Sudden Rain by Maritta Wolff

About the book

Now that “Sudden Rain” has come out of its hiding place — in Wolff’s refrigerator, found after her death — it remains gloriously frozen in time. Set in the fall of 1972, the novel perfectly captures, with expansive emotion and cinematic detail, the domestic trends of three generations of middle-class couples living in suburban Los Angeles. A brilliant portrait of its burgeoning era, “Sudden Rain “also offers striking cultural commentary on our everyday notions of love and marriage; individuality, equality, and community; and the promise and pursuit of the American Dream.”

Reviewed by Monks Brook U3A

The group as a whole disliked this book, finding the characters shallow, self centred and two-dimensional. The ending does not fit with the rest of the plot and leaves many loose ends, so much so that we wonder if it was written by someone else!”

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The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas

About the book

Within one exotic land lie the secrets of a lifetime…
Newlywed Nerys Watkins leaves rural Wales for the first time to accompany her husband on a missionary posting to India. Deep in the exquisite heart of Kashmir lies the lakeside city of Srinagar, where the British live on carved wooden houseboats and dance, flirt and gossip as if there is no war.

But the battles draw closer, and life in Srinagar becomes less frivolous when the men are sent away to fight. Nerys is caught up in a dangerous friendship, and by the time she is reunited with her husband, the innocent Welsh bride has become a different woman.

Years later, when Mair Ellis clears out her father’s house, she finds an exquisite antique shawl, a lock of child’s hair wrapped within its folds. Tracing her grandparents’ roots back to Kashmir, Mair embarks on a quest that will change her life forever.

Reviewed by CC Reader

a vivid and authentic book reflecting the author’s knowledge and experience. Good characters and plot  – a little wearisome for others

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The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

About the book

Michael and Pauline seemed like the perfect couple – young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment she walked into his mother’s grocery store in Baltimore, he was smitten, and in the heat of World War II fervour, they marry in haste. From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counter-culture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayers of later years, we watch their lives unspool and see the consequences of their very mismatched marriage.

 

Reviewed by Waterside Phoenix

The group found this book un interesting, pointless and without characters with whom they could identify”

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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller

About the book

Pippa seems to have everything in life. But suddenly she finds her world beginning to unravel. Amid the buzzing lawnmowers and suburban coffee mornings, she starts to wonder how she came to be in this place. The answer is a story of wild youth, unexpected encounters, affairs and betrayals, and the dangerous security of marriage. It brilliantly reveals the challenges of modern life – and all the possibilities that it holds.

 

Reviewed by Bigger than Books

“This book should come with a warning – from a comfortable beginning it becomes almost pornographic”

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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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Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy

 

About the Book

On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents – she would never get married and she would never have children.

But life, as Jane discovers, is a profoundly random business. Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then she falls pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise – but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world.

Just when Jane has renounced life itself, the disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for personal redemption. Convinced that she knows more about the case than the police do, she is forced to make a decision – stay hidden or bring to light a shattering truth.

Like Kennedy’s previous highly acclaimed novels, Leaving the World, speaks volumes about the dilemmas we face in trying to navigate our way through all that fate throws in our path.

 

Reviewed by Chorus

A novel ripe for discussion: an entertaining but floored plot. Gave us a very good lively discussion comprising very different opinions

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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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Happenstance by Carol Shields

About the book

A week spent apart for a long-time married couple brings new and frightening experiences for each. Bewildered in a new city, Brenda struggles to cope. Meanwhile, at home, Jack’s world falls apart; but while dealing with the crises around him, he learns something about himself.

Reviewed by Entre Nous

Interesting and well constructed novel which provoked discussion. Ideal book for a reading group drawing on male-female differing perceptions of moral issues within marriage.

Star rating ***

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The Family Way by Tony Parsons

About the book

Paulo loves Jessica. He thinks that together they are complete – a family of two. But Jessica can’t be happy until she has a baby, and the baby stubbornly refuses to come. Can a man and a woman ever really be a family of two?
Megan doesn’t love her boyfriend anymore. After a one-night stand with an Australian beach bum, she finds that even a trainee doctor can slip up on the family planning. Should you bring a child into the world if you don’t love its father?
Cat loves her life. After bringing up her two youngest sisters, all she craves is freedom. Her older boyfriend has done the family thing before and is in no rush to do it all again. But can a modern woman really find true happiness without ever being in the family way?
Three sisters. Three couples. Two pregnancies. Six men and women struggling with love, sex, fertility and the meaning of family.

Reviewed by Cheerful Bags reading Group:

Really enjoyed this book. We thought it was wonderful that a man (the author) could have such sensitivity to a woman’s feelings. It also had a nice happy ending for a change, gave us a lift.

Star rating: ***

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The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

About the book

It is 1950 and, after a disastrous honeymoon night, Ariah Erskine’s young husband throws himself into the roaring waters of Niagara Falls. Ariah, “the Widow Bride of the Falls,” begins a relentless seven-day vigil in the mist, waiting for his body to be found. At her side is confirmed bachelor and pillar of the community Dirk Burnaby, who is unexpectedly drawn to this plain, strange woman. What follows is a passionate love affair, marriage, and family–a seemingly perfect existence. But the tragedy by which they were thrown together begins to shadow them, damaging their idyll with distrust, greed, and even murder.

Review by The Olive Tree Reading Group:

Generally liked, but was criticised for its length, failure to examine the outcome of the ‘love canal’ scandal vis a vis the people who suffered as a result. A good read if sometimes repetitious.

Star rating: ***

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