Berkhamsted School Staff Book Club meets again…

We had a lively and interesting meeting last Tuesday (17th May), and discussed two books Katherine Webb’s The legacy and Father’s Day by Simon van Booy.

the legacyGenerally we all enjoyed the books to some extent, but had more to say individually.  Katherine Webb’s novel was felt to have been well-written and a good read, with plenty of plot and storyline, however some felt that the ending needed a clearer definition: there were interesting threads which we as readers knew to be part of the story but the protagonist seemed to feel satisfied that they were not brought together for her; of course, this is purely the preference of two of the readers.  Some members of the group felt that this fact made it more realistic because in life, things aren’t always resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, but we others, whilst recognising this, felt that here, somehow, it would have made for a better ending for everything to be tied up.  The characterisation was good and the settings were interesting.  Our thanks go to HarperCollins for a copy to review.

Father's Day

Father’s Day was generally liked very much.  For a novel whose story involves travelling between the past and the present, generally we felt that this was done seamlessly with items signifying  good or important memories invoking events from the past between the two protagonists.  The story was told simply and not  sentimentally, we felt, although one member of the group disagreed.  The back story was intriguing and provided a good deal to question and talk about. The characters were likeable and interesting, with their story, whilst dramatic in itself, told calmly and almost gently. We should like to say thank you to One World Publications for the advance copy.

As usual, we then had a discussion of books which we’d recently read and enjoyed, please see the list below:

Missing, presumed – Susie Steiner

My map of you – Isabelle Broom

Maestra – L S Hilton

You sent me a letter – Lucy Dawson

The boy on the wooden box – Leon Leyson

Am I normal yet? – Holly Bourne

The storyteller – Jodi Picoult

Faces in the smoke – Josef Perl

The girl on the train – Paula Hawkins

Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

All the light we cannot see – Anthony Doerr

A book which looks absolutely fascinating and which I would love to read this summer is A life discarded by Alexander Masters (author of Stuart : a life backwards).  He found some diaries in a skip outside a house which was being cleared in Cambridge, and which were written by one hand spanning five decades.  Apparently they reveal an ordinary life lived but one which is, at times, shocking, poignant, and hilarious…

If you have read any of these fantastic novels, please do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Finally, we hope, as a group, to see the long-awaited film adaptation of a favourite book of ours, Jojo Moyes’s Me before you, which is out on general release in cinemas from Friday 3rd June…Check out this blog for a review!

 

 

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The Orange Prize 2012 shortlist

Here in Berkhamsted School Library, we are trying so hard not to put through an order for our own copies of this year’s shortlisted books as we would like to share them with you all!  I cannot wait to get started on these titles, they all look like thoroughly good reads, especially for those long summer holidays…

The shortlist for 2012 looks like a particular well-chosen collection of books with some fascinating stories to keep our reading brains tuned in over the next few weeks.  It’s good to see Esi Edugyan‘s Half Blood Blues on the shortlist after she wasn’t successful in winning the Man Booker Prize of 2011 after being shortlisted for that prize too:

“From Weimar Berlin to the fall of Paris, and on to the present day, danger, jealousy and inspiration combine to tempt a man to a secret betrayal. The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. In “Half Blood Blues”, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong… ”  Nielsen BookData Online

Anne Enright‘s new novel, The Forgotten Waltz, will hopefully be as successful as her previous book, The Gathering, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2007, it certainly looks like it’s an excellent book to read:

“If it hadn’t been for the child then none of this might have happened. She saw me kissing her father. She saw her father kissing me. The fact that a child got mixed up in it all made us feel that it mattered, that there was no going back. “The Forgotten Waltz” is that rare thing: the literary page turner…It is an acutely tender depiction of the complex familial bonds joining us, a delicate portrait of love, loss and hope, from a formidably talented writer”. (Claire Kilroy, “Financial Times”).”  Nielsen BookData Online

Painter of Silence is Georgina Harding’s fifth book and third novel.  From the synopsis below, it makes for a superb story:

“Iasi, Romania, the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of a hospital. Deaf and mute, he is unable to communicate until a young nurse called Safta brings paper and pencils with which he can draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page. The memories are Safta’s also. For the man is Augustin, son of the cook at the manor house which was Safta’s family home. Born six months apart, they grew up with a connection that bypassed words. But while Augustin’s world remained the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society – and a fleeting love, one long, hot summer. But then came war, and in its wake a brutal Stalinist regime, and nothing would remain the same.”  Nielsen BookData Online

It’s always gratifying when a writer’s debut novel appears on literary prize shortlists, and  here we welcome the efforts of Madeline Miller. Her work, The Song of Achillesis a re-telling of the Iliad:

“Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear. ”  Nielsen BookData Online

Cynthia Ozick, a well-known American author, whose work appears here for the first time, has written critically acclaimed and award-winning short stories and literary essays.  Her new novel, Foreign Bodies, should be an intriguing book to read:

“The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape, by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family. By one of America’s great living writers, Foreign Bodies is a truly virtuosic novel. The story of Bea’s travails on the continent is a fierce and heartbreaking insight into the curious nature of love: how it can be commanded and abused; earned and cherished; or even lost altogether.”   Nielsen BookData Online

Finally, we come to a previous winner of the 2002 Orange Prize for her novel Bel Canto, Anne Patchett.  Her latest offering, State of Wonder, seems to be a fascinating thriller:

“There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’ colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest. What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.”  Nielsen BookData Online

I hope that these short overviews will inspire you all to read these works of fiction and if you have read them already, please let us know what you think.  As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am waiting for the summer holidays to arrive before I can begin!

World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 2

Continuing with our theme, more of our colleagues reported their successes back to us:

Mrs Pickles, teaching Food Technology, sent me this message:

“I shared Northern Lights with my Year 7 food group as this is a memorable  book for me and we shared lots of ideas about “daemons” and “dust”!  We went on to make parsley dust whilst making our Couscous salad. Ailis wanted me to carry on reading it as we obviously only achieved the first paragraphs.”  I am so impressed that Mrs Pickles was able to take ideas from Philip Pullman‘s novel into the kitchen, sounds like a fun lesson!

Mr Atkinson, a Religious Studies teacher told us this:

” I told the boys that Harry Potter got me into reading, gave them a book token and suggested they give a new book a try especially if they are not into reading as it may spark something. I then suggested that they could read one Harry Potter book a year in order to grow up with the characters…”  Here’s hoping that gets them started.

Our final entry for part 2 comes from Mrs Inchenko, who works in the Old Berkhamstedians’ Office:

“I have just started reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – the fictional story of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley.  The book is written in the form of a Hadley’s memoir.  So far I am only at the stage where they are beginning to fall in love, still living in Chicago – yet to move to Paris.  I am looking forward to ‘reaching Paris’ when the Author describes Paris in the 1920s, with characters such as Gertrude Stein, F Scott Fitzgerald and James Joyce.

On the theme of Paris,  I have just read Pure by Andrew Miller.  A wonderful book, which describes the destruction of ‘Les Innocents’ cemetery in Paris during 1785, through the words of the Engineer who is put in charge of the project.  The author brilliantly describes the atmosphere in Paris at that time.  The characters are well formed and I felt a strong connection to them.  I haven’t read any other books by Andrew Miller, but I will certainly be on the look out for them now.”

It’s so good to receive such recommendations from people we work with, and opens up more avenues for us – I am keen to read all of the books listed here!