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.
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!
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
This week, Fiona from Brompton Library will be reviewing Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell.
Over to Fiona to tell us more.
Hamnet, which won the Women’s Prize 2020, is named after Shakespeare’s son, who died of unknown causes at 11 years old. The book focuses on Agnes (known as Anne Hathaway), Shakespeare’s wife, a woman who the author says has been vilified for 500 years. Shakespeare was married at 18 to Agnes, who at the time was 26, and many historians have branded her an uneducated farm girl, a cradle-snatcher who trapped a young man into marrying her. However, very little is really known about Shakespeare’s marriage, his wife or his children other than a few scant facts and the details of his will, where he only left Agnes his second-best bed and the rest to his daughter. Even the exact details of Hamnet’s death are unknown.
O’Farrell focuses on Agnes, her marriage, her family and her children, with Hamnet’s death at the centre. Shakespeare is never mentioned by name, he is always named in relation to those around him; ‘the father’, ‘the husband’, ‘the glove-maker’s son’. It focuses on the life of a woman, mostly alone with her children, and is rooted in the fields, forests and low-ceilinged rooms of Stratford. The second-best bed even gets mentioned.
I really loved this book. If I’d had time, I could have easily read it in one sitting. It is earthy, passionate, tender and deeply moving. It has a folklore/fairy tale quality to it, brought to life by Agnes, a woman whose connection to the earth and her ways of reading people, makes her as much a poet as her husband. The folklore atmosphere is heightened by the ever-present countryside that surrounds Stratford and Agnes mysterious nature.
There were points in the book that reminded me of Shakespeare’s plays. O’Farrell does this quite subtly and is totally true to the story she is telling, sometimes at very poignant moments, but she has clearly drawn some parallels between his life and his plays; the star-crossed lovers of Romeo and Juliet; the playful twins who dress as each other from Twelfth Night; the fairy queen Titania and her wandering Oberon and, in the end, we come full circle back to Hamnet.
Another interesting element is to the novel is the plague. Before reading the book, I had read an interview with the author where she talks about her experience of being in lockdown having spent the previous while researching the black death and in an interview for the Women’s Prize, she says ‘I feel closer to the Elizabethans and the terror they must have felt with this ever-present disease.’ It also struck me that Shakespeare never wrote about the plague, but he was surrounded by it in London and would often return to Stratford when there were outbreaks of it. Being in a similar type of outbreak, it’s easier to understand why he would rather focus on life as it is normally.
Fiona, Brompton Library
Copies are available to borrow using our Select and Collect service!
This week’s book review is on Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. Over to Fiona from Brompton Library to tell us more about this fantastic read!
Three Women is a non-fiction book written as a novel, based on the lives of three women from different backgrounds. We hear from Lina, a bored suburban mother, Maggie, a seventeen-year-old high school student in North Dakota who becomes involved with her teacher, and Sloane, a successful restaurant owner from New York State whose husband has interesting sexual tastes.
Taddeo spent eight years interviewing these women and becoming immersed in their lives. The book explores the women’s emotional lives and their desires, showing how women keep themselves hidden and how they are judged by society. As a piece of non-fiction written as fiction, it manages get into the inner lives of these women. The external reality of their looks, their lives, and their selves are much less important than what is happening for them internally. Their perceptions of themselves and what they want are often in conflict with how society sees them and what it allows them to be and to have.
I really enjoyed this book. The stories are great, the characters are interesting and relatable, and I think what Taddeo has done is quite unique; having used real women, she keeps the authenticity of their stories and them as women, while making it into a very readable book. My only criticism would be that the writing at points is a little clunky, but it didn’t stop me enjoying the book.
This week, our Book of the Week is The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste. Set during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King is an exhilarating tale of a band of female fighters refusing to submit to European colonisation. If you’ve already been wowed by Mengiste’s novel, we’ve selected some empowering reads for you to enjoy.
The Memory of Love, by Aminatta Forna
Set in Sierra Leone, Forna’s novel explores the physical and psychological impact of warfare alongside the love which endures through horrific circumstances. The Memory of Love follows the lives of three people; Elias Cole, dying and reflecting on his obsessive love for Saffia, Adrian Lockheart, a psychologist new to the country, and Kai Mansaray, a young colleague of Adrian’s. Recording their loves, their friendships and their suffering, Forna’s novel is a poignant reminder of what makes us human and the emotions which bind us all together.
Broken Glass, by Alain Mabanckou
Broken Glass, frequenter of Congolese bar ‘Credit Gone West’ has been commissioned by the bar’s owner to write an account of the characters who comprise the bar’s patrons. A disgraced alcoholic and former schoolteacher, Broken Glass records his writings in his notebook. The notebook is Glass’s legacy, dedicated to his love of French literature and to his former drinking buddies.
A Tall History of Sugar, by Curdella Forbes
Moshe Fisher has always been treated differently. “Born without skin” and abandoned at birth, Moshe’s appearance defies racial categories. Arrienne Christie is Moshe’s best friend, determined to protect him from the world and its intolerance. A Tall History of Sugar follows Moshe’s life from Jamaica, and the colonial legacy left behind there, to Britain and the looming uncertainty of Brexit. Forbes’ writing is a lyrical blend of Jamaican Englishes, recounting Jamaican histories and stories through Moshe and the people he encounters.
Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
Now an iconic motion picture, Hidden Figures follows three brilliant African American women whose minds launched America into space. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson initially worked as human computers for NASA. Forced into the background as a part of a female team of calculators, whose job was to solve problems for the male engineers, Dorothy, Katherine, and Mary fought against racial segregation and sexism in an incredibly male-dominated field. Shetterly focusses on Katherine Johnson in particular, and her work calculating rocket trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo missions. Johnson pushed herself forward throughout her career, and, when her abilities were recognised, she could attend all-male meetings within NASA. This is an incredible and insightful biography and well worth a read!
Some of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here. All you need is an RBKC library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry, just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.
This week’s Book of the Week is The Hunting Party, by Lucy Foley. New to the crime writing scene, Foley has already been shortlisted for a number of awards for her chilling writing style. We have put together a list of similar crime novels for you to enjoy. Happy reading!
No Going Back, by Sheena Kamal
Nora has a talent for reading people and discovering their deepest secrets, but this skill can’t solve all her problems. Nora’s teenage daughter, Bonnie, is being targeted by a Chinese crime organisation. After rescuing her daughter from their clutches two years ago, Nora must now track them down to ensure the crime bosses do not enact their revenge. Her search will span the globe, but Nora must do what is necessary to keep herself and her family safe.
Dear Wife, by Kimberly Belle
Beth is on the run, covering her tracks to escape an abusive husband. Sabine is missing, her car lying abandoned, seemingly kidnapped or worse. As the police search for any leads, the case becomes progressively convoluted. Where is Sabina? And who is Beth?
We Begin at the End, by Chris Whitaker
Vincent King, recently released from prison after doing 30 years for murder, is back in Cape Haven, California. But not everyone is happy about his return; especially Star, the sister of the woman Vincent murdered all those years ago. When Star’s daughter, Duchess, inadvertently sets off a chain of events leading to tragic consequences, the past appears to repeat itself. Can the family escape this doomed cycle?
Lakewood, by Megan Giddings
When Lena’s grandmother dies, the scale of her family’s debt is revealed. Lena decides to drop out of college and take a job in the mysterious town of Lakewood, Michigan. On paper, the job looks perfect. Medical expenses covered, excellent pay… All for the price of secrecy. Behind closed doors, Lakewood is home to a programme of intense human experimentation. But underneath the utopian promise that these medical experiments could ‘change the world’ is a very real threat to black bodies. How can Lena protect her family when she cannot tell them the truth?
These books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here. All you need is an RBKC library card and if you are not a member, just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.
Our Book of the Week is The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This novel deals with the themes of feminism and dystopia, so we have put together a list of similar titles we hope you will enjoy. Continue reading “Recommended Reads”→
This week’s Book of the Week is The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. Narrated by retiree Tony Webster, The Sense of an Ending is a portrayal of human struggle, examining decisions, friendships, and closure. Our Recommended Reads this week deal with similar themes- we hope you enjoy looking through our suggestions! Continue reading “Recommended Reads”→
How would you feel if all of a sudden you are told by authorities that are you an illegal immigrant, that you can no longer have a job and that you will be deported to a country you have not lived in before? Amelia Gentleman’s The Windrush Betrayal and the BBC’s Sitting in Limbo cover some of the stories and facts involved in the biggest UK political scandal of the century so far.Continue reading “The Windrush Betrayal and Sitting in Limbo”→
Our Book of the Week is Chan Ho-Kei’s Second Sister. This novel deals with the themes of crime, family, and investigation, so we have put together a list of similar titles we hope you will enjoy. Continue reading “Recommended Reads”→