This week, our Book of the Week is The Butchers, by Ruth Gilligan. The Butchers deals with the subjects of the Irish borderlands, Catholicism vs Celtic Tradition, and family relationships. We have selected a list of similar books you might enjoy.
Connell and Marianne are from different worlds. He is the effortlessly popular star of the school football team; she keeps her head down and dreams of escaping their small Irish town. When the pair are both accepted into Trinity College Dublin, their worlds drift apart and collide in a realistic portrayal of growing up.
Barry’s latest novel looks at the impact of crime on the soul through Charlie and Maurice, ageing Irish gangsters chatting about their lives in a Spanish ferry terminal. These men are deeply flawed, carrying their familial tragedies into Spain on the hunt for Charlie’s missing daughter. This book is darkly comic, with a look into the devastating results of serious crime, and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2019.
Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan, by Ruth Gilligan
Telling the untold stories of Irish Jews, Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan examines belonging, communities, and Irish identity in one spellbinding novel. Three intertwining voices combine to tell their stories throughout three different time periods, creating a comprehensive account of previously overlooked religious history in Ireland.
Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
Owens’ 2018 novel is a beautiful coming of age story which has topped the NYTimes’ Best Seller List for the past two years. The story follows two different timelines which slowly come together, combining a murder investigation with a young girl’s experiences growing up in an isolated marsh in North Carolina in the 1950’s-60’s.
Some of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here. All you need is a Kensington and Chelsea 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.
Our Book of the Week this week is Ruth Gilligan’s The Butchers, a novel looking back to the time of The Troubles in 20th Century Ireland via a very different perspective; the world of meat and dairy farming.
Whilst the continuing conflict in Ulster is referred to in the book, it remains peripheral to various other crises which were occurring in Ireland at the time. Clashes between Catholicism and mysticism, capitalism and agriculture, masculinity and sexuality create more elemental conflicts in Gilligan’s novel. The central plot device, however, is the BSE crisis, which reached Ireland in 1989. Affecting meat and dairy farms across the country, BSE, commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’ wrecked havoc on Irish farming.
Irish farmers were forced to cull entire herds to lessen the spread of the disease, slaughtering 22,400 animals at the cost of €23.8m by 1996. This led to many countries ending their exportation of British and Irish beef in the 1990’s, vastly compromising Irish agriculture and damaging farming communities.
This book is a very real portrayal of Ulster identity at a time of serious border disputes. Follow Una and her mother, Davey and his family, and the photographer tailing them all to discover close-kept family deceptions and the murder mystery plaguing them all. How did a man end up dead on a meat-hook in the middle of an epidemic? And who is he?
If we still haven’t convinced you, click here for the Guardian’s review and here for A Life in Books’ post! To read more about the impact of BSE on Ireland, check out Farming Independent’s article.
Read The Butchers today on cloudlibrary with your RBKC library card and let us know what you thought in our Friday book group.
Hello to you all from the staff at Kensington Central Library and if it’s not too late to wish this on the last day of January- Happy New Year from us all! Despite January being a bit of a grim month – we’ve been busy and February will be even busier!
From Princess Louise to smart cookery to stopping smoking
We’ve had some amazing events for adults and children this month. On a very cold night Lucinda Hawksley gave a very entertaining and informative talk about one of Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Louise. She was a remarkable woman who seemed to be ahead of her time. Lucinda is an excellent writer and speaker – we’re always happy to have her at the library as her events are excellent – entertaining, amusing and educational.
It’s been a healthy month for us too – Ooberkids Republic came to speak to a group of children about healthy eating, cooking, recipes and where our food comes from. Smokefree, the stop smoking service also had a stall in the library this month – a perfect time to help people keep their New Year’s Resolution perhaps?
From martial arts to fashion to Health Trainers
Don’t worry if you missed any of these events – we’ve got lots to offer you in February too!
On Tuesday 4 February at 6.30pm we’ve Spirit of the Martial Arts with Goran Powell. Goran is a martial arts author who holds a 5th Dan in karate. His first book Waking Dragons tells of his own mental, physical and spiritual preparation for the brutal 30 Man Kumite, one of karate’s toughest tests. His award-winning novels A Sudden Dawn and Chojun revolve around Zen and the traditional martial arts of Kung Fu and Karate. He will talk about and read from his new novel Matryoshka which touches on the fascinating link between Christianity and the newly-popular Russian martial arts. There are still a few tickets left so come along if you can.
To celebrate London Fashion Week in February for the Autumn /Winter 2014 collections, expert fashion management consultant David Jones and guest speakers will be speaking about the fashion industry. This is ideal for those that are thinking of starting a fashion business as a designer, retailer, importer or exporter. David Joneshas worked in the clothing and fashion industry for 40 years and for the last 15 years has run his own consultancy, David Jones Fashion Management Services, specialising in fashion. This session is in partnership with Colin Rutt, Consultant and Business Advisor from Portobello Business Centre. This will take place on Thursday 27 February, 6 to 8pm, tickets are £10 and can be booked on Eventbrite.
We’re really pleased to announce that we’ll have Health Trainers at the library once a month. So whether you’d like to be fitter, change your eating habits, give up smoking or just feel a bit better about yourself, the Health Trainers can offer you guidance and information, in private, in person and for free. These drop-in sessions are the first Wednesday of every month, 11am to 1pm and the first session will be this Wednesday 5 February.
…And not forgetting the kids!
It’ll be half term in February so we’ve planned lots of exciting events to keep the kids entertained!
On Monday 17 February, 2 to 4pm we have a Fashion Design Workshop for children aged 10+. This workshop delivers a unique experience for budding fashionistas.
Take a crash course in the fashion design process
Experiment with drawing
Develop a colour palette
Select fabrics for your designs
Formulate ideas through illustration
Sessions are led by Jennifer Sturrock, a graduate of London College of Fashion, who has worked in London-based fashion studios, gained experience in knitwear design with DKNY in New York City and developed sample designs for a luxury Parisian label. All materials will be provided. Places are free but strictly limited so do book a place soon so you’re not disappointed!
For younger kids (4 to 10) we’ll have a half term story and craft session Thursday 20 February, 3 to 4pm. These are great sessions – a chance to listen to a good story & then get crafty. No need to book a place – just turn up!
Oh and last but not least we’re really lucky to have Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea at the library on Wednesday 19 February, 1 to 1.30pm. This will be a fun interactive performing arts session which will include storytelling, puppetry, singing and movement. It’ll be suitable for children 0 to 7 years.
As part of our celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, one of our Triborough Stock Librarian, Elin Jones has written about the various adaptations of this wonderful book.
On learning the script for the TV series, Jennifer Ehle who played the part of Elizabeth Bennet said:
It’s the hardest dialogue I’ve ever had to learn. Shakespeare is a doddle compared to Jane Austen. I think this is essentially because the sense of the line comes at the end of it and also the lines are much longer. When I get to the end of a sentence I usually say, “Oh, I see!” and then I have to go back and read it again. Sometimes the thoughts are quite convoluted – you do all these hairpin bends – so it takes some getting used to. But it’s like anything – by the end I found it much easier to learn. It’s like learning another language.
Pride and Prejudice was a six-hour, one million pounds per episode production: an estimated 40 million Brits watched as the book was brought to life in 1995.
3. The Hero
The perfect Regency hero, Colin Firth, shot to fame in his role as Mr Darcy. You need go no further than the lake scene to realise his suitability for the role! The Guardian called it ‘one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history’
Colin Firth felt he was the last person who should play the part. He thought he just wasn’t sexy enough, and had major doubts about his ability to bring the character to life. He said:
You really can’t walk into a room and start acting your socks off, and doing all sorts of ambitious things, because Darcy wouldn’t do that. But not doing anything is one of the most difficult things about acting.
It was the scripts that made Colin change his mind. There’s more information about this on the BBC website.
Other actors who have played the role include Lawrence Olivier, Matthew McFayden, Peter Cushing, Patrick Macnee (!) and David Rintoul, whilst Greer Garson and Keira Knightley have embraced the role of Elizabeth Bennett.
In the second annual Regency Awards, held by the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, Colin Firth’s 1995 portrayal of Mr Darcy received more than half of all votes cast.
What modern day Darcy would you like to see in the role? Let us know in the comments section below!
4. The Adaptation
Andrew Davis adapted the book for TV, and went on to do Vanity Fair and Sense and Sensibility as well as writing the screenplay for Middlemarch and collaborating on the screenplay for both Bridget Jones films.
5. The Music
Carl Davis wrote the music score for the series and used Beethoven’s septet in E Flat Major, Opus 20 as the inspiration for his music. The Barley Mow was used as dance music.
Lyme Park in Cheshire was used for the filming of Pride and Prejudice.
7. Further Films and Books
As well as the Bridget Jones offshoots where Colin Firth ‘reprised’ the role of Darcy, there are other films and books that have emerged or have connections to the original novel.
Lost in Austen, a mini TV series about Amanda Price (Jemima Rooper), a devoted Jane Austen fan, unsatisfied with her life and relationship in modern day London. Her very ordinary existence is changed forever when she discovers Elizabeth Bennet (Gemma Arterton) in her bathroom and ends up replacing her in the ‘real’ fictional world of Pride and Prejudice.
Kensington and Chelsea libraries holds a nationally renowned biography collection at Kensington Central Library (we’ve blogged about it before). There are over 80,000 printed works with over 1000 new titles added each year.
As part of our celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Two of our Triborough Stock Librarians (who are responsible for the maintenance of the collection), Sally Connew- Volpe and Andy Norton highlight a few of the most important and often notorious characters from the Regency Era who feature in our biography collection.
The collection features numerous biographies, memoirs, diaries and volumes of letters by and about the contemporaries of Jane Austen.
Charles Babbage: (26 December 1791 – 18 October 1871) was an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer. Considered a “father of the computer”, Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex designs
William Blake: (28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of poetry and the visual arts.
George IV: (12 August 1762 – 26 June 1830) was king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and king of Hanover following the death of his father, George III, on 29 January 1820, until his own death ten years later. From 1811 until his accession, he served as Prince Regent during his father’s final mental illness.
Beau Brummell: (7 June 1778 – 30 March 1840) was an iconic figure in Regency England, the arbiter of men’s fashion, and a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV. He established the mode of dress for men that rejected overly ornate fashions for one of understated, but perfectly fitted and tailored clothing. This look was based on dark coats, full-length trousers rather than knee breeches and stockings, and above all immaculate shirt linen and an elaborately knotted cravat.
George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, FRS (22 January 1788 – 19 April 1824), commonly known simply as Lord Byron, was an English poet and a leading figure in the Romantic movement. Among Byron’s best-known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and the short lyric “She Walks in Beauty.” He is regarded as one of the greatest British poets and remains widely read and influential.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: (21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834) was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets.
Pierce Egan : (1772–1849) was an early British journalist, sportswriter, and writer on popular culture. He born in the London suburbs, where he spent his life. By 1812 he had established himself as the country’s leading ‘reporter of sporting events’, which at the time meant mainly prize-fights and horse-races. The result of these reports, which won him a countrywide reputation for wit and sporting knowledge, appeared in the four volumes of Boxiana, or, Sketches of Modern Pugilism, which appeared, lavishly illustrated, between 1818-24.
Elizabeth Fry: (21 May 1780 – 12 October 1845) Fry was an English prison reformer, social reformer and, as a Quaker, a Christian philanthropist. She has sometimes been referred to as the “angel of prisons”. Fry was a major driving force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane, and she was supported in her efforts by George IV.
Lady Hamilton: Emma, Lady Hamilton (26 April 1765 – 15 January 1815) is best remembered as the mistress of Lord Nelson.
Edward Jenner: (17 May 1749 – 26 January 1823) was an English physician and scientist from Berkeley, Gloucestershire, who was the pioneer of smallpox vaccine. He is often called “the father of immunology”, and his work is said to have “saved more lives than the work of any other man”.
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, KB (29 September 1758 – 21 October 1805) was a flag officer famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. He was noted for his inspirational leadership and superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which resulted in a number of decisive naval victories. He was wounded several times in combat, losing one arm and the sight in one eye. Of his several victories, the best known and most notable was the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he was shot and killed.
Sir John Soane, RA : (10 September 1753 – 20 January 1837) was an English architect who specialised in the Neo-Classical style. The son of a bricklayer, he rose to the top of his profession, becoming professor of architecture at the Royal Academy and an official architect to the Office of Works. He received a knighthood in 1831.
Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Caroline Amelia Elizabeth; later Queen Caroline; 17 May 1768 – 7 August 1821) was the Queen consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom from 29 January 1820 until her death. Between 1795 and 1820, she was Princess of Wales.
Thomas De Quincey (15 August 1785 – 8 December 1859) was an English essayist, best known for his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821).
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet (15 August 1771 – 21 September 1832) was a Scottish historical novelist, playwright, and poet, popular throughout much of the world during his time. Scott was the first English-language author to have a truly international career in his lifetime. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.
Duke of Wellington (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852), was a British soldier and statesman, a native of Ireland from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy,and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century.
William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was an English politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
Mary Shelley (née Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; 30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein. She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.
All of the titles featured above and many more are available for loan from Kensington Central Library.
You can also find more information about these Regency Era characters online by visiting the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (you’ll need a library membership to access this database outside of the library.
To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Triborough Reference Librarian, Debby Wale delved into Chelsea Library’s Costume Collection to bring us some more Regency gems.
La Belle Assemblée was a ladies magazine published between 1806-1837, founded by John Bell (1745-1831) who ran Bell’s Circulating Library. Holdings at Chelsea Library covers most of the period.
The magazine has fashion plates, celebrity profiles, sheet music, poetry, fiction, news items and some scientific articles. It was almost a cross between the modern day Vogue, Hello! and a broadsheet Sunday supplement.
Fanny Austen Knight, a relative of Jane Austen had a copy of the magazine, so Jane Austen would be likely to have been familiar with the title.
A chapter in Jane Austen In Style by Susan Watkin is called ‘A society of grace and manners’
‘Though she was not especially fond of listening to music, Jane Austen, like many of her female characters, took her piano playing seriously, and made time to practice every day. It was into these music books that she copied much of her music by hand.’
The close proximity and physical contact of the dancers shocked many when the Waltz first came into fashion. However, La Belle Assemblée published this sheet music for a Waltz, Fly Away Care in January 1812.
Each month the magazine published a Biographical sketch of Illustrious Ladies. This article was published in August 1811 refers to an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Lavinia Countess of Spencer (née Bingham) was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Lucan. She is described as
‘a lady no less distinguished for the family she has married into than for that which she is descended’
She married George John Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer. His sister Lady Georgiana married the Duke of Devonshire and became a famed Whig hostess. The story of this difficult marriage was made into a film released in 2008, The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes.
In Autumn 1811, La Belle Assemblée printed picture of the Prince of Wales conservatory at Carlton house, with brief description. Very Homes and Gardens!
La Belle Assemblée also wrote about the Drury Lane Theatre which opened in 1812.
Not only were there suggestions of fashionable places to see and be seen, but also what to wear.
So, if you fancy whiling away and hour or two as a Regency lady of leisure, pop into Chelsea Reference Library and sit in one our comfy chairs and ask for La Belle Assemblée (or Bell’s Court and Fashionable Magazine Addressed Particularly to the Ladies) They are fragile, so are kept in our store. Regrettably, tea and cucumber sandwiches without the crusts are not supplied!
Kensington and Chelsea libraries holds a nationally renowned biography collection at Kensington Central Library (we’ve blogged about it before). There are over 80,000 printed works with over 1000 new titles added each year.
As part of our celebration of the 200 year anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Lindsay Robertson, Senior Customers Services Assistant has looked into how Jane Austen features in our biography collection.
Revisiting Pride and Prejudice is a bit like meeting up with old friends. Characters like the scoundrel Mr Wickham, silly old Mrs Bennett and her sarcastic husband and, of course, our heroes Elizabeth and Darcy have been cherished by readers for two centuries. But how well do we know the lady behind the book?
Jane Austen presents biographers with a challenge, as very little is actually known about her. Despite being a successful novelist in her own lifetime she enjoyed her privacy, which her family dutifully kept even after her death in 1817. This hasn’t stopped our curiosity as Kensington Central Library’s biography collection holds over sixty titles dedicated to the author.
Dear Aunt Jane
Though she never married, Austen was a devoted family woman. The biography collection owns a memoir by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh composed from various family recollections. The second edition contained Jane’s previously unpublished material, including Lady Susan, a cancelled chapter of Persuasion and extracts from her unfinished works Sanditon and The Watsons. We also own several titles on the Austen family including Maggie Lane’s Jane Austen’s Family through Five Generations and J C & E C Hubback’s Jane Austen’s Sailor Brothers.
“Which of all my important nothings shall I tell you first?”
The biography collection has books of Jane’s collected letters, with some reproduced in her own handwriting. The majority were written to Cassandra Austen, Jane’s only sister and closest friend, though many more letters were burned after Jane died. Those left tell few secrets yet they capture Jane’s delightful turn of phrase, even when describing the dullest everyday activities. Cassandra once summed up her relationship with Jane in the words ”I had not a thought concealed from her”, so we can only imagine what her famous sister might have written in return.
The whole story?
The family accounts have been criticised for censoring details of Jane’s life. We can’t help but wonder what she truly felt about her writing career or her real life love affairs. There was a ”youthful flirtation” with Tom Lefroy (later Chief Justice of Ireland) and she once accepted a marriage proposal from a friend’s brother only to withdraw it the next day. According to Cassandra, Jane fell in love on her travels, however the gentleman in question was never named and apparently died before he and Jane could meet again. Much as we regret losing the chance to know her better, we can appreciate the Austen family’s wishes to keep Jane’s personal life private.
A novel life
Readers discover the real Jane Austen through her books. Judging by our collection, it seems that several biographers have done likewise. There’s Jane Austen and her Art by Mary Laschelles, Jane Austen: Real and Imagined Worlds by Oliver MacDonald and Introductions to Jane Austen by John Bailey, which focuses on each novel in turn. She also appears in a book by Francis Warre Cornish in the series “English Men of Letters” – I’m sure the irony would not have been lost on her!
We see the author’s rational and romantic sides in the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility, the loving aunt in Emma and the older Jane in Persuasion’s complex and composed Anne Elliot. Most of all, we find her in Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice. Like her heroine, Jane was independent, strong-willed and didn’t suffer fools gladly unless she found humour in them. In Lizzy’s words “Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can”.
Perhaps this is why Elizabeth is one of the most beloved heroines in literature – her creator’s wit and vivacity can’t help but shine through.
Calling all readers in Kensington and Chelsea! Get involved in TextTribe, our new online reading group brought to you by us and our Triborough library partners Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster.
Haven’t got time to go to a book group but always wanted to join one? Whether you’re at home looking after the kids or working long or unsociable hours, whether you want to discuss books with like-minded people or hear the views of a wide range of other readers – this group is for you. Once you’ve read the book we’re discussing, make your comments or join in with the discussion on out TextTribe site.
Our first book was ‘Sleepyhead’ by Mark Billingham, the first novel in his successful ‘Thorne’ series (and inspiration for the 2010 TV drama). As part of the launch of the group, Mark discussed this book at a live event in earlier this month at Kensington Central Library.
Don’t worry if you missed the event as videoed it especially for those who were unable to attend, and those who sent questions in via Twitter. Hope you enjoy watching them!
In the video he talks about how he became a crime fiction reader (being introduced to Sherlock Holmes at the age of 11 by a teacher), how he moved from being a TV writer and stand-up comedian to first reviewing (for the Ham & High newspaper) and then writing novels, and how Jean-Dominique Bauby’s ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ inspired the plot of ‘Sleepyhead’, his first book.
This video consists of Mark being introduced by David Ruse (Director of Libraries) and Mark’s talk. After his main talk he read a passage from ‘Sleepyhead’ (not filmed) and answered lots of questions.
Here are the four (short) videos of the Q & A sessions with Mark Billingham.
In Pt I, Mark talks about doing the research for his books, the nature of crime writing and the crime series genre, and how he is ambivalent about – and fond of – ‘Sleepyhead’, his first novel.
In Pt II, there are questions and answers about the writing process, why authors need publishers (and editors), and why Mark recommends John Connolly’s ‘The Book of Lost Things’.
In Pt III Mark Billingham talks about genre snobbery, Scandinavian crime writing, setting books in London, naming his characters and how he manages to write a book a year.
Pt IV includes his views on the common features of stand-up comedy and crime writing, how we are all capable of murder, and why he thinks that writer’s block is a myth.
Mark was an excellent guest many thanks to him.
Next Book for TextTribe?
We asked Mark to nominate the next book for the group, and he suggested ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly, saying “It’s the last book that made me cry” and adding that it’s the sort of book that you press into friends’ hands, and if they don’t like it you don’t want to be friends with them any more! An excellent choice, and an interesting change – not a crime book, but written by a crime writer.
There will be copies of ‘The Book of Lost Things’ in all Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Libraries, so get hold of a copy now!
Notting Hill Gate Library’s reading group met this week after reading Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss. It was a day of sharing stories. We found that the book had inspired us to talk about some of the key themes covered by the author such as immigration, class, background and poverty.
We talked about our personal experiences in these areas and of those we knew about. We spoke about the countries we had visited and the difference in attitudes that changed from place to place. We spoke about how attitudes and behaviours have changed over time and then over our lifetime.
The title, The Inheritance of Loss, raised lots of questions such as does the family you are born into determine who you will be? Did some of the characters in the story have no hope of success as they had already inherited the loss by simply being born? Is there hope? Is it possible to be successful despite not being born into success?
The Inheritance of Loss is a strong book covering strong subjects. One thing we all agreed on, this book took us on a rollercoaster of emotions.
Senior Customer Services Assistant, Notting Hill Gate Library