Message to Potential Reviewers of ‘Of Woodbridge and Hedgely’

Note: Until a satisfactory number of reviews are present, I will provide a free mobi or pdf file of the novel to anyone that agrees to write a well thought out review on its Amazon Kindle page!  See the comments field below on how to contact me.  

Of Woodbridge and Hedgley bravely occupies what one might consider a credibly small niche in the ever growing sea of literature available online:  Firstly, it is a literary work that focuses on science denial and the flawed belief systems, mechanics of propaganda, and delinquencies of character that are nebulous to such.  Secondly, the science involved in the novel is that from the early 19th century, with emphasis on early geology (James Hutton), pre-Darwinian evolution (Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin), and the birth of agricultural chemistry (Sir Humphrey Davy); with a few brief examples of the state of engineering, concerning glass, iron, stove and boiler manufacturing.  Thusly, I often appeal to likes of ‘Science Geeks, History Geeks, and Science-History Geeks’ to answer to the call of readership:

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The novel also provides subtle messages with regard to climate change and food security, basic ecology, and resource limitations. A brief overview of some of these can be found in my post entitled On the Satirical Content and Philosophical Commentary in the Novel. Readers best equipped to comprehend the novel’s offerings are those that are interested in the politics of science (such as modern climate change politics, or possibly the teaching of evolution in public schools), have at least some small degree of environmental concern, and enjoy science advocacy.

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Yes, there are also secondary, Jane Austen inspired romantic subplots at work, where the novel’s frontward pages afford some mystery as to who will be married to who (and perhaps, who will fail to marry) by the end of the novel. The main character, Mr. Winter, has a habit of writing detailed poetical prose (sometimes poorly) in a journal he keeps, where he documents his scientific and engineering endeavors, and all other dealings he has in his new towns of which the novel’s title is derived. And the lead female, Harriet Moore, even offers some country poetry in the novel’s interlude. Indeed man’s interaction with the world of nature is at the very heart of music, literature and art’s 19th century romantic era, and the novel keeps to this tradition with characters enjoying the sights and smells of the small town English countryside. Yes, there is romance. It would almost seem amiss not to offer such in a Regency Era novel.

Further, the novel is an appeal to intellect, and not to pop entertainment. There are no vampires. The plots are idea driven; not action driven. The tragedy is subtle; not one character melodramatically dies. There is, however, one gentleman’s duel that represents the concept of climate change inflaming false belief systems and causing adverse physical outcomes (the U.S. military considers climate change a ‘threat multiplier’).

And so there it is, dear reviewer – my four paragraph caveat for a book that presumably benefits from explanations that exist beyond its pages; the like to the many literary works that have come before it. Indeed this blog is the primary medium in which such occurs. Please do look around if there is any question in your mind as to whether or not the novel would be a handsome addition to your collection and inspire thoughtful feedback on its kindle product page. You may also find utility in the literary questions that exist directly after the novel’s conclusion which I will post below:

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For less than a cup of coffee, you too can enjoy the mechanics of propaganda.
  1. Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is set in the county Gloucestershire, in the South West of England. The two towns are separated by a fairly significant amount of wood for the area, and it becomes known in chapter nine that the closest grain markets to them were at Gloucester, Cirencester, and Stow-on-the-Wold. From these clues, can you find which two Cotswold’s towns these are modeled after? What features, such as road names, or other geographical names, did you use to confirm your answer?
  2. The author has, in many places in the novel, paid tribute to Jane Austen novels and movies, as well as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin Series. For example, the latter author did oblige his character, Jack Aubrey, to use a particular phrase, ‘to smoke’, in a unique dialectal manner that was given to mean ‘to understand’. This may have been the author’s own invention, or it may have derived from his study of naval letters and knowledge of early 19th century dialect; but inside Of Woodbridge and Hedgely it has taken on a more general role as a substitute for having understood a phenomenon or idea. Another example, related to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is where the character, Mr. Wyatt, who is obliged to learn to read after being unexpectedly elevated from an agricultural laborer to a land owner, has expressed a desire to show off his newfound abilities by reading William Paley’s Natural Theology to the Moore cousins, Harriet and Charlotte, at his estate home to which the ladies are invited, and which the lesser cousin conceives would be an unpleasant experience. This somewhat parallels Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins, who insists on reading James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women to the Bennet ladies. What other hat tips does Of Woodbridge and Hedgely contain, regarding these authors? Which Jane Austen character does Harriet Moore most resemble?
  3. The novel’s purpose is to showcase science denial and manifestations of ideology confounding rational thought, using a historical lens: The phenomenon becomes readily observable when applied to scientific positions long settled in our present era, and which, even in 1820, had enough credible evidence to point thoughtful men in the proper direction towards them, but which were indeed irrationally refused by a particular individual or set. What are some of these settled scientific positions featured in the novel?
  4. Throughout the novel, the antagonists – a faction of Hedgely Particular Baptists and their agrarian laborers – have latched onto geological hypotheses and theories that were in the process of falling out of favor at the time (ex. Werner’s Neptunism). Why did these men hold so fervently to these ideas? Did each individual and socioeconomic class have its own reasons for this?
  5. Following question four, list several elements contained within the Particular Baptist’s belief systems. Further, provide a contradistinguishing list for the Anglican’s (which includes Mr. Winter, for the purpose of the question). Finally, provide instances where beliefs were held, not secondary to rational conclusions, but from social constructs and the failure of an individual to understand their own incapacity to properly assess a phenomenon, purely by reason and examination of evidence. Were there individuals within the novel that were aware of their limitations, with regard to understanding whether or not a phenomenon was probable, based rational and empirical evidence? Which modern sociopolitical groups are most similar to the Baptist and Anglican groups?
  6. Mr. Winter’s chooses two ‘experimental’ fertilizers for his two, half-acre plots, situated by the River Compton (Mr. Foster’s fields). Which of these represents the scientific pillar of reproducible results from previous discoveries and claims? Which of these represents the scientific phenomenon of serendipitous and rationally informed discovery? What do these two compounds represent with regard to modern fertilizer?
  7. The author, in various places inside the novel, offers mathematically detailed solutions to simple, logistical problems, which showcase the creative spirit of an entrepreneur and applied scientist; and the manner in which such a person would approach puzzles owning both inherent knowns and unknowns. Many days research were spent so that not only sound physics and chemistry prevailed throughout the story, but the engineering and material solutions were true to what was available in 1820 (albeit to a son of one of the wealthiest men in England, who happened to have his hand squarely on the modern industrial operations of the time). Why did the author risk stifling the flow of the novel with technical details that could be construed as excessive, or improper for popular entertainment and the casual reader?
  8. Why does the author state in chapter ten, that the most prolific female writer of the day – meaning the early 19th century – was a woman who went by the title, ‘A Lady’?
  9. Most of the natural philosophers at the time were noblemen or otherwise men financially independent. Why were there little, if any, female scientists? What were some of the disciplines or roles gentry class women could pursue during the Regency Era as a proper means of intellectual expression for their sex? Considering the time period, who are the progressive females in the novel, and who are less so? Were women of the Regency Era less, similarly, or more emotionally happy than they are in today’s Western society?
  10. Mr. Edwards dinner table is always dressed with handsome dishes during his entertaining of guests: white soup, tarts, mutton, pigeon pie, &c. But in the last part of the winter recess, he is said to have suffered a want of food reserves. It is also stated that his income may only be around 100 pounds per year. Is this character going above his means in entertaining guests?
  11. At the front of the novel, the nameless tailor’s daughter watched a glasshouse being built in Mr. Winter’s backyard. Such was the product of brand new glass and iron manufacturing techniques at the time, yet it was still quite a rare for anyone but a handful of the most wealthy people in the country to own one. What does the construction of the glasshouse represent in the novel with regard to themes? What were the latest manufacturing techniques and material innovations occurring, concerning glass and iron? Were there any other attempts previous to 1820 to install a boiler and pipe system into a glasshouse? Who owned and/or where were other glasshouses, conservatories, or orangeries located in England before 1820?