Spring reading from Berkhamsted

Further to my earlier blog posts writing about ‘Holiday reading’, we are now approaching Spring (yes, I am probably one of the few who still believe that the first day of Spring arrives around the time of the vernal equinox!), and I wanted to share some more reading ideas which have been sent to me.  Our School Archivist, Mrs Koulouris, has told me about two books she read recently.  The first being Tom Hanks’s first venture into published writing, his book Uncommon type.  Of this, Mrs Koulouris says:

“This was brilliant!  It’s as if Tom Hanks is standing by your shoulder telling you these stories in his own inimitable style, he writes just as he speaks and you can imagine him telling the stories to you.  They are all very different – definitely worth a read!”

I have a copy at home and can’t wait to get stuck in!

Mrs Koulouris collects Michael Morpurgo‘s books, and has lately added his book Lucky button to her bookshelves.  She describes it thus:

“This is lovely.  It’s a story inspired by Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital.  The story revolves around a lonely young boy, a lucky button, a ghostly encounter, and music…  The book is beautifully illustrated by Michael Foreman, another reason for adding it to my bookshelves, since collecting books with wonderfully drawn illustrations is another passion of mine.”

A series of of illustrations from the novel is currently on display at the Foundling Museum in London’s Coram Fields, which would be well worth a visit.  More information  about the exhibition can be found here .  The Foundling Museum is such a wonderful museum for any visitor to London, telling the tale of how Thomas Coram campaigned for 17 years to fund a Hospital dedicated to caring for the unwanted babies of eighteenth century London, some of whom were left on slag heaps by mothers who could barely look after themselves, let alone their babies.  Some were left at the Hospital with a token or keepsake which, when described by a mother when she found herself in less dire circumstances, could be used to reclaim her child.  Is the lucky button of this story one of these tokens?  Handel, together with the painter, William Hogarth were staunch supporters of Coram, and today the Museum holds the original score of Handel’s Messiah, and several of Hogarth’s paintings.  Berkhamsted has its own connections with the Foundling Hospital since it was moved to safety out of London during the First World War, first to Reigate in Surrey, and then when the new building was ready in Berkhamsted, the Hospital and its residents moved here, to the site now occupied by Ashlyns School. The Hospital closed during the 1950s and, today, the work started by Thomas Coram three centuries ago continues with the charity, Coram, whose aim to to help children in difficult circumstances and support them and their families.

If you have read either of these two books, please do get in touch, it would be fantastic to hear from you.


Too Much Happiness (Alice Munro)

One of  Mrs Maxted’s June reads so far has been Alice Munro’s Too Much Happiness, her collection of short stories which won the 2009 Man Booker International Prize.  She says that she wouldn’t usually pick up a book of short stories having a preference for reading novels, but this one had been recommended by a friend who knew that she liked reading literature by Canadian writers.  This collection has made her re-think her preferences as she did enjoy this edition.  What follows is an excellent summary from the Waterstone’s website:

“A wife and mother, whose spirit has been crushed, finds release from her extraordinary pain in the most unlikely place. The young victim of a humiliating seduction (which involves reading Housman in the nude) finds an unusual way to get her own back and move on. An older woman, dying of cancer, weaves a poisonous story to save her life. Other stories of this title uncover the ‘deep holes’ in marriage and their consequences, the dangerous intimacy of girls and the cruelty of children. The long title story follows Sophia Kovalevsky, a late nineteenth-century Russian emigree and mathematical genius, as she takes a fateful winter journey that begins with a visit to her lover on the Riviera, and ends in Sweden, where she is a professor at the only university willing to hire a woman to teach her subject. Alice Munro takes on complex, even harrowing emotions and events, and renders them into stories that surprise, amaze and shed light on the unpredictable ways we accommodate to what happens in our lives.”

If you like short stories as a genre, why not give this a try?