Historical House

Time to hit the bookshops again, for three books if you please. The second batch of The Historical House books is out now.

Adele Geras, Linda Newbery and Ann Turnbull are back at 6 Chelsea Walk with new stories about the people who have lived there. The first lot of stories covered the mid-nineteenth century to the second world war via the suffragette movement.

This time round Ann Turnbull’s Mary Ann & Miss Mozart takes us back to 1764. Adele Geras’ Cecily’s Portrait is set in 1895, covering the next generation along from her first story. Linda Newbery’s book Andie’s Moon is barely history at all, taking place during the moon landing in 1969.

I have to confess to a passion for houses, so I enjoy every minute of trying to visualise this house in its various guises. I believe the house is real, except with a different address. And I think it was Linda who met a man at a party who actually turned out to have lived there, and had written a book about it himself. Weird, isn’t it?

As I may have said before, I’m not incredibly interested in history as such, but this series of books is very fascinating. I’d like to think that what Ann, Linda and Adele have made up could very well have happened. Imagine meeting Mozart at the age of eight. Think of the childhood of photography over a hundred years ago. And consider two girls who wanted to make something of themselves. In contrast, it’s easy to see Linda’s Andie, as she’s very nearly my own age. Except I didn’t know Chelsea in the sixties, so that’s a revelation.

I understand from an interview the three of them did with Mary Hoffman for Armadillo Magazine, that Ann and Linda both wanted the same period. I think Linda won, in which case I’m grateful to Ann for her wonderful story from a long time ago. I didn’t know most of what I learnt from Mary Ann & Miss Mozart. And I’m glad Adele continued with the same family as last time, because you get to know them so well.

Last time I was in London I desperately wanted to go along and look at the house. Lack of time and aching feet prevented me, but I will go there one day.

When I’ve mentioned to people that the books are published by Usborne, there’s an element of surprise. “Do they publish real books then?” Seems they do. Don’t know if you can still go to Usborne parties, but if you can, these books are perfect.

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