"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" by John Boyne
Members met to discuss and review this book on 11th November 2008.
To wet your appetite for this book, the following is taken from the back cover of the novel.
The story of 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the cover, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about. If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this isn't a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence. We hope you never have to cross such a fence.
Members felt it to be a deeply moving book, a modern day fable. Some members found the style jilted while others felt this worked well, telling the story through the eye of a child. The book made us think about the importance of talking together as a family unit.
"A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini
Members met to discuss and review this book on 16th December 2008.
This book is about “An unforgettable portrait of a wounded country and a deeply moving story of a family and friendship.”
Members felt it to be a thought provoking book which all enjoyed. Reading the novel encouraged them to reflect on the differences in society’s attitudes and culture especially towards women.
"The Camel Bookmobile" by Masha Hamilton
Members met to review this book on 10th February 2009.
Here is a snippet to whet your appetite for reading this book.
Fiona Sweeny wants to do something that matters and she chooses to make her mark in the arid bush of north eastern Kenya. By helping to start a travelling library, she hopes to bring the words of Homer, Hemingway and Dr Seuss to far-flung tiny communities where people live daily with drought, hunger and disease. Her intentions are honourable and her rules are firm. Due to the limited number of donated books, if any one of them is not returned then the bookmobile will not return.
Widely acclaimed, the book examines the conflicts between progress and tradition, which are inflamed by the bookmobile's presence, and the dangerous naivety of well-meant Western charity and values.
When the book group reveiwed this novel it prompted a lively discussion on many levels, but notably concerning the conflict between proffered education and progress to third world tribes and their own oral but equally sophisticated culture. The group felt that the book exposed Western well-meaning charity to be sabotaged by unintentional arrogance and a lack of understanding of the culture of the people to whom they minister.
"Eagle of the Ninth" by Rosemary Sutcliff
Members met to review this book on 3rd March 2009.
Members felt that this book had not been popular and most of the group had not finished it. Reasons given included too many technical terms and no glossary, a dry and laboured opening, the feeling that it had been written with the intention of teaching school children about Roman times, and shortage of time. Those who had persevered agreed that the book was well worth reading and had proved exciting, suspenseful and thought-provoking. Some who fininished the book after the meeting also enjoyed it.
The book had explored ideas of culture clash and the validity of different religious thought and life philosophies which members had thought would have offered excellent discussion opportunities if more people had read it.
"The Five People You Meet in Heaven" by Mitch Albom
Members met to review this book on 21st April 2009.
This book starts with the heroic death of an elderly fairground worker, who swiftly discovers that heaven is not at all the paradise he always assumed it was but a place where your life is explained to you by five people who shared it with you. Through the re-acquaintance of people who have been pivotal in his life, he examines his life and comes to terms with its disappointments.
The book was published in 2003 and figured in best-selling lists for over a year.
The group had enjoyed reading this book remarking on the surprising turns of events in the narrative. It had been a satisfying read, touching in places, and inspite of its title had more to say about life and the interconnectedness of people's lives and actions than about death.
The book prompted a consideration of the Roman Catholic concepts of limbo, purgatory and the importance of last rites and baptism, although these had not been mentioned in the book itself.
"The Secret Scripture" by Sebastian Barry
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2008 and winner of the Costa Novel Award 2008, the book concerns the dialogue between psychiatrist Dr Grene and elderly Roseanne McNulty who was committed to a mental hospital as a young woman. Dr Grene's purpose is to discern whether Roseanne can safely be discharged into the community when the mental institution is closed, but his investigation uncovers a shocking secret connected to the circumstances of her committal.
The Costa judges described this book as an "exquisitely written love story which takes you on an unforgettable journey" but the love story is very much bound up with the troubled history of Ireland in the twentieth century.
"The Spy Game" by Georgina Harding
This book was generally agreed to have an easy and fluid prose style, with elegant and atmospheric description and mood creation. However, it was felt that the book was weak on plot, lacked action, and the main characters were not particularly sympathetic, which made it difficult to empathize with them. Members found the book boring and only two had struggled through to the end. Set in the early 1960s, the book prompted discussion on the different way bereaved children are treated now in comparison with the over-sheltering of the middle of the last century.
"Brooklyn" by Colm Toibin
The group generally thought that the author's descriptions and his portrayal of Brooklyn in the 1950s and Irish community life on both side of the Atlantic were excellent, but felt that something had gone wrong with the plot. Most readers felt that the ending was unsatisfactory although for different reasons, and there was a feeling that the main character had been inconsistent in the second half of the book. There were also varying sympathies for the two male love interest characters. No one particularly thought that the book had deserved to win the Costa Prize, althought they did not know what the opposition had been.
“Call the Midwife” by Jennifer Worth
The group met to discuss this book on Tuesday 8th May 2012. Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth had been generally well received and prompted a discussion of the group's memories of life in a time of less affluence, but closer families.
“The Coward's Tale” by Vanessa Gebbie
Book Club members met on Tuesday 26th June 2012 to discuss the above book. The book is a novel of community life through the generations of a Welsh mining town. This book had been more difficult to persevere with, being a sequence of linked short stories set in a small Welsh mining town, blighted by a pit disaster three generations earlier. Members had dipped into the book rather than read it from cover to cover but reported that they had enjoyed what they had read, especially the links to the stories and the characterization of the boy and his growing friendship with the town tramp.