Trustee Yvette Hunt introduces the Federation Lockdown Book Club…
To get us started some of our Trustees have made recommendation for you including a review of their suggested read.
We hope they provide you with literary inspiration to try something new or to re-read a classic
Book 11 from Helen Pendery – Brailes WI
Rosamunde’s first book starts in the Cotswolds with Penelope Keeling. We are introduced to her children with their very varied personalities and lives, her childhood memories, parents and many friends. I had forgotten Rosamunde’s amazing talent for gradually pulling us into the lives of her characters. In less than a week I have travelled along 650 pages, around the countryside and London during WW11, met and grown to love Penelope’s famous father and artist Lawrence Stern, and her vibrant young mother Sophie.
Those of you who love Cornwall will feel the sun on your faces, wind through your hair, the joy of the coast and walks up the cobbles streets of lovely fishing villages and small towns. OK, so we can’t go on holiday now, but I have escaped our life indoors and travelled for many hours on a wonderous journey. I do hope that you will follow me as I am sure you have the book hidden away, just waiting to be reread with a glass of wine in your hand.
Book 10 from Anne Bufton-McCoy – Federation Chair & Newton Regis WI
Open Secret by Stella Rimington
I have finally got round to reading Open Secret by the admirable Dame Stella Rimington- I bought it when she spoke to us ages ago at a WFWI Lunch. Why on earth haven’t I read it before?
Easy to read, fascinating autobiography of a truly inspiring woman.
It charts Dame Stella’s rise to the top of the Security Services as she juggled being a single mother with the need for absolute secrecy in what was definitely a man’s world. How she transformed MI5 from a stuffy clandestine anachronism into a modern public facing service is nothing short of brilliant!
Book 9 from Christine Dyer (Trustee)
Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, & Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
I very rarely read books more than once, but I have read this trilogy several times.
Many of us are familiar with the television series, but I bought these before the series was made.
They are true stories of life in the East End of London in the 1950s, where Jennifer was a nurse and midwife.
It is hard to imagine that, as late as the 1950s, life was so hard for people living in such poor, bug-infested slums, often with no running water, and babies were born into these conditions, many of them not surviving. They had very little, but the sense of community and the amazing resilience of the women, who often had more than 10 children, was incredible.
The second book deals mainly with Peggy and Frank who were separated in the workhouse when their parents died.
His strength and determination enabled him eventually to make a home for his sister.
The third book deals with TB, backstreet abortions, and the amazing story of identical twins who shared the same husband. By the end of the book it is the 1960s and the docklands of London began to change beyond all recognition.
The television series, although somewhat sanitised, brought these stories to life so well. So many of us living outside London have no idea of how deprived the area was and I know that I am thankful that I was born and brought up in the Warwickshire countryside.
Book 8 from Yvette Hunt (Trustee)
An Improbable Life by Trevor MacDonald
This book I downloaded as an audible book because Trevor reads it himself and I have always found his voice very comforting whatever the subject spoken about.
I strongly recommend listening or reading this book. It’s so hard to know where to begin as Trevor has had such an astonishing life with interviews with icons like Nelson Mandela to tyrants such as Saddam Hussein. This book is engaging , moving yet unexpectedly intimate. At over 80 his life spans many decades even deeply personal Windrush scandal. Born in Trinidad in 1939 he came to Britain in 1969 beginning his incredible career on the world service moving to ITN in 1973. Trevor has been a journalist, ITN Diplomatic Correspondent, Diplomatic Editor of Channel 4 News winning his BAFTA in 1985 for his coverage of the Philippine Elections and has made
Political documentaries, interviews of the rich and famous / political leaders to more recently Trevor’s Indian Train Adventure. In 1992 he was awarded an OBE and in 1999 a knighthood.
I give this book 5 stars.
Book 7 from Fiona Riley (Trustee)
Village School by Miss Read
This is the first novel by written by Miss Read, real name Dora Saint, in 1955, she is one of my favourite novelists.
Dora Saint was a school teacher and wrote about the world she knew so well. There are actually two main series of books, one about Fairacre, a fictional village, where Village School was set and another about Thrush Green, a village loosely based on Woodgreen, at the north end of Witney in Oxfordshire.
I like all her work and attended a brilliant course at Denman in 2017, on Miss Read: Her Life and Work, where the tutor was Jill Saint, her daughter.
The course included trips to ‘Thrush Green’ and lots of information from Jill Saint about her mother. The icing on the cake for me, was making friends with two super ladies from WI’s in different parts of the country. We all got on so well, the three of us have met up at Denman for another course each year and had a day out in London, visiting the Summer Exhibition too.
Village School is a gentle tale of daily life in Fairacre, seen through the eyes of the village schoolmistress, Miss Read. She observes the ordinary life of the village with humour and an eye for the little details that add so much to the book.
During the course of a year, we hear about the events that take place in every village, the jumble sale, harvest festival, the run up to Christmas, a heavy snowfall, the fete, sports day and an outing to the seaside.
We also meet many of the characters who appear throughout the series, including the redoubtable Mrs Pringle , the down to earth Mr Willet, the loveable Joseph Coggs and the gentle Miss Clare.
The books are a lovely escape into a gentler world, so a really good read at the moment.
Book 6 from Margaret Pilkington (Adviser Trustee)
Small Island by Andrea Levy
My suggestion for book club is Small Island by Andrea Levy, winner of the 2004 Orange Prize for Fiction, – photo attached, hopefully! Following from the book.
It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war.
Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but with her husband, Bernard, not back from the war, what else can she do?
Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was. ‘
It is several years since I read the book, think I’ll now read it again.
Book 5 from Julia Baker (Vice Chair)
Becoming by Michelle Obama
A book to inspire women! Recently I read Michelle Obama’s autobiography ‘Becoming’. It gives a fascinating account of Michelle’s life from a tiny child to the poised, intelligent woman she has become. She describes in a clear eyed and unsentimental way the numerous hurdles she has overcome to get from her stable, fairly ordinary but black childhood with all the issues that held, to the Whitehouse. The thing that particularly struck me was the sacrifice she made regarding her own life and career as a high flying lawyer to support Barack’s all consuming political dreams. Michelle was also bringing up two young daughters and trying to preserve normality for them.
I loved the way that within the structure and constraints of life as First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS as it it styled) she managed to create a dynamic supportive but valid role for herself which complimented but didn’t try to subsume what POTUS (President of the United States) was doing. Her main objective was to inspire youngsters and encourage them to believe they can achieve to the highest level.
Being a retired teacher I really appreciated Michelle’s emphasis on the importance of education!
A most Inspiring Woman!
Book 4 from Gillian Crisp (Adviser Trustee)
– A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
How to escape the confines of lockdown? Read an enthralling book, which explores how the main character’s positive attitude to his lengthy imprisonment in a hotel in Moscow enables him to lead a rich and fulfilling life. I can thoroughly recommend “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles. In the present circumstances the philosophy might be of value to us all
Have you ever heard the Buddhist saying: “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.”
This seems a useful philosophy for us all in the present situation and it is also the belief which is adopted by Count Alexander Rostov in Amor Towles’ novel “A Gentleman in Moscow”. In 1922 he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin.
As you begin to read, you wonder how an author could possibly make a lengthy sojourn within the confines of one hotel into an interesting and enjoyable novel. However, Towles’ skill is such that the reader becomes enthralled by the Count and the many characters he comes to know in the hotel, both staff and guests.
The development of the plot and the interweaving of storylines are endlessly fascinating and the reader is soon lost in the universe that is life in the Metropol.
The idea that even if you cannot control what is happening, you can control how you respond to your circumstances and, in that way, you regain some of the power over your life, is central to the Count’s philosophy of life. His attitude makes his confinement a positive experience for him and an uplifting one for the reader.
In the present circumstances perhaps this philosophy might be of value to us all. I can thoroughly recommend this book so why not put your feet up and escape to Moscow. No need to worry that you cannot get to the library as the book is available to buy very reasonably on-line in both paperback and Kindle versions.
Book 3 from Fiona Riley (Trustee)
– Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
Actually, although Sense and Sensibility is one of my favourite Jane Austen novels, I would unhesitatingly recommend any one of the six completed works. If you haven’t read anything by Jane Austen recently or you only know of her work through one of the many films or tv adaptations , this might be a good time to try.
I think you will be surprised by the humour in her novels and although I reread them all annually, I always notice something new.
Sense and Sensibility is the story of the Dashwood family and what happens after the death of Henry Dashwood. Like all her novels, the story is beautifully written and also shows us how hard life was for women in Georgian times , when they were dependant on the males in the family for financial support, as was Jane Austen herself.
The older two Dashwood sisters Elinor and Marianne, react very differently to their changed circumstances and also to their potential suitors, hence the title of sense and sensibility.
As with all her work, the writing is subtle and elegant, making it quite clear why her works are as much, if not more, in demand just over 200 years after her untimely death
Book 2 from Ruth McCartney (Trustee)
– The Dry by Jane Harper
I read this about 3 years ago and could not put it down. It is set in the outback of Australia which is going through the worst draught in a century. It hasn’t rained for 2 years!
When three members of one family are brutally murdered everyone thinks they know who did it. Aaron Falk, a policeman, returns to his hometown for a funeral and he is drawn in to discover who the murderer was.
The descriptions of the Australian countryside, the heat and the dryness will make you feel you are there and I promise, you will not be able to put it down until you find out what happened.
Book 1 from Veronica Chapman (Trustee)
– The Kings Witch by Tracy Borman
Tracy Borman is joint Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces. I bought this book after hearing Tracy speak at the Warwick History Festival where she explained why she wrote the book. It begins with the death of Elizabeth 1st in 1603, continues with the reign of James 1st and vividly portrays how dangerous it was to live in this time. The King’s court was decadent with excess in every form but James also brought a violent persecution of suspected witches. The central character, Frances Gorges, really existed but little is known of her life which, as Tracy explained made her an ideal heroine for a novel. Of course, the Gunpowder Plot features heavily along with mention of many well-known Warwickshire Houses.
The story has intrigue, love and sadness. I could not put it down and if you like historical novels with a big dose of fact, then I recommend this book.