Category Archives: non fiction

Treaty of Versailles

My daughter recently did a school project on The Treaty of Versailles and I helped her source some of the books from the local library. She had many more sources from her school library and, of course, her research was much more intense than mine but a strange thing happened – I learned a few things. I won’t even try to claim that I read all these books cover to cover but, by golly, I did absorb a few details. I now have a better understanding of the players involved and a pretty clear understanding why the treaty might have failed. In fact, if you ask some people when World War 2 started  they may reply “June 28, 1919” — the day that the Treaty of Versailles was 1919
These are some of the books from our local library;
Paris 1919 Six Months that Changed the World by MacMillan, Margaret, 2002, Random House

The Guardians –  The League of nations and the Crisis of Empire by Susan Pederson, 2015 ,Oxford University Press

With Our Back Against the Wall –  Victory and Defeat in 1918 by Stevenson, D., 2011, Belknap Press of Harvard

A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin 1989. Holt

A Shattered Peace by David Andelman 2014, Wiley, John Wiley and sons

The Long Shadow by David Reynolds, 2014, W. W. Norton and co.

The Lights That Failed by Zara Steiner, 2005, Oxford University Press

The Deluge by Adam Tooze, 2014, Viking

The Fall of The Ottomans by Rogan, Eugene, 2015, Perseus Books

The Wilsonian Moment by Erez Manela, 2007, Oxford University press

Laurence In Arabia by Anderson, Scott, 2013, Signal

These books have lots of information on the Paris Peace Treaties and The Treaty of Versailles in Particular. I am not an academic yet I found some information that fascinated me. Here are a few points that fascinated me.

  • The Germans agreed to surrender based on Wilson’s “fourteen points for peace” yet these were pretty much ignored once the negotiations began
  • In fact The United States Of America opted out of “The League of Nations”
  • It seemed each country had their own agenda.
  • France suffered the most casualties and damage during the war and they demanded reparations from Germany resulting in a hungry and impoverished and unhappy Germany. This led to the groundwork for an upstart named Adolph Hitler and his Fascists to improve the conditions in Germany and become a hero.
  • They league of nation had no muscle and the treaty was broken at various times by various countries with few consequences
  • Boundaries all through Europe were redrawn willy nilly, especially in the Middle East
  • Eventually several nations withdrew from the league of nations.

I usually like to write about fiction. novels but this subject peaked my interest so I thought I would include this biblioghraphy on my blog. Of course, I have only touched the surface on this topic.



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Filed under books, hstory, non fiction, world war 1, world war 2

Scottish Islands during World War 1

IolaireI am drawn to novels set on Scottish Islands; for years now I have tried  to get my hands on any and every novel featuring a Scottish Island setting.  Skye, Orkney, Lewis and Harris, Iona, Shetland, Barra,—well it could be a long list because there are over 90 inhabited Islands (although in some  cases the population may consist of a single caretaker or family). Of course two famous writers (Ann Cleeves and Peter May) have made it easier, each by setting a series on a Scottish Island.   I have reviewed many of these novels in greater detail in past blogs (and explained some of the reasons why they attracted me).

And….I have been presenting an overview of some  impressive World War 1 novels in my past few blogs and now I am going to continue with the war theme and add the Scottish Island theme. I hope my next few blogs might offer some choices and possibilities to readers who enjoy this type of fiction.

I have stated that my main interest is fiction–well this blog is about fiction—BUT right now, in this posting, I am going to indulge in some NON-fiction. I think the narrative I am about to present will give the reader some perspective with respect to the Islanders’ involvement in World War 1.  So I will break with form to tell…..

The Heartbreaking and True story of the HMY Iolaire,

The young men of Isle of Lewis had a long record of coming to the aid of king and country, and true to form, during World War One, Lewis contributed 6,200 servicemen to the cause, and that  from a population of 30,000.  When the  guns  went  quiet after the armistice had been signed….1,000 Lewis men had succumbed to the war. One thousand young men would never come home.  Six weeks after the armistice, Lewis servicemen (survivors of a hell on earth), were still being demobbed and preparing to return home to their Island . On New Years Eve, 9:30 p.m., the HMY Iolaire (Gaelic for Eagle) left the Kyle of Lochalsh and  set sail for Stornaway Harbour on the Isle of Lewis. These men had survived the obscenities of war….and they were going home. Families on Lewis were preparing to have their sons/fathers/brothers/cousins/husbands/sweethearts home for the new year. The ship had a maximum capacity for 100 persons yet 280 men were onboard that night. Just outside Stornaway harbour, the Iolaire hit a rocky outcropping known as “The Beasts of Holm” These rocks had long been known as challenging to navigate (even in daylight with a familiar crew….and even today). On January 1, 1919 the Iolaire sank. Many men drowned immediately with their heavy boots and full uniforms weighing them down and others were able to hang on to the masts for hours. Of the seven men gripping the masts, only one was able to hold on until rescued. And there was a hero……  A man named John F. McLeod managed to swim ashore with a rope. He secured it to a rock on the shore and it is believed that 40 men were saved by using this life line.  In the final count 205 men of the 280 onboard perished in the sea that night…….174 Lewis men,  7 Harris men and the rest were crew.  The entire Island was in mourning.

The first time I heard this story it was like a kick in the gut. They survived the war, only to die within sight of their home.

My next blog will feature Scottish Island fiction set during the First World War. I hope my readers can understand why I chose to  reveal this true story before I began the next stage of my WWI fiction blogs.








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Filed under book review, books, historical fiction, non fiction, Scotland, Scottish Island Fiction, world war 1

The Wilder Life………… Wendy McClure

Nonfiction, Memoir

Yes, I can read the top of my blog and it doesn’t say anything about nonfiction memoirs, but I read the book and I want to talk about it! (sorry,I didn’t mean to sound so cranky) This is the story of one woman’s quest to see and do all things connected to LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE.  First she divides the TLHOTP (The Little House On The Prairie )People into two camps; there are the book people and there are the T.V. show people. The t.v. show people are the fans of the 1970s show starring Michael  Landon and Melissa Gilbert and the book people are fans of the 8-book series written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and published originally in the 1930s. The t.v show would not exist without the book and the book certainly enjoyed a resurgence of popularity due to the t.v. show.  Wendy McClure is a book person–she read the series as a child and then she rereads them before she begins this quest.(actually it sounds as though she read each book many times) She does homey things like churning butter and preparing sourdough bread while she plans her trip to all the LHOTP homesites,— and she watches the t.v. show. And there are a lot of homesites because the book Ingalls moved a lot (unlike the t.v. show Ingalls who spent most of their time in Walnut Grove.)

I consider myself to be a book person although I did not discover them until I was an adult.  I am older than Ms. McClure and I would have been a teenager when the t.v. show first appeared. I do remember watching the first couple of years (sporadically) I lost interest when Mary went blind (she actually did ) and the town built a multi-racial blind school (never happened-Mary went to a state blind school) and Mary married blind Adam who later regained his sight and became a lawyer (Mary never married ). Somewhere the show lost the whole Ingalls family thing.   But I read the entire series of books (in order and out loud) when my daughters were 8 years old.  At that point, I fell in love with the idea of simple living. I was living the modern mother’s dilemma of too much choice–(poor me) where to go to school, which daycare, what foods are healthy (that list constantly changing). It seemed easier to just say we will be having salt pork and turnips because-well-that’s all we have.

But real Laura’s life was very difficult and I was shocked to discover that Rose Wilder Lane considered her childhood to be miserable. Yikes, a miserable childhood with half-pint as your mom! Another area discussed in the book is a controversy surrounding the authorship of the Little House books.  Apparently Rose(an established writer)  edited and advised her mother  but –How much?  There are differing opinions on that subject.

Ms. McClure visits all the different homesites with the accompanying museums, pageants and replica log cabins  and she has some witty observations and excellent insights.   At one of the homesites she meets a woman who refuses to look at a photograph of the actual Ingalls family as adults. It is not possible for her to reconcile this sombre group of people, with the Ingalls she knew and loved.(People did not smile in photos back then but even still–this is not Michael Landon as Pa)-The photo is easy to google.

One of the funniest chapters in the book occurs when the author and her fabulously game boyfriend decide to spend a homesteading week-end at a farm. They are prepared to learn about weaving and blacksmithing and other skills experienced by farmers of Laura’s era–basically sharing knowledge with like-minded people.  Instead they find themselves in the company of a religious group who are preparing for the end of the world. Funny stuff.

This is an excellent book but I think it would likely only appeal to fans of LHOTP.–But this is not a small group!

Center Point Publishing  2010.

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