a Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

About the book

London, the week before Christmas, 2007. Seven wintry days to track the lives of seven characters: a hedge fund manager trying to bring off the biggest trade of his career; a professional footballer recently arrived from Poland; a young lawyer with little work and too much time to speculate; a student who has been led astray by Islamist theory; a hack book-reviewer; a schoolboy hooked on skunk and reality TV; and a Tube driver whose Circle Line train joins these and countless other lives together in a daily loop.

With daring skill, the novel pieces together the complex patterns and crossings of modern urban life, and the group is forced, one by one, to confront the true nature of the world they inhabit. Sweeping, satirical, Dickensian in scope, A Week in December is a thrilling state of the nation novel from a master of literary fiction.

Reviewed by Perspectives

The group all agreed that it was too fragmented and the plot was very weak. Not really enjoyed

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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

About the book

An epic tale of contemporary love and marriage.

This is the story of the Berglunds, their son Joey, their daughter Jessica and their friend Richard Katz. It is about how we use and abuse our freedom; about the beginning and ending of love; teenage lust; the unexpectedness of adult life; why we compete with our friends; how we betray those closest to us; and why things almost never work out as they ‘should’. It is a story about the human heart, and what it leads us to do to ourselves and each other.

 

 Reviewed by Women Who Read

“Those of us who persevered with this very long book were glad that we had read it. All the characters were interesting and complex but difficult to warm to. It was a long meander! A comparison to Middlemarch is very apt”

star rating ** ½

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The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

About the book

Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a disgraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age. Widely acclaimed since publication, this is the best-love of John Fowles’ novels.

Reviewed by Bridewell Beauties

“Mixed reviews – an unusual approach. Half the group were unable to read the book but this was because the size of the print was too small”

star rating ***

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We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

About the book

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves, round about page 77, what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other.

Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. And it was this decision, made by her parents, to give Rosemary a sister like no other, that began all of Rosemary’s trouble. So now she’s telling her story: full of hilarious asides and brilliantly spiky lines, it’s a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice.

 

Reviewed by Newcomers

“Provided plenty of stimulating conversation – the subject matter cannot be ignored!”

star rating ****

 

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Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

About the book

His weapon is the stiletto, his codename: The Needle.

He is Hitler’s prize undercover agent – a cold and professional killer.

It is 1944 and weeks before D-Day. The Allies are disguising their invasion plans with a phoney armada of ships and planes. Their plan would be ruined if an enemy agent found out… and then The Needle does just that. Hunted by MI5, he leads a murderous trail across Britain to a waiting U-Boat. But he hasn’t planned for a storm-battered island, and the remarkable young woman who lives there . . .

Reviewed by Hordle WI

“Brilliant!!”

star rating ****

 

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To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris

About the book

There’s nothing like a dental chair to remind a man that he’s alone in the world . . .

Paul O’Rourke – dentist extraordinaire, reluctant New Yorker, avowed atheist, disaffected Red Sox fan, and a connoisseur of the afternoon mochaccino – is a man out of touch with modern life. While his dental practice occupies his days, his nights are filled with darker thoughts, as he alternately marvels at and rails against the optimism of the rest of humanity.

So it goes, until someone begins to impersonate Paul online. What began as an outrageous violation of privacy soon becomes something far more soul-frightening: the possibility that the virtual ‘Paul’ might be a better version of the man in the flesh . . .

Reviewed by Waterlooville

“Mixed feelings. Some could not finish it but others found it memorable and thought provoking”

star rating ***

 

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Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon

About the book

What to do if Matthew, your secret lover of the past four years, finally decides to leave his wife Sophie and their two daughters and move into your flat, just when you’re thinking that you might not want him anymore . . .

PLAN A: Stop shaving your armpits. And your bikini line. Tell him you have a moustache that you wax every six weeks. Stop having sex with him. Pick holes in the way he dresses. Don’t brush your teeth. Or your hair. Or pluck out the stray hag-whisker that grows out of your chin. Buy incontinence pads and leave them lying around

PLAN B: Accidentally on purpose bump into his wife Sophie. Give yourself a fake name and identity. Befriend Sophie. Actually begin to really like Sophie. Snog Matthew’s son (who’s the same age as you by the way. You’re not a paedophile) Buy a cat and give it a fake name and identity. Befriend Matthew’s children. Unsuccessfully. Watch your whole plan go absolutely horribly wrong.

Reviewed by Somborne

A mixed bag of comments – “readable / well constructed / silly / a waste of time / lightweight and fluffy / sit com / unsubtle / egocentric characters / nauseating “

star rating **

 

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Thirteen moons by Charles Frazier

About the book

At the age of 12, under the Wind Moon, Will is given a horse, a key, and a map, and sent alone to the edge of the Cherokee Nation to run a trading post as a bound boy. It is during this time that he grows into a man, learning, as he does, of the raw power it takes to create a life, to find a home.

Review by Petersfield U3A Reading Circle 1

This book gives a fascinating insight into the life of the Cherokee before their forced move further west. We hadn’t realised the extent of their prosperity and commercial success, even to the extent of owning plantations and slaves in Carolina, before the government took back their land. It was a slow moving but at times poignant account of a long period if American history. It would probably have benefitted from being somewhat shorter – it took time to read. It is however beautifully written and was enjoyed.

Star rating: ***

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The Shock of the fall by Nathan Filer

About the book

‘The Shock of the Fall‘ is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s journey through the spinning vortex that is mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

Reviewed by Blank Reading Group

It covered mental health issues well. Matthew is sympathetically portrayed and his deterioration well illustrated -his schizophrenia affects the whole family. Not a comfortable read and some found it difficult.

Star rating: ** +1/2

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Fall of giants by Ken Follett

In a plot of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, ‘Fall of Giants’ moves seamlessly from Washington to St Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty.

Reviewed by Bookends Reading Group

The group felt that this was a very interesting but lengthy book so not everyone completed it. Characters and situations realistic, war scenes lengthy but eye opening for the situations at the time. A good read – would like to follow the trilogy.

Star rating: ****

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