Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo reviewed by Anton from Victoria Library!
Pedro Páramo is a short book (less than 150 pages), but it is a very important book.
Published in 1955 it is a precursor of the “magic realism” movement so important in latin-american literature and is cited as an important influence by authors such as García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Carlos Fuentes or Jorge Luis Borges. The author, Juan Rulfo is admired by writers all around the world, from Susan Sontag or Günter Grass to Gao Xingjian or Kenzaburo Oe.
In the beginning of the book we follow Juan Preciado, who promises her mother on her deathbed to travel back to her childhood town of Comala and look for his father (“Pedro Páramo” hence the title).
Comala is a kind of purgatory, a place where the present and the past mix, the people that we meet there are mostly ghosts from the past of the town when it was a lively place and not the dusty desert that it has become. Through their voices we hear the story of Pedro Páramo, or Don Pedro as he was known at the time. He was a successful landowner who would always get what he wanted through money, intimidation or violence. But he was also an unhappy man, unable to have enjoyment or connect with others. We find that he had one true love in his life, Susana San Juan, which was his childhood sweetheart but then moved away from Comala. When Susana returns to the town as a widow Pedro is determined to “get her” one way or another…spoiler ahead…it doesn’t end well.
Rulfo’s prose is mostly straightforward but this is a complex work; the fragmentary perspective defines the book, going from first person to third person, from the present to the past. The story becomes complicated with many voices interrupting the main narrative to tell their little own tales. It’s a book about hopes and dreams, death and redemption.
There aren’t many books quite like this: a really small work but with a large lasting impact in literature throughout the world.
If you would like to borrow a copy from our libraries, use our catalogue to make a reservation:
You can select and collect the book or alternatively many are available to download via our new Libby app or via Cloud Library.
This year’s longlist honours both new and well-established writers and a range of genres and themes – family (twins and siblings, mother-daughter relationships); motherhood; rural poverty and isolation; addiction; identity and belonging; race, class and gender; grief and happiness; coming-of-age and later life. The novels span a range of different global settings, from South London to Deep South US; Ghana, Hong Kong, Barbados, Brooklyn and a fantasy realm.
*some books will be available soon or are currently on a waiting list.
Shortlist to be announced 28th April Winner announced 7th July
BOOKSELLER “NIBBIES” AWARDS
The Bookseller has shortlisted its books of the year in various categories:
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell
The Evening and the Morning – Ken Follett
The Lying Life of Adults – Elena Ferrante
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Exciting Times – Naosie Dolan
Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart
The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Dare
Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid
Rainbow Milk – Paul Mendez
Fiction: Crime and thriller:
The Guest List – Lucy Foley
Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
The Sentinal – Lee Child
The Patient Man – Joy Ellis
A Song for Dark Times – Ian Rankin
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith
A Promised Land -Barack Obama
Grown Ups – Marion Keyes
Greenlights – Matthew Mcconaughy
Piranesi- Susanna Clarke
Think like a Monk – Jay Shetty
Sandman – Neil Gaiman
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day by Captain Sir Tom Moore
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
Not a Diet Book by James Smith
Skincare by Caroline Hirons
Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain
Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty
Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five by Daisy Upton
What Mummy Makes by Rebecca Wilson
Check out these great titles from Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries.
YA (YOUNG ADULT) BOOK PRIZE 2021 SHORTLIST
10 titles have been nominated for The Bookseller’s YA book of the year, with the winner being announced on 6th May 2021 during the Hay festival. Wide ranging subjects feature in the books, and all titles are available from Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea libraries.
Thursday 25 March is the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The United Nations will commemorate this Day under the theme “Ending Slavery’s Legacy of Racism: A Global Imperative for Justice”.
Today is not a public holiday, but a day for global observance. It gives us the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system. It also rises the awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
The International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade gives us an occasion to educate ourselves and our children about the effects of racism, slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
Last August I took my eight- and thirteen-year-old nephews to the National Gallery (and for pizza, of course). While preparing for the outing, two paintings caught my attention – Sir Joshua Reynolds’ ‘Colonel Tarleton’, and ‘The Sharp Family’ by Johann Zoffany. Granville Sharp was a leading British abolitionist and instigator of the first settlement of freed African slaves in Sierra Leone. As well as his campaign for the abolition of slavery, Sharp held other radical political opinions, supporting parliamentary reform and better wages for labourers. These two paintings, displayed close to each other, in Rooms 33 and 35, they talk very different stories of slavery, abolition of slavery and racism.
Thanks to Jason Isaacs’ portrayal of British Colonel Tavington (based on Tarleton)in the film ‘The Patriot’, I was much better acquainted with the “flamboyant and controversial figure” of Sir Banestre Tarleton. He was a cavalry officer, famous for his cruelty during the American war of independence. Tarleton was known as commander of the ‘Tarleton Raiders’, and for ‘Tarleton Quarters’ (shooting after surrender).
Unlike in the film where this odious character was killed on the battlefield, the real Sir Banestre Tarleton returned to Great Britain in 1781 as a hero, at the age of twenty-seven. Moreover, he was elected a Member of Parliament for Liverpool. Given the importance of the slave trade to the British shipping industry in Liverpool, Tarleton strongly supported slavery as an economic means. He was working to preserve the slavery business with his brothers Clayton and Thomas and became well known for his taunting and mockery of the abolitionists.
Whether we are studying, reading, enjoying football matches, working, shopping, travelling, or taking part in the Black Lives Matter movement, we are aware of racism lurking everywhere. Even an innocent visit to the gallery cannot steer clear of these issues. I was disappointed that the information next to these paintings at the National Gallery did not give more, proper insight into the subjects of these paintings. (Luckily, I was ready to step in.) Although I appreciate and like Joshua Reynold’s art, today’s visitors need more honest and critical information and galleries, museums and historic houses must adapt and address the visitors’ needs.
“By the time of abolition, slavery was widely seen as a shameful thing.” Historian David Olusoga comments in the documentary programmeBritain’s Forgotten Slave Owners. “Many slave owners went out of their way to avoid admitting their involvement. But the lure of compensation drew them out of shadows. Every single slave owner who came forward is recorded in the national archives in Kew in London, 46,000 of them. It’s a complete census of ownership, at the point when slavery was taking its last gasp.” The slave owners walked with millions, while the enslaved received nothing.
To celebrate Shakespeare Week, we are reviewing a play we love…HAMLET – the best ever written who-done-it tragedy!
This week’s blog post is written by Zvezdana, revealing some interesting facts and background about classic Shakespearean mystery story.
He is young, handsome, clever, eloquent, honest, well-educated; he is rich, and he is a prince. What could possibly go wrong in this young man’s life?
Well, firstly, his father dies in suspicious circumstances.
Secondly, only two months later, his mother re-marries; swept from her feet, like a teenage girl, full of love – for her brother-in-law!
Spies are everywhere, and the prince is suddenly questioning everything and everyone – his mother, his uncle/ “father”, his girlfriend, his friends from university, the ghost of his late father, and even questions his own existence!
The murderers of his father will not cease at anything. His life is in imminent danger, unless, he could fake his madness.
Will he be able to solve his father’s murder and punish the culprits, before they silence him?
Wow! The best Nordic Noir crime writers could not have done it better!
William Shakespeare wrote ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’, often shortened to ‘Hamlet’, between 1599 and 1601.
This revenge tragedy is Shakespeare’s longest play and it is considered one of the most powerful and influential works of world literature.
Richard Burbage, from the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, was the first actor to play Hamlet in 1601.
Since that time, for the next four hundred years (and counting), it has been every famous actor’s dream to play that role.
In preparation for Shakespeare Week, Zvezdana from Chelsea Library has given us the context, history and importance of Shakespeare in today’s world, as well as her experience of using Shakespeare’s works to engage with our communities. We’ve also got an intriguing activity too!
Over to Zvezdana to tell us more…
If you were not aware, Shakespeare Week is almost upon us (15-21 March 2021). It is a national annual celebration giving primary school children opportunities to enrich their early experiences of Shakespeare. This celebration has been organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in collaboration with many other organisations, writers, actors, illustrators… The most important partnership is with the schools, parents and children.
This year all the activities are online. Visit the website, register and enjoy the stories, art, craft and various fun materials prepared for you, available all year round – perfect whether school is in, or out. (https://www.shakespeareweek.org.uk/)
Perhaps someone would ask – why Celebrate Shakespeare?
He lived 400 years ago, and his language and his style of writing are so old-fashioned, so complicated and difficult to understand. NO! Completely wrong assumption! “Shakespeare’s language can cast a light on the complexity of human emotions and is a wonderful way to explore and understand our own and others’ feelings.”
Many British children encounter Shakespeare only in their teens as a mandatory topic in secondary schools. Therefore, Shakespeare Week opens the door to Shakespeare and ensures that children are given a chance to have a great first experience with one of the world’s most famous playwrights.
Do you know that Shakespeare is a named author on the curriculum in 65% of countries, studied by around half of the world’s schoolchildren every year? And if you were not aware, William Shakespeare has been hailed as the UK’s greatest cultural export?
And what about Shakespeare’s language!? Many words were invented by Shakespeare, introduced to the us through his plays! Can you spot in this short text any words that were coined by Shakespeare?
“Maria’s birthplace was an old farmhouse. She shared her bedroom with two siblings. It was a gloomy and noiseless late evening when she tiptoed downstairs and heard her aunt’s gossip about an alligator found in the well.”
You will find the answer at the bottom of this blog.
If you are too young to read Shakespeare’s plays, find in libraries retold versions, or read information books about his life and life in the Elizabethan era. Arguably, Shakespeare’s biggest achievement was not writing the sonnets or Hamlet, but, plainly surviving his first year in plague-ridden England. We do not even know for sure when he was born. By tradition, it is agreed to be 23 April, St George’s Day. This is the national day of England and, coincidentally also the date on which Shakespeare died fifty-two years later. Since Shakespeare was born under the old Julian calendar, not the Gregorian, there are many very curious combinations coming out of the calendar chaos! Check Bill Bryson’s book “Shakespeare” about that and many other interesting, inquisitive and eccentric facts from that time.
To conclude, I am happy and privileged to meet some young enthusiastic readers while running Chatterbooks. On 6th of March we had a great Shakespeare themed Chatterbooks session- All the World’s a Stage. The children showed great knowledge about Shakespeare’s time, his comedies and his tragedies. Twelve years old, Maximilian Lubin recorded Puck’s famous soliloquy, ‘If we shadows have offended’, from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. You can listen to his audio on Our Community is Reading. Thank you, Max.
To reward the Chatterbookers, I invited a special guest – an actress, Maya Barcot, who has performed a few Shakespeare roles in the theatre – Titania and Hermia in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Rosalind in ‘As you Like it’ and Lady Macbeth.
Maya talked about why we’re still doing Shakespeare today and performed, especially for us, Titania’s “forgeries of jealousy” monologue. Titania and Oberon’s quarrel can be seen as the driving forces behind the climate change.
So, if you didn’t know, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is not “only” about love and mischief! Titania certainly knows the best!
Please join us next week for more interesting insights into the world of Shakespeare!
ANSWER: Maria’s birthplace was an old farmhouse. She shared her bedroom with two siblings. It was a gloomy and noiseless late evening when she tiptoed downstairs and heard her aunt’s gossip about an alligator found in the well.
March 8th is International Women’s Day, and the theme this year is Choose to Challenge. Our Special Collection of Biographies is full of the stories of inspiring and extraordinary women who challenged the norms of the societies they lived in, and improved the lives of their fellow women in vital ways. I have selected three women from very different backgrounds, whose work changed the experience of other women for the better, in three different areas of their lives.
Amelia Bloomer changed the way women dressed. Next time you put on tracksuit bottoms to go for a run (or just to relax on the sofa), spare a thought for Amelia Bloomer. Born in New York, she lived a life that spanned almost the whole of the nineteenth century, becoming the first woman to ever own and edit a newspaper specifically aimed at other women, in 1849. Amongst her lifelong advocacy for women’s rights, she is best remembered for her commitment to the cause of women’s dress reform. Bloomer felt strongly that the restrictive clothing women wore could only impede all aspects of their lives, cause them unnecessary discomfort, and operate as a form of oppression. Well off women were encumbered by elaborately decorative clothing and punishing corsetry. Even poor women were continually hampered by the length of their skirts. It seems amazing now that in the West, trousers for women were not really respectable until the middle of the 20th century, and their previous modes of dress made all kinds of activities from riding bikes to participating in sports to simply running for a (horse drawn) bus impossible. Bloomer championed the idea of loose gathered trousers worn under a shorter dress, allowing women to move more easily – these trousers became known as “bloomers”. A courageous group of like-minded women began to wear them in public, but were often harassed, mocked and even assaulted. But they had begun a century of slow progress towards the time when women could wear trousers without raising an eyebrow, and so be enabled to enjoy the same freedom of movement as men.
Onnie Lee Loganchanged the way women gave birth As Bloomer’s life almost spanned the 19th century, Logan’s did the 20th. In her farming community in Alabama, black women did not have access to clinical maternity care and they were helped to deliver their babies by “granny midwives”, who had no formal training but who were repositories of wisdom passed down for centuries. Logan came from a family where women had been practising as “granny midwives” for generations. Her heritage was both African American and Native American, and when she began to practise midwifery herself, aged 21, she drew on the traditions of both cultures. In 1949 Logan undertook formal training and was licensed by the Board of Health. She was able to give her patients the benefit of a new mixture of modern medical practice and family-centred care based on long experience and first-hand knowledge. These women benefited from as many modern medical safety measures as Logan could provide, while being reassured by the sensitivity of a woman who understood their community and cultural traditions at the deepest level. For a period of half a century, ending in the mid-80s, she is credited with delivering almost every baby born in two black neighbourhoods of Mobile, Alabama. She also delivered the babies of poor white women, and became a beloved figure throughout the community, though her autobiography does not gloss over the virulent racism she encountered. Logan emphasised practices that were still being seen as new and innovative by orthodox midwifery many years later, such as the participation of fathers, the use of relaxation and breathing techniques and the application of oils, and she encouraged women to give birth in different positions rather than flat on their backs, as was the conventional and often damaging expectation. Her autobiography is a fascinating record of a working life that spanned enormous changes – an unsentimental “Call the Midwife” of the Deep South, and a testament to an extraordinarily humane and expert woman.
Caroline Norton changed women’s rights in marriage. Norton left her unhappy marriage in 1836, and her husband sued her friend, the Prime Minister and future close confidante of Queen Victoria Lord Melbourne for adultery, involving all of them in an enormous scandal. Although he lost his case, he refused to divorce Lady Norton, and refused to let her see her sons. At a time when women who left their husbands were generally condemned and when it was perfectly legal for a man to beat his wife, Norton campaigned tirelessly to change the law relating to custody, divorce and property (married women were not allowed to legally own any property until 1870, when an Act of Parliament Norton had campaigned for was passed). A new biography of this courageous woman by Antonia Fraser will be published in May, and we have a clutch of books in our collection from Diane Atkinson’s excellent biography of 2012, to books from the 1940s and 1960s (see the cover illustration so characteristic of that period) – and Norton also makes an appearance in some sumptuous Edwardian collected biographies of “Queens of Beauty” and “Famous Women of Wit and Beauty”, where her celebrated beauty is recorded in wonderful engraved illustrations.
Check out our monthly podcast BioEpic, where we delve into the lives of fascinating people through our Special Collection of Biographies. Available on Anchor, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Radio Public and Breaker.
This week Michaela from Church Street Library is reviewing The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.
Over to Michaela…
The Pulitzer prize winning novel of 2020 set in the 1960’s tells the story of Elwood living in Florida with his grandmother. Elwood’s parent had up and left one night leaving her to raise him on her own. Elwood was a very naïve young man who after listening to the recording of Martin Luther King Jr took his words to heart. Working hard from a young age all this was about to change.
About to enrol in college and having been an exemplary pupil, one error on his part has forced him to end up inside the Nickel Academy for boys. Here is freedom is taken away from him and he forced to see how the boys are segregated according to their colour and how there is little respect for the boys.
His friendship with Turner is something that the book evolves around and both boys make a life changing decision which will change their lives.
A rich vibrant book that makes you sit back and realise in many places’ life has not changed.
From Monday 1st to Sunday 7th March, join Beating Eating Disorders UK, to create a future where people experiencing binge eating disorder are met with understanding and compassion.
Binge eating disorder will affect one in fifty of us in our lifetime, it is the most common but least understood. It isn’t about being greedy or lacking in willpower, but a serious mental illness which many suffer with alone, often with the fear of how others might react the reason they don’t reach out for help.
We know the sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full and fast recovery. As well as campaigning to improve the services available, we recognise that we must raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder and encourage and empower people to act now no matter how long their symptoms have been present.
In March, during Eating Disorders Awareness Week you can start to help change that.
Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer from these illnesses, many in secret. They are of all ages, genders and backgrounds – eating disorders do not discriminate.
Eating disorders include:
binge eating disorder
avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED),
Anorexia, which tragically has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, though all eating disorders can be deadly.
While this is the worst-case scenario, there are many ways in which eating disorders severely affect the quality of life of both those suffering and those who care about them. They steal childhoods, devastate relationships and pull families apart. But, with the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.
“Only 1 in 4 receive the help and support they desperately need to recover from binge eating disorder. Without it, many struggle to get better and some even blame themselves. Sign up to receive your free fundraising pack to support our service for everyone affected by eating disorders.”
Why Binge Eating Disorder?
This is the first time a specific eating disorder has been chosen as the theme for Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
Binge eating disorder is the most common but often the least understood. It is especially difficult to find treatment and our Helpline Advisors consistently hear that people with binge eating disorder experience significant shame and fear in reaching out for support.
Eating disorders are as diverse as the people they effect, and we are committed to make sure all of our communications and activities represent the broad communities we serve.
In November 2020, 29% of contacts to Beat’s Helpline were about binge eating disorder but only 6% of the media coverage we generated in the last year spoke specifically about binge eating disorder, there is little representation on the ‘your stories’ section on our website, and only 5 of our Ambassadors have lived experience of binge eating disorder. We’ve also never run a campaign that specifically asks for better treatment, despite repeatedly hearing about the particular difficulties people face.
We must challenge the unhelpful and damaging opinions so many people carry about the disorder so people living with this terrible mental illness can find kindness and compassion when they bravely reach out for help. We hope Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2021 will lay the first stone for this to happen.
Beat is a charity registered in England and Wales (801343) and Scotland (SC039309). Beat became our working name in February 2007.
Our legally registered charity name is: Beat (Formerly Eating Disorders Association). Beat is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales under number 2368495, with registered offices at Unit 1, 19 Rosary Road, Norwich NR1 1SZ. VAT Number: 700 285963.
We understand that research can be a daunting and difficult task, here at Westminster Reference Library, we’ve teamed up with the specialists at London South Bank University to give you some tips, tricks and advice on how to undertake your research and how to best utilise your online software!
An introductory digital skills session into Microsoft Office: including Word, PowerPoint and Excel!
Literature hunting – What is a journal article? How to use Google Scholar & learning how to evaluate information!
IT Security – Protecting your device and your files, avoiding dangerous sites and documents!
These workshops are designed for students, researchers or anyone working on a project that involves searching the internet for information. Whether you’re just starting or a more advanced researcher, we’ve got something for everyone!
Janice Johnson is the Digital Skills Training Manager at the Digital Skills Centre, London South Bank University. She has over 16 years’ experience teaching digital skills to staff, students and professional organisations.
Emma Perry is an Information Skills Librarian within the library at London South Bank University. Having worked there for over 8 years, her main role is to teach students in classes and one-to-ones about research, evaluating information and referencing.
Please note, this will be a Microsoft Teams meeting/Teams Broadcast, and, although you do not have to have Microsoft Teams downloaded to your device, you will get a better experience if you have the app.
***Please avoid using Safari – we have had reports that Safari users have issues accessing Teams live broadcasts. Please try using Chrome or any other browser – most people who experience problems when signing in find them resolved if they try using a different browser. We are really sorry for the inconvenience this may cause and are working on finding a solution.
In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor…
Over to Fiona…
This novel is set on a university campus and the story of Wallace, a young, black man studying on scholarship. Set over a few days, what happens proves to be pivotal for Wallace. The novel includes elements typical of classic, campus novels such as Catcher in the Rye, including coming of age, friendship, loneliness and isolation, and growing up. While it has these very classic elements, it is also very subjective and specific to the central character’s experience. We get to understand what it’s like for a young, gay, working-class, black male to be in the world now – we get to see the world through Wallace’s eyes.
It’s a very readable novel, engaging and emotionally raw which looks at issues, such as racism, in the eye. Taylor paints each scene carefully, and at the same time, the writing has an intensity and an energy not unlike the calm before a storm and I read it in a couple of sittings.
It is both classic and current – students who spend every hour they can get studying and striving to succeed seems very of today. At times very painful, and sometimes ironic, with an ambiguous ending that leaves us wondering about Wallace’s future, it’s a powerful novel that packs a punch or two.
This book is available in our library using our Select and Collect service!