Posted by: billpurdue | September 19, 2013

A walk through the centre of Europe

Towards the end of last year I wrote about John Hillaby’s book Journey Through Britain. I’ve now finished reading Journey Through Europe by the same author. This is an account of a walk from the Dutch coast at Scheveningen to Nice on the Mediterranean via Belgium, the Luxembourg/German border, Switzerland, France and Italy. The terrain varied from flat to mountainous – he struggled to follow a barely defined path over mountain passes and often just had to find his own way without a path at all. It took him two months , but must have taken far longer to plan – and not just the route. He would also need to decide what to take and how to make sure that he would be able to get adequate funds at pre determined points on the route. This was in the days long before debit cards and cash machines. He didn’t always spend money on hotels – he often slept under the stars.

 Hillaby Europe

On the way he describes the people he meets and those he spends long evenings chatting to and comments on the hospitality or lack of it in the towns and villages he passes through. The parts played by the towns and cites and the peoples along the route in the history of Europe form a large part of the narrative. Hillaby is very knowledgeable about the origins of the various peoples whose descendants populate the areas today – or rather at the beginning of the 1970s. In hindsight it might have been a good idea to refer to a good atlas of Europe whilst I was reading the book, or even a historical atlas, to get the full benefit of what he writes about. I’m sure a re-read of the book would reveal more and I might one day do that. Meanwhile, I’m sure I have John Hillaby’s Yorkshire on a shelf somewhere in the house and that will be one of my next reads.


Martin Black has done a brief review of this book and Journey through Britain which is worth checking out. You can pick up Journey through Europe online for about £3 – 4 plus postage. My paperback copy (see cover image) is falling to bits, so I would go for the hardback if I were buying another copy.


 Innocent traitor

I think it must be many years since I last read a historical novel. It’s not really my cup of tea, especially those set in the Tudor or Elizabethan times. However that’s just what I’ve been doing .  Innocent Traitor is the fictionalized story of Lady Jane Grey, the woman who was queen for nine days, but whose destiny seemed doomed almost from the start. It’s by Alison Weir, the eminent historian who has written many non-fiction books on the history of the Tudor period and related subjects. According to her website she is the biggest selling female historian in the UK since records began in 1997.  Innocent Traitor was her fiction debut novel and what a debut.


I soon found myself hooked on the story and I liked the fact that the story is told from different viewpoints. It’s in the present tense and narrated by Lady Jane Grey herself and her mother, Frances Brandon, Marchioness of Dorset (later Duchess of Suffolk), Mrs Ellen, Lady Jane’s maid and several other key players in the story. This was Alison Weir’s first novel, but there have been several since and her latest is the non fiction book: Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor Queen (in the US the title is Elizabeth of York: a Tudor Queen and her World). The next novel is The Marriage Game due out in 2014 and this is the sequel to The Lady Elizabeth. So there’s plenty for historical fiction fans. I really enjoyed the book, but I’m not yet a convert to this genre.





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