Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo. Translated by Charlotte Whittle

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo.

Translated by Charlotte Whittle


Long before books were mass produced, those made of reeds from along the Nile were worth fighting and dying for. Journeying along the battlefields of Alexander the Great, beneath the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, at Cleopatra’s palaces and the scene of Hypatia’s murder, award-winning author Irene Vallejo chronicles the excitement of literary culture in the ancient world, and the heroic efforts that ensured this impressive tradition would continue.

Weaved throughout are fascinating stories about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors, and statesmen whose rich and sometimes complicated engagement with the written word bears remarkable similarities to the world today: Aristophanes and the censorship of the humourists, Sappho and the empowerment of women’s voices, Seneca and the problem of a post-truth world.

Vallejo takes us to mountainous landscapes and the roaring sea, to the capitals where culture flourished and the furthest reaches where knowledge found refuge in chaotic times. In this sweeping tour of the history of books, the wonder of the ancient world comes alive and along the way we discover the singular power of the written word.

My Review:

Imagine a book that would take you back to the earliest days of writing when before the earliest forms of paper it was on tablets of stone, then the same book would bring you right up to modern times. One of the most incredible books of this year has to be Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World ( Hodder & Stoughton) by Irene Vallejo and translated by Charlotte Whittle. A book that has become an international bestseller.

This really is the story of the birth of the alphabet and the first papyrus scrolls. These were fought over and died for. Irene Vallejo takes the reader on journey that for anyone who has a love of books and their history will rejoice. It is a pure delight to read from the first page to the last. I can really understand why Papyrus has sold over a million copies worldwide. But this this is not just a history of books, as Irene Vallejo covers a wide spectrum of topics, which is why I think this book will become a classic over time, of this I have no doubt. When you think back thousands of years to the great library of Alexandria and the thousands of scrolls that that must have contained. It was Mark Antony who brought many thousands of scrolls to the great library as a gift to his love that was Cleopatra.

Irene Vallejo really has done her research and her love of the written word really pours out of every page. There are so many stories and facts about ancient literature that it one of those books you can dip in and out of and learn something each time you do. This is not a heavy book for academics as such, but anyone with a love of a history of ancient literature and where and how it all began as well as the great philosophers are all here. This is a book about libraries of the past and of the present and also the booksellers. As Irene will tell the reader about how you can create a parallel world when opening a book and reading every word, and yet at any moment you can move you gaze away and return to the world that is.

When you think of the first ancient letters on clay to papyrus and move through the ages to leather bound books to the modern day books on both paper and then those words read on electronic devices, think back to where it all began in the ancient world. This really does bring those earliest moments of ancients times alive. It is a phenomenal achievement and a book that will stand the test of time. Just to mention that the translation is by Charlotte Whittle. A book of discovery and wonder and Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo I highly recommend.

464 Pages.

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo is Published by Hodder & Stoughton and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict


Eighteen passengers. Seven stops. One killer.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve, the sleeper train to the Highlands is derailed, along with the festive plans of its travellers. With the train stuck in snow in the middle of nowhere, a killer stalks its carriages, picking off passengers one by one. Those who sleep on the sleeper train may never wake again.

Can former Met detective Roz Parker find the killer before they kill again?

My Review:

I do love a Christmas crime novel and last year I really enjoyed reading The Christmas Murder Game by Alexandra Benedict and Alexandra returns with another Christmas murder mystery. Murder on the Christmas Express (Simon & Schuster) is very much in the mind of an Agatha Christie murder mystery.

Every murder mystery needs its great characters to keep you guessing and Alexandra Benedict has written in some, well lets just say interesting characters that will keep you guessing. It is Christmas and everyone is trying to be somewhere but the weather is setting in and there is travel chaos. As the title suggests the main scene is aboard the sleeper and it is heading north to the Highlands but the snow is getting worse and so the train is not going to be stopping at all the stops. On board the train is the former Met detective Roz Parker, but one by one you get to meet the leading characters and what a real mix they are. There is a social media celebrity who is constantly engaging with her followers, then we have a quiz team, there is even a stowaway on board the train, there is a TV star and many others. In the small hours of Christmas eve, miles from anywhere the train is derailed and passengers are tossed around or jolted from their sleep. And a killer strikes. Now they are all alone and who is going to be next. It is down to our heroine Roz to take control and find the killer before there are more bodies to be found.

What I really enjoyed about Murder on the Christmas Express is the complex characters and just how the storyline flowed and the twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing. The train is going nowhere and it is a race against time to find the killer. Roz has her candidates but now she has to catch the killer. Probably not the book to read if you are heading to the Scottish Highlands on a sleeper on Christmas eve. There are a number of fun quiz games and anagrams to keep you involved as you read, in a similar frame as last Christmases offering from Alexandra Benedict.

All told I would be happy to recommend to anyone looking for a Christmas based crime novel. There are a number of themes involved in the story but I really enjoyed Murder on the Christmas Express.

352 Pages.

Murder on the Christmas Express by Alexandra Benedict is Published by Simon & Schuster and is now available in hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK