Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next.
Happy Wednesday! I hope you’re all having a good week. I’m going to Vegas (I’ll actually be there by the time this publishes), for my mum’s 60th birthday so it should be a good, if not crazy week for me!
Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading…
Veronica’s Bird ~ Veronica Bird & Richard Newman
Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.
A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.
He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.
Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.
Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.
After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.
Through a series of interviews with Richard Newman —author of the bestselling A Nun’s Story— Veronica’s Bird reveals a deeply poignant story of eventual triumph, is filled with humour and compassion for those inside and will fascinate anyone interested in unique true life stories, social affairs and the prison system.
I’m enjoying this so far, but looking forward to getting to the parts about Venronica’s time in prisons. So far it’s been all about her childhood. But it’s interesting.
Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha
A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard.
Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…
Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.
This really wasn’t for me. My slightly scathing review went up on Monday.
The Word for Woman is Wilderness ~ Abi Andrews
Erin is 19. She’s never really left England, but she has watched Bear Grylls and wonders why it’s always men who get to go on all the cool wilderness adventures. So Erin sets off on a voyage into the Alaskan wilderness, a one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer.
As Erin’s journey takes her through the Arctic Circle, across the entire breadth of the American continent and finally to a lonely cabin in the wilds of Denali, she explores subjects as diverse as the moon landings, the Gaia hypothesis, loneliness, nuclear war, shamanism and the pill.
Filled with a sense of wonder for the natural world and a fierce love for preserving it, The Word for Woman is Wilderness is a funny, frank and tender account of a young woman in uncharted territory.
Although this is a novel, I’m hoping it will be what I hoped Flat Broke would be. Fingers crossed!
What have you been reading this week? Leave a comment/link and I’ll do my best to take a look 🙂