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.

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Graham Greene returns to Berkhamsted School Reading Group!

At the second meeting of our reading group, held on Wednesday 23rd November 2011, we discussed two of Graham Greene’s works: The Third Man and The End of the Affair.  We had a lively discussion with our male members of the group liking the writing, although one preferred the latter and the other enjoyed the former.  The female members in attendance felt that Greene seems not to sympathise with his women, and certainly does not seem to care much for Anna Schmidt in The Third Man; Sarah Miles seems very much a secondary character and not dealt with particularly fairly in The End of the Affair.   His male characters do not appear particularly likeable either but are well-drawn.  We talked of the fact that both books are very much of their time and it was suggested that the film version of The Third Man is indeed very much better than the book with the sense of gloom and moodiness of post-war Vienna with Orson Welles playing the part of Harry Lime, Joseph Cotton as Rollo Martins and Trevor Howard taking the part of Major Calloway.  As Greene himself says: “My story, The Third Man, was never written to be read but only to be seen.  The story, like many love affairs, started at a dinner table and continued with headaches in many places:  Vienna, Ravello, London, Santa Monica….   The film, in fact, is better than the story because it is, in this case, the finished state of the story.’  Graham Greene, from an article appearing in his collection of essays entitled Ways of Escape.

A must for all of us who haven’t yet seen it, it came out in 1949, a year before the novel was published.

Of the two film adaptations of The End of the Affair, only the second with Ralph Fiennes playing the role of Maurice Bendrix and Julianne Moore as Sarah Miles, had been seen by group members (we have a copy of the dvd in our libraries, available to borrow).  One of the group preferred the film ending to that in the book, I would disagree and say that I enjoyed the ending as Greene wrote it!  What do you think?

Four of us enjoyed the style and his use of language but the remaining four were less enthusiastic.  Sue and I found certain phrases and sentences which, on the face of it appear innocuous, but which struck a chord given certain experiences we’ve lived through.  Nevertheless, we all felt that it was good to read these titles and had a good chat about Greene’s life and how we could see influences of his beginnings, here at Berkhamsted, and life during the forties and fifties, with the long-lasting effects of World War II still hanging over the literary circles of the time.  We are fortunate here in Berkhamsted to be hosts to some of the events of the Graham Greene Festival which takes place at the end of September/beginning of October each year, if you are a fan of Graham Greene, why not come next year?