well-known railway enthusiast Pete Waterman. Facing an uncertain future owing to the cost of restoration and refurbishment , salvation came in 1996 when Dr Tony Marchington, bought the locomotive, and had it restored over three years to running condition at a cost of £1 million  which is still recognised as the most extensive in the locomotive’s history. With Flying Scotsman’s regular use both on the VSOE Pullman and with other events on the main line, ‘However in September 2003 Marchington was declared bankrupt. At the company’s AGM in October 2003, CEO Peter Butler stated that the company only had enough cash to trade until April 2004. With the locomotive effectively placed up for sale it was bought in April 2004 by the National Railway Museum in York, and it is now part of the National Collection. After 12 months of interim running repairs, it ran for a while to raise funds for its forthcoming 10-year major boiler recertificationn

In January 2006, Flying Scotsman entered the Museum’s workshops for a major overhaul to return it to Gresley’s original specification and in order to renew its boiler certificate; originally planned to be completed by mid 2010  lthe late discovery of additional problems meant it would not be completed on time. The locomotive was moved in October 2013 to Buryfor work to return it to running condition in 2015.The bay in which the locomotive was being refurbished was on view to visitors to the NRM but the engine was rapidly dismantled to such an extent that the running plate was the only component recognisable to the casual observer. Early in 2009 it emerged that the overhaul would see the loco reunited with the last remaining genuine A3 boiler (acquired at the same time as the locomotive as a spare). The A4 boiler that the loco had used since the early 1980s was sold to Jeremy Hosking for potential use on his locomotive, LNER Class A4 4464 Bittern. In 2011the National Railway Museum (NRM) announced, that Flying Scotsman will be painted in LNER Wartime Black livery  The letters ‘NE’ appear on the sides of the tender, along with the number ‘103’ on one side of the cab and ‘502’ on the other – the numbers it was given under the LNER’s renumbering system. Flying Scotsman will be repainted in its familiar-look Apple Green livery in the summer, but remained in black for the NRM’s Flying Scotsman Preview Weekend which took place on 28–30 May 2011. Furthermore, during the National Railway Museum’s ‘railfest’ event on 2–10 June 2012, Flying Scotsman was in attendance, being kept in front of Mallard in a siding, still in its Wartime Black livery.

Tribute to Jonathan Swift

001_gullivers_travels1-199x300Satirist, essayist, poet and cleric Jonathan Swift was born 30 November 1667. He is remembered for works such as Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, The Battle of the Books, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, and A Tale of a Tub. Swift’s family had several interesting literary connections: His grandmother, Elizabeth (Dryden) Swift, was the niece of Sir Erasmus Dryden, grandfather of the poet John Dryden. The same grandmother’s aunt, Katherine (Throckmorton) Dryden, was a first cousin of Elizabeth, wife of Sir Walter Raleigh. His great-great grandmother, Margaret (Godwin) Swift, was the sister of Francis Godwin, author of The Man in the Moone which influenced parts of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. His uncle, Thomas Swift, married a daughter of the poet and playwright Sir William Davenant, a godson of William Shakespeare. He is probably the foremost prose satirist in the English language, and is less well known for his poetry. Swift originally published all of his works under pseudonyms – such as Lemuel Gulliver, Isaac Bickerstaff, MB Drapier – or anonymously. He is also known for being a master of two styles of satire: the Horatian and Juvenalian styles.In February 1702, Swift received his Doctor of Divinity degree from Trinity College, Dublin. That spring he traveled to England and returned to Ireland in October, accompanied by Esther Johnson and his friend Rebecca Dingley, another member of William Temple’s household. During his visits to England in these years Swift published A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books (1704) and began to gain a reputation as a writer. This led to close, lifelong friendships with Alexander Pope, John Gay, and John Arbuthnot, forming the core of the Martinus Scriblerus Club. Swift also became increasingly active politically in these years & went to London many times & The Tory Party recruited him to support their cause as editor of The Examiner when they came to power in 1710. In 1711, Swift published the political pamphlet “The Conduct of the Allies & became part of the inner circle of the Tory government, and often acted as mediator between Henry St John (Viscount Bolingbroke) the secretary of state for foreign affairs (1710–15) and Robert Harley (Earl of Oxford) lord treasurer and prime minister (1711–14). Swift recorded his experiences and thoughts during this difficult time in a long series of letters to Esther Johnson.

After the death of Queen Anne in 1714 and accession of George I, the Tory leaders were tried for treason for conducting secret negotiations with France so Swift left England rapidly and returned to Ireland. Once back in Ireland he began to turn his pamphleteering skills in support of Irish causes, producing some of his most memorable works: Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720), Drapier’s Letters (1724), and A Modest Proposal (1729), earning him the status of an Irish patriot.Also during these years, he began writing his masterpiece, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts, by Lemuel Gulliver, first a surgeon, and then a captain of several ships, better known as Gulliver’s Travels. Much of the material reflects his political experiences of the preceding decade. For instance, the episode in which the giant Gulliver puts out the Lilliputian palace fire by urinating on it can be seen as a metaphor for the Tories’ illegal peace treaty; having done a good thing in an unfortunate manner. In 1726 he paid a long-deferred visit to London, taking with him the manuscript of Gulliver’s Travels. During his visit he stayed with his old friends Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot and John Gay, who helped him arrange for the anonymous publication of his book. First published in November 1726, it was an immediate hit, with a total of three printings that year and another in early 1727. French, German, and Dutch translations appeared in 1727, and pirated copies were printed in Ireland.Swift returned to England one more time in 1727 but The visit was cut short when Swift received word that Esther Johnson was dying and rushed back home to be with her. On 28 January 1728, Esther Johnson died. Sadly After this, Death became a frequent feature in Swift’s life. In 1731 he wrote Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift. In 1738 Swift began to show signs of illness, and in 1742 he may have suffered a stroke, losing the ability to speak. Swift sadly passed away three years later on 19 October 1745 (aged 77). After being laid out in public view for the people of Dublin to pay their last respects, he was buried in his own cathedral by Esther Johnson’s side, in accordance with his wishes. The bulk of his fortune (twelve thousand pounds) was left to found a hospital for the mentally ill, which opened in 1757, and which still exists as a psychiatric hospital. There have also been many film Animation and Television adaptations made of of the novel. including the 1939 version and the more recent Hallmark version starring Ted Danson as Lemuel Gulliver, which was offered with one of the newspapers a few years ago (There might still be copies on Ebay).

 

Tribute to Evel Knievel

American motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel Sadly died of pulmonary disease on November 30th, 2007 in Clearwater, Florida, aged 69. According to the obituary in The Times Newspaper , Knievel was one of the greatest American icons of the 1970s and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999. Born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Montana onOctober 17, 1938  and raised by his grandparents. After watching a Joie Chitwood auto daredevil show as a child, he took to jumping using a pedal bike, later moving on to motorcycles. As a troubled youth, he earned his stagename after occupying a jail cell next to a man named Knofel, leading the jailer to refer to the pair as Awful Knofel and Evil Knievel (Knievel later changed the spelling of the first name to Evel). In addition to stunt riding at local shows, his early life including a spell in the United States Army at the behest of a magistrate, as well as jobs as a hunting guide and an insurance salesman, while also becoming an ice-hockey team owner. Knievel notably staged an exhibition match against the Czechoslovakian hockey team ahead of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

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After moving into sports full time, he had moderate success on the motocross circuit.Knievel moved into the entertainment business in 1966 by setting up his own touring daredevil show, initially using a variety of performers and later converting it to a solo show with his jumps as the center-piece. He came to national attention when he persuaded the owners of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to let him jump their fountains on New Year’s Eve 1967. After a failed landing, which was caught on film, Knievel spent 29 days in a coma. After his recovery, he continued to make high profile and lucrative jumps, and began lobbying the government for permission to jump the Grand Canyon. Unable to obtain permission, he settled on a jump over the Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho, which he attempted on September 8, 1974 in the X-2 Skycycle. The parachute deployed immediately after launch and the vehicle crashed just a few feet away from the river’s edge. Knievel suffered minor injuries and avoided drowning. Knievel then traveled to Britain, and on May 26, 1975, attempted to jump 13 buses in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium, again crashing but with severe injuries. His longest completed career jump came at Kings Island theme park in Ohio on October 25, 1975, jumping 14 buses, marking his peak television audience.

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In 1977, Knievel served six months in jail for assaulting promoter Shelly Saltman for writing an unflattering book. After this conviction, Knievel’s career suffered, causing him to declare bankruptcy following a $13 million award for damages to Saltman. After cancelling an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in Chicago after injuring a cameraman during a practice jump, Knievel eventually withdrew from doing major shows. He instead concentrated on touring with and training his son Robbie Knievel, also a daredevil, eventually making his last jump in March 1981. Knievel’s nationally televised motorcycle jumps were four of the twenty most-watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports events to date. He became a celebrity, recognizable for his use of a Stars-and-Stripes red, white and blue V-shaped set of motorcycle leathers and cape. On the back of this fame, Knievel gained endorsements from Harley-Davidson and a toy line by the Ideal Toy Company. A 1971 film Evel Knievel starred George Hamilton as Knievel, and he starred as himself in the 1977 film Viva Knievel!. Knievel later said of his career that he had “earned $60 million, and spent $62 million”. In total he attempted over 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps between 1965 and 1980, and in 1974, a failed jump across Snake River Canyon in the Skycycle X-2, a steam-powered rocket. The 35 broken bones he suffered during his career earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the survivor of “most bones broken in a lifetime”.

tribute to Oscar Wilde

dorian-grayIrish writer and poet Oscar Wilde Sadly  died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six on 30th November 1900. Born 16 October 1854. He became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890s. Today he is remembered for his epigrams and plays, and the circumstances of his imprisonment which was followed by his early death.Wilde’s parents were successful Dublin intellectuals. Their son became fluent in French and German early in life. At university Wilde read Greats; he proved himself to be an outstanding classicist, first at Dublin, then at Oxford. He became known for his involvement in the rising philosophy of aestheticism, led by two of his tutors, Walter Pater and John Ruskin. After university, Wilde moved to London into fashionable cultural and social circles. As a spokesman for aestheticism, he tried his hand at various literary activities: he published a book of poems, lectured in the United States and Canada on the new “English Renaissance in Art”, and then returned to London where he worked prolifically as a journalist. Known for his biting wit, flamboyant dress, and glittering conversation, Wilde had become one of the most well-known personalities of his day.At the turn of the 1890s, he refined his ideas about the supremacy of art in a series of dialogues and essays, and incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity, and beauty into his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890).

The opportunity to construct aesthetic details precisely, and combine them with larger social themes, drew Wilde to write drama. He wrote Salome (1891) in French in Paris but it was refused a licence. Unperturbed, Wilde produced four society comedies in the early 1890s, which made him one of the most successful playwrights of late Victorian London.At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry, the father of his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, prosecuted for libel, a charge carrying a penalty of up to two years in prison. The trial unearthed evidence that caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years’ hard labour. In prison he wrote De Profundis (written in 1897 and published in 1905), a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.

St Andrew’s Day

800px-Flag_of_Scotland.svgSaint Andrew (Greek: manly, brave, from ἀνδρεία, Andreia, “manhood, valour”),is the patron saint of Scotland, and St. Andrew’s Day (Scots: Saunt Andra’s Day, Scottish Gaelic: Latha Naomh Anndra) takes place on 30th November & is Scotland’s official national day. Although most commonly associated with Scotland, at least in the English-speaking world, Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine Barbados, Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luqa in Malta, and Esgueira in Portugal and of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.The New Testament states that Andrew is a Christian Apostle & was the brother of Simon Peter, by which it is inferred that he was likewise a son of John, or Jonah. He was born in Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. Both he and his brother Peter were fishermen by trade, hence the tradition that Jesus called them to be his disciples by saying that he will make them “fishers of men”. At the beginning of Jesus’ public life, they were said to have occupied the same house at Capernaum.The Gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, whose testimony first led him, and another unnamed disciple of John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce him to his brother. Thenceforth, the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the Apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus.In the gospels, Andrew is referred to as being present on some important occasions as one of the disciples more closely attached to Jesus, Andrew told Jesus about the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8), with Philip told Jesus about the Greeks seeking Him, and was one of four (the others being Peter, James, and John) to hear Jesus’ teaching about what would soon happen.Eusebius quotes Origen as saying Andrew preached along the Black Sea and the Dnieper and Volga rivers as far as Kiev and Novgorod Hence he became a patron saint of Ukraine, Romania and Russia. According to tradition, he founded the See of Byzantium (Constantinople) in AD 38, installing Stachys as bishop. According to Hippolytus of Rome, he preached in Thrace, and his presence in Byzantium is also mentioned in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew, written in the 2nd century; Basil of Seleucia also knew of Apostle Andrew’s mission in Thrace, as well as Scythia and Achaia. This diocese would later develop into the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Andrew is recognized as its patron saint.Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea, on the northern coast of the Peloponnese. Early texts, such as the Acts of Andrew known to Gregory of Tours, describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; yet a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a cross of the form called Crux decussata (X-shaped cross, or “saltire”), now commonly known as a “Saint Andrew’s Cross” — supposedly at his own request, as he deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been. “The familiar iconography of his martyrdom, showing the apostle bound to an X-shaped cross, does not seem to have been standardized before the later Middle Ages,”

Costa book Awards 2013

The Costa Book Awards recognise the “most enjoyable books” in five categories – Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book – published in the last year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.Many of the titles shortlisted for the 2013 awards have been reviewed by the Telegraph’s critics, some more favourably than others…

2013 Costa Novel Award – shortlisted titles:

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

Unexpected Lessons in Love, by Bernadine Bishop: ”

Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O’Farrell:

All the Birds, Singing, by Evie Wyld:

2013 Costa First Novel Award – shortlisted titles

:Idiopathy, by Sam Byers: ”

.”Meeting the English, by Kate Clanchy:

The Shock of the Fall, by Nathan Filer:

Marriage Material, by Sathnam Sanghera:

 2013 Costa Biography Award

Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins, by Gavin Francis:

Hanns and Rudolf: The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz, by Thomas Harding:

The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett:

The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink, by Olivia Laing: “

2013 Costa Poetry Award

The Divine Comedy, translated by Clive James

.Division Street, by Helen Mort

Drysalter, by Michael Symmons Roberts:

Hill of Doors, by Robin Robertson:

2013 Costa Children’s Book Award

The Hanged Man Rises, by Sarah Naughton

Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door, by Ross Montgomery

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, by Chris Riddell

Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein

Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Little Women

American novelist Louisa May Alcott was born November 29, 1832.She is best known as the author of the novel Little Women and its sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys.Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May Alcott and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England she grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Nevertheless, her family suffered severe financial difficulties and Alcott worked to help support the family from an early age. She began to receive critical success for her writing in the 1860′s. Early in her career, she sometimes used the pen name A. M. Barnard.Published in 1868, Little Women is set in the Alcott family home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts and is loosely based on Alcott’s childhood experiences with her three sisters. The novel was very well received and is still a popular children’s novel today. Alcott was an abolitionist and a feminist.The novel follows the lives of four sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March – and is loosely based on the author’s childhood experiences with her three sisters.

The first volume, Little Women, was an immediate commercial and critical success, prompting the composition of the book’s second volume, entitled Good Wives, which was also successful. Both books were first published as a single volume entitled Little Women in 1880. Alcott followed Little Women with two sequels, also featuring the March sisters: Little Men and Jo’s Boys. Little Women was a fiction novel for girls that veered from the normal writings for children, especially girls, at the time. Little Women has three major themes:”domesticity, work, and true love. All of them are interdependent and each is necessary to the achievement of a heroine’s individual identity.”Little Women itself “has been read as a romance or as a quest, or both. It has been read as a family drama that validates virtue over wealth.” Little Women has been read “as a means of escaping that life by women who knew its gender constraints only too well.” Alcott “combines many conventions of the sentimental novel with crucial ingredients of Romantic children’s fiction, creating a new form of which Little Women is a unique model.”  within Little Women can be found the first vision of the “American Girl” and that her multiple aspects are embodied in the differing March sisters.

Alcott “made women’s rights integral to her stories, and above all to Little Women.”Alcott’s fiction became her “most important feminist contribution”—even considering all the effort Alcott made to help facilitate women’s rights.” Alcott thought that “a democratic household could evolve into a feminist society.” In Little Women, she imagined that just such an evolution might begin with Plumfield, a nineteenth century feminist utopia.”Little Women has a timeless resonance which reflects Alcott’s grasp of her historical framework in the 1860s. The novel’s ideas do not intrude themselves upon the reader because the author is wholly in control of the implications of her imaginative structure. Sexual equality is the salvation of marriage and the family; democratic relationships make happy endings. This is the unifying imaginative frame. Never married, Alcott continued to write until her death, but suffered chronic health problems in her later years, including vertigo. She attributed her illness and death to mercury poisoning. During her American Civil War service, Alcott contracted typhoid fever and was treated with a compound containing mercury.Recent analysis of Alcott’s illness, however, suggests that her chronic health problems may have been associated with an autoimmune disease, not acute mercury exposure. Moreover, a late portrait of Alcott shows rashes on her cheeks, which is a characteristic of lupus. Alcott died at age 55 of a stroke in Boston, on March 6, 1888, two days after her father’s death.She is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts