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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The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch

About the book

Harry Patch, 110 years old, is the last British soldier alive to have fought in the trenches of the First World War. From his vivid memories of an Edwardian childhood, the horror of the Great War and fighting in the mud during the Battle of Passchendaele, working on the home front in the Second World War and fame in later life as a veteran, The Last Fighting Tommy is the story of an ordinary man’s extraordinary life.

Reviewed by  Cowdray Reading Group:

Some of the group found it difficult to get into, but most enjoyed it. The social comment, the futility of war, war as organised murder was interesting. Some surprised at what an ordinary chap Harry Patch was and his lack of interest and enthusiasm for being a soldier. All found it an honest story and enjoyed the two writers.

Star rating: ***

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The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay

About the book

Bletchley Park was where one of the war’s most famous – and crucial – achievements was made: the cracking of Germany’s “Enigma” code in which its most important military communications were couched. This country house in the Buckinghamshire countryside was home to Britain’s most brilliant mathematical brains, like Alan Turing, and the scene of immense advances in technology – indeed, the birth of modern computing. The military codes deciphered there were instrumental in turning both the Battle of the Atlantic and the war in North Africa.
But, though plenty has been written about the boffins, and the codebreaking, fictional and non-fiction – from Robert Harris and Ian McEwan to Andrew Hodges’ biography of Turing – what of the thousands of men and women who lived and worked there during the war? What was life like for them – an odd, secret territory between the civilian and the military?
Sinclair McKay’s book is the first history for the general reader of life at Bletchley Park, and an amazing compendium of memories from people now in their eighties – of skating on the frozen lake in the grounds (a depressed Angus Wilson, the novelist, once threw himself in) – of a youthful Roy Jenkins, useless at codebreaking, of the high jinks at nearby accommodation hostels – and of the implacable secrecy that meant girlfriend and boyfriend working in adjacent huts knew nothing about each other’s work.

Reviewed by  Shipton Bellinger WI Reading Group:

We awarded 4 stars for the content and not the writing. Some liked the conversational style others found it reminded them of a cub reporter on a local paper. We all agreed that the story of what happened at Bletchley was worth reading the book for. We all learned something new about the story of the Enigma Machine. Much discussion was generated and we were impressed by how the codes were cracked and security kept.

Rating: 4 Stars

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Black Dirt by Nell Leyshon

About the book

Frank lies in bed, his dying dreams haunted by memories of one long-ago summer, the sticky heat of night, and the stories his father told about Christ, the red-breasted robin, and kings Arthur and Alfred. But other images also rise to the surface, unbidden and unwanted, and Frank finds himself forced to recall his older sister, Iris, whose existence – and terrible crime – he has spent long years struggling to forget.

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle:

Loved language a ‘layers’ of story. Felt characters were well drawn. Thought the dark side was skilfully handled.

Star rating: ***

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