The personal site of Jane Davis, Founder and Director of The Reader. Mainly reading and thoughts about reading, plus some of my obsessions.

Becoming Self-Winding

by drjanedavis

imageOne of the greatest reads of the twentieth century, for me, is Russell Hoban’s extraordinary novel, The Mouse and His Child. In this deeply resonant children’s book, a father and son clockwork mouse toy is broken and thrown away, found by a tramp, more or less mended and set down on a road which leads them to… I’ll not give the story away, but suffice it to say that once their physical needs have been taken care of and they have a roof over their heads, the mouse father and child develop the dream of becoming ‘self-winding’.

Over the past five or six years The Reader’s various volunteer projects have produced some remarkable outcomes for volunteers themselves and for the people with whom they work. But however moving, these outcomes are more or less what we expected when the projects were devised: that people would gain confidence, make friendships, find meaning and purposive social activity in the shared reading of great literature.

What we didn’t expect is that volunteer projects would change our idea of what The Reader is and will become.

But that is what has happened. Because of their desire to become, in effect, ‘self-winding’, we can no longer think of The Reader’s volunteers as defined by time-limited ‘projects’. Their demonstrated commitment, energy and staying-power has led to us developing what we’re calling for now the ‘membership model ‘, which will encourage everyone involved in groups or one-to-one reading to become part of The Reader.

Last week I spent an evening in the company of Reader Leaders in South London, where for the past five years we’ve been building a community of shared reading, funded through Guys and St Thomas Charity in partnership with the  Maudsley Charity. We’ve trained nearly 200 people to  become Reader Leaders, running shared reading groups in locations such as Blackfriars Settlement or Southwark Resource Centre.

I was moved and excited by the brave and determined people I met. I sat next to Elsa Joseph, an aspiring writer and part-time carer. She spoke to me about the way in which shared reading had become a lifeline for her, and wrote to me later to explain,

I’ve always loved books and reading. For me, my shared reading group is my one social weekly outing that I look forward too and can’t envision living without. The hustle and bustle of urban city life can sometimes make you lose sight of your hobbies and interests and that’s why I’m so grateful to the Reader for re-igniting my passion for reading and writing.

Elsa also spoke of the power of the group she leads to provide support for the people she reads with. 

‘It’s good for us, and it is good for others,’ agreed John, who sat on the other side of the table. ‘We all get so much out of it.’

‘One of my ladies says it is the only time she gets to talk to others in the week, she never has anyone to speak to.’

We read the fine Philip Booth poem, First Lesson, together and talked about what we pass on to our children and others.

John said, ‘But this is also what we’ve been talking about – passing on the groups, letting go…’

It was touching to see my colleagues, Penny, Lois and Val, who have built groups, recruited these Reader Leaders,  and passed the groups on, letting their ‘daughters’ swim alone. Every poem had been chosen to reflect in some way this situation. I was moved to tears when Lois read Seamus Heaney’s ‘Scaffolding’, and spoke bravely and openly about the ways in which building this tremendous project had changed her. ‘I’m a better person now than I was 5 years ago,’ she said. Not many jobs offer us that kind of personal development. Sitting reading poetry with homeless people was one of the things Lois thought had changed her for good.

I feel as if we’re changing our model from a small fleet of busses driven by professional drivers to an enormous caravan of people on foot, on bicycles, rollerblades and scooters. There is a support team and there are some busses in the caravan too, but they are no longer the only mode of transport. The support team don’t have enough bicycle pumps or blister plasters or rucksacks or spanner sets or oil yet. But we’ve got the people, and they are moving, and that’s the only thing you really need. Love will find a way for everything else. 




Infant Joy, Infant Sorrow

by drjanedavis



Redeemable: A memoir of darkness and hope, by Erwin James, Bloomsbury

Erwin James is a Guardian columnist and author, a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and a Patron of The Reader. Redeemable, his memoir, builds on and expands what we know of him through his two collections of essays, A Life Inside: A Prisoner’s Notebook and The Home Stretch: From Prison to Parole. Erwin is a convicted murderer who spent twenty years in prison before his release in 2004. You can read his remarkable essay on the power of reading  in The Reader magazine, number 54.

reader 54

Though I knew it would be a sad, hard book, I had been longing to read Redeemable, because Erwin is a remarkable man, and because ‘how do people change? ’ has been one of my key obsessions for thirty years. As I write these life-size numbers – twenty years, thirty years – I feel both how long and how short are these lives I am reading and thinking about.

I read the book over three days, nights and early mornings this week. The first reading session gave me nightmares. That’s not a very comfortable recommendation for a book, but don’t be put off. There are particular reasons why I would be moved to nightmares by Erwin’s story. The remorselessly crazy of helter-skelter of a family dominated by unacknowledged pain, dogged by poverty, and knocked about by hunger and alcohol brought alive many memories of my own childhood. And for all the brute reality of memory and fact, there’s something blank, which I found as frightening as anything else, this blank numbness, recalling William Empson’s  poem, ‘Let It Go’;

It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.
The more things happen to you the more you can’t
Tell or remember even what they were.

The contradictions cover such a range.
The talk would talk and go so far aslant.
You don’t want madhouse and the whole thing there.

It is as if, even now, after all this thinking and sifting and remembering, Erwin cannot fathom his father, whom he loved, loved, loved. But why, after his wife’s death, did Erwin Snr continually abandon his children? Why did he beat his little son? It’s as if Erwin has, in the end, simply to let it go, ‘the contradictions cover such a range’.  There are no answers and no time for answers in the first two-thirds of the book, which feels a rushing headlong descent towards the newspaper clipping that gives the bare, public details of Erwin’s trial for double murder.

Erwin mentions reading Crime and Punishment in prison many years later, and I felt as I read, that the world of Redeemable was lit by the same feverish pained misery as Dostoevsky’s novel.  So, as a  twelve-year-old, Erwin is living in children’s home when he gets into a fight at school and runs away, from Ilkley to Shipley, an eight mile walk, to the place  he thinks his father is living. His father’s girlfriend won’t let him stay and sends him on to Aunt Bridie’s house.

She told me where my aunt Bridie’s house was and said that Maw (Erwin’s much loved grandmother) was staying with her and my uncle Jake. Bursting with excitement I sped off to find them. The house was at the top of the estate, the very roughest part where houses had windows missing and holes in front doors. When I arrived I banged on the door as loud as I could.

As soon as she saw me Aunt Bridie threw her arms around me and hugged me tight. ‘Maw, look,’ she called to the living room. ‘It’s wee Erwin!’

I cried with joy when I saw Maw and rushed to her, grabbing hold of her and sobbing into her arms. ‘Oh, son,’ she said, ‘look at the size of you!’ I hadn’t seen her since a few weeks after the crash (in which Erwin’s mother was killed) more than five years earlier. She looked very old and not at all well. She had a great blue and black bruise on the left side of her face. ‘Don’t worry son,’ she said when I stared. ‘I just fell doon the stairs when I was tired.’ I could smell alcohol on her breath. Around the room I saw empty beer and wine bottles and realised that Maw, Aunt Bridie and Uncle Jake were all drunk.

The police picked me up in Shipley town centre two days later and after a couple of hours in the police station I was taken back to the Home.

And so it goes on, the unstoppable blur of drunken faces, robberies and runnings-off that make up this child-and-early-adulthood.

At one point in the week, Redeemable is in my mind as I watch a young mother playing with her three-month-old baby. The mother is holding the baby about ten inches away from her face, completely focusing the child’s attention. The mother smiles and talks, nodding, making deep contact. ‘Aren’t you a lovely one, you are, aren’t you?’ She pauses, waits patiently, holds the child, and continues to nod and smile. In response, the baby smiles and coos, almost, you’d say, speaks back. They talk to one another, communing, communicating for ten, fifteen minutes as I watch. I’m thinking of Wordsworth’s Prelude where in Book 2, the babe ‘nursed in his mother’s arms…doth gather passion from his mother’s eye.’  Wordsworth observed, as psychologists and baby-watchers have done, that the baby recognises its feelings in the faces of others, and gradually learns through language to name those feelings.  Language is what we use to communicate between inside our wordless, feeling-driven selves and the outside world of everyone else. Language is what we have to help us become part of humanity. Language and role-models, as William Blake knew. His poems Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow give us the psychology in two tiny nutshells.

infant joy

Erwin, like many children who fall into the Care system and later into prison, doesn’t have much in the way of role-models (though he loves reading and writing and, a school failure, loves English). He learns what his family teaches him: to love without hope of love returned, to drink as a way to escape the pain of being unbeloved, and to hurt others as he has been hurt. Care teaches him nothing but that he is a criminal. It is only when he is convicted and  meets the patient, one might even say loving, psychologist, Joan Branton, that you feel the human exchange, the eye contact, the focus, the shared language of feelings begin to enter his consciousness. He is no baby: he is twenty–eight years old.

But Joan gives him time, conversation, books, including Crime and Punishment. ‘What have you done to yourself?’ Sonia the prostitute asks Raskolnikov the murderer in one of that novel’s culminating moments. This is one of the questions Joan invites Erwin to consider.

The book is testimony to the possibility of redemption, to the work of some of those working in the prison system and to Erwin James’ creation for himself an inner life, a set of values and a belief, learned from Joan, that we are redeemable. ‘There is always a way back,’ she tells him, ‘if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work hard enough.’

Highly recommended, but it is a hard read.  Have tissues and time to recover. Then send some books to prisoners or support the work of The Reader in prisons and other criminal justice settings.

The Reader’s Shared Reading model gives people in prison an opportunity to think about their lives and the lives of others through the medium of literature. We run shared reading groups in a number of criminal justice settings across the UK. We are glad to have recently won the first ever public tender for a shared reading contract, which will provide shared reading in all Northern Ireland Prisons.


That best part of a good man’s life

by drjanedavis



A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

Another recommendation via Angie Macmillan. Recommended so heavily, in fact, that she posted it through my door the night before I was leaving for my sabbatical. I’m sorry to report my prejudices put me off before I had even opened the book. I thought the cover made it look, as a dragged-up David Walliams might say,  like a ladies book; a lightweight, slightly romantic family saga… And yet Angie had said, worth reading, you might like it. Even so, it went to the bottom of the pile and I read other things. Until I ran out of them.

And of course, Angie was right; the cover was an irrelevant (to me) marketing tool and my prejudices were, as usual, quite unhelpful.

This was a terrific novel, powerfully real and deeply moving. Hurray and very, very well done, Carys Bray. Not many contemporary writers take on religious faith as a subject. But this story of a devout Mormon family living through an immense trauma offers a lot of human depth.

You’ll think of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, if you’ve read it, because there’s a powerful portrait of a closely-knit  religious community that looks very odd to most people who are not part of it.  There’s initially a kind of spectator laughter about the weirdness of it all, which made me think the book was going to be cynical, but emphatically, it is not that. Winterson’s book is about a fight for survival but she’s an only child, and there’s only one real centre of consciousness, which – as the world it describes wants to destroy it –  must, for survival’s sake, stand outside.

That makes a difference. A Song for Issy Bradley is a family story, and it is partly about the interconnections of love within a struggling family. As Tolstoy tells us, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. These people may be members of a sect we don’t know much about, which at first makes them look pretty different, but they are eventually just people like us, and the ways in which the tragedy they live through plays out across and through their individual and collective consciousness is what makes the novel compelling. It’s not about Mormons, so much as a book about emotional aftermath and ongoing life.

Phil and I took turns to read this aloud. There were times where one or both of us were moved to tears, and the reading became utterly compelling. There were some parts that felt painfully close to the bone – scenes in the hospital and the undertakers, an incident that might be a rape. This was not a light read. But, as in life, there are moments of glorious hilarity which will get you through, to say nothing of playground football, Mr Rimmer’s Pioneer Wagon and the exceptionally wonderful teenage party scene which worryingly begins ‘no one had touched Zippy since Issy died.’ There are also moments of deep, sensible realism, such as this, where Jacob, aged 7, realises that humans have to learn to bear pain,

He wanted to tell Dad a story in the car but he wasn’t brave enough. The story is true, at least that’s what Sister Anderson said. It’s about one of the apostles who kept rabbits when he was a little boy. One day, when the apostle was seven, his favourite rabbit escaped. He looked for the rabbit but he couldn’t find it. Then he said a prayer and immediately a picture came into his mind and he went to the exact spot he had imagined and found the rabbit. This showed that Heavenly Father responds to the small, simple prayers of everyone.

Jacob thinks about the rabbit story and what Dad said about answers to prayers in the car. There should be stories where the answer is no. There should be stories where children pray for lost rabbits that never turn up and then people might get used to it an know what to do next: he doesn’t know.

A Song for Issy Bradley is one such story – there is a great big ‘no’ at its centre, where ‘death closes all.’

And yet, that great gaping hole can be combatted by the powerful ‘yes’ of ordinary, real life, those ‘little, nameless acts of kindness and of love’ as Wordsworth called them: trying to love each other and living on through it, so that finally we are not merely surviving, but also, sometimes, singing. Thank you, Carys.

Something like a prayer flag

by drjanedavis



I was twenty-four years old, a punky, anarchistic, radical feminist when Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979. I still feel in my body the outraged dismay I suffered when she stood on the steps of Downing Street quoting St Francis:

‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.’

‘Liar!’ I shouted at someone’s telly (we didn’t have one: the poster ‘Women! Do Not Let These Men into Your Head’ gave us TV-free headspace and one of the great slogans of 1970’s feminism).

Talk about a divided nation:  I did not know one person who had voted Tory. We didn’t know it at that moment but we had eighteen years of Thatcherism ahead of us. I was forty-two when Labour came back to power.

Well, someone must live in the bad times, as George Eliot said, and, as she writes at the end of Middlemarch;

There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.

Of course, what’s done at Westminster, largely out of our control, affects us. But individual actions determine the nature of the world at least as much as, and sometimes more than, national political life.

ClzokYAWYAAZES4.jpgHow wonderful now to see a Muslim Mayor addressing the London crowd at Pride 2016

In 1979, I’d have bet money that this photo could never happen. This change has been brought about in part by legislation, in part by individual deeds. The making of Danny Abse’s 1967 law mattered hugely to men whose lives had been needlessly blighted by their ‘illegal’ sexuality, but the cultural revolution I lived through in the 1970s was built by brave individuals literally coming out and holding hands and dancing in very unfriendly streets.

As George Eliot writes;

We insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

It is hard for us, whatever our political stance, to have impact on the big battles at Westminster, but ‘our daily words and acts’ have massive implications for everyone we meet. They give us direct power to change lives as Dorothea Brooke does in Middlemarch;

The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.


Some readings for hard times

This one is not easy, but worth having in your armoury for extremely frightening times.

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
‘Tween rock and rock; and eke mine en’my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every owre a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain;
Drownèd is Reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Maybe to counteract the above feeling, you need this good advice from Iris Murdoch’s weird and wonderful Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. I found this when I was living through a particularly hard decade in my personal life. She talks about having a mental collection of good things you can turn to in bad times – poems or memories, a child’s nativity play, the devotion of your dog. Then she quotes the Bible;

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Epistle to the Philippians 4:8

Struggling with the fallout from a terrible experience, and pitted against dishonesty and corruption, these words hit me like a freight train. I used to recite them like a mantra to make myself believe in truth, honesty, justice, purity, virtue. They were a sort of prayer flag to release a good thought into the world.

As the chaos unfolds, and our public life goes into free fall, I’m writing out those great words again to remind myself: ‘think on these things.’




What’s literature for?

by drjanedavis

In which my brain is likened, hopefully, to a compost heap


I’ve done events with Reader Patron, Frank Cottrell Boyce, in which he’s  spoken about being read to at Primary School. Sister Bernadette –  was that her name, Frank?  – would read to the class, and nothing was required: no response, no book review, no list of wow words. Just enjoy, just let it in. Frank’s argument is that readers and writers need composting time.

I’m hoping that’s what has been happening to me for the last ten years or so: life, stories, people, thoughts, books – all going in and composting down.

I’ve been on sabbatical during June. I’m having a month away from my day job at The Reader, which I founded in 1997 with the publication of the first issue of The Reader magazine. It was a part-timish love-of-my-life in the early days; I was still teaching English Literature in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of LiverpooI. And I had family responsibilities and time to do other things: walking with Angie, gardening, cooking, sewing, music.

But by  2006 The Reader was calling for every atom of energetic attention I could give, and that call has been sounding every day for  the last ten years.

Garden: rack and ruin.

Cello: no practice for  seven years.



My last quilt, A Bookcase For Frances and Drummond’s Wedding,  was two, or was it three?, years late, and as far as cooking,  we mainly live on steamed salmon and broccoli these days.

I’ve had holidays, but they have been, emphatically, holidays, absolute downtime to spend with my husband and family.

This sabbatical is different. It isn’t  just a rest, though blissfully it is that, but I’m also doing some hard graft, digging into the compost heap, unearthing memories, casting my mind  back over the last two decades and seeing which questions need asking.

I’m trying to think about the gap between what literature is for and how we teach people to study  literature.

I’ve been asking myself why, around 1996-7, did I began to feel I needed to do something to get great books out of the university and into the hands of people who needed them?

‘You need it,’as Mike said, in the first ever shared reading group, ‘but you don’t know you need it’.

Before that, I’ve remembered,  during A levels and at University, what I loved about books and reading rarely happened in a class and was never spoken about. We used a completely different language – form, character, syntax, authorial voice and so on (I did my degree just before literary theory, with its even more specialised languages, hit town…).

There seemed no way to talk about  the lacerating white-hot  personal meaning I actually experienced when literature was doing its most powerful work for me. S why, when so much of my reading life could not find a place in formal study, did formal study  still feel, most of the time, worth doing?

So here’s a couple of  questions I’d like some tweet-sized  help with…please tweet me at @readerjanedavis or use the hashtags ,  and RT my request if you can.

  1. What is literature for?  #whatslitfor

  2.  What is the study of literature for?  #whystudylit


Or, as ever, leave your responses as comments here.



Spirit world and working realism: Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

by drjanedavis

Another recommendation from one of my best reading advisors, my  old friend Angie Macmillan. Can that woman read! She’s been working really hard ploughing through contemporary fiction and I get the benefit, because she only tells me about books she thinks I’ll enjoy. One of her recent offers was Train Dreams by Denis Johnson.

trainAlan Warner reviewed the book  in The Guardian years ago when it came out and found it brilliant. Maybe Angie made a note of that. He was annoyed with the Pulitzer prize people  for not awarding their prize to Johnson and  that seems reasonable – it’s a very good book.  A little  short for me, brought up as I have been on the 800 page nineteenth century greats, though I did think this would be a fine book to read  in a shared reading group, especially with people who have been through some hard times. We’d all recognise some of the beauty and  terror of this novel.

Robert Grainier is a day-labourer in the American West – he’d almost be a character out of the Wallace Stegner novel I recommended here recently –  except he lives right at the end of that time, right into the modern world of the 1960s :  you realise  America is still very, very young. But that’s not  what you’d read this for –  you’d read it for the reality of the man’s life, the brilliant accounts of working, of hard, physical labour, with mates and, later, alone. And you ‘d read it for the love his wife and daughter bring to his life, and for the wild spirits that terrify, comfort and entrance him. I’ve never read such good spirit-writing since Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Maybe I am thinking of Dickens because as well as spirits Denis Johnson can do good old-fashioned realist dialogue and humour. I loved Chapter 7 where Grainier is forced to overhear another man’s bit of courting with Widow Thompson:

Though Grainier stood very near them, Eddie chose this moment to speak sincerely with the widow.

‘The late Mr Thompson was a fine feller,’ he told her..  He spent a tense minute getting up steam, then went on: ‘The late Mr Grainier was a fine feller. Yes.’

Claire said, ‘Yes?’

‘Yes. Everybody who knew him tells me he was an excellent feller and also a most …excellent feller, you might say. So they say. As far as them who knew him.’

‘Well, did you know him, Mr Sauer?’

‘Not to talk to. No. He did me a mean bit of business once… But he was a fine feller, I’m saying.’

‘A mean bit of business, Mr Sauer?’

‘He runned over my goat’s picket and broke its neck with his wagon! He was a sonofabitch who’d sooner steal than work, wadn’t he? But I mean to say! Will you marry a feller?’

‘Which feller do you mean?’

Eddie had trouble getting a reply lined up. Meanwhile Claire opened her door and pushed him aside, climbing out. She turned her back and stood looking studiously at Grainier’s horses.

Eddie came over to Grainier and said to him, ‘Which feller does she think I mean? This feller! Me!’

Grainier could only shrug, laugh, shake his head.

Eddie stood three feet behind the widow and addressed the back of her: ‘The feller I mentioned! The one to marry! I’m the feller!’

There was a lot to love in this short novel. Short. But,  there’s a but coming. I can see the art of short, tight, compressed, and the art of that was good, but I think I wanted more commitment to story, I wanted more story.

Oh, I don’t  like to complain: I’m going to be getting hold of everything else this man has ever written.


Learning to write: Edith Wharton’s  Hudson River Bracketed 

by drjanedavis

Edith Wharton’s novels can be astonishingly revealing of human behaviour at the absolutely micro level – Wallace Stegner, whom I recommended here in a previous post must have learned something from her.

This was one I hadn’t read and so picked up in an Oxfam bookshop just before setting off for my reading and writing sabbatical. It’s a lovely thing when you have an author you trust enough to think ‘Something by you will be worth reading. It’s 500 pages but it will be worth carrying in my book suitcase.’



And so it was.

Hudson River Bracketed is an architectural style, the style of a grand, largely unused, American house which plays a key part in the novel. It’s as if an English novel of the 1920s were to be called Oxford-Redbrick-Semi. Or Miners Two-bed and No Inside Loo. It’s partly a novel about the way that class, education and experience shape a life, and more than that, it is about how those things, plus reading, sex and money make or unmake an artist, and specifically a writer. And more specifically a male writer, from the west of America, born about 1900. Meet Vance (short for Advance) Weston:

By the time he was nineteen Vance Weston had graduated from the college of Euphoria, Illinois, where his parents had lived, had spent a week in Chicago, invented a new religion, and edited for a few months a college magazine called Getting There, to which he had contributed several love poems and a series of iconoclastic essays.

One of Vance’s difficulties is learning how to trust or judge what he experiences, and the opening sentence gives us a clue about that, pitching ‘a week in Chicago’ against ‘invented a new religion’ without blinking.  You decide, Edith Wharton seems to be silently saying, what kind of young man this is…and yes, he is naive, excite able, foolish, inexperienced and has big ideas and a even bigger feelings. Should we laugh at him? Yes, a bit. But not everyone invents a new religion by the time they are nineteen, and it might be worth sticking around to see what else this guy does.

It’s a long stick-around, standing by this young man as he learns some hard Edith Wharton-ish lessons about the way complications build up and may  hamper, break or ruin the potential of a life.

In the last third of the novel I began to feel that the  trajectory might be  the unbearable downward curve at speed that is The House of Mirth (also by Edith Wharton, and surely that has got to be on my list of 100 books to build a woman? Think I need to re-read it. What a great book. My husband is currently reading a book called Why Humans Like To Cry and I was thinking The House of Mirth would be a good example of that… but is ‘like’ the right word? Surely, ‘need’  might be better…) But this is not The House of Mirth, Vance is man, and that doesn’t make all the difference, but it does make a difference.

This would be a book to read perhaps alongside or following D.H. Lawrence Sons and Lovers. It would make a very good  novel for a shared reading group, because it has short chapters, is episodic and is full of serious things to talk about…especially, how selfish does a higher purpose make a person? What is selfishness and how does it sit alongside our  need for  others, for love and  social being?

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