Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Queen’s Governess

Title: The Queen’s Governess

 Author: Karen Harper

Publisher: Putnam, January 2010

Summary: Behind every great queen is a surrogate mother. In her latest novel, The Queen’s Governess, Karen Harper, provides the story of Katherine Champernowne Ashley who brought up the young Elizabeth. Katherine Ashely stood by Elizabeth during the dangerous years before she became queen, and the equally dangerous years after she became queen. Harper’s knowledge of the Tudor period is seamlessly woven into a narrative that keeps the reader in suspense even though we all know that Elizabeth will become England’s greatest queen. If, as the story goes, the great Winston Churchill was saddened when his mother died, but cried when his nanny died, than Elizabeth must also have wept when her Kat died.

 Who will like this book? People who enjoy reading about the Tudors especially about the young Elizabeth.

If you like this, try this: A Crown for Elizabeth by Mary Luke; The Young Elizabeth by Alison Plowden; Young Bess by Margaret Irwin; and Alison Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth.

Recommended by: Mona, Reference Associate and Library Lecturer



Author:  Colin Dickey

Publisher: Unbridled Books, September 2009

Summary: What do Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart all have in common besides being great composers? For one thing, they all had their skulls, or at least part of their skulls, stolen from their graves. Cranioklepty relates the intriguing history of Phrenology and the attempts made by phrenologists to validate their beliefs. According to Webster, phrenology is “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it indicates mental faculties and character traits.” It was developed in 1796 by Franz Gall and was very popular through the 1800’s. There were famous supporters of phrenology, including Walt Whitman who made references to it in some of his writings. There were famous skeptics as well. Mark Twain was openly critical when writing about the skull readings he received. Phrenologists were careful to “not to predict genius from the shape of the skulls but instead to confirm the already established genius in the heads before them.”

Skulls of prisoners and insane asylum patients were easy to acquire, but phrenologists were desperate to study the skulls of famous citizens, especially anyone with creative or intellectual genius. Since no one was offering to donate their skulls to this strange science, practitioners had to resort to grave robbing. The collecting of skulls became a hobby for some, and an obsession for others. Elaborate glass cases were designed to display the skulls in homes and offices. What we think of as morbid today, was thought of very differently in the 19th century. Keeping relics of someone you knew or admired was considered an honor. One collector, Joseph Hyrtl, donated his collection which is now housed in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. If you are a fan of the macabre, you should read Cranioklepty. If you are ever in Philadelphia, you should visit the Mutter Museum.

Who will like this book? Fans of  the bizarre and slighly morbid.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator