George and Marina, Duke and Duchess of Kent – Christopher Warwick

Another 99p Amazon Kindle bargain book.  It looked vaguely interesting and I was in need of something to read whilst away from home and having no access to my stash of real books waiting to be read!

This is a biography of Prince George, fourth son of King George V of Britain, and Princess Marina, Third daughter of Prince & Princess Nicholas of Greece.

The book looks separately at their childhoods and teenage years, looks at them as a couple during their married years and then follows Marina through her long widowhood up to her death in 1968.

The book was interesting in terms of finding out more about the spiderweb of royal relationships across Europe.  I also enjoyed finding out more about the British royal family and the fallout from the abdication crisis.

The biggest downside of the book is that it is very one-sided, very pro the Kents.  A classic example of this is that he paints a picture of Marina as an out-and-out snob and then describes her as the pinnacle of British/European royalty.  In my worldview snobs aren’t the pinnacle of anything!  He also skirts over George’s less socially acceptable behaviour and tries to portray the Duke and Duchess as the perfect couple.

In summary, I found this biography a hagiography.  I don’t recommend it, unless you like uncritical and unbalanced biographies of titled people.  And I certainly won’t be reading any more of Christopher Warwick’s books.

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Drive; the surprising truth about what motivates us – Daniel Pink

You’ve probably noticed that despite my profession I don’t read very many self-help or personal development books.  This is generally because I don’t like the tone of them; I don’t appreciate being lectured whilst in the comfort of my own armchair nor do I want authors pushing their brand of religion at me.  However, several people I respect recommended this book to me so I thought I’d give it a go.

The first thing to say is that I have only read this book once and I think it is a book that requires reading more than once to pick up on the nuances and to join up the dots between sections and ideas.

The basic premise is that the carrot and stick “motivators” used in the workplace are irrelevant and unhelpful in the direction work is moving towards so we need to rethink.  Apparently we are moving from Motivation 2.0 operating system to Motivation 3.0!

The book looks at what M2.0 is, what the elements of M3.0 are and how to move from one to the other.  The key elements of M3.0 are autonomy, mastery and purpose, which link quite closely to what Harold Jarche talks about in his blog (which I highly recommend by the way).

Having read this book I now understand why my last workplace suited me better than the one that preceded it.  It also helped me to understand why I prefer to work in the way I do.

I think I now need to go back and re-read the book to understand it more deeply…and work out how I can use the ideas to make a difference

Click here to find out more about Harold Jarche

Click here to find out more about Daniel Pink

Elsa Schiaparelli; a biography – Meryle Secrest

I’ve been looking forward to reading this biography for ages: so long in fact that I’d forgotten I had a copy of it and bought another!

I’ve been fascinated by Elsa Schiaparelli since I read that Stalin regarded her as the most dangerous woman in the world.  I may have misquoted that as I can’t find a source but it has been lodged in my memory for years.

I also love the pre-war clothes she created as part of the Surrealist movement; the Cocteau inspired evening coat, the lobster print evening dress and the stunningly simple and elegant red evening coat.

I wanted to know more about the woman who created these fun yet fabulous clothes.  I wanted to know how she translated the art the surrealists created into wearable, stylist and elegant fashion.

And how does the daughter of a well-off and prominent Roman family end up married to a con-artist and rise to the top of Parisian haute-couture?

The book gives a good overview of Schiaparelli’s early life but thereafter it is quite a vague biography.  Very little seems to be know about Elsa as a person and no one seems to have thought to ask her friends, employees, friends and family about her whilst they were still alive to ask.  I guess that is one of the challenges of writing a biography about someone whose life melted into obscurity after WW2 when she went out of fashion, or ran out of ideas, went bankrupt and faded into obscurity.  She was also one of the fashion designers whose reputation suffered from accusations of collaboration with the Nazi regime.

I’m still not sure how this extraordinary woman managed to transform herself from a poverty-stricken single parent to being the centre of 1930s fashion design but I am pleased I read the book.  I’m pleased to have the pictures in the book so I can keep going back and marvelling over the design.  I’m also pleased that it prompted me to splurge some birthday money on a Schiaparelli hat!

Would I recommend the book as a biography?  Not unless you already know something about the label Elsa hid behind.

Queen Anne; The politics of passion – Anne Somerset

I’m not entirely sure how to start this review.  I started reading this book during the Christmas break and have read 36 other books whilst reading it.  It isn’t that it’s a particularly dull book but it hasn’t grabbed my attention either.

Before I started I didn’t know much about Queen Anne.  I knew who she was, whose daughter and sister she was but most of the rest I knew was from reading Jean Plaidy’s book, The Queen’s Favourites.

This book puts Queen Anne in context; what was happening in the wider European world, the intrigues in France to put her father and then her half-brother on the throne and the War of Spanish Succession.  One can also see the development of party politics in England and Britain, once the Act of Union was passed.

I think the author tries to give a balanced view of Anne as not the cleverest or most educated monarch but a monarch who genuinely tried to do her best for her country. But overall I got the sense of a person who was stubborn and determined yet could be unduly swayed by people in her inner circle.

And of her inner circle the people who come across as having the most interesting – if not necessarily nice – characters are the Duke & Duchess of Marlborough.  Definitely a couple I want to read more about!

Overall, whilst this book is filled with a lot of facts it didn’t bring the majority of characters to life or really give me a living sense of the social upheavals that were taking place in Britain at this time.  Parts of it were interesting enough to keep me reading but there were too many bits that didn’t and why I picked up other books to read along the way.  I probably won’t choose to read another book by this author.