9 Sep 2019

The VA Bookshelf: Autumn Edition


What’s On Our Autumn Reading List.

Autumn is rapidly approaching. The leaves are starting to crisp, the temperature is declining and the days are becoming shorter.

It’s our favourite season for tucking into a great book. Picture us cosied up on the sofa in our snuggliest knitwear with a paperback in hand. That’s where we will be.

When it comes to the VA bookshelf, we’ve all got novels to sink into.

Here are some of our picks:

Mary’s Picks – For the London Lover

The Lido by Libby Page

I’m unsure whether it’s because the lido in the novel is my local but I was instantly drawn to this story.

Rosemary has lived in Brixton all her life but everything she knows is changing. Only the local lido, where she swims every day, remains a constant reminder of the past and her beloved husband George.

Kate has just moved and feels adrift in a city that is too big for her. She’s on the bottom rung of her career as a local journalist and is determined to make something of it.

So when the lido is threatened with closure, Kate knows this story could be her chance to shine. But for Rosemary, it could be the end of everything. Together they are determined to make a stand, and to prove that the pool is more than just a place to swim – it is the heart of the community.

The Lido is an uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how
ordinary people can protect the things they love.

Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce

Dear Mrs Bird is set in London, 1941 and tells the story of Emmeline Lake who dreams of becoming a fearless Lady War Correspondent. Unfortunately, Emmeline instead finds herself employed as a typist for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt at Woman’s Friend magazine. Mrs Bird refuses to read, let alone answer, letters containing any form of unpleasantness, and definitely not those from the lovelorn, grief-stricken or morally conflicted.

But the thought of these desperate women waiting for an answer at this most desperate of times becomes impossible for Emmy to ignore. She decides she simply must help and secretly starts to write back – after all, what harm could that possibly do?

Amy’s Picks – Reflection and Redemption

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.

With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Mars Room tells the story of Romy Hall who is starting two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility for the killing of her stalker.

Inside awaits a world where women must hustle and fight for the bare essentials. Outside: the San Francisco of her youth. The Mars Room strip club where she was once a dancer. Her seven-year-old son, Jackson.

As Romy forms friendships over liquor brewed in socks and stories shared through sewage pipes her future seems to unfurl in one long, unwavering line – until news from beyond the prison bars forces Romy to try and outrun her destiny.

Vicki’s Picks – Entertaining and Emotional

French Exit by Patrick deWitt

Vicki’s picks start with the novel French Exit. It tells the story of Frances Price, a recently widowed New York socialite and her man-child son Malcolm. As her life dramatically falls into dire straights amid swirling scandals, they make their exit to Paris.

Paris becomes the backdrop for a drive to self-destruction, helped along by a cast of singularly curious characters. Brimming with pathos, warmth and wit, French Exit is a riotous send-up of high society and a moving story of mothers and sons.

The Wild Other by Clover Stroud

The Wild Other is the memoir of writer and journalist Clover Stroud. Stroud’s idyllic childhood in rural England was shattered when a horrific riding accident left her mother permanently brain-damaged.

At just sixteen, she embarked on a journey to find the sense of home that had been so savagely broken. Travelling across the globe, Clover eventually found her way back to England’s lyrical Vale of the White Horse.

The Wild Otheris a grippingly honest account of love, loss, family and the healing strength of nature. Powerful and deeply emotional, this is the story of an extraordinary life lived at its fullest.

What’s on your autumn reading list?

The VA Bookshelf: Fall Edition

The Lido  ||  Dear Mrs Bird  ||  Becoming  ||  The Mars Room  ||  French Exit  ||  The Wild Other

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image, eliza gran, lonny

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I must say I was really disappointed by French Exit. The characters never appeared to be more than paper dolls. I just finished an excellent non-fiction book, iGen, by Jean Twenge. It’s about the particularities of the generation that has grown up in an internet world. Fascinating research!


Vicki, as a teacher of English I’m passionate about reading for pleasure. Reading for purpose is a life skill and in this day and age of everything being ‘an instant’ with technology, reading something sequentially with focus is a skill many don’t have. It is something to promote and then celebrate achievements for younger people. However, I’ve read 8 books whilst being on holiday. Nicky Pellegrino writes some lovely books based in Italy and are just perfect when on holiday there as her sense of atmosphere and description of villages and the food is exquisite. Erica James is similar and her Swallowtail Summer is set in the lovely county of Norfolk in England and again very descriptive. I do like the sound of Dear Mrs Bird so may purchase as a digital download. I’m just reading now in the sunshine in peace and quiet – what’s not to like about that!!


Reading French Exit while picturing Michelle Pfeiffer as the lead made the read so much better for me. She is perfectly cast!


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