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Alison's Blog

As a writer of history and historical fiction, I delve into a lot of dusty library shelves and obscure corners of the internet. I find things that don't fit the books I'm writing. But they're worth sharing. And this is their place.  

When I was a child, my Mum had a big box full cloth leftovers from her sewing projects. It was a textile treasure chest. Velvet triangles, lengths of lace, Liberty prints and chunky tweeds, from the 1940s to the 1970s. They were all tossed in together, and we were allowed to plunder it for our own purposes. Here's my virtual scrapbox, of words and pictures - unassorted snippets of my reading, writing and research.

Authors like to say that books are food for the mind. So I was thinking, if my favourite books were actually food, what food would they be? One rule: they can't all be chocolate, even if they are more-ish and addictive, and some pages do have the occasional melty smudge on them...

Monday, 06 March 2017 02:05

Here's my first one: if Charles Dickens' books were food, they would be Christmas pudding. Not because there's a famous pudding-eating scene in A Christmas Carol. But because his writing is substantial, rich, well-preserved, quintessentially English and all-round Victorian. And with a good measure of nutty character.

Thursday, 09 March 2017 04:24

No, Australia's oldest organisation isn't a newspaper. But in the Gazette issue that's pictured here, there's a longish announcement, of a Society that's made history.

Two hundred years ago this week, Governor Macquarie presided over a meeting in the Sydney Court - 'highly to the gratification of a large assemblage of Officers, Gentlemen and private Individuals'. (Love the Regency era language with its rather formal capitalisation. The upper echelons of colonial society are literally encapsulated in that phrase...) It was the first meeting of a new auxiliary Bible Society, now Australia's oldest surviving organisation.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 05:26

In my latest book, Dragons, Devils and Rebels, there's a chapter on what Chinese and westerners thought of each other in the early days of contact. The book's finished, but I've since been reading a biography of an Englishman who lived in Shanghai in the mid 1850's. To his shock, when he first arrived Shanghai had been overrun by rebels, and was under siege from imperial troops. Still, he was an intrepid traveller. One day he went on 'an interesting excursion' to Wusong, by boat down the Huangpu. He and his companions sailed into trouble on the way home.

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