Frankie and Stankie by Barbara Trapido

 

 

About the book

Dinah and her sister Lisa are growing up in 1950s South Africa, where racial laws are tightening. They are two little girls from a dissenting liberal family. Big sister Lisa is strong and sensible, while Dinah is weedy and arty. At school, the sadistic Mrs Vaughan-Jones is providing instruction in mental arithmetic and racial prejudice. And then there’s the puzzle of lunch break. ‘Would you rather have a native girl or a koelie to make your sandwiches?’ a first-year classmate asks. But Dinah doesn’t know the answer, because it’s her dad who makes her sandwiches. As the apparatus of repression rolls on, Dinah finds her own way. As we follow her journey through childhood and adolescence, we enter into one of the darker passages of twentieth-century history.

Reviewed by Tuesday Crew

“A difficult book because it is very ‘wordy’ Our members were split between those that really enjoyed it and those that didn’t. Some didn’t finish it because they didn’t like the style of writing”

star rating – none provided

 

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The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

About the book

My name is Judith McPherson. I am ten years old. On Monday a miracle happened. Judith doesn’t have much. The house she shares with her devoutly religious father is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother Judith never knew. Bullied at school, she finds comfort in creating a miniature world in her bedroom – a world of wonder she calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow in The Land of Decoration there will be no school on Monday. Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. And that’s when her troubles begin.

 

Reviewed by Everton

“Well written from the child’s perspective. This book posed many questions of religious belief and the effect of this on individuals. A compelling read with a definite ending. Enjoyed by most of the group

star rating ***

 

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Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

About the book

This is a vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belonging to a now distant past.

Reviewed by Between the Leaves

Our group was split 50/50. Half thought it was a delightful, evocative picture of a time gone by, never to be again, warts and all! The other half thought it dragged, bordering on boring with nothing of substance. Personally I thought it was WONDERFUL.

Star rating: ***

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The Particular sadness of lemon cake by Aimee Bender

About the book

When 9-year-old Rose Edelstein bites into her mother’s home-made lemon chocolate cake, to her horror, she discovers she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. And her mother – her cheerful, can-do mother – tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly food becomes perilous.

Review by CC Readers

People were puzzled and intrigued by this; disappointed that it offered no conclusions. Some were bored and found it lacking in action. The writing was good, poetic. Perhaps of more interest to younger readers. Described by one as “lemon drivel”
** 2 stars

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The Midwife's daughter by Patricia Ferguson

Violet Dimond, the Holy Terror, has delivered many of the town’s children – and often their children – in her capacity as handywoman. But Violet’s calling is dying out as, with medicine’s advances, the good old ways are no longer good enough. Grace, Violet’s adopted daughter, is a symbol of change herself.

Reviewed by Bookends Reading Group

Well received book. Good example of the period, its problems and developmental progress. All felt the sad ending but enjoyed the characters.

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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Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

About the book

The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama was only two years old when his father walked out on the family. Many years later, Obama receives a phone call from Nairobi: his father is dead. This sudden news inspires an emotional odyssey for Obama, determined to learn the truth of his father’s life and reconcile his divided inheritance. Written at the age of thirty-three, Dreams from my Father is an unforgettable read. it illuminates not only Obama’s journey, but also our universal desire to understand our history, and what makes us the people we are.

Reviewed by  King’s Somborne Reading Group:

Most of the group really enjoyed this book and found it very interesting and beautifully written. An eye opener into the problems of identity of a mixed race child whose father is absent. Some were more sceptical and thought it may be self serving.

Star rating: ****

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Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Winchester Children's Book Festival Logo

About the book

“They’ve gone now, and I’m alone at last. I have the whole night ahead of me, and I won’t waste a single moment of it . . . I want tonight to be long, as long as my life . . .” For young Private Peaceful, looking back over his childhood while he is on night watch in the battlefields of the First World War, his memories are full of family life deep in the countryside: his mother, Charlie, Big Joe, and Molly — the love of his life. Too young to be enlisted, Thomas has followed his brother to war and now, every moment he spends thinking about his life, means another moment closer to danger.

Reviewed by Reading EnthusiastsReading Group:

The book was beautifully written and very descriptive. However, some characters divided our group – especially Charlie. The story was very moving and the ending even moved some of our book club to tears.

Star rating: ***

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The Fall by Simon Mawer

About the book

Rob and Jamie are great friends from childhood. They have grown up together and become top climbers, but have since become estranged. Rob is nevertheless amazed and grief-stricken when he hears of Jamie’s death after a fall on a relatively easy Welsh rockface.
The past, though, hides the secret clues behind the tragedy. Layer by layer Simon Mawer peels back what happened, going not only into the friends’ childhoods but that of their parents – who were also intimate. And there is no escaping that past – vividly imagined scenes in the London of the Blitz reveal how through two generations Rob and Jamie and their respective parents have been addicted – to desire and the heady dangers of climbing.
Brilliantly structured as we move from past to present and back again, this novel will make Simon Mawer’s literary reputation.

Reviewed by Biscuits, Books and Banter Reading Group:

All enjoyed this gripping and involved tale. Combines well great descriptions of climbing and complex relationships between main characters. Good discussion followed. Most would recommend.

Star rating: ****

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