Group report

This is an article published in the Winter 2017 edition of the Hayling Island U3A newsletter...

We are now nearly 2 years old and so you can work out how many books we have made our way through!

Just in the way these things happen, over the past year our booklist has in a rather serendipitous way focussed on books about women (or maybe it was just because this was what the library had available for us! )

We followed the career of the actress Judi Dench, now known as a ‘National Treasure’. Then we read Poisonwood Bible by B Kingsolver, the fictitious yet harrowing trials and tribulations of the wife and daughters of an evangelical Baptist missionary from the USA in the Belgian Congo during the civil uprisings of 1959. This was followed by Singled Out by V Nicholson, which followed the lives of several women who had no option but to remain single after the loss of their menfolk in the First World War. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparke was a novel on a similar theme. Some of you may have seen Maggie Smith’s wonderful portrayal of her in the movie.

Still looking at books about women, Too Many Mothers by the actress Roberta Taylor was about early life in a big East End extended family headed by a wonderful matriarch of a grandmother. Then we had Still Alice by Lisa Genova, this was about Alice’s gradual and gruelling decline into Alzheimer's disease. Good Wives? was another of the books about how women manage to adapt to their circumstances. Margaret Forster took as her premise the ‘to obey’ that women, but not men, used to have to promise in the marriage ceremony. She contrasted the very different experiences of Mary Livingstone, wife of David, Fanny Stevenson, wife of Robert Louis, and Jenny Lee, wife of Aneurin Bevan with her own opinions about 'obeying' and an account of her own marriage to Hunter Davies.

One more, the Taming of the Queen, by Philippa Gregory is the story of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry V111. A very interesting book about the plots and intrigue in the court as 'Kateryn' strives to survive and keep her head whilst others around her are losing theirs.

I can’t finish though without mentioning Ruby Wax's Sane New World and her journey in her metamorphose from comedienne and actress to therapist and lecturer on Mindfulness. Maybe all of these books could be looked at through Ms Wax’s mindfulness filter, but I think not!

Of course we have actually managed to read books on other topics, my all-time favourite is the wonderful word pictures in A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines. I guess the group members would all be able to name their favourites. I do thank them for their contributions to the list, for the richness and variety that I have enjoyed despite or even because of the pre-eminence of women in our reading. I thank the group too for their understanding that it is not always possible to include individual’s choices as we are dependent on the availability of the books from Hampshire Library Services.

Finally, this month we are reading about Mr Selfridge, the story of how he founded his shop in Oxford Street, so maybe that is signs of things to come...

Pat Bailey

Go to the Reading B group page