It was 2010. I was a new mum. Lost in a mysterious world of playgroups, muslin cloths and sitting in a circle with strangers to sing Wind the Bobbin Up. But then a friend told me about the New Parents Book Group. You could bring your children! And talk about BOOKS! This was exciting news.

My first meeting passed in a haze and I don’t remember what we thought of Alexander McCall Smith. But I do remember how lovely it was join such a friendly and interesting group. A group which has led me to some great books: I particularly loved Gillespie and I, Can Any Mother Help Me?, Dark Matter and How to be a Woman and rediscovering classics like The Bell Jar and Billy Liar. And even if I’d not enjoyed – or finished – the book it was good to talk about it and find out what others thought.

So, I’m delighted to take over as co-ordinator. Thanks go to Laura Fraine, who set the group up and has run it brilliantly for the last four years, and to New Writing North for their support. Here’s looking forward to many more years of bookish, and non-bookish, chat. Our next meeting is at 10.30am on Friday 12 December when we’ll be discussing The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. New members are always welcome. Hope to see you soon.

Amanda Quinn

Happy New Year!

Happy new year everyone. Between poorly babies, imminent births and midwife appointments, our first meeting of the year had us firmly in the New Parents camp. Book group, less so.

For those of us who have read Iain Banks’ Espedair Street, we will discuss it alongside Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty at the February meeting. If you haven’t picked it up yet, I noticed it for sale in a ridiculous cheap Iain Banks bundle through The Book People. I had never read any Banks before and somehow expected him to be gritty, lean and hard-hitting. It must be all those steely grey covers. Not so, at least as far as Espedair Street is concerned. It’s quite a sweet, funny, romantic tale in fact, and was a total surprise to me.

Apple Tree Yard is also on offer – I just picked one up in WH Smith where it is currently Book of the Week and on sale at half price. And thanks to Fiona who is organised enough to be thinking of our May book choice, she has found The Things We Never Said by Susan Elliot Wright on Amazon for £1.95 paperback or £1.85 Kindle. Bargain! There’s hardly a better reason to curl up with wooly blanket and a good book this month.


A Great British Institution

There are an estimated 50,000 book groups in the country, according to this piece in The Telegraph about the book group as a Great British Institution.

I wonder how many other mother-and-toddler book groups there are. I wonder if they all share that same careful balance of thoughtful literary discussion and potty training tips.

This March marks three years in the life of the New Parents’ Book Group and not only have our babies grown into their own little people (NB: new babies always very welcome!), but our group has taken on a life of its own too.

The array of snacks to keep the kids occupied seems to grow more elaborate each month, but then again, the children are also learning to entertain themselves in beautiful and I’m sure entirely educational ways. No doubt the regular exposure to contemporary art is the explanation for James wanting to get the paints out at every (bloody) opportunity.

Speaking of which, my latest parenting cheat, which suits this wet weather, is the nearby leisure centre on a Sunday morning. For a mere £1.50, James can tear about the soft play for a good hour, while I shut out the wall of sound, attempt to curl up on a hard plastic chair and drift away with the latest book club read. Fun times for all.

Good books for snowy days

Hello everyone,

Well, there’s no better excuse for self-imposed confinement than a fresh dump of snow. But actually now that the joy of snowmen and sledging has passed, I am going slightly mad at the thought of yet more trudging to nursery and back or, worse, being stuck in all day with a runny-nosed toddler. Despite the weather and my own romantic inclination, I have no interest in curling up with a blanket and cocoa in front of the (imaginary) fire. No, every inch of my body is demanding to be taken OUT. At least books are an escape.

We’ve got some great reads lined up over the next few months, sure to make us laugh, cry and scrunch up our faces in furious indignation (my favourite reading stance).

Next up on 8 February is Keith Waterhouse’s 1959 classic, Billy Liar. For those who’ve asked, it’s the novel, rather than the later play we’re discussing, although if you’ve had too many sleepless nights you can always cheat and watch the film.

On 8 March we’ll be talking about The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, a magical novel set in the Alaskan wilderness in the depths of winter. By Alaskan standards, our own snow-day frustrations might just pale into insignificance…

And briefly, beyond March our reading list is as follows:

April – The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

May – The Thread, Victoria Hislop

June – The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides

July – The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling

We were talking last meeting about the effects of library closures on communities in Newcastle. You might like to read these short essays by local authors who visited the libraries in question. The piece by David Almond sent shivers down my spine.

See you on the 8th!


Book(s) for September: a clarification

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all well.

I’m afraid I made a mistake in the most recent Book Group News on Facebook and said that the book for discussion on Friday 14 September was Gillespie and I by Jane Harris.

It isn’t – I got mixed up. The book we were actually supposed to be discussing is Stuart: A Life Backwards by Alexander Masters.

What we’ve decided to do is discuss both as I know some of you will have read Gillespie and I – so I will attend the group (having read it) and Laura will be there too (having read the other book) and between us we’ll make the two discussions work.

I’m really sorry about this. I realise now I’ve mixed your group’s choices up with the Whitley Bay book group, and also sown some chaos for them.

Apologies again and see you at the next meeting, Friday 14 September, 10.30am, at BALTIC (Level 2, Quay Education Area).

Best wishes


It’s almost the end of the book group year…

It’s hard to believe that it is more than two years since the group began. Tiny, suckling babies have turned into gorgeous, wobbly toddlers and little people with huge personalities. New babies arrive, big children go off to start school (yikes!) and so we continue, meeting over a clatter of bright plastic toys to chat about books, parenthood and everything in between.


Our final two books for the year should give us loads to talk about. First up, next week (Friday 8 June) is The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I read this book on a long journey and became totally caught up in the beautifully described world of Alma, her little brother Bird and, right across town, the elderly author Leo Gursky. I hope everyone enjoys it.


Our last discussion this year will take place on Friday 27 July, when we will look at The Damned United by David Peace. After a host of books about women, we picked this fact-based novel about Brian Clough’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United. The story of ‘a man characterised by a fear of failure and a hunger for success’, The Damned United sounds right up our street!


 We take a break for the summer holidays, but will return in September. If you have any ideas of books you would like to discuss in the autumn, let Liv or me know.


See you on 8 June, in the Quay Education area of BALTIC as usual.


Laura x

Next meeting February 17, discussing Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Welcome (back) to book group!

I think we’ve got our best ever line up of books to discuss over the next few months. In February we’ll be chatting about Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, which Liv and I agreed was one of our favourite reads of last year. As a dissection of an outwardly perfect marriage, Franzen excels in depicting the dissatisfactions and personal tragedies that lurk behind a comfortable middle class life.  By the end of the book, we know Patty, Walter and the Barrier Street gang almost as well as we know our own friends. But do we like them as much?

Freedom is quite a long novel, but even if you have a chance to read a couple of chapters, it offers up loads of ideas ripe for discussion. It’s also a page turner – so pack the kids off to bed, curl up on the sofa and settle down for a few hours in the (newly gentrified) city of St Paul.


Also, just a reminder that we have moved our time and location. We now meet at BALTIC in the Quay education space, which is on Level 2 (sometimes behind an exhibition wall, but don’t worry, it’s always open). There are loads of toys for toddlers and pre-schoolers and plenty of space for new crawlers to test out their freedom. At the moment our children range from 0 – 4 years, so come along with your little angels/ rascals and join us for a grown up chat. Our meetings take place from 10.30-11.30am on the second Friday of the month. Next month is the exception, when we will meet on Friday 17 February.


Hope to see you all there!

How to be a Woman – 14 Oct – BALTIC

Ah, autumn. Season of snuffles and sneezes. I have spent three nights in the last ten lying on my children’s bedroom floor while they cough and whine in their sleep – all the better for catching up with this month’s book, How to be a Woman. I love Caitlin Moran’s writing and have laughed and hurrahed! through these sleepless nights, always hanging around on the bedroom floor for longer than required while I read just one more chapter. I’m looking forward to discussing it with you on Friday.


Just to remind everyone that The Sage is closed on the 14 October, so we’re meeting at BALTIC instead – Level 2, in the Quay Education area.


See you there, Laura x

The Guardian Angel’s Journal – 9th September

Hi everyone,


I hope you’ve all had a great summer and are looking forward to getting back to book group!

It’s been a while since I was at school (although my daughter goes for the first time tomorrow – yikes!), but September always feels like the start of the year to me. I suppose I’m still a sucker for new stationery, new books and new shoes. What could be better? (Oh, and new babies of course)

Anyway, whether your year is just beginning or 3/4 of the way through, we’ve got a great line-up of books for the autumn term. We are lucky enough to have the author of The Guardian Angel’s Journal, Carolyn Jess-Cooke, coming along to our meeting this month. I found this a fascinating book which I devoured in a day, but have been thinking about ever since. I’m sure we’ll have a great discussion and I hope to see you all there – new babes, new shoes and all.


Laura x

The Great Gatsby discussion Friday 17 June

New parenthood is decidedly unglamorous. Whatever happened to candlelit garden parties, cocktails, sultry afternoons and mysterious men?

We’ve picked a real summer classic in The Great Gatsby, so come along and taste the American Dream with us (safe in the knowledge that needy babies and the chill of the Tyne will bring us back to reality, with a bump).

Please note that due to work and family commitments of different members, we’re now meeting at 1pm on the second Friday of the month (third Friday in June). We hope this still suits most people!