Sister by Rosamund Lupton

About the book

Nothing can break the bond between sisters …When Beatrice gets a frantic call in the middle of Sunday lunch to say that her younger sister, Tess, is missing, she boards the first flight home to London. But as she learns about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s disappearance, she is stunned to discover how little she actually knows of her sister’s life – and unprepared for the terrifying truths she must now face. The police, Beatrice’s fiance and even their mother accept they have lost Tess but Beatrice refuses to give up on her. So she embarks on a dangerous journey to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

Reviewed by Everton Reading Group:

An irresistible read with an engaging story – believable and gripping. Top marks given by all. So pleased that we came across this inadvertently due to not receiving the requested title!

Star rating: ****

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The Remedy by Michelle Lovric

About the book

In this darkly beautiful and hauntingly vivid novel, Michelle Lovric, acclaimed author of The Floating Book, embarks on an unforgettable journey through the winding alleys and shadowy streets of eighteenth-century Venice and London. With vibrant prose, she weaves together the stories of three disparate yet intertwined characters who find themselves embroiled in a world of murder and secrets. There is Mimosina Dolcezza, the Venetian actress employed as an agente provocatrice by surreptitious European power brokers. By fortune and circumstance, she begins an affair with the elusive Valentine Greatrakes, a roguish fixture within London’s medical underworld. Complicating matters for the pair is the presence of the eccentric and strange child-woman Pevenche, a figure whose fate and identity lie at the heart of the book’s mystery. Following this shadowy group from the dark environs of London’s Bankside to the lively streets of Venice, The Remedy guides us through playhouses, brothels, and convents with luscious details that breathe intoxicating life into the era. Long-listed for the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, The Remedy is a seductive and suspenseful tale that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

Reviewed by  Ecchinswell Reading Group:

Most members found this a page turner. Mixed levels of enjoyment due to gritty nature of the subject matter. Lots of descriptive content and historical fact – well researched. It was a good book for a reading group, provoking mixed reactions and good discussions.

Star rating: ***

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Swallowing Grandma by Kate Long

About the book

Katherine Millar is eighteen and desperate to be less fat, less swotty and to have cooler friends. But most of all she wishes she had two parents, instead of one grandma, Poll. Poll is pushing seventy, half blind and utterly poisonous. She has looked after Katherine since she was a baby, when her father was killed in a car crash and her mother vanished. Poll’s ambition is for things to stay exactly the same for ever, and for Katherine never to leave their pit village of Bank Top. Katherine has other ideas, and she can feel change is coming; the omens are all around her. In the meantime, she cleans up after Poll, revises for her exams, watches daytime television and surfs the net at the library trying to find out how to be bulimic. What she doesn’t quite realize yet is that life won’t always wait for you to catch up with it.

Reviewed by Cowdray Reading Group:

Enjoyed by most – found it very lighthearted. Thought the characters were interesting – especially the way the mother’s perception was written in dark print. Compelling with great sensitivity.

Star rating: ***

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Gilgamesh by Joan London

About the book

Gilgamesh is the epic story of a mother’s search for the father of her child – from Australia to Armenia via England and Mesopotamia – all under the shadow of an imminent, and soon to be very real, World War II. Narrated in a clear, poetic voice, it is a portrayal of the different journeys we choose to take through life and what happens when ordinary people get caught up in extraordinary, seismic events. A bestseller in its native Australia, Gilgamesh was awarded the Age Fiction Book of the Year and shortlisted for the prestigious Miles Franklin award alongside Tim Winton and Richard Flanagan.

Reviewed by Everton Reading Group:

Held some readers in thrall. Although the story was rather improbable in places regarding the war, the plight of the main characters – Enid and Jim – was believable. We felt we should find out more about Gilgamesh.

Star rating: ***+

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Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

About the book

When the university merged his Department of English with Linguistics, Professor Desmond Bates took early retirement, but he is not enjoying it. He misses the routine of the academic year and has lost his appetite for research. His wife Winifred’s late-flowering career goes from strength to strength, reducing his role to that of escort, while the rejuvenation of her appearance makes him uneasily conscious of the age gap between them. The monotony of his days is relieved only by wearisome journeys to London to check on his aged father who stubbornly refuses to leave the house he is patently unable to live in with safety.
But these discontents are nothing compared to the affliction of hearing loss — a constant source of domestic friction and social embarrassment, leading Desmond into mistakes, misunderstandings and follies. It might be comic for others, but for the deaf person himself, it is no joke. It is his deafness which inadvertently involves Desmond with a young woman whose wayward behaviour threatens to destabilize his life completely.

Reviewed by Winchester HIP Reading Group:

This group of hearing impaired people felt that the novel was funny and well observed – not without its flaws but an excellent representation of the problems of hearing loss.

Star rating: ****

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Author, Author by David Lodge

About the book

Framed by a dramatic and moving account of Henry James’s last illness, Author! Author! begins in the early 1880s, describing James’s friendship with the genial Punch artist, George Du Maurier, and his intimate but problematic relationship with fellow American novelist Constance Fenimore Woolson. At the end of the decade Henry, worried by the failure of his books to sell, resolves to achieve fame and fortune as a playwright while Du Maurier diversifies into writing novels. The consequences that ensue mingle comedy, irony, pathos, and suspense. As Du Maurier’s novel Trilby becomes the bestseller of the century, Henry anxiously awaits the opening night of his make-or-break play, Guy Domville. This event, on January 5, 1895, and its complex sequel form the climax to Lodge’s absorbing novel.
Thronged with vividly drawn characters, some of them with famous names, Author! Author! presents a fascinating panorama of literary and theatrical life in late Victorian England. But at its heart is a portrait, rendered with remarkable empathy, of a writer who never achieved popular success in his lifetime or resolved his sexual identity, yet wrote some of the greatest novels about love in the English language.

Reviewed by Romsey School Staff Reading Group:

This book provoked a lot of discussion – opinions varied from: ‘One of the best books the group has read’ to ‘I nearly lost the will to live, trying to finish it!’

Star rating: **

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Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

book cover

About the book

Jay Porter is hardly the lawyer he set out to be. His most promising client is a low-rent call girl and he runs his fledgling law practice out of a dingy strip mall. But he’s long since made peace with not living the American Dream and carefully tucked away his darkest sins: the guns, the FBI file, the trial that nearly destroyed him.
Houston, Texas, 1981. It is here that Jay believes he can make a fresh start. That is, until the night in a boat out on the bayou when he impulsively saves a woman from drowning—and opens a Pandora’s box. Her secrets put Jay in danger, ensnaring him in a murder investigation that could cost him his practice, his family, and even his life. But before he can get to the bottom of a tangled mystery that reaches into the upper echelons of Houston’s corporate power brokers, Jay must confront the demons of his past.

Reviewed by Perspectives Reading Group:

A readable book but not as rivetting as the reviews suggested. The ending petered out after a very busy plot. The characters were rather superficial and not very likeable overall. It seems to have been written with a film script in mind or a second novel.

Star rating: **

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The Photograph by Penelope Lively

About the book

Booker Prize-winning novelist Penelope Lively’s latest masterpiece opens with a snapshot: Kath, before her death, at an unknown gathering, holding hands with a man who is not her husband. The photograph is in an envelope marked “DON’T OPEN – DESTROY.” But Kath’s husband does not heed the warning, embarking on a journey of discovery that reveals a tight web of secrets: within marriages, between sisters, and at the heart of an affair. Kath, with her mesmerizing looks and casual ways, moves like a ghost through the memories of everyone who knew her – and a portrait emerges of a woman whose life cannot be understood without plumbing the emotional depths of the people she touched.

Reviewed by  Petersfield U3A group 1 Reading Group:

Unanimously enjoyed. The finding of the photograph led to the unravelling of various relationships and we thought that the insight into the characters was excellent.

Star rating: ****

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Homestead by Rosina Lippi

About the book

Each life has its place, and every variation ripples the surface of the tiny alpine village called Rosenau. Be it a mysteriously misaddressed love letter or a girl’s careless delivery of two helpless relatives into Nazi hands, the town’s balance is ever tested, and ever tender. Here is a novel spanning eighty years — years that bring factories and wars, store-bought cheese and city-trained teachers — weaving the fates of the wives, mothers, and daughters in this remote corner of Austria. To quote Rosellen Brown, “the women in this haunting book are deeply and uniquely of their place, yet they speak (often wordlessly) of women’s longings and satisfactions everywhere.”

Reviewed by Hedge End WI Reading Group:

One reader didn’t enjoy the book, but even she with the other eight thought it well written with many excellent sections. It was at times bitty – one wanted to continue with the episode in hand. The descriptions of the environment and hardship of the area were excellent.

Star rating: ***

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Black Dirt by Nell Leyshon

About the book

Frank lies in bed, his dying dreams haunted by memories of one long-ago summer, the sticky heat of night, and the stories his father told about Christ, the red-breasted robin, and kings Arthur and Alfred. But other images also rise to the surface, unbidden and unwanted, and Frank finds himself forced to recall his older sister, Iris, whose existence – and terrible crime – he has spent long years struggling to forget.

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle:

Loved language a ‘layers’ of story. Felt characters were well drawn. Thought the dark side was skilfully handled.

Star rating: ***

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