This month I’ve been getting back into my Masters studies and I’ve been reading mostly in English on the side. Here’s a few of my favourites from the last few weeks.
Two Brothers by Ben Elton
This is a novel about a Jewish family during the Second World War. Twin boys are born but sadly one of them is still-born. On the same day, a mother dies during childbirth and the mother of the twins is asked if she would take on the new orphan as her own. She and her husband adopt the child but never tell anyone in the family about it. They raise the boys as twin brothers and nobody is the wiser. Until the war breaks out and everyone now has to prove their parentage. The medical records come out and the adopted son is now removed from the family because he is in fact a perfect Aryan. A really moving story, I must admit I was surprised to read such a serious novel by a comedian. In the section at the back, Ben Elton explains that many of the characters are actually based on members of his own family. If this is the sort of thing you like, it was really well written and had me hooked from the very beginning.
How not to be a boy by Robert Webb
In his autobiography, Robert Webb takes various statements about boyhood and manhood and sets out to disprove them. It’s an honest reflection on his own adolescence and adulthood. Statements include: Boys aren’t shy, Boys don’t cry, Men know who they are. As a mum of a boy, I think it’s so important that these messages are challenged and boys are told it’s ok to feel nervous, or sad, or scared. My husband read it as well and he sniggered to himself while he was reading it, perhaps emphasising how true to home some of Webb’s situations are. I’ve put this one on the shelf and when my kids are older, this will be one I’d encourage them to read.
A Book of Feelings by Amanda McCardie, illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino
Leading on, in a way, from the previous one, this is a book the kids can definitely enjoy! In our house we talk about having big feelings and that it’s ok to have big feelings and that we all have them from time to time. This book is a great reinforcement to that idea. It takes a pair of siblings (a girl and a boy) and then tells their story, visiting all our different emotions along the way. It covers angry, embarrassed, frightened, happy, grumpy, nervous and loved among others. It takes a fictional situation and explains how the people are feeling. Mum was worried when she saw the kids playing with fireworks but that came across as anger. Sam’s friend Pete was jealous because Pete wished he had a Dad like Sam’s who spent time with him and because he was jealous, he started bullying Sam. The kids recognise the situations and can laugh at some but also empathise with others. I love the ending: “As the years passed, Sam came to see that Kate wasn’t all that bad … these days Sam and Kate are quite good friends – most of the time…”