Our former National Treasurer and now Vice President Jenny Rowe CB is an active member of our online book club. She found time to talk to CSRF Marketing & Communications Officer Lily Roubians about her favourite books and love of reading…

“Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  - C.S Lewis

C.S Lewis published the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1950 and this book taught us all about how we can stay at home and walk through the magical wardrobe that is any good book: a powerful story full of new wisdom, adventures and lovable characters that become like dear old friends. We could all do with an Aslan to turn to in these times to lead us into Narnia – and so we have done our best to provide new worlds to travel at the same time as sharing them with our wonderful CSRF community – that way we can navigate these new challenges together whilst self-isolating at home, keeping in contact with one another through reviews and recommendations, discussing and inspiring ideas whilst taking on the great villain that is boredom.

It is so important to use this time to engage in activities that you enjoy – to make time in the day to do something just for you – and to remember that by staying at home and doing this you are also doing something for everyone else by keeping your community safe, and helping all of our incredible national services. These are unprecedented and uncertain times and there is no better escapism than the adventure of a good book to run away to from the comfort and safety of your very own home. This is a time to stay in contact with one another over the phone and online and share recommendations to each other that keep us active members of our communities without breaking any self-isolation and social-distancing rules.

We can all learn from each other and as part of our plan to expand our book club community so that we can all do something together I was delighted to chat to Jenny about her love of reading and to find out more about her favourite books.

What do books mean to you? Has being a part of the CSRF Book Club changed your experience of reading?
I have always liked reading books for relaxation. I like the variety of books recommended by the Book Club, many of which I would otherwise not have read.

What was the first book that you can remember having a significant impact on you?
As a young child I used to love the Enid Blyton Famous Five books and the Malory Towers books.

Where did your love of reading come from?
My Mum, who used to read a lot. She used to take me and my brother to the library each week to choose books.

What inspired you to take part in the book club, and what were your expectations at that time?
Our Chief Executive (David Tickner) encouraged me! And I thought it was worth a try.

How has it gone on to meet/change those expectations - what does it feel like to be a part of the CSRF Book Club now?
I find it interesting to have to write a review of the book I have read as opposed to discussing it in person with others.

Has the book club ever introduced you to a type of book you hadn’t read before and has it ever impacted your genre preferences?
Oh yes. I don't think it has changed my genre preferences, but it has introduced me to new authors.

What are your all-time favourite authors/books since your first ever favourite book?
That is difficult as I enjoy many kinds of books. I have very much enjoyed the first two Hilary Mantel books about Thomas Cromwell and have started The Mirror and The Light; I enjoy many of the classic crime writers such as the Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L Sayers.

Do you have an all-time favourite books from the CSRF Book Club?
I very much enjoyed Warlight by Michael Ondaatje - a book full of nuance where much is not what it might seem.

Desert Island pick: You can only read one book for the rest of your life, what is that book and why?
Please may I cheat and take the series by Anthony Powell under the heading: A Dance to the Music of Time.

Finally, what is a book that you wish everyone would read and why?
This is difficult – there are so many, but one is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This is a war novel with a real difference. And I found The Cellist of Sarajevo, about a more recent conflict, very powerful.


We are going to make an exception just for Jenny and let her take the Anthony Powell series because she shared such thoughtful and interesting books with us!

A huge thank you to Jenny for taking part and we hope that you enjoyed this interview as much as we did and that it brings a new favourite book onto a bookshelf near you!

You can sign register to be a book club member by emailing your details to: [email protected] (all book club members receive a regular e-newsletter with culture news and offers) - you can see our current book club page by clicking here