The Havisham Blog

Reviews and opinions on literature past and present



Book Club: Rebuilding Coventry 

I can’t believe we’ve made it to our 6th book club! It was my turn again and I chose Rebuilding Coventry by Sue Townsend. After having so many books about murder and dying I felt it was important to try and lighten the mood of the book club. I think we were probably one dramatic death away from tipping over the edge. Having not remembered what it was like to read a happy book, I asked a friend for advice on funny authors and she told me about Sue Townsend. Rebuilding Coventry was a short but witty novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I laughed out loud several times because the characters were so ridiculously hysterical. I felt like I knew them.
Ironically, Rebuilding Coventry follows the life of the unfortunately named housewife Coventry Dakin (it’s not about rebuilding Coventry after the war) after she murders her neighbour Gerald Fox. After she commits her crime, she heads to London in order to start a new life for herself only to be made homeless and sleep in “Cardboard City” as well as having sex with strangers for a Kit Kat. The story flips back and forth between Coventry and the drama she created back at home with the murder. She leaves her boring, tortoise loving husband and her two teenage children wondering what has happened to their very shy and very obedient mother.

Although some of the comments in book club were mixed, I feel like the book was so easy to read. In comparison to other authors we’ve read at book club, the plot rolled out as it should — getting to the point quickly but descriptively showing that in literature quality not quantity can be an important factor. Although I crammed the last few chapters of this in one night, it reminded me how much I love reading. I love being transported somewhere else for a bit, chuckling to myself about cows looking camp with OTT eyelashes and an elderly woman who never puts clothes on when she’s home. I would definitely recommend it and I can’t wait to read something by Sue Townsend again, we could all do with a few laughs 😊.

Next book club is…Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. Looking forward to it!


Quick News!

I’m volunteering again (and blogging again, it’s like I’ve gone back in time)! I’m volunteering for The Windows Project who are a local charity who encourage creativity through writing.

Writing is a way of seeing – the ordinary and the extraordinary, from your own street to the landscape of your dreams.”

I attended an event for families at The Academy of St Francis Assisi on Saturday and The Windows Project ‘Amazing Push Poem Machine’ was a hit with the children and many adults.


The person/people playing have to throw a ball into a hole which has a letter under it. When they have their letter they then have to think of a word that will add onto an already existing poem or it will be used to start a new one.

I loved that a the beginning of the day we started with: “Love Everyone On Earth Forever Because It’s Excellent” (very apt with our current Brexit situation #rage). But by the end of the day we had “The People Irritate Me”.

My personal favourite was:


Our final poem of the day was :


Again, very apt for the day. It was all very inspiring and creative and reminded me why I was volunteering in the first place!

Very overdue blog post…

I’d be lying if I said I’ve been too busy to blog, because I really haven’t. The last 3 weeks have been spent crocheting a “scarf” for my boyfriend and watching Gossip Girl.


My internship at The Reader Organisation ended in January and I had a great last couple of months there. Before Christmas I was given the opportunity to cover a reading group in Toxteth which was really fun. The people attending that group are great and I had a nice time covering the group and munching on mince pies. I’m trying to attend the group while I’m off but find it difficult because I seem to be forgetting what day it is these days. As you can see I also learnt how to crochet and attended Crochet Lunch every Thursday. I’m not very good at it but it’s so relaxing!

I was also invited to their staff Christmas party which was really good. There was lots of food, crackers and secret santa gifts. I got a Rubix cube which I’m going to pretend I’ve completed myself.

Christmas at The Reader Organisation

After the new year it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have very long left at TRO at all. I spent my last few weeks making sure all loose ends were tied and that there was a handover document for the next Market Research Intern. I then had a leaving do at the East Village Arts Club which was great. It felt so nice that people made an effort for that. It was great to work with such lovely and friendly people. I already miss them and learned so much from them.

Gifts from TRO

What now? I keep trying not to answer this question. I’m still volunteering at News From Nowhere which I’m really happy about and helps me remember when it’s Friday. I had the chance to go to their Christmas party too which was at Brink on Parr Street. I’m also still working part time at Currys (their Christmas party was at Leo’s Casino…I had a very busy Christmas). I enjoyed working for an organisation so have been looking for jobs there in marketing and communication. The publishing dream is still there and is something I hope to take back up later on. But for now I’m going to keep crocheting and looking forward to the lovely and relaxing holiday I have planned in March. Bring on Gran Canaria!  XOXO


The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck…




While I’ve been at The Reader Organisation I’ve been trying my best to find that time to just sit and read. I’ve been finding it hard to get into some books I’ve picked up lately, abandoning them half way through or falling asleep.

While I was at their recruitment day last week, in a small group we read Jacqueline Wilson’s Double Act and I realised that I’d always found it so easy to get into books when I was younger. There was little else to worry about at that age I guess.

It was my birthday on Saturday (“I’m feeling 22!♪”) and all the family were round and my 7 year old cousin, Ava, asked me if I had anymore books she could have (while clearing out my cupboards I gave lots of my children’s books to her). Happy to help, I ran upstairs and found my old copy of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddle-Duck and passed it to Ava. She wasn’t too into it and decided to play ‘Minion Rush’ on my phone instead. While I was sat down, I had a flick through it; the story coming back to me. When I looked, I noticed a message had been written at the front of it from my Godmother Denise, nearly 20 years ago, Christmas 1993:

Dearest Shauna,

Very soon you will be able to read this book, and I hope the ‘Tales of Beatrix Potter’ will fill your life with happiness like they did myself and many other children.  Keep these books and maybe one day, you can pass them on to your own children!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May God bless you and keep you.

With love always,
Your Godmother, Denise xxx

When I read that I thought to myself it was no wonder I liked reading so much when I was younger. I’ve had such a good relationship with books since I was little. The tales of Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, Squirrel Nutkin and many more had inspired me and I’d enjoyed them so much.

Mum said that she and dad used to read them to me along with Aesops Fables (dad used to tell me the Tortoise and the Hare all the time, I can actually remember it) and Enid Blyton. I hope that my Godmother Denise is right in that I can pass these books down to my own kids one day. It was such a good gift from her; a love of literature that can be passed on. I hope one day I could do the same…

Quick news!


I was in News From Nowhere the other day volunteering and came across the fully published Moss Witch by Sara Maitland. While I was at Comma Press in August, I helped proofread the series of short stories while it was in it’s final stages of editing and now there it is on the shelf. While I was at Comma I asked Katie about the process the book has to go through before it gets to a bookshop and it’s a very long editing journey for any publication. There’s just something great in seeing something that you’ve seen be created, put together and helped with while it was all PDFs and scribbles. Now it’s become completely bounded and covered to be sold for others to enjoy. It must be a good feeling for the editor, I mean it even felt good to me 🙂

The Reader Organisation (In the beginning…)


So, I have good news: I got an internship at The Reader Organisation (TRO)! Well, I’ve been there for 2 weeks now but I’m still incredibly excited to be part of an amazing and inspiring organisation. TRO is a charitable social enterprise working to connect people with great literature through shared reading. Their mission is to build a Reading Revolution where they envisage a world where everyone has access to literature that can enable great discussion and personal responses. To me, reading has always been important. It’s a way to relax and escape, but also reading has always been an amazing topic of conversation. Have you ever been reading the same book as your friend and then had that great discussion about it afterwards when you’ve finished, the one where it leaves you thinking about the possibilities of the book and what it all meant? Well, that’s the type of feeling TRO creates in a shared reading environment and I’ve had the chance to see the shared reading groups first-hand (but I’ll talk more about that later).

I first heard about TRO from Sophie Povey, (the ‘Reader Places’ manager at the organisation) when she came into PC World to buy an iPad about nearly 2 years ago. Fascinated by what TRO did, I looked them up but was unlucky, as there were no intern vacancies available. However, as Sophie had said, I kept checking back to the page in case the chance to apply came about. About 4 weeks ago, I was having one of those days where you just apply for jobs; like where you write about a dozen cover letters and fill out numerous application forms until you’re bored of talking about yourself. Something told me to check TRO’s website, so I went into my ‘Favourites’, selected the reader and was lucky enough to find an application for the Communications and Development internship and I had just under a week to fill out and perfect the form. 

After I had my interview, I wasn’t completely sure if I’d been successful. Unlike other interviews I’d had recently, I relaxed, took my time and thought about my answers and most importantly I was completely myself. 

The following day I had a phone call before it was time to head out on the shop floor at Currys (I have now moved to a Currys store) from the Literary Learning Manager Casi who told me I had been unsuccessful in getting the Communications and Development internship as they has a stronger candidate. However, Casi quickly raised my spirits by offering me a new position as Market Research Intern on the Literary Learning team because she believed I had a good eye for detail and of course I accepted. I cut my hours at Currys to just weekends and started at TRO the following Monday 🙂

I was greeted by Michelle (People and Support Administrator) who showed me around, introduced me to everyone, and gave me my induction programme for the following 2 weeks. I had lunch with everyone which is a Monday tradition where everyone brings something to eat and everyone has lunchtime to catch up with each other,which I thought was lovely idea. I was scheduled for several meetings throughout the week with other members of staff which was good because I could then figure out who everyone was and what their roles were within the organisation. I also needed to get to grips with my own role and what Casi expected from me.


  • to research individual courses that are coming up and to find how that theme for that course can appeal to a particular market. 
  • to review commissioned courses since 2008
  • to monitor the evaluation of courses 


Over the two weeks I attended several shared reading groups. The first was at Toxteth Library, where I joined a really friendly reading group. A lot of the groups are with people who don’t necessarily read at home and enjoy reading in a group. The facilitator began the story aloud and as it began to unravel, more and more discussion surrounding the story developed and a couple of the group read aloud (I even had a go!). When I left, I felt really good. It was such a great way to read. English at university had been reading and discussing but not like this. Here participants take the take the text at face value; tell you how it makes them feel, if it feels like something that has happened in their lives or if they’ve read something like that before. It’s all about those personal responses to reading aloud. I went to another group on the Thursday of all women, who crochet for fifteen minutes with a cup of tea before reading (they’re reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro at the moment). I went to another reading group for children under five which was so much fun. I had the opportunity to make boogie puppets and sing ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ all before lunchtime. I then went to another group of just two men who were making me laugh for the full hour as they related the story to their own personal ghost stories at home. The reading groups have been a great opportunity to see the work of TRO directly and it’s such a good feeling to come out of the reading group feeling like there has been a great enjoyment of the literature involved. 


I’m really looking forward to my next few months at TRO. I’ve already had a great two weeks there, everyone is lovely and welcoming. It’s a job I’ve never had to do before which is challenging, but a good challenge. A challenge that I can learn from and realise my potential. 


Comma Press


This is a little late but better late than never. About 2 weeks ago I spent a week in Manchester  at a lovely and small publishers called Comma Press. Hidden away in the northern quarter in an old building shared with the company Madman, is the small but dedicated publishers Comma Press.

Comma Press is a not-for-profit publishing initiative dedicated to promoting new writing, with an emphasis on the short story. It is committed to a spirit of risk-taking and challenging publishing, free of the commercial pressures on mainstream houses.

I found the publishers by using a northwest directory of publishing companies at the beginning of this year and Katie (who does the marketing Comma) told me they only had space for work experience in august.  I marked the 19th august on my calendar and hoped that the opportunity would still be there at the time. Luckily it was!

What turned out to be a very expensive week travelling was completely worth it and reinforced my interest in the publishing industry. I met some really lovely people such as the editorial manager Ra Page who was happy to answer any questions I had and other people doing work experience that week. I was given the new collection of short stories called The Moss Witch by accomplished novelist Sara Maitland. It was sometimes hard to remember that I needed to proofread the book as I was getting into some of the stories and the analysis of them that was written by writers interested in the subject of that particular short story. I was told that it was important the manuscript for the collection was proofread a few times in case anything was missed. It taught me to be very thorough.

When I completed proofreading The Moss Witch, I was told to create a rough bibliography for another collection but this time it was analysis of popular short stories such as Edgar Allan Poe. It reminded me a lot of university but it made me think of all the pieces that need to be put together to create a book.

Something I have been thinking about recently is social media marketing and connecting to groups using social media and it’s something that a lot of industries are using today including publishing so it helped a lot when Katie let post events on their Facebook page about a creative writing class and also create the newsletter as well. It’s something I definitely want to look into in the future.

After a great week Ra treated Jenny (the other girl doing work experience) and I to lunch at Bakerie where we talked publishing and were treated to books that were published by Comma.

It was such a good opportunity that I’m so grateful for as these little looks into the industry help me to make decisions about what I could possibly see myself doing. Just a massive thank you to Comma for giving the time!

Liverpool University Press

This is a bit of a late account of my week at Liverpool University Press (LUP). I was lucky to finally get a placement at LUP which publishes academic books. The company has very recently looked into expanding into ebooks which means that academic books can be read online. My task was to read and spot check each ebook to check for any errors. It was an interesting job and meant that I had to learn to be meticulous and precise. In one chapter I found the name ‘Francois’ with a Chinese symbol in the middle of it. It made me think that if I hadn’t chosen that particular chapter to look over, it would never have been noticed. It just made me want to go through every chapter to make sure! Having work experience there made me understand more about the company and the different aspects of it. I expected LUP to be a really big building with lots of offices and people but only 10 people work in a small building with a red door just on the outside of the city centre. This meant that I got to understand the ins and outs of the industry a bit more and I was told I was free to ask anything I wanted in order to find out more. I was really grateful for the placement and it gave me my first real look into the publishing industry and to be honest, I like what I saw 🙂

Who Made Your Pants?

These are £18 from the website
Who Made Your Pants?

Have you ever wondered who made your underwear? No?

I was in News From Nowhere the other day and a customer pointed out the washing line hanging in the store with two pairs of frilly lace knickers pegged to it. Funnily enough, I’d never noticed them there! Mandy explained that it is a company that gives women who have had a hard time a job making pants. ‘Who Made Your Pants? (@whomadeyour) say:

“We also think that it’s not really on for anyone to be made to work in bad
conditions just for a cheap pair of pants. Who could feel lovely in something
made in a bad place? So we make our pants in a great place”

The factory is in Southampton, the women can work their way into different parts of the company such as finance or marketing. ‘Who Made Your Pants?’ say that they use the waste fabric from bigger underwear companies to create these actually really nice pieces of underwear, they don’t even give you a VPL. All profits go back into the business and are used for training for the women, fabrics and wages. I think that it’s a very interesting way to give jobs in what seems like a happy and good working environment. When you order a pair of the underwear, you get a letter from the woman that made them telling you her story and saying thank you. It’s definitely the kind of thing that News From Nowhere would support but it’s definitely a very inventive way of sending your support.

Every time you buy a pair of our pants you’re keeping another woman in a job

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