Our members' book club runs four times a year. Mind members and staff share reviews of the books they have been reading and members can enter a prize draw to win copies of all the books that have been reviewed.
**Content warning: Eating disorders, self-harm, descriptions of life in an asylum**
While there's still so much work to be done, we live in a world where mental health is finally beginning to be understood by so many people. But this wasn't always the case - just a few short decades ago, many people experiencing a mental health problem could expect to be completely ostracised by society. And mental health hospitals were not always designed to help people get better. For many, they were sadly no better than prisons.
This is the difficult world explored in Anna Hope's The Ballroom, a stunning book set in the early 1900s in the imposing grandeur of a Victorian asylum, based on the famous High Royds in the Yorkshire countryside. The asylum, one of the largest in the country, was home to thousands of people, many of whom never left once they were admitted.
The novel centres on John and Ella, two patients in the asylum who fall in love after meeting once a week in its beautiful ballroom, but it's so much more than just a love story. Through exploring the asylum through their eyes, we catch a glimpse of a devastating part of history. There are some incredibly difficult topics explored, including a shocking plotline where staff at the asylum debate and even attempt forced sterilization on patients, and it is certainly not an easy read. Yet there's so much hope in the book, and the writer creates two characters for whom their diagnosis and experience of mental health is simply part of who they are, not the whole of who they are. For anyone at all interested in the history of mental health treatment in this country, it's a must read.
Reviewer: Victoria, Senior Media Officer at Mind
**Content warning: Discriminatory language, violence, sexual assault**
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is a gem of a book. Devouring it over the Christmas break, I was engrossed from the first page to the last, desperate to keep reading but also dreading the moment I had to put it down. I didn’t want the story to end; it was so beautifully written, so heart-wrenching and so utterly mesmerising.
Part murder mystery, part coming-of-age novel and part love story, it centres on the character Kya, the mysterious ‘Marsh Girl’ who lives in the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast. When the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya of the crime. But Kya is misunderstood. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the creatures that surround her and solace in nature. But there comes a time when she yearns for more… to be loved.
All the characters in this novel are so well imagined, but Kya in particular is a captivating heroine and a character you can’t help but root for. The murder mystery strand to the story keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout, but for me it was the coming-of-age narrative – a story of love and survival - that made this book truly special.
The author Delia Owens has previously written three non-fiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa, and her passion for nature is clear from every beautiful description of the marsh landscape. The sense of place is immense and I found myself instantly transported to the marshlands that Kya calls home – the smells, the sounds and the sights leaping off the page.
Where The Crawdads Sing is a brilliant read, and if you’re looking for something to keep you captivated during those long lockdown days, I would urge you to pick up a copy.
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer
**Content warnings: bullying, alcoholism, violence against women**
Lauren is ten and a half years old, and the bullying at school is getting worse. She’s dabbling in the occult; apple pips and birch bark in the fire, candles and incantations, tarot cards. Reaching towards the interests of her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby.
Niall, her father, with his long hair and band t-shirts, hip flasks and erratic moods, isn’t forthcoming as he struggles with the loss. They live a mostly self-contained life in their little house on the edge of the pines. But people talk.
The remote northern Scottish setting is so immersive right from the opening Halloween pages. Toon is brilliant at conjuring that magic and fear inherent in childhood, where the lines between reality and the imagined are often blurred... making dens in the woods and glimpsing things through the trees.
Talk travels fast in the tight-knit community, especially when a teenage girl suddenly goes missing. What does it mean to be different somewhere so isolated? How are we haunted by loss and lack of closure?
I loved that so much of Pine was through the eyes of a child. Toon is very skilled at the switchback between “old thirty five” Niall and his curious, troubled daughter. I loved that there were plenty of Scots phrases and folklore references in here, too. An unsettling and moving thriller with a touch of the supernatural.
Reviewer: Rachel, Trusts and Statutory Assistant at Mind
Shortly after I’d finished reading this book, the news came through that Captain Sir Tom Moore had sadly passed away with coronavirus, aged 100. This autobiography serves as a fitting tribute to an incredible man, who was a beacon of light in the darkest of times. RIP Captain Tom.
It was back in early April 2020, just weeks after the first UK lockdown was announced, that a 99-year-old Second World War veteran decided to walk laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS. His family set up a fundraising page with a target of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday on 30 April. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time his birthday arrived, Captain Sir Tom Moore had raised over £30 million and was a certified lockdown legend; inspiring people all over the world with his determination, courage and kindness.
Captain Tom lifted all our spirits, becoming a symbol of hope with his catchphrase ‘Tomorrow will be a good day’. His autobiography, which was announced in support of the creation of the Captain Tom Foundation, is just as uplifting. The book charts his incredible life, from his childhood growing up in the Yorkshire Dales and his time serving in Burma during the Second World War, right through to his incredible record-breaking challenge and being knighted by the Queen. It’s an inspirational read; full of sage life advice that we could all learn something from. I particularly enjoyed reading Tom’s unassuming account of the walk and his shock at the reaction to it, it reminded me what a tonic this positive news story was at a time when we needed it most.
Spanning a century, I also found it a fascinating account of Britain’s history. Tom lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, VE Day, the moon landing and so much more, and it’s all brought to life with his wit and warmth.
It’s a far cry from your usual celebrity autobiography (showbiz gossip is in short supply!) and it’s all the better for it. It’s a tale of an ordinary man who’s led a quite extraordinary life, inspiring a nation in the process.
Reviewer: Lydia, Membership Officer at Mind
Members can enter our draw for a chance to win a free copy of one of the books included in our book club. All you have to do is click on the button below and fill out the prize draw form telling us which book you would like to win.
The closing date for entry to the free prize draw is two weeks from the date our book club email was sent to members. The prize draw will take place within two weeks of the closing date for entry. Winners will be selected at random. Prize draw entry is restricted to UK residents who are Mind members. Mind employees and their immediate families may not apply, nor may anyone else directly associated with the competition. In case of the winner being under 18 the prize will need to be claimed by a parent or guardian.
If you have any questions, please contact the membership team via email at [email protected] or by telephone on 0208 215 2243.
You can also catch up with all of the past reviews in our members book club archive.
Do you have another book you'd like to recommend? Are you interested in writing a review to let your fellow Mind members know what you thought of it? Email us at [email protected]