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Excellent Manchester books: The Stirring of the Birds and Nancy by William Kenneth Jones

I've been in contact with author William Kenneth Jones for quite a few years and have provided cover art for his books, which focus on life in Manchester in the early to mid 20th century.

Recently he contacted me to tell me about two new publications, now available to purchase on Amazon. They are:

The Stirring of the Birds
a compilation of short stories, poems, anecdotes and other short literary pieces, along with illustrations.
Order on Amazon

A novel about the life journey of a woman named Nancy from her childhood 1909 into adulthood.
Order on Amazon

I decided to lend copies of both books to a friend of mine who is an avid reader of local books and who like the author was born in the inter-war period. This is what she had to say:

"I think he's got the period pretty well spot on, manners, morals etc and the kind of prejudices they had. There are some quite likeable characters in it as well. You get the unpleasantness in the centre of Manchester, the smoke and the dust etc.

But then the story lightens because one day they take a trip out to Stalybridge to where her grandparents are and she can't believe it. She ends up going there to live and her husband is given a job after the First World War as a game warden, so she is quite thrilled to end up in a place where her grandparents were so happy.
It's interesting from a local point of view because he writes about places that are still here today but very different to the way he portrays them, so you're comparing in your mind what's there now and how it must have looked then because he describes it very well. Yes I found it interesting."

And here is what she had to say about 'The Stirring of the Birds'

"It's quite an eclectic mix, I enjoyed it very much. There's a bit of local history. I liked most of all his pieces on wildlife, on birds. Others remind me of very early Shelley with his slightly political slant on things. It was thoroughly enjoyable there's plenty of variety for everybody. I found it very handy for reading in bed, helps you relax. He seems quite an interesting guy

I have dipped into The Stirring of the Birds myself and found many of the pieces to be entertaining, amusing and thought-provoking. Some of them made good bedtime reading for my 10 year old daughter.

All in all I believe the work of William Kenneth Jones is fulfilling a very important and often neglected role in documenting the true details and atmosphere of the city in earlier times. I personally am fascinated by images of Manchester from past eras. Recently I was at the Lowry Adolphe Valette exhibition and was spellbound by the films of policemen at work, recorded in 1910.

In the old films, the street names, bus numbers and even some shop signs are the same as today, but in other respects, the Manchester of 100 years ago is an alien and incomprehensible place.

The books of William Kenneth Jones help to make that place a little bit more familiar and understandable and are, it has to be said, a very good read!

Go to Amazon and take a look at Nancy and The Stirring of the Birds

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2011-08-15

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