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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

Elsie10 Mon 21-Sep-15 09:11:55

I found this book a bit hard to enjoy but was determined to read to the end. In 1962 I was17 and I wasn't really aware of the anti jewish feelings of that time so Jo's research was an education for me. I enjoyed her relationship with the girls at the salon, and her landlady, but was frustrated at jack's deceipt and determination to 'have a go'. It was Jo's first attempt at writing a book and her research was admirable - hopefully I will find her next one easier to enjoy.

annjean65 Tue 22-Sep-15 11:53:34

I have now finished my copy of Ridley Road and enjoyed it overall. The setting in time and place was interesting as I was unaware of the resurgence of anti semitism in the sixties in London. The author had researched this well.
I felt that the novel was a combination of romantic "chick lit" and thriller which seemed to clash at times.
Overall it was a good read.

winifred01 Wed 23-Sep-15 17:04:00

Lived through this time admittedly busy with 2 babies but was not aware of the horrible prejudices. How well was it reported?
Thank you for the playlist what an inspired idea.

GrannyLondon Thu 24-Sep-15 09:55:52

I really enjoyed this book. My first job was in that area in 1968 & I think Jo captured that era very well.

Many groups were being targeted at that time so writing about it with these sympathetic characters really bright it home to me how awful it is to be on the receiving end of this.

Are you planning any more books around this or any other issue Jo?

Thank you for the book GN & thank you Jo for writing it.

middleagespread Thu 24-Sep-15 17:42:58

It’s 1962 and Vivien arrives in London trying to find Jack Fox, who she had a brief romance with in their hometown of Manchester. The nail biting love story is carefully hidden between the unfolding drama of finding out about the secret life of Jack Fox, and dealing with the unwanted attentions of Stevie. It’s a gritty story with very little romance and the erupting violence involving the Jewish community. Fascism and secrets never to be told hold the storyline together so well and the morality of the Swinging Sixties surfaces in the bed scenes. It’s a bittersweet story that leaves a rather nasty taste of the tongue in some ways – a love tainted by circumstances. Good resolutions though and a rather unusual take on a love story.

lettie Fri 25-Sep-15 08:31:24

This book was riveting when showing the meetings between the Jewish activists, and some of the anti-semitic activity of the 1960s. I liked the love story less at first, thinking that Vivien was too child-like in her thoughts and much too naive in her take on life. But, I did go back and re-read and found it much less so. Women (most) were much less assertive back then and deferred more to adults - as when Vivien (against her real wishes) goes to stay with Jack's parents. I was 9 in 1962 and had not heard of these activities, although I had heard of Mosley, I 'just' thought that their marches were a sort of statement (albeit repulsive) and not attached to action. Just shows how ill-informed I am. Our household was very interested in current affairs and, for example, I did know all about the UDI of Rhodesia just a couple of years later, so this is really a very important chunk of 'history' made during my lifetime that I did not know about. Thanks, Jo, for writing about this in such an accessible way.

Jo Bloom balances the historic facts (time and place of the anti-semitic activity) well with her love story. I would have preferred more showing rather than telling of stuff that happened in the 60s as some of the brands and cultural stuff (eg: reference to Jules et Jim) seemed to be dropped in to provide historic colour rather then occur naturally in the story.

I would like to ask Jo if she will write another book touching on this topic, but set at a different time, perhaps. I am sure that there are many other stories that could be told.

Thanks Jo Bloom,
and Gransnet, for a good read.

Greenfinch Fri 25-Sep-15 19:24:48

Interesting subject matter and very well researched.I liked the characters especially Jack though Steve seemed a bit spineless. Sometimes the action moved on rather too quickly though each chapter was about the right length for a bedtime read.I am not sure how old Jo is but was she alive in the sixties?

Miriam Sun 27-Sep-15 15:40:28

Really enjoyed reading Ridley Road although at times it was a bit unsettling. Also bit of an eye opener as I was 15 at the time so not aware of how bad the anti-semitism was although I did remember all the music that was mentioned from the time. You can tell a lot of research went into the book and I look forward to reading anything else from Jo Bloom.

merlotgran Sun 27-Sep-15 17:06:56

I enjoyed Ridley Road very much. It brought back many memories especially the fact that there was a lot of work around in the sixties. Hairdressers, secretaries, nurses, clerks et al left their home towns in droves to head for London and many of them found jobs which saw them through to marriage and beyond.

I was aware of Oswald Moseley's fascist activities but not those of Colin Jordan. This book has been well researched and there was much to learn. My only criticism, which has already been mentioned, is the ending is almost 'Disneyfied' in its neatly tied up conclusion.

I would like to ask Jo, What kind of future did you envisage for the young boy, Henry?

GrannyHaggis Mon 28-Sep-15 18:01:41

Thank you for the copy of Ridley Road which I enjoyed reading. I have to admit to not being too aware of the anti Semitism, but as I grew up in a small Scottish town, perhaps it passed me by. There were no Jews living there as far as I can recall.
The references to the 60's music brought back memories! And how 'cool' it was to smoke!

I'd like to ask Jo how much she changed details from the Group's actual activities to those described in the book?

Andrews Tue 29-Sep-15 11:30:59

Thanks for my copy of Ridley Road, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The author had certainly done her research, and it was like stepping back in time! The settings and characters were very well drawn out - I can see this novel being made into a film or TV series.
I was unaware of the anti-Semitic activities during the 60s (and I don't think many young teenagers would have been as aware as today's teenagers) and I feel that this lack of knowledge has been addressed by reading the book. I shall now have to read more about this area of our history.
A very exciting debut novel. I look forward to reading Jo's next book!

bookishworm Tue 29-Sep-15 16:03:16

Thank you for my copy. I really enjoyed reading it and wondered what inspired Jo to write the book and whether she has always had a particular interest in the period/subject matter?

Cherrytree59 Tue 29-Sep-15 20:25:09

I enjoyed the book agree about it being a bit chick lit. But the history was a big eye opener for me as I was only small child in the sixties. My parents had told me about the lodging adverts that stated no 'Coloured or Irish' but not about the anti jewish feeling which beggars belief so soon after the war. I think Jo might have been having a little joke on page 195. 'Someone's talking' said Mickey. 'Really'? Said Ralph in mock amazement 'listen to Einstein over there'. I have read books by Masie Mosco ( I think) but her books centred around Manchester but I don't think ever went in to anti sematisim. I'm going to reread them again on my kindle

tiggers Wed 30-Sep-15 18:44:19

My thanks to GN for sending me a copy of Ridley Road.

I enjoyed reading it and recalling my own memories of the 60s (the music and fashion).

As I was only a youngster, I had no knowledge at all of the anti-Semitism and fascism present during that period of time.

bumblebee Wed 30-Sep-15 21:36:06

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'.

smile

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:39:43

geri

Just finished this book, I was brought up in the 60s so I love reading about this time period, I still love the fashion, the music, the hair, and the part of the storyline about going round the coffee shops which were a new thing then, and all the popular 60s culture brought it all back.
It also covers an important aspect of our recent history, which I didn't know an awful lot about, in the resistance to the return of fascism after WW2, anti semitism, and so on. This last seems to be still with us, and so I would like to ask Jo if she had thoughts of a possible TV drama when she was writing this story. It combines real life moments of history with a traditional love story, seems like an ideal script!

Hello geri – no, I didn't set out to write Ridley Road with TV in mind, but I'm happy to let you know that we're in negotiation with a major UK production company and broadcaster for the TV rights.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:40:39

Gagagran

I was working in London at the time in which this book is set and I think Jo has captured the feel of "the scene" very well. It brought back a lot of memories for me especially of the coffee bars, where we used to make a coffee last for a very long time, being hard up most of the month!

She is not quite as successful with her characters in my view and they feel a bit wooden. That said, I enjoyed the book and wonder where she got her sixties background material from.

I'd like to ask Jo if she has started writing another book and if so is it set in the same period?

Hello gagaran - yes, I am writing a second novel (I have a two book deal). It starts in 1958 and spans ten years.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:42:54

shysal

I am another for whom the book covered subject matter of which I was not aware at the time.
I would like to ask the author if she grew up amongst the events, and what made her choose to set her book in that era?

Hello shysal - I didn't grow up amongst the events. Actually, I didn't know about them until 2010 when I met a wonderful anti-fascist at a funeral. It was the first time I'd heard about either the 43 or the 62 Group. I went home and googled them and one thing led to another…if you want to read more about the inspiration for the novel, I've written a short piece on my website www.jobloom.com

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:43:41

winifred01

Lived through this time admittedly busy with 2 babies but was not aware of the horrible prejudices. How well was it reported?
Thank you for the playlist what an inspired idea.

Hello winifred01 - I think they were fairly widely reported but not front page news. I used the Times archives for research and there were lots of useful clippings from that period. Thanks for your comments on the Playlist – it was great fun to put together. In fact, I'm going to go and have a listen right now!

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:45:18

GrannyLondon

I really enjoyed this book. My first job was in that area in 1968 & I think Jo captured that era very well.

Many groups were being targeted at that time so writing about it with these sympathetic characters really bright it home to me how awful it is to be on the receiving end of this.

Are you planning any more books around this or any other issue Jo?

Thank you for the book GN & thank you Jo for writing it.

Hello GrannyLondon – thank you for your nice comment. I don't currently have plans to explore these issues in another novel. It was fascinating but I'm ready to explore new subjects. But who knows? I may well go back at a later date.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:46:25

lettie

This book was riveting when showing the meetings between the Jewish activists, and some of the anti-semitic activity of the 1960s. I liked the love story less at first, thinking that Vivien was too child-like in her thoughts and much too naive in her take on life. But, I did go back and re-read and found it much less so. Women (most) were much less assertive back then and deferred more to adults - as when Vivien (against her real wishes) goes to stay with Jack's parents. I was 9 in 1962 and had not heard of these activities, although I had heard of Mosley, I 'just' thought that their marches were a sort of statement (albeit repulsive) and not attached to action. Just shows how ill-informed I am. Our household was very interested in current affairs and, for example, I did know all about the UDI of Rhodesia just a couple of years later, so this is really a very important chunk of 'history' made during my lifetime that I did not know about. Thanks, Jo, for writing about this in such an accessible way.

Jo Bloom balances the historic facts (time and place of the anti-semitic activity) well with her love story. I would have preferred more showing rather than telling of stuff that happened in the 60s as some of the brands and cultural stuff (eg: reference to Jules et Jim) seemed to be dropped in to provide historic colour rather then occur naturally in the story.

I would like to ask Jo if she will write another book touching on this topic, but set at a different time, perhaps. I am sure that there are many other stories that could be told.

Thanks Jo Bloom, and Gransnet, for a good read.

Hello lettie - I agree, I'm sure there's a vast amount of stories around this topic that would be worth writing. And I loved the research bit. But for now, I'm turning to new subjects and fresh inspiration.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:47:34

Greenfinch

Interesting subject matter and very well researched.I liked the characters especially Jack though Steve seemed a bit spineless. Sometimes the action moved on rather too quickly though each chapter was about the right length for a bedtime read.I am not sure how old Jo is but was she alive in the sixties?

Hello Greenfinch – thanks for your nice comments. Whereas there are many days when I feel like I might have been alive in the sixties (I have an energetic four year old son), I wasn't born until 1970. I am very disappointed not to have lived through such an incredible decade!

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:49:15

merlotgran

I enjoyed Ridley Road very much. It brought back many memories especially the fact that there was a lot of work around in the sixties. Hairdressers, secretaries, nurses, clerks et al left their home towns in droves to head for London and many of them found jobs which saw them through to marriage and beyond.

I was aware of Oswald Moseley's fascist activities but not those of Colin Jordan. This book has been well researched and there was much to learn. My only criticism, which has already been mentioned, is the ending is almost 'Disneyfied' in its neatly tied up conclusion.

I would like to ask Jo, What kind of future did you envisage for the young boy, Henry?

Hello Merlotgran (great name, by the way) – thanks for your nice comment. And that's an intriguing question! I'd hope that as Henry grows up, he turns his back on his fascist upbringing and becomes a tolerant, open-minded adult. And that Jack had a hand in that.

But does the letter even reach him? We can't be certain. But at least he's growing up in the sixties, where diversity will start to be openly celebrated. As for your comments about the Disneyfied ending – I take your point (all the comments on this board have been really interesting) but I did always envisage the last scene, that ending.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:51:01

GrannyHaggis

Thank you for the copy of Ridley Road which I enjoyed reading. I have to admit to not being too aware of the anti Semitism, but as I grew up in a small Scottish town, perhaps it passed me by. There were no Jews living there as far as I can recall.
The references to the 60's music brought back memories! And how 'cool' it was to smoke!

I'd like to ask Jo how much she changed details from the Group's actual activities to those described in the book?

Hello Grannyhaggis – amazingly, I cut a lot of the smoking out of the final draft! As for the Group's activities, I did draw on a lot of factual elements; the spirit of the Group, the ethos, the defining NSM rally at Trafalgar Square. But I built an imaginary world on those details. The characters aren't modelled on real life 62 Group members (intentionally). I was very lucky to have the constant support and eagle eye of Steve Silver. He worked with Searchlight (the anti-fascist organisation) for years and worked with lots of members of the 62 Group. He kept my details authentic.

JoBloom Fri 02-Oct-15 10:52:17

bookishworm

Thank you for my copy. I really enjoyed reading it and wondered what inspired Jo to write the book and whether she has always had a particular interest in the period/subject matter?

Hello Bookishworm – if you visit my website - www.jobloom.com, you can read all about the inspiration. I met a wonderful anti-fascist who'd lived in East London all his life and he told me about the 43 and 62 Groups. I did some research and thought it sounded fascinating. My mum was a hairdresser and my dad lived in the East End – so there were lots of connections to my life. But to be honest, before I came up with this story, I’d never considered writing anything but contemporary fiction. So it was a surprise! For me, it's all about the story.