Review of ‘Peakland Books’, by Various Authors

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 15th November 2004, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.


The good thing about dark nights is that they bring more time for reading with a clear conscience. A more than fair exchange for anything to do with the garden some might think. The choice of new titles is hotting up for Christmas presents or treat-yourself, with the following all in local shops or to order.

Author Lucinda Hawksley brings us Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel. This vivid and haunting biography at last brings Lizzie Siddal to the forefront of her relationship with Rossetti and the Pre-Raphaelites. Lizzie's father spent his life vainly trying to claim ownership of Hope Hall, and even as Lizzie became one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain, she made visits to the Hope Valley. In frail health and helplessly addicted to laudanum, she underwent treatment at Smedley's Hydro in Matlock, frequently visited by the faithless Rossetti. This beautiful young woman who ended her life in an opium-soaked suicide was the model for Millais' familiar portrait of the drowned Ophelia, reproduced on the cover of this new book published by Andrë Deutsch at £17.99.

Landmark Collector's Library grows apace, with their trademark knack of gathering collections of rare photographs showing all aspects of local life. The Spirit of Kirk Ireton - the 20th Century in Photographs (more than 250 of them) is written by three of the original members of Kirk Ireton Local History Group. A limited run of 750 copies may well make this souvenir book an early sell-out since it covers not just one village but the wider Wirksworth area. (Landmark, £14.95)

Also hot off the press is The Spirit of Crich, Whatstandwell, Fritchley and Surrounding Area. Written by Ken Jackson and illustrated with 250 photographs spanning the past 100 years or so, it extends into areas once within Chatsworth estate, along the A6, Cromford Canal and into the Peak. Quarrying, mining and mineral railways are only a fraction of the story. And if you have ever wondered how the waters of the Derwent dams reach the taps of our more southerly neighbours, look no further. (Landmark, £13.95)

Prize-winning author Roger Hubank uses his love of mountaineering to almost tangible effect for the High Peak setting of Taking Leave. Fleeing from a stultifying job and a disintegrating marriage, Anthony Hardman moves into a remote moorland house off the Snake Pass to re-evaluate his life. Dark, suppressed memories begin to surface as he works towards a new understanding of the past and present, finally forced to witness the tragic effects of foot-and-mouth on a struggling hill farm and on a heart-broken feral child with whom he had built up a fragile bond. (Ernest Press, £10)

Deep Secret by Berlie Doherty is loosely based around the construction of Ladybower reservoir and the drowning of a beautiful village. Berlie, a Carnegie winner held in high regard as a writer for young people, has lived most of her life in the vicinity of Ladybower and admits to being haunted by the idea of the disappearance of homes, a community and a way of life. She peoples Deep Secret with a cast of powerful characters who uncover disturbing secrets as the mighty dam takes shape. (Puffin, £5.99)

Voices, Women of a White Peak Village is captivating. Gillian Radcliffe has compiled and edited a wealth of memoirs centred on Parwich, to which one of today's teenagers adds her own voice: 'Parwich, as I see it, is a mixture of modern and grey-haired history. These both live alongside each other in perfect harmony ...' Perhaps it has always been so, for all the women interviewed for this book remember their younger days with a 'yearning nostalgia'. Recollections vary from the freedom of a country childhood to life as a fairground child to growing up in the care of a nanny. Voices of women no longer living are heard through extracts of old letters and remembered conversations. Interspersed between the voices are 180 treasured photographs, household tips, recipes and home cures, plus recollections of mud pies, glow-worms, coconut shies, scrumping, travelling on the old Ashbourne/Buxton railway and dances organised at full moon because there was no street lighting to light the way home. (Published by Parwich & District Local History Society, £7.50)

Review by Julie Bunting

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