The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

About the book

My name is Judith McPherson. I am ten years old. On Monday a miracle happened. Judith doesn’t have much. The house she shares with her devoutly religious father is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother Judith never knew. Bullied at school, she finds comfort in creating a miniature world in her bedroom – a world of wonder she calls The Land of Decoration. Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow in The Land of Decoration there will be no school on Monday. Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white. And that’s when her troubles begin.

 

Reviewed by Everton

“Well written from the child’s perspective. This book posed many questions of religious belief and the effect of this on individuals. A compelling read with a definite ending. Enjoyed by most of the group

star rating ***

 

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The 19th Wife by David Ebersoff

 

About the book

Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives – Jordan’s mother – is accused of the crime.
Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.
Bold, shocking and gripping, The 19th Wife expertly weaves together these two narratives: a pageturning literary mystery and an enthralling epic of love and faith.

 

Reviewed by Denmead Reading Circle

Much enjoyed by almost everyone. Very humorous, sharp wit, not too American

 

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The Story of my face by Kathy Page

About the book

A young girl grows up an outsider, then becomes drawn into the life of a local family with some curious beliefs. They treat her as a daughter and take her away with them to a religious holiday camp. It is here that she is introduced to the Finnish Envallist branch of Protestantism and here that events start to take a terrible turn.
Rejected by some of the sectarians for her non-commitment to their beliefs, Natalie creates a rift in the group which culminates in a climactic scene where she is gravely injured. Later, as an adult in Finland, she tries to make sense of what happened and to unlock the secret origins of Envallism itself.

Reviewed by Victoria Reading group:

A very mixed reception – from those who did not enjoy it and gave up reading after a few chapters to those who thoroughly enjoyed reading it and considered it a good read. However one member read it but found it so forgettable that the title and subject matter could not be recalled a week later!

Star rating: **

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Only Half of Me by Rageh Omaar

About the book

A Muslim boy goes to a madrassa in Mogadishu to learn the Koran. His parents take him on two pilgrimages to Mecca. He arrives in Britain as a child just as Somalia collapses into a state of civil war, which will continue throughout his childhood and prevent him from going home. He watches Black Hawk Down in horror. He watches the invasion of Iraq in disbelief. To the media, government and general public, this is the classic background story to the most feared figure of our times: the young, male, black, British, Muslim. It is also the story of Rageh Omaar’s childhood. Rageh Omaar’s unique and profoundly moving book is the story of his childhood in Somalia, his family’s attitude to religion, his double life as a British Muslim and that of other British Muslims: the failed suicide bomber from Somalia; his cousin who was stabbed in the neck on a London street on 8th July 2005. Full of humanity and rage, empathy and insight, “Only Half of Me” takes us into lives that are widely misunderstood, and tries to make sense of our own fractured world.

Reviewed by Anton Bookies:

There was a mixed reaction amongst the group from great interest in his description of Somali culture to ‘a complete turnoff’, but it certainly stimulated a very lively discussion.

Star rating: ***

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The Bell by Iris Murdoch

About the book

Dora Greenfield, erring wife, returns to live with her husband in a a lay community encamped outside Imber Abbey, home to a mysterious enclosed order of nuns. Watched over by its devout director and the discreet authority of the wise old Abbess, Imber Court is a haven for lost souls seeking tranquility. But then the lost Abbey bell, legendary symbol of religion and magic, is rediscovered, and hidden truths and desires are forced into the light.

Reviewed by Entre Nous Reading Group:

A wonderfully crafted novel. Very descriptive of human faces, attitudes and actions and a compelling read. A class above most of the books we have read.

Star rating: ****

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The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

About the book

Barbara Kingsolver’s acclaimed international bestseller tells the story of an American missionary family in the Congo during a poignant chapter in African history. It spins the tale of the fierce evangelical Baptist, Nathan Price, who takes his wife and four daughters on a missionary journey into the heart of darkness of the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them to Africa all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to the King James Bible – is calamitously transformed on African soil. Told from the perspective of the five women, this is a compelling exploration of African history, religion, family, and the many paths to redemption.

Reviewed by Queen Mary’s College Library Reading Group

Most of the group thought this was a wonderful novel, one of the most powerful and thought-provoking we’d read in ages. It was hard to get into, but soon you were swept along by the rhythm of the narrative recounted by the women of an American family caught up in the post-colonial world of the former Belgian Congo. Highly recommended.
Star rating ****

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

About the book

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses a moment of experience from which to look ahead…”
“This is a record of hate far more than of love,” writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles. Now, a year after Sarah’s death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of his passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At first, he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. Yet as he delves further into his emotional outlook, Bendrix’s hatred shifts to the God he feels has broken his life, but whose existence at last comes to recognize.

Reviewed by  King’s Somborne Reading Group:

Brilliantly written with clever insightful style. Intense emotions covering the themes of love, hate, jealousy, obsession, faith, doubt. Not a cheerful read and main characters are totally unlikeable although there are touches of humour from minor characters. Religious aspect dificult to relate to, especially the miracles at the end.

Rating: 4 Stars
 

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The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

About the book

The God Delusion caused a sensation when it was published in 2006. Within weeks it became the most hotly debated topic, with Dawkins himself branded as either saint or sinner for presenting his hard-hitting, impassioned rebuttal of religion of all types.
His argument could hardly be more topical. While Europe is becoming increasingly secularized, the rise of religious fundamentalism, whether in the Middle East or Middle America, is dramatically and dangerously dividing opinion around the world. In America, and elsewhere, a vigorous dispute between ‘intelligent design’ and Darwinism is seriously undermining and restricting the teaching of science. In many countries religious dogma from medieval times still serves to abuse basic human rights such as women’s and gay rights. And all from a belief in a God whose existence lacks evidence of any kind.
Dawkins attacks God in all his forms. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry and abuses children.
The God Delusion is a brilliantly argued, fascinating polemic that will be required reading for anyone interested in this most emotional and important subject.

Reviewed by Entre Nous reading group:

A difficult book to discuss – but all agreed that it was an important book. Unfortunately three out of eight people in our group did not bother (or were too anxious) to read the book.

Star rating: ***

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