All posts by Narrelle

The Books of Love: A Pride of Poppies anthology

Reviewed by NM Harris

24982563The blurb…

Ten authors – in thirteen stories – explore the experiences of GLBTQI people during World War I. In what ways were their lives the same as or different from those of other people?

A London pub, an English village, a shell-hole on the Front, the outskirts of Thai Nguyen city, a ship in heavy weather off Zeebrugge, a civilian internment camp… Loves and griefs that must remain unspoken, unexpected freedoms, the tensions between individuality and duty, and every now and then the relief of recognition. You’ll find both heartaches and joys in this astonishing range of thought-provoking stories.

The review…

As the centenary commemorations for World War I begin in earnest in 2015 (and will continue for the next few years), this anthology is perfectly timed. War brings all kind of suffering, to combatants and civilians, to those fighting with their comrades in numerous armies, and to those still at home.

Among the hundreds of thousands who fought, died, loved, lost and suffered were people of the LGBTQI community who experienced the additional stress of being unable to publicly acknowledge their experiences – both the horrific and the joyful.

A Pride of Poppies is a superb collection of stories that give voices to those who were silenced by the mainstream at the time. The stories are told across a rich array of experiences, including an intersex man facing his choices on enlistment, a ‘lesbian Lothario’ providing company to the women of her mail route, men in a German internment camp in England finding comfort in the midst of trauma, a bereaved mother visiting the sickbed of a wounded man who was her son’s particular friend, and two young men in French Indochina finding strength in each other as they struggle in their occupied homeland.

There are stories in the trenches, at sea, on the English homefront and in far-off places where the war’s impact is unexpected. But don’t get the idea that each one is a story of sorrow and misery. Far from it. There is so much love and hope in these tales, too. Happy endings as well as heartbreaking partings. The broader experience of the whole of humanity is reflected in these small and personal love stories.

Every story is a gem, though a few shone a little more brightly for me. I am an enormous admirer of Wendy C Fries Sherlock Holmes stories, and her beautiful contribution, I Remember, is lyrical and had me happy-weepy, sorrowful and glad for Christopher and James who can only write in a kind of code to each other. Eleanor Musgrove’s Inside, set in an civilian internment camp, shows life for those deemed ‘enemy aliens’ in a sympathetic light. At the Gate by Jay Lewis Taylor is another that had me tearful for the man who could not be seen to mourn too much for the man he loved. Julie Bozza (author of the excellent The Fine Point of His Soul) gives us the fresh and lovely Lena and the Swan, or The Lesbian Lothario.

A Pride of Poppies opens a window many lives affected by The Great War, not just in Europe, not just on the battlefield, but for so many lives changed and challenged in so many different ways.

The authors and publishing house all donated their efforts to this book, and a minimum of 60% of the proceeds are being donated to the Royal British Legion, which runs the UK’s Poppy Appeal. But don’t buy this wonderful anthology for that reason. Buy it because it’s a damned fine read which will break your heart, fill it with hope and remind you that love will find a way to grow, even under the harshest conditions.

Buy A Pride of Poppies

Read more about A Pride of Poppies and the anthology authors at Manifold Press.


The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Night Terrace: Love Songs

photo-originalThe Splendid Chaps are running a new Kickstarter to fund the creation of the second season of the fabulous Comedy SF adventure, Night Terrace. I’ve already pledged to support it – having loved the first season so much! And here are the Splendid Chaps to talk to us about Love Songs.

The Splendid Chaps team know a lot about sound. They ran the smash hit podcast Splendid Chaps in 2013, and then spun that off into the audio science fiction comedy series Night Terrace, in which Jackie Woodburne (Susan Kennedy, Neighbours) plays a grumpy Doctor-Who-like figure who is annoyed to find her house can travel in time and space.

They know how sound can affect others, but how does it affect them? We asked them to choose their favourite love songs.

Ben McKenzie (producer, writer, “Eddie”)

I love a lot of love songs – most of the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs for starters – but I think my favourite is one not connected in my mind to a specific romance. It’s also one I would pick – if pressed – as my favourite song of all. Almost Like Being In Love, specifically the version by Nat King Cole. It’s full of joy, excitement and surprise – it captures exactly the feeling of realising that you’re falling in love.

Whenever I feel happy it’s the song that leaps to mind. Like most people I was introduced to it via Groundhog Day but it stands on it’s own thanks to Nat’s voice, which I love, and the lyrics’ embrace of love in general. In the musical Brigadoon, which first popularised the song, it shows how the magical town makes people feel a strange euphoria when visiting. So really it’s a love song for the big loves: love of life, of people, of the world around you. I can’t get enough of it.

Petra Elliott (co-creator, “Sue”)

God, this is a tough one, since I’m not currently experiencing romantic love, and any songs that previously had nice gooey sentiments attached have now been ruined.

Except for this one:

Somersault, sung by the beautiful Sia when she was performing with Zero 7. It’s just so gorgeous, the music is happy, calming, uplifting and the lyrics are passionate and grateful. They detail the type of person I would totally fall in love with: someone who’s there for you (and others) no matter what, who’ll witness your life, share the delicious moments and get you through the not so nice ones.

Lee Zachariah (co-creator, writer)

Love Me Do by The Beatles.

Keep it simple: the key to a great love song. Profession of love. Promise of faithfulness. Polite request for reciprocation. No muss, no fuss. And best use of a harmonica this side of Dylan.

David Ashton (writer, sound designer)

She’s An Angel by They Might Be Giants

Like most They Might Be Giants songs, this one is dense with oddly phrased and oddly specific imagery, but nevertheless this is a song that really captures the giddy rush of falling in love. In the halting rhythm of the verses there’s a sense of disbelief – can this really be happening to me? (“I don’t think anyone’s noticed so I’ll try to act nonchalant”). In the chorus this gives way to slippery-slide guitar and the sheer joy of doing crazy stuff with someone you love.

John Richards (producer, writer)

I was originally going to say the Madness version of It Must Be Love (which I was shocked to discover today was a cover! I had no idea!). But instead I’ll go for one of my other all-time favourite pop songs, and pick Bury Me Deep In Love by The Triffids. Whereas It Must Be Love is about the traditional boy-meets-girl version of love, The Triffids celebrate the version that happens when a rock climber falls off a cliff and dies. No, stay with me.

It’s a song about looking after each other, about the responsibility we share to others – even strangers – through our common humanity. It pleads for us to take care of each other, and hopes we will be taken care of in return. It’s simply beautiful, complete with glorious reverb-drenched late-80s over-production. The band never sounded this slick again (or indeed looked this slick – check out Jill Birt’s hat in the video). But the pleading core of the song is to love each other, and that’s something we can all work harder to do.

Night Terrace is currently crowd-funding a second season. You can find out more – and hear the entire first episode for free – at Kickstarter: Night Terrace