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Thank you to everyone who came along to hear Sarah Langford speak about 'Rooted' the other day. I understand some of you are well into your second reading of the book! I hope that you're enjoying some good conversations as a result. There's plenty in it to set us all thinking and talking.

So I was interested to read a blog by the American author, marketeer and businessman, Seth Godin a few days ago who commented about the value of books in encouraging debate.

"Books used to be a solitary endeavour," he says. "Ironically, it took...the noise of the web to flip that idea upside down.

"Now a book is a totem, a chance to share, an item to be discussed, a physical instantiation of an idea that can be drawn on, exchanged or simply sit on your desk.

"Because the book is complete, coherent and represents a moment in time. Because a book can create a conversation and an event." 

We'll be taking part in another conversation in a week's time when it's our monthly book group meeting, the last one of the summer. We'll be discussing 'O Caledonia' by Elspeth Barker on Monday 25th July. If you'd like to come along, please let me know by replying to this email and I'll send you the details. 

Thank you for reading.

House Arrest
Alan Bennett

It will be interesting to see how many writers will seek to share their lockdown experience with us.

Some of the memoirs and novels were published very swiftly, others will need a particular 'hook' to draw us in as we tire of the subject, perhaps.

But for many of us, anything written by Alan Bennett is a delight and I was full of anticipation when I picked up this slim but beautiful volume.

It's a thoughtful and rather melancholic account, though of course full of humour and wry asides on a life which Bennett acknowledges isn't that different from how he had gone about his business before lockdown. Now, though, he finds that "with Rupert working from home my life is much easier, as I get regular cups of tea and a lovely hot lunch."

In this modest diary, he shares behind-the-scenes gossip about the 'Talking Heads' series, both in the past and also the special episodes produced during lockdown with profits donated to the NHS.

I particularly liked his reference to an exchange with the actor Martin Freeman who sent Bennett a thank you letter. He was so pleased to receive it that he sent Freeman a thank you for the thank you and carried the card around with him in his pocket "like a hand warmer".

There are thoughts on Boris Johnson, memories of childhood and his experience of having a haircut. An afterword recalls a train journey from London to Yorkshire, and you're left wishing there's much, much more.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.

Phyllis and Grace
by Nigel Gray
and illustrated by Bethan Welby

This is a lovely picture book about a friendship between a young girl and her elderly, forgetful neighbour. It's aimed at children aged three upwards and makes a thoughtful and useful prompt for a discussion about dementia.

Grace is a young girl who enjoys visiting her elderly neighbour, Phyllis. She often takes her cakes and biscuits that she or her mum has made, and Phyllis will sometimes make a cup of tea and chat to the little girl about her own childhood and her now grown up children.

Grace and Phyllis become good friends but it's clear that Phyllis is losing her memory and struggling to live independently. But Grace doesn't mind and gently helps Phyllis when she gets mixed up.

It's a lovely book which is gentle and sensitive, bringing humour, warmth and insight to what is a difficult subject. The illustrations are beautiful and the story is sufficient that it could be read to and discussed with children of all ages.

Read about more recommended children's books here.

Browsers Bookshop Book Group
at St John's Hall, Woodbridge

Monday 25 July 8pm 
talking about...

O Caledonia
by Elspeth Barker

A gothic coming-of-age story which reflects the joy to be found in literature and nature. It's Maggie O'Farrell's favourite book. 'A sparky, funny work of genius,' for Ali Smith. 'A wonderful oddity,' says Penelope Lively. What will we think of it?
There's still time to join the discussion. Buy your copy of the book from Browsers Bookshop with the book group discount and reply to this email if you'd like more details about the meeting.
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VISIT MY WEBSITES for details of my journalism and an archive of my published articles, past and present. on books and authors with recommendations, reviews, conversations, broadcasts and events.
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