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Telling stories

The National Theatre Live screening of the new play 'Prima Facie' by Suzie Miller in Woodbridge's Riverside Cinema last week was extraordinary.

Sold out weeks ahead, the audience was wrapt throughout the two hour, one woman performance and broke into applause at its conclusion.

Jodie Comer played the part of a criminal defence barrister who is forced to see proceedings from a different perspective as events unfold.

She was phenomenal, barely drawing breath throughout the performance. She ran the gamut of emotions, moved the furniture, ate, drank and changed her clothes on stage, and endured a rain storm. And we were completely gripped by all that she was and all that she said.

Beyond the personal drama, there was a strong message behind the play which has been written by a former barrister. It sought to highlight the failings of the legal system in tackling sexual assault in particular, but spelt out a salutary message that in any trial, there is no real pursuit of 'truth'. Ultimately the jury is swayed by the most persuasive storyteller, whether that is for the defence or the prosecution. 

We all have stories to tell - to others and to ourselves - and this is explored in the memoir by Tanya Shadrick 'The Cure for Sleep' (scroll down for more details). I was fascinated by her roles as writer in residence at a swimming pool, but also a hospice. Here people, when confronted by the end of life, displayed an urgency in sharing their stories and, once done, were very much at peace.

We draw on our life experience in all sorts of stories and our book group discussion tomorrow evening will explore how Elspeth Barker's childhood informed her novel 'O Caledonia'. If you'd like to come along to the meeting, please let me know by replying to this email and I'll send you the details. 

Thank you for reading.

The Cure for Sleep
Tanya Shadrick

This title was recommended to me by a friend some weeks ago - and it's nothing to do with insomnia!

The author has a near-death experience after the birth of her first child. Once she realises she is out of danger, she vows to stop 'sleepwalking' through her life, instead reevaluating what is important, addressing past regrets and sorrows. And she hopes to encourage us to do the same. 

The author lives in a town in East Sussex. She is married with two children, and this is a very beautifully written, lyrical account of her life.

She introduces herself through the traumatic events immediately after the birth of her child, when she nearly dies. Having survived, she recalls her early years, the relationships with her parents and her hopes for the future. The pace, plot and characters are so well presented, it reads just like a good novel!

As an adult, Tanya chooses to build her security through routine, and in her own home and family, but the trauma of almost losing everything causes her to take more risks, and start exploring. 

Tanya is intrigued by the lives of the people in her community and, wanting to find out more about their stories, approaches first the owners of her town's lido and then a local hospice, asking if she can become a writer in residence. This experience would make a book in itself and I did find that I lost my way with her message as the book neared its conclusion. But it was so beautifully written, and so intriguing, that I couldn't put it down and read it very quickly. I think I might have to revisit it again and discover more. Fascinating!

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

by Julia Jones

This is the sixth in a series of adventures for readers aged 8-12, written by local author and sailor, Julia Jones. I confess that I haven't read the other titles - yet - but was recommended this one because it features a female boatbuilder - I've been interviewing a few women boatbuilders recently and, even though I'm a rower rather than a sailor, it's proved gripping!

Stories which are reminiscent of Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows and Amazons' series, these modern day yet nostalgic adventures are all set in London and East Anglia (in this story we're at Bawdsey Manor), and are rather good fun! 

The subjects covered are wide ranging and will appeal to older readers too. Featuring Russian oligarchs, there's certainly a topical theme. There's spies, suspicion and the threat of assassination. There are health problems for the central character and family secrets to uncover, and there's lots of sailing too. 

It's a well paced, multi-layered story with great characters and an uplifting message of hope, integrity and solidarity. I'll be reading more in the series!

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?
Everyone's welcome to join in the discussion! If you'd like to take part, please reply to this email and I'll send you more details about the meeting.
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