The Northern Clemency by Phillip Hensher

About the book

An epic chronicle of the last twenty years of British life from the Booker shortlisted and Granta Best of Young British novelist, Philip Hensher.

Beginning in 1974 and ending with the fading of Thatcher’s government in 1996, ‘The Northern Clemency’ is Philip Hensher’s epic portrait of an entire era, a novel concerned with the lives of ordinary people and history on the move.

Set in Sheffield, it charts the relationship between two families: Malcolm and Katherine Glover and their three children; and their neighbours, the Sellers family, newly arrived from London so that Bernie can pursue his job with the Electricity Board. The day the Sellers move in there is a crisis across the road: Malcolm Glover has left home, convinced his wife is having an affair. The consequences of this rupture will spread throughout the lives of both couples and their children, in particular ten-year-old Tim Glover, who never quite recovers from a moment of his mother’s public cruelty and the amused taunting of fifteen-year-old Sandra Sellers, childhood crises that will come to a head twenty years later. In the background, England is changing: from a manufacturing- and industrial-based economy into a new world of shops, restaurants and service industries, a shift particularly marked in the North with the miners’ strike of 1984, which has a dramatic impact on both families.

 

Reviewed by Everton

Enjoyed by most of the group with some reservations about sentence length and the size of the book! Situations well researched and resonated with those who live through the 70’s and 80’s.

Star rating ****

 

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

 

A Room Swept White by Sophie Hannah

About the book

Murder begins at home…

TV producer Fliss Benson receives an anonymous card at work. The card has sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four – numbers that mean nothing to her.

On the same day, Fliss finds out she’s going to be working on a documentary about miscarriages of justice involving cot-death mothers wrongly accused of murder. The documentary will focus on three women: Helen Yardley, Sarah Jaggard and Rachel Hines. All three women are now free, and the doctor who did her best to send them to prison for life, child protection zealot Dr Judith Duffy, is under investigation for misconduct.

For reasons she has shared with nobody, this is the last project Fliss wants to be working on. And then Helen Yardley is found dead at her home, and in her pocket is a card with sixteen numbers on it, arranged in four rows of four . . .

 

Reviewed by Alton Library – Thursday Group

Another one we were given…’An edge-of-your-seat author’ (Daily Express) – only so far as we nearly fell off in boredom! 2D, tedious, convoluted, boring, badly written. Please preserve us from literature of this poor quality

Star rating *

 Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

About the book

Paris, 1895: an army officer, Georges Picquart, watches a convicted spy, Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of a baying crowd. Dreyfus is exiled for life to Devil’s Island; Picquart is promoted to run the intelligence unit that tracked him down. But when Picquart discovers that secrets are still being handed over to the Germans, he is drawn into a dangerous labyrinth of deceit and corruption that threatens not just his honour but his life…

Reviewed by Enjoying Books

“This erudite author writes beautifully. A true story of the Dreyfus Affair, told through the character of Picquart. It gathers momentum as you are drawn into the awful miscarriage of justice”

star rating ***

 

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

 

The Observations by Jane Harris

About the book

Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley – the wide-eyed Irish heroine of The Observations – takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer, but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her most intimate thoughts. And it seems that Arabella has a few secrets of her own – including her near-obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances.

 

Reviewed by Sheet WI

“Rather overlong and the blurb was not entirely accurate. The expectation and reality were different”

star rating: none given

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

 

 

Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson

About the book

The doctors said no more could be done and advised Grace’s parents to put her away.

On her first day at the Briar Mental Institute, Grace, aged eleven, meets Daniel.

Debonair Daniel, an epileptic who can type with his feet, sees a different Grace: someone to share secrets and canoodle with, someone to fight for.

A deeply affecting, spirit-soaring story of love against the odds.

 

Reviewed by Stubbington Book Ends

“An unusual and engaging story full of sadness. Love, horror and hope”

star rating *** ½

 

 Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

About the book

In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the ‘war to end all wars’. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came his early masterpiece, A Farewell to Arms. In an unforgettable depiction of war, Hemingway recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteers and the men and women he encounters along the way with conviction and brutal honesty. A love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion, A Farewell to Arms offers a unique and unflinching view of the world and people, by the winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.

 

Reviewed by Whitchurch Book Group

“An unexpected love story, and shows the futility of war. Some very good characters.Some enjoyed it more than others.

star rating ***

 

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

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 ***

 

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

About the book

Far from the Madding Crowd is perhaps the most pastoral of Hardy’s Wessex novels. It tells the story of the young farmer Gabriel Oak and his love for and pursuit of the elusive Bathsheba Everdene, whose wayward nature leads her to both tragedy and true love.

It tells of the dashing Sergeant Troy whose rakish philosophy of life was ‘…the past was yesterday; never, the day after’, and lastly, of the introverted and reclusive gentleman farmer, Mr Boldwood, whose love fills him with ‘…a fearful sense of exposure’, when he first sets eyes on Bathsheba.

The background of this tale is the Wessex countryside in all its moods, contriving to make it one of the most English of great English novels.

Reviewed by Godshill WI

“All but one of our members enjoyed this book (she couldn’t cope with Hardy’s florid language) For most of us it was at least the second time of reading but enjoyed none the less for that. An enduring story.

star rating ***

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

 

 

Hanns and Rudolph by Thomas Harding

About the book

Hanns Alexander was the son of a prosperous German family who fled Berlin for London in the 1930s. Rudolf Höss was a farmer and soldier who became the Kommandant of Auschwitz Concentration Camp and oversaw the deaths of over a million men, women and children. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the first British War Crimes Investigation Team is assembled to hunt down the senior Nazi officials responsible for the greatest atrocities the world has ever seen. Lieutenant Hanns Alexander is one of the lead investigators, Rudolf Höss his most elusive target. In this book Thomas Harding reveals for the very first time the full account of Höss’ capture. Moving from the Middle-Eastern campaigns of the First World War to bohemian Berlin in the 1920s, to the horror of the concentration camps and the trials in Belsen and Nuremberg, Hanns and Rudolf tells the story of two German men whose lives diverged, and intersected, in an astonishing way.

 

Reviewed by Berryfield Book Club

“A necessary read. Harrowing”

star rating ****

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm

The Black Sheep by Susan Hill

About the book

 

Brother and sister, Ted and Rose Howker, grew up in Mount of Zeal, a mining village blackened by coal. They know nothing of the outside world, though both of them yearn for escape. For Rose this comes in the form of love, while Ted seizes the chance of a job away from the pit. But neither can truly break free and their decisions bring with them brutal consequences…

 

Reviewed by Itchen

“The story is set in a North Yorkshire mining community and is the tragedy of one family. It is a well written, short book but the author tells her story well. There are several issues to be explored by a book group which include family, community, gender inequality and the struggle to survive. If the test of the book is to tell about the human condition, this one certainly does”

star rating ****

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading book set

http://www3.hants.gov.uk/borrow-book-sets.htm