I have long been a fan of Jane Austen and I am also a huge fan of the fabulous Lucy Worsley, who does such a great job of intelligently bringing history to life on TV in a mischievous way (and with inspiring stylishness). So, when I saw that Lucy Worsley had written a new biography of Jane Austen, reading it was a no-brainer. Jane Austen at Home: A Biography focuses on Jane’s relationship with home and it was a lens I very much enjoyed seeing Jane through.
The book moves through Jane’s life chronologically, visiting each of her homes in turn, to see how she experienced life there, how happy she was, and what this meant for her writing. Having visited her home in Chawton (see my blog on Reading a Landscape) and been on a self guided tour of her life in Bath, it was great to read about some of the other places she lived and how they influenced her life and work. This was a birthday present and I would recommend it as a great read for all Austen (and Worsley) fans.
Another birthday present was An Elephant in My Kitchen: What the herd taught me about love, courage and survival by Francoise Malby-Anthony and Katja Williemsen. Having been on safari to Kenya in June I was in the mood to read a book about wildlife conservation in Africa. It is a fantastic book and I expect I am one of the few readers who had not first read The Elephant Whisperer, by the author’s late husband Lawrence Anthony (it’s on my reading list now). An Elephant in My Kitchen charts Francoise’s personal story of coping after the death of her husband, running both a safari lodge and a significant conservation operation.
I have a particular love of elephants, and reading about the barbarism of poaching first-hand was really difficult. it is one thing knowing it happens, it’s quite another hearing the very personal story of what it is like to rescue distressed elephants who have survived poaching, to watch some of them die despite the best efforts of the dedicated staff at an innovative elephant orphanage that you have set up, and to have elephants attacked on the reserve that you run. Hearing about the various attempts to protect these elephants and rhinos from the ivory trade and how much it is fighting a losing battle was really hard. It made me very glad to be supporting three wildlife conservation charities and I hope that others will read this book and will then be inspired to do whatever they can to protect these great species.