How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Thirteen members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies received from the other six members unable to attend. Brenda opened the discussion of this book by asking members what they thought of it.  Everyone agreed it was an easy read albeit slightly strange and a little odd, some finding it initially very confusing. It was felt that it was a bit of a dark read especially with regards to the very dramatic descriptive war scenes which came on quite suddenly and without notice or explanation at all, apart from stating that “rebels” were instigating the fighting and wars all over the world – but who were the rebels?  One member found it really strange how “everything just stopped” in the setting of this modern age, particularly with all communication gone, social structure integrated, making it more like the Middle Ages.  Another member said that she was able to understand this in a better way on reading it twice – everything became a lot clearer and in many ways it was a frightening scenario that a war, which had no build-up, could just start like that and last nine months. This proved quite thought-provoking for many. A discussion then took place on a comparison with the Second World War and how everyone co-existed and had a reasonable lifestyle just like in the modern day age of the book and then “wham” suddenly everything changed, but amazingly carried on as normal with everyone going about their business in their usual way as though it was really not happening at all.

A few members found it difficult to understand Aunt Penn’s behaviour with her leaving 5 teenage children to “fend for themselves” alone whilst she went to Oslo –  the need for this visit was unclear and was left for the reader to possibly work out but never really explained.  Although the visit was supposedly only for a few days initially, it still baffled some members, with one saying at the start of the book she felt it was a bit like reading a “Famous Five” adventure (perhaps the edition “Famous Five Go Parenting” story would fit the bill here!!). Although there was no Timmy the dog, their substitute could have been farm dog Jet of course.  It was mentioned that back in the time when World War 2 took place, children had more freedom so although this was possibly more familiar then, it still felt peculiar within the story but some members saying it was far fetched and quite unbelievable for them with another saying at first she thought it might have been a dream on Daisy’s plane journey over from America.

A few members said they didn’t really understand the need the use of CAPITAL letters frequently appearing in sentences in the text but one member did point out that as we imagined this book was written for and geared to teenagers, this would have been quite appropriate as teenagers do emphasise / dramatise statements, similar to perhaps the use of colloquial marks.  Members then discussed the main character Elizabeth “Daisy” who at the beginning of the book was portrayed as quite immature, but by the end had matured nicely – causing one or two members to say they felt because of this it was very skillfully written.  The characters and the family were generally well liked too.  It was agreed that this was a book of two levels – producing a different perspective from adults to that of teenagers reading it. For the younger reader it empahsised and tackled several  fairly ”gritty” issues such as the underage sex and why Daisy did not get pregnant of course possibly due to her anorexia, and sex between cousins.

So in conclusion……… A book which was thought to have been written for the teenage market. It was an easy read, quite dark, a little frightening, and to some members coming through as a little far-fetched.  A book which produced completely different views and understanding of the content depending on whether you read it from an adult or teenage perspective.  In essence, an enduring love story which continued meandering through “thick and thin” as “Love Conquers All”. Surprisingly perhaps a book not disliked by everyone at all and to a certain extent actually enjoyed by quite a few members in the end.

What would we do with this book ?   –  Recommend to a friend with a short explanation.

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Ten members were able to attend and were welcomed to this month’s meeting at The Cloisters to discuss the above book with apologies received from several other members unable to be with us for the evening.

It was generally thought that this book was quite a tough read with all members also agreeing that it took some time to actually get into it. Several members admitted not being able to finish or having to scan through several pages at times. With a murder in the first few pages, expectations were high but most were disappointed and agreed the book started as quite a boring read – it proved a definite challenge initially. It was felt that having unexplained capital letters in the middle of sentences was irritating as was the interspersed poetry of William Blake which did not help with the flow of the text and had left a number of members feeling this may have been due to the way it was translated from the Polish language.

But in saying the above, quite a few members said that surprisingly enough once they reached a certain point in the book (a fair way in!!) everything suddenly began to click and they even began to like it to a certain extent. Although only three murders took place they were sure there were really probably several others!! It was thought that the central character Janina Duszejko, an eccentric woman, was someone they could not really make out. She showed signs ranging from compassion to evil and along the way veered towards fantasy, with a couple of members suggesting that her mental state could have been an illness perhaps prompted by her isolation living as a recluse.

We liked her humour with the naming of Oddball and Big Foot for her neighbours and it was thought she had a genuine love of children and a definite love of animals especially her two dogs. She was thought to be a highly intelligent woman too, and later towards the end of the book there was sheer amazement that she was able to hide in a cupboard whilst the house was being thoroughly searched and not be found!! A couple of members said that at times they felt sorry for her but then immediately struggled to continue to do so. The twist at the end was not what most members were expecting and they did not see it coming.

Luckily we had the lovely Dana who had also obtained a copy of the book in her native Polish language and was actually reading both copies!! She had also been busy doing a bit of research for us on the main subject matter of the custom of the hunting of animals contained in the book and of course the differences in Polish cultures which had been threaded throughout the book too. She explained how up until a few years back the hunting custom had been the norm with it even being something that the whole family joined in with. She also gave everyone an insight into how everyone would sing themed folk songs in the forests dressed as animals and sang us a few lines in Polish which everyone said reminded them of folk songs they had heard from other countries too. She explained the translation of the words of these and on being asked whether as she was reading the book in the two languages she could throw some light as to whether she could agree with quite a few of our members that there was a definite feel of lost in the translation to parts of the book. She said she felt this was probably the case moreso with the translations in connection with the explanations of emotions.
So to summarise……………… A book of peaks and troughs, with the constant and unexplained use of CAPITAL letters in the middle of SenTencEs irritating at times, as was the poetry. Although this was a book with a proper story, it did not always come together cohesively as a novel. It was also a slow starter (very very slow!) but with a good twist at the finish. It wasn’t totally disliked and several members could not really say why exactly but they DID!! Then there were quite a few who did not finish it and some who scanned it leading to a real mixed review this time. A tough read generally.
Our members agreed though they could really NOT recommend to a friend.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Fourteen members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and thoughts on the book received from members unable to attend.  Brenda started by asking generally what members thought of this book and it quickly became apparent that this was a book that virtually all members thought was rather a miserable read (apart from the Parrot with his odd funny quips that was really great!). One member said it was neither a “here nor there” sort of book.  Members could not find a theme, most saying they were bored halfway through as a realisation dawned that there was no real story as such.  Everyone agreed it was written more in a diary format with the actual concept of the central character taking a long time to get in to!  Not uplifting, more of a plodding, challenging chore to finish it and pure relief to do so!

Saying that, one member really loved it, reading it from a different perspective to most – finding the stories and setting of the characters within the separate chapters just right, and unfolding into an enjoyable read with Olive just popping up everywhere.  A couple of members said that they didn’t dislike the book totally, but were just frustrated with it at times.

Several members felt sorry for Henry (her husband) whom she did not seem to appreciate  – one member saying that it took a long time for Henry’s illness to be mentioned – although she did visit him daily when he was there. Several members thought this may have been more of a routine for her, but of course it had come through the book that she did not really care what others thought, so there were mixed feelings on her relationship and love with Henry. There was also a feeling she was OTT with her son, Christopher, and although her relationship with him was good she had not realised this and could not let him go, setting up conflicts and obsessions which caused problems with her daughter in law. A discussion then took place on how certain incidents were portrayed following a short courtship, quick marriage and then the move away – one member quoting the infamous line “a daughter is for life but a son only until he takes a wife” fitted quite well.  One or two members said they would have loved to hear more about him in the book and of course Henry too.

Olive’s character was not liked – a couple of members said they felt sorry for her up to a point.  It was felt she suffered due to her father’s suicide; she was definitely not a happy woman and her demise was caused by her early life, reflections on her life – an ordinary life – a life she had time to think through but she didn’t seem to learn from. It was thought that she was in the end looking for love. Members agreed that the end did not gel at all, was not cohesive nor well put together and wondered if the book would have been helped with a title change. Majority did not like it or the “heroine” Olive of the book.

Members decided a book best to be left behind on an unwanted book table somewhere.

A Spool Of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Twelve members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies received from those unable to attend.  Brenda opened the meeting’s discussion by asking members what they had thought of this particular book.  Several initially admitted that they struggled to keep reading the book, finding the story a bit of a “nothing one” with no real substance to it. It was more a “no beginning; no end; just a middle” one, with a couple of saying they actually sadly gave up on it too.

It was felt the story could have maybe been called Abby’s story as it was centered mainly around her.  The story concerned the four generations of the Whitshank family and the Baltimore house where it all started in the 1920s with Junior and Linnie-May the parents of a daughter Merrick and a son Red married to Abby (a social worker who has a soft heart for the needy and writes poetry) and their rather dysfunctional family, their children and offspring.  Several Members disliked the backwards and forwards style in the storytelling finding it confusing at times and did not help with the flow and holding their attention.  Interestingly members differed in their opinion as to whether the book was that well written with several saying they would have liked to have heard more about Linnie-May story.  It was agreed that although the book definitely wasn’t a page turner, everyone wanted to find out what happened next or indeed if anything was going to happen!!

The characters most discussed were Red and Abby’s children, their children: Amanda, the eldest married to Hugh; Jeannie also married to a Hugh (you can see how this did not help alleviate any boredom in the story – did the author have no other names in her address book?!); Denny, who was also our most talked about character after Abby, who had multi-relationships and many secrets – none of which were resolved in the book or even really written about – and was a constant source of worry to the whole family. A sort of stepson, Stem, married to Nora, (Stem?? actually come to think about it, she might well have had a problem with names!!) who was taken in by Abby when his father – an employee at Red’s Construction Company – died and had no-one to care for him as his mother had run off with another man when Stem was a baby.  Denny had felt resentful of Stem throughout his childhood and still had problems with this as he felt he was his parents’ favourite. There were six grandchildren and Denny had a child who turned out not to be his (?) and who did not really feature much in the storyline.  It was “mentioned” that Junior and Linnie-May died when their car gets stuck and they are hit by a freight train! During the latter part of the story Abby also had been found wandering the street in her nightgown which had brought home to the family the need for action leading Stem, his wife and children to move back to the house to look after her and the house and of course Abby’s death was also sudden when she and her dog, Brenda are hit by a car.  Eventually Red has to move into an apartment as the house was to be sold. A comment was made that all our discussion had not been so much about the story but totally about the characters so she succeeded in this aspect.

Phew!! I think that just about sums the book up BUT in saying that, members generally did not say they disliked the book, although maybe watching paint dry might have been an option at times, the book was found to be on the whole quite monotous, boring, forgettable (we all had a problem remembering most of it and it definitely did not hold our attention). It was a description of the antics and emotions of a dysfunctional family.  Just a disappointing end with nothing tied up or even resolved and definitely not a page turner for most Members.

So what to do with our copies ?  Consensus of opinion CHARITY SHOP  it may well be someone else’s bag – let us hope they do not pick it up thinking it is a Mills & Boon then!!!!  A thumbs down for us this time.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Twelve members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies from eight members who sent their “thoughts” on the book. Pam opened the discussion by asking Sally what she thought of the book and it became very apparent that this was a real hit with everyone especially those present in fact not so much a “Potato Peel Pie” more a book full of unfolding deliciousness with characters being defined by their letter writing which slowly developed and unfurled their individual characteristics through the style and words they used. One member said “I found the characters enchanting and realistic. It was really easy for me to picture them.” It was noted by several members that the author did not actually need to or give any actual descriptions of them in the book – so all agreed very cleverly and skilfully written.

A few members mentioned that initially the letter format was annoying with several of them having to leave or put the book down for a while before persevering and attempting to continue reading. However they were pleased they did as once past this, they were hooked.  Others said once they got into the book they actually forgot the letter format and it became just like reading normal chapters especially in Part Two of the book. There were two members who did not really enjoy the book & one who just could not get in to it.

Having so many contrasting characters really helped to portray and give an insight into life and the complexities of the time that the Channel Islands were enduring the Occupation, showing a determination to survive using their newly formed and sometimes unlikely friendships, as well as using their books as a form of distraction and escapism from what everyone agreed must have been such a harrowing time. It was thought, though, that the writing of these horrific and harsh war experiences sections did fit into the whole plot to complete the picture despite the trauma of reading them. The author skilfully tackled these heavy topics such as the concentration camp survivors, falling in love with the enemy and the inhumane treatment of the Todt prisoners.

On a lighter note, members did find themselves uplifted at times; the book was littered with humour throughout. They loved Isola Pribby and her incompetent “detecting” – Miss Marples she definitely wasn’t!! – but so likeable in everything she tried out: practising phrenology caused many to giggle, her “under the bed detecting” and completely missing all the clues about Dawsey’s feelings for Juliet,  as one member put it “Classic!”.  Another moment enjoyed by everyone was the roasted piglet episode too.  The rustic charm of the characters was liked and there was a general amazement between many members as to how they gelled together so well throughout the book.

The bravery of Elizabeth was much admired by everyone with several feeling and hoping that they too would have dealt with situations in a similar way perhaps.  Everyone agreed that everything in this book seemed plausible because the mixture of events tied in with the author’s very good research of the time and just worked so well, in what all agreed was beautifully and cleverly written. To quote one member’s words: “What a clever, entertaining and informative mix of history, romance, devotion and relationships all cooked up under a pie crust!!”

Members were then asked by Pam which character in the book they would have liked to portray and why – with very amusing results! There was much laughter with Brenda L’s wish to be Juliet and why!!!!  We finished with Juliet gaining four members –  Isola (Miss Marple) gaining two members wishing to portray her – Elizabeth (the brave heroine) gaining another two members and finally Amelia (who held everything and everyone together & of roasted piglet fame too!) who gained four members.  A suggested mantra for our Book Club (Thank you Brenda R x) should be as the very last page of the Afterword ….

“We are transformed – magically – into the Literary Society” .. Annie Barrows

So in conclusion what would we do with our copy – well………….. for the first time in memory everyone wanted to keep their copies and would even buy another to give to a friend!!! (Sally has already sent one to Australia!!)

Guess what ??  …………  three of the husbands of our Members picked up and read the book & all thoroughly enjoyed it too with one rushing to finish it 15 minutes before the meeting!!

Nora Webster By Colm Toibin

Sixteen members together with one new member were welcomed to this month’s meeting. Apologies were received from those unable to attend the evening.  Brenda opened the meeting’s discussion by asking members what they had thought of the book.  Several members initially voiced their struggle to stay focussed in reading the story with what was felt and for them proved to be a fairly boring one too.  It soon became very evident amongst the majority present that these members were not actually alone in their thinking with one even saying it was like watching paint dry – there soon followed many comments such as it was felt the book had a very mundane and unfocussed storyline; was not meaningful enough and generally thought a poor novel with the author disappointingly never quite getting it right from a woman’s perspective. Most agreed she was not a good mother as far as the welfare of her boys, Donal and Connor, were concerned or to a certain extent those of Fiona & Aine her two daughters.

However, one member had found it quite different for her – more as a “personal journey in her life” bringing her attention to many areas she could relate to from her own childhood and upbringing and although sad, she had enjoyed and liked it.

Everyone had found the unfinished “snippets” in the story very frustrating and disjointed. We had the feeling that they had just been put in because the author thought (with the Irish setting and timing of the story) perhaps he should mention: the IRA troubles with a divided Ireland and the joining of a Union in the workplace, but with no follow-through. As too with Nora’s singing and her building friendship with the music teacher Laurie O’Keefe getting ready for the auditions for the Choir?  Her foray into the painting and decorating of her house, causing her to become quite ill with her injuries and even incapacitated? The Gramophone Society members and her friendship with Phyllis. The holiday?  Life where she worked at Gibneys sharing an office with the owner’s daughter Elizabeth? It all amounted to nothing but loose unfinished ends!!

No character stood out for anyone although most would have liked to find out what happened to Donal whilst staying at her Aunt Josie’s house for those 3 years with no real contact from Nora!

So to summarise ………  A disappointing read for members especially as those who had read his previous novel “Brooklyn” where he had proved a worthy award winner. They had expected more of the same. A book which definitely did not fit the promises on the front and back cover and which started so intriguingly. It was a book of no substance,  shallow and disjointed which needed more structure and a greater perception of writing from a female aspect and definitely not meaningful enough  and finally of course the need of those answers to so many unfinished loose ends going absolutely nowhere ! (No sequel please!!)   One of the most positive THUMBS DOWN!

To finish a couple of lovely comments from Members:

“A No-No So-So book!!”  – Thank you Judith

“Too many ingredients – half of these would make a better story.” Thank you Hilary

…So to the recycle bin it was decided to send this one.

 

11 Titles by Anne Perry

Thirteen Members (and a Giraffe – sorry Pam’s a little superstitious!) were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the various book titles received from those unable to attend this meeting. Brenda opened the meeting and after wishing everyone a Happy New Year explained the thoughts behind the discussion format for this evening’s meeting as this was to be a “first” for us discussing 11 titles in one meeting and hopefully with Members reading several of the titles over the previous few weeks proving an interesting one!!

A Christmas Return : Several members had a go at this one … generally finding it enjoyable, an ideal length with enough background information without getting boring or repetitive, it was an easy read, lots of admiration for Maria for her strength and surviving her abusive marriage, and being likened to an episode of Miss Marple. Thumbs up for this one!

A Christmas Promise :  A few members read this one which for some found to be a little superficial, predictable, trite.  It was felt the characters were shallow and stereotypical. For one member the dialogue was irritating (notably the dropping of the “H’s” and estuary English phrases – well it was set in London ??!! For them, the plot was shallow, and a difficult read but others said it was very readable and a relief to find that the missing donkey was not a murder victim but had merely been taken off to appear in a Nativity. Phew! Although who didn’t enjoy this book and found it a bit too predictable with there being a donkey for the Rag & Bone cart, the murdered Rag & Bone man being called Balthazar and of course a gold box (but no Frankincense and Myrrh). Well it was Christmas! Enjoyed by a couple of members but disliked by two others

A Christmas Message :  A couple of members read and generally did not enjoy this one.  Too much talk in riddles from one member and the other calling it: “theological, philosophical, sociological, pontifical on the meaning of life”  So this one was not liked then!  Thumbs down here !

A Christmas Guest  :  Three members tackled this one.  One commenting simple but faultless, another finding it rather slow! And another saying “very Miss Marple” enjoying the way Mariah Ellison’s character was explored and developed.  Although able to guess Bedelia’s role straight away it did not for them detract from the story. Hoorah for Grandmama, surprising herself turning detective and proving extremely good at it.  Quiet Thumbs Up for this one.

A Christmas Secret  :  Several members read this book and all enjoyed it especially as not only wanting to know who the killer was didn’t guess it until nearly at the end, a good story that was not predictable and as one member said progressed slowly and surely and then suddenly erupted! Full of interesting details of village life centred around the vicarage and church.  A Thumbs Up for this one

The Christmas Visitors : A couple of members read and reported on this title saying it proved an easy read, where characters and Victorian England were well described leading to a mystery within a mystery which the likeable Henry Rathbone, friend to Judah, a judge, one of 3 Dreghorn brothers, solved, much to his personal distress,  the wrongful imprisonment previously of Ashton Gower and the consequent slandering of the Dreghorn family  and then sadly the circumstances of the death of Judah, actually captured the spirit of Christmas  and goodwill with the whole family then penniless giving up the Manor and moving into the vicarage and re-thinking their lives.  A pleasant story.

A Christmas Garland : Lots of us read this particular title with all but one member thoroughly enjoying and saying it was their favourite by a mile.  A brilliant read, well written, believable with a flowing text keeping everyone guessing to the end but knowing and feeling it would all turn out well. But one member did find it was too philosophical with loose ends. Characters, settings and circumstances were described well and a plot that flew along convinced that Tallis was innocent but unable to predict how. Excellent building of tension throughout. One member who did not know much about the English/Indian uprising found it interesting as well as shocking. But a gripping “fabulous” cracking read was the general consensus here. Coming through as the front runner favourite so far A DEFINITE THUMBS UP!!

A Christmas Beginning :  a couple of members reported on this title.  “It was described as being a charming tale of love and hope played out against a background of deceit and death – “is sure to warm your heart during the winter season.” Members agreed that it had a warm feeling about it especially as the character Superintendent Runcorn of the Metropolitan Police headed to Anglesey to free his head only to find thoughts of Melisande Ewart the woman who stole his heart the previous year was also there. Whilst there he was then involved in solving the murder of the vicar’s sister Olivia which Melisande’s brother John had been accused of. By solving this crime winning back the heart of his one true love. Aaahh!!

A Christmas Escape :  A couple of members reported on this story saying that it was an easy read, nice story right length, nothing offensive, with recently widowed and lonely Charles Lattery looking to revive his depressed spirits heading to the Mediterranean Island of Stromboli with a constant erupting volcano where a group of British tourists plan to spend the holiday.  Whilst there one of the guests is found dead, a murder disguised as an accident Charles realises the suspect pool is very limited and seeks to find a motive. One member summing up saying that the story was delightful and cosy with its charming characters that mirror 19th century manners and attitudes with an artistic cleverness in the brief descriptions of her characters which many authors fail to achieve without excruciating detail that would needlessly slow the narrative.  Well enjoyed and definitely another Thumbs Up here.

A New York Christmas : Several members read this title which is set in New York in 1904 finding it an enjoyable story reading about the upper classes and the race and slave element of that time and where new American money and old English aristocracy collided.  Jemima Pitt is there to chaperone her friend Delphinia (Phinnie)who has crossed the ocean to marry one of New York’s richest men Brent Albright,  but Jemima, whose father was the Head of Special Branch in London, discovers a secret about Maria Cardew, Phinnie’s mother, that could destroy the future of her friend who she is there to protect. The story was philosophical and predictable and perhaps “twee” at times but had a need to keep reading it to see what eventually happens.  Enjoyable and easy read.

A Christmas Odyssey : A couple of members read this title with one reporting that they enjoyed the story of the missing wayward son of upper class James Wentworth set in Victorian London with Sir Henry Rathbone’s help with the investigation taking it to the seedy underworld but another member did not really enjoy the details of this part of the story.  It was a story of faith, hope, love and redemption emerging from the depths of Victorian society in 1864. So a mixed review for this one.

Summer Of ’76 by Isabel Ashdown

Ten members were welcomed to this month’s meeting with apologies and their thoughts on the book received from 10 other members unable to attend. The meeting began with everyone wishing Joan their best wishes on her news that she was moving to the West Country, she had sent a lovely email to the Group with her apologies for not being able to be with us as she was moving the following day and saying how much she had enjoyed being a member of our Group. Everyone agreed that she would be really missed and had been a valued and lovely friendly member and were sure that she would find another Group on the Mainland who would be very lucky to have her. Of course if not we were all sure that she could and should start a new one!!!!

Brenda then opened the discussion by asking members what they had thought of the book. Several members initially voiced their struggle to stay reading the story and also general disinterest with it, starting OK then a bit of an anti-climax and then just fizzling out! One member said it felt a bit pedestrian and others saying there really wasn’t that much going on to keep reading to the end apart from the hope “perhaps it MIGHT get better” with several members admitting to not finishing the book although curious as how it would end.

Most members said that they had been looking forward to and reminiscing with the names of familiar places as the Island was being highly featured but some struggled slightly with some of the descriptions of Luke and Martins’ journeys which were definitely not accurate. For example, Sandown seemed remarkably near Woodside where Luke’s Nan lived! Others also felt that the author had used the known accounts of the famous (or even infamous) UK Summer heatwave of 1976 and had built the book and centred it around them using “placed” Island towns, villages and tourist areas and was just determined to get them all in, not in depth and coming across that she did not really appear to have the detailed knowledge herself but obviously knew someone who could detail it for her.

Apart from Chapter headings of Met Office weather reports for the Isle of Wight during the Summer of 1976 and THAT promise on the front cover of the book “In the heat of the moment” and one member saying that having read the book half way through she “couldn’t hang around to see what it was” and thinking did she miss something? There was nothing much of a relevant one either to it in the book! A few members did find it fun to read, light and easy and could identify with the characters and local people but found it generally a somewhat superficial book which glossed over a lot of issues but did not delve into any of them. Recall of the 1970’s lifestyle was fairly familiar with a few members saying that it was thought they were conjured up more from their own knowledge back then rather than from skilled writing here. The storyline characters were discussed with members agreeing that the book may have been better to have been set and a better read too with the likeable Martin as the main character with his story and future more in depth. Perhaps a sequel!!!??

Following our discussion of the book and evoking everything 1970’s and to “wind up” the evening an interesting and hilarious discussion followed with members regaling stories with regards to life on and off the Island during this era All I am going to say is whilst on your travels out and about look for that Pampas Grass!!!!

 

So to summarise …………….

Most members thought the book was an easy read, with names of familiar places set on the Island, identifiable with some of the characters of the era (yes only some of them!!) but nearly everyone found themselves struggling with a shallow, pedestrian, disappointing and something of nothing book which glossed over lots of issues of the day, had no real story to it and was a real anti-climax. Not helped by the use of a prologue at the beginning of this book which was felt to have given away any “mystery element” should anyone had read it previously.

So, although not totally “disliked” it was a definite “thumbs down” for us.

We voted NOT to recommend it to a friend!

A Month In The Country by J.L. Carr

Ten members attended and were welcomed to this month’s meeting at The Cloisters, Bembridge to discuss the above book with apologies received from 9 members unable to be with us together with notes of their comments and views on the book which were added to the discussion “pot”.

The discussion began with a feeling from many of the members present that this book was beautifully written, with detailed descriptions which moved along at a sedate and very slow pace. One member likened it to a school project, with not much happening and expecting more, leading to a relief of a chapter finishing. Generally members agreed it felt that although the characters were likeable, with the descriptions of village life in Oxgodby as a lovely portrayal of blissful calm, untouched by change as it was in 1920, it had unfortunately proved on the whole to be a generally disappointing read.

As the month progressed you could really appreciate the changes happening to Tom Birkin as he began to relax and heal and a sense of renewal to all the harrowing memories he experienced in the war. His total absorption in uncovering the mural, together with the friendships he made and the beauty of the surrounding Yorkshire countryside, all seemed to combine to heal his troubled soul, leading members believing that he had looked back at this month in his life with great affection. Several members found the intricate descriptions of the uncovering of the mural fascinating with its detailing which prompted a discussion about the artist and if the bones uncovered by Charlie Moon (the archaeologist ) might have possibly been his. Members also thought the story may have “taken off” more in the belfry perhaps with the vicar’s wife Alice but as one member pointed out he was described by his friends as candid, a straightforward and honest man so we should have known he would go back to his unfaithful wife.

All members agreed that, although the book was at times confusing, it was an easy read and full of kindness, interesting, redemptive, amusing, but with nothing much happening in a simplistic and gentle way leading disappointingly to no FINALE! A book which most said they did not actually dislike but possibly was not their “cup of tea” and the unanimous vote for this book was we would choose the friend to recommend it to.

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.