Thursday, December 11, 2014

Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England, by James Ruddick. Atlantic Books, 2001




 
This is a non-fiction book in two parts: in the first half, the author tells what’s known about a murder that took place in 1875 England. In the second, he goes through the evidence and interviews descendants of the people involved and presents his theory of what happened.

Florence Campbell was the daughter of a well to do upper middle class family who had the worst luck in relationships. She married Alexander Ricardo, who was in the service, and demanded that he resign because she feared for his life in the military. He declined into total alcoholism and became abusive. When she left him and went home, her father refused to take her in, wanting her to ‘do the right thing’ and stand by her husband. For her to leave would reflect poorly on her family, of course, and he couldn’t have that. When she refused to go back to Ricardo, he agreed to send her to a sanitarium for a stay ‘for health reasons’. There she met Dr. Gully, the much older, married, owner of the sanitarium and they started an affair. During this time, Ricardo had the good grace to die, leaving Florence a rich widow. It did not do her much good, however, because word of her affair got out, ruining her in society. She was happy to marry Charles Bravo, as this made her acceptable to society again. He was happy to marry her, as she was very rich and let him spend her money freely. Bravo would have had it made had he not been a mean and greedy man, dismissing Florence’s servants and getting rid of everything that he personally had no interest in, such as the garden and the horses. He became emotionally, sexually, and physically abusive to Florence. Then one evening he became violently ill. Doctors were called and they realized he had swallowed poison. After three horrible days, he died. Was is suicide, as Florence’s paid companion claimed? Or had someone poisoned him? If so, who? There was no lack of people that he had angered. Despite an inquest, no one was ever charged with Bravo’s death.

Ruddick’s examination of the evidence convinced me pretty well that he has fingered the right suspect.  He was able to find out things from the descendants that never came out at the inquest. There were also presumptions about what people of different classes and sexes would and wouldn’t do that colored the minds of the investigators. Had this same crime been committed today, there would have most likely have been a conviction. An interesting piece of Victorian true crime. 


A Summer Bird-Cage, by Margaret Drabble. Popular Library, 1962





Written in 1962, this book takes us back to the beginning of the era when women were starting to push back against the assumption that, even if they went to college, they would marry and have kids right after. Sarah, our narrator, is a bit surprised that her older sister, the stunningly beautiful Louise, is not just marrying, but marrying Stephen, a writer who is distinctly odd. The sisters have never been close, so Sarah has no idea why Louise might be marrying who she does. Stephen, an author of very literary books, does have money, but even that doesn’t seem to make it all make sense. Sarah doesn’t give it too much attention, though; she’s having her own crisis of trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life now that she’s graduated. Nothing really interests her. She might like to write a humorous novel, a la Kingsley Amis, but no idea how to go about it. She might wed but the man she might want to marry is studying in America. So she works at a job that she doesn’t respect. Louise’s situation catches her attention when Sarah discovers that Louise has been having an affair with John both before and after her wedding.

This is a novel that is about women in the state of dissatisfaction. Sarah is dissatisfied with her business and personal life. Louise is dissatisfied with her husband and with her lover. Their mother is dissatisfied with her own life and with theirs. Sarah’s friend has just left her husband, an ultimate dissatisfaction. The men seem much happier with their lives, although we don’t really get to see that much of them. It’s interesting to note that all the dilemmas the women face are one’s that women today still face; there was a shift in the early 60s when many more women decided to have more of a life than being married and having children but there hasn’t been much change since then. I’m not sure there could be any more change; women (and men) must still face the existential question of what to do with their lives, and no matter what one does they will be missing out on something else. Although written fifty years ago, this book is a bit dated but still pertinent. 


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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Medical Management of Diabetes Mellitus, edited by Jack L. Leahy, Nathaniel G. Clark, and William T. Cefalu. Marcel Dekker. Inc, 2000





This is a medical textbook, so it’s a lot more technical than diabetes books written for the lay person. It gives the actual mechanism of what happens in diabetes; the types of diabetes, what causes them, the role of diet, exercise, oral medications, insulin, and islet transplants. It deals with the complications of diabetes in detail- eye problems, kidney failure, skin problems, cardiac and vascular issues, foot problems (if you don’t have a strong stomach, skip that chapter- there are some very graphic photos of foot ulcers in it), nerve function, digestive issues, sexual issues, pregnancy and more- since diabetes screws up every part of your body, there is a lot to cover. It doesn’t go deeply into anything but provides basics, but it’s still far more detailed than you’ll find in a book aimed at the non-doctor. The authors do use medical terminology, but what they use is easily looked up on line. Of course, one of the authors states that the average American reads and comprehends only at the fifth grade level, so I guess doctors will be surprised if a lot of us are reading this book! 




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Sunday, November 23, 2014

American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes. ADA, 2011






This large (nearly 500 pages) book covers pretty much all aspects of diabetes- diet, insulin, other meds, types of diabetes, complications, mental health, sexual health, and legal issues. It doesn’t cover most of it in great depth- if you’re looking for a deep discussion of diet and carb counting, for instance, you’ll want to seek out a book devoted just to that. But for a newcomer to diabetes, whether the reader is the diabetic or a family member, it’s a great starting place because it has such a wide scope. Not all sections will be pertinent to a reader, since it covers children and adults, hiring discrimination, sports, dealing with school etc but any diabetic will find a lot that does pertain to them. It’s written in a non-textbook style and easy to understand by non-medical personnel. While it didn’t tell me anything really new, I wish it had been available 28 years ago when I developed diabetes! 


The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This in no way affected my review.