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Minding our Ps and Qs

In the past week the media channels, newspapers and conversations have been dominated by Pageantry (and Pens), the Queen and the Queue.

Whatever emotions have been brought to the fore, and whether or not we enjoy ritual and tradition, it has been rewarding to see and celebrate precision, splendour, respect and excellence when so much of life in recent times has felt shoddy and sloppy. 

Tomorrow we will have the final occasion to bid farewell to a woman, a monarch who has brought such positive sentiments and responses. I wonder what we will take forward from this in the coming days and months.


We will soon be returning to our usual routines and activities so there are a number of events to highlight in the next few days.

On Wednesday, the University of Suffolk will be hosting Dig It! Unearthing Agatha Christie’s Crime Fiction Legacy, with guest speakers, a panel discussion and Q&A at The Hold in Ipswich. Scroll down for my review of the new biography of Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley.

On Friday, John Sheeran will be talking about My Life in Art at Thomas Mills School in Framlingham. John has entertained and informed audiences in Suffolk for many years and this is an opportunity to find out how he has gathered his extraordinary knowledge, insight and passion for art.

Then, next Monday the book group will meet again after our summer break. We will be discussing 'Cecily', the debut novel by Annie Garthwaite. If you would like to come along, please reply to this email so that I have an idea of numbers and can let you have all the details of the meeting.

And if you're wondering what our group concluded about the Booker Prize longlist this year, I can tell you that we were quite attuned to the judge's decision but not entirely for the right reasons.

After sharing our reviews of the 13 titles in the longlist, we drew up two shortlists.

The first was our preferred shortlist (which agreed with the judges on two titles - The Trees and Small Things Like These). 

Then we compiled a list of the titles we felt the judges would choose for their shortlist. This matched three of the six titles - The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Glory and Treacle Walker. None of these our reviewers particularly enjoyed!

We were given two exceptionally enthusiastic, passionate and detailed reviews for the titles Nightcrawling and Map of Our Spectacular Bodies which caused us all to want to read the books immediately, yet neither made the judge's final six. And although a number of us enjoyed reading Oh William!, we didn't think it was a contender, yet this made the prize shortlist.

So the judges put forward the following six titles as their shortlist - Glory, Small Things Like These, The Trees, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Oh William! and Treacle Walker. We'll have to wait until 17 October to find out who triumphs as this year's winner.

Thank you for reading.

Agatha Christie: A Very Elusive Woman
by Lucy Worsley

I've always been fascinated by Agatha Christie. I first discovered her books in my early teens and loved them. Then there were the tv and film dramatisations, but there was also the story of her own life - I've read a few biographies and didn't feel another was needed. But of course I loved this! It's a personal response from the tv historian, Lucy Worsley and is a great read.

The best-selling novelist of all time, Agatha Christie is known for creating the detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. She was also a mother, suffered a failed marriage, famously disappeared in 1926, travelled widely, participated in archaeological digs and found lasting happiness in her second marriage.

Lucy Worsley spent lockdown researching Agatha Christie's life - exploring her archive, speaking to people who knew her and reading all 80 of her novels. In this account, Worsley wanted to shed fresh light on aspects of the Agatha Christie myths and celebrate her achievements for a new audience as well as her loyal and steadfast fans.

Known for being 'a feminist historian' Lucy Worsley believes Agatha Christie's achievements were all the more remarkable because she was living in a man’s world. She was a working woman who had concerns regarding childcare and divorce, about ambition, privacy and earning money. "It’s about a lot of things in the world today as well as her story.”

There were no revelations for me because I've read and digested enough biographies to feel familiar with Agatha Christie's life. But it was such a joy to revisit her story, and to be encouraged, too, to reread her work, particularly the novels she wrote under the name Mary Westmacott. 

I didn't want the book to come to an end because I so enjoyed meeting Agatha Christie again, and it was a delight to be in the company of Lucy Worsley with her own enthusiasm and affection for the author. Fabulous. 

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

It's Only Stanley
by Jon Agee

This is a funny story about a very clever, inventive dog called Stanley who is loved, supported and tolerated by his family, the Wimbledons.

As a picture book, this is aimed at children of 3-5 years, but will appeal to all ages for its wonderful illustrations and quirky, rhyming story.

In the middle of the night the Wimbledons are woken by a strange noise. Mr Wimbledon goes to investigate and discovers it's only Stanley, the family dog, howling at the moon.

They go back to sleep but then they're woken by banging and crashing sounds. It's Stanley again. He is very busy. They're all used to him with his DIY and he can turn his hand to anything - he's even mended the tv. After many investigations during the night they finally discover what he's up to this time. 

A silly and affectionate story about inventiveness, imagination and family togetherness. Lovely!

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?
Everyone's welcome to join in the discussion. Please reply to this email to receive details about the meeting. 
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