Prison Book Club, The

Walmsley, Ann

  14 Reviews

Becoming involved in the Book Clubs for Inmates programme run in some Ontario prisons was an eye-opener for journalist Ann Walmsley. The victim of a violent assault, she was initially reluctant to be involved, but just like inmates taking part, she too was to benefit from the experience. Author Somerset Maugham observed that 'to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life', and as became apparent through the shared experience of reading and discussing books, these prisoners had misery aplenty.

Complete with a comprehensive book list, this is a fascinating story of prison life, the transformative power of reading and the potential of book clubs to be vehicles for change.



CHCH 060
There were mixed opinions. While all agreed that what the two women were doing was commendable and beneficial, the book was not particularly enjoyable to read and the tone at times condescending towards the inmates.
TAUR 028
Very interesting and inspirational read. Enjoyed by all the members.
CHCH 277
Greatly enjoyed by all members with follow up on books read by prisoners - some to be re-read and some to be investigated. We were made to feel lacking by the insight and depth of comments expressed.
WELL 215
Mixed opinions about this book. It was quite direction-less and didn't really take us to a conclusion - which many members were happy with! We would have liked more character development (or more information about the prisoners). There were long descriptive passages of what the author saw driving to and from the prison which we felt, generally, distracted from the "story".
There were a variety of opinions about this book - boring, annoying, interesting, enjoyable. As some of our group had either worked, volunteered or been involved in NZ prisons we found it difficult to accept the apparently high literacy level of the inmates and their responses to some of the titles they read. It provoked a lively discussion.
WELL 100
This book gave us a lot to talk about, especially as the NZ Correction Dept is introducing new ways of running prisons.
Not surprisingly, everyone enjoyed reading this book about a different kind of book group, and the discussion didn't flag! The level of literacy of its members, and so many insightful comments were noted, although some found Ann Walmsley's writing style a bit repetitive.
Overall we felt this book had the potential to be a really good read and especially enjoyed reading about the books we had read. But a number found the author too self absorbed and repetitive which detracted from the enjoyment of the book.
TAUR 049
We agreed that the book was interesting in reflecting life for prisoners and the positive effect books can have on them. We enjoyed hearing comments about books we have yet to read ourselves; the different perspectives on books we have already read were also fascinating. On a less positive note, we felt it was harder to engage with the writer as at times she became self absorbed and we lost sight of the book club experience... Overall though, we all affirmed the theme of the book about the power of books to restore and rehabilitate, as well as the importance of sharing our reading experiences.
WELL 134
We were all glad we had read this book, despite the fact that the style seemed in some ways to detract from the story. It certainly made us reflect on NZ's prison system and what opportunities prisoners have here to join book groups. We liked hearing the prisoners's responses to the books, but were glad of the 'cast of characters' list at the front. We also thought that the style of the cover was very appropriate.
CHCH 125
Comments were "too wordy and detailed" and "not engaging enough". However there were interesting reviews of books we have read, and encouragement to read those we haven't.
An absorbing story which gave us an insight into prison life (albeit Canada) and the people who end up there. Some found it somewhat wordy, especially the passages describing Ann's travels to and from the prisons and Carol's home. However, most of us felt these contrasted prison life with its lack of any sensory stimuli, and the world outside. The book challenged our misconceptions of people in prison. On the whole it reaffirmed how important reading is for everyone.
MTMA 001
What an interesting book!! Really worth the read; our discussion was lively and interesting.
WELL 047
An interesting book, at times repetitive. The purpose of introducing the books and developing the "Book Groups" is to be commended, and enabling for the people both inside and outside of the corrections system.