Book Group 2
Coordination: The group coordinator is Joy Lyon
Joy can be contacted using the message icon on the right. The group meets in the morning of the first Friday of each month.
Book choices for this year can be seen on the 2021 subpage
We are currently holding our meetings virtually. It is good to see members and to be able to discuss our book choices as well as share our experiences of the current situation.
November - The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn
Most of our group felt that this book was not as enjoyable as the Salt Path which we read a little while ago. The first part of the book covered a lot of the history of Raynor and Winn’s earlier life before they became homeless and undertook the long coastal walk around Cornwall written about in the Salt Path.
There was quite a long section which covered the death of Raynor’s Mother and her feelings surrounding this and her earlier life as a child.
Raynor was also struggling with her feelings and found it very hard to adapt to living in a flat, being inside on her own while Moth was studying at University and not having a job.
The second part of the book described their walk in Iceland which did not have the same impact for most of us as the walk around Cornwall, perhaps because it was not so familiar.
The walk in Iceland was very arduous through incredible inhospitable terrain. Indeed they only just made it to the end before it closed down for the winter.
They then returned to the cider farm which they rented and were trying to return it to its former glory. Raynor believed that this was the best thing for both of them to be in touch with nature working on the land, to restore their wellbeing.
Raynor has an excellent talent for good descriptive writing- so while it was a fairly easy read for me at least it was not enjoyed so much by most members of our group.
August - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
We had a very enjoyable combined Book Group Classic choice meeting with members from all three book groups attending. Thank you Merrilyn for hosting in your garden and we were fortunate that the rain held off. We enjoyed coffee, cake and catch-up chat before discussing the book.
The book comprises two parts; the first providing a background of the setting, community, characters and social conventions of the time. The second an account of the trial and its repercussions.
The story is told through the voice of Scout, a young girl and provides a child’s view on the world, making it a simple story about national complexities.
The characters are generally believable making it possible to relate to them, with the three main child characters evolving throughout the novel. Two characters identified as being outstanding were Atticus and Calpurnia.
Aspects raised included the impact of standards of older generations on younger people; sibling relationships; parent/child relationships. The main aspect was discrimination across a range of areas but mainly racial and social. This generated discussion around areas of discrimination which continue to exist.
The book was well written, some finding it slow to get going, others being gripped from the start.
Several members had seen film/show versions where the focus was primarily on the trial section of the book. One member was prompted to re-read Go Set a Watchman.
Everyone enjoyed the book with wide ranging and interesting discussion emerging. We ended the meeting with a picnic lunch and more chat.
June - The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
What a treat! It was so good to discuss the relevant book without putting up a hand to speak,
The book discussed was “The Other Bennet Sister”, which was the story of Mary Bennet, the largely ignored 3rd Bennet sister in “Pride and Prejudice”
It was a considerably long book, some 650 pages, and to be honest, could have been a couple of hundred pages shorter.
However, with one exception, everyone enjoyed it and felt the story of Mary, whilst somewhat predictable, was a heart warming one.
The writing was in the style of Jane Austin, easy to read, with chapters that flowed from one to the other.
However… the high spot was being able to meet in person, with a couple of cups of coffee and a cake!
May - Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
This beautifully written story about an abandoned small girl, Kya, growing up alone in the marshlands of North Carolina, was enjoyed by everyone in the group. Some of us wondered if a child of six would have been able to be so self-sufficient. Most of us also liked the poems and we were all intrigued to find out at the end of the book that they had been written by Kya herself using a pen-name. The story had several interwoven plot lines - the natural history of the marsh, the love between Kya and Tate, Kya's relationship with the seagulls and the mystery of the unsolved murder of Chase, a local boy who had ruthlessly pursued and on one occasion attacked Kya. The poems did in fact provide clues to the identity of Chase's murderer, but we were all surprised to learn after Kya's death that it was she who had in fact caused the death of the man who she realised would never stop pursuing her.
April - The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. A brutal murder on their doorstep encourages them to use all their knowhow to beat the police at solving this and subsequent murders. A lot of the action is told with dialogue and in chapters which are notes from the story tellers own journal.
Most of the group enjoyed the book finding it easy reading after the more serious books we have read recently. We all agreed it will make a good film. Steven Spielberg has already bought the film rights so we have all agreed to a group visit to the cinema when it does come out
March - The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
This book is set in the 1600’s around a true event; a pirate invasion of Iceland when four hundred people were captured and taken to be slaves in North Africa. It tells the story of Olafur and his wife Asta, starting and ending with their life in Iceland. The central section tells Asta’s story as a slave to a wealthy merchant over almost ten years, and the fate of three of her children. The author uses sections from copies of Olafur’s diary kept at the time, and her imagination to provide Asta’s story as no account by women exists.
The author is daughter of Magnus Magnusson and her appreciation of Icelandic life, culture and history is evident. Her writing beautifully captures the relative isolation, climate and hardship of life at that time, and contrasts them with the town, warmth and abundance of food in North Africa. The tensions between being a favourite of her slave owner and the constraints of not being a free woman are well portrayed throughout.
All members enjoyed the book, despite some finding it difficult to get into. Discussion was generated around the Barbary slave trade; history and culture; similarities and conflicts between different religious beliefs; love, lust, loss, separation, grief and resilience. Asta’s decision to leave her children and return to Iceland and Olafur was recognised as an impossible choice for her.
Feb - The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
This book is about a Syrian refugee, Nuri and his wife Afra, and remembers their happy life in Syria with their family and his bees, and the deteriorating situation there, including the death of their young son, to the point where they have no choice but to leave, in fear of their lives. It follows their treacherous journey to the UK via Turkey and Greece, having to put their faith in people-smugglers and encountering terrible things along the way, as well as meeting various other refugees and starting their claim for asylum in the UK.
Several members said they would not normally have chosen to read it but were glad that they had. It was a very emotional and harrowing story which brought some to tears. However, members enjoyed the poetic descriptions and felt it could have been a true story. It made us grateful for all that we have, even in the current pandemic, we still have a safe and comfortable home. Themes highlighted were loss and hope, PTSD and the way it manifests itself.
Members generally felt it was beautifully written and also well-researched, the author being the daughter of refugees and having herself worked in a refugee centre in Athens. Some thought the changes of time and place, using a single word within an image as a link, was imaginative and effective, whilst others would have preferred the story told in the actual timeline. Several members were glad to be able to read the distressing story in the knowledge that Nuri and Afra made it safely to the UK.
There was a discussion around the plight of refugees, what would drive them to give up everything and risk such a truly dangerous and uncomfortable journey, how they are exploited by people-smugglers, also how people question their motives to come to UK and they are often vilified. Sometimes those most in need are not the ones who succeed.
As an aside, most members felt that books, and in particular the book club, had been one of the best things about the last year in lockdown.
Jan - All Fall Down by MJ Arlidge
The book starts ten years earlier with a crime committed against a group of children on a DofE programme. They become lost in thick fog and a child is murdered. Move on ten years to the present day.
The story follows each of these children who have now made lives and careers for themselves. First one and then another is murdered. The detective in charge of the case is a DI Helen Grace. Each of the now adult individuals are forewarned that they only have one hour to live.
As the book unfolds the reader discovers that the story that children told originally isn’t perhaps true. You are led to believe that the killer has come back to finish the job he started all those years earlier. There are many twists and turns and some far fetched antics by the lead detective. However, the true murderer isn’t exposed until almost the very end of the book.
The group all found the book intriguing and liked the its fast pace, even though it is not a genre that many of the members enjoy. That the setting was in and around Southampton made it more interesting for the readers. The negative aspects that the group discussed were that some parts were very far fetched and stretched believability. However, that said the majority of the group liked the book and some even stated that they might read some more in the series.