Underground Railroad

A Year in Books

A look at the books covered by our reading group at HMP Ashfield in 2018…


The Call of the Wild Cover image

‘Packs more into 80 pages than most books do in 400’

‘I thought it was brilliant and should be on the GCSE syllabus’


The Siege by Helen Dunmore

‘We were all surprised, and impressed, by the way in which Dunmore puts the expected images and tropes of war to one side: tanks only appear once, a wall collapses and someone is killed’

‘It happens and then people get on with their lives as best they can’


Ready Player One

‘This is the first book to get unanimous thumbs up from the group’

‘The Sixers are the corporate entities that curtail freedom and what the internet was for. It was supposed to give us the freedom to be who we wanted to be’


Underground Railroad

‘I thought some of the characters shrugged off the hideousness very casually’

‘But if that level of violence was everyday… It wouldn’t have taken much to shrug it off. We’ve all seen troubling things in here but we accept them because they happen’


Divided Kingdom

‘The writing drove me mad. Why all the similes?’

The writing is just amazing, effortless’


Animal Farm

‘I’ve been doing my exams, and there are so many other times in history this could have been applied to. German Reformation, French Revolution, and also, I was thinking, the English aristocracy’

‘I can see lots of ways in which the book is just like now. Take the Windmill – that’s Brexit!’


It’s like PTSD. That intensity of memory. The tiny moments. That coming unstuck in time’

‘I’d never seen that. You are so right. I’d thought about it in a different way’

‘ I thought you would just go around the group and we’d each say “it’s weird” and that would be it. Now I’m thinking about the PTSD it makes a lot more sense’


Great Expectations

‘I found I could really see those places, even though there are only tiny descriptions’

‘When Magwitch strangles Compeyson. It is just one line. I had to go back and check it actually happened’



‘How much would you really know if they control the information? In Fatherland everybody is too scared’

‘It was the details that made it real’


Mutiny on the Bounty

‘I kept thinking, when’s it going to happen? When’s it all going to kick off? But it pulls you in. All that stuff before sets it all up’

‘Don’t you think that the author is trying to show Bligh as a kind of modern leader? He’s not like the other naval captains who would flog the men’


The Winter King

‘T liked the way that Merlin was portrayed even though, as the rest of the group agreed, he hardly appears. ‘When he does appear, that’s when things happen’’

‘And I liked the way he doesn’t care for Arthur, the armies, Saxons, he has his own agenda’


The Great Gatsby

‘I found it hard to care about them. They were so wealthy. They glided through life’

‘Even the beautiful language, none of it sticks. I don’t feel as if I’ve read it’

‘I felt I couldn’t touch the words’

View all posts