The Girls by Emma Cline (May 2017)
California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life….
Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.
Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.
And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.
Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?
A massively hyped novel that occasioned mixed reviews. Whereas some felt that a frustrating main character and such stark similarities with the Manson family case were slightly disappointing, Cline’s sublime writing and thought-provoking topic made up for this in spades.
Death and the Penguin by Andrey Karkov (April 2017)
Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to find his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.
With a misleading penguin bringing the group hope of a little amusement and warmth, this satire from Andrey Kurkov left us indifferent. Although a swift little read we felt a little more understanding of Ukrainian politics and culture was needed to make the most of this novel. As it stood, with unsympathetic characters and a dryer than dry sense of humour, this one left us feeling a little…well….dry.
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (March 2017)
Anthony and Gloria are the essence of Jazz Age glamour. A brilliant and magnetic couple, they fling themselves at life with an energy that is thrilling. New York is a playground where they dance and drink for days on end. Their marriage is a passionate theatrical performance; they are young, rich, alive and lovely and they intend to inherit the earth.
But as money becomes tight, their marriage becomes impossible. And with their inheritance still distant, Anthony and Gloria must grow up and face reality; they may be beautiful but they are also damned.
Mixed opinions on this popular classic. A shining example of how a classic does not necessarily make for good discussion/a good ‘book club book’.
The Green Road by Anne Enright (February 2017)
A darkly glinting novel set on Ireland’s Atlantic coast, The Green Road is a story of fracture and family, selfishness and compassion – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we learn to fill them.
The children of Rosaleen Madigan leave the west of Ireland for lives they never could have imagined in Dublin, New York and various third-world towns. In her early old age their difficult, wonderful mother announces that she’s decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Her adult children come back for a last Christmas, with the feeling that their childhoods are being erased, their personal history bought and sold.
Anne Enright is addicted to the truth of things. Sentence by sentence, there are few writers alive who can invest the language with such torque and gleam, such wit and longing – who can write dialogue that speaks itself aloud, who can show us the million splinters of her characters’ lives then pull them back up together again, into a perfect glass.
Sadly not the most inspiring book we’ve ever read this February.
The Penguin Lessons by Tom Michell (January 2017)
“I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.”
Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn’t need is a pet. What he really doesn’t need is a pet penguin. Set against Argentina’s turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Perónist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom’s side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school.
Whether it’s as the rugby team’s mascot, the housekeeper’s confidant, the host at Tom’s parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets – in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other. The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story that has captured imaginations around the globe for all those who dreamed as a child that they might one day talk to animals.
A heart-warming true story, much loved by all the group and the perfect book to read over the holiday period.