A Child In The Forest


We discussed ‘A child in the forest’ by Winifred Foley (no longer in print, but available as an audio book or second hand). The book was originally written for broadcasting on ‘Woman’s hour’. It is the autobiography of a young girl, born in 1914, growing up in a mining village in the Forest of Dean. She has a great love for her family, the Forest and her life there, in spite of their poverty ( no electricity, or running water and shortage of food). At the age of 14 she went into service, first in London, then in the Cotswolds and then on a Welsh farm. The working conditions were tough.

For many people in the group, the book provoked childhood reminicences of their own. There were interesting portraits of characters in the village. The descriptions of nature were good but we wanted more details about the forest. The book emphasised a child’s delight in simple things, in contrast to much of modern consumerism. A couple of readers found the vernacular was off putting and thought a glossary would have helped. Several thought the book was ‘not a page turner’ and preferred other autobiographies like ‘Cider with Rosie ‘ .

We all enjoyed the delicious cake and a chance to meet up again without restrictions. Score 7/10

 



 

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn


At last the Covid 19 restrictions relaxed enough to allow us to meet in Jill’s lovely garden with delicious cake to follow!

We discussed The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. For Raynor Winn and her husband Moth, the cruellest of diagnoses and the simultaneous collapse of their business opens an unexpected door to salvation through a journey which, over its length, transforms into a sweeping narrative of inner courage and nature’s ability to heal. They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

There were mixed feelings regarding the book. Nearly everyone agreed that it was a good read with great evocative descriptions of the weather, geography and the hardships encountered. It was not a negative book despite the sadness of their situation with lots to smile at.

However, many felt that it didn’t quite ring true. There was some criticism of the lack of Moth’s viewpoint or communication with their children, despite the couple’s closeness; Ray seemed in denial of Moth’s condition and that she was pushing him. Ray came across as not a very nice person. Many felt that there had been a lack of planning in relation to equipment, irresponsibility in not considering Moth’s medical condition or medication and some resentment about their taking advantage of others.

All agreed that it was good to read a book that led to wider discussions regarding ‘wild’ camping on private land which could encourage others to think that it was possible and right to do (although illegal in much of Britain), the problems of litter in wild places and sharing long distance walking stories.

Scores out of 10 ranged from 6 to 9 resulting in an average of 8.

Other books discussed:

Barak Obama’s autobiography

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier

The Bell in The Lake by Lars Mytting.

 

 



 

More Walking  Books

Walking  Books


The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood


Social distancing continues, so a gentle stroll in the playing fields preceded our Page Turners’ meeting lolling on the grass in the very sunny orchard!

We discussed ‘The Hiding Game’ by Naomi Wood. This novel traces the chequered relationships of a group of disparate students at the Bauhaus school of art during Germany’s turbulent 1920’s.

On line reviews were very favourable, but one reviewer did say that The Hiding Game was not a book to be read at speed. Due to the nature of its content they found themselves putting the book down to carry out their own research on line.

Those Page Turners who were not so knowledgeable nor diligent with probing the history found this novel to be tedious. Several thought the characters were uninspiring and that the story line was weak.

But for those who had an interest in the Bauhaus movement and the period of the rise of the Nazis, it was a very enjoyable and stimulating read.

Our scoring ranged from 9/10 to 4/10.

 



 

Walking  Books

THE PAGE TURNERS

Walking  Books


As Welsh Government Covid restrictions meant the Page Turners could not meet inside, it was decided to have a meeting in the fresh air and walk ‘n’ talk. The Page Turners met over Cold Knap, starting off beneath the railway tunnel as the rain pelted down. The rain disappeared, the sun shone and after a short ramble around the lake, the Page Turners stopped to discuss their last book choice…from December 2020.

The book under discussion was A Little Life”, a 2015 novel by American author, Hanya Yanagihara. The novel tells the story of four friends from college through to middle age, with a particular focus on Jude, who has a mysterious past which he is reluctant to discuss. It is a mammoth book about a difficult subject matter, yet achieved a ranking on the Guardian’s list of the 100 best books of the 21st century. Nicola described it as a challenging read and the Page Turners agreed it was a harrowing read as the abuse of Jude is described in great detail; although the novel is very well written, Babs summed up what people thought when she said she couldn’t wait to get to the end of the book. To be recommended if you want a rollercoaster ride through one man’s disturbing, traumatic and distressing past.

 



 

Happy Memory Books

“THE PAGE TURNERS BOOKS PROMPTING HAPPY MEMORIES”


Due to ongoing Welsh Government restrictions, Page Turners were not able to meet up. Instead, book club members were asked to reflect on a book that has a special place on their book shelf, or Kindle! A piece of music can often bring back happy and cheerful memories of a time, a place, or a person, and books can evoke similar feelings. The Page Turners were asked to nominate a book they had read that can provoke or prompt happy memories… Do you agree with these choices?

May and Nicola have both spent some time in Africa: May was a teacher in Botswana for 2 years and Nicola grew up in Zambia. They made the same choice of a series of books: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall. For May the books brought back memories of the cheerful, hospitable people in Botswana, the colourful birds, dusty roads, villages of rondavels and continuing blue skies and warm, sunny days. Nicola loved these books as they are so evocative of Africa. She believes Mma Ramotswe, the detective, epitomises a particular type of African woman with down to earth humour and pragmatism.

Babs selection was Angels And Demons by Dan Brown. This book evokes memories of several visits to Rome: Babs has had a number of fantastic holidays in Rome with some lovely people she has been lucky enough to know in her life. She loves the history, the many wonderful buildings, the atmosphere, the people and the food, all of which she is reminded of by this book.

Sandra chose a poem, Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. This poem reminds Sandra of when she first met Peter (her soon to be husband), a true Welsh man, who wanted to teach Sandra, an English lady, about Wales. Sandra was at College in Salisbury and at the play house there was a production of Under Milk Wood. Peter took Sandra to the production, possibly to impress her (Sandra maintains). This was one of their first outings together, which she enjoyed immensely. This poem brings back many good memories for Sandra.

Special memories for Sylvia are prompted by the 1967 TV adaptation of The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. This starred Eric Porter, Nyree Dawn Porter, Kenneth More and Susan Hampshire. It was on for 26 episodes, and Sylvia can still remember the anticipation and the unfolding of the story. No catch up in those days!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling was Jenny’s choice. Jenny remembers many a happy hour spent reading out loud alternate chapters with her young 7 year old son, in a quiet little Greek taverna on a beach, the waves cooling their toes. Although it was a long time ago, the book makes her recall the sheer bliss of this time. And her son? He went on to collect and read the entire series!

Lynne chose The Magus by John Fowles. The Magus tells the story of Nicholas Urfe, a young British graduate who is teaching English on a small Greek island. It seemed an appropriate choice for reading after finishing my college finals, as my dreams for the future were to travel to sunnier climes. A friend and I, and The Magus, jetted off to Tenerife to await our results. This book reminds me of blissfully carefree, relaxing days under blue skies…away from the cares of the world!

Helen selected Arts of the Eskimo by Patrick Furneaux and Leo Rosshandler. While living in Canada in the early 1970’s, Helen and her husband were greatly enamoured of the Inuit’s traditions. She believes much can be learned about the dreams as well as the activities of a culture long rooted in its environment. Helen was given the Arts of the Eskimo book and in the following months she purchased four of their original works of art. These pictures still grace her walls today and the pictures and the book evoke many very happy memories.

Is there a book on your bookshelf that prompts a journey into a different time, space or place? I hope you enjoyed reading about our choices.

 



 

Good Feelings Books

THE PAGE TURNERS

The Most Funny, Uplifting, Joyous, Happy Books


The lockdowns and government restrictions have led to a huge boost in the number of people reading. Readers have sought endless escapism from the unexciting, monotonous routines of day-to-day life in lockdown. As lockdown continued into March, Page Turners were unable to meet yet again. As an alternative Page Turners were asked to suggest their most funny, uplifting, joyous, happy book which left them with a feel good sensation….and would help What’s On readers get through these lockdown days…and beyond. Here are their suggestions…

Nicola’s choice of a feel good novel is a young person’s book by Susan Cooper, The Dark is Rising Sequence. Nicola has read and re-read this adventure involving magic and incorporating myths numerous times; and she always loses herself in it!

Sandra selected a book which gave her the feel good factor from beginning to end, Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. Sandra believes this book is filled with the pleasure of travel and she describes it as funny, perceptive and tender. Does anyone remember the experience of travelling somewhere?!

Jenny’s choice is Blott on the Landscape by Tom Sharpe. Jenny remembers this 70s novel for the sheer emotion of laughing out loud A LOT! Jenny describes Blott as simply a very fast moving farce with many an amusing quick-witted turn of phrase (some rude!). She has enjoyed revisiting it, having a good chortle and reminding herself of its downright ridiculous storyline!

Helen also chose a Tom Sharpe novel, Peterhouse Blue, a humorous and well observed book about life in a fictional college at Cambridge University. Helen maintains it is both acerbic and mocking of an elite educational institution; it is a story of hypocrisy and pomposity with a surprising twist at the end and Helen believes it is very much a “laugh out loud” novel.

May’s selection of a joyful book is Mary Berry’s, Fast Cakes. During lockdown, this book made her feel good: who wouldn’t feel good reading about and making lemon drizzle cake, shortbread, tacky gingerbread, brownies, drop scones…..do I need to write on?

A character in Lynne’s pick of a feel good book would have approved of May’s choice as she loved to eat and drink and party and enjoy life…..Bridget Jones, from the Helen Fielding’s books. Bridget Jones is a binge drinking, chain smoking publisher who tries (and fails) to keep her life in order. Her attempts to enjoy life end with her in some tight spots that most people can identify with….and laugh along with…

Sylvia selected the book that the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is based on, These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach. Enticed by advertisements for a luxury retirement home in India, a group of strangers leave England to begin a new life. Their experiences are hilarious and poignant and certainly provide readers with many uplifting, joyful moments.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan is Babs’s choice of a thoroughly heart warming and enjoyable read. The novel alternates between two main story lines and is a pleasant, sometimes humorous, easy read with interesting characters and a good ending.

Our final Page Turners selection of an uplifting read is from Jill who opted for two books by Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven. Jill really loved the characters and well drawn plots. The second one was a satisfying follow-up and gave an interesting description of the Cherokee Nation.

If the lockdown restrictions, or even the weather are keeping you indoors, why not try one of these books that Page Turners have enjoyed….?

 



 

Heroes and Heroines

“THE PAGE TURNERS”

HEROES AND HEROINES


Due to continued Covid restrictions, there was no opportunity for book club members to meet up in February. Instead the Page Turners were set the task to decide who is the greatest hero or heroine they have read about on their literary journeys. Will it be Hercule Poirot, from Agatha Christie’s crime novels; or Winston Smith, from 1984 by George Orwell; or a young heroine like Hermione Grainger, from the Harry Potter series?

Nicola’s greatest hero is Tate from Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Nicola appreciated the way Tate saw Kya as an individual in her own right. Unlike many others, who only saw her as ‘the marsh girl’ and made many assumptions about her, Tate understood Kya and recognised the value of her for who she was.

Lynne’s heroine is Eleanor Oliphant from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is a social misfit with a traumatic past. She tries to deal with the loneliness and isolation she has lived with for many years; a theme many people will empathise with, having had to endure similar emotions during the pandemic lockdown restrictions. She manages to transform herself and live a fuller life, which makes her a heroine in Lynne’s eyes.

Helen’s selection is Maya Angelou who wrote seven volumes of autobiography, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Helen believes Maya speaks eloquently and frankly about her experiences of growing up in the 1930s Deep South. No detail is spared but also nothing is sensationalised past the point of the wonder with which her childlike eyes saw the world. Everything she experienced is tackled with honesty and confidence; what shines through is Angelou’s love and appreciation for the world as something wondrous, something to be grateful for even when it seems impossible. This makes Maya a genuine heroine in Helen’s opinion.

May’s choice of hero is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Atticus agrees to defend Tom, a black man, accused of raping a white woman, knowing that he will face local prejudice. He defends Tom against a lynch mob and in spite of the evidence, Tom is found guilty. May believes that Atticus is a hero for standing up for what is right, in spite of the risks involved.

Jill’s favourite book while growing up was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and her choice for the title of greatest heroine is Jo March, who she identified with strongly. Jill admired Jo’s vivid imagination, sense of adventure, fearlessness and deep love for her family. She was a true feminist and fought against the social restraints of her time, but in time she conquered her personal faults & became a happily fulfilled wife and mother.

Sylvia’s hero is an aloof and romantic hero, “a noble character at heart, albeit somewhat prideful”: Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Does this choice have anything to do with Mr Darcy, played by Colin Firth, emerging from a lake in the TV version…. ?!

Rafi Bukhara from the novel Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton was Babs choice. Following the deaths of close family members, Rafi heroically and lovingly guarded his young brother Basi during their 6 month journey from Syria. Subsequently, when his school in Somerset is under siege by two men armed with automatic weapons, despite already suffering with PTSD as a result of his earlier traumas, Rafi was the first to recognise the danger. He ensured the successful evacuation of the Junior School. Truly a hero of our times, claims Babs.

Sandra’s choice is Jane Eyre from the novel by Charlotte Bronte. Sandra considers Jane to be completely self-sufficient and capable of enduring solitude, loneliness and heartbreak. Jane always relied on herself for guidance and comfort and survives the disapproval and cruelty of others. She has true values and principles and will not sacrifice these no matter what the outcome: which is what all true heroines do.

Do you agree with the choices made by the Page Turners?

 



 

Literature’s Most Dastardly Villains

“THE PAGE TURNERS”

Literature’s Most Dastardly Villains


Another year, another lockdown, another postponed Page Turners meeting, but another opportunity for Book Club members to reflect on characters in books they have read…..and disliked! There are many villains in literature: Flashman in Tom Brown’s Schooldays was considered a scoundrel; whereas Professor Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s Sherlock has been described as a ruthless, vindictive mastermind; the White Witch in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has never been forgiven for killing Christmas! So who do the Page Turners believe is the greatest villain in the books they have read?

May’s choice of villain is Mrs. Reed, Jane Eyre’s aunt, from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. May claims that Mrs. Reed was very unkind to Jane, an orphaned child and her unjustified treatment included locking Jane in a haunted bedroom and sending her off to boarding school with a bad reputation. May appreciates that there are more vicious villains, but they are often more obvious in their treatment of their victims than the shrewd Mrs Reed.

Helen’s most villainous literary character of all time is the boldly ambitious and manipulative Lady Macbeth, from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. Helen considers Lady Macbeth to be one of Shakespeare’s most infamous and treacherous female characters. She is cunning and power-hungry and the mastermind behind the idea to kill King Duncan. Towards the end of the play she is overcome by remorse and driven insane, but in Helen’s opinion, this does not make amends for her previous evil deeds.

Lynne selected Herbert Powyss, a scientist set on making his name, from the novel, The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan. In 1793, Powyss imprisons a poor farm labourer in his cellar for 7 years, for a generous financial reward, to study the effects of prolonged solitude. Predictably, the experiment is determined to be ill judged and has many unforeseen consequences. Powyss is an example of the upper class barbarity and cruelty of the time and an authentic villain.

Hannibal Lecter, from the novels by Thomas Harris was Babs’s choice. Although Hannibal Lecter is a highly intelligent and charismatic forensic psychiatrist, he is also a serial killer who eats his victims. Babs claims that once you have read about Hannibal, he will always be remembered as the greatest villain.

Nicola’s selection for the title is Alexander Zalachenko (Lisbeth’s father) in ‘the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy by Steig Larsson. Nicola judges him to be an astonishingly evil character without an iota of humanity; his evil deeds included abusing his wife, leaving her with irreparable brain

damage, disowning his children by never seeking them out and then going to astounding lengths to kill his daughter.

Sylvia nominated Wynstan, the evil Bishop, from The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett. Sylvia kept thinking he couldn’t do anything more evil but he always did; however (spoiler alert!), Sylvia does say,” he gets his ‘come uppance’ eventually.”

Jenny proposed Alec d’Urbervilles from the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Alec cruelly took advantage of impoverished young Tess, deserts her and her child, and then misuses her again against a backdrop of evil lies, in the guise of an evangelical priest. Jenny deems Alec to be manipulative, selfish and uncaring and thoroughly deserving of the title of the greatest villain.

Undoubtedly, fictional villains can be fascinating: they can be scheming, determined, uncompromising and evil….as the Page Turners have described in their choices of villains. Do you agree with their selections….or is there an even greater villain lurking in a book you have recently read…..?

 



 

Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens

After the success of last month’s inaugural Page Turners Walking Books meeting, the group met outside once more, following appropriate social distancing guidelines, to discuss their latest book. The venue this time was Cold Knap in Barry. There were spectacular views across the Channel as we ambled along the promenade in bright sunshine. The book was then mused over by the group as they stopped for a discussion under one of the shelters overlooking the lake.

The book under discussion was ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ by Delia Owens. It has topped the New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2020 for 32 consecutive weeks. The book is set in late 1969 in Barkley Cove, North Carolina and tells the story of Kya, who has survived for many years alone in the marshes, with gulls and sea creatures as her only friends. After a young man is found dead, Kya is a suspect in the ensuing murder hunt.

There was a very positive response to the book from the entire Page Turners group…which seems to occur rarely! Helen loved the elements of whodunnit; Nicola enjoyed the vivid descriptions of the sea and landscape. There were discussions about the role of men in the book, the ending of the book and alternative suspects…(no spoilers!!), the author’s background. Everyone certainly gained something from reading it…and it’s easily a book which could be read again.

It is a book all members of Page Turners would recommend…and scored a 9.5/10.

 



 

Pleasure of Reading Rediscovered

PLEASURE OF READING REDISCOVERED

Page Turners favourite books of 2020

The publisher Bloomsbury have claimed that people have ‘rediscovered the pleasure of reading’ in lockdown.

The firm, best known for publishing the Harry Potter books, said profits jumped 60%. Popular books included ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’, ‘Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood’, ‘White Rage’ and ‘Such A Fun Age’. Page Turners already know the pleasures of reading and were asked to reflect on their year of reading and to decide which was their favourite book of 2020.

Babs’s favourite book this year was ‘The Lost Man’ by Jane Harper. The book tells the story of Cameron, the middle brother of three, who is found dead in the remote outback in Western Australia, having apparently walked miles from his car which was fully stocked with water and supplies. Babs says it is so atmospheric, descriptive and well written that it transports the reader to the unrelenting heat and isolation of the Australian outback.

May chose the ‘Collins Wild Flower Guideby Streeter, Hart-Davies, Hardcastle, Cole and Harper. May claims that during the first lockdown, when repeating the same walks, it gave her an interest. She started taking photos and noting small differences between the flowers she spotted. It is a large book that would probably not fit in most stockings, but would fit under the tree, next to the box of Celebrations!

Helen’s most memorable book was the, excellent and thought provoking ‘A Mad World, My Masters: Tales form a Traveller’s Life’ by John Simpson. John Simpson was the BBC World Affairs Editor and his riveting and beautifully written accounts of his experiences brought a new perspective to Helen’s understanding of many world events in the late 20th century.

Lynne’s choice was the Booker Prize Winner, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo. The book follows 12 very different characters, from different periods of time, on an entwined journey of self discovery in Britain. The vibrant book opens your eyes to the struggles and pains of many black British families.

Sandra’s selection was ‘Sweet Sorrow’ by David Nichols. Sandra really enjoyed this book which is a compassionate story about the pain and loneliness of a teenage boy and his life changing summer; a classic coming of age novel. Sandra claims this is a good read for sitting in front of a fire on a winter’s day and for anyone who has fallen in love….what better stocking filler for a romantic at Christmas time?

Nicola’s favourite book was ‘The Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. There are magical words and spells to conjure words lost to the lexicon of children. Beautifully illustrated by Jackie Morris. Nicola says this is a delight to share with youngsters and to lose yourself in – particularly in these strange times when the natural world has gained in importance for so many.

Sylvia loved every minute of her favourite book of 2020: ‘The Small House at Allington’ by Anthony Trollope. It is the 5th novel in the series ‘Chronicles of Barsetshire’. It concerns the Dale family who live in the Small House on the estate of the Squire of Allington. It is a gentle slow story; it takes some of the characters two chapters to walk out into the garden!

Jill chose ‘The Secret River’ by Kate Grenville. It is set in the early 1800s and vividly follows the lives of a Londoner and his wife following their transportation to Australia. How they cope with many hardships, and bring up their family in desperate conditions amid the Aboriginals whose community they have infiltrated, is a thought-provoking reading experience.

Jenny selected ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which she missed reading with Page Turners a few years ago. The story follows the course of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war in the 1960s. It is told through the experiences of ethnically Igbo characters, exquisitely written as lives intertwine. Jenny couldn’t put it down, and she doesn’t know why she has waited so long before reading this masterpiece.

 

What was your favourite book of 2020?

Maybe one of these suggestions from the Page Turners will find its way into someone’s Christmas stocking this year….if Santa is not in a lockdown in Lapland……..and is allowed to deliver presents!

 



 

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