Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Hippopotamus at the Table

Anna Meryt is a member of Greenacre Writers Finish That Novel group. She has has published two collections of poetry, Dolly Mix: A Take Your Pick Poetry Collection poetry and Heartbroke described as a collection " inspire hope through experience and identification...Meryt does her motivation proud with titles like 'Hurling Bricks', 'A Shell Explodes' and 'Give Me A Break'." 

Anna has just published her memoir, A Hippopotamus at the Table, the story of a journey to a new life in Cape Town, South Africa in 1975.

Anna, with her husband and baby travelled to South Africa in 1975 at a time when apartheid was at its height. Their journey took them from a high rise apartment in Johannesburg, to a chicken farm and then a thousand miles across the Karoo to Cape Town. There they lived for over two years at a time of growing social unrest against the rigid strictures of the apartheid system. Her husband’s work as an actor took him touring from Cape Town to the townships and into major roles in innovative theatre. Anna's journey became a spiritual quest to make sense of the world in which she found herself, a world where black and white mingled but were kept apart.

The government of the time was clamping down, enforcing rigid censorship and the separation of people. It was the children of the townships who fermented the riots of 1976, rebelling against the oppressive rules of a hateful system. The murders of these children resulted in a huge outcry across the world. Censorship kept that largely hidden from many of the people who lived there.This is a story of a young family living in those times in South Africa.

The effects of apartheid crept up on them until two tragedies drove them to realise that continuing to live there had become untenable.

"Waiting at the reception desk to check in, I saw the toilet signs for the first time, in both Afrikaans and English – Blanke Dames (White Ladies), Nie Blanke Vrou (Non-White Females) … the first time I had to go, I stood outside, hesitating, feeling that by choosing one I was accepting their distinction."

You can see Anna being interviewed about the book via Arise News 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

GW Book Club

This month's book choice is:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (2014) by Karen Joy Fowler

Karen Joy Fowler is the award-winning author of three short story collections and six novels, including her bestselling 
The Jane Austen Book Club (2004). She is an American author of science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. Her work often centers on the nineteenth century, the lives of women, and alienation. Her latest novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a remarkable story of a seemingly ordinary American family, where behavioral science trumps love, where a chimp is a sister, and daughters are research subjects. Fowler serves up a heartrending tale of loss and despair with her signature wit and humor, challenging our definition of what it means to be family, what it means to be human, and what it means to be humane. From a family undone by ambition and grief, narrator Rosemary takes a surprise filled search for brother (Lowell) and sister (Fern) through a forgotten past that explores the mysterious workings of memory.

If you want to join in with the GW online book club email:

We read the book by July 9th and discuss it online or at the next Writers Meet-Up (Second Wednesday of alternate months) for anyone interested in writing.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015 Readings

Greenacre Book Club
Meral Mehmet:

It was great to be given a free ticket and my ‘one other’ also enjoyed the evening too.  The evening comprised of readings of sections from the books shortlisted for the Bailey’s prize.  All but Ann Tyler, who was unable to attend but had her friend Stanley Tucci, film star etc reading on her behalf, were there and read extracts. For my part, having been quite critical about the book we read – The Paying Guest – Sarah Waters read well and the voice of Frances was much more sympathetic than had come across on the page.

It is always exciting to put faces to the names of authors that most of us will have read and especially interesting to hear how they translate the voice of their characters and where they would put the accent on to a sentence etc which is more likely to give you a view of something you might not have picked up.  Both me and my friend were especially impressed with Ali Smith, someone we had both been meaning to read but not got round to – she was extremely effervescent and captivated the audience not just with her story but with her personality. The evening was chaired by and the individual authors were introduced by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty who added to the air of feminist strength, intelligence and humor. Kate Mosse was also there at the beginning.

It was great to be in a crowd so evidently there to celebrate women’s writing and to hear the authors’ responses to questions asked – some of which were a bit incoherent – and to hear how they cope with aspects of their craft.

As you will all know by now Ali Smith did indeed win and my friend and I are now determined to read her book.  As if the evening wasn’t enough, we were all given a freebie in the form of a linen bag with the 2015 Bailey’s Prize for fiction, a book mark with the same logo and a miniature bottle of the beverage. What’s not to like?

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015 - Part Two

GW was selected as one of the 12 book clubs who are shadowing the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015. Our book is The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters and these are the final book reviews.

What is very interesting about these reviews is the honesty. As writers as well as readers, we are used to using our critical eye when reading creative work. From the reviews we think it unlikely The Paying Guests will win the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Deborah Knight
Overall: I think Sarah Waters wrote this 'novel' with a TV screenplay in mind, not as a work of fiction. She has had a number of her novels televised and so the first 200 pages were all scene-setting. Very visual - well-written and well-researched, like she was dressing the stage, but no excitement or drama in the first third at all.
As a novel (or as a film, rather than a drawn-out TV drama): it needs a dramatic event early on, to draw the reader in. The claustrophobic decor (and neighbourhood) demands some blood or semen splashed around to give the reader an idea of the violence throbbing beneath the bourgeois surface. Likewise, with our introduction to her lesbian/Boho past life - we need to feel we are shunted from safe suburbia to unfamiliar surroundings, and getting out of it by the skin of our teeth ... breathless and a bit scared when we do so.
The lodgers: I didn't believe that such a middle-class family - forced, as they were, by financial demands to take in lodgers - would have been so easy-going with them. Let us be frank and say over-familiar - especially as it was the first time for both Frances and her mother. All sorts of constraints would have risen up, and readers would have appreciated those being eased away in order for the friendship between F and L to develop. Also, memories of the dead brothers should have been used to emotionally decorate the house, thus setting up a foil to Leonard - and, later, his horrible brother Douglas.  
The main characters: I thought Francis was a bore, her mother a little less so (given her upbringing, more generous in her heart) and Lilian just a flibbertigibbet. I couldn't be invested emotionally in either Frances or Lilian. Leonard and his brother were boring. The boy on trial was pitiful, his mother more so, but they all felt like characters in a TV costume drama, ultimately. 
DetailsGiven our author's complete lack of squeamishness vis-a-vis lady parts in sexual activity, not to mention her love of grimy kitchen detail, why did it it take till page 157 for a chamber pot to appear? And then only in a case of dire emergency? Truly, they were a normal part of household life, especially when there was only one lavvy, in the back yard. (The use of, and discreet emptying of, chamber pots - and where they were emptied - could make a PhD subject.) 
Also, did working-class hoodlums chew gum in 1922? It struck a wrong chord when I read it - and much was made of it, like an instruction for a film director (?) I have always understood it became a feature of tough-guy behaviour 'over here' during and after the 2nd World War (movies, GIs). I may be wrong, but Google today told me that the first chewing gum ('spoggy') factory opened in Britain in 1927. 
Summary: I usually give novels 50 pages before I decide, 'Ey up, it's not worth it.' So I wouldn't have finished this one if I hadn't committed to do so for the group.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Carol Sampson

I am nearly finished. Am finding the second half more interesting than the first half. It started well, then slowed down and is now picking up speed. What I am finding though is that although I think the characters are believable in their roles I'm not particularly engaging with any of them. I thought by this stage I would feel more empathy or care about the outcome but I'm not feeling that. If France's or Lily were to hang i wouldn't be too bothered - if you know what I mean! Sounds heartless but I just havent any feelings for them either way. Their characters had promise but have not developed sufficiently. Despite this I am still quite enjoying it

Greenacre Writers Book Club Anna Meryt
The book is about a young woman and her mother, fallen on hard times since the end of the Great War. They decide that the only way to survive is to take in lodgers – a young couple ‘from the clerk class’. Frances, after a long build up, begins an intense secretive lesbian affair with Lilian the wife, at a time when homosexuality was not recognised or understood. Day by day the situation deteriorates into further chaos. With a clever police inspector sniffing around like a bloodhound, the tension builds from funeral to coroner’s inquest.
The pace of the book is slow and methodical for the first half. You know something bad is going to happen in the end but getting to some action felt like a plod. The drama of the ‘killing’ took me by surprise. The post-war world they are living in is so hedged in, rule bound and predictable – perhaps to counter the unpredictability of the terrible war. But after the murder/accident it began to take on a thriller like intensity which I actually began to enjoy. I became completely hooked in then, and read to the end. Would the police find the killer?  
It was a good read eventually with its themes of class snobbery, gradual loss of integrity , guilt and the consequences of not being able to be who you are in a world changed irrevocably by the war, trying to recover its equilibrium.

Having just checked the 'Which is your favourite book on the shortlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015?' On Tuesday 2nd June at 4.30pm, this is how it looks:


Don't forget to vote. Have to rush now as some of us are going Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction Readings this evening at the Southbank Centre.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015

GW was selected as one of the 12 book clubs who will shadow the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015. Our book is The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

We met last week to discuss the book so far. Some members had finished the book and others were still reading it. 

Greenacre Writers Book Club Ruth Cohen
I've read nearlĂ˝ all Sarah's books, except Affinity, and really liked her as a writer. The complexity of relationships, good plotting and excellent research into historical detail and sense of place. But this particular book seems very one dimensional and although she gets the 1920s to some extent, I am getting a bit bored with this concentration on one relationship. The good point I can see is the way she looms at the role of women and sniggering men.
Hasnt really gripped me though it's an easy read.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Katie Alford
This book intrigued me owing to its period setting but unfortunately, for me, it seemed to come apart at the seams in this regard. The setting, with regards to technology, description of the environment and lifestyle all fitted the period well. However, the human element felt a few decades further on. The main character particularly felt too modern, her voice and attitudes felt more like a women of a period a few decades later. While she is meant to be modern for her age, I just feel this was taken too far and stretched beyond what even a modern woman of that period would have been. The characters and the environment just seemed at loggerheads with each other and failed to fuse into one single coherent element, which resulted in a jarring feel throughout.
I was disappointed that more wasn’t made of the association with the suffragettes, this would have been a great aspect to explore and would have given a greater understanding of the main character’s past and personality. I also feel that the main character lacked emotion with regards to her brothers lost in the war. I feel that a person in that situation who has been robbed of two members of her family and left with no income would be angry either at the government in whose service they had died and yet have clearly just left any dependants in poverty or anger at the those who had initiated the war. While she clearly showed regret in their passing, the emotions felt muted in the terms of what a person would feel should war rob them of relatives and their livelihood in one strike.
I found the start of the novel unnecessarily slow and didn’t really find it that absorbing. If not for the fact I had agreed to read it as part of the book club I would not have read past page 30.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Meral Mehmet
I agree with Katie about the incongruity, I love the introduction because it sets a scene, paints a picture, outside privvi, but should there also be an inside loo?
Terms of setting the scene, thought the layout would be fundamental, mega meaning to the plot but it doesn't. Loved the historical she seemed more a woman of the 50s - Brighton Rock, it reminded me of that.
Interesting bit with Frances as a sufferagette, could have made more of that.
When the relationship developed, it was tedious, it lacked passion, excitement, I didn't believe in the characters.
Having finished the book, Fingersmith was full of twists and turns, this one I was just relieved to finish. Redeemed itself, with the court scene, the little vignette, and I liked Lillian's family. But essentialy, didn't find realistic the two main characters feelings about what had happened. 
Not suffient twists and turns.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Rosie Canning
This is the first Sarah Waters novel that I've read. I enjoyed being taken back in time and had no problem with the intensity of the relationship. I found the descriptions of paying guests arriving and living in the house and all that brings with it, like the loss of privacy very lifelike. It is almost as if Waters takes the traditional Lady and Servant roles and turns them up-side down. Lillian is the more bohemian, Frances scrubs floors without shame. I didn't enjoy the suspense of the murder trial, though I enjoyed the plot (if that makes sense). I did feel the author rather let the reader down by the ending, I really wanted to know what would have happened had the outcome been different. This could possibly have been a book for which there were two endings.

Greenacre Writers Book Club Mumpuni Murniati - Murni

Is the novel is about a lesbian relationship goes wrong or a crime of passion?
London in 1922 seems to be an intriguing setting; high unemployment and shortages of supply. And yet, does it justify the circumstances in which Frances Gray and Lilian Barber meet? My knowledge about 1920’s is limited, for little do I know the significance of the period towards their blooming relationship; of course apart from the fact that women lovers is a taboo, albeit not illegal like homosexuals. And therefore what happens between them can occur in any period of time, although the humiliation and the discrimination they’d have gone through had they been found out would be much greater than a century later.
Towards the end I realise the more I know about Frances and Lilian the more the contrast shown in their behaviour in Part I compared to Part III. As I finish the last paragraph I still cannot make up my mind who Lilian and Frances actually are.
In conclusion, the novel appeals little to me with its attempt to surpass crime/romance/gender role genre at the same time.

The Prize has published The Brilliant Woman’s Guide To A Very Modern Book Club to help you make the most of your book club and celebrate all the ways that novels can bring people together. With features from brilliant women writers including Kate Mosse, Grace Dent, Joanna Trollope and Helen Dunmore, and reading notes to the 2015 Baileys Prize shortlisted books this guide is for anyone who loves a good book. You can download it here free.

Which is your favourite book on the shortlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015? The poll closes on 1 June and the reading group winner will be announced here and on social media. Please vote.

Join in with the conversation on Twitter with #ThisBookClub and #3WordReview of your favourite book written by a woman.

Twitter: @greenacrewriter

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tripwire and Mike Carey by Joel Meadows

"Tripwire’s association with Mike Carey goes back to 2003 when he was writing Hellblazer, the series featuring John Constantine, supernatural go-
between for DC Comics’ adult imprint Vertigo, which was turned into the TV series Constantine this year. We first interviewed Mike in 2003 but we have also chatted to him while he was writing his book series Felix Castor, The Unwritten and Lucifer. We even got Mike along to celebrate Tripwire’s 21st anniversary at an event that took place in Foyles in May 2013 and editor-in-chief Joel Meadows shared a stage with him at one of the Big Green Bookshop’s bookswap events in April of 2014. Tripwire has existed as a magazine since 1992, covering comics, film, TV and related media with a particular focus on British creators. We have watched Mike Carey grow from a raw talent to the accomplished writer he is today. We have always tried to support and promote his work in Tripwire, which is now a website with the same remit as the magazine: covering comics, film and related media with a focus on a more intelligent and irreverent approach to the material."

TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE is the magazine of genre culture, examining comics, film, music and so much more. It was created by Joel Meadows, as an incidental fanzine and evolved into an comprehensive window into the things people love and consume.

TRIPWIRE published over fifty issues of the magazine that covered comics, film, TV, novels and related media. Tripwire interviewed everyone from Stan Lee to Mike Mignola, Alan Moore to Joss Whedon. In 2013 they decided to wrap up the physical publishing programme and switch to online/ digital.

Joel will be attending the Mike Carey The Girl with all the Gifts event as FLF photographer/journalist.

Mike Carey has worked extensively in the field of comic books, completing long and critically acclaimed runs on Lucifer, Hellblazer and X-Men. His ongoing comic book series for DC Vertigo, The Unwritten, has featured repeatedly in the New York Times’ graphic novel bestseller list. His superhero series Suicide Risk, published by BOOM! Studios, has been nominated for two Harvey awards. He is also the writer of the Felix Castor novels, and (along with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise) of two fantasy novels, The City Of Silk and Steel and The House Of War and Witness, published in the UK by Victor Gollancz. He writes mainstream thrillers as Adam Blake, and as M.R.Carey is the author of the bestselling novel The Girl With All the Gifts.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015

GW has been selected to be one of the 12 book clubs who will shadow the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2015. We'll be joining in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @greenacrewriter and Google+.

We received a lovely box of goodies from Baileys and the book The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, should be arriving any day now. 

Below are the other book clubs and the books they'll be receiving. It should be a lively few weeks as the Prize has some exciting activities that we hope to join in with.

Catch us @GreenacreWriters and Baileys news via @ReadingAgency and the prize @BaileysPrize.

Bristol 24/7 Reads                        
Rachel Cusk Outline
Woodley library                            
Rachel Cusk Outline
Laline Paull The Bees
The Last Monday Book Club            
Laline Paull The Bees
Glos Lit Lovers & Yummy Scrummy  
Kamila Shamsie A God in Every Stone
Bee’s Bookshare                            
Kamila Shamsie A God in Every Stone
Wine Women and Words*                 
Ali Smith How to be Both
Ali Smith How to be Both
Much Ado About Books                  
Anne Tyler A Spool of Blue Thread
Books and Bubbles                        
Anne Tyler A Spool of Blue Thread
Greenacre Writers                          
Sarah Waters The Paying Guests
Telford Ladies                              
Sarah Waters The Paying Guests

*Another local group in Friern Barnet

Stop Press:
The books have arrived!