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The Post Office Girl, Stefan Zweig and Engels

Yes, I have immediately jumped from the end of Toibin's Brooklyn (the TLS have a review in tomorrow's issue) into rich, pampered Switzerland and poor old post-WW1 Austria in Zweig's now ubiquitous The Post Office Girl. The dense prose of Zweig - he really does labour over description a little too much - is something I'm finding a little tedious, and, dare I say it, I'm not even 50 pages in and I already know what's likely to happen. OK, not the specifics, but I know it's a cinderella turned tragic story. But I shall plod on. I also received yesterday the just published new biog of Engels, by the maddeningly young academic hot-shot historian, (a year young than moi!) Tristram Hunt, which I'm also looking forward to delving into. In an email reply he said that he covers the Burns sisters in greater detail than previous biogs - and it's something which I shall be holding him to.

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Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

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Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

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Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.

Mo…