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Getting alongside

Among the horrifying events of the past week, I have gained some solace from learning about the courage and compassion being shown in the face of all the devastation, aggression and loss.

I was moved, humbled and challenged by the television images of railway stations in Germany as hoardes of people fleeing Ukraine were met with hundreds of German residents eager to offer up their homes as a refuge. Some even greeted the Ukrainians with bunches of flowers. For others there was food and drink, sim cards for phones, free tickets for onward travel, translators and medical aid. It was extraordinary to see.

In the UK there are many organisations and individuals eager to collect items to help those who have left their homes, friends and family with nothing.

And in the book world, two independent publishers have launched a JustGiving page so that they can put together backpacks for the children, filling them with books, colouring pencils and paper, water bottles and snacks as well as torches, toothbrushes, hats and gloves. 

Meanwhile, a Suffolk-based literary agent, Emma Shercliff wrote in the book trade magazine of her own experience. Just 10 days ago she was discussing the forthcoming book tour for one of her Ukrainian authors. Now he tells her his home has been lost and he is enlisting to fight. 

"The people referred to as 'refugees' in the global news reports are our industry colleagues," she says. "They write books, curate literary festivals and run publishing companies." What can we do for them? They have asked that we remember their literature, their creativity, all that they have achieved in recent years.

Thank you for reading.

My Life in Houses
by Margaret Forster

I have mentioned this book before, but it's so easy and comforting and enjoyable to read and 'home' seemed important this week.

Margaret Forster has told her life through the houses she has lived in as a child, an adolescent, being newly married, in her emerging career, and as a mother. It is a wonderful account of how privileged we are to enjoy our houses and homes. 

It begins with a dissatisfied young girl who prefers to live in friends' houses than with her family and concludes with the author struggling to counter her recurring battle with cancer, but seeing her home as her true place of safety, of wholeness, and of hope.

While I couldn't relate to Margaret Forster's eagerness to leave home, even as a child, I relished her account of her early married life with Hunter Davies in London. The couple's success as writers and the glamour of the people they met, while turning a dilapidated house into a much loved home, was great escapism and also an inspiration to consider writing an account of my life in the same way.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.
The Duck Who Didn't Like Water
by Steve Small

Quirky and amusing illustrations for this fun tale of rain, holes in the roof, making a home and unlikely friendships.

A picture book for children aged three years and above.

Duck doesn't like water, or company particularly. He is perfectly happy living alone in his little house, reading books and drinking hot chocolate.

Then one night he's woken up to rain pouring through a hole in the roof. He goes outside to fetch a bucket and discovers a frog who's lost.

Duck invites frog to take shelter for the night and suggests that they would both search for his home in the morning.

Even though frog was enjoying the rain, he took duck up on his kind offer.

The next day they embark on their quest. They met other interesting animals along the way, and develop a good friendship.

What will happen when they find frog's home?

This is a wonderfully amusing, quirkily illustrated tale which shows that no matter how different we may seem, we can still become friends. I loved it!

Read about more recommended children's books here.

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

Monday 28 March 8pm 
talking about...

by Anne Enright

Exploring a mother-daughter relationship, burdened by fame, it is said to be 'darkly funny', 'complex and multifaceted', 'one of the best novels about theatre'. What will we make of it?

Join in the discussion! Buy your copy of the book from Browsers Bookshop with the book group discount and there will be more details about the meeting nearer the time.
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