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Auckland Castle (i)

Auckland Castle (also known as Auckland Palace) in the town of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, is the former palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham.

It houses a collection of paintings known as the Zurbaráns, which are definitely worth seeing.

The exterior of the Castle/Palace wasn’t at its best when we visited as there was some refurbishment work going on at the side of the Castle nearer the town. That was swathed in plastic. (Our usual luck then.)

Gateway at side:-

Auckland Castle Gateway

Bishop’s quarters:-

Auckland Castle

Visitor’s entrance. This may have been temporary due to the works:-

Auckland Castle

The Castle’s/Palace’s chapel, to the right of the entrance, is impressive.

Altar + stained glass windows:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel Altar

A marble altarpiece sits against the wall:-

Auckland Castle, Marble Altarpiece

The chapel organ is set on the wall above your head where you enter. The organist’s access is via wht looks like a precarious circular staircase whose upper part is seen to the right here:-

Auckland Castle, Organ in Chapel

Ceiling. The ceiling isn’t curved. I stitched two photos to show it as a whole. It is elaborately painted:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel Ceiling

Clerestory detail:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel, Clerestory Detail

Marble pillar:-

Marble Pillar, Auckland Castle, Chapel

Gallipoli by Alan Moorehead

Hamish Hamilton, 1956, 382 p, including ii p Bibliography and x p Index.

 Gallipoli cover

This book has been languishing on my tbr pile for decades. Quite why I left it so long I’m not sure but I’m glad now I picked it up. The author was clearly well versed in his subject. It is lucidly written and mercifully free of the alphanumeric soup of formation designations which tends to bedevil works of military history. This one focuses more on the personalities central to the story of Turkey’s involvement in the Great War – the Young Turks, Mustafa Kemal, Lord Kitchener, Winston Churchill, and the various commanders – as well as the details of the many military engagements which marked the Dardanelles enterprise.

The idea out of which the landings on Gallipoli arose came from Lt-Col Hankey, Secretary of the War Council, as an attempt to evade the impasse on the Western Front, where the Allies were neither advancing nor killing more Germans than British soldiers were being killed, by a flanking move through Turkey and the Balkans. Moorehead outlines the political manœvrings between Kitchener and Churchill (First Lord of the Admiralty) on the for side and Lord Fisher (First Sea Lord) with various others against. The issue would lead in the end to the break-up of Churchill and Fisher’s hitherto close friendship.

The aim of the operations was first, using obsolete battleships (whose loss could be borne) to force a passage of The Narrows, a pinch point between the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara, and then, on to Constantinople in the hope of prising Turkey out of the war. The initial solely naval effort to do so having foundered on an undetected minefield, plans were made for an amphibious landing (actually two) to take the Gallipoli peninsula and protect the flank of a further naval expedition though the Narrows. This amphibious landing was the biggest in history up to that point. It was planned in three weeks. (Compare Operation Overlord in 1944, which took nearly two years to prepare.)

Turkey had recently suffered a series of military humiliations in the Balkan wars of the early Twentieth Century, leading to the Young Turks seizing control of the government. Their hold was precarious though, and another defeat might have brought their downfall. The withdrawal of the Royal Navy, seen as all-powerful, and its French counterpart after their initial setbacks led to an upsurge in Turkish confidence and, Moorehead goes on to say, acted as a trigger for Turkish resentment to find for itself a target in its minority (and Christian) Armenian population upon whom the government thereupon instituted a policy of genocide – murder, rape (Moorehead uses the words “molest women” the first time he deals with this but the more accurate term later) and forced migration amounting to a death march. The strong implication is that without the Allied ships’ withdrawal the persecution of the Armenians would not have occurred.

The Great War in general was a catalogue of lost opportunities or doomed attempts to follow up early success. Moorehead says that over Gallipoli in particular hung a peculiar lethargy, a miasma of indecision. The one exception to this was Mustafa Kemal, who would come to be known later as Kemal Ataturk and who twice, in the hills above Anzac during the first landings and again near Suvla Bay for the later one, managed to be by happenstance in the correct spot to appreciate the danger for the Turks inherent in the situation and to forestall Allied progress. (Some idea of his desperation and borderline fanaticism is that one of his orders at Anzac read, in part, “I don’t order you to attack. I order you to die.”) None of this excuses the failure of General Stopford, commander at Suvla, (with his insistence, the weariness of his men notwithstanding, that no advance could take place without artillery support) to understand there were no Turkish entrenchments there which required such an insurance, nor of overall Commander Ian Hamilton to impress upon Stopford the necessity of quick movement into the hills when briefing him in the first place.

Moorehead is good on the conditions endured by the troops – not least the depredations ensured by the infestations of flies as summer approached, landing on food as soon as it was uncovered so that no mouthful was without its insect accompaniment – and their diverions when no fighting was taking place. With dead bodies and excrement also prevalent it is no surprise that dysentery was soon rampant among the soldiers – even the headquarters staff. British soldiers’ rations were almost entirely of bully beef, whose fat melted in the can, supplemented by plum and apple jam, with no vegetables to vary the diet. By contrast any army officer invited aboard one of the ships – away from the flies, the lice and the smell of death and decay – marvelled at clean linen, glasses, plates, meat, fruit and wine. (Of course, on land there was a decent prospect of surviving a battle; but if a ship went down you most likely drowned.)

As a precursor to Turkey’s entry into the war, and without their say, so the Germans had mined the Dardanelles (obstruction of which was an act of war) so blocking the vast majority of Russia’s exports. Russia’s grain and other exports piled up in the Golden Horn before their ships had to sail back to Russia. When the time was ripe once more to reopen trade the Revolution in that country had removed (the now Soviet) interest in the trade. According to Moorehead (at time of writing in 1956) that pre-war trade through the Dardanelles had never revived in the forty years since.

One of the aspects of the Gallipoli battles I had not realised before was the extent of submarine operations. Several British submarines penetrated into the Sea of Marmara and devastated Turkish shipping there. One submariner even swam ashore to blow up an important railway line. German submarines – easily able to access the Mediterranean through the Straits of Gibraltar as no technology then existed to detect or prevent them – managed to torpedo some Allied warships.

The campaign saw military innovation on a large scale: as well as the experimental use of submarines and aircraft, radio, aerial bombs, land mines and other new devices, it trialled the firing of modern naval guns against shore artillery and the landing of soldiers by small boats on an enemy coast. But the story is mainly of opportunities missed and

Nevetheless it may have continued for much longer (and Moorehead suggests even succeeded in its aims) had not the Australian journalist Keith Murdoch arrived and witnessed the danger and squalor in the dugouts, the sickness, the monotonous food, the general depression. Despite being only a few hours at the front, in collaboration with the only British journalist Kitchener had allowed on the expedition, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, he planned to bypass the usual channels and break the agreement not to send reports without submitting them first to the censor at headquarters. His private letter to the Australian Prime Minister reached the eyes of Lloyd George (by now UK Prime Minister) who himself bypassed official channels by circulating it directly to the Dardanelles Committee without first asking Hamilton for his comments. The man sent out to take over from Hmailton and assess the situation for himself, Lt-Gen Charles Monro, already firmly believed that the war could only be won on the Western Front by killing Germans, Turks did not count.

Thus was set in train the process, sanctioned in the end by a visit from Kitchener himself, which led to the withdrawal of troops, at first only from Anzac and Suvla. That this was accomplished without the Turks getting wind of it – at Anzac the opposing lines were in places no more than ten yards apart – and with no loss, with the help of the famous improvised device of the self-firing rifle using dripping water from a can to fill another attached to the trigger or fuses and candles to burn through string and release a weight, in retrospect still seems astonishing.

That left only the beachhead at Cape Helles, upon which the German commander of the Turks, Liman von Sanders, unleashed a delayed attack accompanied by the heaviest artillery bombardment of the campaign on the now depleted British force the day before the final 17,000 troops were to be taken off. The British fire in response, perhaps inspired by desperation, was so devastating that the follow-up Turkish infantry refused to charge – something rarely seen before on the peninsula. This repulse convinced von Sanders that there would be no further British evacuation, but of course there was. Yet again the withdrawal was completed in the utmost secrecy and highly successful. Despite widescale destruction of supplies as the withdrawal took place the booty of food, weapons and ammunition retrieved from Cape Helles by the Turks took two years to clear up.

The hopes of those who advocated withdrawal never came to fruition, none of the troops from Gallipoli (save the Anzacs) were ever sent to the Western Front. Many more than had landed on Gallipoli were posted instead to the Salonika front or drawn into the long desert campaign against Turkey in Sinai and Palestine. Towards the end of 1918 plans were even well advanced to try again to force the Narrows by ship but were pre-empted by the Armistice.

While never neglecting the other side of the argument Moorehead’s position on the Gallipoli campaign is clear throughout the book; that its objective was worthwhile, and achievable, that its success would have shortened the war, given succour to Russia and even prevented the Revolution there and so given history a different direction.

A cruel comment on the whole business is that no special medal was awarded to those who took part.

Pedant’s corner:- “England” or “English” are used extremely often as the descriptive term for the UK or British respectively, which last also of course encompassed Empire/Dominion troops. Otherwise; Novorossik (Novorossiysk,) De Robeck (at the start of a sentence x 2. The man’s surname was de Robeck, the capital ‘D’ is therefore erroneous,) Keyes’ (several times; Keyes’s,) “on the tide” (this was in the Mediterranean. I always understood that the Mediterranean had very little in the way of tides,) “for all the control exercised on then” (on them,) Liman von Sanders’ (von Sanders’s,) thtat (that,) d’Oyly-Hughes’ (d’Oyley-Hughes’s,) commandos (these didn’t exist in units called such until World War 2,) Xerxes’ (Xerxes’s.) “At the the front” (only one ‘the’,) “rising to a crescendo” (a perennial favourite, this; the crescendo is the rise, not its culmination.)

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times – Lewis Grassic Gibbon

This will be my final entry for Judith’s meme now collated by Katrina.

This one concentrates on Scotland’s best writer of the twentieth century; J Leslie Mitchell, better known as Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

Boks by Lewis Grassic Gibbon

Here you’ll find his classic A Scots Quair, whose first instalment, Sunset Song, is the best Scottish novel of the past 150 years plus.

Also present are his two Science Fiction novels Three Go Back and Gay Hunter, his historical novel Spartacus, two other novels, two collections of shorter stories and a history book, Nine Against the Unknown, recounting the voyages of various explorers.

Another collection of his shorter fiction Smeddum is on my tbr pile as is A Scots Hairst, which contains non-fiction pieces.

Ashby de la Zouch Castle (i)

We had no idea before we went that Ashby de la Zouch had an old ruined castle, but as we were doing the detour round the town required by the street fair blocking the main road we saw a sign pointing to it.

As old castles go it’s one of the better ones.

From entrance:-

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

Welcome Board:-

Ashby Castle Board

First building:-

Castle, Ashby de la Zouch

Ashby Castle

Further portion:-

Part of Castle, Ashby de la Zouch

Picture window:-

Ashby de la Zouch, Part of Castle

The fireplace on the left wall has the remains of shields on it:-

Fireplace, Ashby de la Zouch Castle


Ashby de la Zouch, Castle Interior

The castle was demolished as the result of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms:-

Information Board, Ashby de la Zouch Castle

Napoleon’s Last Campaign in Germany – 1813 by F Loraine Petrie

Arms and Armour Press, 1977, 406 p, including Index, plus iii p Introduction by David G Chandler, iv p Author’s Preface, four sheets of Maps and Plans, iv p Contents. First published 1912.

 Napoleon’s Last Campaign in Germany cover

The Author’s Preface notes the Napoleonic Wars as an evolution, the time of change from war as involving only the clash of armies to something which involved whole nations instead.

The main body of the book follows the course of the campaign of 1813 from Napoloeon’s initial invasion to its culmination at Liepzig, the largest engagement of the Napoleonic Wars, with a brief description of the minor battle at Hanau in its aftermath. The essence of the tale is that the Russian adventure in 1812 had severely weakened Napoleon (not least in a deficit of cavalry in comparison with before, but also with many new recruits to be assimilated into his armies) if not his personal reputation as a master of war. His aura was still such that during the armistice in mid-1813 the Allies formed a pact not to engage separately the army of which the Emperor was directly in charge unless and until they had united and had a large superiority in numbers. This stricture did not apply to his Marshals who according to Petrie were very well-versed in tactical matters but a failure to train them in strategical considerations meant they were lacking at crucial junctures.

The decline in Napoleon’s abilities from his glory years is illustrated by contrasting his switherings in this campaign with his decisiveness at Jena seven years earlier. There was a fatal conflict of Napoleon’s priorities as Emperor, and dominator of Germany, compared with his military objectives. Here he tended to try to protect the land he held, specifically the city of Dresden, over his previous focus on destroying his enemies’ armies in the field. Petrie also quotes the man himself as saying experience in war does not count for much, that he thought himself as insightful in his youthful campaigns in Italy as he ever was later. His early battles were of course smaller affairs over which he could exercise a large degree of control. Noitwithstanding the fact that armies in 1813 were much more densely concentrated than in later times, by the time of Liepzig this sort of close oversight was perhaps beyond any one person.

It amused me when at one point Petrie wrote, “These extensive expeditions of considerable bodies of cavalry in the French rear are a peculiarity of this campaign which is the only instance of their employment on a large scale in a European War. Similar raids played a considerable part in the American Civil War of fifty years ago. In this case, as in 1813, the raids were generally carried out in a country the inhabitants of which were often sympathisers with the raiders, to whom they supplied food, forage, and information. Moreover, there were few or none of the modern facilities for sending information to the other side. It seems more than doubtful what success such raids could hope for in these days of telegraphs in Europe. (My emphasis.) Petrie notes a like raid by Petrushenko in the then recent Russo-Japanese War which, “can hardly be deemed a great success, and it was only possible to carry it out at all owing to the route being taken through an area devoid of telegraphs.” The thought of such wires being cut in the furtherance of raiding activities does not seem to have occurred to him. And didn’t the Boers in the also recent South African War in effect also use tactics like this? Of course the presence of technologies such as the telegraph, telephone, and radio, did not negate the opportunity for operations behind the lines in later wars.

The language of the text can be a little precious. Petrie uses unnecessary formulations such as “We left Oudinot, at 11 am,” “We now return to Ney,” etc, and there is the usual alphanumeric soup of divisions and Roman-numeralled corps. The four sheets of maps (seventeen diagrams in total) are more or less useless not only since they require awkward folding out but also because they are affixed to pages towards the end of the book, nowhere near the parts of the text they are meant to illuminate. Their appearance is also too cluttered.

Pedant’s corner:- “This broke down one” (broke down once,) England (The United Kingdom,) “6 per cent. on the then population” (of the then,) throu (through,) Friederichs’ (Friederichs’s,) many ionstances of names ending in s being treated this way – Dolffs’ (Dolffs’s,) Reuss’ (Reuss’s,) even one where the final s is not sounded and the possessive therefore positively demands “s’s” – a missing full stop, “unable note Bulöw’s advance” (unable to note,) Probetheida (Probstheida,) “came to nought” (nought = the number zero, ‘came to naught,’)|Naumburg (elsewhere Naumberg.)

Bookshelf Travelling for Even More Insane Times

Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times was started by Judith and is now hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.

The main thrust of this week’s post is to focus on books by Primo Levi.

The times Levi lived through were even more insane than these. An Italian Jew, he was rounded up in February 1944 and transported to Auschwitz, where his experience as a Chemist allowed him to gain a position as assistant in an I G Farben laboratory there. Ironically he was saved from almost certain death by being ill with scarlet fever and in the camp hospital when, on the approach of the Red Army, the SS evacuated the camp and forced the prisoners on a death march further away from the front.

He translated his experiences into a very readable series of books, nine of which are on these shelves (ten if you count This is a Man and The Truce as two.)

Primo Levi Books

Levi’s death forty years later was ruled a suicide by the coroner but he may have fallen from his flat as a result of dizziness.

This photo also shows Peter Høeg’s Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, a Graham Greene omnibus, Mary Somerville‘s personal recollections in Queen of Science (which is the good lady’s and I have not yet read) plus Isabel Allende’s House of the Spirits.

Jackboot by John Laffin

The Story of the German Soldier, Cassell, 1965, 241 p, including xii p Index and iv p Sources, preceded by i p Acknowledgements, ii p Contents, ii p List of Illustrations, iv p quotes describing “What the Germans Think About War” and iv p Introduction.

 Jackboot cover

The subtitle of the book is somewhat misleading, this is not, quite, the story of the German soldier. At least not of the individual. Very few instances of soldierly action are described, it is more the history of the Prussian and German states’ relationship to war as a profession and a duty, a guiding principle; their highest calling.

In his Introduction Laffin says the German is a born soldier, aggression and fortitude in his blood, needing to be trained, yes, but the material is there already, not base clay but refined. He contrasts modern national aptitudes for soldiering; none equals the Australian for dash, élan and initiative, but for dogged persistence and obedience to orders no-one can touch the English and Welsh, for fighting fury the Scots, for thoroughness Americans, fanatical courage the Japanese, the capacity to suffer and still keep fighting, the Russians. He claims none of these are complete soldiers, though, they fight only because it is necessary to do so. But Germans are complete soldiers, for them war is holy. “The complete soldier fully realises that his only logical end is death, that this is a soldier’s only privilege. The German knows this.” In modern times, he says, only Napoleon’s soldiers can be compared with them – and then only when Napoleon commanded them. He states that Prussians and Germans never considered themselves beaten in any conflict up to 1918 (later in the book he says not even then.) They had to admit defeat in 1945, bludgeoned by impossible odds, but even in extremis in December 1944 they launched the Battle of the Bulge, which, Laffin claims, “will for ever remain a magnificent feat of arms.” Despite younger Germans saying, “It will never happen again,” Laffin believes a German “can never evade his destiny: he does not really want to evade it. He is a soldier. A soldier fights.”

For how this came about you have to go back to landlocked Prussia, poor and barren, no cities worth the name, little industry and less culture, and to Frederick William (and his obsession with very tall soldiers) who expanded his army by impressing and enrolling men – many of them foreign – but it was his son Frederick the Great who devoted the resources of the state to it and realised that Prussia, surrounded by larger more populous countries, had to depend on organisation and speed and manœuvre in battle.

By Napoleonic times his lessons had largely been forgotten or outmoded. In 1808 crushing defeat at Jena and Auerstadt led to change, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau instituted a war academy and seven years later their influence bore fruit with Napoleon’s defeat at Liepzig. Their adherent Clausewitz formed his principles of war whose beliefs extend down the years since. An inculcation of military virtues via the school system (extended to the whole of Germay after unification in the wake of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870) laid the foundations for the nature of the German soldier and Kaiser Wilhelm introduced badges and awards for proficiency – a system brought to its greatest peak by the Nazis. Through all these years deference to a military uniform (indeed to uniforms of any stamp) was inbuilt in the German state.

In the context of France invading Germanic territory fourteen times between 1675 and 1813 Laffin quotes General Fuller as saying, ‘Few nations have had so bad a neighbour as Germany has had in France.’ (To which I can only reply, you should try being a Scot, mate.)

A piece of information that surprised me was that in the Nineteenth Century homosexuality was apparently rife in the Prussian army and not hidden, was indeed paraded, by those of that persuasion.

The German War Book stated the employment of “uncivilised and barbarous peoples in European wars” was an unlawful instrument of war, since “these troops had no conception of European-Christian culture, of respect for property and for the honour of women.” A footnote adds that this was a source of great bitterness during the Great War, quoting a Private’s letter to his parents (sensitivity warning; use of the ‘n’ word,) “The French have sunk so low as to use niggers against us. They are heathens and quite revolting and cruel. We fight fiercely against them because we know we can expect no mercy from these savages. You can smell them in the night.” (I’d have thought a smell – if any – would more likely have been produced by day than by night, but there you go. I suspect that any such perception was psychological anyway.)

Twice, re 1918 and 1945, Laffin asserts that the Germans were not beaten but overwhelmed – which, he says, is something different. For 1918 he cites a million troops left in the east to keep the conquered territories subdued and how they might have affected things in the west. (In this regard, the undefeated Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in Africa does stand out in his four year undefeated campaign of improvisation, holding down 300,000 British and Allied troops with a maximum strength of 20,000 of his own [including bearers,] while managing to inflict 60,000 casualties. After the armistice he for a short time contemplated holding out – much as some Japanese soldiers were to in the wake of 1945 – but in the end decided to honour its terms.) Laffin suggests a suitable counter to this perception might have been that rather than negotiating armistice with the civilian Erzberger, the Allies ought to have forced Hindenburg to the table amd made him surrender his sword; the symbolism of which would have been unmistakable. In 1945 the German soldiers considered themselves brutally crushed, not militarily defeated. Laffin says, “Others,” (I count myself among that number,) “might not be able to see the difference, but this is not important. The Germans know there is a difference.”

The book was published in 1965, only twenty years after the Second World War finished, at which time there were still many Germans who had experienced the upbringing that inculcated such a mindset. Laffin quotes a former soldier telling him that, “‘We are not finished with our jackboots yet,’” and, “‘Germany must triumph. Peace is ignoble.’” It is to be hoped that with the further 55 years since then of peace (however ignoble – yet welcome to those who hope it will never happen again) and of a sustained non-military education system in Germany that that attitude has faded away for good.

Pedant’s corner:- England (at the time covered by this book England no longer existed as a separate state. It was in a United Kingdom with Scotland. Britain, then. A few pages later we have, “The English made him [Count William of Schaumburg-Lippe] Field-Marshal of Portugal, but the role of British mercenary did not suit him.” British is required in both cases, etc, etc,) cameraderie (camaraderie,) sheath (sheathe,) onle (only,) “rend thy Germans” (the Germans.) In the Sources; idealogy (ideology.)

Yet More Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

A small portion of this shelf houses books on military history which I have read.

John Laffin’s Jackboot I have only just finished (review to come, it still has some of my markers for pages to be looked at again in it.) The others I read some time ago (except Goering Air Leader which I don’t recall reading and is on this shelf for reasons of space.)

The Australians in Nine Wars by Peter Firkins I reviewed here, The Great War Generals on the Western Front by Robin Neillands here, David Fraser’s And We Shall Shock Them, here, The Western Front by John Terraine, here. The others I read pre-blogging.

History Books

Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer

Picador, 1984, 715 p.

 Ancient Evenings cover

The main preoccupations of the novel as a form throughout the years have been with love, sex and death. This is not a love story and, since it revolves around reincarnation, that pretty much takes care of death. (Not entirely, there is a long description of the Battle of Kadesh, which isn’t exactly mortality free, and to be reborn one has to die, but these are all-but incidental.)

That leaves only sex, la petite mort. And boy, does it leave sex. You name it, it appears in these pages.

Not that there is much intimation of that to start with. We begin with someone – we quickly learn this person is named Menenhetet Two – waking up in the Great Pyramid of Khufu, assuming himself to be dead, and making his way up into the light. (Ancient Egyptians of course had an afterlife.) This is the first of seven Books in the novel, The Book of One Man Dead. The others are The Book of the Gods, The Book of the Child, The Book of the Charioteer, The Book of the Queens, The Book of the Pharaoh and The Book of Secrets, in all of which the chapters are preceded by that section’s descriptive Egyptian hieroglyph.

The first two are fairly turgid, the second, The Book of the Gods, being an account of Egyptian mythology but which doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose beyond illustrating their Gods’ convolutions. It is only in the third section that we begin to have some appearance of story. Here Menenhetet Two, as a seven year-old boy, accompanies his parents (mother Hathfertiti and father Nef-khep-aukhem, who in Egyptian tradition are half-siblings,) and his great-grandfather Menenhetet One, to a celebration known as the Night of the Pig (an unclean animal of course,) in the presence of Pharaoh Ptah-nem-hotep, also known as Ramses the Ninth, in the royal city of Memphi. The later chapters play out the ramifications of this evening and Menenhetet One’s reminiscences of his four lives so far, but are mostly set during the life and times of the Great Pharaoh Ramses the Second, (Usermare Setpenere,) whom Menenhetet One served in various contexts – as charioteer, then General, then governor of the little queens in the House of the Secluded (the Pharoah’s harem,) then guard to Ramses’s Queen, Nefertiri, and later to the Pharaoh’s third Queen, the Hittite princess Rama-Nefru, but also, in Menenhetet One’s second life, as High Priest – during his long reign.

Egyptians, due to the influence of the Nile, are privy to other people’s thoughts and Menenhetet Two experiences all of this – and knowledge of his mother’s desire to actually have sex with Ptah-nem-hotep (eventually fulfilled) – mostly by pretending to be asleep. So it is that Menenhetet Two learns his great-grandfather and his mother have been long-time lovers and his real father is Ptah-nem-hotep, conceived by Hathfertiti through devious means.

Mailer makes a fair enough attempt to mimic ancient Egyptian speech patterns and phraseology but in the main the novel is overwritten, which renders it hard going to start with. The details of Menenhetet One’s first life though do manage to conjure some interest but there are still significant longueurs within most of his reminiscences.

My overall memory of this book, however, is likely to be of the quite ridiculous amount of sex it contains.

Pedant’s corner:- On the backcover “Nefititi” (In text it’s always Nefertiri.) Otherwise; lay (lie,) Isis’ (Isis’s,) Osiris’ (Osiris’s,) Horus’ (Horus’s.) “The air alt red” (altered.) “My means might be one-seventh of what once it had been” (of what once they had been.) “Ahead were nothing but mountains covered with trees” (Ahead was nothing but…,) paniers (panniers,) “the first of our advantages were the bows” (the first … was the bows,) staunch (x 2, stanch.)

Old Bookshelf Travelling for Insane Times

This week’s contribution to Judith’s meme at Reader in the Wilderness.

So, I hear you ask, is it old books or an old bookcase?

Well, it’s both.

This is known in our house as, “my Dad’s bookcase,” (or, depending on who is speaking, “your Dad’s bookcase.”)

The top three shelves contain classic books, some of them leather-bound, and poetry collections; the lower two have reference books and military history.

Old Bookcase

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