Book Picnic: February 2024

Every month, GWL team members and volunteers share what we’ve read recently at our Book Picnic. Here’s what we’ve been reading recently:

Book cover with a woman in a purple dress and white cloak in the middle of green and purple foilage. Text reads 'The Maiden by Kate Foster', 'A masterpiece...a thrilling historical murder tale but so much more - Jamie Hallett'

The Maiden by Kate Foster

Pauline has been reading this historical novel about Lady Christian and her accusation of the murder of her lover James Forrester. Little is known about the actual events as they happened so this is a fictionalised account of her story. Pauline felt the novel was well written and others might enjoy it but it didn’t really suit her mood at the time. However, she did find it a fascinating story.

Red book cover depicting a hotel door hanger in the shape of a hotel. Text reads 'The Maid''Nita Prose''The Sunday Times Bestseller''You don't see her - but she sees you'

The Maid by Nita Prose

Pauline really enjoyed this book about Molly, a neurodivergent maid who one day finds a dead body in a hotel room. Molly loves her job because it is so ordered but does not read situations well. She is lonely because her grandmother has just died, but then finds herself accused of murder.

Voices from the Hills by Steve Chilton

A yellow book cover depicting a woman runner. Text reads 'Voices from the Hills''Steve Chilton''Pioneering women fell and mountain runners'

Gaby has been reading Voices from the Hills by Steve Chilton, a book she was eager to read as she is a hill runner herself. The book documents the women hill runners who were pioneers for the sport, running at a time when women were not taken seriously and often needed to start a minute later than the men as the organisers thought they would get in the way otherwise, and female winners were not recorded at all.

Gaby felt she would have liked more of the stories of the women rather than factual accounts of their activities, but she did think it provided a good documentation of what they achieved and was an important book. She thought it might be more suited to someone doing research on the topic rather than someone who was more interested in the women’s stories.

Book cover with a colourful floral drawing. Text reads 'Uprooting''Marchelle Farrell''From the Caribbean to the Countryside''Finding Home in and English Country Garden''Winner of the Nan Shepherd Prize'

Uprooting by Marchelle Farrell

Wendy recommended this book, which she has just started reading. The winner of the Nan Shepherd Prize, this is a novel about a woman who moves from Trinidad to an idyllic English village, and is a memoir about gardening and her experiences as the only Black woman in the village.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Book cover with a male and female figure looking at a castle in pink clouds. Text reads 'Diana Wynne Jones''Howl's Moving Castle'

Jordan recommended this popular book which has also been made into an animated film. It tells the story of a young woman, Sophie who works in a hat store but has decided not to do anything with her life as she thinks her sisters will do this, but not her. She gets a curse put on her and is turned into an old woman, and gradually begins to feel that now she doesn’t have much time left, she had better start living her life.

The Unwinding and other Dreamings by Jackie Morris

Book cover depicting a woman dressed in red sleeping next to a polar bear, with birds flying in the foreground. Text reads 'The Unwinding and other dreamings''Jackie Morris'

Aileen recommended this book by the illustrator of the Lost Words. She felt it was as much a work of art as a book, something to be kept by your bedside and read before you go to sleep, rather than something to be read from cover to cover. It depicts fantastical stories like fairy tales, of animals who befriend and protect women, stories to ease the soul. As Jackie says, “it is a book for dreamers”. Illustrated with Jackie’s exquisite watercolours, it is a book to savour and return to again and again.

Book cover with red flowers on a black background. Text reads 'Daphne du Maurier''Rebecca'

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Mary recommended this classic story of a young woman who marries an older man. After a whirlwind romance, she realises he is not the person she thought he was, and she has to deal with the lingering presence of his dead wife, Rebecca. Mary was struck by the horrible expectations placed on the young Mrs De Winter, the great plot and the fantastic writing. She thought it was a great read with a wonderful old house.

Blue book cover with repeated images of a woman in a white dress and playing cards. Text reads ' The Illusions''Liz Hyder''What if you had real magic within?'

The Illusions by Liz Hyder

Elaine recommended this novel about an illusionist in 1896 preparing for his final performance, a pioneering film-maker and a young woman who has secret gifts. Meanwhile his competitor tries to find out his plans…

Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior

Book cover with an illustration of a woman in a red jacket looking at a penguin in a snowy landscape. Text reads 'Away with the Penguins''Granny MCreedy's about to go on the adventure of a lifetime''Hazel Prior'

Elaine also recommended this novel about an 85 year old woman who lives with her housekeeper in a mansion by the sea, and doesn’t have any relatives that she knows about. She loves watching wildlife documentaries about penguins, and one day decides to go to Antarctica to see the penguins for herself. Veronica is quite a character, but her memory is not always as good as she thinks it is. She also discovers she has a grandson, and their new relationship unfolds throughout the novel.

Book cover with an image of an old-fashioned black telephone. Text reads 'Agatha Christie''The Murder of Roger Ackroyd'

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Amy recommended this famous and controversial Agatha Christie novel, that has a twist at the end of it, which is likely to appeal to fans of the Hercule Poirot books.

White book cover with illustrations of women's heads and various instruments and implements. Text reads 'Lady Killers''Deadly women throughout history''Tori Telfer''Ilustrations by Dame Darcy'

Lady Killers by Tori Telfer

Amy also recommended this non-fiction account of female serial killers throughout history – a subject which has not often been taken seriously or been much documented. Telfer shines a light on this neglected area of research and publication.

The Stone House by Yara Hawari

Blue book cover with a continuous line drawing connecting the outlines of three heads. Text reads 'The Stone House''Yara Hawari'

Ren recommended this novella by Palestinian writer Yara Hawari. The story is centred around three generations of a Palestinian family, the violence they experienced and the enduring power of memory and collective stories. Published by Hajar Press, an independent political publishing house run by and for people of colour, Ren also recommended taking a look at their website as they have some great books.

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