#bookreview – Collecting Conversations by Sam Bunch @collectingconvs

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction but Collecting Conversations caught my attention straightaway. It’s a book of two parts, both of which are absolutely fascinating. I’d like to thank the author for my review copy of the book.

I was in a slump. My my died then soon after my Dad too. It was all becoming a bit much! Wallowing in misery, something had to happen. Guided by signs and serendipitous happenings I turned my grief into a positive challenge.

Mum left 30 years worth of diaries. I became inspired by her often trite, quirky, everyday observations, and had an idea – to fill the hole in my life with the wisdom and stories from women that were still here.

I asked over 100 women if they would come to my kitchen table (not all at once) to tell me how they managed life; what they thought, their loves, hopes and fears. I squeezed out of my comfort zone and created something special – this little treasure chest of insight.

If you like the sound of Collecting Conversations that you can buy a copy here.

I first heard about Collecting Conversations when I saw a post from the author, Sam Bunch, on Twitter. It immediately appealed to me as I love social history and reading ‘ordinary’ people’s thoughts. I wasn’t at all disappointed by what I read when I got hold of a copy of the book.

Sam Bunch lost her mother and then her father. She then found her mother’s diaries and even though the entries were relatively routine, about everyday events, she found herself fascinated by the insight into her mother’s life. This prompted her to embark on the project to interview 100 women and ask them a series of questions, such as ‘how do you see yourself?’, ‘what do you think about marriage?’ and ‘what’s your most memorable experience?’.

The book is split into two sections. The first is Sam’s own story, about her family, her own life and experiences and dealing with grief. With this kind of non-fiction I tend to see it as a book to dip in and out of, so I picked it up intending to just read a little and then found I’d read the whole of the first section. There are a number of wow moments and little coincidences and signs, things that make the author think that her mother is with her, watching over her and urging her on with her project. I really loved these parts and totally ‘got’ them.

The second section is the answers from Sam’s 100 women (or in fact, 107). I’d had an expectation that there would be a page for each woman, with pictures and a real sense of getting to know that person but it’s not like that at all and each question has its own subsection in which answers are completely anonymous and sorted as to age group (thirties, forties etc). I can see why it was done like that as the women couldn’t have spoken freely if they had been identified and there are some incredibly strong feelings on the pages, along with more ordinary (I use that word again but really no woman is ordinary) feelings. Having said this, the Collecting Conversations website does have a bit more information about each woman if you feel like you want to delve a little deeper.

If you are so inclined, there are places at the end of each set of answers to write your own answers so you could almost use it as a self-help book, examining your own thoughts and feelings.

It really is a fascinating read, both from the point of view of the author and the women she interviewed. It’s an amazing mixture of self-confidence and a lack of, doubt, sadness, happiness, every emotion is there. I’m really glad I got to read such an interesting book, and the news that the author is planning another book but with answers from 100 men is great to hear. Highly recommended if you’re interested in social history and reading about everyday thoughts.

I moved to London 30 years ago from the Ribble Valley in Lancashire where I grew up in a village called Read under the watchful eye of Pendle Hill.

I live with my husband and 3 children in Clapham south London and for many years worked as a Naturopath and Reflexologist. When my third child came along I found it tricky to juggle so I took a break. It was during this break I began my lovely project.

When not listening to people I paint, practise meditation and yoga, read excessively and spend as much time as I can gardening.

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