The first recommendation this week is from Juliet Foster.
Conversations with my Gardener by Henri Cueco:
A little gem. This memoir is a conversation between two elderly French gentlemen; the author, who is also an artist and the other, his gardener. Their friendship deepens over the years as they discuss their families, health and jobs amongst many other topics. Their discussion about the beauty of a lettuce versus a painting is debated at length, as is the advantage of ageing and the removal of teeth. ‘Soon I won’t have my of my own left. Just the bought ones,’ says the gardener. The gardener also tells the artist that coffee is making him feel ill. He is advised to try tea and told they drink it in England. The gardener responds by saying they aren’t any dafter over there than here. As the gardener’s health deteriorates it becomes very moving. An enchanting book that everyone should read.
Granta £6.99 ISBN 86207-739-8
The second book is recommended by Jo Jones.
Scully by Alan Bleasdale
My first teaching post was in a middle school (ages ten to thirteen) in the Liverpool area. Many of the children (especially the boys) could not read. They would listen to me reading them a book, but only if they could identify with the characters in the story. Clearly, children’s classics such as Anne of Green Gables or Black Beauty just would not interest them.
Alan Bleasdale was a teacher in a comprehensive school in Liverpool; he too had quickly realised that the boys in his class did not identify with Janet and John or Dick and Dora (popular school reading schemes). What they wanted were stories about boys like themselves who enjoyed football, bunking off school, were always in trouble and hated Everton supporters. Alan started writing short stories about a lad called Scully and his mates who were passionate Liverpool supporters. These short stories became the basis for his books: Scully and Scully and Mooey.
The characters’ home lives were chaotic, usually living in social housing in overcrowded conditions. Scully was the youngest of seven; he had an elder sister who had got pregnant at seventeen and given birth to a mixed race baby boy who was christened Darryl Sebastian Cochise (but called Hovis for short).
Alan’s typical Liverpool humour, combined with his ability to have readers crying with laughter one minute and weeping with sadness the next makes Scully a wonderful read. I’m sure many of you will remember Boys from the Black Stuff by the same author.
Scully by Alan Bleasdale was first published in 1977, ISBN 10:0099139201 Arrow Books paperback.