Needful Things by Stephen King

With potent storytelling, King paints a surreal picture of small town America in the eighties. He felt that this was a decade when everything came with a price tag with the final items being honour, integrity, self-respect and innocence and he turned this concept into a small-town curio shop.

Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little ‘deed’. Usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jokes cascade out of control and soon the entire town is doing battle with itself. Only Sherriff Alan Pangborn suspects that Gaunt is behind the population’s increasingly violent behaviour.

If you’ve never read a horror novel before, you’d find yourself gently drawn into the mystery of this little shop and its strange proprietor who seems to be able to look deep into the soul of each customer and uncover their secret desires. But this is not for the faint hearted. There is an explosive sting in the tail. Love him or hate him – and we were decidedly split – his storytelling skills are undeniable.

My Family and Other Superheroes by Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards is a contemporary Welsh poet and this, his award winning collection of poems, is a moving portrayal of his family and experience. His work moves from wit to melancholy, capturing the life of these Welsh valley communities. What comes through strongly is the warmth and affection he feels towards his family.

Section one records the myths and legends of an everyday family with section two focusing on the harsher social and physical environment of a changing Wales. In section three he explores the world of adult relationships with love injecting another dimension to the collection. The final section includes a sequence of animal poems and new people.

There’s a lot to enjoy in this collection and we all felt that the selected poems truly came alive when read aloud.

Pat Mutton

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Janasson

The central character in this light-hearted, Scandinavian novel is Alan Karlsson. It begins on the day of his one-hundredth birthday as he sits in his room at the old people’s home contemplating the planned party, a party which he does not relish so he climbs out of the window and embarks on an adventure. Things just happen to him as he soon finds himself in possession of a suitcase full of money which belongs to a criminal gang who chase him across Sweden. As he progresses along his journey, he gathers around him a group of disparate characters and a series of flashbacks reveal his past involvement in key political events of the 20th century. The twin stories of Alan’s past and present day adventures provide a satire on the foibles of mankind and lead to a satisfyingly happy ending.

If you enjoy quirky, dry humour then the believable absurdity of both storylines will amuse you as it did for many of our group.

Pat Mutton