Brompton’s March round-up

Our Brompton Librarians write:

Hello to all our lovely readers!

Well, it looks like spring has finally sprung around town. Without wishing to jinx it, let’s hope the rain stays away for a while because everything looks so much nicer in the sunshine!

On the 8th March we celebrated International Women’s Day, and made a display for it that included books by important female writers such as Mary Shelley and Margaret Atwood and non-fiction titles that explored the history of women’s rights. We also have a current display on historical fiction that will appeal to fans of Hilary Mantel, so come in and check it out!

Christian Stevens

Historical Fiction
Historical Fiction


Chatterbooks is a huge success with the children in Brompton library; always buzzing with creative children wanting to share their ideas. This reading club encourages them to read books, write reviews, recommend the books to each other and on top of everything chatting a lot (hahaha!).

Most of the time the children will select a theme for their next meeting. This month the group decided to write about favourite books/authors/characters on the paper leaves and stuck them on a paper tree. They were so enthusiastic that they drew the pictures of their favourite characters as well. Then they displayed it on the Chatterbooks wall in the children’s library.

For the next Chatterbooks session in April, the children will be bringing one friend along and discussing Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Oh how noisy it will be? But we love it!!!! (to find out more, or to join our Chatterbooks group, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Babita Sinha

 Brompton Library Reading Group

 On Tuesday night (after a lively discussion about what West-End productions everyone had seen) we chatted about ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki. An author, living on a remote island in the States finds a washed-up Hello Kitty bag on the shoreline. Thinking that this must have come from the time of the tsunami, she opens it up to discover some documents and diaries inside. These include the diary of a Japanese teenager, a bright and vibrant girl whose family is really going through the ringer. Nao is very inspired however by her 106 year old great-grandmother -a Buddhist nun- and by the diaries of her great-uncle who details his training as a kamikaze pilot.

 Short-listed for the Booker Prize last year, Ozeki really drew praise from the group with regards to her creativity of story-line and her prose (particularly one member remarked) of Hiroshima and her great uncles animosity to serve for his country. We all loved the character of Nao and her great-grandmother especially, we felt this was much stronger than the author and her husband (maybe this was intentional).

As gruelling as it was in parts, it was a very inspiring read and it was great to see how Nao and her family’s characters evolved, hopefully for the better. The quantum mechanics section at the end let it down slightly, however we would still highly recommend this book (to find out more about our reading groups, or to join, please see the RBKC libraries website).

Katie Collis



Q & A Session with 2012 Booker Prize winner – Hilary Mantel

The Man Booker Prize logo
The Man Booker Prize logo

On Thursday night (18th October) I attended a question and answer session with this year’s Booker Prize winner, Hilary Mantel for her book Bring Up The Bodies. Hosted by the delectable Mariella Frostrup, there was a really funny moment (in the beginning) when the introducer stumbled over her name 3 times which she found very amusing.

This week, Hilary Mantel won the Booker Prize for the second time, but more remarkably won it for parts 1 and 2 of her trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, the right hand man of Henry VIII. She is also the only woman and the first British person to win it twice.

Bring Up the Bodies
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Mariella started by saying that in Mantel’s acceptance speech back in 2009 that she would spend her winnings on ‘sex and drugs and rock n’ roll’ to which Hilary said that she paid off her mortgage instead, saying that was just a line for the media. She said that on Tuesday’s award ceremony this week her heart was thumping nineteen to the dozen. She appreciated the fact that the head judge did not do an X-Factor style 20 seconds pause but just launched into who the winner was. She was utterly overwhelmed about winning and she felt overjoyed.

Mantel also touched on how the judges went about longlisting and shortlisting, as she herself has been a judge she could give an accurate account about how daunting the whole process was. She gave praise to this year’s judging panel, in the past they had nearly always voted by a show of hands, but apparently they all reached a consensus which she felt was very mature. Mariella asked her that now she has won twice did it give her confidence to write the next part of the trilogy? Mantel said not really, at the end of the day a blank page is a great equalizer, however she felt as a result of these awards that she had faith in her characters, which was a great starting block.

Throughout the Q&A, Hilary read some excerpts from Bring Up The Bodies which was really entertaining, she brought the text alive and her different voices for each character made it feel like a play. She also engaged with the audience; she tried to answer the questions whilst including everyone in her replies.

There were some really great questions from the audience, such as: do you have the third book in the trilogy all mapped out? Her answer was that it has virtually all been plotted out, but the story needs to be put in. A follow-up question: did the author go off in unexpected directions with any of her books? She said that she did, and the books turned out especially different from one another i.e. Wolf Hall is based over a number of years and even goes back to England at the very beginning of its history, whereas Bring Up The Bodies is set over a period of 9 months of Thomas Cromwell’s life, where Henry VIII is growing tired of Anne Boleyn as she is failing to deliver him an heir.

Mariella Frostrup
Mariella Frostrup

Mariella ended the session by asking Mantel about the final part of the trilogy, adding we all know the inevitability of Thomas Cromwell’s fate. Mantel’s big reveal – duh duh duhh, was that the third book will not be the fall and decline of Thomas Cromwell, but the rise and rise of Thomas Cromwell, to which Mariella joked that she was writing a fourth book! Mantel is adamant that it will be a trilogy but you get the impression that she is half in love with this man; she did say that she has been with this great man for one decade, although with her husband for four decades.

Best wishes Katie

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Reading Challenge!

Post by Katie Collis

Katie Collis
Katie Collis

This is my third year of reading the short-listed six books and one which has to be met with tons of enthusiasm and an open mind. I have really enjoyed the last two years of doing this but was rather gloomy to hear that this year’s judges would be concentrating more on ‘prose’ and less about ‘readability. The deadline is Tuesday 16 October, when they will be announcing the winner.

As already mentioned on previous posts, the shortlisted books are:

  • Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books)
  • Deborah Levy, Swimming Home (And Other Stories/Faber & Faber)
  • Hilary Mantel, Bring up the Bodies (Fourth Estate)
  • Alison Moore, The Lighthouse (Salt)
  • Will Self, Umbrella (Bloomsbury)
  • Jeet Thayil, Narcopolis (Faber & Faber)

I am already feeling that this is a mighty struggle as I have not read the precursor to Bring up the Bodies, which is Wolf Hall and that also took the Booker Prize back in 2009. So that makes it 7 books to read!

The biggest task, I felt, was to try and tackle Will Self’s Umbrella. Why? At around 380 pages, it has no paragraphs and no chapters. I was assured that the reader would get something profound from it. 2 pages in and I felt it was a turgid piece of writing, too many italics, repeating words and I grumpily envisaged making a note of every page that I felt needed paragraphs and sending it to him, whilst being very impolite in the process.

Umbrella by Will Self

By page 7, the Eureka moment hit and I was being sucked into this vortex of the two main characters and into their timelines, and worlds. A psychiatrist (Busner) is reviewing his patient’s life (Audrey Dearth) who was admitted to Friern Hospital in 1910 and has been ‘inside’ for many decades. It also follows the fortunes of Audrey’s two brothers.

This was a challenging novel, you felt you were cycling up a steep hill, but when you got to the top it was all worth it. For a book that is entirely unsentimental, it does elicit some strong emotions from the reader. Yes, it feels blurry, nearly all the time, but the language and the imagination of the book will be difficult to beat by any writer this year.

Next book: Narcopolis (Jeet Thayil)