Reading group at HMP Garth

A reading group has started at HMP Garth with 6 prisoners and 2 staff and is going strong.

They recently sent us some feedback and reviews written by the participants. In this group they have a very structured plan for the sessions and started off by looking at poetry and sharing thoughts about meanings, structure and messages.

Their first novel was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and some had criticism of the letter-style of narration. They discussed the issues of nature versus nurture and whether the ends justify the means. They looked at the monster with sympathy as a lonely, frightened creature craving friendship. Discussion in the group proved that everyone picks up different aspects of the story. By today’s standards the book was found to be more thought-provoking than chilling. But you feel anger, sorrow, pity and even understanding towards both Frankenstein and his monster. Overall, inspite of the cumbersome epistolary narrative the group would encourage others to read this book and make their own mind up. Reading it encouraged the Intervention Worker participant to read out of her comfort zone.

The next book was The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle. Here again they were surprised at the way the story is told, by Dr Watson rather than Holmes. One participant found the character of Holmes very unsympathetic, always needing to have the last word, a bit of an egotist. And also found the story light on substance by today’s standards. So there was a mixed response. The group thought there was little to challenge the experienced mystery story connoisseur but found it a good read all the same and enjoyable even if not challenging.

The group also read The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne and this work really did resonate. The group was struck by and enlightened by the choice of the child’s point of view for telling the story. They found they became involved with the story and shared the emotions that the characters are struggling to come to terms with. One member wrote “The friendship that starts out of desperation for kinship by both Bruno and Shmuel even though they are oceans apart in status and culture shows that true friendship shines through.”

The Intervention Worker wrote that the group had been “encouraged to look more deeply into the style of writing, authors and society’s perceptions and to challenge pre- conceived thoughts. The whole experience has been enlightening and has forged good therapeutic relationships.” Good to hear about a lively and thriving reading group.


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