The Fabian Waltz by Kris Hall

There are some familiar names in this excellent book: George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Beatrice Potter. These three disparate characters and two others less famous: Sidney Webb, founder of the Fabian Society and the London School of Economics, and Charlotte Payne-Townshend, an Irish millionaires, find themselves sharing a farmhouse for the summer. Oscar Wilde is the odd man out, a sybarite among activists, a charming cynic among dreamers and idealists. When they go their separate ways, their careers take them along different paths. Wilde’s leads to the infamous court case.

It’s always a pleasure for authors to read about other authors, and I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book. It is full of humour, philosophy, politics, issues such as women’s rights and the needs of the poor that are still relevant today, and romance – conducted in Victorian style. If the words attributed to Wilde and GBS are not direct quotes, as I suspect some are, kudos to the author for his/her wit. The author has captured the voices of the Victorian era beautifully, and the pages are not littered with descriptions of clothing or the appearance of the characters. (This may be a trend as I have noticed it in other literary fiction.)

I need hardly add that the characters are fascinating. I hoped to find in the notes at the end what aspects of these characters is from the imagination of the author. I knew that Oscar Wilde was a wit, oft-quoted. But was George Bernard Shaw as impish as depicted? Was he a vegetarian before vegetarianism became popular? Was he a marriage-shy ladies’ man? As for Beatrice Potter, I admit as I was reading to confusing her with Beatrix Potter of Peter Rabbit fame. Different women.

I highly recommend this book for those who enjoy the Victorian era or reading about other authors or just want an easy to read, humorous book at a bargain basement price.

*****  

The Unlikely Occultist by Isobel Blackthorn

This is a dual time periods book: modern/early-mid twentieth century

Alice Bailey was an aristocrat and an evangelical Christian. As a young woman she did missionary work in soldiers’ homes in Ireland and India. Marriage to a violent man produced three daughters. When he abandoned them, Alice was destitute. She worked for several years packing sardines in a canning factory in order to feed herself and her children. But she was a purposeful and ambitious woman determined to rise above these appalling conditions. Seeking some intellectual stimulation, she attended a meeting of theosophists and found her calling.

Heather is an archivist, who has a hundred boxes of a late professor’s work on Bailey dumped on her, including many of Bailey’s books. Heather is soon engaged, and we see Bailey’s life and work through her sensitive and sympathetic eyes. She has her own issues: a recently dead and beloved aunt and a domineering mother.

This was not an easy read and I found myself having to read parts again. Bailey was not only an occultist and an esoteric, but her teachings also encompassed metaphysics, spirituality, and cosmology among other arcane subjects, all of which are on the very periphery of my core of knowledge. She was called by some the Mother of the Aquarian New Age, and she was certainly an important influencer. Others denigrated her as a disciple of the Antichrist.

As Heather digs deeper, she embarks on a quest to discover why Bailey was loved and revered by some, reviled by others and largely ignored by eminent historians and academics. The answer may surprise. Despite all, Bailey’s teachings and the organisations she founded have endured.

Not all of Bailey’s writings are her own. She transcribed telepathic messages from an entity she called the Tibetan whose purpose was to found a new world order, with one government, one people, peace and harmony. The nearest we have come is the United Nations.

While this book is interesting, it’s not for everyone. Like its subject it is erudite and deep. But it did something for me few other books have done by opening a whole world of new thoughts and ideas.

*****

Sisi the Queen - Sisi, a magyarok királynéja

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