Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search For Everything by Elizabeth Gilbert

About the book

It’s 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She’s in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they’re trying for a baby – and she doesn’t want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

Reviewed by In Sync

“Not all of us finished this book – as they found it boring, especially the middle bit on India, all to do with meditation. Italy and Bali were more interesting. It needs editing – there are a lot of repetitions

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The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

About the book

In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. A woman recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for “the love of her life.” As the city outside comes to a halt, she remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, she awaits the arrival on her doorstep of his fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie

Reviewed by Ringwood Readers

“Mundane and monotonous like a dripping tap. An instantly forgettable waste of trees. The whole group was united in disliking this book

star rating – nil

 

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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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Solace by Nikki Gerrard

About the book

Irene has a husband, Adrian, three small children and – though she doesn’t know it – a marriage that is going wrong. When she discovers that Adrian is having an affair, the family is blown apart. Solace is a story of contrasts. While Adrian finds new love and excitement, Irene spirals into exhaustion, self-destruction and a kind of madness. With their marriage in shreds and Adrian whisking their daughters on a trip of a lifetime to Australia with his new lover, Irene finally reaches rock bottom. She decides to leave the unbearable silence of her home for a trip by herself to visit her brother Jem in France. And as Irene soon realises, being along can mean discovering freedom, elation and even in the darkest of times, finding your solace.

Reviewed by Circuit Reading Group:

A lively discussion – not 100% enjoyed it, but most felt it was ok. Very good desprictive writing, somewhat predictable storyline, good ending – not an easy ‘neat’ relationship with Luke but some independence for Irene.

Star rating: ***-****

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The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore

About the book

In the winter of 1952, Isabel Carey moves to the East Riding of Yorkshire with her husband Philip, a GP. With Philip spending long hours on call, Isabel finds herself isolated and lonely as she strives to adjust to the realities of married life. Woken by intense cold one night, she discovers an old RAF greatcoat hidden in the back of a cupboard. Sleeping under it for warmth, she starts to dream. And not long afterwards, while her husband is out, she is startled by a knock at her window. Outside is a young RAF pilot, waiting to come in. His name is Alec, and his powerful presence both disturbs and excites her. Her initial alarm soon fades, and they begin an intense affair. But nothing has prepared her for the truth about Alec’s life, nor the impact it will have on hers …

Reviewed by Lymington U3A Reading Group:

Imaginitive, well written and researched. Evocative of the post war living conditions of life of the air men, but did go beyond belief. Gave us a lot to discuss on “what would i have done/felt”.

Star rating: **-***

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The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

About the book

Helen Codrington is unhappily married. Emily ‘Fido’ Faithfull hasn’t seen her once-dear friend for years. Suddenly, after bumping into Helen on the streets of Victorian London, Fido finds herself reluctantly helping Helen to have an affair with a young army officer. The women’s friendship quickly unravels amid courtroom accusations of adultery, counter-accusations of cruelty and attempted rape, and the appearance of a mysterious ‘sealed letter’ that could destroy more than one life . . . Based on a real-life scandal that gripped England in 1864, The Sealed Letter is a delicious tale of secrets, betrayal, and forbidden love.

Reviewed by Goodworth Clatford WI Reading Group:

A good read. True to its time. Interesting about the change in womens opportunities. Interesting regarding divorce at that time.

Star rating: ***

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The Folding Star by Alan Hollinghurst

About the book

Alan Hollinghurst’s hypnotic and exquisitely written novel tells the story of Edward Manners, a disaffected 33-year-old who leaves England to earn his living as a language tutor in a Flemish city. Almost immediately he falls in love with one of his pupils, but can only console himself with other, illicit affairs. With this novel, Hollinghurst exposes us fearlessly to the consequences of unfulfillable, annihilating desire.

Reviewed by North Waltham Evening Group:

This book divided the group from couldn’t finish it, to couldn’t put it down. Some found sexual descriptions too OTT, others thought them a very necessary part of the story. Nobody had much sympathy for any of the characters and most generally agreed that it improved as it progressed.

Star rating: **

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Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

About the book

From the first day that the beguiling Sheba Hart joins the staff of St George’s history teacher Barbara Covett is convinced she has found a kindred spirit. Barbara’s loyalty to her new friend is passionate and unstinting and when Sheba is discovered having an illicit affair with one of her pupils, Barbara quickly elects herself as Sheba’s chief defender. But all is not as it first seems in this dark story and, as Sheba will soon discover, a friend can be just as treacherous as any lover.

Reviewed by BBC Boater’s Book Club:

Everyone really enjoyed the book especially the characterisations for example the sinister Babara and the descriptions of the teachers and their environment. The moral issues were also discussed.

Star rating: *** to ****

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Nelson's Daughter by Miranda Hearn

About the book

Alongside his brilliant naval career, Lady Hamilton was Nelson’s other great obsession, and this intimate portrait of their love affair illustrates how England’s most celebrated admiral was captivated by this vivacious, strong-minded and passionate woman, who began life in poverty yet rose to marry an aristocrat and to consort with kings. But it is the complex relationship between Horatia and the woman she believed was only her godmother that forms the heart of this poignant, absorbing novel. Shifting between the idyll of Horatia’s childhood before Nelson’s death at Trafalgar and the gloom of Emma’s Calais rooms nine years later, Nelson’s Daughter offers a vivid and beguiling vision of Nelson’s most personal legacy.

Reviewed by Accidental Reading Group:

All agreed it was a lost opportunity to tell what could have been a good story. Hopped around too much – confused. Characterisation very poor and sketchy.

Star rating: *

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The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory

About the book

Set in the court of King Henry VIII, Mary Boleyn attracts the attention of the young king and becomes his mistress; when he tires of her, she sets out to school her sister, Anne, as a replacement. Politics and passion are inextricably bound together in this compelling drama. The Boleyn family is keen to rise through the ranks of society, and what better way to attract the attention of the most powerful in the land than to place their most beautiful young woman at court? But Mary becomes the king’s mistress at a time of change. He needs his personal pleasures, but he also needs an heir. The unthinkable happens and the course of English history is irrevocably changed. For the women at the heart of the storm, they have only one weapon; and when it’s no longer enough to be the mistress, Mary must groom her younger sister in the ways of the king. What happens next is common knowledge – but here it is told in a way we’ve never heard it before, with all of Philippa Gregory’s characteristic perceptiveness, backed by meticulous research and superb storytelling skills.

Reviewed by Cheerful Bags Reading Group:

Absolutely brilliant, very interesting story and brings history into the mind much easier. Everyone thought it was really good.

Star rating: ****
 

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