Exit West

Ms Savage recommends ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid.

“In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.” The best book I have read this year – I wanted to buy it for everyone when I had finished it. The story is incredibly important for today and Hamid’s writing is evocative and beautiful, generating empathy that allows us to better understand our world.

Murder on the Orient Express

This week, Miss Camsell recommends ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ a quick paced, dramatic murder mystery classic soon to be released as a major blockbuster all star cast film.

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

It’s a great wintry and unpredictable read – a real page turner.

Outer Dark

This week’s book recommendation is from Mr Sutton. He recommends we all read ‘Outer Dark’ by Corman McCarthy.

‘Outer Dark’ is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set is an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century. A woman bears her brother’s child, a boy; he leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes. Discovering her brother’s lie, she sets forth alone to find her son. Both brother and sister wander separately through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying and elusive strangers, headlong toward an eerie, apocalyptic resolution.

If I Stay

Ms Spraggon recommends Gayle Forman’s ‘If I Stay’ which was recommended by lots of students. Mia has a perfect life with everything ahead of her. Suddenly, a horrific car accident which kills members of her family changes everything. The book is a quick read but one which makes you appreciate all that you have and how life can change in an instant.

A Town Like Alice

This week Miss Camsell recommendsas a good summer read.

A classic tale of hardship, torture and resilience, the plot revolves around Jean Paget, a 20 year old Brit working in Malaya during the Japanese invasion.

She is captured and joins a group of other European women and children and put under pressure to trek miles through the jungle with the other captives, leading to the death of many. Her courageous spirit and skills force her in to the role of leader for the prisoners. Whilst on the march, the group encounter Australian prisoners. They are helped and given food by a man named Joe Harman who is then punished by the Japanese as a result of his theft.

Paget’s story is narrated poignantly through her solicitor, Noel Strachan: his ordinary life serves as a stark contrast to Jean’s life. He is completely beguiled by Jean, and the framing narrative gives a bittersweet tang to the novel. I devoured this book on a plane journey and think it would be an excellent beach read for those of you going away this summer.

A Little Life

Mrs Larby recommends, ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara.

It’s the book I pulled out of the English Department bran tub last Christmas (thank you, Mrs Wilson-Head!) and one of the best books I have ever read.

In simple terms, it’s a story of the friendship of four young men who meet at university and then move to New York. However, it really centres on the character of Jude whose traumatic past is gradually revealed.

The novel is simultaneously heart-breaking and uplifting; I feel it’s a book that every teacher should be made to read as Yanagihara really gets inside the skin of a damaged and vulnerable young person forcing you to not just understand the pain of the individual intellectually but to feel it from the inside.  It’s not an easy read in terms of the subject matter but I couldn’t put it down, driven by a mixture of hope and despair for the central character. She’s a remarkable writer and I found the book utterly compelling and beautifully written.

Thing Around Your Neck

This week’s book recommendation is from Ms Robert:

The Thing Around Your Neck, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

It is a collection of 12 short stories, focusing mainly on the lives and experiences of Nigerian women – women caught up in political or religious violence, coping with displacement, loneliness and disappointment in their new lives or their new marriages, surviving tragedy. The women are generally middle class, intelligent but unconfident, and tend to be routed by more selfish and amoral characters.

As they are short stories, it is an easy choice to dip in and out of without losing the story line.

Girl with a Pearl Earring

This week’s book recommendation is from Miss Rodger.

A work of historical fiction, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ tells the story of Greet, a servant girl who goes to work in the household of the painter, Vermeer, and becomes the subject of his famous painting.

The simple yet beautifully crafted prose engages the reader in the day to day lives of the characters whilst subtly weaving the growing passion that Greet feels for her master. I read this book quickly and thought about it when I was not reading it – a good sign!

Understand

Ms Jobling recommends a short story by Understand_by_Ted_Chiang

I recently watched the film ‘Arrival’ (which I highly recommend) and discovered that it was based on the short story ‘Story of Your Life’ by sci-fi author Ted Chiang. I bought his collection of short stories and decided to start from the beginning and read the stories in order, rather than skipping straight to ‘Story of Your Life’.

Surprisingly, my favourite story in the collection was called ‘Understand’. It centres on Leon who, after drowning and ending up in a coma, undergoes experimental ‘hormone K therapy’. After waking up from the coma, doctors find that Leon’s damaged neurons are regenerated and that his intellectual capacity is dramatically increased.

After a short time, the CIA become interested in Leon and a government psychologist called Clausen begins doing tests on him. However, Leon realises that the authorities see him as a danger; he leaves the city and before long tracks down another hyper-intelligent man named Reynolds, who has also undergone the same therapy.

The narrative builds up to the meeting of the two characters and the psychological battle they engage in…

I won’t give away the ending, but must say I found it totally mind-blowing and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different to read – you can even borrow it from me!

The Time Traveler’s Wife

18619684This week’s book recommendation is from Ms Spraggon who recommends ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’.

One of my favourite books is The Time Traveler’s Wife. It’s a unique story of love across time, exploring the lengths to which two people will go to in order to be together.

Henry has a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel uncontrollably and his wife Clare has to cope with the unexplained disappearances.

Although the author wrote it as a metaphor for her failed relationships I believe it is still a hopeful book with a positive message.