The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

About the book

Michael and Pauline seemed like the perfect couple – young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment she walked into his mother’s grocery store in Baltimore, he was smitten, and in the heat of World War II fervour, they marry in haste. From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counter-culture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayers of later years, we watch their lives unspool and see the consequences of their very mismatched marriage.

 

Reviewed by Waterside Phoenix

The group found this book un interesting, pointless and without characters with whom they could identify”

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

About the book

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

 

Reviewed by Fawley Reading Group

A well written, beautifully descriptive, thought provoking, study of human nature”

star rating ****

 

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The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

About the book

Between the first and second world wars a group of young, non-English-speaking Japanese women travelled by boat to America. They were picture brides, clutching photos of husbands-to-be whom they had yet to meet. Julie Otsuka tells their extraordinary, heartbreaking story in this spellbinding and poetic account of strangers lost and alone in a new and deeply foreign land.

 

Reviewed by CC Readers

All admired the writing and the unusual style gradually grows on the reader. Most liked it very much, others found it too much like a ‘list’ rather than a narrative but they all felt they had learnt a great deal about the history of the people and the period. It created great discussion”

star rating ***

 

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The 19th Wife by David Ebersoff

 

About the book

Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives – Jordan’s mother – is accused of the crime.
Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.
Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives: a pageturning literary mystery and an enthralling epic of love and faith.

 

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle

Much enjoyed by almost everyone. Very humorous, sharp wit, not too American

 

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I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron

About the book

Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cold, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

Even as she’s listing ‘What I Won’t Miss’ and ‘What I Will Miss’ – making the final tally – Ephron reaches back to recount falling hard for a way of life (‘Journalism: A Love Story’ ) and breaking up even harder with the men in her life (‘The D Word’ ), a long- anticipated inheritance with entirely unanticipated results (‘My Life as an Heiress’ ), and the evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (‘The Six Stages of E- mail’ ). All the while, she gives candid, charming voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but have rarely acknowledged.

Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true – and could have come only from Nora Ephron – I Remember Nothing is a pure delight.

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle

Much enjoyed by almost everyone. Very humorous, sharp wit, not too American

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Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

About the book

Beginning in America, and spilling back over memories and generations to India, Unaccustomed Earth explores the heart of family life and the immigrant experience. Eight luminous stories – longer and richer than any Jhumpa Lahiri has yet written – take us from America to Europe, India and Thailand as they follow new lives forged in the wake of loss.

Reviewed by Basingstoke Tuesday Afternoon

“An excellent book, beautifully written. A lot of deep themes but handled with lightness and subtlety. We all enjoyed it very much and had thought provoking discussions”

star rating ****

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Away by Amy Bloom

Away by Amy Bloom

 About the book

Amy Bloom’s novel revitalises the American road trip novel, from the perspective of a vulnerable but spirited woman. It paints a vivid, earthy and surprising picture of 1920s America, its smells and textures, its population of drifters and con artists, pimps and prostitutes

Reviewed by Seagals

“we all found this book very disappointing. It was a promising story but had a weak ending”

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Moo by Jane Smiley

About the book

Brilliantly funny satire set in a contemporary American university. Deep in the wheatfields of the American midwest, Moo University is in a state of disarray…In this witty and biting comedy of manners, Jane Smiley turns her wryly perceptive eye towards a community where men and women, the innocent and the cynical, thinkers and careerists, live and work together – in complete disharmony.

Reviewed by NWR

This is one of those books where there are so many characters and interweaving plots that it’s easy to lose one’s way. There are many interesting characteristics and observations of campus life and a good deal of humour but it is not an easy book to discuss in a group and a bit of a slog to get through.

Star rating **

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A Thousand acres by Jane Smiley

About the book

Larry Cook’s farm is the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa, and a tribute to his hard work and single-mindedness. His decision to hand the farm over to his 3 daughters is out of character, and Caroline, who has misgivings, is immediately cut out.

Reviewed by Friends of Farnborough

One person thought this was wonderful. A few thought it was quite good but most of the group gave it a two star rating. It was well written but the characters were not that believable.

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The Lovely bones by Alice Sebold

About the book

A huge bestseller in America and the UK  this is a novel about life and death, forgiveness and vengeance, memory and forgetting. 14-year-old Susie Salmon, now dead, looks down on her family and friends from heaven.

Reviewed by Titchfield Reading Group

A moving, touching story. All the characters were believable and sympathetically portrayed. The style was engaging with a well paced plot and unusual structure.

Star rating: ***

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