Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope

About the book

Friday nights, the best night of the week, the night they all looked forward to more than they cared to admit – talking, drinking, laughing and crying together. They were six female friends, different in age and circumstances, but with one common need: the warmth and support of their Friday nights. It was a time to share secrets and fears, triumphs and tragedies and, above all, to feel safe in the company of women friends. But things never stay the same forever, especially when a man is introduced into the mix…

 

Reviewed by Godshill WI

This was not Joanna’s finest hour! We felt the book had been written at the publisher’s behest: it was formulaic, crowded with people, had a chaotic ‘plot’ and went nowhere. We appreciate wer’e an ‘older’ readership, but felt Joanna was out of touch with that group. She has done so much better”

star rating *

 

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Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

About the book

Lucia Sartori is the beautiful twenty-five-year-old daughter of a fine Italian immigrant family in Greenwich Village, New York, in 1950. Fuelled by the post-war boom, in which talented girls with ambition are encouraged to follow their dreams, Lucia becomes an apprentice for a made-to-wear clothing designer at a chic department store on Fifth Avenue. Though she is sought after as a potential wife by the best Italian families, Lucia stays her course and works hard, determined to have a career. She juggles the roles of dutiful daughter and ambitious working girl perfectly. When a handsome stranger comes to the story and catches her eye, it is love at first sight for both of them. In order to win Lucia’s hand, he must first win over her traditional family and make the proper offer of marriage. Their love affair takes an unexpected turn as secrets are revealed, Lucia’s family honour is tested, and her own reputation becomes the centre of a sizzling scandal. Set in a time of possibility and change for women in America, in a city that celebrates its energy with style and elegance, LUCIA, LUCIA is the story of a girl who risks everything for the belief that a woman could – and should – be able to have it all.

Reviewed by Andrews Lodge

We all thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and gave an insight into an Italian family in 1950’s New York You didn’t want to put it down”

star rating ****

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The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

About the book

LuLing Young is in her eighties, and finally beginning to feel the effects of old age. Trying to hold on to the evaporating past, she begins to write down all that she can remember of her life as a girl in China. Meanwhile, her daughter Ruth, a ghostwriter for authors of self-help books, is losing the ability to speak up for herself in front of the man she lives with. LuLing can only look on, helpless: her prickly relationship with her daughter does not make it easy to discuss such matters. In turn, Ruth has begun to suspect that something is wrong with her mother: she says so many confusing and contradictory things.

Ruth decides to move in with her ailing mother, and while tending to her discovers the story LuLing wrote in Chinese, of her tumultuous life growing up in a remote mountain village known as Immortal Heart. LuLing tells of the secrets passed along by her mute nursemaid, Precious Auntie; of a cave where dragon bones are mined and where Peking Man was discovered; of the crumbling ravine known as the End of the World, where Precious Auntie’s bones lie, and of the curse that LuLing believes she released through betrayal. Like layers of sediment being removed, each page unfolds into an even greater mystery: Who was Precious Auntie, whose suicide changed the path of LuLing’s life?

Reviewed by Godshill WI

we were evenly divided on this book. Some thought it tedious and boring – others were fascinated by the historical detail. It was agreed that the first part, in California, was too long. Also those who’d read her other books had a sense of ‘déjà vu’ The same theme was explored. All found the mother irritating – but she was supposed to be!

star rating ****

 

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The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee

About the book

Calcutta, 1967. Unnoticed by his family, Supratik has become dangerously involved in extremist political activism. Compelled by an idealistic desire to change his life and the world around him, all he leaves behind before disappearing is a note. At home, his family slowly begins to unravel. Poisonous rivalries grow, the once-thriving family business implodes and destructive secrets are unearthed. And all around them the sands are shifting as society fractures, for this is a moment of turbulence, of inevitable and unstoppable change.

 

Reviewed by EMS Valley U3A

“Only 2 of our members finished the book – the rest gave up ¾ way through. A very dense book. We all had mixed feelings. Interesting history of both the family and the terrorists, but very violent”

star rating **

 

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The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

About the book

1913

On the eve of the First World War, a little girl is found abandoned after a gruelling ocean voyage from England to Australia. All she can remember of the journey is that a mysterious woman she calls the Authoress had promised to look after her. But the Authoress has vanished without a trace.

1975

Now an old lady, Nell travels to England to discover the truth about her parentage. Her quest leads her to Cornwall, and to a beautiful estate called Blackhurst Manor, which had been owned by the Mountrachet family. What has prompted Nell’s journey after all these years?

2005

On Nell’s death, her granddaughter, Cassandra, comes into a surprise inheritance. Cliff Cottage, in the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, is notorious amongst the locals for the secrets it holds – secrets about the doomed Mountrachet family. But it is at Cliff Cottage, abandoned for years, and in its forgotten garden, that Cassandra will uncover the truth about the family and why the young Nell was abandoned all those decades before.

Reviewed by Novel Characters

“A much layered plot but which keeps you interested until the end (not everyone agreed) Most really enjoyed this book and was sorry when it was finished. Would highly recommend!!”

star rating ****

 

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Family Album by Penelope Lively

About the book

Allersmead is a big shabby Victorian suburban house. The perfect place to grow up for elegant Sandra, difficult Gina, destructive Paul, considerate Katie, clever Roger and flighty Clare.

But was it?

As adults, the children return to Allersmead one by one. To their home-making mother and aloof writer father, and a house that for years has played silent witness to a family’s secrets. And one devastating secret of which no one speaks . . .

 

Reviewed by Sandy’s Reading Group

“Inoffensive but anti-climatic. Characters so lightly drawn that they didn’t engage us. The ‘devastating secret’ was fairly obvious from early on and the infamous cellar game lacked jeopardy. The descriptions of the house itself and the kitchen / cooking were quite evocative and it was easy to imagine the rambling family home. Generally rather bitty / disjointed, lacking a strong narrative drive. Unmemorable!”

star rating **

 

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The Observations by Jane Harris

About the book

Scotland, 1863. In an attempt to escape her not-so-innocent past in Glasgow, Bessy Buckley – the wide-eyed Irish heroine of The Observations – takes a job as a maid in a big house outside Edinburgh working for the beautiful Arabella. Bessy is intrigued by her new employer, but puzzled by her increasingly strange requests and her insistence that Bessy keep a journal of her most intimate thoughts. And it seems that Arabella has a few secrets of her own – including her near-obsessive affection for Nora, a former maid who died in mysterious circumstances.

 

Reviewed by Sheet WI

“Rather overlong and the blurb was not entirely accurate. The expectation and reality were different”

star rating: none given

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Run by Ann Patchett

About the book

Since their mother’s death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children—all his children—safe.
Set over a period of twenty-four hours, Run takes us from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired Catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include people you’ve never even met. As in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Ann Patchett illustrates the humanity that connects disparate lives, weaving several stories into one surprising and endlessly moving narrative. Suspenseful and stunningly executed, Run is ultimately a novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths we will go to protect our children.

Reviewed by Boaters Book Club:

Very mixed comments. Generally the opening chapter was liked as was how the story unfolded, and the characters. It was considered a charming, good story by some and most would like to read more by this author. However some found it a collection of endless, unconnected short stories.

Star rating: **

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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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Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

About the book

In the middle of tending to the everyday business at her vintage-clothing shop and sidestepping her married boyfriend’s attempts at commitment, Iris Lockhart receives a stunning phone call: Her great-aunt Esme, whom she never knew existed, is being released from Cauldstone Hospital—where she has been locked away for more than sixty-one years.
Iris’s grandmother Kitty always claimed to be an only child. But Esme’s papers prove she is Kitty’s sister, and Iris can see the shadow of her dead father in Esme’s face.
Esme has been labeled harmless—sane enough to coexist with the rest of the world. But she’s still basically a stranger, a family member never mentioned by the family, and one who is sure to bring life-altering secrets with her when she leaves the ward. If Iris takes her in, what dangerous truths might she inherit?

Reviewed by Museum Book Group:

This clever story uses the interaction between the characters and its effect upon them, of Esme being incarcerated for sixty years. This book caused much lively discussion. we remembered the closing of the asylums and the reason for many old ladies being patients was that they were socially inconvenient.

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