Imagine a scene: feet up; fire on; mug of tea to hand; children occupied elsewhere in the house and a good book in your hands. Bliss. Yes, that’s right a book in your hands for reading. For pleasure. Not for the purpose of marking, spotting next steps in learning or assessing that learning has been applied. If you’re not one of our teacher-readers then strike through
‘Not for the purpose of marking, spotting next steps in learning or assessing that what you taught has been applied.’ and replace with the work-related chore that usually prevents you from indulging a well-deserved read.
If you’ve not yet visited your local bookshop or downloaded your Christmas e-book I’ve got a list of five that might give you good reason to settle into your most comfy chair and while a way an hour or two over the Christmas break.
At number 5 is The Lady of the rivers by Philippa Gregory, one of the books I blogged about in 21st Century Historical Fiction. This is an easy, un-demanding read which I devoured in a couple of days on my summer holiday. Lovers of romance, royalty and ruthlessness will find this a rewarding read
A slightly more demanding historical read is Prophecy by S J Parris. Like C J Sansom, Parris weaves a fictional narrative with real events from the Tudor court. This is a hybrid-genre book, where Parris combines the historical novel with the serial-killer thriller to create a fast-paced read.
My third recommendation, Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig, was long listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction back in 2010. Whilst it is a literary read, Craig’s prose has an easy fluidity that leads the reader through the narrative at a swift pace. Part crime novel, part social commentary this is a book that entertains and informs in equal measure. The book begins with the disposal of a young woman’s body on Hampstead Heath. Who the young woman is becomes apparent at an early point in the story but it is the inter-twining of the lives of Polly (an immigration lawyer), Ian (a South African teacher), Anna (a young illegal immigrant from Eastern Europe), Katie (a single American woman) and Job (a Zimbabwean immigrant) that puts the heart into this novel. How their lives connect to each other and the murdered young woman leads the reader to consider the interconnectedness of urban human existence and most specifically our attitudes to people from all walks of life.
“Snowdrops. That’s what the Russians call them – the bodies that float up into the light in the thaw.”
With a quotation like that you can tell that Snowdrops by A D Miller is a good old-fashioned thriller. It’s also another book that found its way onto a book award list – this time the Man Booker Prize, 2011. It is a book riddled with deceit, self-deceit, greed and loathing. It is a compelling, pacey narrative that forces the reader to confront some of the worst excesses of capitalist greed. An absolute must for lovers of crime and thriller novels.
If you read the book do take a look at these fabulous book-group questions.
My number one choice is from the 2012 Orange Prize Shortlist and was quite simply the most beautiful book I read this year. The Most Beautiful Thing by Fiona Robyn is one of those lovely books that make you smile; that give you a sense of completion and leave a little bit of themselves imprinted on your soul. Told in two parts, the story begins with 14-year-old Joe making a six-week visit to stay with his Aunt Nel in Amsterdam. The second part charts his return to Amsterdam 15 years later and reveals the mystery and confusion that surrounds his life. With echoes of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and a Sue Townsend-like treatment of male adolescence this is an entertaining read. Joes’ part one soundtrack of The Cocteau Twins and part-two devotion to Sigur Ros also make this an ideal read for the High Fidelity fans who will appreciate the importance of a popular music soundtrack to accompany Joe’s life.
So, order those books, get the kettle on and curl up in the best chair in the house. It’s reading time.
Rachel Clarke, Coventry Primary English Consultant