Reading B articles

Reading B group articles

Group report

This is an article published in the Christmas 2018 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter….

Our group consists of ten members and we meet once a month on the 4th Tuesday afternoon to discuss the previous month’s book. This is the third report I have written for the Newsletter and this time I thought I would try to explain how books are selected for us to read. It is all done by Hayling Library under the umbrella of the Hampshire Library Reading Group Service.

Once a year I download a list of books provided by the Hampshire Library Reading Group Service, give each member a copy then ask them to select what books they would like to request for the following year. I then collate their choices and hand it in to Hayling Library to be followed up. So a very simple process – I wish! How do the other Reading Group leaders go on? So I looked at the process once the library has our list and tried to work out the maths. Each set of 10 books has to be borrowed for a period of 3 months to enable delivery, one month’s borrowing and then return to the central book depot. Each group has a new set of books each month. There are 12 reading groups in Hayling alone, and there are 50 branch libraries in Hampshire, so how many sets of books are being circulated at any one time? Please don’t send me any answers, but it does mean a lot of work, organisation and possibly headaches for someone and accordingly the odds of being able to get the particular books we have requested for that year cannot be good. At least that has been my experience. Currently Spydus shows 593 reading groups registered in the former Reading Group Member category plus 81 in the new Combined Reading & Drama Groups membership category. Of this number, it is estimated that around 350 groups are active. Last year, there were 3,674 bookings resulting in 34,790 issues.

I think this year’s list was a bit varied as some of our choices were not available, but one or two of the books that the library substituted were received very well by most. However, looking on the bright side, we have done better for next year as most of the books on the list are ones chosen by our members.

Here are reviews written by two group members that reflect how tastes in books differ and that we do try to encompass them all.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh - report by Margaret Henderson

This book is a fictional memoir by Eileen for the week leading up to Christmas. Her mother had recently died, she lived with her alcoholic father in a pigsty of a house because neither of them could be bothered to clean up. She describes herself as sheltered, gullible, helpless, and full of rage, guilt and worry. She hardly eats and is possibly bulimic. She is very introspective and has low self- esteem. She works as a secretary at a prison for boys which she hates. She gets a crush on one of the warders but when a new female member of staff arrives she becomes obsessed with her. She plots to leave.

I found it an easy book to read and was really drawn into it, eager to find if she escapes to a better life. The descriptions are very detailed painting a clear picture of what her life is like. It’s a grim story and I was hoping it had a happy ending for her.

It’s very good that the library lends us sets of books. We get some choice but it seems we rarely get our selections. I feel we’ve been unlucky this year and had ones that I have found difficult to read.  For instance, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly which I didn’t manage to finish; The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (a sequel to the Stieg Larsson trilogy) and The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien which I struggled with.

The best bits about the meeting are the discussions about life in general with friends and the tea and biscuits.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein - report by Jeannette Gross

My experience of reading this book was a great surprise as I had attempted to read this in my school years and did not finish it, thinking it was too heavy and outdated.
How wrong I was because Mary’s characters with Dr Frankenstein creating what he thought would be a perfect human specimen failed - as the ‘monster’ discovered he was ugly, unloved and rejected by all, even his creator, Dr Frankenstein, no matter how hard he tried to fit in with other people. All human emotions and anxieties were explored in the book and I enjoyed it very much and have gone on to read more about Mary Shelley’s life and the times she lived in.

Other books we have read include the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by M A Shaffer – a great read and in my opinion, much better than the movie,

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie – good holiday reading.

Lemon Sherbet and Dolly Blue by Lynn Knight – a good read for the social historians.

Time of Death by Mark Billingham – a murder mystery with more than a bit of carnage for the bloodthirsty.

Pat Bailey

Group report

This is an article published in the Winter 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

We are now nearly 2 years old and so you can work out how many books we have made our way through!

Just in the way these things happen, over the past year our booklist has in a rather serendipitous way focussed on books about women (or maybe it was just because this was what the library had available for us! )

We followed the career of the actress Judi Dench, now known as a ‘National Treasure’. Then we read Poisonwood Bible by B Kingsolver, the fictitious yet harrowing trials and tribulations of the wife and daughters of an evangelical Baptist missionary from the USA in the Belgian Congo during the civil uprisings of 1959. This was followed by Singled Out by V Nicholson, which followed the lives of several women who had no option but to remain single after the loss of their menfolk in the First World War. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparke was a novel on a similar theme. Some of you may have seen Maggie Smith’s wonderful portrayal of her in the movie.

Still looking at books about women, Too Many Mothers by the actress Roberta Taylor was about early life in a big East End extended family headed by a wonderful matriarch of a grandmother. Then we had Still Alice by Lisa Genova, this was about Alice’s gradual and gruelling decline into Alzheimer's disease. Good Wives? was another of the books about how women manage to adapt to their circumstances. Margaret Forster took as her premise the ‘to obey’ that women, but not men, used to have to promise in the marriage ceremony. She contrasted the very different experiences of Mary Livingstone, wife of David, Fanny Stevenson, wife of Robert Louis, and Jenny Lee, wife of Aneurin Bevan with her own opinions about 'obeying' and an account of her own marriage to Hunter Davies.

One more, the Taming of the Queen, by Philippa Gregory is the story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry V111. A very interesting book about the plots and intrigue in the court as 'Kateryn' strives to survive and keep her head whilst others around her are losing theirs.

I can’t finish though without mentioning Ruby Wax's Sane New World and her journey in her metamorphose from comedienne and actress to therapist and lecturer on Mindfulness. Maybe all of these books could be looked at through Ms Wax’s mindfulness filter, but I think not!

Of course we have actually managed to read books on other topics, my all-time favourite is the wonderful word pictures in A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. I guess the group members would all be able to name their favourites. I do thank them for their contributions to the list, for the richness and variety that I have enjoyed despite or even because of the pre-eminence of women in our reading. I thank the group too for their understanding that it is not always possible to include individual’s choices as we are dependent on the availability of the books from Hampshire Library Services.

Finally, this month we are reading about Mr Selfridge, the story of how he founded his shop in Oxford Street, so maybe that is signs of things to come...

Pat Bailey