Book Review – “Persuasion by Jane Austen”

“Persuasion” is the story of Anne, daughter of Sir Walter Elliot of Kellynch Hall who, at the age of 19, was persuaded by her godmother to renounce her fiancée, commander Frederick Wentworth, because he had no fortune and no prospects.  He returns to the area several years later having become a wealthy captain and, seeking a bride.

Jane Austen’s characters are wittily described, from Sir Walter’s ridiculous vanity and his elder daughter’s snobbery to the youngest, married daughter’s dissatisfaction with her life and consequent hypochondria.

Most of the readers said they found the writing very old fashioned and tedious to read although once they were involved they liked the story, but much preferred the television play to the book.

Jane

Book Review – Tightrope by Simon Mawer

Simon Mawer’s latest spy thriller is set in post-war England. The main character, Marian Sutro, a tough, resourceful heroine, arrives back from France having been betrayed and imprisoned in a German Concentration Camp. Emaciated and traumatised, she tries to return to some semblance of her old life. But the past is never far behind and soon, associates and lovers from the past creep back and the allure of intrigue is too strong to resist.

Tightrope is a complex story of a strong woman who has to make some difficult choices, questioning where her loyalty lies. Who knows what and who is telling the truth? Is it OK to do bad things for a good cause?

Our group felt that this was a real page turner filled with tension and questions. All the characters, although flawed, leapt from the page, wanting to be heard. We are all fans of this excellent author.

Pat

Book review – “The Shadowy Horses”

“The Shadowy Horses” by Susanna Kearsley

The shadowy horses of the title are the ghost horses which shadow disaster and which the main character is the only one to be aware of.  The story is set on an archaeological dig in an area around Berwick-on-Tweed where they are searching for signs of occupation by the 9th Roman Legion.  There are interesting characters including a young boy with extra-sensory perception, the only one who can see the ghost, but not the only one to be aware of its presence.  The story is part ghost story and part romance, all set around the archaeological dig, with a surprising twist in the tail.  

The general consensus of the group was that this book was well written and enjoyable, a good, light read with interesting archaeological detail. 

Jane

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

Nuri is a Beekeeper, his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life rich in family and friends in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo until the unthinkable happens when all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape! The author has deeply researched the lives of this family who are fleeing as Syrian refugees. She has worked herself as a volunteer at such a refugee camp. The intimate novel  is both terrifying and touching. It reminds us of our capacity for love empathy and hope. From the beginning it is gripping and poignant, it reminds us we cannot turn away from what is there, a refugee crisis. There is a love story in the heart of the book which Lefteri writes it as deftly and gorgeously as she pens even the most devastating war scene. She writes lyrically and poetically using every word to its fullest extent. The book represents the greatest gift of fiction and inspires empathy in all directions.

Ros Plested, Book club

Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

A good thriller, very gripping and slowly terrifying!

Christine has a very rare amnesia— every time she closes her eyes to sleep, her memory had been wiped out! Her name, identity, past,even the people she loved, all forgotten over night! IMAGINE!!

I think most of us found it a “good read” but possibly a disappointing ending? or conclusion?

It was one of those stories, alike some gripping series you watch on T.V. at present— wondering who is actually telling the truth!

Interestingly enough the author is a male , not as you “feel “it to be a female. He is local, S.J. Watson- from Stourport in Worcestsershire. Other stories he has written are “Second Life” and “Final Cut”. I wonder?

R.E.Plested

Book Review: Calypso by David Sedaris

Calypso, Sedaris’s 10th collection of diary essays, is a family affair. The action revolves around the Sea Section, an oceanfront cottage on the North Carolina coast that Sedaris and his husband, Hugh, purchased in order to realise his childhood dream that “one day I would buy a beach house and it would be everyone’s, as long as they followed my draconian rules and never stopped thanking me for it”. The Sedaris’s gather and regather there for Thanksgivings and summer vacations. Between confidences shared, board games played and sunscreen slathered, the anecdotes pile up.

Through disarmingly frank descriptions of their idiosyncrasies, vulgarities and charms, he conjures the sort of warts-and-all closeness that family alone can offer. But the shadows also swarm addressing questions of ageing and mortality and as life moves forward and the tragedies pile up, it turns out there are some things it’s impossible to play for laughs. For all its warmth and wit, Calypso is also raw, jagged and sad.

Humour is a funny thing – or is it? It is certainly individual. Although highly regarded, Sedaris’s humour did not appeal to our group of readers – apart from me – I loved it.

Pat

Book Review: Everyone in their Place by Maurizio De Giovanni

Naples 1931, and the beautiful Duchess of Camparino has been found dead of a gunshot wound…or was she smothered? It is up to the solitary Commissario Riccardi and his partner Brigadier Maione, to solve the crime while dealing with their own personal issues.

First Sentence – ‘The angel of death made its way through the fiesta, and nobody noticed’. There is nothing better than an opening which is both compelling and evocative. What is particularly clever is that throughout the story, we have the diary entries of a nameless character. Just when we think we’ve identified the writer; another hint is dropped and we are sent off in a different direction. 

The cast of characters is extensive, yet each character is fully developed and distinct. None are perfect. The most intriguing is Riccardi, who has the gift, or curse, of “the Deed”; the ability to see those who have died by violence—accidents, murder, or suicide—in the last few second of their lives and to hear their final words or thoughts. This ability isolates him from all but a few people. At his side, and ever loyal, is Maione who is married with 5
children, Doctor Modo the medical examiner and Rosa, Riccardi’s childhood nanny who still looks after him.

While the story structure is typical police procedural, it is so much more than that. It is a character-driven novel which is very much about relationships; love, insecurities, passions, and the acts to which one can be driven by love and desperation. The author meshes the characters with the story so skilfully; we feel part of the community.

Yes, the translation can feel awkward at times, particularly the dialogue, but that is easily
forgiven. The quality and complexity of the story overcome any other shortcomings. 

“Everyone In Their Place” is a story of passion and human weakness which was highly recommended by our group of readers, many having gone on to read other titles in the series.

Pat Mutton

“The True Queen” by Alison Weir

This historical novel is the story of Katherine of Aragon from her childhood in Spain to her death in England. She was brought up a Catholic and was very devout all through her life. It was surprising to find that she had been married to Henry VIII for 24 years before being put aside for not producing a son and heir. She would then have had an easier life had she not maintained, against the wishes of the King, that she was still his wife and therefore the true queen of England. Of the three children she bore only her daughter, Mary Tudor, survived.

Most of the readers’ group enjoyed the book and found it was well written and very well researched. The general consensus was that it was very interesting and informative.

Jane Yardley

‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ by Gail Honeyman

Our book for August was ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’ by Gail Honeyman, her first novel. At thirty year old Eleanor Oliphant is completely alone in the world, bought p in foster care she has never been touched or loved, she has no friends, is awkward and lacks social skills.

Eleanor has worked in the same office for nine years, she is fin, she knows no different until she meets Raymond. Raymond is a co-worker, he and Eleanor become friendly after rescuing an elderly gentleman, This event is significant in Eleanor’s life and she slowly experiences a metamorphosis, one that make you smile, laugh and cry.

There’s a bot of a twist at the end. A thought provoking and moving story enjoyed by all the members of the book club particularly me who read it twice!!

Elaine