Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Tough stuff

Today’s blog is about two books, each of which tells its tale of life in a down-to-earth way. No avoiding, no hiding.

Book One: The Street

What’s the book for our next Book Group? The Street by Ann Petry  was the answer when I asked because, alas, I’d missed our Book Group’s last meeting.  So I checked the online catalogue of the London Library, to which I belong Not there. I went to Waterstones and looked on the shelves. Not there. Then I asked a member of staff who consulted their online catalogue and shook her head. ‘Not there.’ So I turned away from the counter and there it was, in a little pile on a table.

I’ve begun the book and already I know it’s going to be worth reading. It begins with a young black woman in America looking for an apartment to rent so she can get herself and her little boy Bub away from her husband Jim. She finds a place she can just about afford. It’s not clean. It will be stiflingly hot in summer and, right from the start, she will have to learn to guard herself from the leering eyes of the landlord.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m very much looking forward to the rest. Written by a black American woman, it was first published way back in 1946 and is now, but only very recently, available again, republished by Virago. Tough stuff but worth it!

Book Two: So, where are we going exactly?

My second book today arrived in the post yesterday. So, where are we going exactly? is a children’s book about death. The words of the title first come up in the book as Katy accompanies her grandparents on a visit to the burial ground where they would like to be buried. But the words also refer to the much deeper and more difficult issues the book then goes on to address. What happens to us after death? So Katy’s more difficult question – where do people go when they die? – is not avoided. Acknowledging that people believe lots of different things, the answer given to Katy acknowledges both the belief of some that the soul lives on as well as the idea that dying is the end of everything. This then leads on to the equally awkward question that we all have to deal with at some time or other, namely what happens to the dead person’s body.

Written in a way that would make it good for adult and child to read  together, this book could also just as well be read by a child on his or her own. One of its great virtues is that it does not avoid the kind of questions that children might well ask. ‘Does being dead hurt?’ asks Katy in the course of the visit to a graveyard that forms the book’s background. ‘No,’ replies the gravedigger, David. ‘Once you’re dead, your body doesn’t feel anything at all.’

I appreciated reading So, where are we going exactly?. It’s a book I would recommend. But it was also a pleasure to receive because of who sent it to me, namely Barbara Crowther who is the widow of Dick Leith, a much-loved storyteller whom I got to know back in the early days of what is now thought of as the Storytelling Revival. Barbara is one of the group of four people who, together, have written and illustrated the book in aid of the Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground and Nature Reserve in Warwickshire. A good book in a good cause.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     That’s it for today except to say that possibly the only benefit of Storm Dennis (or is it Denis?) is that it gives plenty of reason to tuck up in bed reading.

PS: The gnarly bark of my top photo seems to me to be suitable for what I think is going to be a gnarly book. The tree-lined path of the bottom photo is the kind of place where I’d personally like to end up.


One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Tough stuff”

  1. Clare Winstanley Says:

    I have ordered the Ann Petry book. Thanks for the tip.

Leave a Reply