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Gillian Tindall is well known for the quality of her writing and the meticulous nature of her research. She is a master of miniaturist history, making a particular person or situation stand for a much larger picture. She began her career as a prize-winning novelist and has continued to publish fiction, but she has also staked out a particular territory in idiosyncratic non-fiction that is brilliantly evocative of place. Her books include The Fields Beneath: The History of One London Village; Celestine: Voices from a French Village; The Journey of Martin Nadaud; and The Man Who Drew London: Wenceslaus Hollar in Reality and Imagination (also published by Pimlico).
There are so many layers to Footprints in Paris, a history of the place itself, Parisian people and street life, a history of Gillian Freeman’s family and her own early life. Not for this author the broad brush approach, she works like a miniaturist building up detail upon detail so that as readers we feel the breath of the past she writes about so enchantingly in this and in her previous books. Please note that we are awaiting an extract from the publisher for this title. Like for Like Reading: The House by the Thames: and the People Who Lived There by Gillian Tindall
*As read on BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week* 'A genius for a certain kind of social history that, in shining a light on one small place, illuminates a huge amount' Sunday Telegraph A toy train. A stack of letters. A tiny pulse glass, inherited from her great-great-grandfather, which was used to time a patient's heartbeat before pocket watches... Gillian Tindall, one of our most admired domestic history writers, examines seemingly humble objects to trace the personal and global memories stored within them, and re-animate the ghostly heartbeats of lost lives. 'Elegiac... Tindall reflects on a lifetime's interest in historical recovery' The Telegraph 'Tindall is a fine historian and writes with a wryness of everyday human foibles' The Times
A personal and global history in objects, Gillian Tindall traces the memories and meanings that accrue to the artefacts of human lives through time. Before ordinary doctors had access to accurate pocket watches, they timed a patient's pulse with a 30-second sandglass. A 'pulse glass' was a functional piece of medical equipment, designed to measure a life, never intended to survive for centuries. But Gillian Tindall inherited her great-great-grandfather's pulse glass, which holds the heartbeats of many by-gone generations and offers a portal to nineteenth-century Anglo-Irish life, to her grandmother's marriage and the assorted fates of the next generation. Most of the objects that surround us, no matter how important in their time, will eventually be lost and forgotten. But a select few, for reasons of sentiment and chance, conservation and simple inaction, escape destruction and gain new meanings. A toy train, a stack of letters from long ago, a battered ivory figure. Each tells a different story: the destiny of local railways, travel across the world and village anecdotes, the value of what we inherit and the necessity of forgetting. The Pulse Glass is an exploration of changing and expanding messages in objects that survive us. Tindall brings her signature eye for domestic history to bear on the physical remnants of lives lost, recent and ancient, unearthing stories and considering the nature of permanence. This is an elegant and clear-eyed reflection on memory from one of our best history writers.
Crossrail, the 'Elizabeth' line, is simply the latest way of traversing a very old east-west route through what was once countryside to the city and out again. Visiting Stepney, Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Street, Gillian Tindall traces the course of many of these historical journeys across time as well as space. The Tunnel Through Time uncovers the lives of those who walked where many of our streets still run. These people spoke the names of ancient farms, manors and slums that now belong to our squares and tube stations. They endured the cycle of the seasons as we do; they ate, drank, worked and laughed in what are essentially the same spaces we occupy today. As Tindall expertly shows, destruction and renewal are a constant rhythm in London's story.
Late on a summer afternoon in the very heart of rural France, in a small, centuries-old house newly abandoned to its ghosts, Gillian Tindall came upon a cache of letters dating from the 1860s. Neatly folded and carefully tucked away, all were addressed to the village innkeeper's daughter, Celestine. All but one were proposals of marriage. Celestine Chaumette (1844-1933) was to reject each of these suitors to wed another; yet she preserved the letters, keeping them throughout her long life.Something about the letters, about the woman who had so clearly cherished them, fired the historian's curiosity and the novelist's imagination. With a house in Chassignolles, Celestine's village, Ms. Tindall would spend years searching in dusty archives and farmhouse attics, probing the memories and myths of the men and women from the village and the surrounding countryside. The treasure she unearthed reaches far beyond the mystery of Celestine to tell of a vanished way of life, of a century of revolutionary change--and of the strange persistence, despite all, of the past. The result is both moving and profound. It is, as M.R.D. Foot wrote in the London Spectator, "e;a touching picture of a world we have lost [and] social history at its best."e;
'A major achievement' Ronald Blythe, author of Akenfield A Cotswold vicarage. A former girls' boarding school in Surrey. A Jacobean house now buried in inner London. Three Houses, Many Lives tells the stories not only of the houses themselves but of the lives of the many people who lived in them. From Eugenia Stanhope who sold Lord Chesterfield's scandalous letters, to the autocratic vicar who held the same parish from age 28 to 82, from the just-literate wife of a parish clerk who wrote riddles in his registers, to the cow-keeper who farmed 226 acres in Hornsey till he sold them profitably when the railways came through. Gillian Tindall is a master of miniaturist history, making a particular place, person or situation stand for a much larger picture.
A masterpiece of local history, by the Queen of the genre; Gillian Tindall has acquired a devoted readership through her lovingly researched works, such as the prize-winning The House by the Thames and Celestine: Voices from a French Village . A journey through time: from a scattering of cottages along a pre-roman horse track, to a medieval parish and staging post for travellers, onwards into a prosperous Tudor village favoured by gentlemen for their country seats and an 18th century resort of pleasure gardens eventually transformed by a warren of railway lines into a thickly populated working-class district. Fragments of this past can still be found by the observant eye. This is one of a precious handful of books (such as Montaillou and Akenfield) that in their precise examination of a particular locality open our understanding of the universal themes of the past. In this case it is Kentish Town in London that reveals its complex secrets to us, through the resurrection of its now buried rivers and wells, coaching house, landlords, traders, and simple tennants.
'Nothing can happen nowhere. The locale of the happening always colours the happening and often, to a degree, shapes it ...' Elizabeth Bowen This compelling study explores the way the great themes of English and French fiction in the past two centuries have been expressed through writers' sense of place. Gillian Tindall shows how familiar landscapes - whether Yorkshire moors or Paris streets - can acquire the force of powerful metaphors: rural scenes which embody regret for a golden past; cities which come to stand, paradoxically, both for decay and alienation and for hopes of a new life; country houses which survive in the memory as repositories of youthful dreams, spiritual mansions of the soul. A subtle and complex argument develops, through illuminating and detailed reading of a host of novelists, from Dickens and Zola to Alain Fournier and Evelyn Waugh. The result is a highly original view of two complementary cultures, a book which asks us to take a fresh look at the way in which writers map out and inhabit their own particular countries of the mind.
Gillian Tindall is well known for her ability to breathe a passionate life into the generations of those who have walked the earth before us. Here, using a handful of lives, she evokes the texture and atmosphere of a hidden Paris which has survived against all the odds of time and chance. Her study shows how Paris has drawn into its magnetic field people who have variously found there education or enlightenment, a refuge or a secret garden, even a different identity. Five individuals, all related in some way, reveal a web of human feeling and experiences across two centuries. There is the young doctor who walked from Edinburgh to Paris at the time of Napoleon's downfall; the self-made Victorian businessman who traded with the brash capital of the Second Empire; his reserved son who found in the old stones of Paris a refuge from his fraught childhood; Maud, the archetypal English spinster, who somehow managed to construct an alternatative experience in Paris; and Julia , young and desperate, who found her own unlikely salvation there in a very different era. Gillian Tindall brings Paris alive - whether it's the network of streets that form the Left Bank, the resonance of 'Bohemia' and its garrets, cafes and artists, 'Gay Paree' with its music halls and courtesans or the past chroniclers of the city such as Zola, George du Maurier and Orwell. But featured far more than the famous, are the unsung citizens for whom Gillian Tindall has such empathy.
Just across the River Thames from St Paul's Cathedral stands an old and elegant house. Over the course of almost 450 years the dwelling on this site has witnessed many changes. From its windows, people have watched the ferrymen carry Londoners to and from Shakespeare's Globe; they have gazed on the Great Fire; they have seen the countrified lanes of London's marshy south bank give way to a network of wharves, workshops and tenements - and then seen these, too, become dust and empty air. Rich with anecdote and colour, this fascinating book breathes life into the forgotten inhabitants of the house - the prosperous traders; an early film star; even some of London's numberless poor. In so doing it makes them stand for legions of others and for a whole world that we have lost through hundreds of years of London's history.
The seventeenth-century London Wenceslaus Hollar knew is now largely destroyed or buried. Yet its populous river, its timbered streets, fashionable ladies, old St Paul's, the devestation of the Fire, the palace of Whitehall and the meadows of Islington live on for us in his etchings. Drawing on numerous sources, Gillian Tindall creates a montage of Hollar's life and times and of the illustrious lives that touched his. It is a carefully researched factual account, but she has also employed her novelist's skill to form an intricate whole - a life's texture which is also an absorbing and occasionally tragic story.
This biography tells the true story of Martin Nadaud, an itinerant stone mason from the Creuse region, at the geographical heart of France, who became a builder and architect in Paris and who would eventually return to his birthplace as Prefect of the entire department.
When Gillian Tindall discovered a cache of tightly folded letters in a deserted house in central France, recently emptied of 150 years of a family's possessions, she uncovered the obscure and moving life of one woman, Celestine Chaumette. This is Tindall's brilliantly original recreation of the vanished world of a French village.