Rodins thinker reading Three Men in a Boat

Preserving our planet, the dark art of killing and the staycation

An eclectic mix of serious issues and comic observation in our May Book Club.

As we come out of lockdown, many people are taking the philosophical view and thinking deeply about their own experiences. This week’s choice of books saw us looking at the future of life on our planet and the effect our jobs can have on general wellbeing.

Betty kicked things off and took us to the Marcia Blaine academy in Edinburgh, the setting for Muriel Sparks 1961 novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brody. Miss Brody has an irreverent approach to teaching and prioritises a small group of her students she calls the “crème de la crème.”

We switch from life in 1930s Edinburgh to life on our whole planet with David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet. Sandria described David’s passionate wake-up call as he outlined his vision for a sustainable future. The book has an accompanying TV series, currently available via Netflix.

We looked at the dark aftermath of life in combat with Mathew Hall’s Black Art of Killing. As Maggie explained, the book is on the surface an intelligent Bond Style thriller, but also looks at post-traumatic stress suffered by those trained to kill. This led to a lively discussion as it was pointed out that for all who come out of army life emotionally scarred, there are those who put their training to good use by helping others.

Diane chose Engel’s England by Matthew Engel, in which the author travelled the UK to look at the quirks and differences in the counties of modern England. The book was published back in 2014, but it appears Matthew foresaw the rise of the staycation. As Diane says: “It’s a great book to use as a UK holiday guide or find the hidden truth about your own county.”

Ann rounded things off with a look back at a true classic. Three Men in A Boat by Jerome K Jerome, a comic tale about three men er… mucking about in a boat, continues to be popular and as Ann explained: “It’s a story about people.” As we know, people never go out of fashion, despite the efforts of Covid.

The Book Club always manages to entertain and inform. This month we had a lively philosophical look at the importance of people and the planet. Our conclusion: It’s important to understand what other people are going through and above all, to be open and talk about it.

The books discussed were:

Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Jean Brodie


The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Penguin Books)

Published in 1961, this is the story of an unconventional teacher in a starchy Scottish school during the 1930s.

David Attenborough - Our Planet


A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough (Ebury Press)

An impassioned plea to save our planet. David outlines his vision for the future in this thought-provoking book and accompanying Netflix series.

Black Art of Killing - Matthew Hall


The Black Art of Killing – by Matthew Hall (Michael Joseph)

An intelligent Bond style thriller – published in 2020, written by the prolific, award-winning screenwriter.

Engels England - Matthew Engel


Engel’s England by Matthew Engel (Profile Books)

One man and thirty-nine counties. Is this the ultimate staycation guide? A wryly comic commentary on today’s England.

Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K Jerome


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (Macmillan Collector’s Library)

A comic masterpiece from 1889 that has never been out of print. Three bungling Victorian men and their dog go on a journey up the River Thames, from Kingston to Oxford.

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And the Winner Is…

Ann was this month’s winner of a £10 Book Token. Her evocative description of Three Men in a Boat made everyone want to read the book.
Join us for the next Digital Book Club on June 16th when we have an appearance by another guest author.

Future Book club dates

The New Dates for your diary are:

  • Wednesday 16th June
  • Wednesday 21st July
  • Wednesday 18th August

If you want to take part in any of our future Digital Book Clubs, please email john.coleman@actionforelders.org.uk

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