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September book club - Ridley Road

(83 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 01-Sep-15 13:52:57

Winners should be receiving their copies shortly - so time to start the thread so that you can leave questions and comments about the book (of which more details HERE

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:58:35


Many thanks to Gransnet / W&N Books for a copy of 'Ridley Road' by Jo Bloom. My thoughts were immediately drawn to the various tributes from years gone by to this period of vibrant, swinging city life and light entertainment many remember fondly. However, Jo Bloom's book is anything but whimsical as it uncovers the appalling anti-semitic events that took place during 1960's Britain. The story is well executed, and the author does well in recreating the authentic vernacular and world of 60's North-East London.

I'd like to ask Jo a few general questions to begin with, if I may ...

QUESTION ONE:- Do you have a personal favourite book/s?
QUESTION TWO:- You've elaborated on your website the reasons that prompted you to write 'Ridley Road'. Clearly something that you feel passionate about, will you be following up with a sequel, or something similar, for your next book?
QUESTION THREE:- How many weeks/months of research went into writing your book? And how important do you feel it is for books based on real events to be 100% factually accurate?

Thank you in advance for your gracious replies to our questions. Wish you the very best of luck with your future 'productions'.


Hello Bumblebee

1) Currently, I press Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout into the hands of everyone who will listen to me. She's a terrific writer and it's a fantastic novel. I also love anything by Alice Munro, Colm Toibin, William Trevor, Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Richard Ford and Anne Tyler – to name but a few. I’ve just discovered Kent Harouf.

2) My next book is about a completely different subject, although it will start in 1958 and drift through 1962, finishing up in around 1968!

3) I did a lot of research over three/four years but I did it all a bit cack handed. I did a huge amount before writing the first draft, but then the story changed massively, so lots of the research wasn't helpful. I was still researching details and facts in the final draft/months. I think that's how I
work. I need to get the story down, then do a lot of the research, otherwise I waste a lot of time.

It was really important to me that I was true to the spirit and essence of historical events. I needed to feel I was authentic and I worked really closely with a researcher/journalist who knew a lot more than me about fascist activities from that period. But ultimately, I am writing fiction – drama – and in the end, the events have to serve the story.

nanakate Sun 04-Oct-15 21:21:50

Dear Jo,
I enjoyed reading Ridley Road. I was on holiday at the time and so had the opportunity to daydream a bit about my own memories of growing up in the Sixties, in my case in Birmingham. I do remember how important the Jewish community was in certain areas, particularly in the jewelry quarter, where my mother worked for a diamond setter. I also remember learning about the holocaust and trying to make sense as a child and a teenager of what had been done to the Jews in Europe, just a few years before. What effect would it have on you to know that your people had been hated to that extent, and in such a totally irrational way?

I found some of the period detail in your story really convincing, and it was fun to 'tune in' to the soundtrack of that period. It seemed to me, though, that I didn't get a lot of insight into Vivien's and Jack's experience of being Jewish, and what their Jewishness meant to them. I wondered whether you made a conscious decision not to go there, and why?

I'd be interested to read your thoughts about this.

lynnalex Wed 14-Oct-15 10:50:59

Enjoyed the book. Not heard of the movement before or some of the real people. Characters well painted and storyline interesting with some very nasty characters.

janeainsworth Mon 19-Oct-15 09:04:30

Sorry to be late in posting this and thank you GN for my copy.
I enjoyed the book - I thought it was well researched, and has made me want to find out more about the resurgent fascism of the early 60s. I wonder how the counter-extremism measures of today compare with those of the early 60s, and would have liked to know more about how much the police knew about what was going on and what preventive measures they took - a viewpoint from them would have given the book more depth.
If it hadn't been for the historical
Interest though, I would have dismissed the book as lightweight. Vivien's character was one-dimensional and even in the un -liberated days of the early sixties women still had opinions and self respect and her rather pathetic obsession with Jack and search for him didn't ring true for me.
Jack himself didn't seem in any way likeable and despite the fairytale ending I could foresee trouble ahead for them in their marriage, when Vivien would inevitably discover his true personality!

lmp Fri 23-Oct-15 09:16:25

Thoroughly enjoyed the book, lacked a little depth in Viviens character. She was very naive. A very dark period in history which was well researched. Look forward to reading Jo's next novel.

SusieWilkinson Tue 27-Oct-15 00:20:57

Many thanks for my free copy, and apologies for the late review, life got in the way!
I found Ridley Road a little slow for the first few chapters, but when it got started I was gripped by the powerful story of fascism and anti-semitism in the early 1960's, I knew a little of it, but I had no idea how hard it was at this time.
Mixed in with this dark back story is a love story with two very believable characters, Vivien and Jack. Vivien's struggle to find Jack feels very real and you really get behind her, hoping that they'll be back together......

EmilyHarburn Mon 02-Nov-15 14:42:37

Thank you for my copy. It came just as I. Left for Australia Perth. It's a great first book.

I went to a London secretarial course in 1959 and then on to 3 years at college so I enjoyed the memories Jo's descriptions triggered.

I did not know about the antisemitism and the rallies.

Thank you Jo for an excellent read