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Did She Kill Him? by Kate Colquhoun

In 1889, there was outrage as the young American, Florence Maybrick, stood trial for the murder of her Liverpool-born, cotton merchant husband, James, at their home, Battlecrease House. Found guilty, and sentenced to death, this was later commuted to life imprisonment and, after many years of campaigning from her supporters, she was released. Kate Colquhoun examines the events leading up to the death of James Maybrick, the trial and the aftermath of what became a public scandal. Was Florence really the femme fatale as painted by many or was she simply a victim of an extremely biased justice system that clearly seemed to favour the male?

I first read this book when it was published as, being from Liverpool, this is a case that has always held a fascination with me. I decided to revisit it by listening to the audio book which is wonderfully read by Maggie Mash, even if her pronunciation of the word ‘Aigburth’ did frustrate me! (I daresay only locals would pick up on this!)

Kate Colquhoun does a superb job in providing an unbiased account of the life of the Maybricks, from their meeting, to their marriage and, ultimately, their deaths. It is clear how much research has gone into this book, and, even as someone who has read a lot about this ‘murder’, I learned a lot. It is clear that this was a completely mismatched couple, Florence looking for a man to provide her with the lavish lifestyle she felt she should have, and James wanting a younger wife he could show off to his colleagues at the cotton exchange.

The medical evidence in this case is particularly fascinating, Florence having been convicted of murdering her husband with arsenic. Doubt is cast as to whether there was enough arsenic in his body to kill him, especially when anecdotal evidence suggests that he actually took arsenic on a regular basis. Was evidence deliberately hidden in order to paint Florence in a bad light by a Victorian society who were outraged by her extra-marital relationship?

This is a well-written book that certainly makes you think about whether it was a safe conviction or whether she was tried on the basis of her womanhood. A fascinating look at the attitudes of late-Victorian Britain.

The Doctor Will See You Now by Dr Amir Khan

You might recognise Dr Amir Khan from television programmes such as GPs Behind Closed Doors or Lorraine. In The Doctor Will See You Now: The Highs and Lows of My Life as an NHS GP, we see how the popular doctor has progressed from his early days as a newly-qualified GP to becoming a partner in a busy surgery, with many heartbreaking, heartwarming and hilarious tales along the way.

I enjoy watching GPs behind Closed Doors and Dr. Amir Khan is one of my favourites on there, his way with patients showing why he has been embraced warmly by television. I listened to the audiobook, which is voiced by the author, and hearing his tales in his own words definitely enhanced my enjoyment.

Dr Khan paints a very vivid picture of what it is like to work in the NHS and it is clear that he thoroughly enjoys his work. He demonstrates how no two days are ever alike, sharing tales that will make you laugh and cry in equal measures. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and have already regaled several people with one story about the time some non-human ‘patients’ ended up in his surgery! There are some truly heartbreaking stories, however, and one particular family will remain in my thoughts for some time.

The epilogue really resonated with me, especially in light of recent events (COVID does feature in the book) and the vital role the NHS has played in keeping our country running over the past year. Our NHS is something that should not be allowed to be broken up and it is important that there is proper funding and recruitment that will allow this amazing institution to continue. It is the envy of many around the world and we need to be able to keep people like Dr Khan.

Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries by John Taylor

My next foray into the world of the audio book has brought me to Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries by John Taylor. Based on the well-known stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read by Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock himself – my interest was immediately piqued!

I was looking for something short to listen to and at just over two hours for four stories, this was just the ticket. The cases, An Inscrutable Masquerade, The Conundrum of Coach 13, The Trinity Vicarage Larceny and The 10.59 Assassin were all very much in the style of Conan Doyle  and definitely captured the essence of the original stories. There were a range of crimes on offer including murder and theft, each plot showcasing the talents of Holmes and Watson and we even have a short cameo from Inspector Lestrade.

Of course, having BBC’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, reading the stories is what makes this even better. His superb narration of these tales, complete with multiple accents, made this a joy to listen to.

If you are looking for a bit of escapism for a couple of hours, then I can definitely recommend Sherlock Holmes: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries by John Taylor.

Why Mummy Drinks by Gill Sims

Mother of two, Ellen, is stressed. Working in IT with two argumentative children, a husband that is quite content snoring in front of the television and a dog that likes to judge, the big 4-0 is fast approaching and she’s exhausted. There must be more to life than this, surely?!

With the constant bad news at the moment, I was in need of something lighthearted to read and I remembered that despite reading books two and three of this series, I’d never read this one. This was also my first foray into the world of the audio book as I decided that this was exactly the sort of book that could accompany me whilst cooking and cleaning in self-isolation!

After reading the other books, it was good to see where all of this began and to be introduced, for the first time, to The Coven (aka the other mummies at the school gate) and her friends and family. Ellen is desperately trying to portray a middle-class images to the other mums, but feels she is thwarted at every turn either by her poorly behaved children or by her husband’s sister and her family. Louisa (or Amaris as she would like to be known) and her family were absolute gems of characters and you could truly visualise Ellen’s disdain of them.

Why Mummy Drinks provided me with many laugh out loud moments and was a much needed distraction from the current situation, read brilliantly by Gabrielle Glaister.

My other reviews:

Why Mummy Swears

Why Mummy Doesn’t Give a …!,

Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years by Sue Townsend

41yMiciSptL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Now in his twenties, the eponymous diarist is not enjoying life. Still an aspiring writer, his debut novel, Lo! The Flat Hills of My Homeland is not going according to plan and this is only made worse when his schooldays tormentor, Barry Kent, has a book published and is becoming a minor celebrity. His personal life is not faring much better; lodging with the love of his life, Pandora, and her boyfriend is not an ideal situation for Adrian. As his life plummets from one despair to the next, there are little glimmers of hope for our hero that maybe life will, one day, take a turn for the better.

The Adrian Mole series is my go-to set of books that I revisit from time to time if I want to have a good laugh. I remember reading the first book in the series when I was only a child and it is only with hindsight that I wonder if I actually understood what I was reading about! When I saw that The Wilderness Years had recently been serialised on Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime, I decided that it would be a good time to ‘read’ this one again.

Still funny the second time round, it is hard not to feel sympathy for our hapless hero who goes from one bad situation to another with ease. Ever the dreamer, Adrian is still longing for Pandora who is enjoying flaunting her succession of lovers in front of him. When he finally realises that there may be other women out there, more suited to him, we begin to see a much happier character. Of course, in true Adrian-style, this turns into another disaster of mega-proportions!

As always, his family are causing him even more problems. His parents are no longer together and the death of a much-loved family member brings a rare solemn moment in what is a funny book; several moments did make me laugh out loud whilst listening.

Although this is not the best in the series, it is still a very humorous book that I will, no doubt, return to once again some time in the future.

 

 

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