At the beginning of December Library staff were shocked and immensely saddened by the sudden death of their friend and colleague Louise Grainger. Louise took over as supervisor at Bideford in 2011 at a time when reductions in working hours and changes in working practices were being made. It was largely due to her skill, her patience and expertise and the true warmth of her personality that the changes were managed successfully. Louise was unfailingly kind and cheerful, generous with her time and always ready with attention and well-founded advice when it was needed. Since her retirement 18 months ago Louise has been a regular and very welcome visitor, supporting events and continuing to support staff through further changes.
Her bright presence is painfully missed.
Annie Brierley and staff at Bideford Library.
‘Exposure’, by Helen Dunmore. (Discussed by Bideford Library Readers’ Group.)
Set in the late fifties, early sixties, the story covers Cambridge spies, illegal homosexuality and the Cold War, but is more about family relationships than just another spy story. When Giles, a spy, has an accident he asks his friend, Simon, to return a file to his office. When he is seen Simon is falsely accused of spying himself. This may sound as if it’s a spy thriller, but it’s more about the impact on peoples’ lives and relationships, particularly on Simon and his loyal wife Lily. Lily’s childhood experiences give her cause to distrust government security – ‘she lived in fear before she knew she was afraid.’ She was able to contain these fears and remain strong and loving.
The group discussion was interesting. We usually go around the group for each person in turn to give their views. The first eight people were all enthralled with the story line with comments such as ‘the book showed humans to be more important than politics’, ‘it was an exquisite story, layered, truthful and sincere.’ It gave a sense of the time, including the seedy elements of the era, and was difficult to put down. There was a tension and air of menace to the story despite there not being a lot of action. Several said they’d like to read more books by this author.However, when we came to the last two to speak the first was less enthusiastic about the tale whilst the other had disliked the style (the author often wrote in short sentences) and felt that not enough work was left to the reader. These suggestions opened up further discussions. In one such discussion parallels were drawn with ‘The Railway Children’, so much so that this may well have been intentional on the part of the author. Both tales are about a mother and her children coping whilst their father is in prison. The train theme runs throughout both books.
Our discussions are often much more interesting when we don’t all agree: it makes us look more deeply into things.
Additional note: The author,(photo above) Helen Dunmore died aged 64 in Bristol in 2017, and posthumously won the Costa award for her book of poems ‘Inside the Wave’, written weeks before she died .
Bideford Library, 1941 – cuttings from the “Bideford Gazette.