Reading journals, Autumn 2018 (1)

It’s been far too long since we last wrote in this space, life has been so very busy here at Berkhamsted School since the beginning of term and our feet haven’t touched the ground for what seems like months!  However, we are hoping to redress the balance and talk again about one of our favourite topics, which will come as no surprise – books!

We are featuring, during several entries, reviews and recommendations of books read during those heady days of summer, which are exciting, thought provoking, and purely enjoyable reads…

To kick off our reading year, our new Deputy Head (Teaching and Innovation), Mrs Butland, is a self-confessed avid reader and has sent along a long list of books she has read recently. For her Sixth Form Politics classes she recommends:

For a generally great read, she recommends these fantastic books:

In a later message, we received two more recommendations from Mrs Butland and wanted to include these here:

Well, that’s my reading list for the forthcoming half-term holiday, what a fantastic range of material from which to choose…  What’s on your TBR pile?

 

 

 

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Berkhamsted School Christmas Reads… (2)

Welcome to part two of our Christmas Reads.  I have just heard from one of our wonderful Art Technicians, (a very accomplished artist in her own right), who read an intriguing biography during the Christmas break.  Mrs Murray read Sofka Zinovieff’s book The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and me.  She writes:

“She [Zinovieff] tells the story of Lord Berners as he composes and carouses with her grandfather, Robert Heber-Percy, in fashionable upper class society between the wars: dying the doves rainbow colours, and horses drinking tea in the sitting room. Cecil Beaton and Evelyn Waugh all pop by regularly for weekend house parties…  So entertaining, and such a twist at the end… I do love a biography!”

And this one sounds gripping, one that I will definitely look out for in the bookshops or public library.  Rachel Cooke, writing for The Observer on Sunday 19th October 2014 says at the end of her article:

“The result is a book that is unputdownable and – thanks to her publisher – gloriously lavish, something fascinating to gaze at on every page…”  Ms Cooke clearly enjoyed the book as well, to read her thoughts on the book, click on the link to The Observer above.

mad boy, lord berners

 

Berkhamsted School Staff Book Club, latest meeting notes…

At our last meeting, we discussed three novels, all very different in style and content.  First on our list was the challenge of a male member of the club: ‘Women don’t read John le Carré’, so we read le Carré’s novel A Murder of Quality.  Given that the majority of us are women, we took up the challenge!  On the whole, we enjoyed the novel very much, despite the unattractive group of characters and the dismal time of year when the murder took place.  We felt it was cleverly written, its spare, minimalist prose built up the tension and drama.  It left us wondering whose side is le Carré on…  Smiley is acting in a more detective-like role, but is nonetheless as effective as when he is the spy.

Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a completely different genre.  Some found it bizarrely compelling, with others not liking it at all.  It was well-written but clearly a reflection of Jackson’s turbulent mind, with the symbiotic relationships between the sisters, and other characters.  The tale portrays small town America in an unfavourable light, however the descriptions of the surroundings of the castle are almost poetic.

Our third novel was The Secret Place by Tana French.  Most readers enjoyed it very much, although the supernatural element to the tale appeared superfluous.  The story revolves around the relationships between girls at an independent girls’ boarding school in Dublin and the murder of a boy from the corresponding boys’ school, on the grounds of the former school.  We are told the story both from the girls’ perspective and that of the young male detective, who is striving to make his mark in the murder squad.  Interesting, strange and holds the attention.

We also discussed other books which we had read over the summer and I include these for your reference as books which you may wish to include on your Christmas lists:

 

  1. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand click here for a link to a website dedicated to this book.  Hilary recommended it and Sarah read it during the break.   Discussion of the novel was very interesting with Patrick and Hilary representing opposing views about Rand and her theories, philosophies and ideas on economics and the workings of the world.  Fascinating stuff!
  2. The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurin – (read in translation from the French). Again,  the book has its own website, click on the book title to go there.  This was a great little book about the positive impact that François Mitterand’s hat has on the lives of four different individuals after they have worn it… A light but entertaining read!
  3. We are all completely besides ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler – this was another curious summer read for Beth and me, well-written story, although a bit strange. It’s very different from The Jane Austen book club, one of the author’s previous works.
  4. Shadowlands by William Nicholson: Kafka-esque.
  5. Probably nothing : a diary of not-your-average nine months by Matilda Tristram. A graphic novel written by a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer, about her experiences
  6. Novels by the late P D James
  7. Books by Antonia Senior
  8. Books by Philippa Gregory
  9. Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  10. Books by Gerald Seymour
  11. The house we grew up in by Lisa Jewell
  12. Books by Louis Theroux

We won’t be meeting again until after Christmas – so here’s wishing all the greetings of the season and enjoy the holidays!

World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our World Book Day celebrations posts.  Today we are focusing on recommendations from our Economics Department here at Berkhamsted School and not one economics- or business-related title amongst them!

They all look like fascinating books and include three great fiction reads, an autobiography, a history book and an inspirational book helping us to rethink how to be successful…  Take your pick from this list:

1.   Mr Cowie has suggested Vanished kingdoms : the history of half-forgotten Europe by Norman Davies.

This sounds like a truly fascinating book about Europe’s lost realms.  Who knows what happened to the lost Empire of Aragon or the kingdoms of Burgundy?  The author also considers which

current nations could disappear or become a distant memory in the future…  An alternative historical read for you…

2.   In the withaak’s shade by Herman Charles Bosman was Mr Pain’s choice.  This book tells the story of a farmer, Oom Schalk, who goes out to the bushveld to look for his cattle.  He decides to rest beneath the withaak tree and look out from his seated position there for his cattle.  While he is at rest, a leopard approaches, sniffs at him and then lies down and goes to sleep at his side!  When he tries to tell others about his experience later, unsurprisingly he is not believed.  I would like to read this story myself…

3.   Mr Fung shared his book of the moment with his classes and this was Bear Grylls‘s autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears.  Grylls tells of his early life when his father taught him to sail and love the outdoor life and how he was later inspired to take up the most strenuous of challenges that a human can put him/herself through.  He describes how an horrific accident which led to his back being broken in three places nearly paralysed him, threatening  the achievement of the most basic of  functions, let alone continuing to pursue adventures and explore the natural world…

4.   Mr Foster’s offering is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.  A satirical indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it is how one reviewer on Nielsen Bookdata Online  describes this novel.  Although I haven’t yet read the book myself, I feel that it is one that I must.  Captain Yossarian is a bombardier in the Army Air Forces whose job is to bomb enemy positions in Italy and France, he turns his mission into one of survival.

5.  Mr Medaris has recommended two titles to his students this year.  The first, Every man dies alone by Hans Fallada, is a fictional story based on the true to life experiences of a husband and his wife, who, acting alone, became part of the German Resistance by writing postcards describing the appalling activities of  the Nazi-led German Government during the Second World War.  The story tells how the couple were eventually discovered, denounced, arrested, tried and executed.  This book was one of the first anti-Nazi German novels to be published after the end of the war, the author dying not long after its completion, prior to the date of publication.  I feel that this is an important book of the mid-twentieth century, another to add to the ever-growing list of books to read…

Mr Medaris’s second choice is Geoff Colvin‘s text Talent is overrated :  What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.  This text provides an argument that talent alone is not enough to be really successful, one needs to understand the concept of deliberate practice.  Colvin maintains that if you take this route, with dedicated practice and perseverance which is honed over time, you will be following in the footsteps of world-renowned successful people such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Winston Churchill and Tiger Woods, to name but three.  Read the book to glean so much more!

vanishedkingdoms inthewithaak mudsweatandtears catch22 everyman talentisoverrated

Round Ireland with a Fridge (Tony Hawks)

Tony Hawks in Edinburgh

Tony Hawks‘s book, Round Ireland with a Fridge, was our November book club read, and it provided much amusement to our readers. The meeting was very small, as it’s a very busy time of year, but we had some good discussion about the book and catching up with what we were reading individually.  The book centres around the fact that Tony travels around Ireland taking a fridge everywhere that he goes, what happens on the way and how he transports it from place to place.  Everyone who’d read the book felt that only in Ireland could this happen and he had some very interesting and humorous adventures on the way which you could only imagine occurring in Ireland.  It was very much enjoyed and proved a good tonic for the shortening rainy days of October and November!

round ireland

 

Heart-shaped Bruise (Tanya Byrne)

I know it’s a little while ago now but this is our book club report for 18th September!  It’s been such a busy start to our academic year, what with an inspection (very good) and lots of events going on in and around school such as Open Days, European Day of Languages, Bookbuzz and more…  So I am finally getting round to telling you about our meeting!

We met, as has become our habit, in a local hostelry, where the tea and coffee is very good!  We started by talking about our holiday reading, which, given that we’re avid readers, I felt that we could just share a few of them with you here.

  1. Wicked girls – Alex Marwood
  2. Dark matter – Michelle Paver
  3. Death comes to Pemberley – P D James
  4. The Thread – Victoria Hislop
  5. The weight of silence – Heather Gudenkauf
  6. A time to dance – Melvyn Bragg
  7. Lia’s guide to winning the lottery – Keren David
  8. Saturday supper club – Amy Bratley
  9. Reading in bed – Sue Gee
  10. Wonder – R J Palacio
  11. Shogun – James Clavell
  12. Life with the lid off – Nicola Hodgkinson*
  13. All passion spent – Vita Sackville-West*
  14. The shipping news – E. Annie Proulx**
  15. The sense of an ending – Julian Barnes*
  16. Summer of love – Katie Fforde*

* see more information about these books here

** see more information about this book here

A core novel which most of us read was Tanya Byrne‘s debut novel, Heart-shaped Bruise. There were mixed reactions to the book, but most readers enjoyed it and found it a very interesting story of a young woman who finds herself in the psychiatric wing of a Young Offenders’ Institute, and, to keep the story a page-turner, you don’t discover what she’s done until the very end. Having written it as a journal, Emily records the sessions she has with her psychiatrist, her memories of events leading up to her arrival at the YOI and thoughts she has about the other inmates she lives with.  One member said that she thought the story was good and told from a very interesting perspective.  She loved the characters but wasn’t sure that she could identify with all of them.  Another of our members enjoyed some of the descriptive passages highlighting page 102:

“… and the light from the only window was filtered through the tired leaves of a spider plant that hung over the edge of the windowsill as though it was trying to summon the energy to throw itself into the bin beneath it.”
I enjoyed reading this book  as I felt engaged with the story and found the narrative convincingly observed the way that teenagers speak and behave.  We are eagerly awaiting Ms Byrne’s second novel…

Holiday reading…

Just back from a family holiday and I’m pleased to say that I’ve managed to read five books so far this summer!  They were a varied group of books and I hope you like some, if not all, please let me know what you think!

It was lovely to begin the summer break, after the madness which always ends the school year, with Katie Fforde‘s Summer of Love. The paperback copy’s blurb has the following to say:

‘Sian Bishop has left the hustle and bustle of the city behind and has thrown herself into a new life in the country. With her young son, her picture-postcard garden and her small thriving business, she’s happy and very busy. She is not – repeat not – looking for love.  And then, one glorious summer evening, Gus Beresford arrives.  One-time explorer, full-time heart-breaker, Gus is ridiculously exciting, wonderfully glamorous – and, Sian tells herself, completely wrong for a romantically cautious single woman like her.  But she and Gus have met before. And, despite Sian’s best intentions, it isn’t long before she’s falling for him all over again …’

Katie Fforde leads us through Sian’s struggles with her emotions and her common sense, it’s a funny and lighthearted read and got me into my reading frame of mind.

Following on from this, came Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. This proved such a contrast and reminded me of William Boyd’s style of writing.  I thoroughly enjoyed Barnes’s storytelling, his use of language skilfully portraying the dusty atmosphere of reminiscence over events from Tony Webster‘s past, and the realisation of how past events reveal the difference in their meaning to the individuals concerned.   Tony, the narrator, tells the history of his relationship with three of his classmates from school and how, after they finish school, they begin to drift apart, except that one of his friends appears to be seeing Tony’s ex-girlfriend.  The repercussions of this new relationship are far-reaching and their impact is not felt until the closing chapters of the book.  It’s well-written and truly deserving of it’s winning of the 2011 Man Booker Prize.

Vita Sackville-West‘s novel, All Passion Spent was my third book.  I cannot get over how much I enjoyed this missive, superbly written with careful choice of just the right words, Sackville-West’s delightful story of Lady Slane, her life, her love for her husband, her travels abroad with him (based, no doubt, on Sackville-West’s voyages with her husband, Harold Nicolson, when he was employed as an ambassador for the United Kingdom) opens new horizons and views on the lives of those who did travel like this during Britain’s Imperial days of the nineteenth century.  Sackville-West explores the position of the wife of an important statesman, appearing to assume a role in the background of her household, much loved by her husband however, but much misunderstood by her children as a result.  Her children are perplexed and confused as to why she chooses to live an independent life after the death of her husband when she is 88 years old, but she makes it clear that she wishes to live out the rest of her days as quietly as possible, to share them with her maid Genoux and a few select visitors who are entertaining.  It is a witty tale and I’ve been struck by one thing Lady Slane feels towards the end of her story:

“… [she felt herself] wondering why, at the end of one’s life, one should ever trouble to read anything but Shakespeare; or for the matter of that, at the beginning of one’s life either, since he seemed to have understood both exuberance and maturity.”

For my fourth choice of reading matter, I chose a non-fiction title: Life With The Lid Off by Nicola Hodgkinson.  The author tells of how her life was turned upside down when her husband left her and her young family to pursue a life with someone new but she tells it in such a way that shows no bitterness and often her sense of humour shone through, making me laugh out loud.  She shows how life in this new situation can be survived and only briefly touches on the pain she has suffered, and hardships and difficulties she  faced in coming to terms with her new situation.  Hodgkinson talks about her purchase of a gypsy caravan and how she bought a cottage on the Suffolk coast, gradually integrating herself and her family into the small local community.  I loved it!  Both this title and All Passion Spent will be forming part of our Mood Boosting Book Week in school in October.

My last completed book for the time being is Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress Another fabulous book!  I loved her easy style which relayed a fascinating take on World War II from the perspective of three women: a young American journalist as she reports from London to a broadcaster based in the States about the Blitz and its effects on London’s citizens, the new wife of a doctor who feels compelled to travel to London to assist with casualties of the Blitz and the postmistress, who runs the post office in the small town in Cape Cod, also home to the doctor and his wife.  Blake weaves her story around the lives of these three women and shows how they all come together in the end.  Her prose passionately reflects the feelings, fears and hopes of these women.

I’m currently reading and enjoying Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping News.  Unfortunately I saw the film first but sufficiently long ago not to spoil the enjoyment of the book so far…

Ghosts by daylight (Janine di Giovanni) and Lucky Break (Esther Freud)

We had a lovely meeting in the garden of The Crown in Berkhamsted on Tuesday after school, so warm and sunny, it seemed exactly the right place to get together.  Though the gathering was small, we enjoyed talking about this month’s books: Janine di Giovanni’s Ghosts by daylight and Esther Freud’s Lucky Break. Both books engendered positive and negative comments but it was great to have something completely different to read.

Ghosts by daylight was our first non-fiction read of the year, and proved challenging, at times, in terms of its content.  It is always difficult to read about war and, with all of our modern technology, full details being relayed instantly or as close to the moment as possible, it’s in front of our noses all the time.  Rarely, however, do we think about those reporting that news back to us.  It’s too easy to think that the journalist’s job is the same, whichever news strand they are reporting on but what is clear from this book, is that war reporting affects those whose job it is more deeply and in a much greater intensity than that, say, of a food writer, whose passion for their subject may be equally powerful but, one imagines, more pleasurable with consequences which could not, potentially, expose the writer to such dangerous conclusions.  This may well explain di Giovanni’s difficulties when she is faced with a more ordinary, straightforward life back in Paris after the  birth of her son.  At times, it was felt that this element of her writing was self-indulgent by some members of the group. Nevertheless, her story is well-written and it was easy to travel along her journey with her.   We also talked about other war reporters’ books that we’d read:  Rosie Whitehouse was another journalist who wrote about the siege of Sarajevo and how she and her husband lived together through that war with their very young family (Are We There Yet?: Travels With My Frontline Family), again life was extreme but somehow manageable; John Simpson’s work is always interesting, and Kate Adie’s books are fascinating and funny as well – I miss seeing her reports on the news but like to catch up with From our own correspondent on BBC Radio 4 when I can!  Frank Gardner nearly died when his cameraman was shot dead in Riyadh by Al Qaeda in 2004 and he’s written two books, Blood and sand and Far horizons.

Esther Freud’s Lucky Break, which tells the story of a group of drama students as they progress through their years at Drama Arts (thinly disguised by the author as the Drama Studio, in Camden).  Again, we felt that the story was a bit self-indulgent and one member of the group said it almost had the feel of an autobiography and then almost the feel of a novel but not quite fitting in with either.  It would have been better, perhaps, either to have written it as a definitive autobiography or made more fictional, since the lines between them have been blurred and this made it less believable. This said, it was also thought that the book was well-written and enjoyable, amusing and a good general read.

Saturday 30th June is National Reading Group Day in the UK – there are plenty of events taking place around the country.  The focus for celebrations this year is the independent bookseller, so this is an excellent day for supporting yours.  If your reading group is planning to celebrate, let us know what you are doing and let’s start the discussion!

Mrs Ferguson’s fantastic fiction…

We asked all members of staff at school for their ideas about what they found to be great books for the summer holidays and Mrs Ferguson read so many, here are just five of her favourites:

Beyond black by Hilary Mantel

“An hilarious and sinister tale of dark secrets and secret forces in suburban England from the critically-acclaimed author of ‘Giving Up the Ghost’. Alison Hart is a medium by trade: dead people talk to her, and she talks back. With her flat-eyed, flint-hearted sidekick, Colette, she tours the dormitory towns of London’s orbital road, passing on messages from dead ancestors: ‘Granny says she likes your new kitchen units.’ Alison’s ability to communicate with spirits is a torment rather than a gift. Behind her plump, smiling and bland public persona is a desperate woman. She knows that the next life holds terrors that she must conceal from her clients. Her days and nights are haunted by the men she knew in her childhood, the thugs and petty criminals who preyed upon her hopeless, addled mother, Emmie. They infiltrate her house, her body and her soul; the more she tries to be rid of them, the stronger and nastier they become. This tenth novel by Hilary Mantel is a witty and deeply sinister story of dark secrets and forces, set in an England that jumps at its own shadow, a country whose banal self-absorption is shot through by fear of the engulfing dark.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

Fludd by Hilary Mantel

” ‘Fludd’ is a dark fable of lost faith, mysterious omens and awakening love set among the priests and nuns of a surreal English town deep in the northern moors. Fetherhoughton is a drab, dreary town somewhere in a magical, half-real 1950s north England, a preserve of ignorance and superstition protected against the advance of reason by its impenetrable moor-fogs. Father Angwin, the town’s cynical priest, has lost his faith, and wants nothing more than to be left alone. Sister Philomena strains against the monotony of convent life and the pettiness of her fellow nuns. The rest of the town goes about their lives in a haze, a never-ending procession of grim, grey days stretching ahead of them. Yet all of that is about to change. A strange visitor appears one stormy night, bringing with him the hint, the taste of something entirely new, something unknown. But who is Fludd? An angel come to shake the Fetherhoughtonians from their stupor, to reawaken Father Angwin’s faith, to show Philomena the nature of love? Or is he the devil himself, a shadowy wanderer of the darkest places in the human heart? Full of dry wit, compassionate characterisations and cutting insight, Fludd is a brilliant gem of a book, and one of Hilary Mantel’s most original works.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

Mrs Ferguson rates both books by Mantel as fantastic.  Her other choices come from Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk:

My name is Red

“The Ottoman Sultan has commissioned the best artists in the land to create a book celebrating the glories of his realm: but he wants them to illuminate it in the European style. Because figurative art is deemed by many to be an affront to Islam, the project must be kept secret. Panic and scandal erupt when one of the chosen miniaturists disappears, along with a crucial page of the manuscript. The surviving artists – bitter rivals variously motivated by pride, greed, jealousy, faith and love – are all under suspicion of murder, and the only clue to the mystery lies in the half-finished illustrations themselves. “My Name is Red” reveals the clash between two views of artistic meaning and the chasm between two world civilizations. In this special edition, the author includes a chronology of Islamic and Western art history to provide valuable context for his story, and has contributed a fascinating introduction throwing light on his methods, his aims and his inspiration.”  NielsenBookDataOnline

 

Istanbul

“Turkey’s greatest living novelist guides us through the monuments and lost paradises, dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways of Istanbul – the city of his birth and the home of his imagination. This is a supremely moving account of one man’s love affair with the city that has been his home since his birth.”  NielsenBookDataOnline Just makes me want to visit Istanbul…

 

 

 

 

Snow

As the snow begins to fall, a journalist arrives in the remote city of Kars on the Turkish border. Kars is a troubled place – there’s a suicide epidemic among its young women, Islamists are poised to win the local elections, and the head of the intelligence service is viciously effective. When the growing blizzard cuts off the outside world, the stage is set for a terrible and desperate act…Orhan Pamuk’s magnificent and bestselling new novel evokes the spiritual fragility of the non-Western world, its ambivalence about the godless West, and its fury.” NielsenBookDataOnline

 

 

Some inspired reading appears here, please leave a comment…

Mr Rees’s book choice for World Book Day

On Thursday 4th March, 2010, World Book Day, we asked teachers to talk to their classes about their favourite books or books they are currently enjoying.   Mr Rees talked with his classes about four publications that meant a lot to him.  The first is the incredible story of Joe Simpson and his climbing partner Simon, which has also been made into a moving documentary about their terrifying ordeal:

‘ “Touching the Void” is the heart-stopping account of Joe Simpson’s terrifying adventure in the Peruvian Andes. He and his climbing partner, Simon, reached the summit of the remote Siula Grande in June 1995. A few days later, Simon staggered into Base Camp, exhausted and frost-bitten, with news that Joe was dead. What happened to Joe, and how the pair dealt with the psychological traumas that resulted when Simon was forced into the appalling decision to cut the rope, makes not only an epic of survival but a compelling testament of friendship.’

Students were very interested in this book – what do you do when your only hope of survival could result in the death of a very close friend?  What a dilemma.

Mr Rees then talked of Old Berkhamstedian Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s latest book, ‘Force of Nature’ which he thoroughly enjoyed (and has his own signed copy!):

‘In January 1969, aboard his home-built wooden boat Suhaili, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person ever to sail solo, non-stop around the world. Twenty-five years later, Sir Robin again completed a record-breaking circumnavigation, co-skippering Enza with Kiwi yachting legend Sir Peter Blake. His place in sailing’s pantheon of greats was assured. Then, after the tragic death of his wife Sue, Sir Robin decided he would try again. In October 2006, at the age of 67 – when most people are settling in to a well-earned retirement – Sir Robin embarked on another gruelling single-handed race around the world. Compared to his rivals he lacked recent experience and a large shore-based support team. There were some who believed that this time he might have bitten off more than he could chew. Then early on, it looked like their worst fears might be realised.Within days of setting off, near-Hurricane-strength storms in the Bay of Biscay capsized his 60′ yacht Saga Insurance. But it wasn’t just Sir Robin who suffered. Three-quarters of the entire fleet had to run for shelter. When they re-emerged, all faced months of hardship and intensity ahead. “Force of Nature” is Sir Robin’s first-hand account his extraordinary return to the ultra-competitive, punishing world of single-handed offshore racing. It turned out to be a very different journey from the one he undertook on Suhaili, yet his experience aboard her remains a touchstone throughout this story. It’s a story of courage, ingenuity and resilience played out against the World’s oceans. But most of all it’s a powerful reminder that age is nothing but a number; no barrier to realizing one’s dreams.’  Truly inspirational.

Thirdly, he recommended Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest biography of Abraham Lincoln:

‘In this monumental multiple biography, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin studies Abraham Lincoln’s mastery of men. She shows how he saved Civil War-torn America by appointing his fiercest rivals to key cabinet positions, making them help achieve his vision for peace. As well as a thrilling piece of narrative history, it’s an inspiring study of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. This is a book to bury yourself in.’

Finally, he talked about a publication by the Royal Horticultural Society about creating a vegetable and fruit plot in your garden…  A little light relief, perhaps, from all the fascinating and heart-stopping reading…

All synopses have been taken from Nielsen BookData Online.