My first visit to the Resplendent Readers was in December. I
awaited the handout of the book with a mixture of apprehension and pleasure.
The former because I had not read anything not of my choosing since A Level set
text. Although I feel I have an eclectic taste in reading matter, I was looking forward to being challenged out of my comfort zone. The books were duly handed out and I instantly felt the book
might prove promising. The book’s title Book of Fires [By Jane Borodale] its cover design and synopsis immediately hooked me in. I was not disappointed.
The book is historical fiction, but it is also one of social history. The tale and its characters are placed in the 18c and it is interwoven with the social mores of its time constantly comparing rural and city life. This is brought vividly to life by the main character Agnes Trussel. We follow her journey from an impoverished yet relatively happy rural life to an uncertain future in the city of London.
I loved the way the author portrays Agnes as a girl who unwittingly finds herself pregnant
and naively thinks the best way forward is to leave for London, as staying would bring shame and financial hardship on her already hard pressed family. We the reader then set off on this journey with Agnes with all its inherent dangers and its fortunes. By chance she finds herself employed by a
maker of fireworks and her life changes forever. Her employer Mr. Blacklock is an enigma
and an elusive character, with an innate sense of sadness. The other characters, mainly those placed in the City of London and Mr Blacklock’s household, show the reader the reality of life and the social mores of 18c everyday living. Through the very good quality of the authors prose I could see, smell, feel and touch the contrast between life in the city and that of the countryside.
Although surprised by Mr.Blacklock’s demise I thought the ending of the book a little clichéd and predictable. I wanted to know more about how Agnes fares and whether she succeeds with her new found luck and responsibilities.
Prior to reading this book, I had no previous knowledge of the art of pyrotechnics or its origins. Firework displays will be all the more enjoyable for it. I have tried not to reveal too much of the plot in my review as I would recommend this book as a good read for anyone with an interest in historical fiction or fireworks!
4 cracking crafters braved the cold and impending snow to meet and craft! Much discussion was had about our Velindre Project and we will keep you posted!
Book of Fires was well received by all the reading group and a book review will appear here soon. We had a joint meeting with the bakers and enjoyed the efforts to bake in a Chinese style - spring rolls filled with fruit, bakery buns, spicy chicken and a pudding made sure we had every base covered from a country that until recently rarely had ovens in domestic kitchens!
We decided that we would join up again next month, on February 14th (unless we all get better offers!!) and would bake along the theme of Jerusalem, and would review "Whit" by Ian Banks.
We welcome new members from our WI, so come along to the next meeting
Christmas spirit came to the sub groups this week as we joined all 3 sub groups together for a packed evening of fun! The bakers brought along goods cooked using spices, the readers reviewed Lyric Alley and the crafters continued to craft away at their own projects, and help teach new skills to the group - Well Done to Janine for learning to knit and purl!
In January, Bakers and Readers will meet together on 10th January, Bakers will be cooking a "Chinese" themed item, and readers will be reviewing "Book of Fires". Crafters will meet as usual on the 17th and as there are 5 Thursdays there will be a special event sub group meeting...see our Events page for more details!
Have a very happy Christmas!
A Woman in Berlin - Reviewed by Janine.
When Becki sent us the name of the first book we’d be reading at
Resplendent Readers, I was very surprised – “A Woman in Berlin” by an anonymous
author. Having spent the first 21 years of my life in Berlin, I was very excited
that we’d be starting with a book that sounded like I’d most certainly be able
to relate to. So off I went on the internet to find out more about it. That
wasn’t difficult as the book is highly acclaimed and a favourite with book
groups all over the world. This first search left me feeling slightly
embarrassed about the fact I’d never heard of the book before. Ooh oh, I
thought as I read the synopsis, a book about the last days of WW2 in Berlin as
experienced by a young woman my age. .. Gulp! A few years ago I had picked up
“Alone in Berlin” by Hans Fallada, a novel based on a true story set in 1940 in
Nazi-ruled Berlin. It is one of the very few books I never managed to finish. I
found it so threatening, dark and truly sickening that I never made it more
than 50 pages or so into the book.
So here I was, torn between delight that “A Woman in Berlin”would
probably be a book I could relate to and the dread that I might actually find it
an upsetting and wholly unenjoyable read.
Well, I shouldn’t have worried. The events that unfolded as I
made my way through the diary entries of this young woman are truly shocking.
Yet the pragmatism and sheer stoicism with which the author faces and records
them left me able to read and digest them without ever feeling that I simply
did not want to know what happens next. The author is such an able and
practical young woman that I never once doubted she would get through these
dark days, hanging between the dark days of Nazi rule and the chaotic and
violent occupation of Berlin by the Russian Army. So as I read about rape,
violence, suicide and hunger I found myself willing her on, telling her that
she was making the right choices (and choices she did make!) and not to give up
like so many others around her.
This book was first published anonymously in America in 1954,
after a friend of the author convinced her that it was a valuable piece of
history that the world needed to read. It wasn’t until five years later that she
reluctantly agreed to a German publication. The reaction of the German public to
the first publication of this book was outrage and disgust, and it was soon
taken out of print. My guess is that even 15 years after the end of the war, the
German people were not able to face up to and publicly admit to‘the shame’ that
was brought onto so many of their women in these few weeks. Reading about one
brave young woman, who so matter-of-factly dealt with her fate and refused to be
a victim of the events happening to her, probably humiliated readers. The fact
that men are portrayed in her diary as either absent or impotent to stop the
rapes and violence, could not have made this a comfortable read for many
post-war Germans either. My guess is that for exactly these same reasons I have
no idea how my female relatives living in Berlin at the time got through the
last days of the war – it was a subject that was never discussed in our family.
It may simply have been easier to focus on and live with the guilt that a decade
of Nazi rule had bestowed on the German people than face up to the fact that so
many came out of the war and the subsequent occupation victims
But times move on, and it seems Germany is finally ready to face
this chapter in its turbulent history. After the death of the author (her
identity was controversially revealed when she died) the book was republished
and became a best seller immediately. And it is easy to see why – A
Woman in Berlin is a shocking yet very readable contemporary account of a
rarely reported on period in modern history. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is interested in
observing history from a different angle.
Several ladies joined us this evening to work on thier own craft projects. Crochet, Knitting, Sewing, and several other crafts were worked on, tips shared and fun had by all!
We are now looking at starting a group craft project for Velindre so come along and jo
A Woman in Berlin. Despite only 4 members of our book group being able to make the meeting, a lively & thought provoking discussion was had about this book. One member had been brought up in Berlin and would have had relatives there during this term so was able to provide insight into the geography of the book. We will be posting a full bookk review shortly.
Next month, we will be joining the Brilliant Bakers and Cracking Crafters on 6th December, when we will discuss our current book "Lyric Alley". Hope to see you then.
Another excellent spread from the Brilliant Bakers, whose featured ingredient this month was pumpkin. Pumpkin cakes of various shapes and sizes were tried and tested by the members who attended. Special mention goes to Diana, for the most ingenious method of cooling a cake before icing it - her hairdryer!
We are keen to get new members coming along to bake - next month, bake something that contains "Christmas" spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg etc...) and bring it along for a joint sub-group meeting with the Resplendent Readers and Cracking Crafters on December 6th, 7:30pm Conservative Club.
All our r
Knitting, sewing, card craft, rag rug making and a mini crochet lesson saw the start of our craft sub group. Everyone enjoyed the informal making session this week and are keen to continue with both our own projects and begin a group project of making soft furnishings for Velindre, the local hospital that specialises in cancer care.
Any members wishing to join us, come along & bring whatever project you are working on - or indeed would like to learn & we will try to help you along!
Last night, braving the elements, 7 members of Birchgrove WI joined together in the lounge of the local Conservative Club to begin our very own book club.
After some introductions, a discussion was had about the group and it was decided we would like to be fairly informal with some relaxed discussion about the book we read collectively and some recommendations of other books we have read and enjoyed.
Our first book is "A Woman In Berlin", by an anonymous author and chroniclling the life of a woman living through the Russian occupation of Berlin in 1945. Her diary has only recently been published into English and has just been made into a film.
The books were supplied through an awesome free service from Cardiff Libraries, which has a vast array of titles available in sets to book clubs around the city, some with discussion notes ready prepared!
We meet on the 8th November to discuss the book and begun our next text! Come along and join us