Monday 25 April 2011

My Town Monday - Going In Style

Raincoat for Ladies. This coat is made of rubberized Covert Cloth;…double stiched seams velvet collar, half belt; colors, grey and fawn. Sizes 32 to 42 5.00

As most of my past posts for My Town Monday have been in various historical periods of Canada, today I am covering the fashions and furniture of 1906 from the Browns’ Limited Spring Catalogue, Portage La Prairie, Manitoba. Unfortunately I do not have the men’s portion of the catalogue, however, I’m certain the ladies section will suffice. This portion of catalogue is from my Grandmother Edith who immigrated to Canada in 1906, picking this up in Winnpeg en route to Alberta. I scanned what pages remain in the hopes of salvaging the contents before it disintegrates. Thus, here are some excepts accompanied by illustrations.

Ladies – “How to Dress Well

“This is a matter of considerable importance to women. If you want to be well dressed you must select those garments which combine all that is new and up-to-date in Style, Fit and Workmanship; you want all this in a moderate cost. In this catalogue you will find a number of Northway Garments that are designed to meet this demand.

“They are always in the forefront with the new styles for each season. They are honestly made, shape-keeping garments. The fit is everthing that can be desired. The value you can judge from the garment here displayed. The materials are always the best quality possible, consistent with the price of each garment…”

Ladies and Misses’ Jackets and Cravenette Coats

An example of a listing: “618. LADIES’ CRAVENTTE RAINCOAT. 45 inches long, fly front, two clusters of pleats on each side, tacked down in centre, surmounted by strappings of self, collarless style, pleated back, pleats surmounted by self-strappings. Made in Fawns and Greys, and also similar styles in Fawn Covert Cloths. 15.00, 17.50 and 20.00

Ladies’ Wrappers, made of strong print, 8-in flounce on skirt, tight-fitting back, with fullness from waist line; frill around yoke; large sleeves made to button at cuff; colors, navy and white, black and white, red and white. Sizes 32 to 44 1.50

Child’s Dress

Ladies' High Grade Style Skirts

These wool skirts come with pleats, some trimmed with tabs and buttons; in various colours of black, fawn, tweeds. Prices: 5.50, 7.75, 8.50

And those fashionable undergarments ladies wore: the underskirts made in black staeen with various rows of gathered flounce trimmed in ruffles.

Luckily togay women don't have to wear those form fitting, cinched up corsets made with whale bone staves.

Part Two next week. Click to enlarge any of the photos.

For other participants in My Town Monday please go here.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Solemn Vows by Don Gutteridge (Book Review)

From the back page:

“It’s a steamy June in Toronto, 1836, Lieutenant Marc Edwards has again found himself sitting atop a lit powder keg in more ways than one. A prominent politician has been assassinated, and in their haste to catch the killer, Marc, and his troops are responsible for the death of an innocent local man. Making matters even worse, Marc may have accidentally gotten himself engaged to the wrong woman, while the right woman still won’t answer his letters.

“In order to track down the real assassin, Edwards joins forces with Constable Cobb of the newly created Toronto police force. Cobb’s methods are somewhat different from Marc’s; and investigations always end up in the local tavern, where it seems everyone knows far too much about Marc’s romantic entanglements.

“Between keeping track of Cobb, solving the murder, and extricating himself from his accidental engagement, Marc Edwards will be pushed to his limit once more.”

Solemn Vows is the second novel in the Marc Edwards Mystery series set in a historical era that I’ve posted about. Despite not having read the first book, Turncoat, the story had enough detail from the previous one to carry forward. The background of the plot covers the conflicts between the British government and the population, namely farmers and merchants, seeking to resolve grievances over taxes, roads and schools.

Sir Francis Bond Head, the new Lieutenant-Governor, takes some underhanded methods to keep the British government as the ruling force by disbanding the Assembly prior to calling elections. Marc Edwards as his camp-de-aide has concerns over his ethics while trying to be honest. Edwards is assigned to find the murderer of the politician as well as the writer behind anti-government sentiments in the local paper run by William Lyon Mackenzie.

As the story unfolded I began to like this character, Marc Edwards, despite being upstaged by the Toronto cop “Horatio Cobb”. Through Cobb’s investigative talents via frequenting the local taverns for gossip, it is determined that the assassin of the politician was hired.

Edwards feeling spurned by Beth Smallman’s failure to respond to his letters, he accepts the affections of Eliza Dwight-Smythe, niece to a prosperous wine entrepreneur. Despite the new feelings towards Eliza, Edwards discovers the old ones for Beth haven’t quite disappeared.

There were a few areas of concern when Edwards didn’t take back up when he responded to urgent messages, but that allowed the author to set him up. However, despite this there were many comedic romantic and social events to lighten the story and made for excellent reading. The ending came action packed with a satisfying conclusion and a good chuckle.

I hope Don Gutteridge continues to write more about Horatio Cobb in future books in the series, and I look forward to reading the next novel Vital Secrets.

Don Gutteridge taught English at the Faculty of Education, University of Western Ontario, before starting the Marc Edwards mystery series.

Review copy provided by Anneliese Grosfeld.

Book format: Trade paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada
Available: January 2011
Also available in eBook

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Heartsone by C J Sansom (Book Review)

From inside cover flap:

“Summer, 1545.

“England is at war. Henry VIII's invasion of France has gone badly wrong, and a massive French fleet is preparing to sail across the Channel. As the English fleet gathers at Portsmouth, the country raises the largest militia army it has ever seen. The King has debased the currency to pay for the war, and England is in the grip of soaring inflation and economic crisis.

“Meanwhile Matthew Shardlake is given an intriguing legal case by an old servant of Queen Catherine Parr, which will lead him into the corrupt labyrinth of the King’s Court of Wards. Asked to investigate claims of ‘monstrous wrongs’ committed against his young ward Hugh Curteys by Sir Nicholas Hobbey, a Hampshire landowner, which have already involved one mysterious death, Shardlake and his assistant, Barak, journey to Portsmouth. Shardlake has taken the case, despite the imminent threat of invasion, as it also gives him the opportunity to investigate the mysterious past of Ellen Fettiplace, a young woman incarcerated in the Bedlam whom he has befriended and whose family once lived nearby.

“Arrived in Portsmouth, Shardlake and Barak find themselves in a city preparing to become a battle zone. The mysteries surrounding the seemingly normal Hobbey family nineteen years before, involved Shardlake in reunions both with an old friend and an old enemy close to the throne. Events will converge on board one of the king’s great warships, gathered in Portsmouth harbour, waiting to sail out and confront the approaching French fleet…”

This is C.J. Sansom’s fifth novel in the Shardlake series, two of which I have already read: Dissolution and Dark Fire I have the fourth: Revelation, waiting in the bookcase. What is nice about each of the books in this series is they are completely stand alone stories with little portions carried over from the previous ones. True to nature, Shardlake continues to have sympathy towards orphans and widows in poor circumstances. A stalwart defender of defenseless women: young or old; and the poor.

There is detailed historical fact woven to provide a rich tapestry behind the major plot and several subplots. The author goes into splendid descriptions of the countryside enroute to Portsmouth, the conditions of the soldiers preparing for battle with the French, the warships Great Harry and Mary Rose engaged in battle, the relationship Shardlake has with Queen Catherine Parr, including the politics of 1545.

There are secondary characters carried over from the previous novels: Jack Barak, Shardlake’s clerk, who helps with investigations of the legal cases taken on. To add domesticity, Barak’s wife, Tasamin, is expecting; and Guy, a foreign physician. New secondary characters, William Coldiron, Shardlake’s steward, with an interesting past; his daughter, Josephine; provide a look into the difficulties of having servants.

Bits of short recollections from previous books to keep the storyline cohesive are provided, such as a mention of Shardlake visiting “…Hampton Court, to see Archbishop Cranmer after having been falsely imprisoned in the Tower.” Each of these provides a link within to other characters who tend to have nefarious motives. Such as Sir Richard Rich, and defense lawyer, Vincent Dyrick.

While at Hoyland Priory investigating the allegations about Nicholas Hobbey’s ward, Hugh Curteys, Shardlake and Barak participate in a staged hunt in a deer park. An exciting thread with a stand off by a ten-point stag (though I wished the stag had done a bit more damage to the hunters before his demise).

Apart from the deer hunt, bodies start turning up resulting in new questions to be answered. With new investigating to be done, Shardlake lands in inevitable trouble, of one sort or another. He follows the twists and turns, coming up with a few red herrings, but all the questions are resolved with a satisfactory conclusion.

I thoroughly enjoyed this superb book though it took some time to get through the 600 plus pages as I tend to read slowly while savouring the moods the wording presents. I look forward to another in this splendid series.

C. J. SANSOM was educated at Birmingham University, where he took a BA and then a Ph.D. in history. After working in a variety of jobs, he retrained as a solicitor and practised in Sussex, until becoming a full-time writer. C. J. Sansom also wrote the bestselling novel Winter in Madrid. He lives in Sussex.

The review copy was provided by Cassandra Sadek.

Genre: Mystery and Detective, Historical
Book format: hardcover, 640 pages
Publisher: Random House Canada

Available: Sep 28 2010

Friday 1 April 2011

This is a view of the Rockies in southern Alberta from highway 22.

I've had difficulty with my internet provider resulting in getting a new connection. And it seemed today that it took far longer than necessary to even get on, but here I am.

Currently I'm in the last quarter of reading "Heartsone" by C. J. Sansom with the review following in the next couple of days.

I've been working on changes to one of my manuscripts in hopes of getting it out there to be looked at.

Photo Credit: Gord McKenna CC=nc-nd-flickr.