Fitz… and a frog

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Many years ago I met an author (and brilliant photographer), Jenifer Roberts, at The Society of Authors (UK) and we exchanged addresses. A year or so later I received a flyer for her book Glass I bought a copy, loved it, and we became friends. We self-published our second books at the same time, though hers, The Madness of Queen Maria, was later taken up by a mainstream publisher in Portugal.  It is with enormous pride that I can report on the success of her latest book, Fitz. I can remember the beginnings of Fitz, the enormous lengths to which Jenifer went in researching this book, the endless drafts and improvements and the long cycle of agents and publishers who said… great writing, terrific story, but we are not sure it has a market… or similar. Well, after years of work and waiting it has found its natural home in New Zealand. The New Zealand Listener (see below) says of it “…This is history as it should be, alert, well-observed and informed…” about this man who was an “…infuriatingly mercurial personality but eminently loveable man.”

listener review 4

It is also in the top ten New Zealand non-fiction best seller lists. I can vouch for this as a great and entertaining read. Jenifer has set a brilliant example for aspiring writers and I am so happy to see this story reach the public it deserves.

Now for something completely different. We live (I say, as the rain it raineth ev-ery day) in a very dry area of the UK, and we have no pond and no obvious ground level source of water, yet every year I meet at least one frog in the garden. I don’t meet him/her in one particular damp spot, but anywhere in the third of an acre that is ours. So, there must be quite a few frogs living here. This is the best I could do in the way of a photo – he is in there – honestly.


Books, Books, Books

In the last few weeks my reading has ranged a little widely, but unintentionally each book influences my reading of the next

Contested Will by James Shapiro – an excellent and absorbing analysis of the many, often hilarious, theories about who wrote Shakespeare. The astonishing thing is that so many people still believe one or other of these. The Shakespeare doubters fall roughly into two schools, those who believe that a shoemaker’s son from Stratford could never have achieved such sophisticated heights and those who believe that all writing is autobiographical. Shapiro deals painstakingly with the wide spectrum of theories and then returns the reader to solid ground with the contemporary evidence.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey – the investigation into the true nature of King Richard the III, written as an immensely entertaining novel. I have read this several times before, it is still in print after 70 years. She makes her characters live and makes you love them. (Oh envy!).

The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith – A slightly dour book, it is difficult to love the main character, Isabel. On the other hand, I have a strong sense of self-recognition; Isabel over-thinks and imagines full-blown scenarios out of the tiniest stimuli. It is uncomfortable to have your own failings brought before you. EG is enjoying it for its Edinburgh setting.

Beastly Things by Donna Leon – As always, Leon creates a good read and deals with important subject matter, in this case the introduction of meat unfit for human consumption into the food chain. Greed, nepotism, and the criminal underbelly of Italy are displayed, and set against the warm surroundings of Brunetti’s home life and cuisine. These stories are a little formulaic and the use of metaphor occasionally gets out of hand (, but still, especially for lovers of Venice, a good read.

I have started reading Fitz by Jenifer Roberts (in manuscript) – a lively and entertaining history of James Edward FitzGerald, a wayward, charming, talented man who was so influential in the colonisation of New Zealand. The story is much enhanced by the original diary material of so many of the men and women involved.