The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (July 2019)
In her acclaimed debut novel Sally Magnusson imagines what history does not record: the experiences of Asta, the pastor’s wife, as she faces her losses with the one thing left to her – the stories from home – and forges an ambiguous bond with the man who bought her.
Uplifting, moving, and witty, The Sealwoman’s Gift speaks across centuries and oceans about loss, love, resilience and redemption.
Magnusson’s intriguing debut novel gave the group much more to chat about that expected. Although the narrative and characters hardly swept us of our feet, we generally found this to be a moving, easy read, perfect escapism for the sunny weather.
The Red House Mystery by A.A.Milne (June 2019)
Far from the gentle slopes of the Hundred Acre Wood lies The Red House, the setting for A.A Milne’s only detective story, where secret passages, uninvited guests, a sinister valet and a puzzling murder lay the foundations for a classic crime caper. And when the local police prove baffled, it is up to a guest at a local inn to appoint himself ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and, together with his friend and loyal ‘Watson’, delve deeper into the mysteries of the dead man.
The Red House Mystery is a lost gem from a time before Tigger and a perfectly crafted whodunit with witty dialogue, deft plotting and a most curious cast of characters.
Secret passages, bungling police officers and amateur sleuths, The Red House Mystery ticks all of the boxes for your classic cosy crime story; and highly enjoyable it was – though not particularly ‘book clubbable’ – i.e. there was nothing much more to say than we all enjoyed it and found it a speedy and amusing read. Worth a look one rainy afternoon.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (May 2019)
Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.
An incredibly moving book and heartwarming portrait of a young boy’s relationship with his father, a profound one that continue’s even beyond death. However, the group felt that certain tangents this book takes were, although well written and thought-out enough, a tad self conscious and written with an eye perhaps towards the literary prizes.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris (April 2019)
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.
Though some adored Heather Morris’ novelised depiction of Lale Sokolov’s incredible true story, others were less impressed with the writing and the ‘hero’ himself and felt this could have gone a little further/deeper.
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (March 2019)
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
Although the world Patrick Ness builds in his Chaos Walking trilogy is undoubtedly intriguing and the plot pacey, most agreed that there was something lacking both in the characters (apart from the dog!) and elements of the plot, turning out to be rather a disappointment. Entertaining but we won’t be reading on.
The Innocent by Ian McEwan (February 2019)
Leonard Marnham is assigned to a British-American surveillance team in Cold War Berlin. His intelligence work—tunneling under a Russian communications center to tap the phone lines to Moscow—offers him a welcome opportunity to begin shedding his own unwanted innocence, even if he is only a bit player in a grim international comedy of errors. Leonard’s relationship with Maria Eckdorf, an enigmatic and beautiful West Berliner, likewise promises to loosen the bonds of his ordinary life. But the promise turns to horror in the course of one terrible evening—a night when Leonard Marnham learns just how much of his innocence he’s willing to shed.
Although most struggled to sympathise with a bumbling, foolish main protagonist, most agreed that this offering from McEwan, one of his earlier works, was a huge improvement from his 2012 novel Sweet Tooth, which we read a few years back. We all felt that the ‘spy’ element to this post-WWII story was incidental and that this was, essentially, an intense, rather frustrating love story,.
Rosewater by Tade Thompson (January 2019)
Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless—people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumored healing powers.
Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again—but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realization about a horrifying future.
An unexpectedly great discussion to kick off 2019 from a group of people who don’t read that much science fiction. A little meandering and confusing at times but a great introduction to Thompson’s Rosewater world that sets us up nicely for the sequel (set to release this Spring).