How to see the past through fresh eyes

Visiting places remembered from childhood is a great way to see how quickly the world changes. Our recent trip to England brought back lots of memories, but nothing is ever quite the same. Weren't beaches wider back then? And sidewalks? And buildings... weren't they taller? Didn't people smile more, and possibly argue less?

Watching old videos makes the differences even clearer - the toys the kids played with, the way they played and dressed and spoke...

And then there are books. I've recently enjoyed reading several books set in the past (or even set in England in the past!) so here are some reviews. Find some coffee and see what you'd choose to read too.

Dreams that never were by Greg Messel is set in the US in the sixties, telling a first-person story set around the assassination of Robert Kennedy. I remember rushing to a TV set in dismay when I heard the news - and I was a kid in England - and I remember the quotes from the late senator that preface the chapters of this book. It's a convincing story with well-timed background details and surprisingly modern relevance. Enjoy with some dark, intense five-star coffee.

Going much further into the past, 1066 What Fates Impose by E.K. Holloway invites readers to see England, just prior to the Battle of Hastings, in a whole new light. A sophisticated and wise form of government falls prey to greed and cruelty, then as today, and even democracy proves to have roots far in the past. It's a fascinating tale with a huge cast of characters, all well-drawn and distinct in the author's hands. Enjoy the elegantly told tale with some elegant four-star coffee.

Minnette Meador's recently re-released Centurion and the Queen goes back even further to Roman Britain, blending history, action and romance in a tale with satisfying conviction and depth. Another one to enjoy with elegant four-star coffee.

Rosie Archer's WWII romances bring to life the world of England's women at war, balancing tragedy, cruelty, kindness and generosity with well-researched history. I've read three so far: The Munitions Girls which reveals how women home lives and work lives were lived under threat of explosion and loss; The Gunpowder and Glory Girls where life is lived on both sides of legality (plus hints of 60s gangsters in the making); and the Ferry Girls which explores how people of German descent were mistreated. All the novels blend abuse, healing, guilt and forgiveness and I'm looking forward to more. Enjoy some more elegant four-star coffees with these.

Finally, there's the latest No 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, which isn't historical but does include a character who frequently muses on how the world has changed. I love the sense of time, times, place and places in these books, and The House of Unexpected Sisters is no exception. Another one to enjoy with an elegant (got to be elegant) four-star coffee.


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