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Bear necessity

It's been lovely to see people coming together to mark the Platinum Jubilee these past few days. Towns and neighbourhoods have looked cheery bedecked in bunting and happy crowds have gathered once more. The weather has been a little variable but hopefully all the planned tea parties have been able to go ahead.

Among all the events staged for this Platinum Jubilee, though, a highlight for me was yesterday's screening of the Queen meeting Paddington at Buckingham Palace!

It was such a surprise and exhibited a delightful simplicity, innocence and charm, with great creativity and good humour, it seemed a pitch perfect contribution to the celebrations and was actually rather moving! All this from the character in a children's book.

Thank you for reading.

The Search
by John Henry Phillips

This is the true story of the friendship between a World War II veteran and a young archaeologist who searched for a lost landing craft off the French coast.

John Henry Phillips was brought up in Suffolk and, being fascinated by the treasures unearthed at Sutton Hoo and Mildenhall and the wartime history evident throughout the landscape, chose to pursue a career in archaeology.

John Henry Phillips had just got his first job as a commercial archaeologist when he took a holiday volunteering to take World War II veterans to Normandy. 

A mix up over accommodation led to John Henry sharing rooms with 92-year-old Patrick Thomas who, as a teenager in the war, survived his ship being destroyed off the French coast in 1944. Memories of the traumatic events had stayed with him all his life.

Patrick’s landing craft, LCH 185, had led the first wave into Sword Beach on D-Day. But on 25 June the ship and its crew was sunk by an acoustic mine. Thrown into the sea, Patrick had two injured friends alongside him but he could save only one of them. After the war Patrick received a letter from one of the families. He hadn’t shared it with anyone until he read it to John Henry. At this point John Henry felt he had to find the resting place of the ship for Patrick.

This book tells of how John Henry engaged maritime archaeologists and divers to help him locate the vessel on the seabed. He approached the mayor of the French coastal town for permission to design and mount a memorial, and organise an unveiling ceremony, for the lost ship. He also produced and presented a film to document the events.

It's a compelling account of the search for the ship and the developing close bond between Patrick and John Henry, interspersed with the details of the wartime events leading up to the sinking of the vessel. It's a moving, gripping and life-affirming memoir.

My interview with John Henry Phillips will appear in an issue of 'Suffolk' magazine this summer.

For recommended non-fiction titles, take a look here.
Friends Like These
by Meg Rosoff

This is another wonderful summer read from Meg Rosoff. Although marketed at teenagers (or YA), this coming-of-age story will appeal to those much older! 

Its nostalgic setting will bring back memories, if nothing else. It is set in New York in 1982 and the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the city are all here. Beautifully sensual and atmospheric!

Beth has arrived in Manhattan for a journalism internship at a leading magazine. She is eighteen and, though excited at the opportunity and potential, is full of trepidation. She seems naive and innocent in the hothouse that is the city of New York.

Things don't start well. Her accommodation is far from comfortable and her flatmates are intimidating. Then she has to get used to the other interns in the office.

But she seems to find a soulmate in the worldly Edie who quickly shows Beth how to get on in the workplace and to live life to the full. Until Beth realises that their friendship isn't all that she thought it was.

This is a fantastic book! You really feel the hot, hot summer of the city, with all the noise and bustle, and then there's the food...the food...!

Edie's workplace advice to Beth is brilliant, and Beth herself I found completely relatable. Both young women were convincing and sympathetic. 

From the very first sentence I was hooked and couldn't put it down, feeling bereft when I came to the end. Loved it!

Read about more recommended children's books here.

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

Monday 27 June 8pm 
talking about...
The Blue Book of Nebo
by Manon Steffan Ros

A haunting and life-affirming post-apocalyptic story of a mother and son learning to survive in their changed circumstances in rural Wales. The author has won prizes for her books when written in Welsh. She translated this story into English and it has been marketed in some languages as a YA novel. What will we think of it?
If you'd like to join in the discussion, reply to this email to receive details.
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VISIT MY WEBSITES for details of my journalism and an archive of my published articles, past and present. on books and authors with recommendations, reviews, conversations, broadcasts and events.
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