The Fishing Fleet – Husband Hunting in the Raj by Anne de Courcy

About the book

From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain’s best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. This amorphous band was composed of daughters returning after their English education, girls invited to stay with married sisters or friends, and yet others whose declared or undeclared goal was simply to find a husband. They were known as the Fishing Fleet, and this book is their story, hitherto untold.

For these young women, often away from home for the first time, one thing they could be sure of was a rollicking good time. By the early 20th century, a hectic social scene was in place, with dances, parties, amateur theatricals, picnics, tennis tournaments, cinemas and gymkhanas, with perhaps a tiger shoot and a glittering dinner at a raja’s palace thrown in. And, with men outnumbering women by roughly four to one, romances were conducted at alarming speed and marriages were frequent. But after the honeymoon, life often changed dramatically: whisked off to a remote outpost with few other Europeans for company, and where constant vigilance was required to guard against disease, they found it a far cry from the social whirlwind of their first arrival.

 

Reviewed by Perspectives

“A fascinating insight into the lives of women in India but the format was rather dense and jumped about too much

star rating ** ½

 

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Lucky Bunny by Jill Dawson

About the book

Queenie Dove is a self-proclaimed genius when it comes to thieving and escape. Daring, clever and sexy, she ducked and dived through the streets of London from the East End through Soho to Mayfair, graduating from childhood shop-lifting to more glamorous crimes in the post-war decades. So was she wicked through and through, or more sinned against than sinning? Here she tells a vivacious tale of trickery and adventure, but one with more pain and heartbreak than its heroine cares to admit. Yes, luck often favoured her, but that is only part of the story.

 

Reviewed by Waterside WI Book Club

“Historically very interesting about the events of the sixties and wartime. Queenie was a very likeable character. A lovely style of writing.”

star rating ****

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Ghosts by Daylight by Janine di Giovanni

About the book

Janine and Bruno first fell in love as young reporters in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Years later – after endless phone calls, much of what the French call malentendu, secret trysts in foreign cities, numerous break-ups, three miscarriages, countless stories of rebel armies and a dozen wars that had passed between them – they arrive in Paris one rainy January to begin a new life together. The remnants of their separate lives, now left behind, are tentatively unpacked into their shared apartment on the Right Bank: Bruno’s heavy blanket from Ethiopia, a set of long feathered arrows from Brazil, an ash tray stolen from a hotel in Algeria, and Janine’s flak-jacket and canvas boots, still full of sand from the Western Desert in Iraq. But having met in another lifetime – in another world – ordinary, civilian life doesn’t come easily. War has become part of them: it had brought them together, and, though both are damaged by it, neither can quite leave it behind. And the difficult journey that follows, through their mix of joy and terror at becoming parents, Bruno’s battle with post-traumatic stress and addiction, and Janine’s determination to make France her home, leads to an understanding of the truth that people who deeply love each other cannot always live together.

Reviewed by Bridewell Beauties

“The timeline was confusing. A vivid and detailed account about the horrors of war. Brilliantly written and atmospheric. An in depth account re the effects on correspondents”

star rating ***

 

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Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

About the book

Yvonne Carmichael has a high-flying career, a beautiful home and a good marriage.

But when she meets a stranger she is drawn into a passionate affair.

Keeping the two halves of her life separate seems easy at first.

But she can’t control what happens next.

 

Reviewed by Andover Library

“Difficult to start but once the court case kicked in we all got into it. Struggled with the fantasy of the affair and found some of it disturbing to read. Most of the group however liked it”

star rating ***

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Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

About the book

1570 in the Italian city of Ferrara. Sixteen-year-old Serafina is fipped by her family from an illicit love affair and forced into the convent of Santa Caterina, renowned for its superb music. Serafina’s one weapon is her glorious voice, but she refuses to sing. Madonna Chiara, an abbess as fluent in politics as she is in prayer, finds her new charge has unleased a power play – rebellion, ecstasies and hysterias – within the convent. However, watching over Serafina is Zuana, the sister in charge of the infirmary, who understands and might even challenge her incarceration.

Reviewed by U3A Petersfield RG1

This novel was enjoyed by everyone in the group. It was well researched and well written and gave a real insight into a closed community. Politics and relationships within the convent were credibly conveyed, holding the reader’s interest. Tension was well maintained throughout. We will look out for other novels by the author

star rating ****

 

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The Year after by Martin Davies

December 1919. Tom Allen, uncomfortable in London after five years in uniform, receives an invitation to spend Christmas at Hannesford Court. It’s almost as if nothing has changed. Cards in the library after dinner. The Boxing Day shoot. The New Year ball. Margot. But Tom hasn’t forgotten the professor.

Reviewed by Fareham Library 5:30 Reading Group

This pre- and post-world war book raised soem interesting issues for us – but in a superficial way. We liked the insights into how the wat and the end of the war changed both the soldiers and how those left at home seemed not to want to change. But there wasn’r enough depth to the issues raised. soem of us would read another boko by this author to see if he can use more depth.

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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Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin

book cover

About the book

Among the emerging generation of crime writers, none is as stylish and intelligent as Michael Dibdin, who, in Dead Lagoon, gives us a deliciously creepy new novel featuring the urbane and skeptical Aurelio Zen, a detective whose unenviable task it is to combat crime in a country where today’s superiors may be tomorrow’s defendants.Zen returns to his native Venice. He is searching for the ghostly tormentors of a half-demented contessa and a vanished American millionaire whose family is paying Zen under the table to determine his whereabouts-dead or alive. But he keeps stumbling over corpses that are distressingly concrete: from the crooked cop found drowned in one of the city’s noisome “black wells” to a brand-new skeleton that surfaces on the Isle of the Dead. The result is a mystery rich in character and deduction, and intensely informed about the history, politics, and manners of its Venetian setting.

Reviewed by Alton Library Thursday Group:

Mixed feelings and assessments of the book. Good descriptions of Venice, if a bit repetitive. Some development of character. Plot convoluted, interesting but a bit slow.

Star rating: **

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Room by Emma Donoghue

About the book

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Reviewed by Enjoying Books reading group:

This is a most unusual and indeed uncomfortable book, but marvelously written by a clever writer. You will have tremendous insight into the mind of a 5 year old boy.

Star rating: ***/****

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The Perfect Sinner by Will Davenport

About the book

Slapton, Devon, 1372. Sir Guy de Bryan, trusted friend of Edward III, consecrates a magnificent Chantry, his personal bulwark against the torments of purgatory. Yet he is known as an honorable man. Why should he fear for his eternal soul? Sir Guy harbours three sins, violations of the chivalric code he holds so dear. The first, he has atoned for; he was more of a witness than perpetrator of the second; the third he cannot confess. Yet when he is called upon to lead a dangerous mission across the Alps, he finds one of his companions strangely interested in his tale. The young squire has an uncanny ability to draw out the truth…and in doing so, elicits a remarkable story of rivalry, murderous deception and deep passion. Over six hundred years later, high-flying policy adviser Beth Battock is forced to return to her home village in Devon when her prized career is rocked by scandal. Prompted by a local stone carver, who is painstakingly restoring the searing inscription once displayed on the Chantry, Beth must recognise her own history and that of her family, the thread that binds them to the de Bryans, and that the consequences of her actions cannot be divorced from what went before, in love and war. Will Davenport has taken a potent collection of historical facts and woven them into an astoundingly haunting and compelling novel. In medieval and modern times, mankind makes the same mistakes; but the words of a wise knight who lived it all, both politically and personally, have a clarity that resonates through the centuries.

Reviewed by Waterside Phoenix Reading Group:

The group had no hesitation in awarding this book three stars. Will Davenport’s handling of the six hundred years of time distance is masterly, but does call for a bit of ‘suspension of disbelief’ in the continuity of the Mass over that period. There was also a feeling that the knight’s message, though profound and very appropriate for today, at 176 words could have been shorter and made more prominent.

Star rating: ***

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