Category Archives: Staff picks

Books we love

As Rachel travels on the same commuter train each morning and passes the her old house, now lived in by her ex-husband, his new wife and their baby.  As Rachel struggles to accept the loss of her previous life, she looks on into the lives of others as the train makes its way into the city.  The one day she witnesses a shocking scene brings the lives of the three women in the story together.  A multi-national best-seller and major film, The Girl on the Train is a page turning thriller.  Her is Rachel from Mayfair Library with her review.

If you are looking for an escape from the present situation, you may find “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins does the job. Many of you will, of course, already have read this thriller as it was a global bestseller but, for those who haven’t, I’m sure you will find this to be an easy and interesting read.   I found it to be imaginative, gripping and enjoyable.  I really liked this novel as it was light enough for me to read wherever I found myself – in the garden, in the lounge or even on a train!  At the same time, I found it to be a true page turner.

Rachel, Mayfair Library

The Girl on the Train is available to download online here.  All you need to download the app is your Westminster library card number.  Not a member?  No problem.  Membership is free and can be done online here.

The Butchers

Our Book of the Week this week is Ruth Gilligan’s The Butchers, a novel looking back to the time of The Troubles in 20th Century Ireland via a very different perspective; the world of meat and dairy farming.

Whilst the continuing conflict in Ulster is referred to in the book, it remains peripheral to various other crises which were occurring in Ireland at the time. Clashes between Catholicism and mysticism, capitalism and agriculture, masculinity and sexuality create more elemental conflicts in Gilligan’s novel. The central plot device, however, is the BSE crisis, which reached Ireland in 1989. Affecting meat and dairy farms across the country, BSE, commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’ wrecked havoc on Irish farming.

Irish farmers were forced to cull entire herds to lessen the spread of the disease, slaughtering 22,400 animals at the cost of €23.8m by 1996. This led to many countries ending their exportation of British and Irish beef in the 1990’s, vastly compromising Irish agriculture and damaging farming communities.

This book is a very real portrayal of Ulster identity at a time of serious border disputes. Follow Una and her mother, Davey and his family, and the photographer tailing them all to discover close-kept family deceptions and the murder mystery plaguing them all. How did a man end up dead on a meat-hook in the middle of an epidemic? And who is he?

If we still haven’t convinced you, click here for the Guardian’s review and here for A Life in Books’ post! To read more about the impact of BSE on Ireland, check out Farming Independent’s article.

Read The Butchers today on cloudlibrary with your Westminster library card and let us know what you thought in our Friday book group.

Books we love

This week, Helen from Charing Cross library is reviewing The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn.  When Raynor and Moth are faced with the loss of their home and their livelihood and a terminal diagnosis, they decide to walk the 630 miles of the  South West Coast Path from Somerset, through Dorset and Devon to Cornwall.  Here is Helen with her review…

I was drawn to this book because it is about a walk along the South West Coast Path – a 630 mile route which hugs the coast from Minehead to Poole – a path which I know well as it runs along the cliffs below my sister’s house in the wilds of West Penwith.

It is the story of an epic journey – which tells not just of the path that the walkers take, but of the emotional journey that surrounds it. The author’s husband was diagnosed with a rare and incurable brain disease. Around the same time, they found out they were going to lose the farm which had been their home and where they had raised their daughters. They were very suddenly broke and homeless. They decide to walk the Path because they ‘really didn’t have anything better to do’.

Homelessness can affect anyone, in a city, in the country, in a village, by the sea. Winn describes their homelessness and people’s reactions to it in a way that made me question my own assumptions. A book that can do that whilst taking you with it on an emotional and engaging trip is an essential for anyone’s bookshelves.

Helen, Charing Cross Library

The Salt Path can be borrowed here from our cloudLibrary, you just need a Westminster Library card.  If you are not a member already, don’t worry, its quick and easy to join and completely free.  Just click here.

Books we love

This week, Sabrina from Marylebone Library is here to tell us about The Other Boleyn Girl.  Set in the court of Henry VIII, the novel focuses on the relationship between the two sisters as they compete to become the next queen.  Over to Sabrina…

The Other Boleyn Girl, written by Philippa Gregory is a very enjoyable read charting the rise and fall of the two Boleyn sisters Mary and Anne.  In the beginning Anne is “the other Boleyn girl” and by the end of the book Mary is the “other Boleyn girl”  It’s a hefty book, covering themes such as power, ambition, love, religion and marriage to name but a few themes.

Although the book is long, sometimes unnecessarily long in places, there is an easy flow to the language and the story.  Philippa Gregory catches the details of court life so vividly you feel you are there enjoying the dances, the banquets and the opulence of court life. She also captures the fragility of being a woman in Tudor times, of being a pawn in the ambitions of your family and of not having independence.

The book, part true and part fiction is so intriguing it will make you stop to check the facts and characters and view images of the great houses.  That is what I enjoyed most about the book that it could bring history to life.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Sabrina, Marylebone Library

The Other Boleyn Girl is available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  You just need a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.

Books we love

This week, Monica from Paddington Library is reviewing The Bluest Eye in celebration of the 50 year anniversary of its publication. The Bluest Eye was the first novel written and published by African American author Toni Morrison, who passed away last August.  Her work has been widely acclaimed, earning her many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature.  Toni Morrison was a strong advocate for race equality and her work never shied away from showing the harsh realities of the impact of racism within American society.  Over to Monica…

This novel is about Pecola Breedlove a young, dark-skinned girl growing up in Lorain, Ohio, US, the same town where Morrison was born. Set in 1941 after the Great Depression, Pecola, who believes herself to be ugly, every night wishes for blue eyes in the hope that they will make her beautiful like the privileged white schoolchildren.

The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s outstanding debut, is about many things: self-worth; poverty; violence; finding joy where there should be none; beauty in its many forms; beauty being given and taken away. 50 years on, The Bluest Eye exposes the truth in the same way it did when it was first published.

Monica, Paddington Library 

All of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  You just need a Westminster library card and if you are not a member, don’t worry,  just click here – it’s completely free to join and use our resources.