Book Review – Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary by Anita Anand

September 23, 2019

I heard about this book from the author when I visited the Bath Literary Festival in March 2015 and listened to her speak.  I was so intrigued by the subject of her talk that I bought a copy.  Once I started reading I was fascinated by Sophia and her story.  I meant to loan it to my 90 year old mother, who was a fan of Ms Anand’s and her presentation of ‘Any Answers’ on BBC radio, as I felt she would enjoy it.  But it is a long book and I knew with the other reading and writing projects on the go it would take me some time to finish it so I bought another copy especially for mum.  Sadly she never got round to reading it and passed away earlier this year aged 94.  Now I have at last finished reading the book and found it a very enjoyable read.

The author has obviously put a great deal of time and effort into researching her subject.  It traces the ancestry of Sofia, from her father Maharajah Duleep Singh through her life with her siblings in the court of Queen Victoria, her activities as a suffragette, her support for the freedoms sought by the peoples of her native India and two world wars.  She was a rebel for her time and ran foul of the British establishment, particularly during the period she was an active suffragette when she challenged them to imprison her for her protests but were too frightened to do so.  Because of this the details of her life were buried by the authorities.  But because of this book they have now been uncovered.  This makes the writing of Sofia’s story a remarkable achievement of which the author can be proud.

It is an extremely worthwhile read and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the political struggles endured by women in the twentieth century.

Keith Jahans

Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
in hard cover, paperback and as an ebook and audiobook.

Book Review– Sandy Denny by Philip Ward

October 8, 2012

Sandy Denny is one of my all time favourite female singers.  I said is rather than was even though she died in 1978 as I own many of her recordings and listen to them often so that her voice is an ever present background in my life.  I spotted this book amongst the catalogue of the publishing company, Matador, decided to buy and read it with a view to discover more about the personality that lay behind her music.  I was not disappointed.

In the early 1970s as a member of the band Fairport Convention Denny established folk rock as a new genre in popular music.  Ward’s book recounts her biography and sets it in its time.  Her early life on the 1960s folk club circuit to solo career in the late 70s, through a troubled personal life to an almost slapstick but tragic death from a fall down the stairs at her parents’ home, is well narrated along with attempts to explain the reasons behind the events which marked her life.

Denny has a golden voice and Ward describes it well.  He tells how she attempted to take her music in a new direction in an effort to establish herself as one of Briton’s leading singer song writers.  She showed early promise with the song “Who knows where the time goes”. The songs that followed are less memorable.  Ward’s attempts to find meaning behind the lyrics are understandable but are largely unnecessary as it is the sound of her words with the music which counts and not the meaning.  To be fair Ward points this out even though he devotes a whole chapter to understanding her songs.

There are other books that may better recount Denny’s biography which I have not read and Ward lists them amongst his references along with crediting the recollections of those who knew her.  This book must make a valuable addition but also stands up well on its own.

Sandy Denny (reflections on her music – subtitle) by Philip Ward is published by Matador.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

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