Wight Fair Writers & Artists Circle

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Browsing Chestnuts Corner

Chestnut’s Corner March 2015

March28

Melanie ArcherBy Melanie Archer

The Reading Chestnut

‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, but remember it is a sin to kill a mockingbird’

I first encountered Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as part of my English GCSE exam and because I was being made to read it, pick through it and analyse it, I admit I did not enjoy it and was not a fan, and at the time I had no passion for reading. But when I was 18 or 19 my best friend suggested that I read it again and I fell in love. Reading for pleasure gives a whole new dynamic to a book.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a story seen through the eyes of an 8 year old girl, Scout, and her brother Jem, where their father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man charged with the rape of a white girl, in the American deep south of the 1930s. Harper Lee explores and challenges the prejudice, irrational attitudes, violence and hypocrisy of adults through the innocent eyes of children.

There is however more to this tale than that of race, which is mirrored in Scout, Jem and their friend Dill’s mission to make their recluse neighbour Boo Radley come out of his house. Each time I read this book I take away something new from it, and I think every reader reads it differently, this has the ability to become personal to you; it is no longer one man’s fight for justice against the weight of history and prejudice, it is one man plus you.

Recently I was fortunate enough to see a production of To Kill a Mockingbird at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, and I felt such an emotional connection to the story that at the end when Atticus hugs his daughter, Scout, I had to take several breaths to calm myself as my heart was bursting out of my chest and my eye’s were filling up. Beautifully told and beautifully crafted with a talented cast who told it true to the words written by Harper Lee. Cleverly told as the cast read from their own, well thumbed copies of the book telling the story as if we were reading it to ourselves and watching the characters come to life before our very eyes. This is a play that I will never forget seeing. Several high school classes were in the audience of the production and I could not help but think how lucky they were to see this book come to life and be inspired to take away as much understanding as they could to help them and hopefully be successful in their studies and exams based on this book.

I have lost count of how many times I have read this and how many more times I will continue to read it, still as fresh and inspirational today as it was then, and a topic that is still relevant today, this is my favourite book of all time, and I urge you to discover or re-discover for yourselves.

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Chestnut’s Corner February 2015

February19

Melanie ArcherBy Melanie Archer

The Reading Chestnut

For this entry into Chestnut’s Corner I have selected something completely different to the last. Sidney Sheldon’s Tell me your dreams first published by Harper Collins in 1998.

I am proud to say I have a complete collection of works of fiction by this author and each one deserves its place. I have chosen to write about my favourite book of his, one I know intimately yet will always be happy to read again and again and still be shocked by the story being told and how it unfolds.

My best friend of 25 years and counting introduced me to Sidney Sheldon many years ago when I was reading as a means to escape from the depression I was suffering from at the time, and I was not let down by her recommendation. Sidney Sheldon creates a world which you can just sink into. A master story-teller and a genuine author that I defy you to be able to put down. If you’re looking for a mystery/thriller that actually works and lives up to expectations then look no further than Sidney Sheldon.

My favourite book of his is ‘Tell me your dreams’, also one of my best friends favourites. This is based on actual medical cases.

Ashley is aware of stalkers, has read about them, and heard about them but they don’t belong in her world. Yet she is sure someone is following her and begin to make their presence felt by disturbing her dreams and giving her a sense of overwhelming doom. Ashley has no idea who could be stalking her or why. Then a series of brutal murders are committed, three beautiful women suspected, one arrest and a very bizarre murder trial begins, using some ground-breaking defence. Saying that this is true-to-life would be an understatement considering it is based on actual events, yet as a huge fan of Sidney Sheldon’s work and having read all of them, each of his books and characters portray this quality. The words seem to have a life of their own, dancing to their own momentum, jumping off the page and into your subconscious. Easy to read yet not at the sacrifice of the complexity and details in the novel, the reader is swept along within the pages of the book and you just want to know what happens and how it turns out.

If you’ve not read any Sidney Sheldon before, or are new to crime/mystery/thriller fiction then Tell me your dreams is a good place to start. These books are in Chestnut’s Corner not only because of their authors story-telling prowess but because they have an attachment to my best friend and her unconditional love and support towards me through a difficult time.

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Chestnut’s Corner January 2015

January18

Melanie ArcherBy Melanie Archer

The Reading Chestnut

The Island, by Victoria Hislop. First published by Headline Review in 2005.

I first found the beauty of this book the day before I went into labour with my first son, Charlie in 2011. I borrowed it from my local library, started it that afternoon and the next morning I settled down to read it but couldn’t as I had gone into labour so I slipped it into my hospital bag. After having my son we were in hospital for six days after a difficult labour and a very large baby meant he was in intensive care for a couple of days and I too needed to recover, so I read it whilst on my hospital bed. However my memory of the book from that time is not clear, I recall it took me what felt like forever to finish it. So when my son was about a year old, I read it again and fell head over heels in love with it.

Its warmth, history and charm just ooze off the pages. Absorbing right from the first word it pulls you in and settles in your heart.

Alexis longs to know more about her family and her mother’s history, yet Sofia has never spoken of anything about her past, other than that she grew up in a small Cretian village. Alexis decides to go to Crete to learn more and meets Fontini, a friend of her mothers who promises to tell all. Alexis learns about her Great Grandmother and her daughters who lived a stones throw away from the tiny deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s leper colony (1903 – 1957). Alexis discovers a family history full of tragedy, war, passion and humanity, this is an engaging novel and one I think everyone should read. This has been described as holiday literature but it is so much more than that. Hislop beautifully deals with the stigma attached to leprosy in real terms, with thoughtfulness and tenderness, ultimately showing that love and life continues in all circumstances.

When I get asked what this book is about my one-word reply is generally ‘Leprosy.’ But this doesn’t even touch the surface of what it is about, The Island takes you deeper below the surface and explores leprosy in all its forms and to me symbolises that it is not all about physical disability and appearance but about the prejudice and leprosy of the mind and how this can be overcome.

I have read this book several times and I am confident that I shall do so several more. This novel and subsequent novels by Victoria Hislop have earned their place in Chestnut’s Corner and for my own personal attachment will never leave.

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Chestnut’s Corner, Introduction

January14

Melanie ArcherChestnut’s Corner, A selection from my bookshelf this month.

By Melanie Archer

The Reading Chestnut

My book collection used to be so much bigger than the offering it is now, but my expanding family and their ever growing need for space caused me to sacrifice some of its occupants, which was a painstaking task, however I ensured that my favourites and collections of authors remained.

However since then, it seems to be growing again and various other books have somehow sneaked their way home with me and found a place in Chestnut’s corner. I have also given sanctuary to books given to me by friends and family members. Some residents are currently out on loan and I am looking forward to their return. Sadly though I have borrowed books and had to return them when in reality they should in fact be sitting on the self anticipating the next time they will be read by me.

Each month I will select a book from Chestnut’s Corner either one in residence, one on loan or one that should be there but isn’t. My collection is by no means complete, and I am always looking to expand my reading repertoire and invite you to suggest any that you have enjoyed also by contributing to Chestnut’s Corner on the Wight Fair Writers and Artists Circle’s web page www.iowwritingcircle.co.uk

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