The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West

About the book

Rose Aubrey is one of a family of four children. Their father, Piers, is the disgraced son of an Irish landowning family, a violent, noble and quite unscrupulous leader of popular causes. His Scottish wife, Clare, is an artist, a tower of strength, fanatically devoted to a musical future for her daughters.

This is the story of their life in south London, a life threatened by Piers’s streak of tragic folly which keeps them on the verge of financial ruin and social disgrace . . .

 

Reviewed by Jane & Nick’s – Fleet Library

Apart from one, this was not popular with us! Some could, in places, appreciate the fine style – until it descended into dense and rather laborious prose

star rating *

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The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

About the book

Moving back through the 1940s, through air raids, blacked out streets, illicit liaisons, sexual adventure, to end with its beginning in 1941, The Night Watch is the work of a truly brilliant and compelling storyteller. This is the story of four Londoners – three women and a young man with a past, drawn with absolute truth and intimacy. Kay, who drove an ambulance during the war and lived life at full throttle, now dresses in mannish clothes and wanders the streets with a restless hunger, searching . . . Helen, clever, sweet, much-loved, harbours a painful secret . . . Viv, glamour girl, is stubbornly, even foolishly loyal, to her soldier lover . . . Duncan, an apparent innocent, has had his own demons to fight during the war. Their lives, and their secrets connect in sometimes startling ways. War leads to strange alliances . . .

Tender, tragic and beautifully poignant, set against the backdrop of feats of heroism both epic and ordinary, here is a novel of relationships that offers up subtle surprises and twists. The Night Watch is thrilling. A towering achievement.

Reviewed by Havers

At times gratuitous but extremely good descriptions of wartime, prison and other incidents. A mixed opinion about the characters – also rather muddled. An unusual book which caused much discussion. Not particularly liked

star rating ** ½

 

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The Road Home by Rose Tremain

About the book

Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to Britain, seeking work. Behind him loom the figures of his dead wife, his beloved young daugher and his outrageous friend Rudi who – dreaming of the wealthy West – lives largely for his battered Chevrolet. Ahead of Lev lies the deep strangeness of the British: their hostile streets, their clannish pubs, their obsession with celebrity. London holds out the alluring possibility of friendship, sex, money and a new career and, if Lev is lucky, a new sense of belonging…

 

Reviewed by Waterside Phoenix

Rose Tremain has used to telling effect all the writing techniques of the 21st Century in this novel. Chapter titles, authentic dialogue, emotional flashbacks and a main character in an isolated position that few readers can have experienced. Not all of our comfortable family supported members could quite believe Lev (Lion) was completely real and we hovered between three and four stars in rating this book. A very good read and source of valuable discussion.””

star rating ****

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Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne

About the book

London. On a bright July morning a series of bombs brings the capital to a halt. Simon Swann, a medic from one of the large teaching hospitals, is searching frantically amongst the chaos and the rubble. All around police sirens and ambulances are screaming but Simon does not hear. He is out of breath because he has been running, and he is distraught. But who is he looking for?

To find out we have first to go back thirty years to a small island in the Indian Ocean where a little girl named Alice Fonseka is learning to ride a bicycle on the beach. The island is Sri Lanka, and its community is on the brink of civil war. Alice’s life is about to change forever. Soon she will have to leave for England, abandoning her beloved grandfather, and accompanied by her mother Sita, a woman broken by a series of terrible events.

In London, Alice grows into womanhood. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she has a son. Slowly she fulfils her grandfather’s prophecy and becomes an artist. Eventually she finds true love. But London in the twenty-first century is a mass of migration and suspicion. The war on terror has begun and everyone, even Simon Swann, middle class, rational, medic that he is, will be caught up in this war in the most unexpected and terrible way.

 

Reviewed by Barnfield Book Club

Lyrically written through the eyes of an artist. Chastening. Makes you appreciate living in a so called ‘free’ country

star rating *** 

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N-W by Sadie Smith

About the book

Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic NW follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – after they’ve left their childhood council estate, grown up and moved on to different lives. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their city is brutal, beautiful and complicated. Yet after a chance encounter they each find that the choices they’ve made, the people they once were and are now, can suddenly, rapidly unravel. A portrait of modern urban life, NW is funny, sad and urgent – as brimming with vitality as the city itself.

 

Reviewed by Ringwood Readers

Not popular. The characters were not developed sufficiently and we generally couldn’t relate to or enjoy the way it was written”

star rating – none provided

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The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon

About the book

At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry ‘Sir Galahad’ Oliver and shows him the ropes. In this strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face, has Galahad met his Waterloo? But the irrepressible newcomer cannot be cast down. He and all the other lonely new Londoners – from shiftless Cap to Tolroy, whose family has descended on him from Jamaica – must try to create a new life for themselves. As pessimistic ‘old veteran’ Moses watches their attempts, they gradually learn to survive and come to love the heady excitements of London.

Reviewed by Basingstoke Afternoon WI

An interesting, colourful account of the time. The creolised English was difficult at first until you got into the rhythm. An original work which we were pleased to have read. Would recommend.”

star rating ***

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Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

About the book

It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

Reviewed by Enjoying Books

“This is a book about relationships within a family. Vividly portrayed, intense, Irish family lives brought to life. Some thought it short on plot, but most enjoyed it”

star rating ***

 

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The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

About the book

1961: On a sweltering summer’s day, while her family picnics by the stream on their Suffolk farm, sixteen-year-old Laurel hides out in her childhood tree house dreaming of a boy called Billy, a move to London, and the bright future she can’t wait to seize. But before the idyllic afternoon is over, Laurel will have witnessed a shocking crime that changes everything.

2011: Now a much-loved actress, Laurel finds herself overwhelmed by shades of the past. Haunted by memories, and the mystery of what she saw that day, she returns to her family home and begins to piece together a secret history. A tale of three strangers from vastly different worlds – Dorothy, Vivien and Jimmy – who are brought together by chance in wartime London and whose lives become fiercely and fatefully entwined.

Reviewed by Jeannie’s Friends

“The group preferred the second part to the first. They did not like back and forward in time”

star rating ** ½

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Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran

About the book

When young Mollie became a ‘skivvy’ in a stately London townhouse aged just 14, she quickly learned that a large amount of elbow grease and a sense of humour would be tantamount to surviving there. Through Mollie’s eyes we are offered a fascinating glimpse into London’s invisible ‘downstairs’, a world that has long-since vanished: cooking huge roast dinners, polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps – and covering up her employers’ scandals. Going to dances with her fellow servants and flirting with Harrods’ errand boys, she had no idea that the oncoming war in 1939 would change her world, and that of those she served, forever…

Discover the real hardships and rewards for a pre-war domestic servant in Mollie Moran’s charming memoir Aprons and Silver Spoons.

Reviewed by Cake and Book Club

“Our group of nine ladies enjoyed this very easy read. Very Upstairs Downstairs / Downton Abbey theme. Set in the 1930s it is a wonderful social and political history of class divide. A very interesting glimpse into the past social traditions”

star rating ****

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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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