Palmers Green & Southgate

Book Group 1

Group Coordinator: Gloria Arthur
4th Tuesday pm

The Tuesday afternoon book group continues meeting with much enthusiasm. It is held on the 4th Tuesday of each month. In normal times we meet in members' houses.

Our books show a variety of tastes and genres and have generated much discussion and laughter.

2021 Book Choices included a a variety of reads from the popular and recently published works, to Costa and Booker prize winners and nominees as well as non fiction works. Read our reviews below.
We are currently meeting on Zoom but hope to be meet in person soon.


March 2022; The Promise by Damon Galgut

March 2021

The Dutch House by Anne Prachett

This story is told by Danny who attempts to retrace the early hurts of his childhood through his memories of his stepmother, Andrea, his sister Maeve and other important people in his life. The narrative drifts backwards and forwards in time between past and present and covers five decades.

The Dutch House is an impressive house in a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia where siblings Danny and Maeve live with their father Cyril Conroy. The book is about family life after divorce, the bonds of siblings and the process of forgiveness of others and forgiveness for oneself.

Ann Pratchett is an excellent writer of relationships. Members of the group were able to relate the book to situations that had happened in their own lives. We had a lively discussion about living in the past, love, hate, parent and child relationships, inheritance and the role of women and their opportunities for in the 1950s/60s.

The book was mainly enjoyed by the group although it was felt by some that the characters were exaggerated and unrealistic. Also, that the ending was felt to be convenient but this often the case with many reads.

This book was chosen as an easy read when times have been challenging during the Covid Lockdown.

Sue P

April 2021

All the Water in the World by Karen Raney

Maddy is 16, smart, funny, profound with many loyal friends and a mother to whom she is very close, Maddy also has cancer. We know from the beginning of this book that she is going to die. Before she dies she makes contact with her father, Antonio who lives in London with his wife and family. This she does without telling her mother, Eve. This is a book about relationships. Maddy and her mother, Maddy and her grandparents, Maddy and her friends, and Maddy and her boyfriend. We enjoyed this book although the subject matter is quite depressing. It was felt that once Maddy died and Eve went to London and saw Antonio that the story fell away. Events that happened were quite unrealistic. The jury was out as to being recommended to others.

May 2021

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

This is a fictitious account of the life and death of Shakespeare's son, Hamnet. The book takes place over a few days, with flash-backs to how his father met his mother, Agnes, and then the grief experienced after the boy's death.
Hamnet is a well written book, which was well researched for detail of people's lives in Tudor times. There is little known about Shakespeare, who is never named, and Agnes, so the author is able to use her imagination and research to create this book. The section on the spread of the Bubonic plague is fascinating, and very relevant today because of Covid 19.
The group, with one exception, thought it was a well written novel and would recommend it as a good read. The only thing noticed was that a reference to coffee was incorrect as it was not introduced to England until much later.

June 2021

Pompeii by Robert Harris

This book is set in Pompeii before the volcanic eruption and is a story of imaginary events that happened before the town's destruction. Within the book there were many facts about volcanic eruptions and also about the architecture and structure of Roman aqueducts which showed how well the book was researched. The story itself revolved round Attilius the Aquarius who was bought in to maintain the main aqueduct that fed the towns and cities around the Bay of Naples. Exomnimus, the previous aquarius had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Led by a corrupt ex slave, Ampliatus, we learn of the greed, manoeuvring, and corruption of the politicians who ruled the region, which was rife even then. Nothing has changed.

Most people had very mixed feelings about this book. Although well researched, it was generally felt that the story plot did not hold together and was a bit melodramatic. The characters it was felt were a bit stereotypical, with the bad being very bad and the good quite saint like.

July 2021

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

I chose Douglas Stuart's Shuggie Bain for our July book because I found it really interesting, very much a page turner even though the topic is rather sombre.. addiction.. poverty.. abuse etc.
in 1980's Glasgow
The story of Agnes and her family is narrated by her youngest son Shuggie age 7 through to his mid teens, his devotion to his mother an alcoholic and their daily struggle to survive is told in a graphic, caring and non judgemental manner ,. He is also at the same time trying to figure out why he was "not like other boys" had difficulty making friends and cannot understand why .
One cannot help but feel the joy during the bouts of sobriety and lows when it ends for the family, I found it a real rollercoaster of emotions.
The author was at pains to point out that it was not autobiographical although there were some similarities with his own childhood ie brought up by a single mother who died when he was 16 and he never knew his father
General discussion was lively with agreement that Booker prize was deserved.

August 2021

The Vanishing half by Brit Bennett

This book has been much advertised and appears as a favourite of Barack and Michelle Obama. It follows the lives of two identical twin girls, Desiree and Stella. both light skinned, black girls who live in a small community of light skinned people who discriminate against dark skinned people. At the age of 16 the girls runaway. Initially living together Stella vanishes. The book takes place over a 20 year period. Desiree marries well to an abusive husband so returns home with her black skinned daughter Jude. Meanwhile Stella, marries well, has a daughter, Kennedy and 'lives a lie' totally refusing to acknowledge her past. Eventually the two cousins meet. The book has many different themes. The main one is identity, is it possible to reinvent oneself so completely. All the main characters reinvent themselves in some form or another. A very thought provoking and interesting novel which we all enjoyed and would recommend.


September 2021: Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam

The story begins with a middle class white family, Amanda and Clay and their teenage children Archie and Rose leaving their home in Brooklyn and going on holiday to an up-market Airb&b on Long Island.. The house is beautifully appointed and in an idyllic, if remote, setting. There was news of an intensifying hurricane season but this did not fully prepare us for what was to follow.
On Day 2 of their holiday, there is an unexpected knock on the door. In comes an older black couple, George and Ruth Washington, who claim to be the owners of the house , bringing news from New York of a city-wide blackout and ensuing chaos.

The dynamics of the families are explored with all adult protagonists making assumptions and testing out each other. Amanda and Clay are suspicious of the older couple but we know that they are telling the truth. It is their house and they don’t know where else to go to escape whatever is happening. They spend uneasy times together but then a loud boom, which is unlike anything any of them has ever heard, sounds. It is so strong that it cracks the plate glass windows, causes total panic and mayhem as massive herds of wild deer and flamingoes migrate out of the area and Archie starts losing his teeth.

The author uses a narrator to give us the back story with hints of what is happening elsewhere. His descriptions are evocative and thought provoking. This is more than a novel about power and prejudice and the end of the world as we know it. A note of optimism is sounded through the character of Rose who alone seems to see things as they are, is able to plan rationally and who, we are led to believe, will survive whatever comes next.

The group had mixed feelings about the book, ranging from not liking it at all to really finding it stimulating, thought-provoking and an engaging read. It is being made into a film for Netflix and I for one look forward to watching it.

Sue Cook

October 2021: Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

This book is the story of Achilles from a female perspective. Brisels become Achilles concubine after he destroys Lyrnessus. She is his 'prize' having been the queen. Her husband and brothers have been murdered. The city of Troy is under siege by the powerful Greek Army. When Agememnon King and political leader of the Greek forces demands Brisels for himself Achilles refuse to fight. Eventually Patroclus, Achilles lover, goes in his place and is killed. Achilles relents but knows that in going to war he will also die. Brisels is one of many thousands of women who were, and still are, into spoils of war by being projected into slavery or prostitution. The book promoted much discussion and was generally enjoyed by our members.

November 2021: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This 2014 novel by an American author revolves around events in St Malo towards the end of World War 2. Three parallel stories gradually merge. Marie-Laure is a blind girl who has fled there from Paris with her father, following the Nazi invasion. Werner Pfennig is a German boy who, because of his expertise with radio, is part of a Wehrmacht team tracking down resistance units.

Meanwhile a German officer is searching for a precious diamond which has been taken from the Paris museum where Marie-Laure’s father worked. There are many themes which cut across and link these stories in a clever and thought-provoking way. Short chapters alternate between them, building tension until the narratives finally meet..

We all agreed that this is a beautifully-written story which is also a page-turner. The descriptions of the worlds in which the children grew up, of the horrors of the war and of its impact on them, and of the aftermath of the main events, are highly evocative and often moving.


January 2022:The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Book Group 1 for their January choice read The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Written in 1989 and is set in 1956 when Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall, reminisces on
events which took place their in 1936/37 whilst on a journey to the West Country.
The plot centres around Stevens relationship with the housekeeper Miss Kenton. How events
at the time, and Stevens stiff upper lip and duty, stop him entering into a relationship with Miss Kenton.
The book is beautifully written and takes us back to time when duty was put before all else.
The group enjoyed the book which was turned into a very successful film by Merchant Ivory.


February 2022:The Dry by Jane Harper

This is the first book by Jane Harper who was born in Manchester Uk but now lives in Melbourne Australia. The book is set in a small town Kiewara where there hasn’t been any rain for two years. Everything is dried up, day after day soaring temperatures, the worse condition in a century. The people are already very tense and then there is a triple murder which makes tension unbearable. Luke Hadley, his wife Karen and six year old son are dead. Everyone thinks Luke has murdered his family and then shot himself.

Aaron Falk, a detective from Melbourne, returns to his hometown for the funeral as Luke was a childhood friend 20 years ago. He cannot believe his friend would have committed this crime and teams up with the local police to investigate. He is not made welcome and treated with great suspicion as he left under a cloud when a young girl, Ellie, was found drowned and he or his father’s name were found on a note left by her.

The book then tells two stories:-
What happened to Ellie
Who killed the Hadley family.

Falk discovers that Ellie didn’t drown herself and in fact was murdered by her father and covered up by Ellie’s cousin. He will inherit the property now that Ellie is dead and has thrown this suspicion on his father and him all these years as it suits his purpose.
Thus Falk clears his name in this crime.

The triple murder is investigated and various suspects come up, all red herrings. Their stories are told as to why they are considered to be possible murderers but eventually the culprit is caught. I won’t give any more away!

Jane Harper has written four more novels since 2015 when this was published and been awarded various prizes. She captures the atmosphere of a small town in Australia and the terrible dryness of it all very well. Not the best crime story, a little gentler than most but an enjoyable easy read.


March 2022:The Promise by Damon Galgut

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More Group Pages
Art 1 Art 2
Art 4 Art Appreciation
Book Group 1 Book Group 2
Book Group 3 Book Group 4
Bowls - Selbourne Bowls at Arnos
Bridge Club Online Bridge for Improvers 1
Bridge for Improvers 2 Discussion
Floristry Free Lunchtime Concerts
French Advanced French Intermediate 1
French Intermediate 2 Fringe Theatre
Gardening History
Italian Conversation Latin
Magic Members On Their Own
Morning Walks Outings
Photography Play Reading 1
Play Reading 2 Poetry
Remember When Rummikub and Bolivia Canasta
Science, Nature,Technology Scrabble 1
Spanish for Improvers T48: The Light-Dining Group
Theatre Travel
Walks (7-10 miles) Wine Appreciation