Books we love…

This week Michaela from Church Street Library is reviewing The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

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.   

A worthy read and well written.  

This book is available to borrow from a number of library branches . All you need is your Kensington and Chelsea library card. 

Not a member?  No problem.  It’s quick and easy to join here$N/ILSWS_DEFAULT/true.  

Books we love…

In our continual commemoration of LGBT+ History Month, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Real Life by Brandon Taylor… 

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!

You can also borrow an e-copy from our Cloud Library here: ,all you need is your RBKC library card. 

Not a member?  No problem!  It’s quick and easy to join, register online here:$N/ILSWS_DEFAULT/true

Books we love…

This week, Sara will be reviewing Bridget Collins’ 2018 novel- The Binding. A tender and delicate tale covering LGBTQ+ issues throughout history as well as touching upon the supernatural…. 

Over to Sara to tell us more! 

The Binding, by Bridget Collins

I saw this book in the windows of Waterstones in Victoria Street and was captivated by its beautiful book cover. After reading the short review beside it, I knew I had to read it.  

Well, fellow bookworms, kick off your shoes, get luxuriously comfortable, pour yourself a drink and immerse yourself in a wonderful tale of imagination, history and love! 

The Binding is told in the first person and follows the main character, Emmett Farmer. Apprenticed to a book binder in a world where books are forbidden, Emmett discovers that memories have been sealed away within the pages of books. This enables people to forget what they have done or what has happened in their pasts. Struggling with the moral implications of this, The Binding follows Emmett’s journey in this magical and imaginative tale. 

I don’t want to tell you much more because you need to enjoy it for yourself. The characters in the book are strong and well rounded, and a love story is at the heart of its core. 

If Sara’s 5* review has you convinced, pick up The Binding today at one of our branches. For a full list of our locations and opening times, please click here

You can also download this book free today on cloud library by following the link here

Books we love…

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami

This week, Richard from Brompton Library is reviewing Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami.

Over to Richard to tell us more!

First published in 2014, and published in English in 2017, this collection of short stories shares its title with Ernest Hemingway’s second collection. But there’s precious little male machismo to be found here in these seven short stories by Murakami.  What you will find are some of those weirdly surreal conversations that recall earlier works like Norwegian Wood and After Dark. Tragedy and humor, the uncanny and the absolute ordinary go hand in hand.

The characters from these stories comprise students, ex-boyfriends, actors, bartenders, men, who, for whatever reason, find themselves alone. Take the story of Kino for example; ‘As he waited for his first customer, Kino enjoyed listening to whatever music he liked and reading books he’d been wanting to read. Like dry ground welcoming the rain, he let the solitude, silence, and loneliness soak in.’

Reading Murakami, I always get this sense of space and rumination, where you can almost catch yourself thinking.

 If, like Richard, you want to be spellbound by Murakami’s enchanting literary style, check out Men Without Women from one of our library branches today.

A full list of our sites and opening times can be found here.

Books we love…

Lee Lawrence’s ‘The Louder I Sing’ is the bookies favourite for the Costa Book of the Year! 

The Louder I Sing by Lee Lawrence

Over to Pauline to explain why this is such an interesting book! 

The Louder I Will Sing by Lee Lawrence 

Wow! What a book! 

“The more you refuse to hear my voice, the louder I will sing.” 

Taken from the Labi Sifre song (Something Inside, So Strong), these words resonate throughout this powerful story of racism in Britain, injustice and truth. 

Lee Lawrence is the son of Cherry Groce, who was wrongly shot in a police raid on her home in 1985. These events lead to the Brixton riots, a culmination of repeated attacks and harassment by the police on the Black community in Britain at this time. Lee was 11 years old. His mother was left unable to walk and as a direct result, sadly, died of her injuries. 

Lawrence speaks of these events and the fight to get justice and tells the story in such a way that will resonate. The book unfolds in different chapters, After the shooting and Before

Lawrence relates what happened prior to The Metropolitan Police’s fateful raid on a family home with very little intelligence or knowledge.  Mistaken identity, wrong information and what happened after, offer a visual picture. The Metropolitan Police had never officially admitted that they were responsible for Cherry Groce’s injuries at the time. Would this ever change? Lawrence’s struggle to get justice gives you a positive, honest edge on events. He also offers context. 

The story is never slow, and you are carried by the author’s voice. It is like as if he is in the room with you. One discovers more about these shocking series of events and about his mother, a person in her own right. More than just another casualty, a real person with thoughts, a history and what she meant to those around her. 

The reader also discovers what happened afterwards to Lee Lawrence and the family. A positive, inspiring story, the rebuilding of lives and how that day in 1985 still impacts and is important today.  

Powerful! Unforgettable! 

If like Pauline, you were touched by Lee Lawrence’s story, why not borrow a copy from one of our branches?

Search our catalogue online here:$002f$002fSD_ILS$002f0$002fSD_ILS:1318987/one?qu=the+louder+i+sing


Books we love…

This week one of our kind customers Ana has provided us with her review for the book ‘The Five: The Untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold’, over to Ana to tell us more! 

Book cover of The Five: The Untold Lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

‘While the mystery surrounding Jack the Ripper has captured the British imagination since the first killing, this is the first book which focuses solely on the lives of the women who fell victim to the Ripper. Each of the five ‘canonical’ victims are allotted their own chapter in which Rubenhold paints a vivid picture of their upbringing, their family, their romances and heartbreaks, and finally the circumstances which led them to Whitechapel at the cruel end of their lives. With the evidence presented (of which there is a surprising amount) we are forced to question what we take as fact about these women and why it is that we were led to believe certain myths. The most famous of these myths being that they all worked as prostitutes.  

As far as history books go, the Five does not require any prior in-depth knowledge of the era or even of the Ripper mythology. Each chapter sweeps you up in the narrative of its female lead, and leaves you feeling shaken each time you remember how her story ends. Rubenhold successfully humanises these women, bringing them to the forefront and pushing the Ripper back into the shadows.  

Beyond a Victorian sensationalised of a serial killer, we might wonder how a greater interest in the people who kill over the people who are killed affects media today. Overall, a very enjoyable and important read for anyone interested in history, true crime, or the representation of women. ‘ 

Have you read this book? Do you agree with Ana? Let us know in the comments section below! 

If the cases of Jack and Ripper fascinate you and you enjoy reading True Crime stories, why not check out the book from our catalogue? Available as a paperback, ebook and audiobook. 

Books we love

Book cover of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno- Garcia

This week’s book review on Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia comes from one of our customers, Ana. Over to Ana to tell us more! 

Mexican Gothic tells the story of Noemí, a young, 1950s whose decadent life in Mexico City is shaken when she receives a letter from her cousin Catalina, claiming that her new husband is trying to kill her. Noemí must travel to the secluded cliffside estate of ‘High Place,’ to investigate Catalina’s claims about her new family – the Doyles. The story gently eases the reader and Noemí into the Gothic setting, from her cousin’s ramblings of ghosts in the walls, to the elderly patriarch who casually discusses eugenics at the dinner table. But the longer she stays, the more horrifying Noemí’s experiences at High Place. The only comfort she finds there is a tentative friendship with the youngest Doyle, Francis, who repeatedly warns her to return to Mexico City.  

If you haven’t read any Gothic before then Mexican Gothic is a fantastic starting point, touching on a wide range of the genre’s most famous themes. On the other hand, if you are familiar with the Gothic, then you might enjoy the nods to older works such as the disembodied heartbeat Noemí hears at times – a reference to Edgar Allen Poe. But Mexican Gothic is more than a repackaging of old Gothic themes, it raises important questions about class, gender, and, above all, race. While Noemí is of indigenous Mexican ancestry, the Doyles are pale, blonde, and English. She is both undermined and fetishized for her dark features and, as the story goes on, you begin to realise that the Doyles might have more than a casual interest in eugenics.  

This is only the latest of Moreno-Garcia’s novels, and I will definitely be checking out some of her older works soon.  

“Can You Run Away from Sorrow?” by Ivana Bajić-Hajduković 

To mark the International Migrants’ Day, RBKC libraries are organizing the talk that explores how emigration affects those left behind. Ivana Bajić-Hajduković, the social anthropologist and author will be joined at this talk by her colleague and friend, Dr Julie Botticello, an expert on migration and health and a Senior Lecturer at the University of East London.  This event is taking place on Friday 18 December from 6.30 to 7.30 pm and you can book your place here.  


“Can You Run Away from Sorrow?” is an anthropological study by Ivana Bajić-Hajduković.  The subtitle – “Mothers Left Behind in 1990s Belgrade” – tells us more about its content and I was intrigued to see how the 1990s collapse of Yugoslavia was presented. I agree with Ivana that it had “a profound impact on everyone, regardless of age, social status, or wealth”. I was personally involved, as well.  I lived in Yugoslavia for 32 years, struggled to survive one year in new Croatia, and came to London with my twenty-months old daughter from Croatia, in October 1992.  So, I can certainly relate to the context and issues the author researched.  

It was very interesting to see that she focused, not on those who left, but on those who stayed, mainly mothers left behind during their children’s exodus. Ivana Bajić-Hajduković’s book “highlights the poignancy and struggles of this invisible side of migration. The loss experienced by mothers left behind, their coping mechanisms, and their everyday practices are explored through the study of material culture. The study of everyday practices and engagement with the material world reveals incredibly rich and at times surprising insight about the relationships between mothers left behind and their migrant children. The gifts from children that mothers hold on to, the food they send to their migrant children, and the everyday rituals performed around their homes tell us more about how ordinary women experienced the collapse of the country than any history book documenting the unravelling of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.” 

I wondered why Ivana’s research concentrated on mothers. Why not on the wider family – fathers and siblings? She pointed out a significant gender imbalance she faced; as in most cases, the wives outlived their spouses, so the gender bias gave her research a different perspective. 

Reading “Can You Run Away from Sorrow?”  inspired me to rummage through my own memories – old photo albums and letters, that I still keep. It’s funny (perhaps ridiculous) to mention, but in winter 1992/93 the most precious and most sought-after food for me was, actually, real coffee. There were scarcely any proper coffee shops in London at that time. I will never forget how I was struck by the scent of coffee by Baker Street tube station. Like a cartoon character I drifted, levitated, following the smell. Everything else stopped! Whenever any one of my friends received a parcel “from home” containing ‘Minas’ or ‘Jacobs’ coffee, we shared it like medicine between us. 

The link between food and the past, memories who you are, or who you once were, are so powerful. Even stronger than how Marcel Proust describes. The food shortages in Serbia in 1990s did not prevent mothers to squirrel the favourite food of their children and send it in parcels to London, to Canada… As long as they could send something to keep the memories alive, not because their children were hungry. 

Ivana wrote: “A common theme throughout these cases is the relationship between memory and kinship. We mostly see mothers’ efforts to instil certain memories in their children and grandchildren through food. In these cases, eating food from one’s homeland was the closest one could get to ‘tasting home.’  Food in the context of nostalgia for home has been a subject of some excellent anthropological studies. However, in this particular case, we see how grandparents use food as a medium for conveying a specific kind of memory, not necessarily of themselves as individuals but of the extended family to which their children and grandchildren belonged, as well as memories of the tradition and culture of their ancestors.” 

Have you heard of ‘Embargo Cake’, ‘UNPROFOR Cake’, ‘Crazy Dough’, ‘Cake of nothing’…? The handwritten recipes were shown to the author as many informants told sad and funny stories from the 1990s, showing how resourceful the people were. The chapter is even more interesting, considering our own short-term food shortages this spring, during the first lockdown, when Jamie Oliver suggested some “lockdown” recipes. Nevertheless, bigger problems were caused by gradual change in interests in home-food. That rejection and acceptance of new habits, meant to mothers more; like losing their children for the second time. 

While doing her research, Ivana Bajić-Hajduković saw how the material culture of the home revealed more about the relationship between mothers and their migrant children than any conversation or interview ever could. Remembering Christmas fairs and fundraising events in my daughter’s primary school in London – sharing the memories, customs and traditions, favourite recipes, tasting food from Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, Turkey, Ghana, the Balkans, Brazil, Spain, Portugal, China…, I have realised how this anthropological study resonates with people from many different countries, nationalities, races.  This book extends geographical and disciplinary boundaries making it universal, genuine and relevant. 

 Zvezdana, Chelsea Library 


The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

Mayfair Library has an external network called The Friends of Mayfair Library. The Friends of Mayfair Library was founded to support the work of the Library staff and to promote events that attract current and potential readers to the library. This week’s book review comes from one of our Friends. 

  The Bookshop on the Shore: the funny, feel-good, uplifting Sunday Times  bestseller (Kirrinfief): Colgan, Jenny: 9780751571998: Books

Cosy reading 

As the days get shorter and I want to stay indoors to read I often like to read what I call a cosy book…bringing me on the characters’ real- life journeys but with comforting outcomes and lots of kindness! can thoroughly recommend books by Jenny Colgan and have especially recently enjoyed “The Bookshop on the Shore” much of it set in Scotland…I have to say any title with bookshop in it is usually a winner for me!’  

Kate, a long-standing member 

Have you read The Bookshop on the Shore? What did you think? 

Booker Prize Shortlist Part 3 – The Winner

This week, Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing Shuggie Bain, this year’s Booker Prize winner.  Over to Fiona…

This is the third book in shortlist I have read so far and, although I really liked the other two, this one definitely stood out.  Shuggie Bain is a novel based on the author’s childhood in Glasgow in the 1980s, growing up with a single mother who died of alcoholism when he was 16.  In fact, the author has said although this is a work of fiction, his mother is in every page.  This is one of the powerful aspects of the novel – the mother seen through her son’s unconditionally loving gaze, even when she is nasty, absent and spending all her money on alcohol, Shuggie just wants to take care of her and help her stop drinking.

Shuggie is a serious child, with an effeminate manner.  He often wears a suit and asks pertinent questions in a posh voice.  His “funny ways” means he is bullied and preyed on by  men and older boys.   There are many unsuccessful attempts to get his to be “normal” and its only his mother who accepts him and loves him as he is.  The book is written from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know any other kind of life and this child’s eye view, stops the novel from being sentimental.  The hardships, the bleakness and even the brutality of their lives are softened by Shuggie’s love for his mother.  He is witness to everything she goes through.  There is also much humour both from Shuggie, and in the Glaswegian banter that goes back and forth between the characters.  It is at times, hilarious and at other times equally heartbreaking, there is hope at the end.

I really loved this novel.  I would say if you are worried about the gruelling subject matter, don’t be put off. It’s a brilliantly written novel that hits all the right notes.


Fiona, Brompton Library