Run by Ann Patchett

About the book

Since their mother’s death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe.
Set over a period of twenty-four hours, Run takes us from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired Catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include people you’ve never even met. As in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Ann Patchett illustrates the humanity that connects disparate lives, weaving several stories into one surprising and endlessly moving narrative. Suspenseful and stunningly executed, Run is ultimately a novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths we will go to protect our children.

Reviewed by Boaters Book Club:

Very mixed comments. Generally the opening chapter was liked as was how the story unfolded, and the characters. It was considered a charming, good story by some and most would like to read more by this author. However some found it a collection of endless, unconnected short stories.

Star rating: **

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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

About the book

Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner.
The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying.
Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

Reviewed by Andover NWR:

The book set the scene perfectly – all sense of time ceased, The tension was palpable, at the same time we were lulled into a false sense of security. The epilogue surprised everyone. All agreed – an excellent read.

Rating: ***

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The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch

About the book

Harry Patch, 110 years old, is the last British soldier alive to have fought in the trenches of the First World War. From his vivid memories of an Edwardian childhood, the horror of the Great War and fighting in the mud during the Battle of Passchendaele, working on the home front in the Second World War and fame in later life as a veteran, The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary life.

Reviewed by  Cowdray Reading Group:

Some of the group found it difficult to get into, but most enjoyed it. The social comment, the futility of war, war as organised murder was interesting. Some surprised at what an ordinary chap Harry Patch was and his lack of interest and enthusiasm for being a soldier. All found it an honest story and enjoyed the two writers.

Star rating: ***

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The Family Way by Tony Parsons

About the book

Paulo loves Jessica. He thinks that together they are complete – a family of two. But Jessica can’t be happy until she has a baby, and the baby stubbornly refuses to come. Can a man and a woman ever really be a family of two?
Megan doesn’t love her boyfriend anymore. After a one-night stand with an Australian beach bum, she finds that even a trainee doctor can slip up on the family planning. Should you bring a child into the world if you don’t love its father?
Cat loves her life. After bringing up her two youngest sisters, all she craves is freedom. Her older boyfriend has done the family thing before and is in no rush to do it all again. But can a modern woman really find true happiness without ever being in the family way?
Three sisters. Three couples. Two pregnancies. Six men and women struggling with love, sex, fertility and the meaning of family.

Reviewed by Cheerful Bags reading Group:

Really enjoyed this book. We thought it was wonderful that a man (the author) could have such sensitivity to a woman’s feelings. It also had a nice happy ending for a change, gave us a lift.

Star rating: ***

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Lorelei’s Secret by Carolyn Parkhurst

About the book

Paul Iverson’s life changes in an instant. He returns home one day to find that his wife, Lexy, has died under strange circumstances. The only witness was their dog, Lorelei, whose anguished barking brought help to the scene – but too late. In the days and weeks that follow, Paul begins to notice strange “clues” in their home: books rearranged on their shelves, a mysterious phone call, and other suggestions that nothing about Lexy’s last afternoon was quite what it seemed. Reeling from grief, Paul is determined to decipher this evidence and unlock the mystery of her death. But he can’t do it alone; he needs Lorelei’s help. A linguist by training, Paul embarks on an impossible endeavor: a series of experiments designed to teach Lorelei to communicate what she knows. Perhaps behind her wise and earnest eyes lies the key to what really happened to the woman he loved. As Paul’s investigation leads him in unexpected and even perilous directions, he revisits the pivotal moments of his life with Lexy, the brilliant, enigmatic woman whose sparkling passion for life and dark, troubled past he embraced equally.

Reviewed by Tadley Library Reading Group:

About a distraught husband searching for the answer whether his wife took her own life or died by accident. Yes, we found some part highly unbelievable but it provided a lengthy and productive discussion. The ratings by our group varied more than usual so I have taken a mean average. The people who rated it highest, were people we concluded – had known suicide victims and the grief they left behind and are very aware of mental health problems or were romantic and liked dogs!! Do still read it if none of this applies to you!!

Star rating: ***

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The Story of my face by Kathy Page

About the book

A young girl grows up an outsider, then becomes drawn into the life of a local family with some curious beliefs. They treat her as a daughter and take her away with them to a religious holiday camp. It is here that she is introduced to the Finnish Envallist branch of Protestantism and here that events start to take a terrible turn.
Rejected by some of the sectarians for her non-commitment to their beliefs, Natalie creates a rift in the group which culminates in a climactic scene where she is gravely injured. Later, as an adult in Finland, she tries to make sense of what happened and to unlock the secret origins of Envallism itself.

Reviewed by Victoria Reading group:

A very mixed reception – from those who did not enjoy it and gave up reading after a few chapters to those who thoroughly enjoyed reading it and considered it a good read. However one member read it but found it so forgettable that the title and subject matter could not be recalled a week later!

Star rating: **

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Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

About the book

While 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is more timely than ever. 1984 presents a “negative utopia”, that is at once a startling and haunting vision of the world — so powerful that it’s completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of entire generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions — a legacy that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.

Reviewed by Happy Days Reading Group:

After reading 1984, we felt that George Orwell was very forward thinking, dealt with deep political issues in a passionate manner but tended to let the political issues overtake the plot.

Star rating: ***

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Lullabies For Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill

About the book

Baby is twelve years old. Her mother died not long after she was born and she lives in a string of seedy flats in Montreal’s red light district with her father Jules, who takes better care of his heroin addiction than he does of his daughter. Jules is an intermittent presence and a constant source of chaos in Baby’s life – the turmoil he brings with him and the wreckage he leaves in his wake. Baby finds herself constantly re-adjusting to new situations, new foster homes, new places, new people, all the while longing for stability and a ‘normal’ life. But Baby has a gift – the ability to find the good in people, a genius for spinning stories and for cherishing the small crumbs of happiness that fall into her lap. She is bright, smart, funny and observant about life on the dirty streets of a city and wise enough to realise salvation rests in her own hands.

Reviewed by Anon reading group:

A very well constructed novel. It was shocking in its reality. Vivid portrayal of a child’s experience expressed by an adult.

Star rating: ***+

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Only Half of Me by Rageh Omaar

About the book

A Muslim boy goes to a madrassa in Mogadishu to learn the Koran. His parents take him on two pilgrimages to Mecca. He arrives in Britain as a child just as Somalia collapses into a state of civil war, which will continue throughout his childhood and prevent him from going home. He watches Black Hawk Down in horror. He watches the invasion of Iraq in disbelief. To the media, government and general public, this is the classic background story to the most feared figure of our times: the young, male, black, British, Muslim. It is also the story of Rageh Omaar’s childhood. Rageh Omaar’s unique and profoundly moving book is the story of his childhood in Somalia, his family’s attitude to religion, his double life as a British Muslim and that of other British Muslims: the failed suicide bomber from Somalia; his cousin who was stabbed in the neck on a London street on 8th July 2005. Full of humanity and rage, empathy and insight, “Only Half of Me” takes us into lives that are widely misunderstood, and tries to make sense of our own fractured world.

Reviewed by Anton Bookies:

There was a mixed reaction amongst the group from great interest in his description of Somali culture to ‘a complete turnoff’, but it certainly stimulated a very lively discussion.

Star rating: ***

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Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

About the book

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.
Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.
Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

This clever story uses the interaction between the characters and its effect upon them, of Esme being incarcerated for sixty years. This book caused much lively discussion. we remembered the closing of the asylums and the reason for many old ladies being patients was that they were socially inconvenient.

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