October Book Group Report

By Jane Wilson, volunteer


Our latest Book Group meeting at the Bowes Museum was held on 18th October and we started our discussion by briefly re-visiting a book previously recommended, ‘Ten Years After: A Reminder’ by Sir Philip Gibbs. As an official war correspondent, he published this book in 1924 as a reflection back on the effects of the war, considering both positive and negatives aspects of the conflict and the potential impact on future peace.

Secondly, we were recommended a fictional book by Thomas Keneally, ‘The Daughters of Mars’. It follows the lives of two Australian sisters, who as trained nurses, sail from Australia to Europe to assist in the war effort. We follow them through the war years, seeing the harsh reality of war from the point of view of the hospital environment as opposed to being immersed with troops in the trenches. Nevertheless, we get a torrid picture of life during the war, as well as an intimate portrait of the two sisters and the people they meet and the friends they make.

The next book highlighted is the true account of the exploits of two British women, Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, who become Ambulance drivers on the Western Front at the outbreak of the war, end up running their own first aid post and continually have to fundraise to keep their medical post running. The author used diaries, scrapbooks, letters and newspaper articles to piece the book together so we can follow this story of two plucky women who just wanted to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort

Lastly, we came to ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’ by David Boyd Haycock, a biographical look at five key students from the Slade School of Art set against the backdrop of the build up to the First World War, the war years and after. Haycock examines each of the artists – Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Dora Carrington, Christopher Nevinson and Mark Gertler – their attitude to war, and the influences of war on their art. As readers, we learn of their friendships, the development of their careers, and how these intertwine during the war and in the following years. The book also includes colour plates of some of their art works.

Our next Book Group meeting will be in the Café Lounge at the Bowes Museum on Tuesday 15th November at 2.30pm. Those coming along are asked to bring a favourite poem influenced by World War One for discussion, and we welcome new faces to join us at this meeting.