The Soldier’s Wife by Joanna Trollope

About the book

The soldiers are coming home – after six months in Afghanistan. Surely being reunited with their wives and girlfriends and families will be heaven, after the hell they have been through. When Dan Riley returns to his adored wife, Alexa, and their children, his Army life still comes first. Alexa thought she was prepared to help him, and the whole family, to make the transition to normal life again – but no-one had told her how lonely and near impossible the task would be. Does marrying a soldier always have to mean that you are not marrying a man, but a regiment?

 

Reviewed by Everton

Everyone enjoyed it and thought the research was excellent. Gave us all food for thought and put all the different characters into the fore for various reasons, especially Isobel. Unless you are in the forces it is difficult to imagine the way of life they have to lead. Very well written overall.

star rating ***

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The Junior Officer’s Reading Club by Patrick Hennessey

About the book

Patrick Hennessey is pretty much like any other member of Generation X: he spent the first half of the noughties reading books at university, going out, listening to early-90s house on his iPod and watching war films. He also, as an officer in the Grenadier guards, fought in some of the most violent combat the British army has seen in decades.

Telling the story of how a modern soldier is made, from the testosterone-heavy breeding ground of Sandhurst to the nightmare of Iraq and Afghanistan, The Junior Officers’ Reading Club is already being hailed as a modern classic.

 

Reviewed by Between the Leaves

“Not an easy read, but an interesting insight to the psychology of those involved in warfare

star rating ***

 

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The Storyteller's daughter by Saira Shah

About the book

Saira always felt like an outsider. As a child growing up in Britain, she was told that she came from a far away Eastern land, a magical place that her father, the storyteller, would bring exotically to life. When, at the age of twenty-one, Saira set out to discover this magic land for herself, she found a devastated country quite unlike that of her father’s stories. Worse, as a modern Western woman, she felt despised and powerless. Yet despite the brutal shattering of her dream, Saira came to feel that her own heartfelt story belonged to this troubled land.

Reviewed by Basingstoke Library Thursday Group

“Enjoy” is hardly the right word. I was gripped, caught up in Saira’s search for her roots and moved by her descriptions of the beauty of Afghanistan. What a complex country of national, factional and obsessional groups. she tries so hard to help and after her great efforts and deprivations, her hardships and journeys, she finally has to return to the West – somehow defeated and yet enlightened and most knowledgeable. May all politicians read this book and learn! I learned a lot.

Star rating: ****

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The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

About the book

In the spring of 2002, journalist Asne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to live with a family for several months. Here she reveals her experiences, telling the story of Sultan Khan – who defied the authorities for 20 years to supply books to the people of Kabul – and his family.

Reviewed by Selborne Book Circle

We were glad we had read the book but found it very disturbing. It involved a lively discussion and we were fortunate in that one of the members had been to Afghanistan in the comparatively liberal days before the Taliban. This is a book that should be read both for content and presentation.

Star rating: ***

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A Short walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

About the book

The view was colossal. Below us on every side mountain surged away it seemed forever; we looked down on glaciers and snow-covered peaks that perhaps no one has ever seen before, except from the air.’
Feeling restless in the world of London’s high-fashion industry, Eric Newby asked a friend to accompany him on a mountain-climbing expedition in the wild and remote Hindu Kush, in north-eastern Afghanistan. And so they went – although they did stop first for four days of climbing lessons in Wales – becoming the first Englishmen to visit this spectacular region for more than half a century. Newby’s frank and funny account of their expedition to what is still amongst the world’s most isolated areas is one of the classics of travel writing.

Reviewed by Kingsclere Reading Group:

A mixed response: some loved it, others found it a bit dull. Good discussion about the attitudes shown by writer to ethnic groups he met. Quality of his writing enjoyed. All pleased that we read a book we might otherwise have rejected.

Star rating: ***

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Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

About the book

‘Here we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything – even die’ – Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram mountains, Pakistan. In 1993, after a terrifying and disastrous attempt to climb K2, a mountaineer called Greg Mortenson drifted, cold and dehydrated, into an impoverished Pakistan village in the Karakoram Mountains. Moved by the inhabitants’ kindness, he promised to return and build a school. “Three Cups of Tea” is the story of that promise and its extraordinary outcome. Over the next decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools – especially for girls – in remote villages across the forbidding and breathtaking landscape of Pakistan and Afghanistan, just as the Taliban rose to power. His story is at once a riveting adventure and a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit.

Reviewed by Ringwood Reading Group:

Really divided the group

Star rating: **+

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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

About the book

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

Reviewed by  U3A Group 6, Petersfield Reading Group:

The whole group liked this book a lot. The plot, the background, the style and the characters are all compelling. It offered matter of lengthy and animated discussion. We can’t wait for his next book.

Star rating: ****

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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

About the book

Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love.
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them—in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul—they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman’s love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival.

Reviewed by Alverstoke Ladies Reading Group:

We couldn’t find enough superlatives for this wonderful book. Many a tear shed reading it. A real eye opener into life in Afghanistan over the last 40 years. A real ‘couldn’t put down’ book.

Star rating: ****

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Philip Hensher – The Mulberry Empire

book cover

About the book

‘The Mulberry Empire’ recounts an episode in the Great Game in central Asia – the courtship, betrayal and invasion of Afghanistan in the 1830s by the emissaries of Her Majesty’s Empire, which is followed by the bloody and summary expulsion of the British from Kabul following an Afghani insurrection. At its heart the encounter between West and East, as embodied in the likeable, complex relationship between Alexander Burnes, leader of the initial British expeditionary party, and the wily, cultured Afghani ruler, the Amir Dost Mohammed Khan. For those who enjoyed William Dalrymple’s ‘Return of a King’, ‘The Mulberry Empire’ is a must-read.

Reviewed by Blackwater Valley U3A Reading Group:

We thought this was ‘hard going’. Good descriptions but rather repetitive. ‘Intense and descriptive’. Lots of different story lines which did not come together. A bit disappointing.

Star rating: **

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A Hostile Place by John Fullerton

About the book

For Thomas Morgan, the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington provide an opportunity to keep one step ahead of the law. With a broken marriage, two children and an overdraft, the former soldier, sometime spy and occasional thief finds a new market for his skills — in Afghanistan, tracking down Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives. And when the world’s most wanted man disappears, Morgan’s talents as a bounty hunter command a much higher premium…Washington offers USD25 million for its arch foe — dead or alive. But only one man knows how to find him, and only Morgan has the expertise and grit to get close enough to kill him. Trouble is, the two men are enemies…

Reviewed by U3A Reading Group 2 Reading Group:

A mans book? Realistic descriptions of culture and countryside of Afghanistan. Topical at this time.

Star rating: **

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