Rigg's Cabinet of Curiosities

curated by Thornton Rigg


May 2016

Sicily, culture and conquest : British Museum

… intriguing and inspiring wander through this most multicultural of islands … 4002

A gem of an exhibition – just about the right size – tracing the varied history of the Mediterranean’s largest island from its Phoenician and Greek settlers through successive waves of Romans, Muslim Arabs and Africans, Normans, Spanish and eventually the Italians.

As other commentators have said all this open minded cultural mingling is a refreshing change from “the Mafia and Montalbano” cliche that the island now carries.  I was beguiled by the alluring exoticism of the mix of exhibits: a projection of a decorative ceiling, ancient rock art,  a stunning mosaic Madonna. Each one a jewel like the Sicilian oranges described by C12th poet Abd ar-Rahman, who served the court of Roger II, as “blazing fire among the emerald boughs”.

Illustration: A map of Sicily from Al-Idrisi’s Treatise, c AD1300–1500.   Photograph: © The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Until 14 August 2016 : Room 35
£10, Members/under 16s free


Chasing the Stars : Malorie Blackman

… love story, whodunit, psychological thriller in space …

This is a great read.  It’s a love story, a whodunit and a psychological thriller set on a space ship fleeing across28693621 enemy territory.  The narrative races away from the start with a splendid jeopardy piece showing the protagonist, Vee, as a very determined and compassionate girl – and the pace rarely slackens.   Sudden “accidents” and personal tensions amongst the desperate crew grow to a satisfying conclusion – and the hint of a sequel.

The story is told through the entwined narratives of the main characters, Vee and Nathan.  This approach gives the reader delicious insights, and humour, into the many misunderstandings  of their love affair.

I also enjoyed Malorie’s light referencing of multi-ethnicity, the class divisions and her take on marriage!

NB: There are some sex scenes – not too graphically  biological …but definitely a Young Adult book.


The Aeronaut’s Windlass : Jim Butcher

windlass  … steampunk adventuring with added cats …

A master of adventure fantasy is having fun in a new steampunk playground.

Jim is an expert at weaving his storylines around the multiple viewpoints of his assorted cast, from the noble Captain Grimm, who was drummed out of the Fleet, to the hazy etherealist, Folly, who talks to people via her collection of crystals.  It is a delight to relax into this bright-as-a- brass-button page turner.  Yes, the characterisation maybe stereotypical and the plot might fade away a little towards the end, but it is a very pleasurable read and, judging by his other series, we are in for a long ride so the slightly muted ending is because there’s an overarching storyline.  I particularly liked the Patrick O’Brian “Master and Commander” hommage.  And it might just be me but Bridget is Game of Thrones’ character, Brienne of Tarth, right?

One of the characters is a cat.  Some chapters are told from his point of view.    I found this amusing, particularly the scene describing cat diplomacy though I can understand if this makes some potential readers put the book down immediately.

Kindred Spirits : Rainbow Rowell

A brilliant firecracker of a read …

I don’t usually venture far into straight Young Adult territory but picked this slim World Book Day story up whilst I was helping out at Emily’s bookshop (@afestivalofbook) and, as it happenskindred to be the 4th May, it seemed appropriate to post this short review .

When Elena joins the queue outside the cinema waiting for the new Star Wars film, she really thought she would be part of a big excited crowd of fans.  But there are only three of them waiting and sleeping on the pavement for the four days before opening: Troy, Gabe and Elena. Is her Mum going to pick her up?  Can she really pee in a cup?  And what is it with Gabe?

A real blast and a great advert for her longer novels.


The Dream Snatcher : Abi Elphinstone

… a great adventure from a wonderful storyteller …

As fierce as her wildcat companion, Moll fights the terrifying dark magic which is calling dreamsnatcto her through dreams.

This is a great adventure story which rattles along at a tremendous pace.  Abi is a wonderful storyteller who can conjure up Moll’s forest world with an array of characters, painted with a few memorable brushstrokes: Siddy with his worm, Porridge the Second; Hard Times Bob and the sturdy Oak.

I particularly liked the gypsy atmosphere and manner of speaking which adds a unique charm to the book.  The sequel, The Shadow Keeper, is out now.

Some of the passages are very dark and may frighten some more nervous readers …

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