The Lion of St Mark by G A Henty

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G A Henty’s books are such glorious Victorian-style fun! Even better, although the paper copies are now collector’’ items and cost about £50 each to buy, they are pretty much all available to download to a Kindle for free. This one’s set in late 14th century Venice, at a time of war between Venice and Genoa. Our Hero, Francis Hammond, is a young English merchant-to-be, who dashes around in his gondola faster than any of the Venetians do.

During the course of the book, Francis foils a plot against the Venetian Republic, rescues two feisty damsels in distress, defeats an assortment of baddies, escapes after being kidnapped into the white slave trade, and helps to defeat the Genoese. He is made an honorary citizen of Venice and marries one of the rescued damsels, who of course is an heiress, and the two of them eventually settle back in England. During of this, of course, he remains suitably modest, and is always loyal to his friends, as befits an Englishman, LOL. Glorious Boys’ Own stuff, but G A Henty did his historical research well and his books do give a very good picture of the time and place in which they’re set. The

Foyle’s War – ITV 1

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What a joy to see this back, and what a shame that it’s only back for three episodes! It’s a very well-written and well-acted drama series, originally set during the Second World War but now into the post-war years, and this series in particular looks as if it’s going to pose a lot of interesting questions.

The main plot of last night’s programme concerned a corrupt American businessman who’d been shipping oil from Britain, claiming it was going to the USA, but then sending it to Germany to supply the Luftwaffe. This also involved the complex issue of the post-war split in the Alliance and the growing rivalry and hostility between the western Allies and the Soviet Union. It was set against the background of the Nuremberg Trials, and begged a lot of questions about whether or not the industrialists who supplied the Nazi regime with the products it needed to run the concentration camps, plundered the resources of occupied countries and used slave labour should have been treated as war criminals. A number of industrialists were indeed tried at Nuremberg, as this programme showed.

It also covered the question of women continuing to work after the war had ended. Two different women were involved – one who’d worked her way up to supervisor level during the war, only to be demoted and her job given to a man returning from the Armed Forces, and Sam, Mr Foyle’s long-serving assistant, whose husband was keen for her to give up work now that she was expecting a baby but who was reluctant to do so.

Fascinating stuff, and very well done. It looks like next week’s programme will address the issue of what was then Palestine under a British mandate becoming what’s now the state of Israel, and that should be equally very well worth watching.