Books to films: The Little Stranger

This month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Sarah Waters, The Little Stranger which has just been released as a film and will be read and discussed by the library’s reading group in November.

The book

Set in post-war rural Warwickshire, Dr Faraday is called to attend a sickly maid at Hundreds Hall who believes that the house is haunted. Faraday has a sentimental attachment to the house as his mother had been in service their as a maid and once took him there when he was a child to a garden party where he was presented with a medal by the lady of the house, Mrs Ayers. As Faraday gets closer to the Ayers family, events start to unravel. Strange and inexplicable happenings that suggest a ghost from the past is haunting the family and as their financial situation worsens and the house starts to fall apart around them, the “haunting” intensifies.

Behind the story of the house is also a love story between Caroline Ayers and Dr Faraday and behind all of it is the story of post-war Britain, the introduction of the NHS and how that changed the lives of ordinary people. There is a strong contrast between the lives of the Ayers family at Hundreds Hall where, in the decaying house, guests dress formally for dinners served to them by a maid while local people, still wary of modern medicine, are dying young from curable ailments and too poor to be able to pay the doctor.

The book is a gripping read. I read half of its 500 pages on a flight and was completely engaged by the writing, the atmosphere and the story. The relationship between Caroline Ayers and Dr Faraday is beautifully written and touchingly awkward and I liked the way the book dealt with several themes at once while remaining a really good story well told, and very creepy in parts. At one point, Dr Faraday says “All this house needs is a dose of happiness”. You get a sense that they are both so lonely in their different ways and that everything could change for them if they could make it work. I felt that the more a I read the book the more I also wanted the house to be rescued and saved from ruin as the Dr does. It works really well that Waters does not use tricks to build up the adrenalin of the story and the overall pace is one of gradual decline, so if you are wanting to read a ghost story this may not be for you, and the end has a twist that creeps up on you so quietly that you almost can’t quite believe it.

The film

The film brings the book to life visually. It really captures how I imagined the house to look – its interiors are perfectly done and the view of the house from the road leading up to it were very evocative of the book. The house is very grey and you get a sense that the seasons change outside while the house is stuck in time. Although billed as a horror, the film leaves out much of the references to ghosts that are made in the book, but is more like a ghost story. As the film is much shorter than the book, the suspense builds much more quickly and there were some chilling moments, but on the downside it meant that we didn’t spend much time with the characters or see their relationships develop.

Charlotte Rampling is perfect as Mrs Ayers while saying very little, she appears icy and fleeting throughout the house. Ruth Wilson is great as Caroline Ayers, bringing to life the earthy and practical daughter of the house who holds the story together. The casting of Domhnall Gleeson let the film down a bit for me. Dr Faraday is in his 40s in the novel which lends a fatherly aspect to the middle-aged, unmarried doctor that would not be possible between Gleeson and Wilson as they are of a similar age (he may even be younger than her). He came across as cold and remote at the same time but lacked the warmth and drive of the Dr Faraday of the book and I wasn’t rooting for him like. Overall it’s not a bad adaptation with some great acting, a few chills and shocks and is visually very true to the book.

Brompton Library’s reading group will be discussing the book on Tuesday 6 November so why not join us? You can borrow a copy at any of our libraries.

Fiona, Brompton Library

 

The adventures of a reading group

A researcher working for a BBC World Service series, The Why Factor, contacted us to meet a book group for their latest programme “Why we forget the things we have learned“.

The Why Factor is a BBC Radio magazine programme, a series of 25 minute shows that mixes vox pop and academic specialists, brought together by a presenter.

We arranged for the show’s producer to talk to local book group members (who kindly agreed to participate), and we all met in Brompton Library’s Meeting Room .

Rather shyly, members of our group answered questions fired by the producer who held a huge microphone attached to a tiny recorder. A couple of us (blink and you miss us) were edited into the first couple of seconds of the programme before the show segued into the main essay.

ReadingAdventure
But what was most important, Brompton Library got a mention – and the programme itself was quite interesting.

I was greatly encouraged by some of the observations about forgetfulness made in the programme. Apparently forgetfulness can be the result of a creative brain flying around taking in all sorts of sensory information which can later be selected from, unless it has been forgotten …. When we are in our book group, reading novels, we are turning over the plot and sharing feelings about the characters, etc., but we are also using our creative brains, employing our memories to add snippets of our own knowledge and experience. We are finding new ways of seeing – being curious. In this way, though discussion, people can renew their interest in the novel, go back and re-read it or, if they had not quite got to the end, decide to try again and even finish it!

Quite often a good book encourages interest in the author. For example, recently, having read Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop, members of the group were able to take their interest further by accessing and reading Hermione Lee’s fascinating account of Fitzgerald’s personal and literary life – which is available from our wonderfully maintained biography store at Kensington Central Library.

With a good public library service everyone can be a researcher! Please try to remember that ….

To find out more please visit the BBC website 

Penny, Brompton Library

Interview with Andrew Cartmel: part 2

Andrew Cartmel will be at Brompton Library on Monday 24 September, 6.30pm taking about his career and work and signing copies of his Vinyl Detective crime novels – Written in Dead Wax, The Run Out Groove and Victory.  You can book a place here on Eventbrite 

This is the second part of our interview with him; you can find the first part here

The fourth book is on its way, tell us about that.

It’s called Flip Back and it deals with the British psychedelic folk scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s. Among my research for that I read an excellent book called White Bicycles by Joe Boyd.

What were some of your musical inspirations from the 60s and 70s?

Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Steely Dan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell.

I read in another interview with you that each of the Vinyl Detective novels has a spirit animal.  How does that help you with writing the novels and why is this important to you?

It’s just something that arose without me thinking about it. I am fascinated by animals and wildlife, and very fond of them, and appalled by their treatment at the hands of humans. So that just sort of naturally wove its way into my writing. When I became aware of what I was doing, I made it more deliberate. And started referring to it by that ‘spirit animal’ malarkey… though it’s certainly malarkey I genuinely subscribe to.

Are there any plans to make the books into a TV series or film?

My agent regularly gets enquiries, which have so far led to one serious meeting but nothing further than that.

And finally, we can’t leave without mentioning Doctor Who.  You worked as a show runner and script editor on the TV series, and have since written many of the Doctor Who comics.  What was it like to work on such a classic show?

It was a privilege. It was also the gift which keeps on giving, in the sense that it’s given me a calling card which never expires, and has led to me meeting a lot of interest people and travelling all over the world.

Were you a fan before you worked on the show?

No.

You have written novels, audio dramas, television scripts, graphic novels and also several stage plays.  Which genre do you prefer?

Each has its own particular appeal and its own unique challenges. I like switching from one to the other. But my two favourites are the novel, for its intimacy and clarity of expression, and the stage play for the magic it conjures up through taking place in real time, with real people, in a shared space.

The graphic novel Sabrina by Nick Drnaso has been longlisted for the Booker Prize this year.  How easy or difficult do you think it might be to judge a graphic novel against a traditional novel?

I don’t see how you can compare the two forms.

 What three pieces of advice would you give any aspiring writers out there?

Keep your covering emails very brief. Give your characters interesting names. Have your work read by people you know, whom you can trust to be ruthless — or at least honest — and seriously consider their feedback before you send it out and waste the time of an agent or editor.

What’s next for you?

Finishing the fourth Vinyl Detective, then rewriting a stage play, then writing a new stage play, then writing a graphic novel for the Rivers of London series, which I co-write with Ben Aaronovitch.

Thank you for your time Andrew and very much looking forward to meeting you on 24  September at Brompton Library.

All about us

A post from our Service Development Manager, Angela Goreham – about what RBKC Libraries have to offer.

R Research for a project that interests you
B Booking a PC, a place at an event
K Knowledge as we all need this
C Connect (to others in the community and the wide world)

L Lending items for your pleasure or information
I Information that will help you with your day to day or forward planning
B Baby activities and information to help new parents
R Reading – a core skill and past time in any format
A Access us at any time and from anywhere
R Resources – varied and plentiful, in different formats to suit different needs
Y Young and old – we’re here for everyone

Are you 1 in 840,344? Or maybe you are 1 in 515,004? They’re odd numbers you might say, but the first one is the number of times the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries were visited between April 2017 and March 2018 and the second is how many items were borrowed during the same period – how many did you account for?

104 people from our local communities supported the Library Service by volunteering with us and over 40,000 people came to one of the events that we held.

They are huge numbers but we always want to beat our previous year’s figures so please come along to one of our libraries, find out what we can do for you and you can help us pass last year’s numbers.

There are six libraries within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – find out more about them and what we offer by either visiting us in person or our website or you can call us on 020 7361 3010.

Book Break reading groups in Kensington and Chelsea

This is guest blog post from Liz Ison. She works for The Reader and looks after the Book Break reading groups that run in Kensington and Chelsea . Over to Liz to tell us more…

Do you love stories, poems and great literature?

Would you like to find out what shared reading is?

Did you know that there are many shared reading groups going on in your local neighbourhood running every week?

Meet The Reader, an organisation that is passionate about the power of reading together.
We at The Reader are the pioneers of Shared Reading. The volunteer Reader Leaders who run our weekly groups, bring people together to read great literature aloud.

Groups are open to all, readers and non-readers alike. Come along and listen to stories and poems read aloud. It’s an opportunity to read and talk together in a friendly and relaxing environment. Free refreshments provided!

Our shared reading groups have been running locally for many years bringing shared reading to the residents of Kensington and Chelsea. We work in libraries, community centres and other organisations spreading the joy of shared reading.

Here are what our group members have to say about shared reading:

“I’ve felt really happy since the session with you —bought myself some flowers the next day…and went for a long walk while listening to music— all in one day. Our happy thoughts trigger happy chemicals in our brain.” Aysha

“An anchor during the week”

“It always makes me feel more fulfilled than the other days”

  • 95 % look forward to the group as an important event in the week
  • 84% think the reading session makes them feel better*

Here are some groups to try in our local libraries:

Brompton Library – Tuesday, 10.30am to 12 noon
Chelsea Library – Tuesday, 2.30 to 4pm
Kensington Central Library – Tuesday, 2 to 4pm
North Kensington Library – Thursday, 3 to 5pm
North Kensington Library – Saturday, 10.30am to 12 noon

We look forward to welcoming you to a group soon. To find other shared reading groups in your area you can contact:

Erin at erincarlstrom@thereader.org.uk or call 07483 972 020

Liz at lizison@thereader.org.uk or call 07807 106 815

More information is on the The Reader website too.

And if you’d be interested in volunteering with us, get in touch!

 

* 2017 Reader evaluation data for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea shared reading groups

Q&A with author Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden is the author of the Winternight trilogy, three books based on fairy tales set in snowy, medieval Russia. She will be at Brompton Library on Thursday 5 April and she will read from her new book, The Girl in The Tower and answer questions about her stories.

It’s a free event which is suitable for children aged 14 and over, book via Eventbrite

As we’re so excited about this – Katherine has answered some questions already! Over to her…

What books would you like to read this year?

Working on Barkskins by Annie Proulx next up is News of the World by Paulette Jiles. I don’t really plan my reading year.

What is your favourite fairy tale?

Sivka-Burka, King Frost, Vasilisa the Beautiful, the Snow Queen

If you were a character in one of your books, what type of character would you be?

A bard, possibly with magic powers. This is a future book that I haven’t written, but hey I have time.

How often do you write?

The goal is five days a week, 2K words a day when I’m drafting.

You have lived in many places, what is it about Russia that so inspired you?

Everything! The people, the weather, the landscape, the history, the literature.

What is your favourite book?

It’s a series, but The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett.

If you could give your younger self advice about writing a book, what would it be?

Don’t give up. You can do it.

You have said that writing is lonely, how do you deal with that and keep writing?

Take time for friends, keep people around.

What do you most love about being a writer?

The ability to travel when I want and set my own schedule.

What was the last thing you watched on Netflix?

Don’t have a Netflix subscription. It’s a giant time sink.

What do you most like to do when you are not writing?

I like to hike, ski, swim, and read!

If you could live in any book world, which would it be?

Redwall Abbey. I’d be a badger or a hare and just eat all day.

Thanks again to Katherine for taking the time to speak to us, and don’t forget to book a place to meet her on Thursday 5 April.

Fiona at Brompton Library

Our graphic novel reading group

On the second Monday of every month, our graphic novel reading group meets at Brompton Library.

The group is run by David at Brompton Library, and he spoke to three of its members to find out what they like about the group and their favourite graphic novels.

Mike 

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

In this my first year , what impressed me was the range of the graphic novel form. I started reading comic books as a kid and then came back in the 1990s by discovering the subculture with its fairs and cons, trying out books like Joe Sacco’s Palestine and manga like Akira. The diversity I discovered through the group is reflected in members’ choice of works and how we discuss them. Other readers’ focus on imagery has certainly advanced my appreciation of how to discuss sequential art.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My joint favourite works this year were both mentioned in the group: Democracy by
Alecos Papadotos, Abraham Kawa and Annie DiDonna, which is historical fiction, and
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, a teenage novel.
Democracy tells the story of one turning point in the history of ancient Athens. It satisfies both as a story and as an introduction to the subject. It has an art of strong colours with an edge of blackness but it’s no lecture. Ghost World is a narrower canvas with smaller panels and is the tale of a friendship in a small town – two girls growing up and growing apart. It seems that as well as mind-challenging futures, like Ghost in the Shell, a ‘graphic’ can tell a simple story like this with all its resonance in pictures and character. Reading it on the tube seemed more involving than sheer prose, even though it’s not fantasy as such.
Lastly, my time in the group has convinced me that the ‘graphic’ still has great possibilities which haven’t yet been fully explored.

Lara

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

I’ve really enjoyed being a club member for exactly that reason; it’s helped introduce me to great reads that I would have never have investigated on my own, as well as giving me access to comics I’ve wanted to read for a long time. Plus, it’s been really fun getting to know the other members too. Before I joined, I was apprehensive about not being accepted, as I didn’t have much knowledge about certain comics. But now, I really look forward to and enjoy spending at least an hour a week discussing our thoughts on the comics we’ve read together, especially because we’re all from very different comic-reading backgrounds so everyone can have very different perspectives and opinions.

I was also happily surprised at just how many graphic novels and manga titles the library has to offer. I can really recommend a lot of the available manga, but one in particular that we read with the group was, 20th Century Boys written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa; This was a series I had really wanted to read for a while. It’s an incredibly gripping conspiracy drama with cleverly thought out engaging characters and a cliff-hanger ending with every volume so it was great to get the opportunity to read a lot into the series using the library’s copies.

All in all, joining the group has been one of the simplest, most rewarding things I’ve done in 2017, and I really recommend to anyone interested in comics or graphic novels, to join us in 2018!!

20th Century Boys

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite read this year has been Transmetropolitan written by Warren Ellis and co-created and designed by Darick Robertson. I usually read manga/Japanese comics, and joined the library’s graphic novel group to expand my reading into more western-style comics. Transmetropolitain is a great mix of weird, surreal, pseudo-political, futuristic sci-fi that I really enjoy. I think it has a great script, strong and funny characters and fabulous artwork to give depth to the whole universe, and I probably never would have discovered it without the group.

Transmetropolitain

Tari

What is it about the reading group that you enjoy?

What I like about attending the reading group is that we get read things I wouldn’t necessarily want to read myself, but it allows me to hear from from other perspectives what resonates with them about the books. Because there is no standard format for comics in terms of art style or presentation, people tend to gravitate to different elements of a graphic novel, and it’s nice being able to see what types of art have the most impact on people. I like that a couple members of the group are also interested in other social events related to comics and it’s a good opportunity to learn more about what wider comics events are happening around London, and who is involved. It’s a great starting point to open you up about the possibility of involving yourself with other comics events.

What has been your favourite graphic novel that you’ve read?

My favourite graphic novel that we read at the library’s reading group this year was Miracleman by ‘the original writer’ aka Alan Moore. The story really drew me in as it explored some ideas I didn’t expect to see come up. I could see the beginnings of how Alan Moore would approach deconstructing the concept of the superhero and the world they live; an idea that he would take even further in Watchmen. But honestly I felt that of the two books, Miracleman was the easier to digest. It was more of a personal journey and transformation of one guy discovering what it means to be a superhero in the real world. Delving into the toll that the title of ‘supehero’ would take on you and the ones around you. Including the sacrifice of one’s humanity, and being forced to ascend into something more. Which came with its own questions of how the world would regard such a being. I read ahead onto the further volumes and appreciated how the story evolved into something grander each time. It focused on the progressively wider circle of influence Miracleman had on people in life, the world around him, and the possible utopian or dystopian futures he could bring about.

Miracleman

Many, many thanks to Mike, Lara and Tari for sharing their thoughts with us. They’ll next meet on Monday 12 February at 6.30pm and they’ll be discussing The Flintstones by Mark Russell. Like to get involved? Email david.bushell@rbkc.gov.uk for more info.

We’d also like to thank Gosh Comics and the London Graphic Novel Network for their support.

Author Katherine Arden to visit Brompton Library

We are very excited to announce that in April author, Katherine Arden will visit Brompton Library. Katherine is the author of The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, the first two books in the Winternight trilogy. She will read from the third book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, which is due to be published in August this year. The trilogy is inspired by the fairy tales and folklore of medieval Russia that Katherine read while living there, and set in its snowy landscape.

To celebrate her visit, we will be reading the first two Winternight novels during February and March. Join us on Thursday 8 February when we will be discussing The Bear and the Nightingale which has been described as haunting, lyrical and a beautiful deep-winter story full of magic and monsters.

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya, these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods…

‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

These books are suitable for children aged 14 years plus. Katherine says:

“My absolute favorite thing to hear from a reader: ‘I read your book and then I gave it to my daughter.’”

To get your copy, please visit Brompton Library, or email libraries@rbkc.gov.uk to get a copy sent to your local library.

If you’d like to attend the special reading group meeting in February, please book a place via Eventbrite

Edited to add – the next meeting of this special reading group will be on Thursday 8 March where they’ll discuss the second book in Katherine’s trilogy, ‘The Girl in Tower’. For more info or to book your free place, please visit Eventbrite

Fiona at Brompton Library

Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.

Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and in the West London Clinical Commissioning Group area there is Time to Talk, a free psychological therapy service.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led Book Break groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

It is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or see what eBooks and eMagazines we have. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud
Health Information Co-ordinator