Book Review: Chickenfeed


Chickenfeed, by Minette Walters, is based on the true story of the ‘chicken farm murder’ which took place in East Sussex in December 1924. It was written as a Quick Read; a short, compelling and accessible work of fiction created to encourage more reluctant readers to pick up a book.

The protagonist, eighteen year old Norman Thorne, is flattered when the slightly older Elsie Cameron singles him out for attention after church one Sunday morning. Elsie is desperate for romance and dreams of getting married, but in the aftermath of the First World War suitable men are in short supply. Elsie is not good looking and is known to be moody. Few have paid her any attention.

Norman’s father is not pleased when the couple start to walk out together. He agrees to lend his son money to enable him to set up a small poultry farm in Sussex in the hope that he will lose interest in the girl. Elsie is determined not to let this happen.

What unfolds is a tragic story of loneliness, weakness and manipulation as both Norman and Elsie try to force each other to acquiesce to their desires. This is a believable tale of a relationship gone sour.

Norman was hanged for murder but always maintained his innocence. Elsie’s unstable state of mind was common knowledge but so too was Norman’s desire to have her out of his life.

The reader’s attention is grabbed from the first page to the last. Whatever opinion may be formed from the facts, questions remain. The author is not alone in asking, were Norman’s intentions proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’?

I will be distributing copies of this book in Chippenham, Wiltshire on World Book Night.


Celebrating the pleasure of reading

Today is World Book Day in the UK and Ireland. Do other countries take part? Perhaps it has an aspirational nomenclature. It is certainly an event that it would be good to see celebrated widely.

When my children were younger their school asked them to dress up as their favourite book character. Not being a skilled seamstress I would encourage my brood to choose a character who wore clothes resembling those they possessed. My son once went as Arthur Dent which he particularly enjoyed.

arthur dent

Schools often invite an author to visit and talk to their pupils. These days I am looking at these visits from the other side as my author friends mention the places they have been invited to attend in order to inspire the next generation of readers and writers. I hope that the children treat them kindly.

All under 18s are given a token which enables them to pick up a free book produced specially for the occasion. These contain an original story, often from a series which is popular with young readers. My children still have a number of these books in their collections.

I love the idea of World Book Day with its emphasis on encouraging all children to read. It is an inclusive event which aims to share the pleasure that books can bring.

Next month I will be joining in with another initiative which aims to share the literary love with adults. World Book Night gives away a range of books which have been specially selected for the occasion. Having been accepted as a volunteer I will be giving away Chickenfeed by Minette Walters at my local train station.

I derive so much pleasure from reading and am eager to encourage others to discover that joy. As has been said of children but is equally applicable to adults:

There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.