World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 3

Mrs Tomlin, Mrs Murphy and Mr Stewart are our next contributors.  Teaching English, History and Classical Civilisation respectively, they all have fascinating things to say.

Mrs Tomlin says:

“Due to my babies, I find it hard to find time to read. I shared how it has taken me about 4 months to read the first 50 pages of  The Slap [by Christos Tsiolkas] and have made a list of character on the notes page of my iPhone as I keep forgetting who everyone is. I then talked about the texts that I have that I pick up and read when I have a spare 5 minutes – Total Film magazine and a book entitled: It’s Twins: Parent to Parent Advice Through Infancy to Adolescence [by Susan Heim] to try and show that you can have non-fiction on the go and can pick relevant bits that interest you and don’t have to read it cover to cover.”  Thank you, Mrs Tomlin, for some useful advice about reading non-fiction in this way, it often helps when studying to remember this…

Following Mrs Tomlin, Mrs Murphy contacted me:

“I read an extract from The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz by Denis Avey to three of my classes today. It’s a true story by a man who was a British prisoner of war in WWII and was stationed at a prisoner of war camp next door to Auschwitz. He worked alongside some of the prisoners from Auschwitz and made friends with one of them and concocted a plan to swap places with him. I read an extract which gave his reasons for doing this incredibly brave and dangerous thing.

The classes I read it to were so interested- my Year 8s and 9s didn’t know much about the holocaust yet and so were full of questions afterwards. My Year 10s who have learnt about the holocaust were more full of questions about the man and his experiences and I think some of them even took the name of the book down!”

Finally, for part 3, Mr Stewart wrote:

“I shared one of my favourite books with my Year 10 Classical Civilisation class at Kings today – Ancient Athens on Five Drachmas a Day by Philip Matysak. It is a witty and ingenious guide for a tourist travelling back in time to ancient Athens. If you would like to jump into a time machine and travel back in time to  Athens 2500 years ago, then this is the book for you. You can find out  what to see, where to eat and  what to avoid.

I read a poem from the book about the consequences of drinking too much at a symposium – with general hilarity.”  I think we should purchase this one for the library…


The Loved One (Evelyn Waugh)

Portrait of Evelyn Waugh

At our first Reading Group meeting of 2012, we discussed our thoughts and feelings inspired by Evelyn Waugh‘s novel The Loved One.

We all found it amusing – sometimes in quite different ways, with one member of the group reading parts of his favourite sections.  We found it quite astonishing that Los Angeles and Hollywood society of the time of writing (1947-48) should already be perceived as fake and superficial by Waugh, who wrote the novel shortly after a visit to Hollywood. (He was there to talk with a film studio to consider their making a film of Brideshead Revisited.)  We didn’t find the characters particularly likeable, from the stereotypical British ex-pats and the seemingly vapid residents who are very concerned with ensuring their ‘Loved Ones’, be they animal or human, get a good funeral and a truly heavenly afterlife!  The setting was wonderfully described and brought together the people and their environment perfectly.  We did think Aimée’s demise very sad but the way that she was dispatched into the afterlife almost comic.  Waugh does not seem to care very much for his characters except to the point that they are well-drawn and appear believable in their unbelievable setting.  As with Greene, it was felt that he doesn’t portray women in a good light, this could be due to the fact that he had a very unhappy first marriage, but by the time he wrote The Loved One, he was happily married to his second wife.

Waugh was amazed that sales were extremely good in America after the novel was published!   It may seem that any society such as this would not exist in reality, but it does appear that the Los Angeles area of California does, and a contemporary take on this society can be found in A M Homes’s book This Book Will Save Your Life.  What Homes has done is extend Waugh’s Los Angeles of the late 1940s into modern times, the sentiment feels much the same and I did laugh out loud when reading her book.  Clearly the contents of each story are not at all similar but I do think that the essence of both reflects on the state of Los Angeles society.

Another member of the group also talked of Waugh’s Decline and Fall, and how she enjoyed it, thinking of the funnier side of boarding and independent school life, a good read to follow on from The Loved One.

Here are some really nice reviews of The Loved One from the web: