Recommended Reads

This week, our Book of the Week is The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste. Set during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia, The Shadow King is an exhilarating tale of a band of female fighters refusing to submit to European colonisation. If you’ve already been wowed by Mengiste’s novel, we’ve selected some empowering reads for you to enjoy.

Continue reading “Recommended Reads”

Recommended Reads

Our Book of the Week is The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This novel deals with the themes of feminism and dystopia, so we have put together a list of similar titles we hope you will enjoy.

 

the testaments book cover

The Testaments

The much-celebrated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments is a fascinating story of resistance in a totalitarian regime. The novel is written as multiple split narratives, each tale intertwining gradually to form a bigger picture of widespread opposition and defiance. The Testaments is a must-read for any dystopian fans, and for anybody desperate to know the future of those living under The Republic of Gilead.

the water cure cover

The Water Cure

Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel takes toxic masculinity literally, imagining a world where men are physically poisonous. The novel is written like a fable, detailing the lives of a family who have chosen to live on an island to escape the threat posed by men. The father of the family, called King by his wife and daughters, claims to be the exception to the rule. But when three male castaways wash up on their shores, the family’s world is changed forever. How can the daughters reconcile their growing feelings for the men with what they have always believed?

women talking cover

Women Talking

Toews’ novel follows a group of women in an isolated religious colony, struggling with reconciling the rules of their faith with the continuous sexual assault they experience at the hands of the colony’s male inhabitants. Based on the accounts of a real Mennonite colony in Bolivia, Toews interrogates male supremacy in a heart-wrenching account which places the lives of real women at its heart.

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Pet

Although originally written for young adults, Emezi’s Pet has been acclaimed for its deep symbolism and understanding of ignorance. Jam has grown up believing that no monsters exist in the city of Lucille. But when she meets Pet, a creature who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and tells her they have come to hunt a monster, Jam must challenge the authority and uncover the truth.

All of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is 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.

Recommended Reads

Our Book of the Week is Chan Ho-Kei’s Second Sister. This novel deals with the themes of crime, family, and investigation, so we have put together a list of similar titles we hope you will enjoy.

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11 Missed Calls, by Elisabeth Carpenter

If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers and suspense, this book is perfect for you. Past and present are woven together in Anna’s desperate search for answers. What happened to her mother 30 years ago? And, on the discovery of another woman’s love letter in her husband’s wallet, is there anyone left she can trust?

dead man's folly book cover

Dead Man’s Folly, by Agatha Christie

A classic crime favourite, Dead Man’s Folly is a detective story featuring one of Christie’s best-loved detectives, Hercule Poirot. Summoned to Devonshire to investigate the details of a Murder Mystery Party, Poirot begins to realise not all is as it seems as a real murder plot emerges amongst the summer festivities.

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Cat Spitting Mad, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

If you’re looking for a more modern read, try Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Cat Spitting Mad, a humorous take on the crime genre narrated by felines. Joe Grey and Ducie are two former housecats turned detectives in their bid to absolve an old friend from a gruesome murder. Will they prove successful?

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Splinter, by Sebastian Fitzek

Our last recommendation is Sebastian Fitzek’s Splinter, a chilling tale of memory loss and illegal experimentation. Wrecked with grief after the death of his wife, Marc wants nothing more than to forget everything. When Marc returns home one day to find his wife still alive, he is plunged into a nightmare unable to recognise reality from fiction. But is there a deeper conspiracy at work?

All of these books are available to download from our cloudLibrary here.  All you need is 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

Join us every Sunday for our new series, Books We Love.  We will be sharing staff reviews of all the great books they have been catching up with lately.  This week This week Andrea from Maida Vale Library reviews Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.


This is a late Nineteenth Century novel set in the rural west country or Hardy’s fictional ‘Wessex’. It is now considered one of Hardy’s (and literature’s) major masterpieces, although it was seen as shocking by the standards of late Victorian England.

Tess Durbeyfield is a young girl from a poor uneducated family, whose father finds out from the local parson that they may be related to the noble D’Urberville family. Her father insists that Tess seek out the D’Urberville family to claim kinship; a fateful decision which leads to a series of tragic events.

Thomas Hardy by Downey/Getty Images

Hardy’s pessimistic and fatalistic outlook on life inevitably leads to tragedy. Hardy was ahead of his time in his sympathetic treatment of women, calling Tess a ‘pure woman’ in the sub-title, and he condemns the double-standards of the day.  This powerful novel has great characters and lovely descriptions of rural scenery. I particularly like this book as I am familiar with its locations such as the cottage envisaged as Tess’s, which brings it  to life for me.

Woolbridge Manor, Wool, Dorset. The Wellbridge House of the novel.

I would recommend this book and it is available to borrow as an e-book.  Click here to download your copy.  You just need your library membership number and don’t worry if you’re not a member, you can join our library service here.  Its free to join and free to dowload.

Maggie Arrives at Mayfair Library

Maggie Arrives, by Yara EvansOn Wednesday 8 March, author Yara Evans visited Mayfair Library to read from her book, Maggie Arrives, which is based on the antics of real-life foxes that have visited Yara’s back garden for several years now.

‘Maggie Arrives’ is the first in a series of stories entitled ‘The Adventures of an Urban Fox’.

Yara Evans at Mayfair Library, March 2017Around 30 children and adults came along to Mayfair Children’s Library to hear Maggie’s story and to learn about the beauty of wild foxes.  They received photos of Maggie as well as fox-themed stickers and pencils.

The afternoon was both entertaining and educational and enjoyed by all!

[Rachel]

Cousins in Mayfair

Cousins by Salley VickersMayfair Library Reading Group met yesterday to discuss Cousins by Salley Vickers.

May 1994: Will Tye, a student at Cambridge, falls from the tower of King’s College. This event is the starting point for a story running through three generations of the Tye family, told from the view point of three different women: Will’s sister Hetta, grandmother Betsy and his aunt Bell. The group felt that this device was sometimes confusing, they weren’t always sure who was speaking.

All agreed that the ending (which we won’t give away!) was the best part of the book, when the story really picked up. They saw it as interesting rather than shocking or surprising.

Salley Vickers is probably best known for her first novel, published in 2000, Miss Garnet’s Angel. You can find her other books, including Cousins, in Westminster Libraries.

Miss Garnet's Angel by Salley Vickers  The Boy who could see Death by Salley Vickers  The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The group meets at the end of March to discuss their next book, Cartes Postales from Greece by Victoria Hislop. Come and join in!

[Debra]

A Blue Plaque for a Marylebone Punk Rocker

Marylebone is not lacking in blue plaques recording the former residences of the great – and not-so-great – local residents. Several examples have been the subject of previous blog posts. The official plaques were erected formally first by the London County Council / Greater London Council and are currently administered by English Heritage.

Blue plaque for Joe Strummer

English Heritage’s selection criteria include a minimum time frame of 22 years between the subject’s death and an erection of a commemorative plaque. December 2016 saw an unofficial blue plaque erected to Joe Strummer of influential punk band The Clash. Strummer died in 2002 and thus fails the formal selection criteria. Nonetheless, a ceremony was held at the Seymour Housing Co-op building (33 Daventry Street NW1, between Lisson Grove and Edgware Road). In nearby Bell Street, Malcolm McLaren and two of the Sex Pistols were also residents in this period. This is the second public commemoration to Joe Strummer in the area. The pedestrian subway linking the two halves of Edgware Road, bisected by Harrow Road, is named the Joe Strummer Subway. Fittingly above this junction and subway soars the elevated Westway, an major inspiration for the band.

Joe Strummer's entry in the ODNBJoe Strummer has also made it into the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log in with your library card). Other resources one can use for research into his life and the band’s significance in music history are the several newspaper and magazine archives which can also be accessed free online with a Westminster Libraries membership. Those readers who were around in the late 1970s will remember the moral panic that bands such as The Clash and the Sex Pistols generated and this is reflected in many newspaper articles. I found an interesting slant upon the punk rock phenomenon in an Economist article entitled More money than music in nihilism, (June 11, 1977, page 22).

Away from these contemporary reports Westminster Libraries hold a number of books relating to The Clash and the punk rock phenomenon:

Punk rock so what?by Roger SabinRedemption song: the definitive biography of Joe Strummer by Chris SalewiczJoe Strummer and the legend of the Clash by Kris Needs

[Francis]

Art Book of the Month, February 2017

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant
Hamish Hamilton, 1986
(First published by Secker & Warburg Ltd, 1929)

Stephen Tennant, “the brightest” of “The Bright Young People”, was twenty-three years old when Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook was first published.  The notebook tells the story of the Rev Felix Littlejohn and his quest to convert the heathens to the light and in the process is exposed to all sorts of outrageous, horrifying and hilarious behaviour by natives, sailors and other characters.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

It is in some ways a book ahead of its time, as the story is told in graphic novel format with drawings by the author who was also an artist as well as a socialite and a quintessential English eccentric.

from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant   from: Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s life is as interesting as any book if not more so.  The son of British nobility, as a young man he is supposed to have ‘resembled the youthful Shelley’ and was the inspiration for Cedric in Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate. Stephen’s friends ranged from Virginia Woolf to David Hockney and his surrealist poses are a frequent feature in Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the 1920s and 1930s.

Dedication in Leaves from a Missionary’s Notebook by Stephen Tennant

Stephen’s niece was British novelist and editor, the Hon. Emma Tennant who sadly died last month.

[Rossella]