Only Human by Susie Boyt

About the book

Marjorie Hemming, marriage guidance counsellor, craves concord and harmony the way other people need cigarettes. She longs for all her quarrelling couples to be reconciled, and is delighted when people start to mistake her for an angelic nurse in a hospital TV drama series. But her alarmingly skinny teenage daughter has secrets she won’t reveal, and some couples just refuse to kiss and make up. Even stalwart Nurse Rose is acting out of character as she launches herself into an obviously doomed marriage. Marjorie has knitted her world together with care – is it starting to fray?

Reviewed by Chandlers Ford Wednesday Reading Group:

Generally felt it is a bit lightweight and didn’t communicate what the author said she was trying to do on her website. Couldn’t relate to the mother very well. Good discussion despite this about counselling and mother daughter relationships.

Star rating: **
 

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

About the book

Nine year old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no-one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas. Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

Reviewed by Petersfield U3A 1 Reading Group:

All our members enjoyed this story with its interesting approach through the boy’s eyes to the concentration camp. Very well written and worth reading.

Star rating: ****

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Restless by William Boyd

About the book

It is 1939. Eva Delectorskaya is a beautiful 28-year-old Russian emigree living in Paris. As war breaks out she is recruited for the British Secret Service by Lucas Romer, a mysterious Englishman, and under his tutelage she learns to become the perfect spy, to mask her emotions and trust no one, including those she loves most. Since the war, Eva has carefully rebuilt her life as a typically English wife and mother. But once a spy, always a spy. Now she must complete one final assignment, and this time Eva can’t do it alone: she needs her daughter’s help.

Reviewed by Kings Somborne Reading Group:

Fascinating insight into wartime spying. credible female characters and relationship between mother and daughter. Gripping, enjoyable, well-written thriller, atmospheric. Particularly enjoyed the Scottish scenes.

Star rating: ***
 

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Fascination by William Boyd

About the book

In Fascination Boyd shows his brilliance of the form as these stories range widely through time and space. In a dazzling array of styles and narratives we move from 1930s Germany to Los Angeles in the Second World War, from contemporary Oxford to 19th century Russia. Whether in London or Amsterdam. Eastbourne or a Normandy village these stories explore and expose the fraught, funny, absurd, poignant and lovelorn lives of their many and varied characters.

Reviewed by Romsey Library Reading Group:

Promising beginnings, but stories not rounded well and therefore there was a lack of satisfaction. Well written. Disappointing when compared to his other books.

Star rating: **+
 

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The Righteous Men by Sam Bourne

About the book

Two murders at opposite ends of America, one in the backstreets of New York City, the other in the backwoods of Montana. A series of killings in every corner of the globe, from the crowded slums of India to the pristine beaches of Cape Town. There can’t possibly be a connection. That’s the instinct of Will Monroe, a young, British-born reporter for The New York Times – until the morning his beautiful wife Beth is kidnapped. Holding her are men who seem ready to kill without hesitation. Desperate, Will follows a trail that leads to a mysterious sect right on his own doorstep – fervent followers of one of mankind’s oldest faiths. He will have to break through multiple layers of mysticism and ancient prophecy, unearthing riddles buried deep in the Bible – until he finds the secret that is said to have animated the world for thousands of years, a secret on which the fate of humanity may depend. But with more murders by the hour, and each clue wrapped in layers of code, time is running out…

Reviewed by CC Readers book group:

Well written page turner. Implausible, loose ends, intriguing background, too many clues?

Star rating: ***
 

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Blind to the Bones by Stephen Booth

About the book

The villagers of Withens are dying. Emma Renshaw vanished two years ago, her body never found. Now her former housemate has been bludgeoned, his remains discovered near a deserted railway tunnel. Is there a link between the two? While Detective Sergeant Diane Fry focuses on Emma’s possible murder, her colleague Ben Cooper investigates a series of burglaries. Only one family seems exempt: the Oxleys. Descended from workmen who built the ancient tunnels beneath the village, they stick close to their own – and keep their secrets closer. Caught in the tangle of death and deception are Cooper and Fry. Their personal history and professional relationship have blurred before, and will again, as their cases converge in the most unsettling ways. . .

Reviewed by North Baddesley WI reading group:

Too many characters. Too many stories, enough for 3 separate books. Travelogue for the Peak District? Maybe.

Star rating: **

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Guernica by Dave Boling

About the book

In 1935, Miguel Navarro finds himself in conflict with the Spanish Civil Guard and flees the Basque fishing village of Lekeitio to make a new start in Guernica, the centre of Basque culture and tradition. Once there, he finds more than just a new life – he finds someone to live for. Miren Ansotegui is the charismatic and graceful dancer he meets and the two discover a love they believe nothing can destroy . . .

Reviewed by Stubbington Book Buddies:

Generally found it engaging and promoted much discussion. Felt it conveyed a strong sense of Basque culture, history, family values and loss.

Star rating: ***
 

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Forty Words for Sorrow – Giles Blunt

About the book

When the badly decomposed body of thirteen-year-old Katie Pine is found in an abandoned mine shaft, John Cardinal is vindicated. It was Cardinal who’d kept the Pine case open – insisting she was no mere runaway – and Cardinal had been demoted to the burglary squad for his excessive zeal. But Katie Pine isn’t the only youngster to have gone missing in the rural town of Algonquin Bay, and Cardinal is now given the go-ahead to reopen the files on three other lost kids. When another youth is reported missing, he begins to see a pattern that screams “serial killer.” Meanwhile, the brass have partnered him with Lisa Delorme, newly shifted to homicide from the Office of Special Investigations, and Cardinal can’t help but wonder if she’s been sent to keep tabs on him. A guilty conscience makes him think so. Superbly paced, with fully-fleshed characters and utterly convincing police detail, Forty Words for Sorrow is also a novel of place that transcends the genre. Blunt puts us in a small Canadian town in the dead of winter and makes us feel the cold, then turns the cold into a metaphor for the destruction of young lives.

Reviewed by North Baddesley WI Reading Group:

Easy to read. Good psychological thriller. Characters were believable. Interesting discussion followed – 2 readers felt descriptions of cruelty and injuries unpleasant, other ladies took it in their stride and did not find it over the top.

Star rating: ***+

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Lazy Bones by Mark Billingham

About the book

It’s only ten days since Douglas Remfry’s release from prison, having served seven years for rape, and now he’s dead: naked on a bare mattress in a grubby north London hotel room, his head hooded and his hands tied with a brown leather belt. Someone knew he was coming out. Someone wanted to mete out some punishment of his own.  And when a second sex offender is found dead, DI Tom Thorne knows he has a vicious, calculating viliglante on his hands…

Reviewed by Tuesday Crew reading group:

Really enjoyed by one of our members, less so by the rest of us! Fast-moving, graphic, psychological thriller, minimal character development.

Star rating: **
 

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Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Berniéres

About the book

It is 1941 and Captain Antonio Corelli, a young Italian officer, is posted to the Greek island of Cephallonia as part of the occupying forces. At first he is ostracised by the locals, but as a conscientious but far from fanatical soldier, whose main aim is to have a peaceful war, he proves in time to be civilised, humorous – and a consumate musician. When the local doctor’s daughter’s letters to her fiancé – and members of the underground – go unanswered, the working of the eternal triangle seems inevitable. But can this fragile love survive as a war of bestial savagery gets closer and the lines are drawn between invader and defender?

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

A good read. Shows the effect of war on a small community. The relationship between the German and Italian occupiers. The effect on the occupied Greek community. The love story between Captain Correlli and Pelagia. The futility of war and the waste of two lives.

Star rating: ***

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