Book Review, Posted in the Past



I’m a big fan of research, writing Science Fiction I need to do a lot, keeping up with the latest in Science and working out in my head where I could use it as a base for things in my future worlds.

Which means that I know a bit about how long it takes to do it properly.

Bringing me onto Posted in the Past.

The postcard was a Victorian invention, like so much that we take for granted in our ‘modern’ world. It was the email or text message of the times and developed into a vast, worldwide phenomenon. When I was at sea in the Merchant Navy, I used to send a lot of postcards to family and friends, they were easy, cheap and you didn’t have to write a huge amount, just enough to let people know you were alright. They also showed where you were in the world. I used to arrive home on leave and spot them on grandparents mantlepieces.

At craft fairs and markets, you see boxes of old postcards with their faded messages on the back. It always seemed to me that the collectors were more interested in the picture or the stamp, now I’ve discovered, thanks to this fascinating book, that the words can be just as exciting.

Helen Baggot has taken the cards and set out to find the stories behind them. The lives and loves of the senders and recipients. And it makes a surprising tale.

Taking the cards, she gives us a picture of both sides, then reveals the story (right down to the finest details), that she has gleaned from her research. And very often, the direction it takes might not be what you expected. Which is the delight of a book like this, the unexpected findings that are made, the links between us all that it reveals.

Starting with two cards from her own collection, Helen moves on to acquire more cards and discover some amazing stories, bringing the past to life in a way that’s quite different to the version we normally see. Instead of jerky black and white film, or the dry collections of facts in textbooks, these cards are alive with interest. Exams, jobs, love and loss, they all crop up in these scribbled notes. Then we come on to the people themselves, their lives, work and where they lived.

Helen has done A LOT of work to find out their stories, bring them back to life. I tried to find out a little about my grandparents and found it difficult, to do this with so many families is a real labour of love.

Personally, I find this sort of history so much more interesting than the stuff you are expected to learn at school, the minutiae of daily life and the social trends hold secrets and reveal things that lists of Kings and Wars don’t. And she has discovered some incredible coincidences and connections through these pieces of early social media. It’s quite revealing to see that, for most of us, life hasn’t really changed much, just got a bit glossier.

Five Stars from me!

If you’re interested in the history that never made it into textbooks, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a book you can get lost in, or dip in and out of.

You can get a copy of the book from Amazon, CLICK HERE to see the product page (Opens in new tab).

There is a link to a website with all the postcards in the book in full colour; so that you can see them as the senders and receivers did. And there will be more; apparently, there are two further books planned.

I can’t wait.

2 Responses

  1. dg

    Thanks for sharing this interesting book. I’m going to hop over to Amazon! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *