A friend has just started a new reading group, it’s a history reading group and she suggests we read all sorts of books about this favourite subject – novels, biographies, historical research, any era, any age, as long as it’s history. As I am at present writing what I guess might be described as a historical book – set in the 1950’s, I think this new group will be interesting and useful!

Here is something I wrote about a favourite book – although it is set in an era which I wouldn’t say was my favourite:

I had just wandered into Waterstone’s in Weston because I was ten minutes early for meeting a friend for coffee, and thought I would look at what new books there were on display; belonging to two reading groups I’m always on the look out for something to suggest for the next meeting, and as an avid reader and book lover it’s a good excuse to indulge myself! I glanced at a display of books on the shelves near the entrance and my eye was caught by this:

‘Four Gentlemen of High Rank Playing Primero’ by Master of the Countess of Warwick; supposedly Sir Frances Walsingham, William Cecil Lord Burleigh – and unseen in the picture, Lord Hunsdon and Sir Walter Raleigh

I usually read fiction rather than factual books, I’m more interested in prehistory or Dark Age history…. and yet I was drawn by this cover. It was something about the knowing gaze of the man about to play his card, and the enigmatic yet subtly pleased expression of the other player. I picked up the book to look at the cover picture, not really interested in Elizabethan and Tudor history at all. The back of the book shows part of the rest of the painting  the cards held by one of the other players, shown to the viewer who in the days when it was painted would have understood the significance of the hand.

I opened the book and glanced at the first page which set the scene for the rest of the book, the court of Queen Elizabeth I and the espionage and secret security of the kingdom. As I mentioned  I’m not interested in the Tudors at all… and ten pages later I’m still standing in Waterstone’s reading the book, ‘The Watchers’ by Stephen Alford.

The book is utterly gripping, it is so well written that my eyes just flew across the words as I was draw into another world, a world of mystery and intrigue, secrets and power and danger. And so, I have bought the book, and no doubt I will review it when I’ve finished reading it.

However, the point I’m making is this; if I hadn’t been drawn to the cover of the book I would never have picked it up. It was the picture, unobscured by the title, and it was the title itself.

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