Archive for July, 2013


In the ‘end-of-term’ tradition of doing something different, we abandoned our usual format of discussing one book at our July meeting. Instead, everyone shared some nibbles and a ‘Bedside Table Book’ (categories, Gathering Dust, Couldn’t Put Down or Secret indulgence – thanks to Mslexia Magazine for the idea!). Here are some of those book choices.

Paula brought ‘Mothers and Sons’ by Colm Toibin, ‘as a book that is ‘gathering dust’ on my bedside table. This is despite great reviews quoted on the cover and the author’s undoubtedly deserved reputation as a great writer. The reason why I can’t get past the first story is, I think, because I just can’t get in to short stories in general. I can’t help feeling guilty about this so, when (in order to send you this email) I found a Guardian review from 2006 that concluded ‘There are some excellent stories in Mothers and Sons and moments of lovely concision and insight, but Tóibín at times seems uncomfortable within the confines of the shorter form, unsure how to use limitations as strengths. He is a subtle, intelligent and deeply felt writer, and it may simply be that the larger canvas suits him best’ (’, I felt just a little bit better……’

Jill’s choice was The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. ‘I also enjoyed the chat we had on another choice, Alice in Wonderland. My favourite nibble was chilli and lime chocolate, which I brought from my shop’.
(NB Jill’s shop is the excellent Market Shop & Sallyport Gallery in Bridge Street, just along from The Barrels Alehouse where we meet.)

Rose chose ‘a long favourite of mine-The Famished Land by Elizabeth Byrd. Ireland in the 1840’s is a rural lifestyle until the potato blight turns it into a nightmare and brings famine 2 all;In Ballyferna the McFlaherty family must cope with family,fever,passions,hunger and the threat of eviction
seen thro the eyes of the eldest daughter Moira. The book does not stint from the effect of the famine from the useless distribution of corn to the starving to the endless worthless road build projects for the poor. This
event’s effect on irish history provoked the big migration of this populace 2 the USA and is felt today by its descendants.
On the opposite end my major book dislike is THE LORD OF THE RINGS/TOLKEIN-highly inventive but could not finish it nor understand it!’

Martin and Ann couldn’t attend the meeting, but Martin emailed to let us know the books currently on their bedside tables. ‘I usually have several books at my bedside, ones that help me to sleep. The best is titled simply “Oxygen” by Nick Lane, which is an attempt to show the influence of this essential element on the development and maintenance of life, often in unexpected and horribly complicated ways. Each chapter takes several re-readings to grasp the significance. One of the most surprising revelations is how primordial life, in conjunction with the use of oxygen, is responsible for not only the oil, coal and gas we depend upon but also many of the other elements we need such as iron, copper, gold, diamonds etc. Their ores were somehow concentrated by lifeforms into the beds we exploit. This is my provisional assessment as I’m busy re-reading this chapter to see if my understanding of the mechanisms is correct. For lighter relief Sue Townsend is warming me with the “Woman who went to bed for a year”. Ann is catching up with our Ann Cleeves collection and is trawling the Shetlands with Jimmy Perez in “White Nights”.

So, plenty of recommendations for summer sunshine reading until we meet up again in September.


About the book group

The Berwick Book Group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the First Class Passenger Lounge on the platform of Berwick Train Station at 6.30pm.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit

July 2013
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