We start off this month with a title that has some local interest. Award-winning writer Julie Welch tells of her time spent at an all-girls boarding school in Felixstowe in the early 1960s:
“This wonderfully evocative memoir portrays a place of arcane rules and happenings, when the headmistress and the head of science raced each other on public roads in their sports cars; when fire practice involved abseiling down the school walls, and when having meringues for tea instead of plain cake was branded ‘disgraceful’.”
There are vivid memories of midnight feasts in the dorm, bizarre rituals, frumpy uniform, mad teachers, pranks, ‘pashes’ on older girls and NO BOYS WHATSOEVER. As the social morals of post-war Britain collide with those of the decadent 1960s, Julie and her fellow pupils discover Radio Caroline, fashion and the facts of life at the same time as playing lacrosse derbies, attending classical music concerts and sea-bathing.
Beth Chatto’s The Shade Garden: shade-loving plants for year-round interest, by Beth Chatto, Steven Wooster & Erica Hunningher
“Beth Chatto takes us on a guided tour of her woodland garden, revealing a triumph of planting in dry shade.”
This is a reprint but a very welcome one.
“Henry Marsh has spent a lifetime operating on the surgical frontline. There have been exhilarating highs and devastating lows, but his love for the practice of neurosurgery has never wavered.
“Prompted by his retirement from his full-time job in the NHS, and through his continuing work in Nepal and Ukraine, Henry has been forced to reflect more deeply about what 40 years spent handling the human brain has taught him. Moving between encounters with patients in his London hospital, to those he treats in the more extreme circumstances of his work abroad, Henry faces up to the overwhelming burden of responsibility that can come with trying to reduce human suffering.”
Henry Marsh’s previous book, Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery, offered an unforgettable insight into the highs and lows of a life dedicated to operating on the human brain, in all its complexity.
The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu: the race to reach the fabled city and the fantastic effort to save its past, by Charlie English
I have to admit that any book with heroic librarians has a head start to get on this list…
The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu tells the story of how a contemporary band of archivists and librarians fought to save its ancient manuscripts from destruction at the hands of al-Qaeda.
“At London 2012, Nicola Adams made history. The flyweight boxer - nicknamed the smiling assassin - became the first ever woman to win an Olympic gold medal for boxing. In Rio 2016, with the nation cheering her on, she did it all over again.
“Growing up in Leeds, Nicola stumbled into boxing in her local sports centre while her mum was at aerobics. Aged 13, she decided that she would win an Olympic gold: nobody was going to stop her. Years of relentless training, fundraising and determination have seen Nicola battle through injury, prejudice and defeat to become one of Britain’s best-loved athletes and an inspiration to all those who are chasing after a seemingly impossible dream.”
“The age of the rock star, like the age of the cowboy, has passed. Like the cowboy, the idea of the rock star lives on in our imaginations. What did we see in them? Swagger. Recklessness. Sexual charisma. Damn-the-torpedoes self-belief. A certain way of carrying themselves. Good hair. Interesting shoes. Talent we wished we had. What did we want of them? To be larger than life but also like us. To live out their songs. To stay young forever. No wonder many didn’t stay the course.
“Here, David Hepworth zeroes in on defining moments and turning points in the lives of 40 rock stars from 1955 to 1995, taking us on a journey to burst a hundred myths and create a hundred more.”
‘Sgt Pepper at Fifty’ is being celebrated in May and June to mark the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ iconic 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with major events in Liverpool. This guide, which is organised into four thematic chapters, brings a new perspective to the album.
As the UK enters Brexit negotiations, the timing for this book could hardly be better. Former Greek Minister of Finance Yanis Varoufakis gives the lowdown of what it is like to negotiate with the EU:
“When the Eurozone collapsed in 2010, Greece faced a 300 billion euro black hole: the largest debt in history. In response, the EU imposed yet more loans on Greece under conditions of crushing austerity, money that flowed straight back to commercial banks in Frankfurt whose greed had caused the crisis. In 2015, their country ravaged by the cuts, the Greek people elected a new government with a mandate to reject the so-called bail-out. The man charged with making their case in Europe was Yanis Varoufakis.
“What ensued was one of the most spectacular and controversial battles in financial history, ending ultimately in Varoufakis’s resignation. In this explosive account, Varoufakis reveals all: an extraordinary tale of brinkmanship and backstabbing that exposes the shocking reality of how power is wielded behind the scenes at the EU.”
Yet another book about Jane Austen. If you are not ‘Austened out’ there is much here to interest the reader:
“This telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the way in which home is used in her novels to mean both a place of pleasure and a prison.”