Staff Review – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

GSAWA sequel to a highly acclaimed American classic by a Pulitzer prize-winning début author – who went on to publish nothing for the next 55 years – was never going to go unnoticed. The release of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman has got to be the literature event of the decade.

In the 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird, Jean Louise Finch narrates events in her home-town from the 1930s American South when as a 6 year old, her father represents a black man in court accused of raping a white woman. Atticus Finch shines as a moral hero against a backdrop of racism, hatred and intolerance.

Twenty years later, in sequel Go Set A Watchman, Jean Louise Finch returns home from New York to a South in transition with wider-spread tensions between black and white than ever before due to the civil rights struggles.

Jean Louise strikes a chord as someone out of step with the world around her and who has to re-evaluate everything she’s ever known.

Written in the mid-fifties, this novel is important not only as a companion piece to Mockingbird but also to attempt to understand the different view-points of the struggle for civil rights that are still relevant today.

At its heart, Go Set A Watchman is a familiar story of someone struggling to step out of the shadow of their mentor and find their own identity. It includes a moving scene where reactionary Jean Louise confronts her father Atticus, who’s behaviour and beliefs are hard to read.

Enjoyable in parts such as the contemporary description of travel improvements observed by Jean Louise written over sixty years ago, the hypercritical customs of the time and I particularly liked the snippets of different conversations blurring into one as Jean Louise and her aunt host a party.

Despite the praise I’ve given, it did feel a bit flat to me at the end – I was expecting more, it all kind of just… got explained away and came to an end!?

Mixed feelings but definitely think it will gather a lot of interest and people will be discussing it for years to come.

Go Set A Watchman is available from all Hillingdon Libraries.

By Ben Caduff (Botwell Library)

Staff Review – A Place Called Winter

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale


This is the first book by Patrick Gale that I have read. I was drawn to this particular story because it is based in the Canadian Prairies and is set around the settlement at the turn of the century. Being Canadian and knowing a little myself about the settlement periods, I was fascinated to read a human story, rather than just historical facts and figures. I was further interested to learn that this is based loosely on a story from Patrick Gales family history.
During the settling of the west, predominately English, Danish and German men, sometimes with their wives and families in tow, sought out the “New World” for opportunities to better themselves, solely through settling and farming the wide plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They were drawn by the promise of “easy riches” from the great potential to grow massive amounts of wheat on the vast plains. The reality was working extremely long days throughout the summer and struggling to survive the long nights of the harsh winters.
A Place Called Winter opens on Harry Cane, a shy, stuttering privileged English young man who follows convention and rarely steps a toe out of line, let alone speak his mind. When he is drawn into an unexpected illicit affair, his brother-in-law gives him two options – exposure or exile, Harry chooses exile.
The rest of the novel follows Harry’s incredible journey, not just through a wild, untamed, overbearing and frightening new world, but deeper into himself, while he strives to understand who he really is, how to accept the truth of his nature and whether he can survive in his new environment.
As you read, you are easily transported to wilds of Canada, Harry is awed by vastness of the lands, the lakes, the colours of the forests and the noises of the birds and what he’s surprised to learn are frogs singing. Yep, frogs sing in Canada.  You learn a little about how the settlers set up their new towns, the significance of the Trans-Canada Railroad and the impact of the settlement on the local indigenous population, the Cree Indians.
I ploughed (farming reference!) through this book, and would highly recommend it as a fascinating read.
4 out of 5!
By Amanda – Ruislip Manor Library

Hillingdon 50th Anniversary Events at Botwell Green Library

BGTo celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hillingdon, Botwell Green Library remembered what life was like during the 1960’s.

On Friday 11th September  2015 we explored crochet and needlework, that was typical for the 60’s and the Hayes Women’s Group prepared some beautiful items for our display.
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Our main event was held on Saturday 12th September 2015 when we opened our doors to over 900 visitors, who joined us for our family fun day.
And what fun we had!!!!!!!
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We celebrated our twin towns in France and Germany and shared some delicious French and German food. We listened to 60’s music, played on an original 1960’s record player. There were various displays, exploring Fashion, Music, Books and Hillingdon’s local History. Children could play 1960’s sport games, including Hula Hoop, Space Hoppers and Elastic jumping and not to forget the famous 1960’s Pop Art. Some of our younger visitors created an amazing pop art display, which gave us a glimpse into the past.
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By Franka (Botwell Green Library)

Staff Book Review – Poor Cow by Nell Dunn

Book Poor Cow film coverI first became aware of this book when I was doing an internet search on Hillingdon’s links to popular culture (It’s so hard to find things linked to Hayes because it’s also a common surname but other towns in Hillingdon are a lot easier…)

“The world was our oyster and we chose Ruislip” – How great is that?! And from an iconic 1960’s novel too.  But reading Poor Cow by Nell Dunn is like watching one of those TV mini-series where not much happens but you carry on with it and at the end you say; “Was that it? What a waste of time!” I do think that’s the point though. It’s a grim slice-of-life story about Joy, a young working class new mother and wife of a thief currently in prison. We follow her over a couple of years, looking back to when life was good, living in a luxury flat in Ruislip before the police caught up with her husband, moving back to her Aunt’s one room in Fulham with just her baby and a handful of hopes and dreams.

Within the first few pages I cringed at the social observation, laughed with her at her attitude and was shocked by the racism and bad language. The first page reminded me of 1930’s Hillingdon resident George Orwell’s social commentary in “The Road From Wigan Pier” but instead of coming from a posh boy slumming it, it was from a working class point of view which was more relatable to me. It felt a bit haphazard and it wasn’t always clear to me who was talking (and there was a lot of talking) but what started to annoy me was Joy’s prison letters – obviously the misspelling is to indicate her lack of education but the spelling got worse and worse to the point that I found it offensive. It got me thinking about the author – she seemed to me to be taking great delight in portraying the illiterate working class that it made me think perhaps this wasn’t a ground-breaking novel from a working class female author. After a little online research and it turns out that she went to Cambridge and is the granddaughter of a Lord. To say I was not impressed is an understatement. Despite my disappointment in the author and the novel, the characterization of Joy was very good. It’s still relevant now, very “Reality TV”. Although a lot of the contemporary references went over my head, the C-bombs Dunn drops definitely did not. Joy was very real to me… she was a poor cow!

You can reserve this small hardback 1967 edition novel with the Ken Loach film cover from any Hillingdon library. (60p for Hillingdon residents)

By Ben Caduff (Botwell Green Library) Jul2015

Botwell Libraries last Summer Event!!

BG 3Botwell library had a ‘Record Breaking Buildings’ event on Saturday that marked the last of their Summer Events! It was a bit sad but everyone had a good time and can’t wait until next summer.

Well done to Farhia who stepped in at the last minute to lead – despite our massive community day which featured a bouncy castle and an appearance by Mickey & Minnie Mouse (images to follow from CTRC).

BG 5Regular library user Olivia got involved and created her own fantastic skyscraper out of boxes – I think she’ll be keeping that masterpiece for a while!

Everyone had lots of fun – parents as well as the children who looked at our non-fiction books for inspiration. Idea’s included the tallest building , the wobbliest building and the strangest building!!!

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By Ben Caduff – Botwell Library

From the Desk of Dougal Trump

Record Breakers logo for web

Guess what?  I’ve been to the library for my SIXTH visit and I’ve FINISHED The Summer Reading Challenge!  Look what I’ve got for doing it – a certificate and MEDAL!  And look at all the sfuff I’ve been collecting through the summer holidays.

Summer Reading Challenge Gifts

Summer Reading Challenge Gifts

The book I returned was Five Children and It by E Nesbit.  It was written in 1902 – over a hundred years ago!  But it’s easy to understand and you can see how kids used to live in those days.  Boys had to wear funny short trousers called Five Children and Itknickerbockers!  But the story is great.  it’s about two brothers, two sisters and their baby brother (that’s the five children) who find a strange creature called a sand fairy (the ‘It’)  The sand fairy can grant wishes, but the children aren’t very good at
wishing for sensible things and their wishes lead them into all sorts of trouble.  In those days, kids were allowed out and they even have to take their baby brother with them sometimes.  It’s not surprising they got into a lot of trouble, but I think it was much for fun in those days.  I wish I could meet a sand fairy to grant me a wish!  What would you wish for?

From Me – D.Trump

P.S You can borrow my awesome books from the library!

tarantula coverDougalTrumpWIP

Paper dolls add a touch of sparkle to Northwood Library

ND 1Twenty children spent a happy and creative afternoon at Northwood library designing wonderfully imaginative outfits, after listening to Julia Donaldson’s story of ‘The Paper Dolls’.

ND 3The children played a game which involved rolling a dice to collect different articles of clothing for their dolls, which they then coloured in and decorated.

ND 2The ‘most wanted’ pieces of the afternoon turned out to be the grass skirt and the long plaits! You can see why!

ND 4We have definitely discovered some fashion-designers of the future.

A great time was had by all.

By Wendy – Northwood Library

Super Starborg Origins Creative Writing at Ruislip Manor Library

Rm 3Imagine vast underwater cities , aliens from outer space and epic battles,  well that is just a taster of the wonderful stories the children at Ruislip Manor library created during the Starborg Origins Creative Writing Workshop.

Rm 1The children chose a favourite Starborg and found the card and colouring picture that represented  that character , they then coloured their picture and could make it into a stick puppet or mobile if they wanted to.

Rm 2Then onto the exciting part where there imaginations could run wild ! They planned their stories before writing them , thinking about the format and plot of the story. This workshop was about how the Starborgs came to be , where did they live and who were they before they became half robot half cyborg ! The children were so imaginative, and the stories they wrote were absolutely brilliant ! Some stayed close to home and included Ruislip in the story , others wrote about outer space but all were fantastic !

RMWe ended the session by all voting in the Starborg elections , if this workshop is anything to go by I might have an idea who could be in with a good chance of winning ! The most popular Starborg with the children at this event was ………….ahhhh now that would be telling we will all have to wait for the election results for that !

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By Sharon – Ruislip Manor Library