Book of the Week, 25th July 2015

The Girl Next Door

Ruth Rendell

The Girl Next Door

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell, who died earlier this year, was a legend amongst crime writers. Born in Essex she left school to become a journalist working for the Chigwell Times. But when she filed a story of a sports club dinner she had not even attended she was fired. Her report failed to mention the sudden death … Continue reading Book of the Week, 25th July 2015

Ruth Rendell, who died earlier this year, was a legend amongst crime writers. Born in Essex she left school to become a journalist working for the Chigwell Times. But when she filed a story of a sports club dinner she had not even attended she was fired. Her report failed to mention the sudden death of the after dinner speaker half way through his speech!

Just out in paperback, ‘The Girl Next Door’ shows Rendell’s powers undiminished. In Loughton in the 1950’s a group of local children regularly play in old wartime tunnels until a neighbour scares them off. Seventy years later as the site is developed two severed skeletal hands are discovered inside a biscuit tin buried in a the tunnels. The childhood playmates are reunited as a police investigation into the grisly remains gathers pace. With the hunt for the killer in the background the story focuses on this group of ageing friends. Their lives and their loves; their secrets and their fears as they face the end of their own lives are woven into this startlingly original crime drama.

Book of the Week, July 18th 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee

Harper Lee is now 89 and for most of her life has shunned all public attention. Her only novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, one of the landmarks of twentieth century fiction, was published 55 years ago. So it is unsurprising that the release of this book has been the publishing event of the year. Although … Continue reading Book of the Week, July 18th 2015

Harper Lee is now 89 and for most of her life has shunned all public attention. Her only novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, one of the landmarks of twentieth century fiction, was published 55 years ago. So it is unsurprising that the release of this book has been the publishing event of the year. Although set 20 years later this is no follow up. And although actually written earlier than ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ it is also no prequel. Rather it is a ghostly companion volume featuring some of the same characters and referencing the same events but within a very different story. When Scout returns home to Alabama she finds that her father, now in his seventies and unwell, is no longer the uncompromising fighter for civil rights she hero-worshipped as a child. Mired in the complexities of southern politics his ideals have been replaced by racist views that see him arguing against equality and integration. With a background of 1950’s southern racial politics this is a coming of age novel about disillusion and the loss of innocence but also about forgiveness.

 

 

Book of the Week, 10th July 2015

Paying Guests

Sarah Waters

Paying Guests

Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters’ award winning novel has just hit the paperback shelves. Set in south London during the 1920’s, when much of the rigid Victorian class structure and values are being washed away in the aftermath of war, it tells the story of Frances Wray and her widowed mother who live in genteel poverty in a … Continue reading Book of the Week, 10th July 2015

Sarah Waters’ award winning novel has just hit the paperback shelves. Set in south London during the 1920’s, when much of the rigid Victorian class structure and values are being washed away in the aftermath of war, it tells the story of Frances Wray and her widowed mother who live in genteel poverty in a rather grand villa. To help pay their way they take in a young working class couple as lodgers. Leonard and Lillian Barber bring back life, music and colour to the house that holds the sad memories of brothers lost in the war. Fascinated by their differing backgrounds and outlook, affection grows between Frances and Lillian but halfway through the book an unexpected and shocking event occurs. What had been a domestic drama and light touch love story is transformed into something darker: in effect a crime thriller that keeps you hooked through to the end.

 

Book of the Week, 3rd July 2015

Gutenberg's Apprentice

Alix Christie

Gutenberg's Apprentice

Alix Christie

We are today in the midst of a technological revolution. Computers and the internet are changing our lives. E-book downloads now account for a fast growing proportion of book sales. But, for many people, the traditional paper and ink book is still preferred. Back in the fifteenth century, though, it was printed books that were … Continue reading Book of the Week, 3rd July 2015

We are today in the midst of a technological revolution. Computers and the internet are changing our lives. E-book downloads now account for a fast growing proportion of book sales. But, for many people, the traditional paper and ink book is still preferred. Back in the fifteenth century, though, it was printed books that were the new revolution and for many brought up on hand scribed books the printing press was a dangerous and blasphemous invention. This book is a brilliant evocation of those times. It is a novel based strongly on the actual details of how Gutenberg developed the first printing press using movable type. It focuses on Peter Schoeffer, a scribe from Paris who is called back to his home in Germany to become apprentice to Gutenberg. Initially reluctant to forsake the personal artistry of hand scribed books, Peter becomes converted to the potential of print and has to face the resistance of the church and establishment as together they embark on the revolutionary project to manufacture the first printed bibles

Alix Christie will be talking about her book and the history of printing at the Minories, High St, Colchester on Wednesday, July 8th at 7 pm.

Book of the Week, 27th June 2015

Being Mortal

Atul Gawande

Being Mortal

Atul Gawande

Death. It’s the subject that we still tend to avoid thinking about if at all possible. But the truth is that it is an inescapable fact of life. Advances in nutrition and medical science have meant a steadily increasing average lifespan for most of us in the developed western world. But all too often enormous … Continue reading Book of the Week, 27th June 2015

Death. It’s the subject that we still tend to avoid thinking about if at all possible. But the truth is that it is an inescapable fact of life. Advances in nutrition and medical science have meant a steadily increasing average lifespan for most of us in the developed western world. But all too often enormous resources are concentrated on the prolonging of life with little thought for its quality. In this beautifully written book, Atul Gawande, himself a surgeon, explores our inconsistent approach to the treatment of the rapidly growing numbers of elderly in our society. He looks at palliative care for those who are terminally ill as well as how we can best provide supported living for those who may simply be frail and in need of regular help. Though dealing with death, this wise and humane book is life affirming – a manifesto for improving the quality of life for older people.

Book of the Week, 20th June 2015

The Sunrise

Victoria Hislop

The Sunrise

Victoria Hislop

Victoria Hislop has become famous for using her own holiday destinations as inspiration for the stories she spins. She has an eye for unusual and intriguing backgrounds to her novels. In the early 1970’s Famagusta in Cyprus was a holiday playground for wealthy foreigners and jetsetters. The Sunrise was the smartest, most fashionable hotel in … Continue reading Book of the Week, 20th June 2015

Victoria Hislop has become famous for using her own holiday destinations as inspiration for the stories she spins. She has an eye for unusual and intriguing backgrounds to her novels. In the early 1970’s Famagusta in Cyprus was a holiday playground for wealthy foreigners and jetsetters. The Sunrise was the smartest, most fashionable hotel in town – until 1974 when the Turks invaded. Prosperity and luxury were replaced by chaos and terror. Forty thousand people fled leaving just a few to live by their wits within the ruins. Amongst them are two families, one Greek and one Turkish, who shelter together in the abandoned hotel. To survive they must overcome their ethnic differences, their traditional hostility and mistrust. They learn to co-operate and slowly trust, respect and even love grows between them. With some powerful characters and unexpected dramas this is satisfying story with a fascinating background.