Books Study Day Workshops

1)      ‘Breathing Lessons’ by Anne Tyler

The book’s theme is basically about the miscommunication and lack of compatibility between a married couple, their friends and family.  It is set in rural USA and the characters are somewhat eccentric.  There should be plenty of interesting topics for this study group to discuss.  Ideally this book should be read before the study day.

Workshop Leader – Nancy Johnson

2)      Helen Dunmore: Poet and Novelist

This workshop will focus on close readings of two prose passages, from The Siege and A Spell in Winter and one poem, Glad of These Times.  Our reading will include how Dunmore creates a sense of place, introduces characters and her use of imagery.  Participants will be given a handout with the passages and the poem on the day.  It isn’t essential to have read the books beforehand.

Workshop Leader – Penny Hunter

3)      ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett

This debut novel by a young American author pitches us straight into the world of Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s.  Here black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver.  Sometimes heart-breaking, sometimes hilarious, the tale is told in the voices of the three main characters caught up in events.  We shall ask ourselves whether this is an effective way of telling a story, and whether it helps us to visualize a very different world from our own, if seen though their eyes.  It would help participants to have read the book beforehand, and ideally bring a copy with them.

Workshop Leader – Patsy Thornton

4)      Modern Australian Writers: Patrick Wright to Kate Grenville by way of Robert Hughes

The workshop will focus on the ‘Australianness’ of the writers and the expression of that in their work.  It is unnecessary to have read anything by an Australian writer to join the workshop, but here are a few suggestions for the avid reader – The Secret River by Kate Grenville, The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes or The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

Workshop Leader – Marie Fry

5)      Poetry Workshop

Poets rejoice when their work is spoken out loud allowing the reader to experience the feel and richness of the words.  In this workshop, following the theme of the day, we will look at and read aloud three or four poems from different countries discussing the style, language and meaning of each poem.  We will also look at the added dimension of the importance of the translator in poetry – not just giving the meaning of the words of the original poem but also the poetic sense of it as well.

Workshop Leaders – Jennie Mew and Elizabeth Bird

6)      ‘The Postmistress’ by Sarah Blake

This is a deeply moving story about three women and how their lives become connected.  It is set in 1940 and shines a light on how the war is affecting life in England, France, Germany and America.  There will be discussion on the story, also consideration of why we choose a particular book to read, is it the title, the cover or comments on the back page?  It will be helpful to have read this book and inexpensive copies can be purchased from Amazon.

Workshop Leader – Joyce Bird

7)      The Traveller and Identity

Patrick Leigh Fermor, regarded by some as the greatest travel writer of the twentieth century, travelled as a teenager from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople (as he called it) and wrote about his experiences years later.  While the Odyssey was a story about finding the way home, Fermor went in the other direction and eventually became an expat, which can also tell us something about how he viewed his identity.  It would be helpful if participants could read A Time of Gifts or Between the Woods and the Water, both by this author, or to have looked at his biography by Artemis Cooper.

Workshop Leader – David McCann

8)      A View from the North – Nordic Noir

Until recent years most of us knew very little about Scandinavian detective fiction but the advent of television series such as The Killing and Wallander, and the popularity of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has changed all that.  We shall be examining two Swedish writers, Henning Mankell and Stieg Larsson, comparing them and looking at what we mean by Nordic Noir.  It would be helpful to have read  Mankell’s Faceless Killers and Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo beforehand.

Workshop Leader – Rosemary Hughes

9)      Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Could a glover’s son from Warwickshire really have written all those plays and sonnets?  If not, who did?  Professor James Shapiro’s absorbing and entertaining book, Contested Will , reviews the evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship and considers the case for and against a range of other contenders, leaving readers to draw their own conclusions.    Drawing on Professor Shapiro’s book, the workshop will explore the possibilities and seek to understand why the various ‘not Shakespeare’ schools of thought have exerted such an attraction to their adherents.

Workshop Leader – Sydney Treadgold