Berkhamsted School Staff Book Club: winter reads

Three books to curl up with this winter…

It’s been too long, I know, since the library’s last post, but I have resolved this year to write more frequently.  As ever, we are a busy library and busy staff, so trying to meet to discuss our reading is becoming increasingly difficult.  However, we did enjoy our last meeting when we discussed Jane Hawking’s Silent Music, Sophie Nicholl’s new novel, The dress, and The day I lost you by Fionnuala Kearney.  Here are our thoughts:

Silent music by Jane Hawking

Growing up in London in the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth is an observant and thoughtful child who finds herself in a confusing and mysterious adult world. She seeks refuge in her memories of her idyllic stays with her grandparents in the picturesque East Anglian countryside – which provide comforting visions of a simpler life. As she comes to terms with her surroundings and her own adolescence, Ruth finds the motivation to pursue the tantalizing dream which has governed her childhood. A coming-of-age novel about the unpredictable nature of human behaviour and about taking control of one’s destiny, Silent Music is a timeless portrait of post-war Britain, as well as a lyrical paean to hope and aspiration. (Nielsen Bookdata Online). 

Those of us who read Jane Hawking’s book enjoyed it very much. Hers is a gentle storytelling, whilst literary and engaging. She is the former wife of the eminent scientist, Stephen, and she has a PhD in Medieval Spanish Poetry.  Her book, Travelling to infinity : my life with Stephen is behind the screenplay for the film The theory of everything .  If you have enjoyed the film, why not try reading Hawking’s two books?  You might be transported…

The dress by Sophie Nicholls

One member of our group suggested that this was a version of Chocolat (Joanne Harris) but with dresses and yes, the formula is rather similar, but the story was quite arresting.  We mostly enjoyed it as it was well-written and easy to read.  Another compared it with The dressmaker by Rosalie Ham.  Fabia is a dressmaker originally from Iran, who finds herself in York, after travelling around England with her young daughter for many years, trying to settle.  She found her way to England via Paris, where she met her Italian husband and with whom she had Ella, after moving to England, and after he had died in a struggle with a man trying to upset the heavily pregnant Fabia.  Once she arrives in York, some years later, we learn of her passion for dresses, her feel for fabrics and her desire to make a success of her new shop.  Fabia is also concerned about the fact that Ella appears to be struggling to make friends and settling at school… Read the novel to learn more.  The dress, if it takes your fancy, is unputdownable, I know that I enjoyed it a lot.

The day I lost you by Fionnuala Kearney

This was a compelling read which was difficult to put down.  A mother hears from her former husband that their daughter is missing after an avalanche hits her skiing trip.  There are all kinds of family threads which unravel.  The daughter, Anna, has a young daughter of her own and both lived with Anna’s mother, Jess.  A number of characters come into the mix with lots of surprising connections to Anna, and the secrets she had kept.  The story is told from different points of view: Jess’s narrative and entries from Anna’s blog in the first person, with vignettes about the lives of the other characters individually told in the third person.  The story is heart-wrenching and painful but with some strands of hope for the future.

Author: Berkhamsted School Library

Main aims for Berkhamsted School Library • to provide a central resource for the whole school curriculum • to encourage an ethos of enquiry and discovery • to assist pupils in becoming confident and independent learners • to develop research and information skills throughout the school • to offer resources which enrich cultural values and experiences for pupils, as well as have a role in their recreational life and promote reading for pleasure as a lifelong activity

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