Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Seventeen members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the book received from those unable to attend.

Brenda opened the discussion by asking members what they thought of this book and it became very apparent quickly that this was a book that members really did love and enjoy reading.  It was thought to be a beautifully well written book that cleverly drew you in with each chapter revealing more and more as the story progressed.  A very readable book full of thought provoking issues and as a few members said “sucking you back in” even well after finishing it. The revelations relating to Eleanor’s unfolding past, detailing a moving sincere journey discovering herself or from Eleanor’s point of view her “letting go”.  A book, that for some, had started on the superficial side but then moved more in depth to the mental health issues, the loneliness factor, usually associated with the older generation, but had not been really thought of when relating to the younger generation as in this case with Eleanor being just 30 years old and how the acts of interwoven kindness and friendship had positively affected her own survival and healing of painful memories throughout her own “journey”. A couple of members said they were a little bored and annoyed with the storyline at times but as it picked up got “hooked” and “reeled back” in again.

Members then discussed how her mental health issues had made her who she had become with a few members thinking that she could have been perhaps suffering from Aspergers. The turmoil, her scarring, her lack of social skills, the total guilt she felt, together with a disjointed and on the whole sad upbringing from the age of 10 years, mainly due to the lack of proper support from the many foster carers (who themselves sadly did not have full knowledge of her actual situation) and who did not understand how to “handle” her and the most obvious of all, the affect that her mother and her influences had had on her life. All these factors and chain of events contributing and unravelling caused her to be labelled as a “damaged” child full of insecurities and needs. Everyone said they felt sad when reading the many emotional and hurtful sayings from her mother. Several members had also been very surprised, following the unfolding details in the newspaper articles describing the fateful fire and events, of the realisation that “Mummy” only existed in Eleanor’s mind and was not either in a Mental Institution or even in prison and had died in the fire she had started, along with Eleanor’s 4 year old sister Marianne locked in a wardrobe that Eleanor was unable to open!

Sammy (the pavement casualty) together with his family, Bob (her boss), Ray’s mother and of course particularly Raymond (who must have been a bit of geek it was thought!) were all thought likeable characters in the book. Raymond had shown great compassion and friendliness in helping Eleanor with her insecurities and lack of social skills and it was thought by several members that they might actually “get together” in the end.

Eleanor was described as always intriguing and often funny with most of us relating to some of her little foibles in their own lives. She managed to attend University, although not much detail was written here apart from her first bad relationship of course.  She held down the job at Bob’s company successfully competently for 10 years too despite everything.

So to conclude……..    A beautifully written book.  Full of touches of human kindness.  The true meaning of friendship.  Intriguingly and cleverly unfurling with every chapter of discovery covering various thought provoking subjects in a very sensitive way making many of us realise unlike Eleanor, how lucky you are if you had a loving and happy upbringing in life.

Unanimously members gave this book a “thumbs up” and a book which would certainly be recommended to friends.

The Improbability Of Love” by Hannah Rothschild

Fourteen members attended and were welcomed to this month’s meeting at The Cloisters, Bembridge to discuss the above book with apologies received from six members unable to be with us. The meeting began with the written and some contrasting comments of the book received from those members not present which then led on to a lively session of other members’ views on the book.

It was generally felt that although several members thought the book did take some time to get into they loved it, with others actually being “hooked” from the onset with the Prologue which set the storyline and was 19 pages long! Most enjoyed the content and found it interesting and full of intrigue with lots of twists and turns and secrets. The historical facts were enjoyed by nearly everyone, helping the story flow with the main and well liked character Annie McDee who found and bought the painting in the antique/junk shop at the beginning of this story, the Museum Guide and Artist Jesse, later her boyfriend, and Agnes the Museum Curator dealing with the initial investigative stages to confirm that the painting was indeed an original and not a copy Watteau. It was thought that the Jewish connection was well written giving a real insight into that period of history of the very many paintings and masterpieces that were taken, hidden and destroyed by the Nazis during the War years and how they were “re-distributed” and not really appreciated for their true beauty but sold on as “trophy pieces”

The “talking” painting was a bit of a hot potato topic as although several members thought that the dialogue made the story for them with each chapter a separate piece linking up to form the story and was a very necessary addition there were a few members who found this element rather annoying and grating with two members actually feeling really incensed and irked with it to the point of not wanting to read on – paintings that could talk!! Members did find some of the art history, although very thorough, a little boring at times unless of course you had a special interest in this sort of thing when it would be a different matter and more enjoyable, but quite a few members DID enjoy this part of the book as it reminded them of the BBC TV programme presented by Fiona Bruce that looked at old paintings to see if they were the real thing or fake. One or two members did at times feel that it came through the book that they were perhaps being lectured on what was obviously to them the authors in depth insider knowledge of the art world which she was determined to present whether they liked it or not.

Absolutely everyone really enjoyed the themed cookery sections of the book, proving interesting and so cleverly described it was felt you could actually truly visualise and even eat the food!! It was mentioned that perhaps that some of the characters’ names were a bit absurd and unnecessarily complicated. Thoughts were also given to some of the characters by the author, who had previously said she had based them on some of her acquaintances – Barty came in for some amusing discussion there!! Members then spoke about how it came home to them about how the Russians and their money was used in the art world, and the ways in which this sort of money plays such a huge part and has serious consequences all over the World today. We then moved on to some characters who stood out as not being liked by members and unanimously Rebecca was least liked and some members felt a little aggrieved that she did not quite get her comeuppance as they had hoped. Her 90 year old (Nazi/Jew) father Memling chose the cyanide option – again too tidy and neat as it was felt the ending was. Members agreed that the end of the book was too arranged and twee with too many coincidences neatly tied up. Everyone agreeing, although predictable they were pleased it was a happy ending for Annie, even if her alcoholic mother, Evie in the last chapter moved to the Isle of Wight to open up a Counselling centre!!

So to conclude!!! Mostly everyone really liked it (Oh OK even loved it then!!) with those members who struggled initially, ploughing on with it and finding they actually wanted to finish it! Just a couple of members had a total dislike for the book. It was a thumbs up from us with a general agreement that we would recommend this book to a friend.

And finally (it has to be done!) – I leave the last words to the Painting!!!! A Quote from Chapter 11:

“Hello

I am still here

And let’s not forget that I am the hero of this story

And far more interesting than food

And longer lasting than love

I am still here

Moi “

 

 

Magpie Murders By Anthony Horowitz

Fourteen members were present at this month’s meeting held at The Cloisters on the evening of Thursday 12th April at 7.30pm with apologies received from six other members unable to attend, but who provided some of their comments on the book so these could be added to the discussion pot.

The evening was and did indeed prove to be extra special as we also were able to welcome our guest Jo from the Library together with Jonathan. Brenda first explained how we ran our meetings and then opened the discussion of the book by asking what members thought of it as a Murder Mystery. Several members initially voiced their dislike of the story due in part with its make-up, a story within a story, feeling there were far too many complicated characters involved making it not particularly an enjoyable read as many found they lost track of who was who and had to make notes whilst reading which in itself did not help with the flow of the storyline and spoilt it for them.

Some also thought, although very cleverly written, it felt like a bit of a jigsaw, with the first story within the book reading like a script with one member who normally enjoys reading crime fiction, describing the original story as very bland and disappointing and quite boring. Comments included: there were too many red herrings; not a proper investigation; not really written as is usual in this type of book, as either character led or plot led; a bit of a slog, contrived to fit, seemingly with the characters being “placed to order” in both the stories making them at times rather unbelievable. For example, how did Editor Susan Ryeland survive being knocked on the head and almost blinded, kicked in the ribs and left virtually unconscious in a burning building with her fiancé turning up at just exactly the right moment to rescue her ?? Phew!! And why was the victim having breakfast at the top of the tower, with its unstable and low balcony, in Suffolk (does it always have such good weather to be able to do this?) on that particular morning???

Although several other members did enjoy the book, on the whole, most agreed that it was far too long, cumbersome and frustrating with an intricate clever concept. They enjoyed working out the unexpected twists and turns with the very different styles of writing, the hidden “quirkiness” of the detective Atticus Pund and even wondering initially whether the missing chapter of his book was perhaps a deliberate ploy and written for the reader (perhaps to even win a prize for guessing the “whodunit”!!)

Most agreed the book was not as predictable as an Agatha Christie and more of a homage to her, made you use your brain, cleverly written but was a bit laborious at times making you work hard at it, perhaps too lengthy and definitely confusing and complicated but was enjoyed by a stalwart few!!! The ends tied up nicely at the end – too nicely for some!

A discussion then evolved on the various characters (luckily we had notes on who was who!! Thank you Chris!) but no-one really stood out for us or was particularly liked but all agreed that Susan Ryeland (the Editor) was left with Hobsons choice at the end but really who wouldn’t want to live in very Sunny Crete?? We also chatted about if it was to be made into a film which actors could have starring roles as Anthony Horowitz had already said he had based Atticus on Ben Kingsley!!

So in conclusion a very mixed review this month. Around one third of members did enjoy the book with nearly everyone agreeing that the book although cleverly written, frustratingly was really too long and involved too many characters to be able to relax and enjoy the book without referring to a notebook to keep track of who was who so I suppose a “Whodunnit” for many reasons!!!

So with such a mixed review there will be copies of this book left in bus shelters, charity shops and maybe one or two given to a friend!!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Pam opened and welcomed 13 members to this postponed meeting which had been unavoidably moved to this week due to THE SNOW last week and that, although the original meeting had been arranged to take place on World Book Day, today was actually International Women’s Day!!! She gave apologies for those 7 members unable to attend but added that ALL of those members had given her their views and thoughts on the book!!

It became very apparent quickly that this was a book that all our members had thoroughly enjoyed reading. Comments such as very emotional; overpowering; moving, funny; sad; shocking; poignant; heartbreaking; a real page turner; so well-written, were voiced by absolutely everyone leaving some members unable to find the right words to describe their love of the book which had not already been mentioned. This had only ever happened once or maybe twice previously in our 10 years!!!

Several members had read the book for a second time and found it still, if not more as engaging as the first time of reading it. The language and humour was thought to be fabulously authentic and powerful and it helped that each of the main characters were given chapters of their own with several members saying that it was easier to be able to see so much more in the lives of both sides of the story. With the maids, the hardships and prejudices, their absolute love and devotion to their charges, the abuse suffered and of their total acceptance.

Several members loved the quotes from Minny “yes ma’am. I tell her” (in about 100 years!) and many others. “That’s what I like about Aibileen, she can take the most complicated things in life and wrap them up so small and simple, they’ll fit right in your pocket” and Aibileen’s “You is intelligent, you is kind” to her little charge Mae Mobley when ignored by her own mother – so touching and definitely struck a chord with members. Hilly came out as a typical “star” bully who liked to be the leader but definitely got her come uppance which everyone absolutely loved! Skeeter’s role in the book was admired and everyone enjoyed the way that she was a woman before her time and her courage.

Members found the social history of the time interesting but also very shocking, with comparisons made of their own fairly carefree lives in the 1960s. They commented on their own “sort of ignorance” of this life on the other side of the world and its very real open racist prejudices – within their own lifetimes! Members found it very shocking too that women “morphed” into horrible women and could treat other women that way. As in the case of Skeeters mother’s behaviour towards Constantine because she is “told” to deal with her by her peers and needed to conform!! But everyone had memories of the case of Rosa Parks in the news and of course Martin Luther King’s work and relentless campaigning and his “I Have a Dream”. Several members said that it really made them feel ashamed of those terrible women. You would like to think things have improved and moved on but everyone had their doubts and there then followed a lengthy discussion on prejudices over the world today and all agreed sadly it was still a prejudiced sorld on many accounts.

Back to the book …… Everyone liked the ending of the book as it was realistic in that it was not all good going and things went wrong. It was sad and frightening that it was not actually set 200 years ago when history was what it was then and all agreed it was a really fantastic good read – daring; vitally important and very courageous and an immensely compelling read.

TOTALLY RECOMMENDED BY EVERYONE PERHAPS EVEN TO BE PLACED AS A COMPULSORY SCHOOL READING LIST BOOK!!

Snapper By Brian Kimberling

Twelve members met together in January to discuss the book Snapper which had been the Christmas read.

Brenda opened the meeting by giving out some notes of interest and an apology from Pam who was unable to attend on the night.

The opening the lively discussion revealed that most members were unable to enjoy (or finish!!) the book, or “get into it” as anticipated.

It was viewed as a journal, a journey and a meander through the main character’s life. There appeared to be little storyline and no continuity in the narrative. The storyline “leapfrogged” and seemed disconnected.

However, on a more positive note, members enjoyed the outstanding description, the occasional witty episodes and the information given on Indiana.

One member in particular found much to be enjoyed and several noted the political and social issues broached in the book. The member who had not yet finished the book had not been deterred from doing so by the comments so this was viewed as positive.

It was noted that the reviews on the book cover didn’t really convey a true reflection of the book, but as it was pointed out by another member reviewers rarely comment that are “boring, badly written and un-captivating”!!!!!!!

Members would not recommend to a friend without a qualifying comment and another member compared the book from Christmas last year to that of this year as “Snappy” not happy!!!!

An apt comment on which to end the meeting!

The next meeting to discuss The Help by Kathryn Stockett will be held on March 1 at the Cloisters.

Spithead Group Carol Service

carol programme

We were proud to host the Spithead Group Carol Service on Sunday. Thanks to Carol, Pam and Brenda for organising a lovely carol service and to our members who helped on the day. The home-made mince pies went down a treat!

nativitySpithead carol service Dec 17We were pleased to have over 50 people in attendance from the Spithead Group and Brighstone WI. We raised over £90 for the Admiral Nurses. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Food Bank Donation

In November, we collected 33.45kg of food and Christmas treats to the food bank.

Food bank

JG kindly delivered this on our behalf and was inspired by the tour of the food bank led by Jeff Connolly. Jeff thanked the members of Bembridge Windmill WI, and explained that they also help provide food for children in the school holidays who don`t receive the free meals they would normally.

The Lady And The Unicorn By Tracy Chevalier

Brenda opened the meeting by welcoming 17 members together with new member Hilary; there were also apologies received from 3 other members unable to be at the meeting.

ladyunicornThe evening’s discussion commenced with members saying that generally they had found this book an easy and quick read, absorbing and very informative with regards to the art of weaving the tapestries.  At times it was felt to be a bit mundane by a few members.  Quite a few members said they had started the book with a little trepidation expecting to hate or not like it at all, mainly due to its content, setting and period but had been pleasantly surprised by it and found it to be an enjoyable read with an interesting topic.

Members did find it interesting from the historical aspect with regards to the different levels of women’s representation, and social conditions of the time; women being totally suppressed in the workplace and in the case of the tapestries not being allowed by the Guild to weave, although totally competent to do so. It became very obvious that rich and poor social conditions markedly mattered especially as far as women were concerned with them having absolutely no choice in their plight.

Although it was felt women’s personalities were quashed, in the main, the book was sensitive in its portrayal of some of the main characters.  One who stood out and was liked by everyone was the master weaver George’s daughter, Alienor, who was so sensitive and shone through her blindness “finishing off” by feel, the cutting ends of the tapestries, working through the nights when the other weavers were not able to through lack of light, so saving the much need valuable time and space. She with her mother Christine, even wove some of the background flowers!  She spent long hours nurturing her garden which was full of every flower for every season knowing by touch and smell their names.  Everyone was relieved that she was able to escape an unpleasant (and would have been rather smelly!) marriage to the wool dyer Jacques de Boeuf.  Philippe was thought a bit of a hero stepping in to claim the baby was his so releasing her from the fate.

******* ********   X RATED BIT !!!!!!   ************

It was felt that the book was quite “saucy” and naughty in parts with members agreeing the artist Nicholas was definitely a bit of a creep!!!  One member even saying “He was good at what he did!!!” (we think she meant as an artist of course????!!). Talented in his work, capturing, especially as these were not battle scenes his usual form of design, the feel of the tapestries and the story that unfolded.  Several members warmed to him a little (only a little!) as it was felt he was observant to other situations (as in the case of Alienor) and with his art he was still willing to learn the ways of weaving and how it worked with his paintings.  His “naughtiness” with the female population in the end proved some “come-uppence” with the birth of Claude (daughter of Marie-Celeste taken in by Claude (daughter of Jean le Viste) yes confusing – are you keeping up!!) Phew!!! Where is the popcorn???

Other characters were then discussed briefly. A lengthy and interesting discussion followed re women accepting their plights through the ages and how far it has come in this day and age.  As too were the making and history of the tapestries which drew the general agreement that the book had been really written as two halves. Some feeling it was well-researched, cramming in everything so that it really didn’t enhance the book.  But everyone quite enjoyed it. There were no real surprises.  All ends tied up well with several characters having happier endings than others!!

We would recommend this book to others and all agreed we would look at tapestries in a totally different light.

After The Fall By Charity Norman

Fourteen members and a visitor were welcomed by Brenda who also reported that we had received apologies, together with some of their thoughts on the book, from nine of our members who were unable to be with us for the meeting held at The Cloisters.

She then opened the discussion by asking Jeanie to kick off the proceedings for her thoughts on the book. Several members agreed with Jeanie’s comments that the book was well-written and was quite true to life for this day and age, but she herself had found sadly that she had not really enjoyed the content of the story with its focus on addictions.  It was generally agreed that it was a book to think about, with an intense structure overall and with real life comparisons, be it a bit twee at times.

Many felt very cross and angry with Martha, the mother, who just buried her head in the sand over her daughter Sacha’s drug addiction with a false belief that she alone could help her deal with this problem without professional help. Also, how she could keep this, with all its attached guilt, a secret, as she had witnessed Sacha pushing her 5-year-old brother Finn over the balcony.  It was also felt by some that they did not like nor understand how she could favour Finn over Charlie, who really wasn’t mentioned much and yet he was his twin with a special relationship with his brother. This was shown at the hospital when he touchingly just wanted him to come home to all be together again.  Also more so that she had just uprooted everyone with no real discussion, especially a teenage daughter, a talented flautist, away from her friends, adored grandfather, school and absolutely everything she knew and as one member said leaving her “rudderless” without them. Martha moved to satisfy her own need to protect and give her alcoholic husband Kit a new start, and perhaps to solve his addiction to drink(?) with no real thought of leaving her own loving widowed father, sister Lou and brother in law (and as it came out in a later part of the story, Sacha’s real father!).

But others had said they had felt differently about Martha, that she found herself between a rock and a hard place and that they had felt sorry for her with her torn loyalties and conscience and with her strive for perfection, her daily dilemmas to keep everything “normal” and that she had to be strong and controlling for husband Kit who was not always a great support. It was felt that although Kit was instrumental to the book, the author had then kept him in the background. The tension increased as the book progressed and several felt involved in it and wanted to know how it would all end as Sacha’s downward spiral into her drug addiction and dealing had caused her deteriorating behaviour to seriously impact on the family in so many ways. But Sacha did come good as she was able to go back to England under the protective wing of her grandfather and eventually resume her flute playing. The book’s closing chapter also unfurled to disclose that she had been accepted at a University to train as a paediatrician – so she had turned her life around completely because of what life had thrown at her.

Relationships were then discussed with members feeling that Bianka’s character was too good to be true in real life. Several members spoke of Sacha’s quest to look for her real father which had been threaded through the book being quite pointless to the story. An interesting discussion then took place on how perceptions might have changed had there been a reversal of gender to the characters.  Would it have been acceptable to the storyline had Sacha’s character been a teenage boy throwing his 5 year old sister off the balcony? Several members commented on how much they liked her mother’s quips in her ear and a few liked Hama’s “Crocodile Dundee” character and the grandfather who picked up the pieces and put them together again.

So to conclude………  Generally it was felt it was a well-written story with a strong plot, strikingly good at the beginning leaving us with thoughts that the author lived it herself.  Perhaps better suited to its original published Book Title of “Second Chances”. One member’s summing up described it as a modern day family who had to face their gremlins. The story had no real loose ends, used likeable language, quite poetic at times too with a few interesting lines, but with one in particular that made everyone smile “He lowered himself down into a deckchair and scuba dived into the Merlot”. Thank you Brenda!! Cheers!!

We would recommend it to a friend and so given the “thumbs up”.

Summer Social Party – 17 July 2017

A fun evening last night. We had our summer social party, with scones, cake, Pimm’s, Prosecco and Buck’s Fizz! Lots of catching up with several quizzes and games to keep us occupied in between.

Thanks to everyone who organised, prepared, served, set up and cleared up.