Tag Archives: Political Non-fiction

An Evening with Diane Atkinson: Author of ‘The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton’

Happy International Women’s Day!

Any regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of women’s history (in fact I wrote a little book of it), so I was delighted to have the chance to listen to Diane Atkinson speak about her book ‘The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton’. Here’s the blurb:

The Criminal Conversation of Mrs Norton

Caroline Norton: beauty and wit, poet, pamphleteer and blue stocking. She was married to a boorish minor aristocrat at 19, who accused her, for his own political ends, of an affair, or a ‘Criminal Conversation’ as it was know, with Lord Melbourne (the Prime Minister) which ended in the ‘Trial of the Century’. Pilloried by society, cut off and bankrupted by her family she went on to be the most important figure in establishing women’s rights in marriage. This is the startling story of how one woman changed marriage and revolutionised women’s rights.

Atkinson relayed a brief history of Norton’s life from her marriage, and subsequent political struggles, to her death. I was most compelled by her vociferous legal battle to gain access to her children and extend this right to all separated mothers (in the past, children of divorced parents were considered the father’s alone: the mother had no legal rights to see them). The question and answer section was very interesting at Atkinson spoke more about her research; she spent two years going through over a thousand letters written my Mrs Norton. Atkinson was confident and knowledgeable – she held the room beautifully. 

It was heartening in my small town to see a room full to bursting of people interested in women’s history. 

Find out more about Diane Atkinson here.

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Silver Spooned by Thomas Clark

I don’t love Louise Mensch. In fact, if my life was a superhero comic, I’m pretty sure she would be my nemesis. Consequently, it silver spooneddelighted me that Clark’s first chapter derides her fallacious assertions. The book is a study in political falsehoods, focusing on the justification of current economic policy in the UK. It is an up to date, well researched account of problems with the government’s policies and proposals and the spin that supports them. Moreover, it provides a general explanation of the various forms of fallacious reasoning and deconstructs them with intelligence and skill.

Although the economic examples are UK-centric, the principles apply globally, and there is much to be learnt about British politics through reading this. It is up to the moment, analytic and angry in a way that stays just the right side of vitriolic. The logic is sound and the writing flows easily. The introduction was less smooth, but as soon as Clark was into his main content his confident style came through. Also, I learnt a great deal about the bedroom tax that enlivened dinner conversation this evening.

This book has a clear and vehement political standpoint, which brings me to my reservation about the text. I did a dissertation about the way language is employed in political spin; I am already interested and on side. There is something in the tone of this book, however, that may mean that the people who could benefit from it most would find it too abrasive. In a sense I am concerned Clark may be preaching to the choir,  though perhaps to some agnostics too. Even so, the choir will be for better informed for reading this text.

It is currently free on Smashwords and well worth having a look at.

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