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Highgate highights

October 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

Sweet William
Beryl BainbridgeBeryl Bainbridge (d:2010) wrote macabre psychological tales set among the English working class. She was labelled a ‘Booker bridesmaid’ for being nominated five times without winning, though did bag the Whitbread Best Novel Award twice. Her best known novel is probably Sweet William – about a woman whose life is turned upside down when a philandering Scot moves in, allegedly based on her second husband Alan Sharp.


The Well of Loneliness
Radclyffe HallRadclyffe Hall (d:1943) is best remembered for this ground-breaking 1928 lesbian novel. The Well of Loneliness, which is not explicit, was nevertheless judged by a British court to be obscene because it defended “unnatural practices between women” and ordered all copies to be destroyed. The book follows a masculine upper class woman called Stephen Gordon who finds love while serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, but whose happiness together is marred by social isolation and rejection.


East Lynne
Mrs Henry WoodEllen Wood (d:1887) is best known for this sensationalist novel in which Isabel Carlyle leaves her husband and children to elope with an aristocratic suitor, Francis Levison, “one of the most superbly malevolent and caddish villains in all Victorian literature.” Mrs Henry Wood, as she was better known, wrote and sold bucketloads of implausibly plotted page turners between 1860s – 90s but is much less well known these days – unlike arch rival Wilkie Collins.


Goblin Market
Christina RosettiPoet Christina Rosetti (d:1887) is most famous for her 1862 narrative poem Goblin Market in which two sisters are tempted by goblins to a market where they are plying delicious fruits. Many have argued the poem contains sexual imagery and allusions to drug addiction. Rosetti claimed at different times that the poem both was and wasn’t aimed at children – you decide!


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas AdamsDouglas Adams (d: 2001) will forever be linked with his classic comic sci-fi radio play Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which spawned bestselling novel, TV series and computer game iterations. It follows the adventures of Arthur Dent after the Earth is destroyed by bureaucratic aliens to make way for an interstellar bypass. As well as being brilliantly entertaining, Douglas predicted Wikipedia, Amazon Kindles and Google Translate in the tale.


Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Alan SillitoeAngry young man Alan Sillitoe’s (d:2010) debut novel follows the repercussions of 21 year old Bicycle Factory worker Arthur Seaton’s night out with Brenda, the wife of a colleague. The novel was one of a number of late 1950s / early 1960s kitchen sink dramas (see also: Taste of Honey, Look Back in Anger, Billy Liar) and was made into a famous film featuring Albert Finney as the anti-hero.


Middlemarch
George EliotMary Anne ‘George’ Eliot (d:1880) was best known for this landmark realist novel. It centres on the lives of the residents of a fictitious Midlands town from 1829 onwards – a time of great change with the death of George IV, cholera outbreaks, the Great Reform Bill, and the impact of the railways and industrialisation. Some have called the book the greatest novel in the English language, and it has been described as exerting “..an almost hypnotic power over its readers”.


Das Kapital
Karl MarxWhile obviously not a work of fiction (critics might suggest otherwise) Marx’s (d:1883) biographer Francis Wheen has said the revolutionary philosopher’s treatise on the capitalist system reads at times like a Gothic novel “whose heroes are enslaved and consumed by the monster they created”. Easily the most influential book on this list, without which the 20th Century would have looked very different.


Honorary mention
Jeremy BeadleOne of Highgate’s most bookish graves goes to the 1980s televison prankster Jeremy Beadle (d:2008) whose first love was trivia. He was involved with QI and penned a number of trivia books including Today’s The Day, hence the inscription on his grave as “Writer, presenter and curator of oddities”.

Forget the gym – resolve to join the North London Reading Group – Tues 31 Jan

January 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

star_of_kingsJoin fellow book loving folk for a glass of wine or two from 6:45pm at the Star of Kings in King’s Cross.

For the newbies we’ll explain how the North London Reading Group works, and depending on numbers, we’ll look to introduce people to existing book groups or set up a new one.

From 8pm we’ll also be fielding a team or two in the pub’s quiz. It’s always a fab, friendly evening so whether you are an old friend or new – be sure to join us!

If you’d like to join us, please RSVP below.

Final NLRG Social of 2016 – Tue 29 Nov

November 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

star_of_kings

We promise you a warm welcome, whether you want:

  • to join one of our reading groups or learn more about us
  • to hang out with fellow bibliophiles over a craft beer or glass of prosecco
  • new members, or book or venue recommendations, for your own group.

We’ll be there from 6:45pm, and at 8pm we’ll be fielding a team to maintain our not-half-bad record in the pub’s quiz. We’d love you to drop by — it’s always a great night that is equal parts social and cerebral, and guaranteed to make Tuesdays less rubbish.

RSVP below.

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Oxfam’s Highgate bookshop needs you

November 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

oxfam_bookshopWhile some books can be easily sorted and priced, non fiction, curiosity and antiquarian titles need to be researched, categorised and priced by well-read folks – like you.

The shop is really flexible commitment wise, and volunteering for a fixed period is fine. It is an excellent way to meet people, use your skills and pick up new ones —  and get involved with an amazing charity.

Interested? Contact us and we’ll pass your details onto Oxfam

NLRG social – Tue 24 May

May 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

NLRG bar tabWhether you want to join a book group, are already in one, or just want to hang out with like minded folk, join us at 7pm at the Star of Kings in King’s Cross to help spend our winnings from storming the quiz at last month’s social.

We’ll be catching up and swapping cultural recommendations over food and drink before having another crack at the pub’s quiz at 8pm. It’s always a fantastic night and a great way of meeting friends old and new.

Get there early before our voucher runs out!

RSVP below.

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Celebrating Shakespeare 400: my Shakespeare challenge

April 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

Shakespeare

I have unashamedly stolen this idea and am busy planning my next Shakespeare plays.

January – As You Like It

So far I’ve seen the aforementioned As You Like It at the National Theatre. The production received some excellent reviews, including from the Guardian – and the set was stunning.

Now, it is not my job to plot the story for you but for those unfamiliar with As You Like It, wonderful Wikipiedia will tell you what you need to know. The play started in a city traders’ office, which didn’t quite work in the context of the play. However, it all falls apart as the set is pulled up so that the desks and chairs hang, forming the Forest of Arden. At this point it all becomes quite brilliant. The furniture is forestified with greenery and allows for actors and singers to sit up high.

It’s also an extremely funny production with a wonderful scene with humans as sheep – amazingly simple and effective costumes with the flock wearing cream knitted jumpers – and, of course, Shakespeare’s amusing take on couples and gender, all ending well and with some humorous matches.

February – The Winter’s Tale

Next up is a favourite of mine, dissected at A-level, and one I have never seen performed. For this play, I returned to a more traditional setting and went to the Sam Wannamaker theatre.

A glorious setting and candle lit. More traditional in approach and sumptuous costumes where the difference between royalty and the shepherds is clearly marked by their outfits.

As ever, with Globe productions, there was a touch of the actors engaging with or getting into the audience, often to their surprise.

The end of the play left me cold though, something I had found amusing as a teenager left me angry this time, did Shakespeare value women so little that he really thought that Hermione would so easily forgive Leontes – the man who imprisoned her, indirectly caused the death of his son and had their baby daughter abandoned, presumably to her death?

March – King Lear

Next up is surely the perfect location for a book lover – the brilliant Creation Theatre Company is performing King Lear in Blackwell’s bookshop in Oxford. The run has just been extended to 24 March and you can get tickets too.

April – Pericles

It’s back to the Sam Wannamaker in April for Pericles.

Further on…

It’s not a cheap pursuit, although arguably easier and more affordable in London where there are so many Shakespeare plays to choose from. There will be plenty of under £10 tickets sought.

The idea is to see unusual plays, e.g. Pericles, or different venues and adaptations, e.g. in a bookshop, modern v traditional. Looking ahead, options include:

  • Measure for Measure at The Rose – a theatre I’ve never been to and am keen to visit
  • Cymbeline in Stratford
  • And perhaps something quirky at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

Do let me know below if you hear of something different coming up or if you want to join me on this venture.

New book group: Reading the classics

March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

Page from Jane EyreWhether they are sitting free on your Kindle or gathering dust on your bookshelves, there are loads of classics to read or reread. We’ve got a list of the ‘top 50’ 19th Century British novels and thought we’d tackle them in a special quarterly reading group.

We’ll be giving advance notice of the books so just make sure you’re signed up to find out more. Pencilled in dates are 6 June, 5 September and 5 December. Sign up if you are interested and the first book will be drawn out of the bag soon so you have plenty of time to read it.

Sign up for our Classics Book Group

Ah, but those Campus Nights… 29 Mar

March 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

David Lodge campus night

Join us on Tuesday 29 March for a night of David Lodge, cheap (by London standards) drinks and literary discussion, and a literary-themed guided tour of Keats’ and Kureshi’s alma mater.

Interested? Read David Lodge’s seminal campus novel Nice Work and RSVP so we can send you joining details nearer the time.

Chasing Chaucer – 3/4/5 Jun

February 16, 2016 in Uncategorized

Chasing Chaucer

We’ve confirmed a former pilgrims’ hostel in the walls of Canterbury Cathedral precincts and hope you will join us on our first – lovingly curated – North London Reading Group weekender.

Simply turn up on the Friday evening and we’ll whisk you away for a weekend chock full of Chaucer related activities.

You’ll discuss the best of Chaucer’s tales over dinner, attend a walking tour, visit the cathedral and prison bars and bookshops.

Return train travel from London, lodging, breakfast, local Chaucer and literary-themed Canterbury attractions, and a copy of Ackroyd’s Canterbury Tales all included.

Booking opens soon. Places will be very limited so to be the first to receive further details contact us.

Trainspotting – until 27 Feb

February 15, 2016 in Uncategorized

Trainspotting

The play kicks off with an immersive rave lit by glowsticks and we are promised a no-holds-barred performance that shocked Welsh himself.

The production had sold out runs and critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe and The King’s Head in 2015, and it’s not hard to see why: in a vivid 75 minutes, it boldly involves viewers in the intensity of the rave and drug culture of the late 80s, not holding back from both the highs and the lows. But graphic scenes that convey violence, sex and the bleak reality of heroin addiction – including the notorious toilet scene – are all the more gripping for being told in Welsh’s vivid, funny and poetic language by a hugely daring and energetic Scottish cast of seven.

Irvine Welsh has been a strong supporter of the production, going so far as to say: “I was shocked, and I wrote the f*cking thing!”. He also said: “The verve and freshness that they brought to the project blindsided me. They really made it their own, of their time and their era, while drawing on the universality of the characters I created and the themes I explored”.

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