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The buds of May

The first of the month and another Bank Holiday: here we are in May, and this year is flying by!

It's a long month, though, so we have five weeks to read our book group title and I've chosen something we can really get stuck into. Written by Sarah Winman, it's called 'Still Life' and I can't put it down, so it's nice to have a Bank Holiday to indulge myself. I hope you'll join me and put Monday 30 May in your diary to come along to our discussion.

We had a great time debating April's book 'Barcelona Dreaming' this week. If you weren't able to be there, or would like to raise some of the issues with the author, Rupert Thomson is visiting Ipswich later this year to speak at Suffolk Book League. You can find out more about the organisation, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, here.

Of course we're marking the Queen's Platinum Jubilee next month and a rather special anthology has been produced.

Published by Suffolk company Boydell & Brewer, 'A New Suffolk Garland' has been compiled by Mary and John James at Aldeburgh Bookshop with former publisher Dan Franklin and radio producer Elizabeth Burke. Please scroll down for more details about the book, and read my article about it in this month's issue of 'Suffolk' magazine.

They've been busy in Aldeburgh. It's the Literary Festival next weekend and there are still tickets available in another broad ranging and fascinating programme. Hope to see you there!

Thank you for reading.

A New Suffolk Garland

More than 50 years ago, the Queen progressed through the county of Suffolk and the occasion was marked by an anthology of writing compiled by John Hadfield. It was called 'Suffolk Garland'.

What better way to mark the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee than producing a modern collection of words and images celebrating the spirit of the county.

'A New Suffolk Garland' was commissioned by the team behind the Festival of Suffolk. They asked Mary and John James from Aldeburgh Bookshop to oversee the project and they enlisted the help of former publishing director Dan Franklin and radio producer, Elizabeth Burke, for the task.

It's a true modern anthology. In addition to excerpts from novels, poems and memoirs, there are screengrabs, song lyrics, film scripts and transcripts of oral histories. There are also beautiful illustrations from artists past and present, from Gainsborough and Munnings to John Nash, Maggi Hambling and Charlie Mackesy.

There are many familiar names here - with examples from the classic works of Charles Dickens, MR James and WG Sebald - but also recent popular novelists such as Rose Tremain, Esther Freud and Ruth Rendell. 

And there are contributions too from Ed Sheeran, Richard Curtis, David Sheepshanks, Lowestoft fisherman, refugees living in Ipswich and images of the ships waiting to dock at Felixstowe.

It's an extraordinary collection which is fascinating, entertaining, poignant and thought-provoking and though it's a book undoubtedly to dip into, time and again, each contribution leads beautifully to the next so it's a challenge to stop reading. Loved it!

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.
Brand New Boy
by David Almond

David Almond has a great reputation but I confess that I don't think I've ever read any of his books, so I picked this one, newly published, to try.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but was an easy, entertaining page-turner of a read which explored themes of fitting in, difference, AI and what it is to be human. It's aimed at readers aged 9-12 years.

A new boy joins the class and the pupils are encouraged to make him feel at ease. They soon think him rather strange, though, not least in the way some of the adults treat him.

It seems George is indeed rather special, and the children become very attached to him. So what should they do when the adults want to take George away from them?

This is an entertaining and ultimately rather touching read about friendship and acceptance, set in the north-east.

Read about more recommended children's books here.

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

Monday 30 May 8pm 
talking about...

Still Life
by Sarah Winman

Described as "uplifting... and full of unforgettable characters, 'Still Life' is a novel about beauty, love, family and friendship".
What will we think of it?

It's a long month so there's plenty of time to buy your copy from Browsers Bookshop and read along. Details about how to join in the discussion will be available nearer the time.
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