Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon is a delightful 1930s country house murder mystery with a “closedcircle” of murder suspects. As with others of this style of writing Farjeons plot is convoluted but nevertheless intriguing and led to an extremely lively sand enjoyable discussion by the group.
Thirteen Guests earns its place in The British Library’s Crime Classics series and if you enjoy Agatha Christie, P.D. James etc., you will enjoy one or more of this authors works.
1984 is a dystopian novella by George Orwell which follows the life of Winston Smith, a low ranking member of ‘The Party’ who is frustrated by the ever present surveillance of every aspect of his life and the threat of its ominous ruler, Big Brother.
In this book, Orwell effectively and frightening notion of 1984 is that the complete control of an entire nation under a totalitarian state is perfectly possible. Sadly, our group was able to find comparisons with present day regimes and to a lesser degree recognise the role of mass media in the manipulation of news and information on our own society
Take care BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING!
This romantic novel is the story of Tess, who is in Florence for a final idyllic holiday before university and whose life it about to change for ever, and Gus who is also on holiday in Florence with his parents. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to dutiful son but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be. Tess and Gus meet and part as complete strangers during the holiday.
The book follows the separate lives of Tess and Gus in alternate chapters, in each of which their lives criss-cross over the course of the next sixteen years when live and love offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and chance the two of them finally end up together, again in Florence.
Although one or two readers did not like the book, the general consensus was that it was well written and enjoyable, a good, light holiday read.
The Hobbit or “There and Back Again” was written by JRR Tolkien in 1937 as a children’s fantasy. As Many of you may have read this book as a youngster or in later years, you realise you are reading a classic in our time. You may also have been following the visual production of The Hobbit on the TV recently. It is interesting to see if the visual sometimes when reading a book enhances or confirms our imagination? A tale of dwarfs on a continued adventure seeking gold. Our main character, Bilbo Baggins, someone we all know in real life enjoys comfort to the extreme, but is also an accomplished burglar and full of good fellowship!
Tolkien’s life was most interesting. He had a rocky childhood, living in Switzerland, Oxford and Birmingham. His marriage eventually to Edith Bratt in 1916 brought forth 4 children. Also in 1916 he was sent to the Somme and out in the trenches he suffered trench fever which recurred over the next two years. He was a lieutenant until the Armistice. He then worked on the New English Dictionary at Oxford, worked at Leeds University and back to Oxford. His works were well known as The Hobbit in 1937, Lord of the Rings in 1955. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Beowulf.
His inspiration for The Hobbit cam particularly when as a child he lived in Birmingham – Moseley Bog, Sarehole Mill, Lickey Hill and Bilberry Hill.
The book for November was “The Collected Short Stories of Somerset Maughan” volume 2.
Somerset Maughan was born in 1974 in Paris, he died in 1965. He studied medicine before turning to writing. Besides being a novelist he was a playwright, an essayist, travel writer and a short story writer for which he is probably most remembered.
Maughan was widely travelled and based many of his stories on life in the British colonies. His writing is descriptive, colourful and exotic. It was agreed the stories were ‘of their time’ however they did not lose their appeal. all ending with a twist and enjoyed by everyone.
Staying On is a novel by Paul Scott which was published in 1977 and won the Booker Prize. Staying On focuses on Tusker and Lucy Smalley who were briefly mentioned in the latter two books of the Raj Quarted, ‘The Towers of Silence’ and ‘A Division of the Spils’ and are the latest British couple living in the small hill town of Pankot after Indian Independence.
We learn about life as an expat in Pankot and see the new life that is replacing the British Raj. We meet the Bloolabhoys, owners of Smith’s, the hotel where Tusker and his wife Lucy occupy an annex – or small bungalow. There are many interesting characters including Ibrahim and Joseph. Scott gives each character a voice so real that each personality is firmly etched in your mind. Both funny and deeply moving, Staying On is a unique engrossing portrait of the end of an empire and a forty year love affair.
There was plenty of discussion about the book which gets better and better as it progresses through the life of the two main characters.
This book contains a series of 800-word magazine essays, originally printed monthly over the course of several years covering a wide variety of topics ranging from the homely to the then topical and from amusing to somewhat heartbreaking. They cover a wide range of subjects such as travel, writing, food, vodka, family, shopping, politics and much more. I found this collection to be filled with light hearted reflections on everyday life which ranged from laugh out loud to deeply thought provoking. You can’t fail to identify with many of the topics – been there, done that! Her writing is sharp, perceptive and engaging. Leave it at your bedside and enjoy daily with a cuppa.
Our choice for the July meeting was ‘The Selected Poems of Emily Dickinson’. She was an American poet, the daughter of a lawyer from Massachusetts, and was born in 1830. She died in her 50’s relatively unknown, in fact only seven of her poems were published prior to her death in 1886. She was initially a vivacious teenager, but gradually over the years withdrew into a reclusive existence. This was apparently a very deliberate choice ‘to live is so startling, it leaves but little room for other occupations’. Ted Hughes describes her poetry ‘she has an ability to see a vision of timeless, vast Nothingness, whose only resolution is Death’. This sounds very stark, but reading some of her poems she seems to me to have a had a very vivid imagination especially describing her physical and mental struggles. Most of us had chosen one of the poems to read to the rest of the group, and they provoked an interesting discussion. Few of us read poetry regularly, and probably most of us heaved a sigh when we knew the choice, but having a read a little of her poetry recognise that she was an immense talent and her poems worth dipping into occasionally.
Most of us have a family button box collected over the years, not very often looked at and used even less, but we all remember special buttons that have memories for us. This was an unusual book with fascinating bits of social history, fashion and life styles over the last one hundred years up to the 1970s all to do with buttons.
Attractively presented and with short chapters each dealing with a specific type of button or fastener, this book is full of interesting snippets of information. It is also good for dipping in and out of and is a very accessible read.
A very moving account of the privileged few aboard the doomed first and only voyage of Titanic – the unsinkable ship. It was written through the eyes of an orphaned-turned-rich upper class man in his early twenties. The group were split on this book. To some it was boring. Other were left curious about some of the details of the Titanic. The characters were not compelling. The last few pages have you drawn into the despair, and for some that were still convinced the ship wouldn’t sink and just carried on.
Have a read and see what you think!