Recent pictures in the press of World Book Day in schools have majored on pupils dressed up as book characters for obvious reasons – children wearing funny colourful outfits make for good photographs. The reality in a lot of schools is quite different who see it as an opportunity to focus on the written word and not fancy dress.
For the second year I went to Hollycombe primary school to judge their poetry reading competition. The standard was high but what was most impressive was the ability of those sitting on the floor to concentrate quietly and listen patiently.
We also operated book fairs at two other schools with visiting author Tim Bowler as well as welcoming a year 2 class from Froxfield Primary to the bookshop. A further five schools took part in our WBD bookmark colouring competition held in the shop.
A couple of short novels by top authors have appeared in the last fortnight. Mothering Sunday by Graham swift is set on that day in 1924. Servants are allowed the day off to visit their mothers but orphan maid Jane Fairchild chooses to meet her illicit upper class lover in a house conveniently empty of staff. It is a brilliant description of a different time and place, a sunny lazy afternoon with a shocking twist – an insistent narrative drive that demands your attention to the last page.
Julian Barnes’ The Noise Of Time is a novel about a real person, Dimitri Shostakovich. Barnes gives us the breadth of a whole life within the pages of a slim book, written in an intimately close third person. His particular skill is to open up questions of universal significance: the relationship between power and art, the limits of courage and the intolerable demands of personal integrity and conscience. This is writing of the highest caliber – thought provoking and compelling.