The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

About the book

Twelve-year-old Harriet is doing her best to grow up, which is not easy as her mother is permanently on medication, her father has silently moved to another city, and her serene sister rarely notices anything. All of them are still suffering from the shocking and mysterious death of her brother Robin twelve years earlier, and it seems to Harriet that the family may never recover. So, inspired by Captain Scott, Houdini, and Robert Louis Stevenson, she sets out with her only friend Hely to find Robin’s murderer and punish him. But what starts out as a child’s game soon becomes a dark and dangerous journey into the menacing underworld of a small Mississippi town.

Reviewed by Everton

A multi-layered story with brilliant characterisation. Excellent use of language and description created pictures in the mind. A little disappointed that we never discovered Robin’s killer”

star rating ***

 

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Mr Golightly’s Holiday by Salley Vickers

About the book

Many years ago Mr Golightly wrote a work of dramatic fiction which grew to be an international best-seller. But his reputation is on the decline and he finds himself out of touch with the modern world.

He decides to take a holiday and comes to the ancient village of Great Calne, hoping to use the opportunity to bring his great work up to date. But he soon finds that events take over his plans and that the themes he has written on are being strangely replicated in the lives of the villagers he is staying among.

He meets Ellen Thomas, a reclusive artist, young Johnny Spence, an absconding school boy, and the tough-minded Paula who works at the local pub. As he comes to know his neighbours better, Mr Golightly begins to examine his attitude to love, and to ponder the terrible catastrophe of his son’s death. And as the drama unfolds we begin to learn the true and extraordinary identity of Mr Golightly and the nature of the secret sorrow which haunts him links him to his new friends.

Mysterious, light of touch, witty and profound, ‘Mr Golightly’s Holiday’ confirms Salley Vickers’s reputation as one of our most original and engaging novelists.

Reviewed by Women Who Read

“Can be read on different levels. A mixed reception from our group. Some of us felt that if we re-read it we’d pick up on more of the hints and points

star rating ** ½

 

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The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan

About the book

Gwenni Morgan is not like any other girl in this small Welsh town. Inquisitive, bookish and full of spirit, she can fly in her sleep and loves playing detective. So when a neighbour mysteriously vanishes, and no one seems to be asking the right questions, Gwenni  decides to conduct her own investigation. She records everything she sees and hears: but are her deductions correct? What is the real truth? And what will be the consequences of finding out, for Gwenni, her family and her community?

 

Reviewed by Alton U3A Book Club

Thought provoking and touching. Illustrates difficulties of living with people with mental problems. There were loose ends – what happened next? – but enough was revealed to be satisfying

star rating ***

 

 

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The Light Between the Oceans by M L Stedman

About the book

A boat washes up on the shore of a remote lighthouse keeper’s island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. The only two islanders, Tom and his wife Izzy, are about to make a devastating decision. They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

Reviewed by Palestine Book Club

An absorbing story. Very tragic. Good for discussion”

star rating ****

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The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

About the book

It begins just before Christmas in Barcelona in 1957, one year after Daniel and Bea from THE SHADOW OF THE WIND have married. They now have a son, Julian, and are living with Daniel’s father at Sempere & Sons. Fermin still works with them and is busy preparing for his wedding to Bernarda in the New Year. However something appears to be bothering him.

Daniel is alone in the shop one morning when a mysterious figure with a pronounced limp enters. He spots one of their most precious volumes that is kept locked in a glass cabinet, a beautiful and unique illustrated edition of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. Despite the fact that the stranger seems to care little for books, he wants to buy this expensive edition. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’. This visit leads back to a story of imprisonment, betrayal and the return of a deadly rival …

 

Reviewed by Wallington Village

Well drawn characters. Good use of language. The dialogue was clear with the characters telling the story which galloped

star rating – none provided

 

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A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

About the book

‘Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.’

Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.

In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.

Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.

 

Reviewed by Reading Between the Lines

Hard work, but worth persevering. Thought provoking, profound. An imaginative storyline, well told. Some traumatic themes interwoven with hope

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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Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

About the book

July 1209: in Carcassonne a 17-year-old girl is given a mysterious book by her father which he claims contains the secret of the true Grail. Although Alais cannot understand the strange words and symbols hidden within, she knows that her destiny lies in keeping the secret of the labyrinth safe . . .

July 2005: Alice Tanner discovers two skeletons in a forgotten cave in the French Pyrenees. Puzzled by the labyrinth symbol carved into the rock, she realises she’s disturbed something that was meant to remain hidden. Somehow, a link to a horrific past – her past – has been revealed.

Reviewed by Milford U3A

“Enjoyable, different, interesting, informative, Good discussion. Verbose, needed editing. Timeshift worked well. Good historical interest”

star rating ** ½

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

About the book

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn As the sun disappears beyond the horizon, all over the tents small lights begin to flicker, as though the entirety of the circus is covered in particularly bright fireflies. When the tents are all aglow, sparkling against the night sky, the sign appears. Le Cirque des Rêves The Circus of Dreams. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.

 

Reviewed by Porchester Monday Morning Reading Group

“We enjoyed the BBC Drama series, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanne Clarkeand this book about magic casts the same spell. Three of loved this book, two did not!”

star rating ** ½

 

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