Monday, 14th December 2020
Well it’s been an interesting year to say the least. As we head towards the end of term and finally being able to say goodbye (and good riddance!) to 2020. it may be worthwhile reminding ourselves that there have been some positives that have emerged from being forced to rethink the way we work. We still very much miss seeing our students every day and not being able to offer them many of our services, but we have greatly increased our online presence within the College, establishing a supportive educational tool for staff and students.
The creation of this blog has most definitely been a positive. It was an idea from our Marketing department to make sure the LRC wasn’t forgotten about when we had to close our doors. But it’s very much been the focus each week for the LRC team. We still spend a great deal of time working remotely at home or onsite either alone or with just one other colleague. (I have seen one of my line managers once in person since March). Working collaboratively on something creative with a weekly publication date to view the finished result has been such a delight for us all.
The LRC Best of 2020
At the moment, there seems to be Best of… lists for books in about every newspaper and magazine. So, the LRC staff thought we’d give you our own suggestions of what we think have been the best books we’ve read this year.
Sarah – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Reading this book made me feel better in what has been a very strange year. The narration is oddly charming and the search to find love by a socially challenged genetics professor, unusual, funny, and moving.
Sian – This Is Going To Hurt By Adam Kay
Kay shares his experiences as an NHS Doctor over six years. It is written in the form of a diary, which I liked. I enjoyed it because it made me laugh so much. It is very ironic that I read this book in the year 2020. The year that we all stood on our doorsteps to clap for the NHS. The year that we all stayed at home to keep NHS workers safe. The year that will go down in history as the year of Covid-19. An amazing read.
Glenn – Not sure if it counts for the best of 2020, but I really enjoyed reading this webpage Best Dystopian Books (Vulture.com). It encouraged me to get hold of several books on this list; one example would be, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I’ve been meaning to read this book for years and really enjoyed the recent TV series adaptation.
Beth-Anna – Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
A story about two sisters who don’t find out about each other until their father dies in a plane crash. Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic, and only sees her Papi when he visits during the summer. Yahaira Rios lives in New York and sees Papi year-round. When his plane to the Dominican Republic crashes, his double life is revealed. Whilst mourning the loss of their father, the sisters must adjust to a new reality – one of family secrets and unexpected sisterhood. This is a brilliant, emotional novel written in free verse.
Angela – The Spy who Came in from the Cold by John le Carre
This is not exactly a new book and was in fact published at the height of the Cold War in 1963. I’d never read any le Carre books before, so thought I’d start with this classic. This story of espionage and intrigue really kept me gripped right until the final pages, with its conclusion in no man’s land at the Berlin Wall.
Deb – The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This book has been described as an epic Irish tale – and although I’m normally put off by such descriptions – I decided that this year I would give this book a read and I’m so glad I did. This book is so beautifully written – although there are some heart-breaking moments there is humour too and I still think of the characters of Cyril and Catherine months later.
Alison – The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
No surprises here as I seem to have told anyone and everyone who’ll listen that this is the best book I’ve read this year. I love a mystery story and found this one set aboard a 17th century ship sailing from the East Indies a wonderful blend of history, murder and mayhem, with some very memorable characters.
Between the Covers
And if these books don’t whet your appetite, then another source for good reads is the BBC2 series hosted by Sara Cox, Between the Covers. Over the course of seven weeks, Sara brought in a panel of socially distanced celebs to talk about their own favourite books (see the list of favourites here) as well as their thoughts on a named book each week – the idea being that viewers had the opportunity to also read the book themselves before the series aired. There had been a lot of advanced publicity about the books selected so everyone was given the opportunity to join in with this national book club. The books ranged from Steve Cavanagh’s courtroom thriller Fifty Fifty to Clare Chambers’ 1950s set Small Pleasures to Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library via the high seas of Stuart Turton’s The Devil and the Dark Water.
The panel of guests varied each week. Each guest was asked to bring with them not only their favourite book but also the names of other books that satisfied a wide range of questions. For example, what book would you bring to a first date? As you can imagine, over the course of the series an extremely eclectic and diverse collection of recommended books emerged.
The series is still available to view via iPlayer and if you love to see people chatting about books, you may find it quite entertaining – and also the reason your 2021 #tbr pile suddenly grows upwards!
Days of Christmas Quiz
4 Calling Birds down to A Partridge in a Pear Tree
And the final few rounds of the LRC team’s Christmas Countdown Quiz are here.
Four Calling Birds
Q. Name the following call/calling related questions:
Three French Hens
Q. Name the following books which all have 3 in the title:
Two Turtle Doves
Q. Name the following authors that are known by their first two initials by a character from their books
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree
Q. Pear or tree related questions
Q. And can you guess what the books in this photo are referring to?
Cheese Straws – a recipe
A couple of weeks ago, one of our Catering tutors very kindly supplied a recipe for a luxurious fruit cake as a basis for a Christmas Cake. This week, she has sent us another – this time for a quick treat over the festive period.
Jane Austen Day 16th December
It’s the birthday of one of our most beloved and famous writers, Jane Austen. She would be a sprightly 245 years old. Beth-Anna has turned her Spotlight on..to the life and work of Miss Austen and has expanded on that for this rather marvellous presentation.
Spotlight on… Jane Austen
16th December marks the 245th anniversary of Jane Austen’s birth. Jane Austen was an English author who is best known for her wittily observed books about the privileged landed gentry in the regency era. Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, and was one of eight children. She was closest to her sister Cassandra, and the surviving letters between these sisters reveal most of what we know about her personal life. Unfortunately, Cassandra destroyed and censored many of their letters after Jane’s death.
Jane Austen started writing as a teenager, and completed six books in her short life, two of which were published after her death. Her work was published anonymously during her lifetime. Her best known work is arguably Pride and Prejudice.
Austen fell ill in 1816 (potentially with Addison’s disease), and was taken to Winchester by her family for medical treatment the following year. She died on 18th July 1817, aged 41, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in the months following her death, and her incomplete books and short stories were later published.
Sense and Sensibility – The Dashwood sisters have very different personalities: Elinor is cautious and reserved, and Marianne is impulsive and emotional. Forced to leave their home after their father’s death, they are launched into society. They must learn to mix pragmatism with emotions in order to find romance in a world ruled by status and money.
Pride and Prejudice – Mr and Mrs Bennet have five daughters, who must marry wealthy husbands, and it is Mrs Bennet’s life’s mission to matchmake for all her daughters. When wealthy landowner Mr Darcy moves into the area, Elizabeth Bennet is repelled by his pride and prejudice towards her family but Elizabeth can’t avoid him. This is a tale of miscommunication and misplaced feelings.
Mansfield Park – Fanny Price has been brought up in the home of her wealthy uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram. When her uncle travels to Antigua on business, the Bertrams’ world is turned upside down by a visit from Henry Crawford and his sister Mary. They bring scandal, flirtation and seduction to the Bertrams’ home in the absence of Sir Thomas. Meanwhile, Fanny mainly goes unnoticed by the Bertrams, and is beginning to fall in love.
Emma – Emma Woodhouse believes that she knows best about everything. She is beautiful, clever and rich, and isn’t afraid to tell her friends what to do in terms of life and romantic decisions. This goes wrong when, ignoring the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley, Emma determines to find a husband for her new friend Harriet. When all her schemes fall apart, Emma is forced to learn a lot about other people – and herself.
Northanger Abbey – Catherine Morland has an overactive imagination and frequently gets herself into trouble during visits to Bath and Northanger Abbey. She is obsessed with Gothic novels, and often loses sight of reality. After falling for Henry Tilney, Catherine must learn how to separate fantasy from reality, and grow up and live in the real world.
Persuasion – Eight years ago, Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth fell in love. However, Anne’s family prevented their engagement, snobbishly insisting that the young naval captain wasn’t good enough for her. When the now Captain Wentworth returns, a rich man searching for a wife, Anne wonders if he can ever forgive her. Could he still love her, and could they finally get their happy ending?
There have been lots of television, film, radio and stage adaptations of Jane Austen’s work – some good, some not so good! The most recent adaptation of Emma stars Anya Taylor-Joy (who you may recognise from the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit) in the title role, and features an excellent cast including Miranda Hart and Bill Nighy.
College members can request to borrow DVDs of some great adaptations of Austen’s work from the LRC, including the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen; the 2008 television series Sense and Sensibility; the 1999 film Mansfield Park, and the 1996 film Emma, starring Gwyneth Paltrow in the title role.
There haven’t just been direct adaptations made of Jane Austen’s work – many books, films, television shows and more have been more indirectly inspired by her books.
Did you know that Helen Fielding’s books Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason are loosely based on Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion respectively? Mark Darcy is Mr Darcy’s counterpart, his rival Daniel Cleaver is an updated Mr Wickham, and Bridget Jones is a modern Elizabeth Bennet. She also works at Pemberley Press – referencing Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s estate in Pride and Prejudice.
This isn’t the only Austen connection: Colin Firth, who plays Mark Darcy in the films, played Mr Darcy in one of the most famous adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, which is frequently referenced in the books!
Another work that has been inspired by Jane Austen is the 1995 classic teen comedy film Clueless. Clueless updates the story of Emma and transports it to an American high school. The characters parallel characters from the original book. The classic Austen formula of troubled romances, false leads and miscommunicated feelings has been translated to the 1990s setting – along with Austen’s trademark humour and wit, of course!
Another modern day retelling of an Austen book is the Emmy award winning web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which is based on Pride and Prejudice.
Death Comes to Pemberley, by P. D. James, is set six years after the action in Pride and Prejudice. This is a murder mystery book, featuring the characters from the original book. Lydia Wickham arrives at the Darcy estate, announcing that her husband, the dubious Mr Wickham, has been murdered. The mystery is gradually unravelled, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Death Comes to Pemberley was turned into a television show in 2013.
The excellently titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a book by Seth Grahame-Smith, and was also turned into a film with a cast including Lily James and Matt Smith in 2016. As the name suggests, this is Pride and Prejudice, with added zombies! Much of Austen’s original text remains, although the addition of a zombie virus outbreak is a departure from the original! Elizabeth Bennet and her sister are trained in martial arts to fight the zombies. This is a monsterous mash up of regency romance and zombie chaos.
If you’re looking to read Jane Austen’s work in a different format, we have the Penguin Reader editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.
We also have an audiobook of Pride and Prejudice available for college members to request to borrow.
Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Magpie Murders was the first novel to feature book editor Susan Ryland, as she sets out to solve one murder mystery just as fictional detective Atticus Punt is solving another. Both stories unfold alongside each other and both come to dramatic conclusions. The concept of a book within a book was an interesting one and turned out to be very entertaining.
Horowitz returns to the two book narrative with a second outing for Susan and Atticus and once again, it’s a pleasure to read.
Following the events of Magpie Murders, Susan has relocated to Crete with partner Andreas to run a small hotel. Dissatisfied with life there and struggling financially, she reluctantly accepts the offer to return to the UK to uncover the disappearance of young hotelier, Cecily MacNeil. A few years previously a murder had occured at her hotel and an employee was convicted. However, a book based on the murder was written and, having read the book, Cecily announced that the employee had been wrongly imprisoned and that she know knew what had happened. Before she could share her thoughts with anyone else, she vanished.
Of course, the book she read was by Alan Conway, edited years before by Susan, and featured his German detective Atticus Punt. Susan is asked to stay at the hotel, read the book, talk to the characters involved and see if she can decipher what exactly it was that Cecily read.
I love both aspects of the book – the modern day amatuer sleuth treading very heavily on some delicate toes, contrasting with the more methodical, traditional classic detective – I don’t think there’s any doubt that Poirot is the inspiration for Punt.
Every year, the Museum of Architecture presents Gingerbread City. Although not necessarily a Christmas event, with each of the miniature buildings being created from gingerbread, decorated with icing (lots of it white!) and pretty much being lit up like a Christmas tree, it’s hard not to think of it as so. The MoA calls upon architects, engineers and designers to create these mini cities. This year’s theme is Transport and they have been tasked with building their gingerbread houses to highlight how we can move around cities. The aim of the exhibition is “to connect the public with architecture in an exciting way, and spark important conversations around cities and how we live in them”.
This year’s exhibition is being held at Somerset House in London. Details about visiting and tickets are here.
Books can be loaned from the LRC. Just pop us an email or fill in the Click & Collect form and we will sort out the book for you.
Worried about fines? No problem. All loans have been renewed and fines waived while the LRC was closed. Books can now be returned to the College. Please contact the LRC to find out about current procedures.
Access our virtual library online
You can search for e-books on the library catalogue or directly through our e-book providers.. Click on the Shibboleth login if requested and select Brooklands College. If you have any problems please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
The LRC is still available for book borrowing. Although our shelves are currently not available for browsing we can help find materials for you. Contact us with an area you are interested in or your assignment title and we can suggest some resources for you.
The LRC website contains links to our resources, our online catalogue and is full of information about LRC use, plus there are book reviews, links to our displays and other items of interest. It is only available to College members (sorry) and can be found through links on the LRC Google Classroom, and on the staff and student intranets.
LRC Google Classroom page
Tutors have been invited to join the Classroom and will be passing the joining code on to their students. It’s full of links to resources, and helpful advice and tips.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need support with e-books, e-resources or anything else.