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.
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.
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!
Ms Jobling recommends a short story by
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!
This 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.
This 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!!
This 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.
This 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?
This 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.
This 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!