Blood Knots (a Memoir of Fishing and Friendship) by Luke Jennings

About the book

As a child in the 1960s, Luke Jennings was fascinated by the rivers and lakes around his Sussex home. Beneath their surfaces, it seemed to him, waited alien and mysterious worlds. With library books as his guide, he applied himself to the task of learning to fish. His progress was slow, and for years he caught nothing. But then a series of teachers presented themselves, including an inspirational young intelligence officer, from whom he learnt stealth, deception and the art of the dry fly. So began an enlightening but often dark-shadowed journey of discovery. It would lead to bright streams and wild country, but would end with his mentor’s capture, torture and execution by the IRA. Blood Knots is about angling, about great fish caught and lost, but it is also about friendship, honour and coming of age. As an adult Jennings has sought out lost and secretive waterways, probing waters ‘as deep as England’ at dead of night in search of giant pike. The quest, as always, is for more than the living quarry. For only by searching far beneath the surface, Jennings suggests in this most moving and thought-provoking of memoirs, can you connect with your own deep history.

Reviewed by Waterlooville Reading Group

This is much more than a book about fishing. It’s a beautifully written memoir with hidden depths. Lots of starting points for discussion”

star rating ****

 

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Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson

About the book

In 1919 a generation of young women discovered that there were, quite simply, not enough men to go round, and the statistics confirmed it. After the 1921 Census, the press ran alarming stories of the ‘Problem of the Surplus Women – Two Million who can never become Wives…’. This book is about those women, and about how they were forced, by a tragedy of historic proportions, to stop depending on men for their income, their identity and their future happiness.

Reviewed by Selbourne Book Circle:

Unanimous opinion – the subject was interesting and she wrote well, but the book was repetitive, too long and the type too small. However, it led to a good discussion.

Star rating: **

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The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

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About the book

When Charles Arrowby retires from his glittering career in the London theatre, he buys a remote house on the rocks by the sea. He hopes to escape from his tumultuous love affairs but unexpectedly bumps into his childhood sweetheart and sets his heart on destroying her marriage. His equilibrium is further disturbed when his friends all decide to come and keep him company and Charles finds his seaside idyll severely threatened by his obsessions.

Reviewed by Wednesday Reading Group:

Wonderful language and writing which kept most of the group fascinated. Such characters – many unlikeable but realistic in their eccentricities.

Star rating: ***

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And When Did You Last See Your Father by Blake Morrison

About the book

First published in 1993, Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father? is an extraordinary portrait of family life, father-son relationships and bereavement. It became a best-seller and inspired a whole genre of confessional memoirs.

Reviewed by Titchfield Book Club:

A good read. A difficult subject dealt with in a compassionate and often humorous way.

Star rating: ***

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Teacher Man by Frank McCourt

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About the book

Frank McCourt became an unlikely star when, at the age of sixty-six, he burst onto the literary scene with Angela’s Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland. Then came ‘Tis, his glorious account of his early years in New York.
Now, here at last is McCourt’s long-awaited book about how his thirty-year teaching career shaped his second act as a writer. Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and compelling honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faced in the classroom. Teacher Man shows McCourt developing his unparalleled ability to tell a great story as, five days a week, five periods per day, he worked to gain the attention and respect of unruly, hormonally charged or indifferent adolescents.

Reviewed by Titchfield Abbey Reading Group:

A well told, vigorous memoir about teaching disaffected children in New York. A compassionate man. Raised many interesting issues about education.

Star rating: ***

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Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

About the book

Diana Athill made her reputation as a writer with the candour of her memoirs, now aged ninety, and freed from any inhibitions that even she may once have had, she reflects frankly on the losses and occasionally the gains that old age brings, and on the wisdom and fortitude required to face death. This is a lively narrative of events, lovers and friendships: the people and experiences that have taught her to regret very little, to resist despondency and to question the beliefs and customs of her own generation.

Reviewed by HIP Reading Group Winchester:

Mixed reaction. Most of the group couldn’t see why she bothered to write it. What a dismal book cover!

Star rating: **

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Summertime by J.M Coetzee

About the book

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on a period in the seventies when, the biographer senses, Coetzee was ‘finding his feet as a writer’. He embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to Coetzee – a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him, former friends and colleagues. Thus emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual, regarded as an outsider within the family. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, and rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time.

Reviewed by Tuesday Afternoon Basingstoke Reading Group:

Well written and clever book. We wondered if it is autobiograhpical but fictionalised. Many layers and made for a good discussion. An interesting but not likeable character.

Star rating: ***

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Untold Stories by Alan Bennett

About the book

Untold Stories contains new unpublished diaries, as well as a poignant memoir of his family and of growing up in Leeds, together with his much celebrated diary for the years 1996-2004, and numerous other exceptional essays, reviews and comic pieces.

Reviewed by  Museum Book Reading Group:

We all enjoyed the account of his home, boyhood and relations. This provoked a discussion on his Aunts and the freeing of women into a life of their own in wartime. We didn’t touch on his present life or the art section. Discussed ‘Lady in the Van’ with interest in the play.

Star rating: ***

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