Berkhamsted School Staff Book Club

We held our first meeting of the year this week!   Yes, I know, we’re approaching the end of March already but, here in Berkhamsted, life has simply been too busy for everyone to meet, indeed, this meeting was postponed and rearranged three times!

We had an animated and very enjoyable meeting, nevertheless, despite the fact that we were still a couple of members short.  We discussed Jacqueline Woodson‘s novel Another Brooklyn, published by Oneworld Publications and other books which we have recently enjoyed reading.

We all had differing views about Another Brooklyn, and came to the meeting feeling that we either liked or disliked it.  The discussion was interesting because we shared initial thoughts, then answered the questions which the book’s publisher had sent, and, through discussion, some of us changed the way we had thought about the book and saw it in a new light (or aspects of it at least!).  The story tells of a woman who, at the beginning of the novel, is present at the funeral of her father, and is catching up with her brother and his news, after spending time abroad as part of her job and looking after their father before he died.  After bidding goodbye to her brother, she encounters another woman on the train with whom she, and two others, had shared a particularly close friendship during their adolescence.  This group of four girls gradually disintegrated as the girls grew up and apart, seeking different dreams from each other.  The story is told in the form of a prose poem, and as such, is lyrical in tone, and is set in the mid to late 1970s in the then dangerous world of Brooklyn.  It covers the themes of memory, death, religion and race as well as the concept of close friendship. We ended the meeting less divided in opinion than at the beginning, but remained in one camp or the other, some liked it and others didn’t! I did…

another brooklyn

Recommended reading from the group includes the following books this month:

  • A death in Tuscany by Michele Giuttari
  • Catilina’s riddle by Stephen Saylor
  • The last of the great storytellers : tales from the heart of Morocco by Richard Hamilton
  • The breakdown by B A Paris
  • Quiet : the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain
  • In the unlikely event by Judy Blume
  • My husband next door by Catherine Alliott
  • The return by Victoria Hislop
  • The thread by Victoria Hislop
  • All the bright places by Jennifer Niven
  • The marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
  • The other half of my heart by Stephanie Butland
  • A nun’s story by Sister Agatha
  • Nice cup of tea and a sit down (Nicey and Wifey)
  • Mrs Poe by Lynne Cullen
  • My sweet revenge by Jane Fallon
  • Pushing perfect by Michelle Falkoff
  • A secret garden by Katie Fforde

This list demonstrates a wide and varied selection of reading tastes.  If you have read any of the titles on here, please do get in touch and let me know what you think.

One (Sarah Crossan)

I have just finished reading the Carnegie Medal shortlisted novel One by Sarah Crossan and loved it.  It’s the author’s second novel written as a prose poem, or free verse, the first being The weight of water which I also enjoyed but is very different from her latest novel.  Both were beautifully written and equally heart-wrenching, but covering very different stories.  One was clearly very well-researched on all points from the nature of the particular disability borne by the conjoined twins, and their feelings for one another, their difficulties where they, as teenage girls display typical teenage types of behaviour, and how they blow apart the idea that they should be pitied, or considered to be suffering.  The writing quickly draws the reader in and s/he becomes emotionally involved.

The prose poem is easy to read and get into.  The effect of the layout of words on the page, appearing as a poem, make it a fast read, which, sometimes, is a shame, because the reader wants to savour the poetic feel and read it slowly.  Here, however, there is a sense of urgency carried along by the story: time is of the essence.  The twins suffer health complications which must be addressed.  They are attractive characters and the reader soon has a sense of the lovely connection between them, which is often reported to be the case between twins generally, let alone those so closely attached.  Despite sometimes wanting to enjoy the same things as every teenage girl, they have a deep understanding and acceptance of the fact that they can’t participate in life in that way.  They watch their younger sister Dragon do the things that she does, whose own story is explored to some extent by the narrator, right-hand sided Grace.  She is also the teller of her parents’ story.

In keeping with the style of the prose poem, the detail is spares but so expertly described that all that is important is revealed – the story is told more effectively in this way, and is executed skilfully.

This is a sad story, a difficult story but also, at times, a joyful story.  Heartbreaking, yet hopeful.  I wish Ms Crossan all the very best with the Carnegie Medal, she has rightly been rewarded with the YA Prize 2016 and the CBI Book of the Year Award!

One