You know that your support helps veterans in many ways with loneliness and isolation a key issue for life after the military.
A new initiative of a Virtual Book Club was started recently and has snowballed to be a national group with members enjoying books as well as new friendships. Read on to see how you could ‘read along’ with veterans and get reviews on the books veterans are enjoying. You could even grab the book from Amazon and set up your Amazon Smile account, so that Help for Heroes is your favoured charity for donations when you shop.
How it all began
The book club was founded by Help for Heroes, Project Case Manager, Sarah Hattle, who initially started the group in her area of North Wales before the club quickly grew, engaging veterans countrywide. The club now meets three times a month, hosted by Sarah.
“It has been proven connections are far more likely to be meaningful if there is a shared interest, rather than just a group based on demographics. If the only commonality in the group was just their military service, it is less likely people will connect meaningfully. People attending the group will have – or will gain – an interest in books and reading, and I’m hopeful this will spark friendships beyond the bounds of the group’’.
After spending 21 years in the Royal Navy herself, Sarah who joined Help for Heroes last year is keen to make a difference to the lives of veterans.’’ I want to make a difference to existing beneficiaries and reach out to veterans who, perhaps, haven’t engaged with the charity previously, whether that’s through mountain-biking, a swimming club, a book club … whatever the need I’m hoping to be able to cater for it.”
She believes her military experience has given her a good understanding of veterans and the military culture. “The last year has really made me aware of the effect social isolation can have on people, and the last 21 years in the Navy have hopefully given me a really good understanding of veterans and the military culture’’.
“It’s part of who I am. I speak the language; I understand the slightly strange humour us military folk have; and then living, speaking and breathing Welsh all combine to, hopefully, make me the perfect individual for this role.”
The book club’s most recent contributor to the club is, former Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander-turned-author, Mike Klidjian, who donated 10 copies of his first novel, Blue streak, to the group and joined a session in February to discuss it with participants.
Mike shared his thoughts with us on being the first author to feature in the club. “It was a great privilege to be the first author featured at the Help for Heroes book club. It’s so unusual to find such a geographically diverse club with readers of all ages and backgrounds — perfect ingredients for some interesting and enlightening discussions. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to talk to the members and I’m certain that the club will continue to go from strength to strength under Sarah’s expert curatorship! Thank you very much for the invite, and I hope to be back after you’ve read my next one!".
Mike also shared his writing process as, ‘’watching a film in your head and writing it down”.
Blue Streak REVIEW
A veteran from the book club shared his review of Blue streak.
‘’This book, a first for this new author, seeks to combine elements of a modern thriller with those of historical fiction which featured characters such as Hornblower and Bolitho. The hero is a Royal Naval officer, Lieutenant Jack Browne who is serving in a modern warship, HMS Diana, operating in the in the Gulf. Jack Browne is the leader of the ship’s boarding party which entails making armed inspections of suspect merchant vessels looking for evidence of smuggling, drug running, or piracy. During one of these boardings it becomes evident that Jack has stumbled on some potential terrorist activity. Later he becomes involved with a young female secret agent, Mia, and together they set out to track down the terrorists.
The early chapters of the book, which seek to establish a scenario and a background to the principal characters, go into considerable detail about the ship and its operations. Readers from a non-naval background may find it a challenge to interpret the wide range of acronyms and titles which arise. Fortunately, the author has included an extensive glossary of these at the back of the book which will be of considerable help to the layman. However, the author has had to deal with a major challenge in establishing the circumstances of the ship’s operations while painting a picture which is as up to date as possible. Modern digital communication, modern weaponry, and a superyacht (the Blue Streak of the title) are all involved in a story which picks up pace and leads to a satisfyingly climactic conclusion which yet allows sufficient scope for a subsequent adventure for Jack Browne in another novel, which is yet to be published.
Although this is a recently published work it is understood that the story has raised considerable interest in several quarters and negotiations are in hand to produce a TV series based on “Blue Streak”. Mike Klidjian intends to create a series of Jack Browne novels and this first volume represents an excellent opportunity for the reader to be involved at the beginning of what could become a successful saga’’.
Next book to feature...
Sarah has already lined up further authors to participate, as they offer their support to the charity’s efforts to get veterans to engage further. The next author to attend a session will be Welsh writer Rebecca F John, who will discuss her novel The Empty Greatcoat, a fictionalised account of a British soldier’s experiences during WWI, inspired by the journals of her great-great-uncle.
Look out for regular updates from Help for Heroes book club, as we share book reviews and author insights.
Support the club
Are you an author? Do you know an author? Sarah has a number of authors lined up to support the club over the coming months, but she is always on the lookout for more. If you are able to directly support the club in this way, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Amazon Smile and Help for Heroes
If you have a keen interest in books and feel inspired to read, Blue Streak by Mike Klidjian – why not purchase from Amazon Smile?
Simply set up Amazon Smile and know that your shopping is helping to benefit veterans and their families, to receive the support they deserve.
Use this link to set up Amazon Smile today: https://bit.ly/3tgQQ7m
Find out more about how it works here: https://bit.ly/3wbxItk