Book of the Week, July 8th 2017

For a man who has captivated audiences around the world as an entertainer, who became a pilot to conquer his fear of flying and who has run 27 marathons in 27 days, it is surprising to find out that Eddie Izzard describes himself as naturally boring!

In this autobiography there are plenty of laughs and humorous incidents but also a very honest account of his troubled upbringing. His mother died when he was just six years old and he marks this as the moment his childhood ended. Unhappy years followed at boarding school, where the most important lesson he learnt was that to survive you must not cry. As a teenager his ambition to entertain grew and at 15 he broke into Pinewood studios just to see behind the scenes, half hoping that he might be spotted by a director looking for someone to play the part of a suspicious looking youth!

Grit and determination to succeed saw him through the long lean years of his early career and more recently have seen him become a key figure in the gender debate and a political activist. Whatever Eddie Izard may say his life story is never boring!

Book of the Week, July 1st 2017

Behind the walls of a private estate north of Aberdeen stands an ancient pictish stone. The stone is carved with an inscription in a mysterious lettering that has never been deciphered. A mystery that all the learning of the 21st century cannot translate. For James Canton this stone represents an irresistible attraction. What hands carved these words? And why? He undertakes a trip North to try to understand what moved the hearts and minds of our prehistoric ancestors. It becomes the start of a series of journeys through the British landscape as James explores what flint axes, stone circles and buried treasure might reveal about the way of life of those that lived so long ago.

And so the quest develops to understand what our modern landscape can reveal about the past. It stretches from bronze age mummies buried in the Outer Hebrides to walking the Peddars Way through the Norfolk countryside. The result is a rich mix of history, archaeology and literary insight strung together with descriptions of the landscape and personal reflections that makes this a distinctive and satisfying read.

Book of the Week, June 17th 2017

David Walliams’ serves up ten hilarious stories featuring children who really are shockingly shameful.

There is Fussy Frankie who not only refuses to eat any vegetables, but hurls them out of the window. Unfortunately for him they fall into a nuclear power plant and, transformed into giant sentient vegetable monsters, they return to avenge his insults.

Cruel Clarissa is a cute little girl …but secretly she torments her pet cat, Blossom. One night Blossom slips out and rounds up all cats in the neighbourhood. Together they devise the scariest of plans that will ensure Clarissa never mistreats an animal again.

And then there’s Harry who never does his homework and the excuses he invents for his teachers are outlandish. Like the goldfish ate his maths paper or burglars broke into the house, stealing his geography exercise book. But when he ignores his History homework a band of real historical villains turn up in his room. Together, Attila the Hun Genghis Khan and Vlad the Impaler change his attitude to homework!

With lively colour illustrations throughout these are stories to excite and delight.

Book of the Week, June 10th 2017

Through books and films, ’The Lord of the Rings’ has become one of the most loved stories of all time. It is now over 40 years since the death of Tolkien and this is the last of his unfinished writings to be published. It is also one of the most important stories that underpins the epic saga of Middle Earth.

It is the tale is of a love affair between all too human Beren and the elf princess Luthien. Her father, disapproving of the relationship, asks that Beren prove himself by stealing a jewel from the crown of Melko, the evil predecessor to Sauron.  Their quest leads to danger and adventure; to the island of werewolves and ultimately to the underworld and back.  Luthien must choose between her love for Beren and the immortality of her life as an elf.

Different versions of the tale are presented here showing how it changed as Tolkien refined his vision of the history and mythology of his epic creation.

And Tolkien himself identified strongly with this tale, seeing in it his love for his wife, Edith. On their shared tombstone, below their own names, is the inscription, ‘Beren and Luthien’.

Book of the Week, June 3rd 2017

For best part of 40 years now St Mary’s Church has flourished as a much loved arts venue. The building which shakes now to the sound of heavy metal bands was once shaken by the impact of 38lb canon balls during the siege of Colchester as well as by the earth quake of 1884.

The current building is actually the third built on the site. The first was St Mary the Virgin which only later became known as St Mary’s at the Walls.

The church has witnessed the burning of protestants in 1557 within yards of the west door. During the Civil War, a cavalry charge led by Charles Lucas, repelled the parliamentary invaders with the help of a cannon hauled to the top of the Church’s tower.  During the siege that followed, cannon were trained on the tower and a relentless bombardment resulted in the church’s destruction.

The fabric of the current building is lovingly detailed; the stonework, paintings, bells, and stained glass are all described and illustrated with photographs.

This fascinating book traces the history of a church that has been at the heart of Colchester life for so many generations.  The one disappointment for some might be to discover that St Mary’s famous link with Humpty Dumpty is unfounded!

Book of the Week, May 27th 2017

It was fairly late in life when Rosamond Richardson took up bird watching, but when she so it was with the passion of a religious convert.

Richardson describes a year spent bird watching – mostly around her homelands of East Anglia. On the North Norfolk coast watching egrets and snow buntings on land once farmed by Henry Williamson. Watching nightjars and curlews in the sandlings around Dunwich, ancient capital of East Anglia.  Following the footpaths around Aldeburgh where Benjamin Britten took his daily walks and spotting kingfishers along the River Stort..

To her birdwatching Richardson brings a lifetime’s experience of the countryside and her writing is rich with literary and historical references and with the habits and folklore of the birds she sees.

The Albino Dunnock of the title is caused by a recessive gene, and is a bird so rare that to encounter one is the Holy Grail for a birdwatcher. But Richardson reflects that ultimately the joy of bird watching lies not so much in the result as in the process.

Hardback £16.99