The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

About the book

The soldier returns from the front to the three women who love him. His wife, Kitty, with her cold, moonlight beauty, and his devoted cousin Jenny wait in their exquisite home on the crest of the Harrow-weald. Margaret Allington, his first and long-forgotten love, is nearby in the dreary suburb of Wealdstone. But the soldier is shell-shocked and can only remember the Margaret he loved fifteen years before, when he was a young man and she an inn-keeper’s daughter. His cousin he remembers only as a childhood playmate; his wife he remembers not at all. The women have a choice – to leave him where he wishes to be, or to ‘cure’ him. It is Margaret who reveals a love so great that she can make the final sacrifice.

Reviewed by TA WI

The characters in this book are of the Edwardian Period with class differences. The writing is beautiful with lovely description of the countryside, house and gardens. Their was a sadness linked to the loss and tension of the times.”

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 Colour Purple by Alice Walker

About the book

Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

Reviewed by Perspectives

A very readable book with many different themes all woven together. A book about relationships, hardship overcome and a happy ending”

star rating ****

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Juggling by Barbara Trapido

About the book

Sparky Christina and her saintly adopted sister Pam couldn’t be more different. And when they meet similarly mismatched friends Jago and Peter, the four embark on a dazzling series of pairings and partings, outrageous coincidences and eleventh-hour entrances interrupted one disastrous Halloween when schoolboy revelry turns horribly wrong. Three years on, as Christina analyses the wit, cruelty and crossed genders of Shakespearean comedy, the cast of her own life reunites and the curtain falls on some gloriously unexpected partnerships.

Reviewed by Novel Characters

Well written but disappointing depth of characters. It would have been more appropriate to read the first book of the sequence”

star rating **

 

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Black Rock by Amanda Smyth

About the book

Celia’s mother died bringing her into the world – when one soul flies in, another flies out, her aunt Tassi says. So she lives in Black Rock, Tobago, with her cousins and Tassi’s second husband Roman, a man so sly he could crawl under a snake’s belly on stilts. Celia thinks he’s the devil, so when he does something that proves her right, she runs away to Trinidad and a new life in service.

 

Reviewed by Sandy’s Reading Group

“A readable book with well-drawn characters – even the most sympathetic of whom were flawed. Well crafted plot lines although some predictability, but with a strong narrative drive that made you want to read to the end,”

star rating – ****

 

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The Still Point by Amy Sackville

About the book

At the turn of the twentieth century, Arctic explorer Edward Mackley sets out to reach the North Pole and vanishes into the icy landscape without a trace. He leaves behind a young wife, Emily, who awaits his return for decades, her dreams and devotion gradually freezing into rigid widowhood. A hundred years later, on a sweltering mid-summer’s day, Edward’s great-grand-niece Julia moves through the old family house, attempting to impose some order on the clutter of inherited belongings and memories from that ill-fated expedition, and taking care to ignore the deepening cracks within her own marriage. But as afternoon turns into evening, Julia makes a discovery that splinters her long-held image of Edward and Emily’s romance, and her husband Simon faces a precipitous choice that will decide the future of their relationship. Sharply observed and deeply engaging, The Still Point is a powerful literary debut, and a moving meditation on the distances – geographical and emotional – that can exist between two people.

 

Reviewed by Everton

Well written. The descriptive passages of the ice and scenery were almost poetic. The use of present tense didn’t make it an easy read, nor the chops and changes from Julia’s thoughts to bits of Emily’s life but it was worth persevering. Half the group really enjoyed it. We all felt that it could have been a little shorter. There was a point where it became very repetitive but overall we were impressed by the language used and the obvious research,”

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 Man Who Disappeared by Clare Morrall

About the book

What would you do if, out of the blue, your husband disappeared and you found out he was a suspected criminal?

When reliable, respectable Felix Kendall vanishes, his wife Kate is left reeling. As she and their children cope with the shocking impact on their comfortable lives, Kate realises that, if Felix is guilty, she never truly knew the man she loved. But as she faces the possibility that he might not return, she also discovers strengths she never knew she had.

Reviewed by Littleton & Harestock WI

A good, light read so it’s nomination for a Summer Read makes sense. Although some aspects seem contrived, the ending shows the complete change in the roles of the main characters because of the events”

star rating **

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The House by the Sea by Santa Montefiore

About the book

Ten-year-old Floriana is captivated by the beauty of the magnificent Tuscan villa just outside her small village, and dreams of living there someday. When Dante, the son of the villa’s owner, invites her inside, she knows that her destiny is there, with him. But as they grow up they cross an unseen line, jeopardizing the very thing they hold most dear…Decades later and hundreds of miles away, a beautiful old country house hotel on England’s Devon coast has fallen on hard times. Its owner, Marina, hires an artist-in-residence to stay the summer and teach the guests how to paint. The man she finds is charismatic and wise and begins to pacify the discord in her family and transform the fortunes of the hotel. However, it soon becomes clear that he is not who he seems…From the Italian countryside to the English coast, The House by the Sea is a moving and mysterious tale of love, forgiveness and the past revealed.

Reviewed by Sandy’s Reading Group

“’Holiday read’ is about right. Pleasant, inoffensive, quite descriptive but rather predictable”

star rating ***

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The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

About the book

A soldier on the Russian Front marries a photograph of a woman he has never met. Hundreds of miles away in Berlin, the woman marries a photograph of the soldier. It is a contract of business rather than love. When the newlywed strangers finally meet, however, passion blossoms and they begin to imagine a life together under the bright promise of Nazi Germany. But as the tide of war turns and Allied enemies come ever closer, the couple find themselves facing the terrible consequences of being ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt…

Reviewed by Wallington Village

Depressing – we knew what was going to happen. A profound and disturbing subject. Although the ending needed to be sad, didn’t like it. A very detached style.

star rating – none provided

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