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.

Regeneration

regenThis week Miss Roberts recommends ‘Regeneration’ by Pat Barker:
I came across it as a wider reading text when I was doing A-Level Literature, and return to it regularly over 10 years later.

Regeneration is the first book in a trilogy, depicting the often shocking reality of WWI – but a unusually for this genre through the eyes of those casualties who exist away from the battlefield. This is no Birdsong!

Throughout the novel, (based on some real events) we follow the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, among others, at the Craiglockhart hospital during 1917. Not only does Barker poignantly explore the harrowing after effects of experiencing the Great War first hand, she offers insight into the lesser known impacts or events that happened. It’s really the psychologist W.H.R. Rivers who is the centre of the story, and through his experiences readers are swept along in an intriguing, and at times intense, period of exploration of the casualties of war, beyond just physical injury.

I love this book. It’s multi-layered, at times heartbreaking, but absolutely compelling!!

The Book of Night Women

ThebookofNightThis week’s book recommendation is from Ms Grayson.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

This book is based on a young girl born into slavery in Jamaica during the 18th Century. The girls mother dies during childbirth and we don’t discover who the father is until later on in the book so she grows knowing she is an orphan and the feeling of not belonging that this brings.

This book was not an easy read, it was heartbreaking. The cruelty and torture suffered by the slaves is truly horrific and brought me to tears but it is beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down. A book that with make you think about it long after you’ve finished reading.

The Winter of Our Discontent

Winter_discontentThis week, Mr Wallwork recommends ‘The Winter of Our Discontent’ by John Steinbeck.

Believe it or not I read this book knowing nothing of the author. We didn’t have many books at home when I was growing up so I was happy to read anything I was given. So it came about that through the simple act of enjoying a story, I discovered that Steinbeck was a classic writer before I knew he was a writer of classics.

It is set in late 50’s early 60’s New England America. Ethan Allen Hawley, whose family trace their roots back to the Pilgrim Fathers,  works as a clerk in the grocery store he used to own and although at first he seems adjusted to this reversal of fortune he ends up planning a wild ‘escape’.  Simple honesty is shown to be at heart anything but simple.  Steinbeck uses this examination of culture and values by a ‘good’ man to force us to look into the same mirror.

The emotional pull of this tale makes it in my heretical eyes better than OMAM and with another fabulous quotation as a title what’s not to like?

Wedlock

bookThis week, Mr Short recommends ‘Wedlock’ by Wendy Moore.

It is a fascinating true story which an insight into Georgian England. The events detailed in the book were massive news at the time and what I find most interesting is its links to the North East and particularly Bowes Museum.

My Cousin Rachel

18869970This week, Miss Camsell recommends ‘My Cousin Rachel’ by Daphne DuMaurier.

A psychological thriller, the novel is set in 19th Century Cornwall and in Florence and is told from the perspective of Philip Ashley who forms an obsession with his cousin’s widow, Rachel. The ambiguous characters and narrative make this a gripping read: Rachel’s behaviour is open to interpretation as is Philip’s reliability as a narrator.

This is an easy to read but difficult to put down sort of novel and leaves readers with something to ponder post-reading. It’s also due to be released as a film later this year (starring Sam Claflin and Rachel Weiss) and it’ll be interesting to see how it translates on the big screen!

The Unmumsy Mum

Unmumsy-Mum-Book-ReviewBook of the week is recommended by Ms Johnson who advises us to read ‘The Unmumsey Mum’ By Sarah Turner:

The book is a window to a particular life stage. At times it is laugh out loud funny, crushingly accurate and emotionally uplifting. Charting the ups and downs of parenting a young family in this crazy, modern world. Reading the book is like going for a coffee with your closest friend – it is therapy in a pink cover!

We Should All Be Feminists

bookMrs Cousins recommends ‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

You should read it because… it is a short but really powerful message about gender equality.  A multi award wining author, Adichie has had a huge audience – her TEDx talk that the book was adapted from has been watched by 3.4 million people on YouTube and she was sampled by Beyoncé on ***Flawless.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also one of my favourite novelists – Half Of A Yellow Sun, Americanah and Purple Hibiscus are all brilliant.

The whole text can be read here for free.

Or you can listen to the TEDx talk here.

The Exam

1This week’s book recommendation is from Ms Anderson:

The Exam by Andy Hamilton (Writer of the TV shows Outnumbered and Drop the Dead Donkey)

The Exam is a comedic insight into the pressures put on young people by parents and teachers. Andrew, Chas and Bea are three students of mixed ability who find themselves held up in the same exam hall waiting for their papers to arrive. As the wait lengthens, each has to survive a powerful barrage of self doubt, parental pressure and adult incompetence. They must come to terms with themselves, their peers and parents. An enjoyable read which I’m sure all teachers can relate to and sympathise with.