March 2019 Reading Group Round-Up

Featured in Inside Time in March 2019

The report this month comes from HMP Norwich, where the group discussed Belinda Bauer’s ‘Snap’ with copies generously provided by Penguin Random House.

The novel was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize and praised
by Val McDermid as … ‘the best crime novel I’ve read in a very long time’.

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. ‘Jack’s in charge,’ she’d said. ‘I won’t be long’. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed forever. Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.

Some found it a slow start but there was a lot of encouragement of each other on the wings in the run-up to the meeting and most got hooked. For one member the beginning brought back vivid memories of his own childhood and being left waiting in the car by his dad.

Lots of suggestions about the meaning of the title: the murderer whose temper snaps; characters who have to make snap decisions; matching knives that recall the card game; and the importance of the two photos – snaps. The characterisation of the police didn’t altogether convince … ‘a bit one-dimensional’ but overall most agreed that the book was pacy and well-plotted … ‘lots of foreshadowing and subtle hints about what’s to come’.

From next month there will be some poetry at each meeting, with everyone invited to bring one to read. Suggestions include poems by Roger McGough and Philip Larkin, and John Masefield’s wonderful ‘Sea Fever’:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely
sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and
the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey
dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call
of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be
And all I ask is a windy day with the white
clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume,
and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant
gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where
the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the
long trick’s over.

Read this report in Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners and detainees.

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