Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

This has become my favourite all time read, given the space of time it covers from 1922 up to the 1950's. It’s so well written.

The Count (who just wraps you round his finger) is just the supreme gentleman, and the picture in the back of the book just puts me in the mind of how he should be.

He was a thoughtful, caring person who was denied his freedom and kept under house arrest in a hotel for over 30 years. Even under these circumstances, he stretched his thoughts to do what he could to help others.

The final chapters left me reeling - it was so practical that he and Sophia came to the happy conclusion they deserved.
Reviewed by Elizabeth

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner

The book group recently read a classic children's book of their own choice ...

The title draws you in. This takes you to places not dreamed of, with Elves,Tree Creatures who only appear at night, and Svarts with eyes that cannot bear light. 

The adventures that engulf Colin and Susan take them beyond mortal earth into the dark underworld, not knowing which path to take and how to escape the pitfalls around each corner.

Cadollin, the wizard they met up with, warned them of the dangers ahead, but can his help bring them safely back to their Aunt and Uncle's home?
                                               Reviewed by Elizabeth

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves

This is the first in a quartet featuring D I Jimmy Perez. He's rather a reluctant investigator, unearthing information that locals would prefer to remain hidden.

It's set in the Shetlands and gives some familiar glimpses of life in a small Island community. There's a kind of hierarchy depending on how long you've lived there, and open secrets that are never discussed. 

There's an interesting insight into life in a bird observatory on the Island, and Ann Cleeves captures the sometimes claustrophobic and isolating nature of an enclosed community. 

The icy cold of New Year's Eve adds to the atmosphere when a young girl is found strangled. The reclusive Magnus Tait is the local scapegoat, but D I Perez is not so sure... 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Harper Collins
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a debut novel by Gail Honeyman that went on to win a Costa award and has just been crowned Book of the Year at the British Book Awards.

Eleanor is an outsider who relies upon ritual to get her through. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meals... and buys two bottles of vodka to stave off the loneliness of the weekends. 

One small act of kindness shatters her routines, and gives her the courage to face the darkness of her past. But this is far from being a dark read. It's laugh out loud funny in places, touching and has a real feel good factor. Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Dry by Jane Harper

We were going to have a seasonal read this month, but couldn't resist 'The Dry' by Jane Harper instead. It's  been described as a 'breathless page turner' by The New York Times and been featured as Thriller of the Month by Waterstones and the Sunday Times.  

The small country town of Kiewarra has been dry for two years following the worst drought to hit Australia in a century. Tensions mount, culmunating in the murder of three members of the Hadler family. The guilt falls on Luke Hadler, with the local community deciding that he committed suicide after killing his wife and six year old son.

Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town he grew up in for the funeral of his childhood best friend. Aaron Falk and Luke Hadler had shared a secret, which is disturbed by Luke's death. Aaron is reluctantly drawn into the investigation, confronting secrets from the past as he questions the truth of the crime. 

We'll be talking about 'The Dry' at our next meeting at the library on Thursday 4th January 2018

Monday, December 11, 2017

Banned Books

We were all surprised how many banned books we'd already read! It was also a revelation to discover why some books were banned.

Jack London's 'Call of the Wild' was banned in Italy and Yugoslavia, before being burned by Nazis in 1933. It's a book about being individual and fighting back, but it's more likely to have been banned for the author's socialist views than for the text.

Book Group members chose to read:

Call of the Wild by Jack London

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Here's Edith's comments on 'Forever Amber':

'Forever Amber' was banned in Boston, and regarded as being obscene in 1944. I read this book as a teenager or early twenties when I also read anything that was based on history. Now I think I am more discerning in book choice.

The novel is based on The Restoration of Charles II, and the research is impeccable. Every detail of life in that period - food, fashions, architecture, interior design and politics - is covered by the fictional tale of Amber St Clare.

Amber, beautiful and sexy, may well have been immoral but the court of Charles II is worse: bawdy, brutal, cruel, licentious and wicked. When it comes to intimate sex scenes between Amber and her many varied lovers, a great deal is left to the imagination of the reader. 

'Those critics of long ago were really reviewing the Restoration Period itself, not the story' Kathleen Winsor wrote.

Linda Darnell as Amber in the film adaptation
The book is 972 pages long, and sometimes I lost the will to live! The story of Amber kept me interested but I wasn't so keen on reading about the politics of Court life, and speed read a lot of the pages dealing with that.

Amber has no redeeming features - she is extremely selfish, greedy and grasping. She doesn't think things out before she acts and doesn't care if she hurts someone else in the process. She has two children by her first lover and, although he marries someone else, she can't let go - to the extent she follows him and his wife to America, and there the story ends.

I don't know if  a teenager or early twenties reader would enjoy this book today and I have certainly outgrown it. I would give it 4 marks out of 5 (mainly because of the excellent research of the period).

This book is quite tame compared to 'Game of Thrones' or 'Outlander'!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Holding by Graham Norton

Graham Norton's debut novel is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss...

Set in the remote Irish village of Duneen, where nothing much usually happens, human remains are discovered on an old farm and overweight village bobby, Sergeant P J Collins, is tasked with unravelling the mystery. As he struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

With well written, believable characters and an authentic feel for life in a small Irish village, this is an assured first novel, which was greatly enjoyed by all members of Onchan Book Group.

Rating: 4 out 5 stars
Reviewed by: Cath

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Our book of the month is the award winning Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. It's 1893, and Cora Seabourne is a young widow whose husband's death has freed her from a secretly sinister marriage. 

Now free to follow her interest in science and natural history, Cora heads to Essex. She hopes that recent reports of a mysterious and ancient serpent may turn out to be proof of a 'living fossil'. 

Cora meets Will the local vicar while out on the Essex marshes, and neither are what the other expects. Will is a man of faith, skeptical about science, but reads Darwin. Cora is a wealthy woman who does not conform to the Victorian model of a society lady. Despite their differences, and family attachments, Cora and Will form a bond. 

This is an atmospheric read, full of mystery, twists and turns and issues to discuss at our next meeting on Thursday 7th September at 6 p.m.