Can you spare an hour in West Ealing on Monday? Your reward – as many books as you can carry!

We’re all about sharing books, and we now have a huge opportunity to share a whole lot more. Peter Owen Publishers had made 14,000 books available to West Ealing Neighbours, and in collaboration with Book Swaps for London, we will be receiving 14 pallets worth on Monday at midday. These are being delivered to OPEN Ealing, where we’re going to store them while we work out a distribution strategy.

As we’ve never unloaded an 18 tonne truck before, we need people to help us load the boxes of books into a lift and then taken them up one set of stairs to where they’re going to be stored. Waitrose West Ealing is also very kindly loaning us a pallet truck to help with the unloading as well.

Where: 113 Uxbridge Road, Ealing W5 5TL

If you can spare an hour or two from midday on Monday to help, please contact Chris Gilson by email at, or tweet us @weneighbours.

Your reward for helping will be – as many books as you can carry home!

We’ll be book swapping on West Ealing family day!

Hungry for something to read? Come along to the West Ealing Neighbours stand on Family Day on Saturday and take part in our Book Swap! We’ve got lots of lots of books that you can take for free, or you can swap one of your own that you think someone else might like. This follows on from West Ealing Neighbours’ incredibly successful book swap scheme in West Ealing Station.

LexnGer (Creative Commons NC)

Chris, who is also running the Book Swaps for London campaign will also be there to chat about book swapping and books in general. You can also join our popular book club, too.

So pop along to our stand on Saturday and see what new books you can discover!

WEN Reading Group is involved in a research project

In August 2010 we read Iris Murdoch’s ‘The Bell’ for one of our monthly meetings.  As always our book choices are suggested and discussed by members of the group before being agreed upon.  This has led us to some interesting reads, things we haven’t always liked, but others that have been riveting and an experience we wouldn’t have ventured upon on our own.

‘The Bell’ was an interesting choice not just because it was an enjoyable novel to read or that it led to an interesting discussion but also because it has been taken as the novel for Liz Broomfield, a freelance copy editor, to centre her research around.  Interested in the book choices made by reading groups Liz has noticed that these tend to be those in the media, recently published or promoted, prize winners or classics.  This misses out an enormous amount of fiction that would make great material for a reading group.

As we’ve read ‘The Bell’ we are in the process of answering Liz’ questionnaire which will become part of her research which is a private project but one that the Iris Murdoch Society is interested in and may in due course publish a summary of the project in their newsletter.

Take a look at the project blog:

Or the website for the Iris Murdoch Society:

Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

It’s a common literary tactic to have a young child as the narrative device, with often prestigious results. Witness recent Man Booker winners DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little and Yann Martell’s The Life of Pi, both which focus on precocious young children in very adult circumstances, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with its young narrator, garnered a slew of awards several years ago. Setting a novel in this way lets an author challenge accepted points of view or make a difficult point. And there are few more difficult points (even now) than 9/11 and what has followed.

Continue reading “Book Review: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer”

About the West Ealing Neighbours Book Club

If you’ve been thinking of joining a book club, you’d be welcome to join WEN’s reading group .  We meet in The Star and Anchor at 7.30pm.  We’re a friendly bunch, made up of local people who like reading or want to get into reading regularly and enjoy talking about it.

If you have any questions, contact me, Lucy at


  • 25 Jan – The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • 22 Feb – Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
  • 29 Mar – Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler – nb changed from Any Human Heart which we will now read in April
  • 26 Apr – Any Human Heart by William Boyd
  • 31 May – On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  • 28 Jun – End of the Affair by Graham Greene
  • 26 Jul – Closed Circle by Jonathan Coe
  • 30 Aug – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte


Previous books:


  • Dec – no book
  • 30 Nov – Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • 26 Oct – The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe
  • 28 Sep – The Latecomers by Anita Brookner
  • 31 Aug – Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • 27 Jul – Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively
  • 29 Jun – The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis
  • 25 May – Shadow of the Window by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • 27 Apr – The Circle by David Eggers
  • 23 Mar – Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
  • 24 Feb – Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland
  • 27 Jan – Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirowsky


  • 25 November – The Bees by Laline Paull
  • 28 October – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
  • 30 September – Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  • 26 August – Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
  • 29 July – Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears
  • 24 June – Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
  • 27 May – The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • 29 April – Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  • 25 March – Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
  • 25 February – Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
  • 28 January – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


  • 26 November – Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
  • 29 October – Stoner by John Williams
  • 24 September – Wise Women by Angela Carter
  • 27 August – Longbourn by Jo Baker
  • 30 July – The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • 17 June – trip to the Bush Theatre to see ‘Incognito’. No reading group on 25 June.
  • 28 May – Book thief by Markus Zusak
  • 30 April – Room of lost things by Stella Duffy
  • 26 March – Bring a poem you love or loathe
  • 26 February – The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  • 29 January – A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh


  • 4 December – Murder in Peking by Paul French
  • 30 October – The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  • 25th September – The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
  • 28th August  – The Education of Hyman Kaplan by Leo Rosten
  • 31 July – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell
  • 19 June –  Disgraced at the Bush Theatre. 
  • 29 May – Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters
  • 24th April – A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks
  • 27th March – Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H Lawrence
  • 27th February – The Dinner by Herman Koch.
  • 23rd January – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.


  • 6th December – Baghdad Sketches by Freya Stark at the Persian Palace (Nov & Dec meeting combined).
  • 24th October – Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
  • 26th September – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz by Denis Avey
  • 29th August – Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  • 25th July – Dissolution by CJ Sansom
  • 27th June – Birthday by Joe Penhall at the Royal Court Theatre
  • 30th May – The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • 25th April – This is How it Ends by Kathleen MacMahon (copies with Sarah – title not yet published)
  • 28th March – The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  • 29th February – Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • 25th January – The Tenth Man by Graham Greene


  • 7th December – Christmas Social at the Star and Anchor, Aunts aren’t Gentleman by PG Wodehouse
  • 16th November – Jumpy by April de Angelis, play at the Royal Court, Jerwood Theatre downstairs.
  • 26th October – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – read our review on Ealing Today
  • 28th September – Life by Keith Richards
  • 31st August – Starter for Ten by David Nicholls
  • 26th July – Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain/Samuel Clements – read our review at Ealing Today.
  • 28th June – The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (at the National)  – Read our review at Ealing Today
  • May – The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas
  • April – A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  • March – The Settler’s Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
  • February – Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Saffran Foer – read our review at Ealing Today.



Book Review: Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

For November, the WEN book club turned to a new genre – science fiction. Though it must be said that famously Margaret Atwood doesn’t refer to her books as science fiction, but speculative fiction. Oryx and Crake, our book for November, certainly fit into this category, with Atwood taking modern themes such as genetic engineering and projecting them forward into the near future.

The novel introduces us to a post-apocalyptic landscape inhabited solely by the main character, Snowman, and a group of genetically advanced not-quite-humans, the Crakers. Departing with the traditional idea of the post apocalyptic hero, as in Mad Max and similar, Snowman is feckless, often drunk, and is in constant fear of his environment, fending off genetically engineered wolvogs and pigoons. We are immediately left with questions – who are the Crakers? What has happened to society? Why is Snowman the only human left?

Atwood’s narrative weaves in Snowman’s somewhat Quixotic journey back to the ‘Compounds’ where the rich used to live to find supplies, with the story of how society came to collapse. It turns out Snowman once lived in the Compounds and climbed his way up through the corporate world. As he works his way through school, then university, and then into his career, he encounters the title characters Oryx and Crake; tellingly both are named after extinct animals.

Through Snowman’s eyes we are shown a vision of the current world gone just that little bit more mad. Segregation of rich and poor (the poor live in relative squalor in the ‘pleeblands’), rampant use of genetic engineering and life-enhancing drugs with dubious side effects , and the pervasiveness of corporations in all aspects of society. By creating an alternate world of her own with ubiquitous brand names such as ‘Happicuppa’, ‘Helthwyzer’, and ‘Anooyoo’, Oryx and Crake makes for frighteningly realistic reading. It is this story that is the most engaging, but Atwood’s way of switching between the two narratives can be quite jarring – the book could have been written in a straight chronological fashion and would not have lost a great deal.

Both of the parallel stories in this book build towards what become rather obvious denouements, and Atwood often includes too much detail that seems to be padding. Characters too are thinly drawn, with Snowman being the best fleshed out. It may be that she has done this to draw attention to the emptiness of the characters’ lives (they are near owned by corporations), but this makes the book harder to like at times.

As Atwood attests, Oryx and Crake and is certainly not science fiction – it is far too grounded in the real world to be that, and it’s for that reason potential readers shouldn’t be put off. It’s an engaging read that keeps you interested, hoping that your questions will be answered – and they are for the most part. The issues the book raises about how we use science and technology are certainly thought provoking and will stay with you for some time.

Review by Chris Gilson

WEN book club update – November

Credit: Cellar Door (
Credit: Cellar Door (

Update: the WEN Book Club review of Oryx and Crake is now available at Ealing Today.

The book for this month is ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood. We’re meeting on Tuesday the 30t at 7:30pm in the Drayton Court pub to discuss.

Copies are available on request at West Ealing library.

There will be no meeting in December, but we will meet on 10 January to discuss Marina Lewycka’s ‘We are all made of glue.

Click here for more information on WEN’s book club.

Book Review: The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis

June’s meeting was on a gloriously hot day, and the lounge room of the Drayton Court made for a cool reprieve. WEN readers were decidedly not as hot under the collar as protagonist Keith, but quite cool towards ‘The Pregnant Widow’.
The story is the narcisstic account of a summer holiday at an Italian castle told by Keith’s older conscience looking back on his younger self. There was little to give the story a sense of place, however the sense of time was more relevant.

Set in 1970 at the beginning of the sexual revolution, Keith’s conscience reflected not just on himself but on 3 female characters too. Amis has said there are autobiographical elements in the character of Keith and as the female characters take very different stances within the sexual revolution these should have made for interesting characters

The new possibilities and social change of the 1970’s were explored by Amis through characters we found tedious and two dimensional. Keith, a horny English Lit student, spends his summer trying to take advantage of the sexual opportunities he sees arising for himself. This behaviour continues into adulthood with lasting destructive effect. Given the perspective of time, were we the reader to consider whether men were traumatised by the sexual liberation? We weren’t sure if this was what Amis was driving at, partly because of our disconnect with the characters and writing.

The language is unrelentingly crude, and the female characters described and defined by their physical peculiarities; the desirable two, ‘big tits’ and ‘big bum’, or the plainly not beautiful and therefore cynical. The thoughts of Keith rarely veered from sexual gratification with the result that rather than gaining insight into the character and time being lived through, the characters were unbelievable and therefore inaccessible.

As a feminist text, did it work as a discussion around the ‘equalitarian phase ‘ of the sexual revolution? With girls acting like boys, arguing that there is no difference between men and women, this was a failing in feminism which was portrayed by Amis, unfortunately using patronising language to describe the sexually active woman as a ‘cock’, that didn’t work for us either.

So, as a novel it’s readable, there is much that is interesting and we liked the novel in varying degrees. None of us connected with the characters and overall felt that we were the wrong audience for the book, but weren’t sure who would really enjoy it. Perhaps those who lived through 1970 might meet this book with a different reception…