Holiday reading (4)

Today, as part 4 of our Holiday reading series, we are looking at books read and recommended by Ms Rossington, one of our inspiring English teachers.  She enjoyed Sarah Perry‘s second novel, The Essex serpent,  and Zana Fraillon‘s book which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal for children’s literature 2017The bone sparrow.

Of both novels Ms Rossington says:

“I thought the first was an extraordinary piece of writing and the second made me cry. Quite a lot.”

Ms Rossington has since recommended the latter to girls in their library reading lesson. I have been meaning to read both of these titles for ages, and now feel spurred on to do so.  Here’s a little more information on each:

The Essex serpent

“London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Along with her son Francis – a curious, obsessive boy – she leaves town for Essex, in the hope that fresh air and open space will provide refuge.

On arrival, rumours reach them that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming lives, has returned to the coastal parish of Aldwinter. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist with no patience for superstition, is enthralled, convinced that what the local people think is a magical beast may be a yet-undiscovered species.” Serpent’s Tail, publisher, accessed 29 January 2018.

The bone sparrow

“Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he’s at least 19 fence diamonds high, and that the nice Jackets never stay long. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.

The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence. She carries a notebook that she’s unable to read and wearing a sparrow made of bone around her neck – both talismans of her family’s past and the mother she’s lost – Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence. As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie’s family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.” Zana Fraillon, accessed 29 January 2018.

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Christmas reading (6)

The Christmas reading recommendations are still coming in!  Mrs Kelly, one of our Assistant Librarians, read three books: two in English and a third in her mother tongue of Polish, our second novel from foreign literature discussed in this series.

Mrs Kelly’s first novel is The good liar by Nicholas Searle.  She says:

“Nicholas Searle’s first novel, The Good Liar, is a story principally about Roy (one among his various identities), a conman, who is planning to pull off his final financial scam. He hooks up with a wealthy widow and plans to run away with her life savings.

The structure takes you backwards and forwards, revealing Roy’s life bit by bit, starting in contemporary Britain, and then reverting back to 1938 Berlin.  I must admit, I was considering giving up at the beginning, as I simply couldn’t get into the story, but I am so glad I persevered! Loved it! The story unfolds, culminating in a fabulous ending.”

Sounds like an arresting story (no pun intended)… One I’d very much like to read, and, although my to-be-read list keeps growing, I have already started on one of the previous recommendations (S J Watson’s Before I go to sleep, after comments by Miss Anderson made it so intriguing).  Book number two on Mrs Kelly’s list is Austin Wright’s Tony and Susan:

“It grabbed me straight from the beginning! The story is about Susan, an English University lecturer, who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, requesting an honest opinion. Since Edward’s ambition of becoming a writer was partly to blame for the breaking of their marriage, Susan is anxious about reading it. She does, however, and submerges herself into the novel, titled Nocturnal Animals. The reader then is drawn into yet another novel; very dramatic and gripping, about some tragic events in a life of Tony – a maths professor. Both stories interchange with one another, keeping you on your toes! Excellent read. Nocturnal Animals was actually adapted into the 2016 film, of the same title, by Tom Ford, its director.”

Oh no, the more reviews I read, my list increases in size!  And the third novel is one I’d like to read in translation.  Mrs Kelly says this about Bokserka by Grazyna Plebanek:

“It’s a multi-layered story about women, their desires, and breaking the stereotypes (the protagonist, Lu, fights in the boxing ring, whilst working in an embassy in Brussels, at the same time). The novel also discusses the whole generation of current thirty year-olds – people who are not afraid of many things and know no barriers. It did annoyed me at times, however, as it seems to portray feminism in the way I would not necessarily agree with. Glad I read it though!”

Many thanks, go to Mrs Kelly and all our readers, for their contributions.  It will soon be too late to feature Christmas reading so as and when we read more books and I receive more reviews, I will post them immediately.  In the libraries we are busy with History projects covering World War I and the Elizabethans, we are learning as much as the children from their fantastic teachers.

Further reading:

The Good Liar by Nicholas Searle review – a thriller that will trip you up

Tony & Susan by Austin Wright

Grazyna Plebanak

Christmas reading (5)

Welcome to our fifth exploration of the Christmas reading of members of staff from our school.  This post discusses two very different books read by Mrs Ewart, our Library Assistant.  One book is the second novel by Jessie Burton, The muse, and the other is by Richard Venables QPM, A life in death, concerning a vital part of his career in the Police Force in the field of Disaster Victim Identification.  Both sound intriguing and fascinating.  Mrs Ewart says:

The Muse by Jessie Burton: I really enjoyed this novel as much as her first historical novel, The miniaturist. The two books are completely different, although both are historical fiction. The Muse is set in Spain in the 1930s and Britain in the 1960s. The story revolves around a painting and the characters embroiled in its creation and destiny. Great storytelling. If you like Tracy Chevalier, I think you will enjoy Jessie Burton’s books…”

A Life in Death by Richard Venables QPM, a retired Police Detective Inspector. This was a gripping autobiograpy  about disaster victim identification, a part of policing that we rarely – if ever – think about. Venables shows compassion, humanity and respect in dealing with the victims. Yet there are touches of humour too. It has been nominated for the People’s Book prize for non – fiction. I strongly recommend that you read it – and then vote for it!”

Christmas reading (4)

Our reading journey continues with two entries which are attracting my attention, and which are now on my to-be-read pile!  Mrs Redman, Head of House and English teacher recommended Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent and teacher of Drama, Miss Anderson’s Christmas reading was Before I go to sleep by S J Watson.  Here is what each had to say:

Mrs Redman on The Essex serpent: “I picked it up in Waterstones because it was so beautiful – all rich blues and embossed gold detail.  The rave reviews on the back heralded it as An Essex village is terrorised by a winged leviathan in a gothic Victorian tale crammed with incident, character and plot and they weren’t wrong.  From the start, she creates a creditable Dickensian marshland setting in which grotesques and caricatures live alongside  London cognoscente.  The notion of superstition and a potential force of evil entering their world challenges their feelings towards religion and science.  It’s a page turner with believable and likeable characters facing a predatory menace; who or what the menace really is, and whether it is real or imagined, is the essence of the book.”

Miss Anderson on Before I go to sleep:  “I read “Before I Go To Sleep” by S.J.Watson and it was a fantastic thriller. A woman suffers a brain injury leading to memory issues. She wakes up every day believing she is in her 20s and realises that she is middle-aged and cannot remember any of her life between then and now. She starts to write a diary to aid her day-to-day life and the recovery of her memory. Yet as the days build up, she realises that there are many things her husband isn’t being honest with her about.  It was a great read that had me absolutely gripped.”

Miss Anderson’s choice has been made into a film starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong (more of my favourites!).

Have any of you read these novels?  Please do get in touch, I do like to read others’ thoughts on books which are important to them, especially if featured here.