(Originally posted at


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes top spot in

#ThisBook campaign to find the most life-changing novels written by women.

Back in May 2014, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction launched the #ThisBook campaign. The aim was simple: to find out which books, written by women, have had the biggest impact on readers.

We enlisted nineteen inspirational women – from Dawn O’Porter to Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig to Joanna Trollope – to launch the campaign and tell us about the books that most impacted, shaped or changed their lives.

The reasons for their choices varied greatly – while Kate Mosse attributes Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte to kick-starting her writing career, for Edith Bowman, The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold helped her deal with a personal loss. Saffron Burrows said that I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou made her fall in love with storytelling, while Zawe Ashton’s experience of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison made her truly understand just how books can really change you.

Following the launch, we took to Twitter to ask the general public to share their submissions and we were overwhelmed with the response. Thousands used the #ThisBook hashtag to take part and nominate the book that changed their life, and the final top twenty list, revealed today, features a diverse and eclectic mix of literary greats.

Harper Lee’s timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird took the top spot as the most influential book written by a woman, with Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction The Handmaid’s Taleand Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre taking second and third place respectively.

Interestingly, nearly half of the top 20 books, as nominated by the public, were published before 1960, including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (8th place) and Middlemarch(16th place) by George Eliot – confirming that classic novels continue to inspire readers today.

The full #ThisBook top 20 is as follows:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  2. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter – J.K Rowling
  5. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  6. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  7. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  8. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  9. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  10. I Capture The Castle – Dodie Smith
  11. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  12. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  13. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  14. We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
  15. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  16. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  17. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
  18. The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
  19. The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
  20. The Women’s Room – Marilyn French


Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and announced today as Chair of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 judging panel, took part in the campaign launch in May and selected To Kill a Mockingbird as her #ThisBook. She comments, “With human rights under attack the world over, the enduring appeal of Harper Lee’s great tale gives hope that justice and equality might yet triumph over prejudice.”

Visit to find out more.

Heroes’ Welcome by Louisa Young

louisa young

Published by The Borough Press

Published 2014

Book Review Rating ♥♥♥

The review for this book can be found here. Or alternatively go to the left hand side column, place your mouse over ‘Review of non-Bailey’s books by author, (U-Z) and there you will find the review.


When Vanity Publishing Turns Dangerous

Originally posted on Lady Fancifull:

I know that it seems progressively harder to get published, as more and more books seem to become yet another commodity, and fabulous advance bidding wars are fought over the rights of (sometimes mediocre) books which are snapped up for megas because someone sees FILM RIGHTS or MERCHANDISING.

Meanwhile, the role of the carefully crafting book editor, nurturing a talent, working with a writer over decades, seems to be in decline

Inevitably the ‘well I can publish this myself on digi’ beckons, and clearly some writers find this hits the sweet spot – 50 Shades the classic example.

Now I’m sure there are wonderfully written books out there which failed to get publication the normal route, and the authors of them are desperate to get reviewers to try their free downloads to see if genuine enthusiasm can get the work read, as it absolutely deserves to be.

But it is…

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Say it with me: Ulyyyysssseeeeeeeees

Originally posted on Bluestalking:

Blogger Chris Sullivan of Women’s Prize for Fiction Book Reviews and I are collaborating on what will hopefully be a scintillating group read of Joyce’s Ulysses.

No, no don’t be scared! We’ll make it worth your time! Besides, didn’t you vow to yourself you’d read this book before you died? Won’t you feel incomplete if you don’t? Could I bribe you somehow?

Oh, be that way.

Chris of Edinburgh and I of Chicago will soldier on. We want you to come along but I won’t plead (first typed “please”). At least not TOO MUCH.

Oh please oh please won’t you?

Whatever. It’s going to start in August. Be there or be… somewhere else, I guess. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be sobbing. Heartbroken without you. But no, no. That’s not important. You obviously have better things to do.

Oh please oh please won’t you?


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A Crime in the Neighbourhood by Suzanne Berne


Published by Penguin Books, 1998.

Book Review Rating 

Shortlisted for the Orange prize for Fiction in 1999.

In the long hot summer of 1972, three events shattered the serenity of ten year old Marsha’s life: her father ran away with her mother’s sister Ada; Boyd Ellison, a young boy, was molested and murdered in a woodland area behind a shopping mall; and Watergate made the headlines.

Marsha Mayhew lived with her mother and two siblings in the Spring Hill neighbourhood near an East Coast city. With its box shaped lawns, square trimmed trees and doors left unlocked at night, the Spring Hill neighbourhood was ordinary. The closest the term ‘crime’ in Spring Hill and its adjacent mall could be used in association with any wrong-doing was shoplifting or a dog being run over and the driver not stopping.

Boyd Ellison and his parents lived in that neighbourhood. Young twelve year old Boyd’s death would palpably alter Spring Hill. Subtle forms of vigilantism permeated the neighbourhood with local men patrolling the streets at night in pairs and even Marsha in her own small, naive way becomes part of that vigilantism by recording everything that happens in her notebook. Those recordings will not only impact on her and her mother but on the neighbourhood as a whole and especially on Marsha’s neighbour, Mr Green.

Suzanne Berne’s debut novel, her most recent The Dogs of Littlefield being long-listed for the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, is a well-crafted, well observed slice of not only suburbia but America in the early years of the 1970s. The author captures a societal collapse instigated not only by the death of local boy but by the ongoing realization that the Watergate scandal will change the United States forever.

The author captures a more delicate societal collapse within a family through the eyes of a ten year old in a way that mirrors, to some extent, Harper Lee’s, To Kill a Mockingbird. Suzanne Berne has instilled Marsha with a voice as resonant and ironic as touching as that of Scout Finch. The author bravely portrays Boyd Ellison as a bully and a boy who would continually ask children to borrow their things or would simply take it. Marsha wonders if all this asking meant that he had ‘asked’ to be killed. 

“this…is how life can change: you can ask for what happens to you, without realizing what you’re asking for. Perhaps, this is supposed to be fate…Fate might be no more than a mischance…the decision to take a shortcut…through the woods behind a shopping mall.”

Despite dealing with the sombre and sensitive issues of the death of a young boy and the break-up of a marriage the novel is capable of emitting tenderness and humour. The author has managed to combine all these ingredients without allowing one to overpower the other and so spoil the recipe. Added to this recipe is the subtle undertow of satire that permeates the novel. The Watergate scandal will profoundly affect the American people and bring them out of their political complacency. But, like the men who patrolled the neighbourhood of Spring Hill after Boyd Ellison’s death people will eventually come to the conclusion that these events are not the norm, America is still a great country and these events are anomalies. Marsha’s mother will become one of statistics in the increasing divorce rate of the 1970s which will result in driving her and other women to increase their education and work experience.

This winner of the 1999 Orange Prize for Fiction is written in a simple, lucid ineluctable style. The novel evocatively recreates the sights and sounds of the Spring Hill suburb to such an extent that one can almost smell the manicured lawns and feel the heat of the summer sun as it shines down incongruously on a neighbourhood where a dark shadow now looms on the streets and in the homes of the residents.

Suzanne Berne’s novel shows how a neighbourhood can be affected and changed not only due to local events but larger national events within or without the country one lives in. These events are mistakes. Mistakes not only created by oneself but by others  can impact on your life. Mistakes can leave us feeling vulnerable due to us not always knowing how much they will affect us. 

“Because the truth is, mistakes are where life really happens. Mistakes are when we get tricked into realizing something we never meant to realize, which is why stories about mistakes. Mistakes are the moments when we don’t know what will happen to us next. An appalling, exhilarating thought. And while we entertain it, the secret dreaming life comes groping out.”


First Line – “In 1972 Spring Hill was as safe a neighbourhood as you could find near an East Coast city, one of those instant subdivisions where brick split-levels and two-car garages had been planted like cabbages on squares of quiet green lawn.”

Memorable Line – “I believed that my father’s departure had deeply jarred the domestic order not just in our house, but in the neighbourhood, and by extension the country, since in those days my neighborhood was my country.”

If you enjoyed this review or found it helpful and you have the time, click here  to go to my review on and hit the helpful button. Thank you.

No’ of Pages – 248

Sex Scenes – No

Profanity – No

Genre – Fiction

The next 1999 shortlisted book I will be reading is;


Edinburgh Book Festival


I have now received all my tickets for the Edinburgh Book Festival. I have bought tickets to see Audrey Magee (who wrote, The Undertaking, recently shortlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. Click here for my review of that book), Richard Dawkins, Denise Mina (one of the judges of the 2014 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. She kindly answered a questionnaire which can be found here), Helen Dunmore (Click here for a review of her book A Spell of Winter), Michael Schimdt, Dave Gorman, Martin Amis plus a few others. There are a few writers I would have liked to see but unfortunately they were sold out when I applied. I’m hoping to nab some returned tickets.

One of those I had hoped to see and hear was Haruki Murakami but apparently the tickets sold out in seconds. Here’s hoping someone returns their tickets because they cannot make the day of the talk. Schadenfreude at work, sorry.

August cannot come quick enough, not only because that is when the festival is held but my daughter also returns from Germany.

Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed.


Published by Lake Union Publishing

Book Review Rating – ♥♥♥

The review for this book can be found here. Or alternatively go to the left hand side column, place your mouse over ‘Review of non-Bailey’s books by author, (Q-T) and there you will find the review.