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True or false

I was talking to someone this week who had forthright views on the media. He said that he didn't want to hear opinions, comment or interpretation, just the facts, all the facts, unfiltered. 

I found this statement rather overwhelming.

There seems to be a limitless amount of information, available 24 hours a day, from a huge array of sources, so, for me, the issue is surely less about accessing data, and more a case of gaining knowledge and wisdom, seeking a way to process it all?

This acquaintance said, though, that he didn't have a problem ploughing through information to establish his response. He said his studies at school, university and then professionally had given him the expertise to divine the details he needed to make his decisions.

But we don't all have that training, confidence or application? Now, more than ever, don't we need to find reliable sources who will help us get to the hub of the matter and respond to the crises affecting us today?

In the past, we've turned to the BBC. But in the lecture delivered by the former Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis in Edinburgh this week, the integrity of the national broadcaster was brought into question as she claimed that the media in general was no longer in step with the changing face of politics. 

It's an eloquent and compelling speech, and I've always rather liked and been inspired and impressed by Maitlis. Not all of her arguments stack up. But why should we expect her to be wholly right? There is rarely a simple solution to anything and life today is complex. But we seem to be losing an ability to debate with consideration and respect, and are always expected to be on one side or another.

Perhaps we shouldn't try to be informed about everything and instead invest our time more thoughtfully. Perhaps we should carefully choose a book on a subject about world affairs, social issues, climate consequences, and dig deep? Perhaps you're already doing that?

Thank you for reading.

Forever Young: A Memoir
by Hayley Mills

Although I've always been intrigued by the Hollywood glamour, poise, dignity and essential Englishness of actress Hayley Mills, I hadn't prioritised picking up her memoir (which is out in paperback this week).

However I was asked to research her story ahead of her visit to Norfolk in October. She's speaking at a festival and performing at the Theatre Royal.

And I found it a delight! It is a charming and entertaining memoir which details a bygone era of Hollywood, Disney and stardom. It's beautifully told. There's an innocence, almost bewilderment in her recollections, as if she still can't quite believe that this is her life, her experience. 

Hayley Mills is the daughter of the actor John Mills and his wife, the writer, Mary Hayley Bell. They had three children and, while their eldest, Juliet, was determined to follow her father and become an actress, it was Hayley who landed all the best parts initially with a six film contract to Disney while she was still a child.

She was the star of such films as 'Tiger Bay', 'Whistle Down the Wind', 'The Parent Trap' and 'Polyanna'. They're films I recall watching in my childhood, old films then, but hugely memorable.

Hayley Mills talks about family life, boarding school, meeting the Beatles, and how she eventually sought her independence. As the book progresses there are fewer details of the work or the people she met as she makes more sweeping statements. It's the early years that hold the appeal, the fascination, the intrigue, and where she has the unique perspective. In the latter pages of the book, there's a sense of melancholy, perhaps. And it's certainly quite shocking that the fortune amassed by her childhood roles was lost through mismanagement or bad advice of a trust set up in her name.

I very much enjoyed reading this account. The sense of nostalgia and innocence and simpler times made it a welcome escape. 

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

by Tom Palmer

This author is achieving deserved attention and plaudits with a number of wartime stories he's written recently, this time for the fabulous publishing house Barrington Stoke.

The book is aimed at children aged 10 upwards. It's certainly a challenging subject, but beautifully told and no less powerful through the simplicity of the writing. 

Edda is living in the Netherlands in the time of the Second World War. Her uncle has been killed and her brother has been captured by the Germans. She is determined to do what she can for the resistance, but what can a teenage girl contribute?

Life for Dutch people is dangerous and hard, and the sense of fear and foreboding, hunger and loss is very real in this account. But Edda is strong and resourceful, and the book is ultimately a tale of hope and courage. 

It's a rather wonderful book which quietly and thoughtfully tells Edda's story - which is inspired by the childhood of the Hollywood star Audrey Hepburn! 

Read about more recommended children's books here.

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

Monday 26 September 8pm 
talking about...

by Annie Garthwaite

The first days of the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, Cecily Neville, wife of Richard Plantagenet, mother to Edward IV and Richard III. What will we make of this debut novel?
There's plenty of time to read our current book as we take a break for the summer. Our next meeting is at the end of September. Buy the book now from Browsers Bookshop with the book group discount. There'll be details about how to attend nearer the time. 
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