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Reading group reviews

A

Ben Aaronovitch - Rivers of London

  • Review: A fantasy detective novel, unashamedly influenced by both Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes.  An easy read, the plot revolves around the young constable Peter Grant drawn into a magical underground version of London where the rivers are each owned by a spirit.  The plot moves at a steady pace with some twists and the book is clearly the first of a series.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Devonshire

Chinua Achebe - Things Fall Apart

  • Review: This was an excellent book, written in a very matter of fact way.  The reading group enjoyed this novel, although there were a couple of events which required further explanation.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Waterlooville
  • Review: There were mixed feelings about it.  The way of life descriptions were enjoyed, but found sketchy.  The actions of the missionaries and the western versus African customs and culture resulted in extensive discussion as well as how much the content is a true reflection of their life especially in 2009.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: The group were pleased to read this landmark of African literature.  A compelling description of African village life, and the impact of colonialisation.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: October Book Club
  • Review: We felt that the book was a dispassionate report of the events rather than a novel one could get excited about.  Perhaps a revelation when it was first published.  Interesting from the tribal customs related but didn't expand enough on this - some puzzling corners.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Villagers
  • Review: A Morality Tale.  The seeds of a man's destruction are in his character.  A Tragedy in the "Greek" sense.  However a number of us felt it lacked pace and cohesion at the beginning but the arrival of the missionaries and the impact of colonisation gave it a focus.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne Reading Group
  • Review: The group felt that it was thought provoking and gave a good insight into 19th Century tribal West Africa and the impact of colonisation.  An interesting read.  Many comparisons with modern life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle

Peter Ackroyd - Hawksmoor

  • Review: A complex and none too easy to read.  The story is dark and chilling in places. Worth persevering, as the author draws the reader into the plot. His use of language, ancient and modern, and character development is unusual. A definite sinister overtone. The book engendered a lot of discussion in our group, with a wide range of opinion
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : TG Reading Group
  • Review: Generally we did not enjoy this book and found it very difficult to understand. It is written in a very confused and confusing style
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A Reading Group
  • Review: Disjointed. Too much gory detail. But not much detail about everyday life. Not much enjoyed.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Bridwell - Odiham
  • Review: Heavy and slow moving.  Would be good as a study text, but not for entertainment.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: In the general consensus the book was thought to be uninteresting and too drawn out.  The characters boring.  we did not have anything positive to say about this story.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Andover U3A Reading Group 2
  • Review: A very difficult book to read.  Can't give a rating as most of the group failed to finish it.  One member did enjoy it, rejoicing in the 18th Century language, London scenes and the conundrums set by this novel, but then she is an 'Ackroyd nut'.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We did not rate this book very highly, the group felt that it was repetitive and did not seem to flow.  It was a complex and difficult read.  The description of London was good but difficult to understand.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: We all agreed that this was quite a difficult read.  Subtle, mysterious and full of conceits but at least half the group fount it intriguing and one of the most challenging books we've had so far.  Look out for the word 'shadow'!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: A challenging read with some thought-provoking concepts.  A map showing the locations of the churches would have been a useful addition to the text. Members were divided between 2 and 3 star rating.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Arle

Gilbert Adair - The Act of Roger Murgatroyd

  • Review: would have made a better play.  Very light reading with no residual impact.  Would have been better to read the Agatha Christie first perhaps.  Everyone read it but felt it would not last in the memory.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: This book which was a 'spoof' on Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Acroyd was not well received as it went too far, the sublime to the ridiculous.  Readers of Agatha Christie were particularly annoyed!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Poppy Adams - The Behaviour of Moths

  • Review: Poppy Adams debut as a novelist engendered a lively and protracted discussion - our longest in three years.  A psychological novel which aroused disturbing thoughts.  Much room for interpretation as very little is fully explained.  The characters, only six, developed in one's imagination as their behaviour could not be read with any degree of certainty.  A 'Baby Jane' atmosphere in the sister relationship could make a suspensive 'Hitchcock' film.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: An intriguing story with a twist.  All the book club members enjoyed it and found hidden aspects, particularly on autism of the main character.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental

Debra Adelaide - The Household Guide to Dying

  • Review: Loved every bit of this book - best this year - plot, language, humour, subject all wonderful.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi - Half a Yellow Sun

  • Review: A good book group choice as there are many interesting characters to dissect,  themes to discuss and the crazy politics of Africa to ponder on.  Some thought it overlong.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Keyhaven Book Reading Circle
  • Review: The whole group enjoyed this book.  The picture it gave of a country torn by civil war was heart-rending.  Characterisation and character development was excellent and the reader really cared what happened to these people.  Minor characters were also very well drawn and engaging.  Seeing events unfold through the eyes of the houseboy was a good device.  Absorbing and thought provoking.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: Did we enjoy this book?  Not enjoy exactly - who could enjoy reading about the violence portrayed in the country and the family?  But we greatly admired the young authors ability to tell the story of a girl's awakening to love and humanity, set in a post colonial background.  A book of great contrasts.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bidbury Mead WI
  • Review: Very harrowing story but written in a very compassionate and readable manner.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review:  Excellent, enlightening, educational.  Well written novel which tells the story of the Biafra conflict in a very readable way.  At times harrowing, brutal and inhumane but always absorbing and compelling.  A book you wont forget.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Red Shoes
  • Review:  A difficult book to read. Most of us didn't enjoy it. We wanted more depth in the characters, and narrators we felt for.
    We appreciated learning about Biafra.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: 5:30 Fareham Library
  • Review: Very engrossing read. Very well written and a vivid description of life in Nigeria. A harrowing story of life in Biafra. A bit confusing with the story line jumping about.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: The Blank Books

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi - Purple Hibiscus

  • Review:  8/9 members said it was a clever book showing intolerance and stress.  At times it made tense reading – harrowing.  Many strands -
    Christianity – African tradition
    Inward Catholicism – outward humanity
    Secular Love – Religious love
    Acceptance of control – freedom from control
    The 9th member, whilst accepting above, doubted R.C. could be so narrow
    Also related to Middle East and narrow religious beliefs.
    Star rating:  ***   - a good discussion
    Reading Group:  Hedge End WI
  • Review: Compelling, beautifully written book.  Excellent characterisation and vividly atmospheric.  Disturbing in content and generated much discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Did we enjoy this book?  Not enjoy exactly - who could enjoy reading about the violence portrayed in the country and the family?  But we greatly admired the young author's ability to tell the story of a girls awakening to love and humanity, set in a post-colonial background.  A book of great contrasts.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bidbury Mead WI
  • Review: The oppression of living in Nigeria was made real with the characters powerfully drawn.  Family abuse makes this book thought provoking and disturbing.  Not everybody enjoyed reading this, but it is well worth trying.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Kate Adie - The Kindness of Strangers

  • Review: Our group very divided by this book.  Didn't grab some, politics of BBC off-putting.  Some felt it was as if the author was talking too fast, some felt the book jumped around while others thought there was a theme.  Very private book considering it is an autobiography.  If you admire Kate Adie or like autobiographies should enjoy this book.
    Star rating: **/****
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Fast paced, entertaining and serious in the reporting of world events.  Kate Adie gives a gripping account of the dangers facing reporters working in war situations.  She manages to convey the anguish of ordinary people caught up in conflict.  A jolly good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: An excellent read.  Very revealing of the other side of the camera and life in trouble spots around the world.  Bravery and a high moral tone - a determination to tell the truth.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Somborne After 8's
  • Review: An account of a very interesting career - never a dull moment.  Kate writes in much detail - some of our book club members thought too much - she comes over as married to her work with very little story based on her personal life.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review:  Although some of our members found the book difficult to get into, the majority enjoyed it. It was well written, interesting and humorous. Most of us would have liked more about her personal life. There was general agreement with Kate Adie's views on the BBC and the "dumbing down" of the news.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: Although the book was serious about news, there were many amusing incidents.  It's fascinating to see how the style showed her personality and work experience.  There were so many experiences - we all enjoyed it, although some found the factual nature hard going.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms

Aravind Adiga - The White Tiger

  • Review: A revealing and at times shocking or unsettling first novel whose subject matter did not have universal appeal amongst our readers, several of whom did not complete the book.  Interesting and unusual first person narrative.  Revealing insight into the caste system and its influence on contemporary Indian society as well as into a rapidly developing society and the many contrasts therein.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Sandy Lane Book Group
  • Review: Quite a well crafted novel, with a level of description which was not excessive or over-developed giving the reader scope for thought.  On a second read, deeper insights into moral issues were revealed.  strongly depicted India's underclass and embodied moral contradictions in todays life in India.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Most people considered this a very good novel, cleverly written to expose with wit and insight the unbelievable corruption of Indian society.  The divisions in society are deeply shocking and the lengths to which Balram is prepared to go to move from the 'darkness' to the so-called 'light' are quite astonishing; he is prepared to misuse and sacrifice his family.  A real page turner.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Emsworth Valley.

Cecelia Ahern - PS I Love You

  • Review: Generally poorly received by members.  We thought the idea good and had potential, but the poorness of writing didn't do it justice.  We didn't feel enough for any of the characters to draw us in.  A poor addition to the chick-lit genre.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books & Banter
  • Review: It was a very touching read.  Love the humour with Leo.  Story depicts how strong we are, even when faced with losing a loved one.  Humour, compassion, friendships made the story good reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gilly
  • Review: A good example of the chick lit genre, set in the boom years in Dublin some years ago.  The writer tells her tale simply and clearly.  Responses depended on the readers liking or otherwise for romantic fiction.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: A light read, too many 'giggles' i.e. paucity of language.  Enjoyable as chick lit
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: The Saints
  • Review: Some felt writing style poor, characters unbelievable and stereotyped.  We are middle aged ladies - maybe wrong age to appreciate book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A Group 2

Cecelia Ahern - The Gift

  • Review: Mixed reviews.  Classed as a light read, but some thought it had hidden depth, and a lesson in caring for ones family.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Alverstoke Ladies

Boris Akunin -  The Winter Queen

  • Review:   We felt it was tedious and took a long time for the story to evolve. We thought it may have been more exciting in the original language. None of us would read anything else by him.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Tuesday Tadley Library RG
  • Review: A mixed review from our group and it very much came down to whether or not you are a fan of detective/crime novels.  Thing 19th Century Russian, James Bond meets Sherlock Holmes.  Great fun, lots of wry humour but beware a sting in the tail.
  • Reading group: Page Turners
  • Review:  Read as an old fashioned sterotyped detective story in a slightly simplistic style.  Still enjoyed by majority but slow start.  May read another one out of curiosity of next story.
  • Star rating: **
  • Reading Group: Andover

Naomi Alderman - Disobedience

  • Review: Although an interesting subject we found the plot predictable.  The anticipated 'showdown' ending didn't happen .  An OK novel which taught us an awful lot about the Jewish culture, but as a story it was a little dull.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Mums Reading Group
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book.  Those who had lived in areas of London with large Jewish communities felt they could recognise many of the characters in the story.  We found it interesting to learn about aspects of orthodox life, though two of the group who had read books by Chaim Potok felt that these gave a greater understanding to orthodox Jewish life.  We enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot, though there were one or two places where we felt that these were quantum leaps which made them less plausible.  Opinion was divided as to whether we would want to read another book by this author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brats et al
  • Review:  Everyone enjoyed this book, though there was some disagreement about how substantial the characterisation is. Most found it an interesting story, and welcomed the chance to learn more about this little known (to most people) community. (It was suggested that a glossary would be useful, possible at the expense of the recipes.) Although the story is told mainly from the viewpoint of Ronit, it is Esti who emerges as the central character in some ways. Recommended.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Books

Kitty Aldridge - Pop

  • Review: We all found something to enjoy in this first novel. It led to a great deal of discussion and amusement. K A shows a lot of understanding of lives lived in ‘hope’ and mutual tolerance. A bit heartbreaking!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review: Only 2 out of 7 read the book to its end! However, enough views to keep the discussion going for at least an hour. The style of writing was unusual; the content was found irritating and boring by the majority; those who knew the Midlands thought the culture existed in the 1970s.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Lexis
  • Review: Most of our members enjoyed this book and thought the writer showed promise.  some felt that a little less description and a little more plot might have improved it.  She evoked that summer particularly well.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Godshill WI
  • Reading Group: Moderate appreciation of this book.  Language very florid and rather overdone.  Possibly should be writing short stories or poetry.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle

Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Infidel

  • Review: A fascinating life story - alarming, gripping, enlightening From the deserts of Somalia to Western seats of learning and government, an amazing journey for a female and a Muslim, born in 1969.   After 9/11, she felt compelled to wake us up to the role of violence in Islam and to re-examine her beliefs which has endangered her life ever since.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Locks Heath Reading Group

Monica Ali - Brick Lane

  • Review: One gentleman couldn't get interested in the book so he soon gave up reading it. All the other members are female and they agreed that it was an interesting read. However a few did not exactly "enjoy" the story, but felt compelled to read to the end. I enjoyed it because of the colourful characters, the money-lender reminded me of a Dickens character. We all thought it well worth reading because of the insight it gave into the life of Nazneen, an eighteen year old Bangladeshi girl in an arranged marriage. Very well written story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group : Basingstoke Library Thursday Reading Group
  • Review: Interesting to hear about another lifestyle but some members found it ‘disjointed’. Perhaps rather long but excellent for a first novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group
  • Review: A powerful novel, beautifully written. Strong characterisation esp. Chanu. An important insight into lives of London immigrants.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Literature Group
  • Review:  An interesting book looking at immigrants from Bangladesh in the 1950’s.  The attitude of husbands and wives in arranged marriages.  The expectation of wives and daughters in a British setting.  Quite a testing read.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review:  
    Star rating: We had several 2 star ratings, a few 3’s and one woman gave it a 5 star.
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  Many felt Brick lane a little long winded and repetitive but a minority found it very good indeed. Despite disagreement over the literary style, the content generated much discussion.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Rather slow at the start.  Some members gave up reading owing to lack of involvement, others found it a very interesting account of a London community.  Voted average!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: Worthy of being shortlisted for Man Booker prize.  Interesting view of another culture, and the role of women within it.  Very readable, well written and humorous.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: Unusually, the whole group liked this book and found it gave a fascinating insight into a different culture.  Well written and the characters all developed during the course of the novel with a few surprises along the way.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Book Group
  • Review: An excellent book for a reading group as it sparked a lot of detailed discussion.  Although not liked by 1/5 two loved it and two thought it OK.  Will be reading her next book Alentejo Blue.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies Who Lunch
  • Review: Fascinating insight into the Bangladeshi culture and how its changing when settled in another.  The influence of this change on relationships between the sexes.  Development of individuality in women translated from the Muslim to a looser culture.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The comments were extremely varied on this post colonialism feminist book.  Two people really liked it but the other 8/10 did not.  The characters, affair, Asian life etc were discussed but generally it was found to be somewhat shallow and muddled.  It did not meet the groups expectations.
    Star rating: *+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book  Club
  • Review: Group was divided, but not strongly.  Most agreed that it was a worthwhile read and some enjoyed it more than they thought they would.  Strong points were well-drawn, developed characters with poignant observations of life as an immigrant.  The feeling of not belonging in either place and the alienation from ones 'westernized' children are strong themes.  Good writing and colourful imagery.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: An evocative read.  Most of us enjoyed the interesting introduction to a different culture, and very grateful to be born into a culture that allows women to have the freedom to choose how to live their lives and not to cut one's husbands corns!!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Phoenix
  • Review: Some readers found it over long particularly the letters from the sister.  All agreed that characterisation and powers of description were very good.  The book gave a good insight into family life in the Bangladeshi community in London.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: We found this very controversial hence we discussed the book longer than usual.  Generally enjoyed but quite depressing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington WI
  • Review: In general, we were surprised at just how much we disliked this book;  we had all heard about it and were expecting a great read but, unfortunately, we were disappointed.  We did not 'engage' with the characters and would have liked more of the back story to give them some context, but it was generally hard going as Nazneen, the main character, was simply boring for 80% of the story.  We felt the book needed far more editing, as it was too long and wandered from the storyline, for no purpose.
    Rating: 1 Star
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A

Clare Allan - Poppy Shakespeare

  • Review: A good book club choice with lots of points to discuss about the way society deals with mental illness.  Funny, sad and thought provoking.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: A very interesting and moving account of the treatment of mental illness, which although fiction we thought was based on the author's experience (some members thought the language could be improved).
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: This is an early 21 Century social satire drawing its source techniques widely from the literature of four centuries.  The underlying premise is as chilling as Margaret Atwood's 'The Handmaiden's Tale' prompting the questions 1. could this happen in Britain now, and 2. are we all in some measure conditioned to accept the possibility that it is happening.  The transformation of Poppy and N is cleverly achieved and the spoken English of the various characters matched to their institutional names is peerlessly handled.  A good subject for a reading group but be cautious to whom it is recommended.  Subtly amusing  but not a bundle of laughs.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: This gives an insight into mental health by an author who herself experienced ten years of being inside one.  The language is difficult with the 'f' word so freely expressed but it is an eye opener.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Isabel Allende - Daughter of Fortune

  • Review: This fast-paced historical drama follows the fortune of a strong heroine. Driven by love, she leaves her home in Chile and is caught up in the extreme hardships of the California Goldrush. This very enjoyable read is highly recommended.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Hayling Readers' Group
  • Review: We liked this book with its interesting non-European take on American history. There are wonderful descriptions of 19th century South American and US culture and strong characterisation which unusually in this kind of historical novel manages to defy stereotypes.
    Rating: Highly recommended.
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: Very good tale with insight into early America and hardships endured
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Brockenhurst Reading Group
  • Review: For once, the whole group enjoyed this book. Historically interesting and believable characters well drawn. Combination of romance, excitement and history. Highly recommended in book circles
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review:  Generally enjoyed with interesting historical facts, reflections on society and characterisations.  However, it was considered unbelievable and to cover too many story lines.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Boater’s Boat Club
  • Review: We enjoyed this.  It is imaginative, great descriptions, but complex with a large cast of characters.  One or two slips in translation.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: This is foundling Ewza's story which carries you from 19thC Chile to California and the gold rush.  The characters are well drawn with interesting backgrounds of their own.  From her English adoptive parents to the Chinese sage and doctor Tao Chi'en, you just want to know more.  We all enjoyed this, some couldn't wait to turn the page.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Isabel Allende -Ines of My Soul

  • Review: Too many battles!  A little clunky in the translation, but well written and researched.  Needed perseverance to complete.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: White Lion Group, Yateley
  • Review: Extremely well received despite the era of brutality.  Good understanding of a woman's strength, love and fortitude.  Horrendous reaction to man's greed.  Not gratuitous - description of terrain well written.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Havers

Isabel Allende - Zorro

  • Review: 12 members attended - 8 enjoyed the books as a 'good read' in spite of the 'Boys Own' aspect.  The historical and geographical details were praised together with some descriptions - the Gypsies and the journey across Spain for examples.  However, several members queried the quality of the translation from Spanish to English and found instances of most inappropriate phrasing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hayling Island Library Reading Group
  • Review: A split group.  Some loved the swashbuckling story and the historical/geographical interest.  Others found it little above Enid Blyton's Famous Five and hated it!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: The group had mixed feelings about Zorro.  While accepting that Part 1 (the Californian period) was necessary to establish the early credentials of the two main characters and the socio-political conditions of the time, it was too long and too slow.  A bit off-putting; but once the action moved to Spain the story took on a different pace.  We discussed the credibility of milk brothers, attacked and defended the ease with which Juliana fell for Jean Lafitte and the effectiveness of the position of the storyteller.  Somehow we forgot about the role of the gypsies.  One member defined the book as 'a good romp'.  Perhaps not the best introduction to Isabel Allende but worth ***.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Kingsley Amis - Lucky Jim

  • Review: Three in the group really enjoyed it. The rest found it ‘boring’ . Students of the period appreciated it but we didn’t think it would appeal to the younger generation. Characters very well drawn and the whole book had great literary merit.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: This book was a more enjoyable read than we expected.  We didn't find it very amusing, but it gave an insight into a redbrick university in the late 1940's - early 1950's.  Partnering, little choice in clothing and household goods and etiquette. all very important in day to day life of the time.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: A bit outdated now - but Amis is very clever with the use of language.  The introduction by David Lodge was well worth reading.  All in our book group were teenagers at the time of writing this book.
  • Star rating: **
  • Reading Group: Entre Nous

Martin Amis - Yellow Dog

  • Review:  Most found it a rambling, puerile, violent, horrible, vile, pornographic novel which used black humour and bad language causing confused reading especially due to the sentence construction. It was considered to show a jaundiced view of the World. We wondered why it was called "Yellow Dog". The newspaper aspect was considered topical.
    No one would recommend it. 8 out of 10 did not finish it. No one enjoyed it, all found it an unpleasant read. All had expected more of Martin Amis, some thought he was on an ego trip with it.
    Star rating: 0
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Niccolo Ammaniti - Steal You Away

  • Review: Completely split the group: 1) gritty, realistic representation of life; pacey.   2) gratuitous sex and violence; poor literary style; unpleasant characters; ridiculous ending
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

Tahmima Anam - A Golden Age

  • Review: Beautifully written, informative and very moving about an unknown country for us.  Top marks from all but one and so much better than the last few reads.  Not much sex or swearing!!  Would like to read more from this author.
    Star rating
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review:  A beautifully written book opening up a much neglected chapter in the history of post independence East Pakistan/Bangladesh.  The main characters are convincingly drawn and the reader is given just sufficient information not to question the roles of supplementary characters.  Tahmima Anam writes with great assurance on a full range of human behaviour from the tender to the grotesque, often with lyrical descriptions of simple events.  A narrative that will be read and read again.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Gail Anderson-Dargatz - The Cure For Death by Lightening

  • Review: Not a book we'd recommend.  Some good narratives and description but too many 'controversial' issues, unnecessarily packed in.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Ends
  • Review: Majority loved this bizarre and sometimes surreal book.  Family life in 1940s Canada backwoods - seems like 1840s a lot of the time.  Very readable, with many different themes - makes a good discussion.  Some unpleasant storylines but all seem in keeping with place and time.  Great recipes too!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter

Lyn Andrews - Days of Hope

  • Review: We all agreed that this is an extended 'Mills and Boon', with poor characterisation and an obvious story line.  The happy ending was obvious, with no surprises.  There was very little for a group to discuss - apart from how feeble the book is - and none of us felt inclined to read further books by this author.
    Rating: 1 Star
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A

Manette Ansay - Blue Water

  • Review: A readable, enjoyable tale which engages the empathy of the reader.  The situations are believable but not explored at depth.  The writing is captivating in places and generally it is well structured, but lacks depth.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Well written and easy to read.  Two members disagreed over the veracity of plot and characterisation.  We found ourselves pulled both ways.  Read it and make up your own mind.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: This is a story replete with present day relationship problems which can be read and understood in a wide variety of ways depending on the point of view of the reader.  The writing style is easy and the plot construction sound but hardly memorable.  An ideal novel for generating discussion in a mixed sex reading group although our group (almost totally female), classified it as a woman's book since the strongest characters are the women.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Max Arthur - Forgotten Voices of World War II

  • Review: Generally felt to be an excellent read, building up a picture of the different theatres of war and the types and levels of service.  As there is no hindsight, this is a very refreshing view of history.  Improved by the humour and humanity and lack of hatred.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: Enlightening - gave different view points from several factions.  Brought home futility of war.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Book Ends

Andrea Ashworth - Once in a House on Fire

  • Review: good read, well written,  a bit bleak in places
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson Readers Group

Alaa al Aswany - The Yacoubian Building

  • Review: An excellent book.  Insightful and interesting about Egyptian society.  Quite disturbing in the oppression of women, the corruption of society where everyone is greasing palms to get their own way, and the fundamental religion and terror camps.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: Did not engage any of the group, lacking depth.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review:   A sometimes horrifying tale of life in Egypt before the Arab Spring.  Al Aswany is a natural storyteller but some may be put off by the sexual content.  Often amusing this is not a comfortable read but well worth the effort.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:  We found this book difficult to get into.  This was partly due to different culture and names.  Intricate plot but generally enjoyed.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Bookends

Kate Atkinson - Behind the Scenes at the Museum

  • Review: One of the best yet! It is hard to believe it is a first novel. It is an intricate weaving of the story of Ruby, born in the ‘50s and the stories of three previous generations.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Thursday Afternoon Group
  • Review: The whole group enjoyed this read. We especially liked the format, the style and the very rounded characters.
    Apart from it being an excellent story, it was a very readable slice of social history.
    Star rating: No star rating
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review:  Most found it difficult to get into partly due to the style.  It was considered depressing but also humorous.  The descriptions were good especially those of the generations and the various characters – in particular Bunty, Gillian and Ruby.  Everyone saw parallels to their own life.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Boater’s Book Club
  • Review:  We thought this was a remarkable first novel.  A family history unfolding and at the end the explanation for the mystery of (1) what happened to Great Gran Alice and (2) Ruby’s twin, Pearl.
    Good social history throughout written from the unusual view point of a child from the moment of conception.  Moving and horrific at times.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A Literature and Social History
  • Review: Light weight, entertaining, funny, skillfully written
    Star rating:**
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: A quirky convoluted layered story that was enjoyed by the group.  Extremely graphically written and evoked some personal memories.  Very engaging.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Brilliant and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.  Footnotes could be irritating and a family tree in the front would be great.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A Group 1
  • Review:  Well written.  A fascinating beginning.  Excellent characterisation.  Good language.  Family saga.  Could be enjoyed a second time. Very funny.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Our members did not enjoy this book, they found the format confusing, with the footnotes and unnecessary though the prose in places was good.  There was a lack of love or sympathy in nearly all the families which didn't ring true.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Lymington WI

Kate Atkinson - Case Histories

  • Review: The book was well received. Wonderful characters. Unusual plot. Red herrings caused surprise. A little too much explicit sex.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Well-written - characters well drawn but a very confusing plot. Some descriptions of (dress etc) brilliant.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A
  • Review: Easy to read, enjoyable stories woven together to make a book that is easily forgotten.  Doesn't stay with you
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: All thoroughly enjoyed this intriguing story.  Characters very well explained and most believable.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI
  • Review: An intriguing read.  Clever interweaving of cases, linked by a sympathetic private detective.  A book for re-reading and dipping into.  Always a new view on the story.  Looking forward to meeting Brodie in her new novel.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: A good read, well constructed, very entertaining, mixed reception but the majority of the group liked it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review: Appreciation of Case Histories benefits greatly from reading group discussion.  Understanding the complicated webs of characters calling for more concentration than most books receive at a single reading.  Several members of the group had read the book twice and after the discussion others felt they wanted to read the book again.  Although the episodic start to the book made it difficult to get into and get hooked on, most people found that the sub-plots did draw them along.  The theme of loss underlying each case history produced characters all of whom had a degree of sadness in their lives.  We left this book with the sense that there was more to be unearthed.  Not an easy read, but a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: The group enjoyed this book and the characters within.  Tragedy, mystery, suspense and romance.  All that's needed for a cracking good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Phoenix
  • Review: All but one of us (out of 9) liked this book and would be keen to read another of Kate Atkinson's books.  We loved the complex plotting, the characterisation, the wit and the humanity.
  • Star rating: ****
  • reading Group: Crime Reading Group Winchester Discovery Centre
  • Kate Atkinson - One Good Turn

  • A book which deserves careful attention, and maybe a second read.  An interesting mix of well developed characters, with a surprise ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Book Club
  • Review: Everyone in the group thoroughly enjoyed the book.  Liked the complexity of the plot and the touches of light humour.  All want to try another of her books.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI

Kate Atkinson - When Will There Be Good News?

  • Review: Good plot, even if complicated, but we felt the most enjoyable thing about this book was the way the characters were developed, particularly Reggie.  We appreciated Kate Atkinson's humour and her observations of human behaviour.  Case Histories and One Good Turn had been read by some of the group which helped with background information.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: We all loved this book, especially the characters - each with their own storyline, leaving you wanting more.  Another book.  Each chapter kept ones attention.  The author keeps you in a state of suspense until the final chapter.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Although this is not one of Kate Atkinson's best books, it is a good train/holiday read.  A lot of coincidence! A lot of discussion!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle

Margaret Atwood - Alias Grace

  • Review: An intriguing book, which led to a long discussion and divided opinions on whether Grace was guilty or innocent. We are still divided and feel if we were on the jury we might feel we had to say innocent but have grace doubts
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Jennie's Friends
  • Review: At least half of group enjoyed this book. Whether Grace was guilty of the crime of murder we are still undecided. Her life before the murders was very hard, the details of the asylum and the prisons were horrific. Her account of murders was contradictory.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Atlee and District U3A
  • Review:  Difficult to get into.  Journey to Canada very good.  Quilt references interesting.  Those who could persevere with the book to finish it, enjoyed it.
    Star rating:  None shown
    Reading Group:  Abbots Anne Reading Circle
  • Review: We found it a cleverly constructed book with good reflections on its times and the philosophy of life and excellent characterisations.  We found the ending a bit 'contrived'.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review: Views within the group differed wildly.  Some found it long winded and others were disappointed that we never did get to know Grace's guilt or innocence.  Others loved the descriptions and the clever device of Grace telling her life story to Dr Jordan.  Overall a fascinating flight of imagination.  Atwood keeps us guessing until the end - and beyond.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: All Saints, Botley
  • Review: A well written, interesting book with a lot of detailed social history based on a true story of a murder which took place in the  early 19th Century in Canada
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Interesting on several levels with historical reference.  Lots of twists in plot.  Liked the reference to the patchwork blocks.  Disappointing ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: Atwood weaves a story around Grace, convicted of murder in 1840's Canada.  An upstairs/downstairs world  is opened to us.  All agreed that it is beautifully written but the group was divided between those who liked it and those who didn't.  That said Alias Grace did provoke plenty of discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Full of suspense - did she, didn't she?  We thoroughly enjoyed the detailed account of life in the mid 19th Century, but were all men as lascivious and bad as those encountered by Grace?
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Redhouse Reading Group
  • Review: Enjoyed by everybody.  Based on a true story of murder in the 1840's.  Margaret Atwood beautifully develops the characters.  She uses poetry from the time to give a flavour of the period.  As the book continues you're drawn into the mystery - was she a murderess (answered in the last pages).  We all want to read more Atwood!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: Not always easy to follow the several narrative voices, but well worth the effort of persevering. The characters are well drawn with the psychiatrist's personal life providing an interesting contrast to Grace's story. Despite the length of the book the reader's attention is held up to the end. Also an interesting insight into the work of the medical profession 150 years ago.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: An intelligent read, will make you think.  Good for a book club, lots to talk about.  Slow to get going - some of us then found it gripping.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Tuesday Crew

Margaret Atwood - The Blind Assassin

  • Review: We all found it difficult to 'get in' to the book. Two out of eight didn't complete the book. The rest of us were glad to complete and understand the authors intentions
    Rating:
    Reading Group : North Baddesley W. I. Reading Group
  • Review: It is impossible to give this a star rating as opinion varied from 1 to 4 starts. Not an easy read, a book that benefits from a second reading. All agreed the descriptive passages were a delight; it was the content and form of the novel that caused problems. It generated the longest discussions we had on any book, a discussion not just on content, which is well worth talking about, but also on literary form - not a common event!
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I
  • Review: Difference of opinion - some members felt it was confusing, lacked depth of characters - they didn't come to life. Many thought that the "Blind Assassin" story contained gratuitous violence and was unnecessary to the plot. Other members enjoyed the book very much - many layers of meaning, well crafted plot, a novel of great depth, hard to put down.
    Star rating: ** (although group members rated it from * to ****!)
    Reading group: Monks Brook U3A
  • Review:  Didn’t find characters empathetic. Difficult to get into, but some descriptions very vivid.  Not any easy book to read.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Epic novel; well written, multilayered, carefully constructed interweaving of many lives.  Excellent use of language; thought provoking, incisive portraits of sisterly relationship and life in old age.  Chilly atmosphere pervades.  Mixed feelings on sci-fi aspect.  Provoked lengthy discussion of history, relationships and love.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review:  Provoked lots of discussion - gave rise to strong opinions, not liked by everyone.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hook
  • Review: Language excellent. Complex plot - interesting characters.  Autobiographical in structure/style/family history.  Social history.  Plot within plot tended to hold up the action.  Choice of title difficult to understand.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: A good story, mostly easy to read apart from the sci-fi sections.  However, the group felt the book was far too long.  Difficult to follow, too rambling.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review: The majority were impressed with this novel which was three narratives.  The first a story of Irene Chase's life which was an interesting social history of the 30's and 40's in Toronto.  The group was less sure of the value of the pulp science fiction novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

  • Review: Majority didn't like the story, the idea behind it or the way it was told.  One liked the symbolism behind the story and felt it was beautifully written and well characterised.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Holbury Fawley U3A
  • Review: Fascinating, frightening could be prophetic.  We all found this a very gripping book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fawley
  • Review: Promoted a good discussion.  Admired but not always enjoyed.  Ideas were chilling and thought provoking.  Very descriptive and excellent use of language.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Margaret Atwood - Oryx and Crake

  • Review:  Interesting futuristic post-apocalypse story.  Difficult for older readers to get into.  Perhaps she should keep to her usual genre.  Well written, clever and inventive, characters well defined.
    Star rating:  2½Reading
    Group:  Hartley Readers
  • Review:  The reaction to this book was very mixed within the Group.  Two love it, two thought it was interesting and two could not get on with it at all.  The general thought was that it was very weird but had interesting ideas and was well written.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: We all found this book a page turner and could not put it down.  We did not want the story to end and all had different ideas of what happened next.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cambridge
  • Review: Either loved or hated by the group, this book prompted great discussion.  All were in awe of Atwood's fluid language.  The theme resonated in a disturbing way too close to the present truth.  Jimmy was without respect as a character while Crake showed extreme sinister tendencies.  Oryx was an accepting 'unfortunate' - one of life's casualties.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Proved to be one of the most challenging books our reading group has tackled.  Several members frankly admitted having barely started reading or having given up early in their attempt.  The the reasons for giving the book a four star rating by those who did read the book, varied widely, are testament to the richness of the material and the excellence of Atwood's writing.  This book, which predicts possible outcomes of current industrial and scientific trends ranks with 'Utopia', 'Erehwon' and 'Brave New World'.  One member suggested it should be compulsory reading as a cautionary tale for every fourteen year old/
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Jane Austen - Persuasion

  • Review:  Slow moving and wordy but well written.  Not very original and some of the characters were uninteresting although some, e g Sir Walter were amusing.  Not as good as some of her other novels.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review:  An enjoyable read.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group:  Milford Reading Group
  • Review:  One lady did not read the book but researched thoroughly reviews and watched film and television renderings.  Many did not read the introduction and found the complex family and social relationships set out in the early chapters difficult to get a handle on and thus missed something of the subtlety and humour of the writing.  Although the social setting with its defined divisions between classes seemed remote from life today, many of the personal attitudes of the characters were all too familiar.  Jane Austen’s style of writing with spelling and punctuation somewhat different from that of most modern writers still has a compelling freshness.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review:  Slightly boring.  Good overview of social life of the period.
    Star rating:  7/10
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Wads Afternoon Group
  • Review: Felt the introduction was too long and the number of notes distracting.  If the book was printed for exam purposes we felt it was not necessarily suitable for book club readers.  Good insight into social structure and attitudes of the times.  Heroine just a bit too good to be true and a pretty boring personality.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI
  • Review: Forget school exams and just enjoy the beautiful and finely observed writing as the majority of our members did.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Jane Austen is always a very enjoyable author, and invariably provides much to think about, even in todays world.  Human nature does not change so much.  Persuasion has a very neat plot, very well crafted and all the story lines are brought together in a satisfactory ending.  The descriptions of the visit to Lyme are particularly delightful and show how venturesome travelling could be in the early 19th century.
    Star rating: ****
  • Review: Takes a time to get into, but amazing use of English.  Slow to start.  Characterisations interesting.  Would have wanted to live in that time.  No information of the servants life or situation.  Written to be read out loud a chapter at a time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Villages
  • Review: The book was slow moving and wordy but well written in good classical English. It was almost like an old fashioned Mills & Boon but definitely upper class and there was humour in the story especially in the characterisation of Sir Walter, the heroine’s father.   There is no doubt that Jane Austen always provides a good read but that is not always the same as saying that the book is enjoyable. The majority of the group did not enjoy it but it generated much discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: A charming witty read with interesting punctuation and narrative.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Book Ends

Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice

  • Review:  This book is like Marmite - you either love it or hate it!!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Knackered Mums
  • Review: Everything you could wish for in a novel.  Funny, romantic and moving.  Gets better each time you read it.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Between the Leaves

Pam Ayres - Surgically Enhanced

  • Review: All the female readers enjoyed it thoroughly.  The token male reader thought it was sexist - we all laughed!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson Readers

Mitch Azboh - For One More Day

  • Review: An excellent book enjoyed by all.  A quick read but we all could empathise with the book.  Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson
 

B

Anita Rau Badami - The Hero's Walk

  • Review: Opinions ranged but generally enjoyed.  Good character development, fascinating insight into Indian family life.  Evocative descriptions of place and characters.  Moving and uplifting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: After Eights
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book and some even went as far as to describe it as the best book we have read as a group.  The Characters are all beautifully drawn and reflect many aspects of Indian life.  The descriptions of the town where Sripathi lives and the lilt of the way people talk make you fell as though you are actually in India.  We were sucked into the story and were disappointed when it ended as we felt we wanted to continue on the characters journey.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Brats et al
  • Review: A well written description of Indian life and culture, good characterisation.  Engrossing read, enjoyed by most of the group.  We all learnt something.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives

Jenna Bailey - Can Any Mother Help Me?

  • Review:  Good book for a group discussion.  Interesting concept of 'strangers' contributing and commenting on their and others work, in a monthly homemade magazine 1930s to 1970s.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter

Beryl Bainbridge - According to Queeney

  • Review: Some found it hard to get into and felt they couldn't engage with the characters.  However, all agreed that Bainbridge's command of language is to be envied.  Her phrasing is tight and a lot is packed, very effectively, into a small book.  A fascinating look too at 18th century life and views and there is much humour and not a little pathos.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: I had to read a few chapters beofre I fully understood the mindset of the author.  The ibzarre and farcical behaviour fo the occupants of Johnsons Court had me completely bemused.  As I became more familiar with Johnson, his mulittalented friends and the Thrale family I accepted their eccentricities, however, I felt Queeney was the only sane member of the household. A brilliantly written book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms

Beryl Bainbridge - Every Man for Himself

  • Review: When we first saw the book we thought "not another Titanic book". But of the 9 of us 5 enjoyed it appreciating the insight given of the social scene on board in 1912, and the description of the final hours we thought was very moving. The other 4 found it boring having no sympathy with the characters . . .
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Petersfield U3A Book Circles
  • Review: Only two people in our group enjoyed this book. Most of our readers felt the characters had no depth and felt the story was a bit weak. The climax at the end did not do the disaster justice.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Yateley & District U3A Reading Group
  • Review:  We thought the book was very well written, and was exciting but was not over-hyped or over the top.  It was faithful to the facts as we know them.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Southampton  U3A
  • Review:  Once we had nailed this book down as a rite-of-passage for Morgan and the Titanic was simply a vessel for transporting his personal journey into manhood;  it was possible to consider its qualities.  Certainly it depicted the end of an era, but Waterside’s own poet William Scammell painted a similar picture half a century later and the profligacy of today’s over-rich suggests that little has changed.  Many of the group found the style of writing (following Harper Lee and Jane Austen) unsatisfactory although after discussion accepted its clarity and fitness for the story. Star rating:  ** to **** and points to the intensity of discussion.
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A – Theatre and Literature
  • Review: An easy read for most of the group.  Two ladies could not get on with it.  Faction not to everybody’s taste, but the story gave an insight into behaviour of the early twenties.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Very mixed reactions to this book.  On the positive side some thought it well written and had good characterisation.  However, the remainder of the group felt it didn't hold their interest and anyway we knew the ending!!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 1
  • Review: The parallels to the film Titanic were discussed extensively.  The characterisations were considered good and an interesting reflection on society and that the book was well written
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: We all enjoyed reading this book but found it did not provoke discussion.  It was felt it was an event of which we had knowledge and it was difficult to give the characters substance.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Despite our group feeling that we did not engage with the characters, we all enjoyed the book.   We felt it needed to be read a second time to unravel some of the hidden story line.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Ladies Who Lunch
  • Review: A well written novel, very convincing description of the aristocracy.  This book gave a very differnet account of the Titanic, compared to the film!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Some opinions: 'Felt as if the book had been lifted , leaving behind the beginning and ending'.  'Not enough atmosphere, no sense of real action/drama considering the subject'.  The beinning rather confusing jumping between characters.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Jane and Nick's

Rupa Bajwa - The Sari Shop

  • Review: Excellent, evocative, realistic, colourful first novel. It brought the sights, smells, sounds and feelings of Northern India to brighten our English winter.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Waterlooville
  • Review: Rupa Bajwa's first novel, although some members felt it was 'going nowhere' is a sympathetic portrayal of an 'underclass' in India restricted to their status through lack of education and therefore financial poverty and the ensuing disillusionment in their life.  A thought provoking novel with theft, rape, murder and corruption in the newly wealthy democratic India.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and engaged with the story right from the beginning.  Ramchand's story is one of great perseverance.  After loosing his parents he is brought up by a relative and misses out on his chance to attend a good school and learn English.  He sticks with his routine job at the sari shop for 11 years and living in one, not very comfortable room.  His determination to learn English by buying second-hand books and reading them is borne out by his attempt to start reading an English dictionary starting from A and taking each word at a time.  A very readable book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: A side of India not often seen in novels.  At times funny, at time heartbreaking.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Well written but depressing novel which brought the injustice of Indian life into focus.  The middle section was somewhat violent and distressing.  The cover was misleading.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley
  • Review: The first time we're all agreed.  The simplicity fo the language reflected everyday life.  The social strata seemed to be prevented in a realistic way.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: Good descriptive writing with colourful characters, really captured the mood of an Indian city.  Although at times dreadfully sad the whole group thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  • Star rating:****
  • Reding Group: Stubbington Book Ends
  • Iain Banks - Rawspirit

  • Review: The book received a mixed reception. Two members completed the book. One read to page 34. Others dipped in here and there. Two read the intro and felt the rest of the book was merely a repeat. Descriptions of Land Rover, Jaguars etc., not of great interest to any of our group. Some of us enjoy a drop of whisky but fear that Mr Banks may enjoy it rather more than we do. The travelling was of most interest and a map as part of the book would have been useful. We decided it was a book ‘FOR ADULT BOYS’
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group
  • Review: This book is only of interest to those people wanting to learn more about whisky.  His account of a journey round the distilleries of Scotland is broken up with anecdotes about his various cars, the state of drunkenness of himself and his friends and descriptions of the countryside.  Not a good read.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 2

Iain Banks - The Crow Road

  • Review: Vivid descriptions, confusing as to genre (family saga? thriller?), readable.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Iain Banks - The Steep Approach to Garbadale

  • Review: A confusing book with ill constructed chapters.  Didn't have much empathy with characters, with the exception of Allan.  Found the bad language and explicit sex rather off putting but found it a reasonably entertaining read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford

John Banville - The Sea

  • Review:  This book was good on description but poor on dialogue.  Characterisation was detailed but the story line unsatisfactory.  A pretentious use of unusual words but a good twist at the end. – this was a consensus among all readers present.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  St Ives
  • Review: Some aspects were enjoyed like the descriptions and word usage, however, generally it was seen as introspective, self indulgent and dull.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review: No-one liked this book.  We felt the writer was better at words of description of views, colours and the weather than a story.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Elderberries WI Lee on Solent
  • Review: Generally the group found this book rather dull and inconsequential.  Although the use of language was interesting (i.e. very wordy) the story of a selfish man's reviewal of his life was not found to be as interesting as we had hoped.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Bookends.  Hayling Island.
  • Review: An anapatropaic view of life with a leporine regard for his departed wife.  The central character like a lummox stumbles into the flocculent hush of his childhood holiday memories,  The past beats in us like a second heart.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Linwood Barclay - No Time for Goodbye

  • Review:   We felt it was an easy read with a good basic story. The majority found it gripping but others found it rather predictable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Alessandro Baricco - Silk

  • Review: Generally, this book was enjoyed by the group. We thought it was quite poetic and the subject (silk) was interesting but we were not sure that it was a love story - more an infatuation.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review:  A gem of a book.  It reads like a beautiful but haunting poem.   Not to be missed.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Mysterious and haunting.  Good description of another age.  Some of the chapters were short and left us guessing.  We were surprised to find it was written by a male!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group 2

Pat Barker - Border Crossing

  • Review: Danny, convicted for the murder of an old woman as a child, is now out of custody. He targets the psychiatrist whose evidence went against him at his trial and becomes involved with him. Danny is an arch manipulator and this cleverly written novel makes the reader believe first one thing, then another in the search for truth.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : A good, easy read which keeps the reader guessing to the end.

Pat Barker - The Ghost Road

  • Review: A disturbing read, which several members found difficult as they had family members involved in the First World War.
    It was hard not to feel the pain and loss. The awful waste of it all.
    The medical side of the book with the treatment of shell shock was fascinating. One will want to explore this further.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Group
  • Review:  We should have read the first book of the trilogy before this one;  most people felt too confused to enjoy this enough.  However, several readers were completely enthralled by it, the uncompromising honesty and unsentimentality about horrifying situations.
    Star rating: * to **** (Extremes of opinion!)
    Reading Group:  Tenforbooks

Pat Barker - The Eye in the Door

  • Review:  Not a book to be enjoyed as it is very disturbing, but it gives a real insight into the traumas suffered by the young in the First World War, especially by pacifists, conscientious objectors and homosexuals.  It provoked a lot of discussion and is well constructed and beautifully written.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Book Circle No 2
  • Review: It would seem that if you have read Vol 1 , the second makes sense.,without this preparation Vol 2 was disappointing.  Some members had read Vol 1 and felt that Vol 2 did not live up to expectations. The homosexual parts were gratuitous . This book is disjointed ,it's sequences do not flow smoothly and as part of a trilogy it does not stand alone
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A Group 2

Pat Barker - Regeneration

  • Review: Only one reader disliked the book and put it down after 20 pages!  Promoted lively discussion at meeting especially by the men who couldn't understand how a woman could write about men in such a way, dealing with war and its aftermath.  Most people keen to read the next book in the trilogy
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: This book brings home the human cost of conflict and its life changing effect for many.  A sombre but excellent read!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: Very much enjoyed by nearly all.  We found it insightful and revealing and (most) enjoyed the mix of fact and fiction with the author's sensitivity enlightening our understanding of the psychological outfall of the war and Sassoon's objections.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: This book had a mixed reception from the group.  We thought it was well written with fiction interwoven well with the factual background.  There was considerable discussion even though only one person really liked the book.  We felt it was a difficult book written about an extremely tragic period of world history.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies

Julian Barnes - Arthur and George

  • Review: Slow start.  took a while to get into it.  Interesting middle, disappointing end as if the author didn't know how to finish it.  Enjoyable as it was factual easy to read style.  Very interesting turn of phrase and vocabulary in the style of a Sherlock Holmes.  Believable characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: The group were divided over this book.  All agreed it was a well written story and recognised it as a 'better class' read.  We had sympathy for George and his unimaginative life and appreciated the contrast between him and Arthur.  We felt many issues were unresolved.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Laurels
  • Review: The majority of the group enjoyed this book, and it aroused some good discussion arising from both characters and plot.  One dissenting voice was from a member reliant on audio book, who found the split narrative confusing, but generally it was considered to be a worthwhile read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne Book Circle
  • Review: Interesting book, based on well researched facts.  A bit long on detail.  Some were disappointed the 'case' wasn't solved, others thought that was unimportant.  Generally enjoyed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: In-Sync
  • Review: Interesting start alternating from one character (ordinary man) to the other (great man).  Well written with elegant prose very evocative of the age.  Middle section a page turner but ending unsatisfactorily and inconclusive.  Themes of race, immigrants and their children explored as well as Britishness and spirituality.  The Victorian obsessions with death and morality and how the two characters coped when faced with these problems also explored.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: Almost all of the group enjoyed this book and the way in which Barnes draws us into the minds and characters of the two men, both of them outsiders in their different ways.  Although a little difficult to get into, eventually we all found it a fascinating read and an insight into Victorian mores and ethics.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: A fascinating insight into the period - social prejudices.  Very well researched novel - we though that we learnt a great deal about the time.  A different book than usual - written in a clever way.  Long winded in parts.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Excellent storytelling and characterisation.  The plot line is skillfully woven and the story has topical interest.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: October Book Club
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed this book.  It was researched thoroughly and was accurate in every respect, regarding Arthur Conan Doyle and in particular the infamous Edalji case.  A brilliant read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Enjoyed by the majority; a few members would have preferred a 'non fiction' of this interesting case.  Other members liked the stately Edwardian period appropriate style - though found it slow in places.  Overall thought provoking in a gentle way.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review: Superbly written.  Describes a miscarriage of justice at the turn of the 19th Century and Conan Doyle's attempts to right the wrong.  A tale of prejudice, 'our blood boiled'.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: The novel had a slow start, and took some time to get into. But it was well worth persisting. We all thought it well written, in fact one of the best books we have read this year, and one which generated a very enjoyable meeting.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review:  Many found the beginning unenjoyable especially because they got the characters mixed up. Some found it verbose, overwritten, dull with too many ideas some of which were unsatisfied. The spiritualism, racism, evidence, Maud, police attitude, injustice, bullying, horse issues, George's prison experiences, the Parsee background and the mixed marriage background and their outcomes were all commented on and fuelled the discussion. Also commented on was that Arthur and George had a relationship at all, with their differing characters and backgrounds. It was considered strange the way they came together. Their characters were commented on: Arthur with his attitude to love (wife and mistress) and George with his separateness (we thought he could have been autistic and socially inept) and affected by his mixed race but an interesting character and a vehicle for Arthur. It was felt there was a need to remember the time in which the book was set and that it should also be remembered that Arthur Conan Doyle was to some extent founder of how crime is handled in today's detective fiction and as a result also that Court of Criminal Appeal exists.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club

Sebastian Barry - The Secret Scripture

  • Review: We all loved this book.  We thought the writing was exceptional and the story, although harrowing, was very well told.  The characterisation was fantastic - we all believed in the characters in the book, and wanted to know their story.  Several members said it proved the point of book groups as they would not have chosen to read it themselves.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Holbury/Fawley U3A
  • Review: Although we haven't yet met, i have spoken to everyone as they are so impressed with this one - glorious gentle style of writing and lovely story backed up with interesting history!  We will look out for this author again.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ten for Books
  • Review: This is the second time I have read this book and I enjoyed it just as much.  Beautifully written (in my opinion).  Provoked much lively and interesting talk amongst the group especially re: the Catholic Church.  
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fleet Library
  • Review: We were upset and shocked to find out how Irish women could be treated in the early 20th Century.  It was a real page turner with an unexpected twist.  We found it an enlightened read. We would recommend this as a book club read.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Colin Bateman - Mystery Man

  • Review: It was differnet, funny some found it compelling, others frustrated.  A clever book with a number of levels.  Well written and cleverly conceived.  Many were laughing aloud.  One person did not like it at all.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms

Belinda Bauer - Blacklands

  • Review: Chilling, uncomfortable, challenging.  Well written, emotionally moving, thought provoking.  Excellent book for discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Barnfield
  • Review: Disturbing, unusual, thought provoking subject.  Extremely well written and well researched for a first novel. Look forward to the next.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Bookends

Sally Beauman - Landscape of Love

  • Review: Great page turner.  Lots of interesting but flawed characters.  Pleasant environments, period well expressed - time and place.  Abbey a character in its own right.  Mystery well expressed.  The imaginative mind of a young child well expressed especially in her relationship with an older man.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Saul Bellow - Herzog

  • Review:  7 out of 8 concluded – having struggled through the difficult first half – that the book was interesting, if not thoroughly enjoyable.  The minority view called it ‘self indulgent’.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hartley Readers

Alan Bennett - A Life Like Other People's

  • Review:  All enjoyed this - found it moving, touching, humorous.  Beautiful spare writing.  Sad but not depressing.  Evoked our pasts and the people from our pasts.  some found it a little too intimate - like prying into people's lives.  Very direct criticism of the care of elderly people and especially those with dementia.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: All were agreed that Bennett is unsparing in his observations both of his family and himself. He writes with love of his parents but is occasionally bewildered by their reticence. The description of his mother in an Old Peoples' Home is shockingly accurate.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Champagne Reading Group
  • Alan Bennett - Untold Stories

  • Review: We all enjoyed the account of his home, boyhood and relations.  This provoked a discussion on his Aunts and the freeing of women into a life of their own in wartime.  We didn't touch on his present life or the art section.  Discussed 'Lady in the Van' with interest in the play.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review:  No plot, just reminiscences.  Written when Bennett didn't think he had long to live.  Easy to 'dip into', pick up and put down.  First part preferred, diary entries not as good.   Enjoyed it but didn't think i would.  Helps to be a 'certain age'.  Observations brilliant. Flowed.  Great observer and writer.  Wonderful turn of phrase.  Master of understatement.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: This is a delight on so many levels - the wonderful writing, humour, moments of sadness; comment on current affairs.  Thoroughly recommend - it also produced good discussion afterwards.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Most skip read it. It was not liked because it was considered a tedious, long and jumbled read, a kind of history book but not one. We readers found the author opinionated but without justification, a name dropper, who often brought in very boring details like the contents of his sandwiches. So little was liked. The group felt his interest in churches and art galleries could have been interesting but the information was too spread out, and that he lead a sad life and that it was interesting that his brother was hardly mentioned apart from early on in the book. It was considered that the book left no lasting impression and that he wrote it as he wanted it written in case he died of cancer. It was felt it would have been better if edited more or published as 3 volumes. Most wished, on reflection, that they had dipped into a bit of all the chapters. It was considered a reflection on his upbringing. This resulted in a discussion of autobiographies versus biographies. All like his others works, him as a person, his humour but not this book.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Vanora Bennett - Queen of Silks

  • Review: Fascinating insight into life in London and Westminster at that time in history, especially women's role in the silk trade.  Would have liked more depth, too many strands were touched on.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion Group, Yateley
  • Review: Fascinating facts about the silk trade in 15th Century England and the role of women in it.  That said we have read better historical fiction.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Remembering that much of the story of Richard III we learned when young was based on Shakespeare's work and he was writing for Tudor/Stewart patrons, this was an interesting slant on Richard.  A well crafted novel with a touch of the thriller and a well woven introduction to the silk industry.  Deserving of four stars.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

E F Benson - Mapp and Lucia

  • Review: We found this book very unrealistic - the characters quite shallow, the language of the characters very immature in some ways and quite irritating.  A very select group of people of a certain social group in the 1930s so out of date today.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: The characters are awful and the book is a bit dated but it still made us laugh out loud at times. Mapp and Lucia ply for dominance over village society in the 1920s.
    Today Lucia would be CEO of a successful company or running the country, in the past Machiavelli.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Richard Benson - The Farm

  • Review: As a factual comment on farming it was interesting, but we felt the material was poorly served by the writer.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review: Not great literature but an emotive subject.  Varied response from the group - a good easy read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies

Elizabeth Berg - Open House

  • Review: A light read but didn't make us want to read any more of her work
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I
  • Review: An enjoyable read.  Not intellectually challenging but realistic and thought provoking.  We found plenty to discuss in this book related to real-life experiences.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ladies Who Lunch
  • Review: We couldn't agree with the critics that it was ' and hilarious' but it was an accurate description of a broken marriage.  The characters - Lydia, King and Edward were all very likeable but we couldn't imagine why Sam would want Rita for a friend.  The high point in the book was when Sam rejected her husband's attempt to return!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brookmans
  • Review: Mixed reception.  Thought by many to be an easy read and some interesting characters which the author had managed to bring into story.  American woman, left by husband and how she copes over time.  None of our readers in same situation so don't know if feelings ring true.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits Books and Banter

Louis de Berniéres - Birds Without Wings

  • Review: Provoked deep discussion with much appreciation for the use of the language.  With diverse characters it could have been complicated to follow, but the story was gripping.  The quality of description brought it to life to the extent smells and sights became real.  Much enjoyed by the majority.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Multi-faceted and humanitarian. A rich and colourful tapestry of characters and situations.  Epic story about a community destroyed by war and politics.  Most of the group really enjoyed it but some felt it was confusing and a list of characters and a good map would have helped.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: Well written and researched.  Another view of Gallipoli.  Too long.  Good characterisation.  A good picture of the futility of war.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford

Louis de Berniéres - Captain Corelli's Mandolin

  • Review: A good read.  Shows the effect of war on a small community.  The relationship between the German and Italian occupiers.  The effect on the occupied Greek community.  The love story between Captain Correlli and Pelagia.  The futility of war and the waste of two lives.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: The flow of the prose was excellent.  The story grips you with well-defined characters.  We learned a lot about the history of the period and place.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Rivermead Book Club
  • Review: Fine historical novel - detailed but well described so maintains the flow of the story, rich characters.  A good read but a bit slow to start.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Tuesday Crew
  • Review: A challenging read - quite long and slow to get going, with some difficult vocabulary.  However, all felt it was a really good insight into wartime Greece with some very realistic and sympathetic characters.  A really good and enjoyable book.
  • Satr rating: ***plus
  • Reading Group: Circuits Reading Group

Mark Billingham - Lazy Bones

  • Review:  All the members thought this book contained unnecessary bad language and explicit violence which was not necessary for the story.
    Star rating:   *
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review: A sensational start and pace gathering finish - enjoyed by most of the group.  Found the voices (some in italic) an interesting and useful device.  Believable.  Strong reactions from the group.  Similar to Rankin and 'Farraday' in Graham Hurley in characterisation.  Human needs and weaknesses come across well crafted.  All were reluctantly hooked!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Generally the group did not enjoy this book.  There was overuse of offensive language.  We found the subject matter seedy and depressing.  Some of the group were compelled to read to the end and found some of the writing good.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Chilbolton Book Group II
  • Review: Really enjoyed by one of our members, less so by the rest of us!  Fast-moving, graphic, psychological thriller, minimal character development.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Tuesday Crew
  • Review: Gripping, exciting.  Good to 'meet' an empathic detective.  Unusual unexpected ending.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Koinonia
  • Review: We had rather mixed feelings with this book; those of us who like the Crime/Detective genre thought it was quite good, but others less so.  We liked Tom Thorne, and had a short discussion about crime novels in general but we felt that there was not a lot to talk about with this book specifically
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A
  • Review: This was a challenging read for some of us as it was quite grim and violent in places.  The storyline kept a good pace and had us gripped to the end.  The number of characters was difficult to follow at first, however, we got to know them well as the story progressed and they were well rounded if not particularly likeable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southside

Patrick Bishop - The Ivy Chronicles

  • Review:  The book was an initial easy read that became more uncomfortable as it went on.  The shallowness left a nasty taste in the mouth.  Disappointing ending.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Happy Days

Giles Blunt - Forty Words for Sorrow

  • Review: Easy to read.  Good psychological thriller.  Characters were believable.  Interesting discussion followed - 2 readers felt descriptions of cruelty and injuries unpleasant, other ladies took it in their stride and did not find it over the top.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI

Dave Boling – Guernica

  • Review:  This book was enjoyed by all the group.  Interesting characters and story lines based on the happenings in and around Guernica between 1893 and 1940.  We gained a good picture of the Basque country and their struggle for independence from the Franco regime.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Generally found it engaging and promoted much discussion.  Felt it conveyed a strong sense of Basque culture, history, family values and loss.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Buddies

Stephen Booth - Blind to the Bones

  • Review: Too many characters. Too many stories, enough for 3 separate books. Travelogue for the Peak District? Maybe.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Not finished by most members. Long winded and irritatingly muddled.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree

Sam Bourne - The Righteous Man

  • Review: Well written page turner.  Implausible, loose ends, intriguing background, too many clues?
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers

William Boyd - Fascination

  • Review: Promising beginnings, but stories not rounded well and therefore there was a lack of satisfaction.  Well written.  Disappointing when compared to his other books.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Romsey Library
  • Review: we discussed stories one by one and found some more memorable than others.  Most enjoyed his style of writing and the quirkiness of some of the characters.  Lots of good discussion.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group

William Boyd - Restless

  • Review: Fascinating insight into wartime spying.  credible female characters and relationship between mother and daughter.  Gripping, enjoyable, well-written thriller, atmospheric.  Particularly enjoyed the Scottish scenes.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

John Boyne - The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

  • Review: All our members enjoyed this story with its interesting approach through the boy's eyes to the concentration camp.  Very well written and worth reading.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A 1
  • Review: Thought provoking.  Is this what is know as a 'cross-over' book?  It raises questions whether it is really suitable for children.  Some of us thought it very moving, it certainly made for a lot of discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:
  • Review: We unanimously agreed with The Guardian's comment - "a small wonder of a book".  We could see it could be a book for many people, but all felt its simplicity made it all the more powerful for adults.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Susie Boyt - Only Human

  • Generally felt it is a bit lightweight and didn't communicate what the author said she was trying to do on her website.  Couldn't relate to the mother very well.  Good discussion despite this about counselling and mother daughter relationships.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Wednesday Reading Group

Alan Bradley - Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

  • Review: A pleasant well written undemanding read.  Well drawn characters.  Members likened it to almost Midsummer Murders meets Enid Blyton, but enjoyable.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:  White Lion

James Bradley - The Resurrectionist

  • Review:  Dark brooding little depth - by some.  Good writing in parts - a depressing and uncomfortable read - but promoted much discussion.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: This book, whilst dealing with a morbid subject, did generate much discussion around large issues such as medical ethics, what is 'the soul', reality of life in the early 19th Century.  We found the book well written but the 'hero' was weak and frustrating.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Page Turners

Joan Brady - Death Comes For Peter Pan

  • Review: A fairly depressing book dealing with the problem of lack of care and medication provided at the end of live. All wished they had read the 'afterthought' at the end of the book first. Some could not believe in the obsession of wife for husband especially from such an early age! Title gave rise to thought we might be about to read a 'thriller'
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : North Baddesley W I
  • Review: Some of our group found this deeply disturbing as it brought back sad memories.  We all saw it as a warning for the future of our own NHS.  It produced a good discussion.  It appeared to be a book in two halves and we felt the author introduced the rather dysfunctional family as a vehicle to make her point about US medicine.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington WI Book Club

Melvyn Bragg - The soldier's return

  • Review: Set immediately after World War II this poignant story shows the effects of war and separation on an ordinary working class couple and their young son. An enjoyable read with believable characters and situations.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Hayling Readers' Group
  • Review: This book proved an excellent choice for a group with an age range 60 to 85, with varied social backgrounds and differing recollections of the war and the immediate post war years. A story compelling in its telling and plush with descriptions of people and places. Our discussions on the divisive pulls of loyalty on characters adjusting to new and barely understood circumstances, did justice to an excellent piece of writing.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading group: New Forest/Waterside U3A. Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Sympathetic study of post-war Britain and difficulties of re-adjusting relationships. A powerful moving story of a family and society torn apart by war. A poignant picture of the son (autobiographical perhaps). In some ways the book is slightly unpolished but with magical pictures of small town life. The uncertainty of the ending was a fitting end to the book. All very sad.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: After Eights – King Somborne
  • Review: Mills and Boon ending - sentimental. Good social history of the time and area.
    Author knew his era.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review:  Amazing, emotional.  So true to life, especially after the German war finished, the men were still fighting in the Far East.  People forgot them almost.  They were very bitter!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Basingstoke Library Thursday Reading Group
  • Review: The story is an old story - but beautifully written - wonderful prose.  Thought provoking and well constructed.  A record of social history.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Melvyn Bragg/The Soldier’s Dream

  • Review:  The book was considered a good reflection of life as it was then with well known drawn characters.  However, it was also considered a light read, a bit simplistic and rather plodding.  For most it was disappointing especially as more was expected of Melvyn Bragg.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Boater’s Book Club

Gyles Brandreth - Oscar Wilde and the Candlelight Murders

  • Review: The majority of the group enjoyed the book but thought it was a light read and ideal for a holiday. However we did not think it was well formed as a detective novel. With not enough characters in it, we found it too easy to guess who committed the murder
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Celia Brayfield - Deep France

  • Review: It was considered to be: a poorly constructed book written by a smug author. Not everyone finished it.
    Star rating: * - **
    Reading Group: BBC Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Delightful. We all enjoyed this book once we got through the first few pages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Group 4

Celia Brayfield - Mr Fabulous and Friends

  • Review:  Too many loose ends and two dimensional characters.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Waterside Bookworms
  • Review:  We all got through it!  Very enjoyable and we would like to read others by the same author.  We found it amusing and it also had moment of pathos.  A good read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A

Peter V Brett - The Painted Man

  • Review: An entertaining and enjoyable read.  Very readable and part two is much anticipated.  Gritty, realistic, believable characters and a refreshing consistent approach to world construction.  Elicited much discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Sci-fi and Fantasy

Constance Briscoe - Ugly

  • Review: We felt the book was very repetitive - every chapter abuse and bed wetting.  It will be interesting to see if Carmen does to to court and if so the result.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Browns

Vera Brittain – Testament of Youth

  • Review: A most interesting book, it covers many aspects of life from 1914 to 1933 in a young woman’s life.  It covers love, loss and grief.  A sheltered young woman working as a VAD in London, France and Malta.  The struggle of women to gain further education and recognition.  Post ware England and getting established in a career.  An early look at working for the United Nations.  Being brave enough to love again.
    Review: ****
    Reading Group: Museum book group
  • Review: The centre section deals with Vera’s work as a VAD.  There are not many first-hand accounts of women working so close to the action in the 1st World War.  It is worth reading for that alone.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: An exceptionally detailed insight into the tragedies of the First World War written by an amazing lady - a story of lost love - terrible conditions whilst nursing and life afterwards.  Lost half a star for being just a bit too long and detailed.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

William Brodrick - The Sixth Lamentation

  • Review: A moving, sensitively written book full of surprises and reversals. Although it deals with the darkest episode in the twentieth century, ultimately it is a story of healing hope, with a moving family reunion ending the novel. Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review:  Moving novel with a fascinating storyline.  Well written.  Would like to see a film made of it.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Ace of Spades
  • Review: Very much enjoyed by all members of group - recommend it to other groups.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Weston Reading Group
  • Review: Quite a good read but the general opinion was that the characterization was not very good and this led to problems with the plot.  Well written, but another Le Carre?
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Liss
  • Review: Much chewed over.  Most people wished to read it again, very interesting in the characters.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Most enjoyed this very complex and engaging book though one still disliked it on second attempt.  Some characters were more believable than others.  Once the trail started, it was an easier read - less complicating; a very unexpected ending.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Difficult to first 'get into', but persevere and it becomes an excellent read with underlying currents of philosophy and the human spirit.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling Island U3A group 2
  • Review: Complex in its characters with a plot which does not easily unravel.  The journals written by Agnes neatly reveal the thrux of the story, while the description of her illness and death were very moving.  Sinister subplots and realistic war trial highlights.  An enjoyable, commanding read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Very confusing.  Dense layers of stories.  Had to keep referring to the list of principal characters.  Interesting resolution.  Liked it.  Very fragmented.  Needed to spend longer with each character.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: The whole group enjoyed this book, a real page turner, absorbing yet complex.  Thought provoking - recommended read for any book group.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives

Anne Bronté - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

  • Review:   Anne Bronté was ahead of her time in subject matter eg alcoholism, probably based on her brother. Erratic description of characters from her life, however the Christian ethic comes through very strongly in the way she forgives her husband.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Most members thought the book overlong and melodramatic for modern tastes, but admired the vocabulary.  The author used many words we had to look up in a dictionary to find they are no longer part of normal usage.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: We all enjoyed the book very much.  Amazing imagination of author considering background.  Interesting view of the role of women vis a vis now.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: We had all previously read this novel (when much younger).  We felt Anne Bronte was a very modern author for her time.  Women had few prospects other than marriage/teaching/or being a female dependant if single!  Mrs Helen Graham in this book is prepared to remove herself and her child from an unfortunate marriage and support herself.  Letters between characters used well.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Generally agreed that 'feet of clay' was an apt description of the book and some editing would have helped it.   However, book led to much discussion of society at the time, women's role in it and the Bronte family background.  Book actually raises many issues that even modern writers fail to explore.  Not our favourite book, but certainly stimulating.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: We all enjoyed it very much. We admired the style and vocabulary, descriptions of people and places and Anne's psychological insight. It was an example of an early call for women's emancipation in that a woman should be able to escape from an unhappy marriage. The book obviously reflects the fact that people had more time to read in Victorian times - it was very wordy - but we loved the words! That it was written by someone so young was also a revelation - despite her narrow and restricted world (by today's lights) Anne was full of understanding of human nature and the dilemmas we face.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Charlotte Bronté - Villette

  • Review: Too long.  Stimulated a good discussion.  Over descriptive.  Inclined to be implausible as the characters lacked continuity.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Amanda Brooke - Yesterday's Sun

  • Review: Mixed reaction to this book.  We were sceptical about the moon dial, but realise it's pivotal position to the plot.  We would not necessarily have read it individually, but are all pleased that we have done so.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Bookends

Geraldine Brooks - March

  • Review: We liked the idea of the author taking the father from Little Women and expanding on his character and also that of the mother.  We felt that the book portrayed the different characters well and the relationships between the characters.  It expanded our knowledge of the American Civil War period and helped us to consider the shades of grey that there are in every conflict.  We would recommend this book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Brats et al
  • Review: Enjoyed by nearly everyone.  Beautifully written, loved the use of some archaic words to give the flavour of the period.  Thought it gave a greater 'depth' to the book.  Also after the story, discussed facts about the author and her ideas and why she had written the way she had.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: Some felt that the use of 'Little Women' was unnecessary and plagiaristic.  The central character was weak and unlikeable but the historical detail was well researched and the detail of slavery moving and informative.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Sandy Lane
  • Review: A slow start.  Those who did not like it did not like the main character.  Those who did found him complex and interesting.  All agreed that the period, American Civil war, was worth knowing a bit more about.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Geraldine Brooks - People of the Book

  • Review: Two members felt this was one of the best books we had read in our two years as a group. Others thought that it offered an overdose of history but all admired the breadth of historical scope, the brilliant writing and the pictures of different times and people. A glossary of Hebrew terms would have been helpful. It was a book that was admired but not greatly liked. A second reading might change that perception.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: This is a good book club book as it resulted in a good discussion.  Well written and introduced us to historical events we knew little or nothing about.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Book Club
  • Review: The majority found the conservation of books most interesting.  The information related to the Jewish faith was well conveyed.  Moving from present to the past led to some confusion at times, but overall what was communicated was well done.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Victoria

Geraldine Brooks - Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague

  • Review: This is an impressive first novel, set in Derbyshire in the 17th Century at the time of the Plague. A charismatic rector persuades the villagers to isolate themselves to prevent it spreading. A gripping read, if sometimes dark and disturbing will keep the reader enthralled.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group :Hayling Reading Group
  • Review: We all loved this book. History, interesting subject, good research, believable characters, emotional, gripping, fascinating. Only the end let it down, could have finished earlier and still been a great book.
    Star rating: Not given
    Reading Group: Yateley Library
  • Review: Enjoyed this book more than expected - well researched - ending surprising as the book was vividly written and graphically yet calmly described
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Abbots Ann WI
  • Review: Enjoyed by all - a good read - the ending out of character.  Good use of vocabulary.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Liss
  • Review:  Whole group enjoyed this book - the story, the use of language, the images, the descriptions, ideas and emotions.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Weston Readers
  • Review: Geraldine Brooks had done extensive research into the plague, the symptoms and effect on a small community.  Her descriptive style was well liked by most members but all of us felt that the book lost credulity two thirds of the way through.  The ending being implausible.   A book worth reading and discussing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne Book Circle
  • Review: Generally enjoyed although harrowing.  Good atmosphere.  The two main women characters strong.  The ending spoiled the book because it was unbelievable, also so much occurred to several characters it appeared very rushed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Beautifully written with good period detail.  The factual element was pleasing and everyone enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group1
  • Review: We considered it well researched, a good read with good language usage and descriptions.  We liked the characters, their attitudes, social norms and their relationships.  We also enjoyed the period of time, the witches, the plague descriptions, aspects of the church and faith.  Although all enjoyed it most didn't like the ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Geraldine Brooks' research into the plague at Eyam is very impressive.  The book is beautifully written especially the descriptions of the landscape around the village.  Everyone in the group thought the last part of the book implausible.  However, there was plenty of scope for group discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Accentors
  • Review: A wonderful book enjoyed by the majority of readers.  Well researched re: historical element.  Brilliantly written use of 17th Century prose.    Could have done with a glossary.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson Readers
  • Review: The general opinion is of a book well worth reading for the second time.  Deeply drawn characters, beautifully written descriptive passages of the countryside lift it above the ordinary.  Drawing together a strange mixture of superstition, religious observance of the time, folklore and common sense the author with imaginative skill has given us a compelling story of a dark period in English history.  The main character carries us through what is a grizzly story and although the resolution of Anna's personal problems calls for the suspension fo belief...just a bit, this is a good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: A very well written, researched novel of the plague, told through the eyes of Anna against the backdrop of the mining village of Eyam where the villagers made the decision to quarantine themselves in order to prevent the plague spreading.  Highly recommended.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous

Dan Brown - Angels and Demons

  • Review: Most of the group found it an absorbing book and didn't want to put it down. One or two found it difficult to get into and gave up before the end, because of the intricacies of the plot and the scientific and religious references. A lot of research has gone into it - there are inconsistencies on the science side but it is a thrilling and exciting story in the style of a James Bond novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle II
  • Review: The story has great excitement, it is full of scientific information and detailed description of torture and murder (not for the faint hearted).  
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Morning Tide WI

Dan Brown - Deception Point

  • Review: An exciting story of intrigue and deceit, sending us on a roller-coaster ride at the turn of every page.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Happy Days
  • Review: Enjoyed by half the group - liked the suspense and the pace.  Not too many characters.  Weapons in use were based on fact.  Some felt that the characters were not well drawn and the action was all too quick - not much longer than 48 hours.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:
  • Review: fast moving escapism, action thriller.  As with most books of this genre you have to suspend your disbelief at times.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Whiteley Word

Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code

  • Review: Most people thought it was quite a page turner but, but no character development and not well written. We didn’t think it was well written.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  Difficult to give a star rating as some members thought it was dreadful and not worth reading (had they listened too much to ‘so called’ experts?)  Several of us, myself included, thought it was a good adventure - detective type story.  Easy to read and sometimes a bit far fetched but as long as one took it as fiction and not fact it was all right.  Ending perhaps not as clear cut and exciting as we hoped.
    Star rating:  
    Reading Group:  North Baddesley WI Reading Group
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed the book, one though it somewhat confusing.  Very well constructed and researched.  two could not put it down!  A good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Monksbrook U3A

Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything

  • Review: The book was considered heavy going, but interesting and a great source of information, and written in a good style.  The research was considered amazing, however, several members did not read it or skipped bits.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Felt too much like a text book.  Not very good for a reading group.  Not one of our group finished reading it, most read odd chapters.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Titchfield Abbey WI
  • Review: Fascinating and enthralling.  Universally enjoyed by all the group.  Accessible to non-scientists.  Good bridge to the sciences for all people.  Extremely readable, humorous and human.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

Bill Bryson - Life and Times of Thunder Bolt Kid

  • Review: All members found something in the book that made them laugh.  Really appealed to those who also grew up in 1950's but even younger members liked the mix of historical fact and human life story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: This book was thoroughly enjoyed by our group.  It was interesting to read of an American childhood and its freedom and education within a touring family.  We are all of an age to remember the 1950's and how our lives were shaped.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: A bit like the curate's egg we all felt it was good in parts but overall we felt he was trying too hard to impress the reader.  Perhaps a book the reader dips into rather than reads in one go as generally we felt it was a bit 'sameish'.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cambridge

Bill Bryson - Shakespeare

  • Review: Interesting, well researched, amusing.  Although some thought it was tedious in parts.  Good historical content.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Rapley Readers

Elizabeth Buchan - That Certain Age

  • Review: It was a valid idea; setting the lives of two women of similar age, in times forty years apart, to highlight the differences in choices and aspirations available to each. But the book read like two novelettes painfully wedded with only tow possible linking points. That both women resorted to a dust-pan and bush and the odd, though not impossible, appearance of the ormolu clock, were not enough to justify the marriage. The older woman irritated our older readers and nobody warmed to the younger woman. The writing style was forced and despite some convincing dialogue and odd flashes of humour, not able to carry the theme.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre & Literature
  • Review: We were disappointed with this one! The two characters did not end up having any connection. If you read the review on the book cover, it will tell you everything - we say, give it a miss!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: The group did not enjoy this book.  Characters not very interesting - therefore rather boring.  It was suggested that the two women were linked by comparison; the role of women - what progress if any - what regrets.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: A couple of 'Mills and Boon' put together, the two characters had little in common.  The two women were both of their generation.  The link was difficult to find.  Ending disappointing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The book promoted a lively discussion about the lives of women in the current age and in the 1950s.  There are constraints at any age and women have to make choices between love, duty and work.  Disappointing tenuous link between two of the women.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Phoenix
  • Review: The characters were found to be confusing with Barbara's life more interesting, perhaps because her life is more what we know and recognise. We were not surprised that she had an affair but were about the pregnancy/birth. Neither characters were particularly liked esp. not Siena the modern women. Many couldn't see the connection between the two women apart from the clock at the end which all found contrived. The point of the story esp. the comparison of the two lives was discussed. One conclusion was that it was a feminist comparison of women and their time. The book was considered interesting in its construct but its content less good. It was found enjoyable but definitely not memorable and also tedious and not well written. More like a holiday read. It was commented that books written with parallel stories are not enjoyed.
    Star rating:  1.5
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club

Pearl S Buck - The Good Earth

  • Review: We did enjoy this book very much, it was a really interesting way to understand some of the culture of China at the time, especially towards females.  The manner in which it was written really conveyed Wang Lung's innermost 'highs and lows' to the reader and took you along with his life story
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Cheerful Bags
  • Review: Different to what we would normally read, but interesting and enjoyable.  The book gave an insight into another culture.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: A very good read.  If you haven't read this book or read it so long ago that the story is hazy please read it again.  Published in the 30's it is as readable today and just as relevant.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A well written book of the life of one man in rural China before the second world war, together with the country's economy changing in one mans lifetime.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Morningtide Elderberries

Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange

  • Review: Not an easy or enjoyable read, but those who finished reading found this a rewarding book.  The introduction was very helpful in giving discussion points.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kalooki Club

Anna Burns - No Bones

  • Review: Horrible! Wonderful! Compelling! Disturbing! Worthwhile! Mixed reaction from loved it to hate it. It made the Irish Troubles very real. Do you read these reviews?
    Star rating: * to ***
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Reading Group
  • Review: Generally several did not finish.  What might have begun as a true picture of daily life in the 'troubles' collapsed into farcical scenarios.  Still a compelling account of schizophrenia was told.  The chapter on the YT Scheme was hilarious and altogether believable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review:  Sorry but I am afraid we didn't like this book - it was far too depressing.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: Thought provoking book that created a lot of lively discussion.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: A challenging read which provoked mixed responses, although all agree she is a skilful writer and this is a striking first novel.  Most found the violence and general misery excessive, although there is also much dark humour.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: Powerful novel, repelling and interesting, appreciated for what it said but not enjoyed.  Most felt writing good but too many characters to handle properly,
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle

Andrea Busfield - Aphrodite's War

  • Review: Well written but not a page turner.  Characters excellent and background well researched.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Bookends

Tim Butcher - Blood River

  • Review: Educational, enlightening, gripping - insightful to Congo history.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A Group 2
  • Review: Much enjoyed to disliked by 10 members. Historical and informative, filling gaps in knowledge. Tim was either foolhardy or courageous, depending on the reader. Local peoples' struggle gained sympathy and a sense of helplessness.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Everyone

A S Byatt - The Children's Book

  • Review: An epic, dense, multi-layered book - bringing together art and fairy tales in the period of Edwardian times.  A large cast of characters revolving around several families.  also featuring the Victoria and Albert museum among other points of interest.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fleet Library Readers
  • Review: A fanatically detailed recreation of years between 1895-1919.  Byatt is a writer of great ability but here as in other work she leans too heavily on didactic passages that half the flow of the text.  we had a strong feeling that she writes for herself rather than the reader and some careful editing would have made for a fantastic book.  Interesting characters based on people like E Nesbit and Eric Gill.  The book teems with 19th Century life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: An erudite book that needs patience but on the whole we decided it was worth the effort.  The prose is almost poetic - the characters develop in an interesting way - the history is an interesting parallel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Paula Byrne - Perdita:The Life of Mary Robinson

  • Review:  Rather a dull, uninspiring read. Style repetitive and ponderous.  Perdita’s life and reactions to it echoed today’s social elite (Kate Moss).  Many similarities – drugs, debt and reaction of press – with today.  Awareness of being in the “limelight”.  Could have been racy and exciting.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review:  We all found Parts 1 and 2 about Perdita’s acting career and celebrity, interesting and enjoyable.  Everyone confessed to skipping most of Part 3, on her literary career – her poetry style too florid.  We admired Byrne’s scholarship, but felt the need of a heavier editorial hand.  The lack of an index was surprising.  So many contemporary opinions on Perdita were most likely truth.  Some of our group found Perdita no more than a high-class prostitute, but most of us admired her strength of character, cleverness and loyalty to her mother and daughter and her closest friends.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Selbourne Book Circle
  • Review:  The book was well written but with too much detail and was over long.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review: The majority of us thought that this was disappointingly dull, especially as Mary was obviously such an interesting woman.  Only one member of the group enjoyed it.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
 

C

Carole Cadwalladr - The Family Tree

  • Review: All agreed the book was much better than title and blurb suggested.  We enjoyed the 3 strand narrative that ended up as a mystery novel.  The writing was clever and entertaining and the eras described 50s, 70s and today had relevance for all members.  A good discussion came from the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: Intelligent and well written.  Seventies a big influence.  Bipolar/manic depressives a big interest.  An interesting family saga.  Dictionary definitions were interesting chapter headings.  A social history of the last fifty years.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review:  Most readers enjoyed it.  Although two thought it mundane!  It could be confusing as the author switched about in time from one chapter to the next.  Unusual way to tell family history as a thesis for Rebecca's PHD.  The book was divided into very short sections.  As you read it you became more absorbed.  An easy read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms Group
  • Review: Very impressive for a first novel - well written, good characterisation and evocative descriptions.  Laugh out loud funny in places, alongside poignant and moving subjects.  Generational story exploring nature versus nurture.  A very good read - don't be put off by the cover!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Tuesday Afternoon
  • Review: A wide divergence of opinion. Most enjoyed the black humour, and could identify with certain episodes e.g. the caravan holiday. We also liked her unusual style, especially the dictionary definitions heading each chapter, which cleverly summed up the content.
    However some felt it jumped around too much,making it confusing.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason -  The Rule of Four

  • Review:  None of us in the group really enjoyed this book despite a few of us completing it.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group

Amanda Camilleri - August Heat

  • Review: A fast-paced detective novel. A light read.  Easy to get into.  An insight into Italian life.  A taste of Italian summer.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Anthony Capella - The Food of Love

  • A fascinating mixture of steamy sex, gastronomic overindulgence and wonderful descriptions of the sights and smells of Rome, the Italian countryside and Italian culture. Compulsive reading, I found it very hard to put down and finished it very quickly indeed! It is an inspiring story about life, love, relationships and, above all, Italy and its food. However, as a non-meat-eater, I found the gruesome descriptions of the various types of meat and offal absolutely revolting.

    The two male leading characters are complete opposites of one another. Tommaso Massi is a caricature of a typical Italian male – regarding women as sexual conquests, his cupboard of photographs of all of the women he has lured into his bed and plenty of outward bravado. Bruno is a passionate and talented chef in a high-class French restaurant in Rome.

    Tommaso moves in on an American art student called Laura, pretending to be a chef in order to impress her and trick her into his bed. He persuades Bruno to cook intimate meals for him and Laura, which he then passes off as his own. In the meantime Bruno has seen, and fallen in love with, Laura. He uses his culinary skills like a wizard, creating spells from food to capture the heart of the woman he has fallen in love with. Despite the fact that Tommaso had tired of Laura, he and Bruno fall out rather dramatically when poor Bruno confesses to kissing her just the once!

    After their friendship is broken, a wilderness period occurs for both men. Tommaso continues to try and pass himself off as a chef and run the business they both started, Il Cuoco, with disastrous results. Bruno buys a terrible old van and proceeds to drive it aimlessly north through Italy, finally ending up in the hills of the Galtenesi, where the van breaks down.

    Here I felt the story really took off with Bruno coming into his own and being loved and appreciated by Benedetta, the female cook whose mother owned the small bar he ended up staying in. I enjoyed this part of the story and at this point believed he would settle happily here with Benedetta.

    However, shortly after Laura and her new lover, Kim, visit the bar and he sees her again he falls under her spell and thoroughly disappoints me by leaving Benedetta and the lovely part of Italy he seemed to have settled in to return to Rome and try to win Laura’s heart! Considering the remoteness of this little bar and the enormous number of Italian bars, trattoria, restaurants etc, it was far too much of a coincidence for me that she would suddenly turn up here!

    The ending of this book seemed very rushed to me, compared to the rest of the book. I simply couldn’t understand why he went crawling back to Tommaso and worked in his ghastly, commercialised pizzeria, especially after having been a chef in a very high class restaurant in Rome beforehand.

    The scene in Templi, where Bruno arranges the ‘kidnap and imprisonment’ of the head chef and his sidekick and then proceeds to take over the restaurant purely for the purpose of enticing Laura into his arms on the same night that Kim proposes to her, was, in my view, extremely far fetched. The final chapter, consisting of a series of emails between Bruno and Laura, proved to be an unsatisfactory conclusion to this book. Did Anthony Capella rush the ending to meet some publishing deadline?
  • Review: The views were mixed.  It was considered an OK but light read.  The characters were considered very shallow and the plot thin.  Some of the story aspects were fun and interesting like Rome, the coffee machine, the visit to the mills and the van.  In general the group enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review: Enjoyable and easy read.  The book is a play on the Cyrano de Bergerac story with chefs and waiters in leading roles.  Good food descriptions and a wonderful look at Italian food culture.  Fun and saucy, would recommend.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: Well liked, good holiday reading.  Lots of discussion.  One member made some of the recipes.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review: Not enough substance for the group to discuss.  Some of the group liked the 'food' content but all felt the story line was weak.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: A light read with suitability for a summer read.  Rather contrived and at times contrived and irritating.  Some good descriptions of places and the food (rather over-done!).  One member of the group who visits Italy loved it!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton

J L Carr - - A Month in the Country

  • Review: Here we have descriptive writing in minute detail but with no wasted words, with each character decisively drawn and each situation deepening Birkin's understanding of the community and himself. It is a story of interaction between Birkin, a man damaged by war, the long-dead ghost whose work is gradually revealed and the community, in which anything he has known and the warmth of the long days of summer which act as a catalyst to heal and send him and others whom he touched optimistically into the future.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group :K.Y.C. Ladies Group
  • Review: A brilliantly conceived book masterfully handled. It evoked many memories for members of the group and for a wide variety of reasons. The characters were clearly defined yet with amazing economy (we have just read "Lake Wobegon Days" and the contrast is stunning.
    Rating:
    Reading Group :New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: We all thought this was a lovely book. It was well written and researched. We would all recommend it.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: This is an enchanting book with a poetic turn of phrase. It is subtle and beautifully written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Havant Arts Centre
  • Review:  All agreed a very good book, easy to read.  Enjoyable.
    Reading Group:  Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Everyone really loved this - despite not being 'contemporary', it was so relevant.  The wonderful calm style of writing drew readers along, and it even had a bit of a plot and a love story!  Fantastic!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ten for Books
  • Review: A small but perfect book.  Beautifully written and a joy to read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A thought provoking book with hidden depths.  A polished jewel!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: A beautifully written book with well-drawn characters.  It has a great sense of time and place.  It was written very succinctly yet covered many topics: religion, power of art, lasting damage to those caught up in WWI and the treatment of homosexuality at that time.  Also great humour and romance.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: All Saints
  • Review: We all loved the novella.  A wonderful little cameo beautifully written and we felt we really knew the character.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Literature 1
  • Review: Generally considered a 1st Rate Read! Beautifully written, evoking an inviting atmosphere. Well-drawn characters. One reader (visually impaired, so listens) considered it better than "Cider With Rosie".
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: Jane and Nick's Fleet Library Book Club
Stephen L Carter - Palace Council Review: A complex book well written, but needing concentrated reading.  The American political system and complex plot required some thought and understanding.  Interest was sustained with the need for resolution between the two main characters. Star rating: *** Reading Group: Everton

Justin Cartwright - Promise of Happiness

  • Review: Intriguing.  Well interwoven, good drawing of characters.  Descriptive, but not well written.  Title was well chosen.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Barbara Cassani - Go - An Airline Adventure

  • Review: Under half of the group managed to finish the book.  These thought Barbara Cassani too American, too opinionated and full of herself.  The ones who finished had a higher opinion of her achievements and people management.  Her success was in part due to choosing her team and trusting them to function.  After discussion the non finishers were swayed to give the book 3 stars.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI

Margaret Cezair-Thompson - The Pirate's Daughter

  • Review: Most people enjoyed the book. We all felt we learnt a lot about Jamaica and about Errol Flynn.  Most felt it was a little slow in places, but picked up and became more interesting towards the end.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Mill Hill Book Club
  • Review: A great read with intriguing twist at the end.  A book about relationships set in Jamaica.  The glamorous film star setting.  Post war settlers.  The complicated families of Jamaica just before independence leaves one wanting to find out more.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Sarah Challis - Footprints in the Sand

  • Review: An easy read and enjoyed by some members as an escapist book.  However, the majority felt that the story and characters were predictable and the description and story clichéd.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: The first time the group has all agreed on a book.  We all loved the story and characters and the lovely way it was written.  A pleasure to read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boarhunt WI
  • Review: A slow start but then developed into a good descriptive narrative with interesting details.  Most of the group enjoyed this book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Lymington WI
  • Review: A good read.  An enjoyable relief from heavier books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: An easy read, albeit rather predictable and lacking depth.  Characters fairly well defined and some descriptions of Mali were quite atmospheric.  Some of us enjoyed it, especially the adventure/journey aspect but others found parts of it rather childish.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Sandy's
  • Review: For the first time in months a book which everyone found easy to read and very enjoyable.  Some good characters and atmospheric descriptions of the desert/desert life brought the novel to life.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends
  • Review: Well written by author who had experience of environment and the people.  Exceptional description; funny, sad, mysterious.  Much discussion from this unusual book.  The desert came to life and caused one to want to be witness to silence and the stars.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Havers

John Chapman - Dry Rot

  • Review: Excellent for a reading group - lots of laughter.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling Island U3A 1

Mavis Cheek - Sleeping Beauties

  • Review: A book of little merit. Unrealistic characters and the fragmented storyline does not keep the interest going. Literary illusion does nothing to help us believe in the main character. There are moments of humour but this is over laboured and sometimes risqué.
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : Petersfield U3A Book Circle II
  • Review: We didn't rate this very highly. It didn't raise many laughs. Some of the characters were unbelievable, the only one that people really connected with was Chloe. It was felt the references to art, beauty products and history were artificially introduced, not natural. I recommended it as I have read several others but this is not as good.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group :Bishopstoke Reading Group
  • Review: We generally enjoyed this book and agreed with the author's sentiments about women and their addiction to beauty products. We thought the characters were well drawn and easy to imagine, but found the ending was rather an anti-climax with no real conclusion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley Library
  • Review:  Excellent book!  Gave lots of opportunity for discussion!  Amusing, well written and thoroughly enjoyable!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Waterside Bookworms
  • Review:  Too crude.  Clever premise but not easy to relate to.  Witty but very sad.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Overton
  • Review:  Opinion was split between those who found it an enjoyable satire (very funny) and those who thought it was irrelevant rubbish.  It stimulated a lively discussion on modern values.
    Star rating:  
    Reading Group:  Monks Brook U3A Reading Group
  • Review: The book was seen as having excellent characterisations, these highlighted the insecurities of women and how good looks help. It was considered OTT, a farce, unbelievable but full of wit and stereotypical characters. Some considered it became "dark" with revenge being a major topic. All considered it a women's book and expertly written.
    Star Rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Tracy Chevalier - Falling angels

  • Review: This book provoked some lively discussion. A good insight into the period. Informative about the suffragette movement and the Edwardian way of death.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Petersfield U3A
  • Review:  An enjoyable, easy read.  We found the details of mourning, graveyard arrangement and management most interesting attitudes to death.  The social interaction between the two families and their households at the turn of the 20th century and their aspirations.  The girls and their friendship with the gravedigger boy provoked much discussion.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review: Interesting social history.  Wonderful insight into the Victorian attitude to mourning and death.  Characters well drawn with interesting contrast of class.  This was one of the few books which everyone enjoyed!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Most enjoyed this book, although it was not as good as 'Pearl Earring'.  Some irritation with method of retelling same incident from point of view of several people; this seems commonly used device at the moment.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Literary Ladies
  • Review: Worth reading.  Characters not sufficiently well drawn.  Setting in the graveyard and the children's relationship with it were central and interesting.  Story sympathetically told from different viewpoints was a strength.
    Star rating: 2+
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Not as good as her other books (for those who had read them!),  but an easy read and quite interesting to learn about the suffragettes and their work.  We liked the narrative from all the characters, but felt that they could have shown more emotion in parts.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: Easy read, written in sound bites.  Interesting the different reactions and responses to the same circumstances by the different families and the manipulative influence of Lavinia on those around.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington WI
  • Review: Once we 'got into it' we all really enjoyed and found it very descriptive of an era none of us had experienced.  Particularly with reference to the male dominance, suffragettes and mourning.  We also enjoyed the sharing of characters' thoughts i.e. relating their individual stories.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Readers for Pleasure
  • Review: Half the group thought the book very convincing.  All thought it well researched and an enjoyable read.  Will make an excellent film.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Tracy Chevalier - Girl with a Pearl Earring

  • Review: A very visual book - painting very important.
    In another era she could have been more forthcoming. A clever writer. Social history well treated. A strong sense of place.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Tracy Chevalier has written a story which brings mid 17th Century Delft to life. Her wealth of research and 'easy reading' style makes even her imaginary characters as real as Vermeer and his family. Whatever the reason for the young girl - seemingly not well-off - to be wearing a pearl earring and an expression which has apparently earned her the title of ' Mona Lisa of the North', the author's explanation is good enough for us!
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group :
  • Review: Gave insight into life in Delft Greet, the girl not a victim as in the film, for the better. An interesting book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: Universally loved by all but one member who found it laborious and stilted. Thanks for help.
    No star rating:
    Reading Group: Ex Libris
  • Review: The general consensus was that it was an excellent book - very good descriptions of the surroundings, the paintings and life in seventeenth century Delft.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Literary Ladies
  • Review:  A beautifully written and constructed story much enjoyed by all the group.  To add to our enjoyment, two members brought along books with copies of the paintings written about which added to the discussion.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Brockenhurst Reading Group
  • Review: A first person narrative offering a very subjective account of the imagined life of the girl in Vermeer's famous portrait.  Interestingly two of our male members identified totally with Griet  (the girl), finding her very much the victim.  3 of the women disliked her.  This is a multi textured narrative and you need to read between the lines.  Created strong feelings within the group.  A heated/funny and enjoyable debate.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lee Reading Group
  • Review: Easy read.  True to life and very descriptive for the era.  Beautifully written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworm Club
  • Review: A beautifully constructed novel told simply and with great sense of time, people and place.  The social relationships and particularly the positions of the various women vis-a-vis the men folk proved an excellent basis for discussion.  Telling the story in the first person kept Griet firmly in the centre of the picture and did justice to the subject.  This could have been a master class in creative writing.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Beautifully written.  It was very descriptive and we could easily imagine what life was like in Holland at the time.  However, we found it very strange and there was a sexual under current.  We were also waiting for something dramatic to happen but it didn't.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Reading Enthusiasts
  • Review: A good read and good atmosphere of time and place but difficult to have sympathy for any of the characters.  The technical side of preparing for painting was interesting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: 2nd Fordingbridge U3A
  • Review: Vivid, colourful descriptions of the paintings and the setting of Delft in keeping with the artistic subject.  A subtle. slowly unfolding story, which we greatly enjoyed.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Tracy Chevalier - Remarkable Creatures

  • Review: Interesting but not exciting, of more interest to us living in the South as we were familiar with the area and the subject, both the fossils and the women.  Feminist theme well developed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: Enjoyed by whole group.  An easy read.  Loved the characters and the historical detail.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: In the style of Jane Austen but with more aplomb.  Strong women who fought against societies conventions.  A very readable book.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Perspectives
  • Review: We much enjoyed the marriage of real characters with a novel.  Informative about the history of fossils.  We all felt a trip to Lyme Regis was called for after our reading of the book.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Interesting, easily accessible.  Raised the issue of women "out/ahead of their time" and peoples natural affinities.  Revealing about the social situation of women at this time.  Provoked worthwhile discussion.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Alton Library (Thursday)

Lee Child - Persuader

  • Review: A genre loved by some and disliked by others.  Some characters unbelievable (Elizabeth) and parts of the plot improbable - the fight scenes.  Would suit an American audience rather than British with gun references.  The pace increased and held interest for those who enjoyed it.  Not literature!.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Clare Clark - The Great Stink

  • Review: Atmospheric, Stygian, gripping, over-long, needed editing.  Superb evocation of the dirt, dark and squalor of the period.  But some members of the group felt that it needed editing and a tighter plot - some characters (e.g. the lawyer Rose) were wonderfully Dickensian but were too fleeting and disappeared unexpectedly.  Touching description of relationship between Tom and Lady.  Impressive debut novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne.
  • Review: A story written to show the life in Victorian times for the poor and those without influence, and the building of London's sewers.   Not a story for the squeamish as the background details are given fully.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Elderberries
  • Review: The description of the Victorian sewers was very evocative and you could imagine the smell in your own nostrils.  Too much build-up, with the ending rather rushed.  Book would have benefitted from more editing.  The relationship between Tom and his dog, Lady, very well written.  Rose was another interesting character but there was too little of him.  A good debut novel though.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fleet U3A

Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel

  • Review:  We enjoyed the book, however, it was far too long, a little self indulgent of the author.  Some members decided against reading it, others gave up but two finished it and enjoyed it.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Waterside Bookworms
  • Review: The fact and fiction in this book just did not work together.  Pretentious and over researched, tedious - nobody finished.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Romsey Library
  • Review: We felt that this was a very well researched book and that the 'magic' was very interesting.  However the length of the book and the way it was written meant that group members struggled to get through it.  We are, however, going to give it another try next year.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: The size of the book was very daunting for some of our readers but it was worth persevering.  Written in the style of Jane Austen/Charles Dickens it was a well structured fantasy story set in the 19th Century.  It could be described as a Harry Potter style novel for adults.  An intriguing page turner.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cliffhangers
  • Review: One member rated this extremely highly, but in general the great length (and not much action in some places) put off readers.  All agreed the book was well written.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: Some misgivings at size (and weight) of book.  Decided to read Vol. 1 and continue only if readers favourable enough.  Some puzzlement over author's purpose and 'message'.  A transactional style disappoints.  Feeling that there are nuggets of gold buried in the text, but too disappointed to be totally successful.  Humour does not disappoint.  Most passages highlighted to the anecdotal footnotes were received with much amusement.  Consensus that publisher had 'pushed' the novel quite hard.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group

Pearl Cleage - What looks like Crazy Man Ordinary Day

  • Review: We all enjoyed this book very much. Characterisation excellent and it made us all want to go to sit by the lake in Idlewild. Good ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann
  • Review: We all loved this!  Great story, warm characters and a novel point of view for looking at living with Aids.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: Most really enjoyed it, especially the descriptions like the sewing circus amongst the many others. We felt the book was told from the author's point of view. It was seen as very realistic with interesting moralistic overtones. It had an excellent storyline, with an insight into being HIV positive or a drug addict, although the "bad" language was not liked. However some found it predictable, boring with everything negative about black people's life included. All found it well written, enjoyable and a page turner.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Ann Cleeves - The Crow Trap

  • Review: An easy if unmemorable read.  Well constructed with an interesting back story but with unsympathetic two dimensional characters.  Better than the TV series, but there are better crime authors to try.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Emsworth Crime Group
  • An interesting portrayal of a rather strange character of an Inspector.  The continuity of the story was very broken without a strong thread running through the story.  However, it keeps you guessing as to 'who dunnit'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Jennifer Clement - A True Story Based on Lies

  • Review: It is said there is a book inside everyone and after reading this that is probably correct. It is a simple, lightweight and easy to read narrative of the age -old story of a master and his servant. The servant cannot win whatever she does -submit or refuse his amorous advances. The book was so much like A Girl with a Pearl Earring that every time the word TV appeared my mind came crashing back to modern time. The Indian rituals and legends were intriguing but much of the poetic writings were mainly lost on me.
  • Review: Despite the foreword that "it is a remarkable and original novel " I would describe it as anything but. Having said that, I quite enjoyed it.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : North Baddesley W.I
  • Review: Unusual in presentation - original style and structure. Effective, poetic language.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: We didn't completely understand the poetry. Lacking in emotional details about the characters or background to the characters. Was it set in this century? We were unsure of the time period. We all enjoyed the unusual style of writing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Merdon Mums
  • Review: The 1 star rating was for 5 members and 2 star rating for 3 members. Not really interesting or stimulating.
    Reading Group: The Young Group
  • Review: The group had a mixed opinion about the style of using verse and of Josefa's one word comments. We found it an interesting aspect that the story was set in a timeless actual environment and the info about how they lived. A lovely, delightful, sad story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review:  The whole group found this a surprisingly enjoyable read.  We enjoyed the straightforward storyline (no sub plots) and the poetry.  Well drawn characters with sharp contrasts in their lives and involvement with each other.  The poetry rather than the prose gave us the feel of Mexico and its Indian population.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review: Very mixed reviews on this one, from cleverly written and a lovely story to the. fact it wasn't a very good read
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: Mixed reviews from the group.  Most rated it a 2.  Found it sad, poetic, irritating.  The end was considered to be predictable by some and totally unexpected by others.  A 'quick' read but gave us a lot to discuss and think about.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: An excitingly crafted novel, beautifully written which gave us plenty to discuss.  We were faced with problems social, sexual, moral and psychological, with considerable differences of opinion.  We would recommend that this short novel be read twice with a reasonable gap between the readings.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Ajay Close - Official and Doubtful

  • Review: Despite its intriguing beginning, we felt the novel tackled too many themes, and the narrative flitted about too much causing confusion. Glasgow seemed to be the most interesting "character" in the book, but overall we weren't very impressed.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group :Queen Mary's College Library
  • Review: The many detailed and vivid descriptions tend to overshadow the intriguing plot of this psychological thriller making it long drawn down out. The characters are well depicted and all have secrets, whether it's the narrator, a Labour MP, a restaurateur or a tabloid hack. Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle II
  • Review: Flashes of genius but on the whole a sadly unsatisfying book.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Champagne

Harlan Coben - The Innocent

  • Review:  A good racy read, story enjoyed and pace encouraged you to read quickly, BUT like many modern thrillers it went down paths i would want to explore.  Conclusion was rather improbable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review:  The group thought the book was too complicated, too many characters, too many coincidences - too long!
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Complex plot with a good twist
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hook Readers
  • Review: We felt it was rather a convoluted story with an abrupt over neat ending.  Fifty per cent of us felt there were too many characters.  Could make a good film.  Probably best read at one sitting rather than keep picking up.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Parish Pump

Kira Cochrane - Escape Route for Beginners

  • Review: The book resulted in mixed feelings.  The sensational themes and characters (who were considered unreal) and the way it was written (like the time line) were repeatedly discussed.  That it resulted in thoughts about life (the brothel), its standards (immigration) and peoples treatment were found interesting, however, generally it was disliked.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Jonathan Coe - The Rain Before it Falls

  • Review: Mixed reactions.  Intrigued by the authors decision to write as a woman.  Disappointing ending.  Extraneous character and subplots.  Over-embroidered.  Overall well written.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley

Paulo Coelho - The Alchemist

  • Review:  Provided much discussion for a group, particularly the difference between Fate and Destiny.  Easy to read but more difficult to understand in depth.  One member enjoyed the spoken word more than trying to read the book.
    Star rating:  ?
    Reading Group:  U3A Reading Group II
  • Review: Most of the group enjoyed very gentle read, thought provoking but disappointing ending  detracted from book.  The book suffered from a poor translation.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Varied reaction from the group.  Some did not like the fairy tale impression the book gave and found the story totally unbelievable.  Others really enjoyed the story and puzzled over whether it was fate or within one's own power to achieve one's dreams by following their instincts.  A though provoking read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Phoenix

J M Coetzee - Age of Iron

  • Review: We had an extremely in depth discussion. J M Coetzee's writing was thought provoking - raising almost as many questions as he provided answers.
    The main character was not easy to empathise with and in fact one member actually disliked her! Was Ace…..? black or white?
    A thoroughly good read giving rise to a full hour of discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Victoria Book Group
  • Review: Hard-going, both in style and content.  Characters are not described in sufficient detail for any attachment to their lives or well-being to be formed.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Non-Reading Group
  • Review: Really interesting and written with real feeling for situations e.g. death of a lady and death of 'old' apartheid in South Africa.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: A sad but riveting read.  Educated lonely white woman dying with cancer, develops a closeness with a black vagrant who moves onto her property.  They have need of each other.  Set in apartheid South Africa her only daughter lives in America  and won't return.  She is forced to acknowledge the rising anger and deprivation of the townships when her servants teenage son is killed.  the cruelty and hardness of the regime enrages her.  Amazed this was written by a man.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Vivid, bleak descriptions of characters and political situation.  Guilt seemed to be the main theme - guilt at being part of an abhorrent regime (albeit not actively).  The loneliness and helplessness that accompanies the gradual decline into illness and death also acutely observed.  An unsettling and compelling read, full of regret and anger.  Superbly written!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: We felt this was a dense and complex novel which gave rise to a great deal of discussion about loneliness, motherhood, guilt and South African peoples.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Alresford Library

J M Coetzee - Disgrace

  • Review: An excellent book - tightly written, no wasted words. The fact that it was written in the third person about the first person was intriguing. A bleak book on the situation in South Africa.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: No one liked the characters but most members thought it was a really good read, especially the many parallel stories and the various levels of “disgrace”.
    Star rating: *** ½
    Reading Group: BBC
  • Review:  We thought it was distressing, but also very well written and an absorbing read!
    Star rating:  *** to ****
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: The author's style was impressive but the story was not to anyone's liking and, in general, the book got a poor reception from the whole group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A Group 1
  • Review: Well written - gave a flavour of South Africa.  Didn't like the content - could not empathise with any of the characters.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: KYC Reading Group
  • Review: A good book on all levels, great for discussion.  Very thought provoking about human relationships and the future of South Africa in the modern world
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group

Beatrice Colin - The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite

  • Review: Well researched and a very enjoyable read.  Highly recommended for reading groups - good points for discussion.  Unusual perspective on the German experience of the wars.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives

Wilkie Collins - The Haunted Hotel

  • Review: A much enjoyed mystery novel.  It had touches of a gothic novel.  It was well-written and the plot was surprising.  The characters were not always well developed but overall it was difficult to put down.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Titchfield Abbey

Wilkie Collins - The Woman in White

  • Review: Generally we were of the same opinion and it was awarded 3 out of 4 stars which always says a lot. It was considered a Victorian Melodrama, a novel of its time, reflecting life as it was then, straightforward read and therefore predictable. The opening few sentences were found hard to understand until one got into its rhythm. Many liked the way each character wrote their version of events but many disliked the idea of "the women in white" and thought the half sister underdeveloped. It was found to be repetitious. The post system of those days was admired. Many commented that it had obviously been written as a serial and found the "secret" an anticlimax. It was not considered as good as Dickens.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Karen Connelly - The Lizard Cage

  • Review: The book was extremely interesting and informative, but harrowing.  It gave an insight into life under the 'Junta' and the ways of Buddhism.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Rivermead

Michael Connelly – The Lincoln Lawyer

  • Review: Big book, does Connelly have a formula?  Not as fascinating as Chandler.  Don’t feel for Connelly’s characters, no empathy.  Book very American, almost need a glossary of American legal terms e.g. bail bondsman.  Plot – lots of twists, couldn’t put it down.  Had to keep on reading.  Wanted to read to the end.  Kept me guessing.  Well constructed good read, enjoyable.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

John Connolly - Bad Men

  • Review: 7 out of the 10 members read the book and found it to be an interesting, if brutal, story.  As usual some of us did not like the bad language, but, for once agreed that it was not an obstacle to our 'enjoyment'(?) of a good read.  The 3 who did not read more than a few pages now regret that they gave up before the story really began.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI

Glen Cooper - Library of the Dead

  • Review: Could keep up with different time periods.  Very American. Fascinating conspiracy, so ridiculous no-one would believe it.  A holiday read.  The computer science in the book correct.  Interesting concept.  Some didn't like the ending - too pat but was the point the library going to foretell of the end of the world.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Bernard Cornwell - Sharpe's Havoc

  • Review: Well researched on the facts of war. Interesting details of this obscure piece of history. Not generally enjoyed by this group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A

Bernard Cornwell - The Last Kingdom

  • Review: Enjoyed by half the group as a good read.  Disliked by the rest.  We felt it was well researched and got the feel of the time and movement of the Danes and Saxons across England
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review:  Everybody except two enjoyed this book.  Very good descriptions of the battles and the way they lived.  The young boy who was captured by the Danes was influenced by them, but his Saxon upbringing changed his views and he fought for King Alfred in the final battle.  Very gripping tale.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Yateley U3A
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book and were quite surprised that we did - particularly being ladies reading what we would have thought was more of a man's book.  It was very well researched so we learnt a bit too.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Valleydene

Bernard Cornwell - The Pale Horseman

  • Review: There was a very mixed reaction to this book.  Those who finished it enjoyed the story telling but found it rather 'bloody'.  We found the evocation of the way of living of the period of time very vivid.  Lives were very hard and children grew into adulthood very quickly.
    Star rating:  **+
    Reading Group: Valleydene

Francis Cottam - Hamer's War

  • Review: A very satisfactory read with only two of our group unable to get beyond the first thirty pages. An unresolved antipathy to even considering 'Germans' affected several group members. This was overcome by the quality of the writing, the flowing structure of the novel and the steady revelation of Hamer's character. Not everyone 'liked' the novel but everyone who completed the reading admitted being drawn into an admiration of the man, Martin Hamer.
    We want to read more from Francis Cottam.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature Group
  • Review: This was a clever, remarkable story, taken from a different viewpoint with intrigue and romance included in the story as well as a few surprises.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed the book which provoked much discussion.  Impressed that the author, born in 1959, had such a competent grasp of the war.  Many of the scenes - honeymoon on the med, climbing the Eiger, the humiliation of the Jewish man, the treatment for his infertility and other cameos will linger in our memories.  An impressive novel cleverly crafted.  Would like to read the sequel.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Denmead Book Circle

Colin Cotterill - The Coroner's Lunch

  • Review: A murder mystery with a difference.  Loved the warped sense of humour. Gentle humour, laughed out loud.  Developed characters.  Far removed from the typical English detective.  Similar in a way to the 'No 1 Ladies Detective Agency'.  Some red herrings.  Was it written to become a film?  Easy to read.  Liked the characters healthy disregard for the state.  Not liked by one member 'not my sort of book'.
    Star rating:  
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Generally enjoyed, good writing and humour.  Plot caused confusion in the middle section and - readers began to lose the plot. - literally!  It caused people to learn about an area of the world not much known to us.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review:  A surprising book.  We very much enjoyed a good 'who done it' with a twist.  Set in Laos, it has a good plot, wonderful characters who are truly believable.  It has a dark side with tribal beliefs but is also very funny.  We will read more.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: This is the first time in over 4 years that we have all agreed about our read! A convincing, sympathetic portrait of a man and his circle of friends and their lives in communist Laos.  Easy to read, although for some of us, the "tribal spirit" section seemed unnecessary.  Unpretentious but with a political situation. A lovely "summer read"... A winning first novel by Colin Cotterill.  Whetted the appetite for more by the author.
  • Satr rating: ***
  • Reading Group: The Benches

Edith Cotterill - Nurse on Call

  • Review: An enjoyable, nostalgic read.  Did the author use some poetic licence to make some of the events funnier we wondered?
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Monks Brook U3A

Amanda Craig - Hearts and Minds

  • Review: Good writing, good characters, made the group examine attitudes and feelings about illegal immigrants and life today.  Slightly unsatisfactory ending but this really engaged our interest.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Margaret Craven - I Heard The Owl Call My Name

  • Review: All the members found this a most moving book. A well written simple story, and agree with the Telegraph review possessing 'a rare clarity and simplicity'
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group :Woodlands
  • Review: A book which we all thoroughly enjoyed and one which we would like to own. Written very simply but very evocative of the times and peoples.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed this book.  We found it moving and quite profound in the descriptions of life and death in the villages.  It was refreshing to read about the gentle characters in the Canadian Indian Community.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Earls Close
  • Review: Our group very much enjoyed this book.  Beautifully written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Warwick Worms
  • Review: Unanimous - delightful book and refreshing read.  Short but poignant.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Weston
  • Review: Really lovely story, very poignant and spiritual, superbly related.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: Enjoyed by most older members, who found the simplicity delightful.  Younger members didn't feel empathy with the characters or way of life.  The language was simple, writing flowed, and with insights about history of the community.  Charming!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: There was a mixed review from our group it was generally felt to be an interesting account of the life of this Indian village and we all felt for the young priest but the characters were not given enough depth and it was quite a difficult and sad read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Page Turners
  • Review: Delightful - thought provoking, comforting, and excellent book enjoyed by everyone in the group.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Bookworm Bunch Ringwood

Laura Shaine Cunningham - Sleeping Arrangements

  • Review: This book was well received by all members.  We all enjoyed the story of this girls weird but loving childhood.  The shock value of the difference between hers and ours was commented on.  A good read with wonderful descriptions
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: We found the first part of this book hard to believe and therefore difficult to enjoy.  However, we all thought it improved very much as we went through it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A
  • Review:  Enjoyed by all.   A slow start but once 'the uncles' moved in teh book became more engaging, as it described Lily's colourful if not bizarre family life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends

Rachel Cusk – Arlington Park

  • Review: This book stimulated a lot of discussion as everyone had some experience in family life.  Mixed reception of reading the book, some liked it; many found the lack of story line unhelpful.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: Utterly uninteresting muddled writing, no humour,  'verbal navel gazing'.  Characters unlikeable.  Only second book in five years to be voted nil by the whole group.  A waste of reading time.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Denmead
 

D

Tatiana de Rosnay - Sarah's Key

  • Review:  We all thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Excellent story, a really gripping plot.  All looked forward to picking up the book each day.  Story is told by two different people - both very interesting and based on true facts.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Parish Pump

Edmund de Waal - The Hare with Amber Eyes

  • Review: Slow beginning but well worth persevering with.  A beautiful evocation of a family and the times they lived in, of European history and the position of Jews.  Written with a charmingly lucid style.  Intricate, intoxicating, enthralling and revealing.  The majority of the group awarded it top marks.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Donna Daley-Clarke - Lazy Eye

  • Review: Much to praise in this first novel - excellent child's eye view of the world, and description of rain in 1976.  Some found the language off-putting and the writer perhaps tried to pack too many themes into her initial book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: Majority of our group really did not like this.  Didn't like the story, nor the way it was told.  Two of us, however, found it a haunting story, beautifully told, and thought the author's use of words was wonderful.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A

William Dalrymple - From the Holy Mountain

  • Review: The group was greatly divided about this book.  Superb weaving of ancient past to modern times, interesting, informative.  However,  others found it hard going and left it unfinished.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: Good book, educational.  Some found it hard going in some parts.  Not everybody finished.  Well worth reading, interesting as history of Christianity was fully explained.

William Dalrymple - White Mughals

  • Review: Very interesting but too dense and print too small for our group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Keyhaven Yacht Club
  • Review: Scholarly historical book. Very detailed. It took us 2 months to read. Gets easier towards the end so persevere!!! Not as described on the blurb!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bedhampton
  • Review: Eloquent, informative and at times, politics did dominate! However, a lovely consistent love affair. (requires concentration)
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Young Group
  • Review: Very informative, but perhaps there is information overload.  Heavy going - or at least requires concentration.  Shows scholarship.  Too many quotations.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Julia Darling - The Taxi Driver's Daughter

  • Review: Very descriptive and readable. Characterization good and modern so easy to identify with. We all liked this one!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book.  It was an easy read with clever, well drawn characters - not too many characters too.  The family relationships were well explored and there is a good sense of place.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KYC
  • Review: We all liked it very much, a tragic but at times funny story, well written and good characters.  Would recommend it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Book Group
  • Review: This turned out to be a 'something for everyone' novel.  For once the group voted for a three star rating before we had settled in to discussing the book.  The locations were beautifully convincing, the characters so typical of their roles and the motivations ultimately understandable.  Not everyone responded to the subtle wit Julia Darling weaves into her telling of the story but for whatever reasons, all agreed it was a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Terry Darlington - Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

  • Review: Our group was divided with some hating the style while others thought the book was OK for the author's family to read but not for the general public.  Opinion divided too about the humour.  Some thought it was funny and laughed out loud while others thought it was contrived.  Some thought it too long while others thought it rattled along.  Poor punctuation annoyed all.  Author very well read.  A slice of life poking gentle fun at the French.
    Reading Group: Wallington Village.
  • Review: Amusing with some 'laugh out loud' patches, however some of us found the writing style somewhat offputting.  The lack of speech marks became confusing at times.  It was, however, enjoyable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Will Davenport - The Painter

  • Review:  A good light read but a weak ending.  Enjoyed by most of the reading group.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Romsey Abbey Reading Group
  • An engaging story which gathered pace towards the intriguing endings.  The two parallel stories were interwoven convincingly and the character of Rembrandt was particularly rich.  Highly recommended read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Sandy's Reading Group
  • Review: Provoked longest discussion we've had in a while.  Particularly enjoyed the historic element and the modern characters were caught up in a thrilling drama.  Fascinating art history too.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Beaulieu
  • Review: A curate's egg kind of book - good in parts.  The Rembrandt sections read like a well researched detective novel and since Rembrandt was beyond sympathy, defied anyone being identified with him.  On their own these parts made a good read.  The characters in the modern chapters were barely credible and for the most part under-developed.  Since the plot depended on a possible lost painting, an imagined relationship between the narrator and the C17th sitter, with an English poet dragged in by the heels, the story struggled.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Will Davenport - The Perfect Sinner

  • Review: Most members enjoyed this book. Some were put off by three stories running along together.  Rather too much about the battles, but characters very likeable and most people were happy with the way it ends.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Mill Hill Book Club

Andrew Davidson - The Gargoyles

  • Review:  A challenging but confusing novel with too many threads. The grim descriptions of injury, torture and hellish hallucinations shocked and repelled some but others confronted a gruelling reality outside our normal, comfortable lives. The literary and historical references were appreciated, stimulating one member to re-read Dante's "Inferno", leaving the actual novel itself unfinished! The group agreed that it seems fashionable for writers to create, almost engineer, books like this. Some found it tosh, others found it more intriguing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Martin Davies - The Conjurer's Bird

  • Review: Not a book we would have taken off the shelf in the library BUT we have all loved this book.  A real page turner.  It's two story lines, the present fiction combined with the real history of Joseph Banks and the missing  Bird of Ulieta.  Well drawn believable characters.  Left one wanting to know more.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: The Museum Group
  • Review: It moved along well.  All the reading group enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: We all finished the book and found it an easy read.  Some readers didn't like the alternate past and present chapters.  A romance interlaced with true facts, and the present day characters showing the desire to make money from the discovery of the rare bird.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Awbridge Evening WI
  • Review: It was considered a nice, romantic love story with its historical and social viewpoints.  Most liked the parallel structure, although the modern bits less, and the mystery of the bird and the mistress but didn't like Gabby.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Peter Ho Davies - The Welsh Girl

  • Review: Sparked great group discussion and memories.  Enjoyed reading it as it was different.  Explored dual nationality Welsh/English.  Good epilogue.  Tied things up.  Not a happy ending.  Big jump forward but didn't feel you had missed anything.  The three stories difficult to follow sometimes.  Wanted to know what the link was.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Stevie Davies - The Element of Water

  • Review: The group gave this book an average rating of three stars: however, it engendered much wider and deeper discussion than most people had anticipated. The author's use of language with poetic precision phased some people who found their reading slowed by their constant need to refer to the dictionary. With a light use of punctuation reminiscent of William Faulkner, readers found it took three to four chapters more than usual to 'get into' the book and several missed the subtleties in the interplay of the character development. Having recently read HAMER'S WAR they were ready to consider the possible reasons for the Nazi ability to sway a large part of the German population.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Very slow to start, quite informative of the period.  Not brilliantly written for such a qualified writer.  Completed by all in the group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group

Lindsey Davis - Silver Pigs

  • Review: The book was generally enjoyed by most of the group. We found it a very painless way to learn about ancient Rome. It stimulated discussion about the way of life in Vespasian's Rome and we felt it was meticulously researched.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Shipton Bellinger WI

  • Review:  A rattling good ‘who done it’ set in Rome AD70 and Britain.  The whole group found it funny and enjoyable with a really believable plot.  Well researched historical background with maps and dramatis personae.  Will read more ‘Falco’ novels.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group

  • Review: Great wit and scholarship, fine pastiche, great fun
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Emsworth Crime Group

  • Review:  Our group fell into two sections - about equal.  These were those who enjoyed a racy read - others who thought it a trivial waste of time.  Definitely two extreme views, so it is not possible to give a rating.
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies

Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion

  • Review: The Group unanimously abandoned reading this book.  The style of writing was fatuous, defensive and pompous and since all the group are non-believers it seemed a waste of time to pursue it.
    Star rating:  0
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: A difficult book to discuss - but all agreed that it was an important book.  Unfortunately three out of eight people in our group did not bother (or were too anxious) to read the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous

Jill Dawson - Fred and Edie

  • Review:  This book was well received and the group rated it 'a bit different'.  It was written from Edie's point of view and was sympathetic.  Good insight into female sexuality, especially in the context of an overwhelming and passionate love affair.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Afternoon Reading Group
  • Review: Tedious style, but very thought provoking.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: White Lion Group
  • Review: Good read, would like to read more from this author, brought up some interesting ideas.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Waterside Bookworms

Jeffery Deaver - The Bone Collector

  • Review: Some were annoyed with the American slang and copious forensic jargon.  Others found it well written and compelling, despite the gory passages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:Milford Mondays

Jeffery Deaver - The Vanished Man

  • Review: Most found it a little difficult to get into but once we were hooked then it became quite compulsive reading. We thought that the writing was good with a wealth of interesting information about escapology and a convincing New York atmosphere. You did have to suspend disbelief and persuade yourself that the vanished man really was as clever a trickster as depicted. Most of us felt that the book could have benefited by being 100 pages shorter. However, it was fast-paced and full of red herrings but not the best of its genre perhaps. Not many thought they would actually recommend it to anyone to read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Joolz Denby - Billie Morgan

  • Review: All found this novel very compelling but decided we couldn't say we enjoyed the story.  It is a beautifully written story, with well constructed totally believable characters.  The subject matter, drugs, gangs, incest etc is hard going but the author makes it seem very real and not sordid, it could be us very easily!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: With considerable trepidation our group began the discussion of this book. The lurid cover, the raw statement "My name is Billie Morgan. I am a murderer" had caused some reluctance to begin reding.  This is not a happy book but group discipline carried almost everyone to the end and generated a wealth of discussion.  The well constructed plot, the incisive writing, and the dialogue so natural North Country carried the story smoothly to its conclusion.  There was genuine empathy with the convincingly drawn characters, even the least deserving.  The only slight dissention was between a four star and a three star rating.
  • Star rating: ***plus
  • Reading Group: New Forest Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature.

Anita Desai - Fasting, Feasting

  • Review: This was the opinion of our group: each member gave a one-word opinion - boring, dull, repetitive, bland, monotonous, atmospheric, insightful.
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : Fordingbridge Reading Group

  • Review: Very good depiction of characters. The Indian section by far the most interesting. The rather abrupt ending left one wanting to hear more about these people. Would like to read more of this author.
    Rating: **

  • Review: Enjoyed by the whole group, especially for the author's insights into Indian family life. Most found the ending somewhat depressing though.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Waterlooville Reading Group

  • Review: Although provoking discussion about the Eastern and Western lifestyles, this book was not generally liked. The division of the book seemed too abrupt and the narrative left too much unresolved. This subject has been dealt with by other modern Indian writers in a better way.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: SBWI Reading Group

  • Review:  Interesting as a vehicle to view two different societies.  The issues come through relating to food and bringing up families.  An enjoyable read.  Booker listed>  Rather sceptical!
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Everton

  • Review: We all enjoyed reading this book, but felt it had an unsatisfying ending.  The contrast between the Indian and American families and the similarity of their attitude to women and children was a subject of discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Anita Desai - The Zig Zag Way

  • Review: Of the group (10 members) 2 rated it 3 stars, 1 was absent, 6 were unimpressed with the novel, which they thought didn't actually 'say' anything or come to a satisfactory conclusion.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Positive comments about the descriptive passages and unusual vocabulary.  Less keen on the storyline and characters.  Zig Zag refers to the time line of the book too?  Eric an annoying character.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: Although aware of Anita Desai's descriptive powers, most of us were underwhelmed by this book.  Some fascinating storylines (e.g. about the Huichol Indians in Mexico) which could have been further developed - most interesting was the story of the Cornish miners going to Mexico to mine silver.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group:Entre Nous

Kiran Desai - The Inheritance of Loss

  • Review: Very thought provoking resulting in a lot of discussion.  Very well written.  Sad, but appropriate ending.  Very enlightening about the history and culture of India.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion Group
  • Review: We enjoyed reading this book as it addresses many problems still relevant today.  Well drawn characters with good background detail.  A sad book with little hope.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Some readers found the episodic structure very off-putting.  Those who stuck with it found it bleak but beautifully written.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: Superb imagery and descriptive prose but many unsympathetic characters and incoherent/incomplete plot.  Possibly a young writer who will mature.  Some members disliked the short, disjointed chapter style.  Others enjoyed the style and felt it suited the broken nature of the times and events described in the story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review:  Two of the group enjoyed the book for several reasons and would read it again; the rest of us were disappointed, though all, with one exception, found the descriptive passages delightful, evocative and devoid of clichés. Most felt that there was insufficient plot and that it was rather like a collection of short stories; some felt no sympathy with the characters and thought the author failed to engage their interest. Its view of Indian culture was depressingly realistic, despite moments of humour, and most felt that the book failed to resolve anything much.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: A really good reading group choice.  Most of the group were enthusiastic about the book; there were some reservations about the ending and whether the characters were difficult to engage with.  The rich, vivid and visual description and the use of humour - at times, laugh out loud humour - juxtaposed with passages describing harsh emotions and actions are a real strength of the novel.  The use of "voice" is impressive and the insight the book affords into cultural issues and aspects of life in a different part of the world is enlightening and stimulating.  the novel generated excellent discussion.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading group: The Democrats

Denyse Devlin - The Catalpa Tree

  • Review:  The only description of this book which carried anything near to unanimity was a ‘page turner’, although the reasons given were almost as numerous as the group membership on the day (18 including myself, the only male).  The star ratings ran from * to ***½, taken at the start of our discussion reflect the wide range of reaction to the book and had not substantially altered by the end. Only one reader acknowledged understanding of and sympathy for JUDE. The sub-title of the book could have been ‘An everyday story of dysfunctional people’.  The magazine short-story character descriptions and the author’s failure to separate their patterns of speech in the too lengthy dialogues, often made re-reading of passages necessary.
    An accepted conclusion was that there was enough material for three, or at least two novels.  One can only hope that Denyse Woods has not exhausted her creative stock.  There seems to be talent here, which needs honing.
    Star rating:  * to ***½
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A – Theatre and Literature

  • Review:  Excellent for a first novel. Characters perceptively portrayed.  Good narrative flow – page turner.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group:

  • Family saga set in Ireland/London and France.  Enjoyed by many, but some were put off by love story between two main characters.  Many felt that the author had thought of ethical dilemma and then concocted the story around that.  Enjoyable discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits Books and Banter
  • Review: A lot was said about this book which as always makes the BBC book club meetings interesting. Generally it was not liked because it was considered that too much was going on, it was repetitious, a roller coaster which lacked cohesion with too many twists and turns, odd fill ins, emotional overkill and was not developed to its presented potential. Most thought the characters not developed and weak . However it was considered to have some amusing bits, expressions and good descriptions. It was felt the ending had to happen and was generally OTT.   It resulted in a good discussion about a book which most did not like, it caused a lot of laughter about us feeling "Mary Whitehouse" about it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Anita Diamant - The Red tent

  • Review: We found it an interesting and enjoyable read but wouldn't read it again. One reader thought it rather Mills and Boon-ish!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Waterlooville Reading Group

  • Review: We all agreed that this was absorbing, informative, interesting book.  We could not put it down and hope that she writes another one.   Probably not a book that would be enjoyed by men.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A

  • Review: An interesting historical novel which became predictable with little characterisation and over emphasis on the fundamentals of life.  Scant reasons were given for the dramatic twists with an overall lack of conviction.  A tendency to be tedious at times.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A Petersfield Group 6

  • Review: Good read but rather lurid, savage and blood thirsty.  Interesting account of a community of women living together under hard times and of folklore.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group

  • It had vivid descriptions of the way of life in the 'camps'.  The strong friendship amongst the women during childbirth.  It was fascinating in the details throughout the book.  Life comes over as very hard and brutal.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: All but one of us thoroughly enjoyed this book.  We were gripped by the story but also absorbed by the way the author made the setting and details so vivid.  The characters were realistic and we were fascinated by the lives of these women.  We referred to Genesis to read the source again.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cambridge
  • Review: Most of us really liked this and could relate to the biblical background.  We liked the story and the characters and felt the book told an interesting story.  Very well researched.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A
  • Review: "A book I would not have selected, but so glad the Book Club did!"  Really different from my normal genre - the idea and reality of a Red Tent was popular amongst ouf female readership.  The extended family 'takes a village to raise a child' had much agreement.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Sentinel Book Club

Junot Diaz - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

  • Review: Mixed - extreme - reactions from some of our readers!  A few rated highly and a couple thought very poor.  Those left found the main story interesting and educational, aswell as touching.  Some jargon annoying and some felt translation of some words would have been welcome.  Convincing and memorable characters.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Fleet Library Readers

Charles Dickens - Great Expectations

  • Review: We loved it!!!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough

Jennifer Donnelly - A Gathering Light

  • Review: Every person in the RG enjoyed this engrossing and cunningly plotted novel. Its success as a “cross over” book can be measured by the fact that not one of the group realised that the author wrote it for teenagers primarily. The ?????? touched upon in the novel proved excellent subjects for lively discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Waterlooville R G

  • Review: One member found this book boring but the rest really enjoyed it. A couple of people couldn't put it down. A well written powerful story based on a true murder case but in no way a 'who dun it'
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

  • Review: Excellent read, thought provoking.  Very well written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Waterside Bookworms

  • Review: All of the group enjoyed reading this book.  Based on an actual tragedy in the early twentieth century; we thought it evoked the period and moral attitudes of the times.  Also the characters were well portrayed and the dialogue excellent.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 1
  • Review: Absorbing insight into the hard life of young, poor farm girls in 1960s America. The courage and resilience the heroine showed in holding onto her dreams and aspirations was inspiring.  Very well written.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group 2
  • Review: Absorbing insight into the hard life of young, poor farm girls in 1900s America.  The courage and resilience the heroine showed in holding onto her dreams and aspirations.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Book Club 2

Anne Donovan - Buddha Da

  • Review: Like the Scottish dialect, . in "yar heed", added authenticity. Characters portrayed were 'real people'. Easy read. Would the book work elsewhere in the country ie Dorset setting? We thought Jimmy's character was integral to the plot working
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ten Four Books
  • Review: A book greatly enjoyed by the group once they had discovered that there was no need to translate the Glaswegian patois into English.  The use of the three different voices, a technique which does not always work, in this book worked beautifully.  The range of relationship problems uncovered when Jimmy ‘went Buddhist’ gave us a full ninety minutes of discussion.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A – Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Most people enjoyed it and soon got used to the Glaswegian dialect.  However, there was not much of a story and the dialect (which no Glaswegian would write in, even if they speak it) was the only thing that lifted it out of the ordinary.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:In-Sync

Martyn Downer - Nelson's Purse

  • Review: A most appropriate book to read in the Trafalgar Bicentenary Year. We admired the painstaking research and attention to detail, although we did find names confusing continually referring to the notes at the back of the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brookmans

  • Review: Some of the group couldn't put it down. Others felt that they would have liked more about Nelson and other characters rather than dwelling on Alexander Davison's life and shady activities . It is well researched and well-written though the title is misleading as the purse is hardly mentioned until the end.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle No 2

  • Review: Enjoyed because of the way it was written and depth of research.  Surprisingly enjoyed in some cases.  Gave an insight into relationship of individuals and politics of the time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

  • Review: An interesting non-fiction written as a novel.  History of the times well perceived.  Middle section rather tedious.  Surprised at character of Nelson and Fanny, so different to regular concepts.  Davison's character - many traits but basically power corrupts.  Nothing new - what goes round, comes round.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Arthur Conan Doyle - A Study in Scarlet

  • Review:  Well enjoyed to our surprise!  Good descriptions of London in Victorian times.  Fascinating glossary of words etc.  Second half - thought it a bit 'Pegs Paperish'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed the book.  Really riveting and the conclusions that Holmes came to were amazing when explained later.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review:  An interesting read following on from Julian Barnes’ ‘Arthur and George’.  Conclusion in Pt 1, story Pt 2.  As the fore runner  to so much detective fiction that has been produced this is fascinating.  Pt 2 was considered the more interesting half.  Donan Doyles’ interest in history very evident and some good descriptive passages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group

Roddy Doyle - The Commitments

  • Review: Reactions to this book were more diverse than for any other book the group have read in the past eighteen months. It generated ninety minutes of lively discussion. Several readers found the language too much to deal with and quit at varying points. The general style of writing and the use of UPPER CASE for the song lyrics (?) had a mixed reception. Some thought it read more like a play than a novel. Of the readers who stayed the course most found it funny, incisive, quite believable and with hopeful ending. The characters were drawn with clarity and precision and developed appropriately. Definitely not a book for everyone but a book every serious reader should try.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Theatre Group
  • Review: "Yuck"
    Rating:
    Reading Group : W.I. North Baddesley
  • Review: This book provoked a lively discussion. Six members did not find reading it rewarding. They disliked the language and found the subject difficult. One member reading it for a second time, found it just as funny this time. Another member found the first chapters difficult at first but then the language and characters became real and she loved the story and format. All found the characterisation good.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Museum Group
  • Review:  In general it was felt to be a good amusing book, well constructed and poignant at times.  It was felt it would make an excellent film script.  Two members disliked it and could find nothing to commend it.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hartley Readers
  • Review: We're glad we read it, and now want to watch the film and see how it compares.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Knackered Mums

Roddy Doyle - Paula Spencer

  • Review: Cleverly written, compelling and gritty.  The main character is written in the first person giving a true insight to unrelenting, hum-drum life and her struggle to make the best of things.  Generally well liked by the group although some thought it too depressing and somewhat boring.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group

Margaret Drabble - The Sea Lady

  • Review: Technically excellent - disappointing ending!  Wonderful evocation of childhood and observations on changing society in Britain during last half century.  Regret and loss are predominant themes as well as coming to terms with your life as you face ageing and death.
    Star rating: ***
    Review: The novel was not an easy read and contained some rather unnecessary verbose paragraphs.  The childhood reminiscences were well described and we were unanimous with this part of the book.  A minority of the group thought that they would read another of Ms Drabble’s titles though.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: One person really enjoyed it, the rest enjoyed various parts especially the childhood scenes at the beginning.  It was agreed that the author must have done an enormous amount of research.  Much discussion took place.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3

Carol Ann Duffy - The World's Wife

  • Review:  This book of poetry gave rise to much enjoyable discussion.  We eventually decided the rhythm of the words/sentences was good, likewise her command of her craft was good.  the idea of the subject matter - thoughts of the wife of famous men was interesting, witty and inventive but the emphasis on sex was harsh but not loving.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: A varied selection of poems, as written by the wives of famous men from history, mythology and religion.  Extremely funny, moving and thought provoking; these poems can be enjoyed on many levels and are very worthy of group discussion.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reaging Group: The Democrats

Stella Duffy - State of Happiness

  • Review: Sensitively written on an awkward subject.  the story didn't need the bad language.  A little on the slow side.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bookworm Club
  • Review: Many people commented on life's path. Some found it "close to home", especially those with personal experiences, and the group had mixed feelings as it was so real, very profound. The relationships were found interesting, the aspects of leaving New York and the finding of the new flat also, but the mapping information was not liked by some. It was considered well written, the short sentences were highlighted. Many felt it was a strange theme to choose. The title it was decided was a pun on the STATE OF California HAPPINESS.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:
  • Review: Having just read 'The Spare Room' another book with approaching death as its central theme, several group members decided that 'State of Happiness' was too close to personal experience and opted out of reading it.  The general opinion of the readers was that the book is beautifully written, gripping and an interesting contrast to the previous book.  The concept of life-mapping produced valuable discussion and comfortably drew into the circle the non readers.  This is an excellent book but for group reading has to be chosen with care.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Daphne Du Maurier - Rebecca

  • Review: We all loved it. A book you could re-read again and again. It was very well written and description was great.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Farnborough Daytime Reading Group
  • Review: Exquisite description with an atmosphere of foreboding.  Fascinating to see the girl's attitudes and fears. Evocation of 1930s upper class life and social norms where no-one ever said what they think.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group 2

Sarah Dunant - In the Company of the Courtesan

  • Review: Very well written, vivid, characters lived.  Setting familiar to those who had been to Venice.  Language crude but fitted the time and scene.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The majority really enjoyed this book.  Rich, lush writing.  Learnt a lot about the history of the time, and it brought Venice to life.  We wanted a sequel.  Very clever writer.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: Excellent historical research.  Some felt it was too padded out.  Most enjoyed a rollicking good yarn.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson Readers

Sarah Dunant - Transgressions

  • Review: Distasteful, gratuitous, violence, unpleasant, misogynistic attitude towards women, with no justification within the plot; weak ending, things didn't tie up - inconsistencies within the story. This has put us off reading anything else by this author.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Monks Brook U3A

Sarah Dunant - The Birth of Venus

  • Review:  An intriguing novel set in Florence during the rule of Lorenzo Medici and influence of fanatic monk, Savonarola. The political and religious influence of the time affect the Cecci family.  The story’s main theme is the youngest daughter and her black female slave.  The life of women in Florence and their struggle for themselves in a male dominated society.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group

  • Review:  We realised this was a book that explored life in 15C Florence at several levels.  The influence of religion – relationships – some found the intense physical descriptions unnecessary but others felt they were justified.  Not for the faint hearted.
    Star rating:  ** - ***
    Reading Group:  Enjoying Books

  • Review:  An interesting book on lots of levels.  We found plenty to discuss - particularly the historical context.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review:  Some members found the beginning chapter a bit off putting, but were so glad that they continued.  Set against the rich back drop of Medici Florence, Alessandra grows up yearning to be an artist.  Everyone enjoyed this well researched and delightful story.

Sarah Dunant - Mapping the Edge

  • Review:  Rather baffling story but was the subject of considerable discussion.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A

Sarah Dunant - Snow Storms in a Hot Climate

  • Review: We liked the style of writing, very readable book.  Kept you guessing until the end.  references to lots of things and descriptive narrative was excellent - you could really 'picture' the places and people.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Cheerful Bags
  • Review: An easy read, mixed reception from the group.  Refreshing change from previous books read.  The book lets you draw your own conclusions as to the real involvement of each of the characters.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: As a read it is a real page turner, kept one guessing.  We did not really enjoy this book, felt the characters were rather shadowy.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Helen Dunmore - House of Orphans

  • Review: Conveyed brilliantly the isolation of the individual in a crowd and in remote Finland countryside.  Interesting comparison of the relationships between fathers and daughters.  Several of group felt end spoilt the book because it was so abrupt.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Champagne

Helen Dunmore - Mourning Ruby

  • Review: Helen Dunmore writes well and we were looking forward to this book.  It was well written with some delightful descriptions and turns of phrase, but the narrative was such a disappointment.  Almost a series of short stories any of which we would have loved to be a novel but not randomly put together as here.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We thought this was a well constructed book and enjoyed the way in which the four stories were interwoven.  The author wrote of the tragedy of the accidental death of a much loved child most movingly, which our members felt was honestly portrayed including the deep depression and guilt of the parents.  However, it was in the end not a tale of tragedy but of the triumph of the human spirit.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Helen Dunmore - The Siege

  • Review: " A beautifully and cleverly written human story of survival during the devastatingly cold first winter of the Leningrad Siege. Dunmore write with poetic style of the love, protection and duty the 6 foremost characters bestow on each other. There are lovely descriptive passages. and not too unbearable desperate ones. Our group found the book thought provoking and it prompted a lot of discussion. Read it!
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Hayling Island Library Reading Group

  • Review: We all appreciated the power of her descriptions and evocation of atmosphere. She handled the relationships skilfully, particularly with the child. We found it very well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A1

  • Review: A half full book rather than half empty. Well written, very descriptive, good characterisation. We all liked it, most of us thought it beautiful, one or two found it very sad. It maybe lacked a few facts of historical detail.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading group: Hartley Reader

  • Review: All agreed that Helen Dunmore writes well. Some really enjoyed this book but others found it depressing. It certainly generated discussion and is one of those books that everyone should read.
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
    Star rating: ***

  • Review:  The story of a terrible time in history written very simply and told through eyes of a young girl, Anna.  It is hard to imagine just how difficult life was for ordinary people.  The never-ending search for food and clothing in terrible weather which was an ordinary part of her life as she struggled to keep her family safe at a time when one wrong word overheard or a wrong opinion expressed could see you imprisoned!
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Basingstoke Library – Thursday Group

  • Review: Excellent book, well researched.  Absorbing read, realistic portrayal of life under siege with background information re: life in the USSR under Stalin.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review: This promised to be a depressing book because of the subject matter.  The poetic and descriptive writing, however, and the concentration on one family's experience of famine, cold and danger during the siege of Leningrad made this a real page turner.  A powerful and moving novel - memorable and well written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bedhampton
  • Review: Some people thought it best book read in group, others not happy about war stories and one did not like style.  Overall the book was enjoyed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: An excellent read enjoyed by all in our book group.  Very well researched and written story set in the tragedy of the siege of Leningrad in 1941.  Helen Dunmore makes you believe that she experienced it herself.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Thought it was a worthwhile read with believable characters.  Horrified at the treatment of the children and amazed that anyone survived the intense cold and starvation.  Would read another of Helen Dunmore's works.
    Star rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Novel Ideas
  • Review: This was an extremely harrowing story of the plight of Leningrad citizens during the siege.  Brilliantly written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Generally well received.  The writing was thought very descriptive and the story line harrowing and well written.  Many of our group will be reading the sequel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: Extremely well written insight into the conditions experienced during the siege of Lleningrad.  Helen Dunmore clearly demonstrates her ability to convey a wide range of emotions.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group:  Stubbington Book Buddies
  • Mark Dunn - Ella Minnow Pea

  • Review: Interesting view of life under a dictatorship.  Quirky.  We got a bit fed up when very few letters of the alphabet could be used.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley
 

E

David Ebershoff - The 19th Wife

  • Review: One member didn't finish the book but the other seven really enjoyed it.  We realise the story was fiction, based on facts, but were interested to learn about the Mormon faith.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Ends

Kim Edwards - Memory Keeper's Daughter

  • Review: Most (8/11) enjoyed it although some found the open ended far fetched aspects annoying.  Most found it aroused emotions and enjoyed anticipating the end finding it a fascinating story line reflecting 60's life.  Also most found it descriptive, well written and a compulsive read.  However 3/11 really disliked it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: A well crafted, thought provoking story which being discussed, highlights how attitudes have altered in the past forty years.  Not surprisingly with a large group (18) most of the moral break points have been experienced by someone in the group prepared openly to describe personal events and consequences.  Kim Edwards writes beautiful English but is inclined to over-do minute descriptive details of scenery and characters behaviour.  Predictably, some within the group felt that 'tying up the ends' is rushed.  A good book for group reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Enjoyed by most of our group and instigated a lively discussion.  We all found the characters believable, a few enjoyed the way the story was woven around them - sympathies more with Caroline and Phoebe than David and Norah.  A tale about how one decision made in a moment affects so many lives.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lee
  • Review: All agreed that the basic plot is an excellent idea.  Opinions varied as to how successful the characterisation is, but in general an interesting read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Books

Ruth Dudley Edwards - Matricide at St Martha's

  • Review: Comic crime novel, set in a Cambridge women's college. The author's amateur sleuth, a highly caricatured civil servant, is brought in to solve a murder or two. We didn't like this much, found it very one-dimensional, with laboured black humour that didn't really make us smile, and little sense of progression - Not recommended.
    Rating:
    Reading Group :Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: Only one member enjoyed this book. Everyone else thought it silly and pointless.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Brockenhurst WI
  • Review:  The group was divided over this novel.  Some thought it pathetic and not worth reading.  Others were amused by this pastiche of a 30’s thriller highlighting modern political correctives.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Three members of the group were very enthusiastic about this book and the author.  They enjoyed the characters (albeit caricatures), the wit and the literature.  Four members were less enthusiastic and found some areas annoying/irritating.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: Disappointing book, one dimensional characters, little or no explanation of background of characters.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Bibliofillies

Dave Eggers - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

  • Review: Not an easy read. Well written and showing great insight and understanding of a young man's problems when dealing with his parents death and the consequent responsibility for his younger brother's upbringing. Tongue in cheek at times.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Jennie's Friends
  • Review: An intriguing beginning with a very dark, moving account of a death. Most of us initially enjoyed the description of an older brother trying to raise his much younger sibling in California. Nothing much developed or changed though and we found it difficult to read as the form, language and narrative structure were terribly self-indulgent. The ideas were good, but it was far too long-winded.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group :Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: The group was divided. Some wonderful descriptions and clear pictures of his thought processes. However, most of the group found the book self-indulgent and rambling. Did he have an editor?
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Reading Group
  • Review: Unaninmously disliked.  Found to be depressing and too graphic in the Mother's illness. No story.  A number of the group declined to finish the book.
    Rating: 1 Star
    Reading Group: Libretto, Hayling Library

George Eliot - The Mill on the Floss

  • Review: Everyone had difficulty getting into it, but then enjoyed it. There were strong views on the various characters, especially their weaknesses. The style was considered long winded, however the representation of life at that time was enjoyed. Overall, everyone was pleased they'd read it but most would not have chosen it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Boater's Book Club
  • Review: Beautifully written with very interesting and sometimes entertaining characters. Rather 'long winded' for modern tastes. Very sad ending - almost as if she did not know what else to do with the character.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Author/Title:  George Eliot/Mill on the Floss
    Review:  The book was agreed to be worth the effort of reading but needed initial perseverance.  It led to a discussion of the changing role of women in society.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • George Eliot - The Mill on the Floss
    Review:  This is a most enjoyable book.  Very well written, moving story of times and lives of the era.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A
  • Review: Hard work, but ultimately rewarding.  This book told us more about the main characters inner life than other novels we have read recently.  The ending was rather too abrupt.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Most of the group enjoyed this book. It was beautifully written with a melodramatic story and a surprising and tragic ending. The characterisation of the main characters was very good, but some of the writing was long winded for today’s reader and it highlighted the different status of women in the 1860’s which led to much discussion on women’s position in society, even today. We thought it was very much a book of its time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: Characters well drawn.  Social and rural England at the time was brilliant.  Outcome of the story led to debate.  Very memorable.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers

George Eliot - Middlemarch

  • Review:  A classic read which provoked much discussion.  A very well constructed book, (though a heavy read).  The introduction was useful regarding George Eliot’s own background and was essential reading.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Reading Group
  • Review: Slightly unpopular due to length.  Personal view - a magnificent work, all encompassing of the time.  Marvellous scholarship.  Unbeatable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree

George Eliot - Silas Marner

  • Review: A typical Victorian type novel which we all enjoyed.  Much discussion ensued i.e. social status, country living v town dwelling.  Silas Marners character, Dolly Winthrop's Christian ethics, Geoffreys lies etc.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: All enjoyed story and characterisation.  some found the style too 'wordy' compared with modern writers.  A majority loved it and gave it full marks.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: Almost everyone enjoyed it and we found lots of interesting aspects to discuss.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: LGD Alton

R J Ellory - A Quiet Belief in Angels

  • Review: Very mixed feelings mostly thought it was an unusual story - typical American type - hard to relate to.  Interesting the two wars which were going on though.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: This is an emotionally draining book - amazingly written - rewarding - dreadfully sad - but must be read!
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: A really good read.  Very atmospheric and gripped us to the end of the book. Very poetic descriptions throughout.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Ben Elton - Stark

  • Review: Hard to get into as it is rather disjointed. Not an easy read. The book made us think and discuss the environment but it did have some lighthearted moments. The group had mixed feelings about this book to the extent that a large majority did not finish it
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W.I.
  • Review: We all found the message of this book very serious and also enjoyed the humour in it but some members found the language distressing.  Also some did not like such short chapters with so many changes of subject.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bramshaw WI Book Club

Ben Elton - Past Mortem

  • Review:  A page turning thriller with elements of comedy, suspense and empathy.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Happy Days
  • Review: In parts some tender, thought provoking situations.  Plot very good.  Suspenseful.  Compulsive reading BUT the bad language, sex 'scene' quite disturbing even for broad minded readers.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI
  • Review:  One of our members had read several Ben Elton books and regaled us with how funny they were BUT not this one.  We all disliked it and felt that the author was trying to shock.  We did not feel his characters were believable and generally felt we would not want to read another of his books.  We felt it was not a good choice to be on a reading group list.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Cambridge
  • Review: With a full house for the discussion on Past Mortem we proved the strength of being in a reading group; almost everyone completed their reading of the book.  Although pertinently current it was however of a different generation from that of our group.  Elton is easy to read but hard to swallow.  Yes it was an interesting expose of the effects of bullying; yes it was comic though few found it funny unless they already like Ben Elton's style; yes it afforded us a good sixty minutes of discussion but it was not a book one would readily recommend to a friend.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:  We are perhaps not the best audience to judge this book.  It was well written, but the plot slightly far fetched and the blue passage was not really appreciated.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Anne Enright – The Gathering

  • Review: Met with a very mixed reception.  Most of the group acknowledged that the book was well written and the star rating reflects reaction of a larger than usual membership.  However, eighty minutes of discussion took us into territories many would normally have avoided and a sufficient number enjoyed the book and could see why it received the Man Booker award.  Advice: stick with the book to the end….there is something heart-warming awaiting you there.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: The general consensus was that it was very patchy - in places it was touching, amusing or perceptive but few of us could relate to the narrator or her family.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Champagne

Babara Erskine. - Lady of Hay


  • Review: On the plus side it was considered a compelling, easy read containing cliff hangers. Everyone felt drawn back to it. The historical aspects were enjoyed especially for the clothes, action, marriages (under age), life in general, the buildings and even the violence. It was thought to be well researched and based on truth which brought it alive.
    On the negative side it was considered repetitious and far too long, the characters got confused in who did what, and that some aspects like developing the character of King John were missed. Finding the treasure at the end was ridiculous and other modern bits farcical with everyone being "lovely" and generally predictable. The "add on" written 25 years after the original was not liked at all.
    Generally the usage of the regression and hypnosis were considered a clever vehicle except in the add on, where ghosts and possession were used. As described above the historical bits were particularly enjoyed.
    Star rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
    Reading Grou: Boaters Book Club

Jeffrey Eugenides - Middlesex

  • Review: Only 2 finished the book!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  A thoroughly satisfying book at all levels, leaving the reader with the feeling that Eugenides had much more to tell than he used for the telling.  For generations used to heavily biased reports on recent Greco/Turkish relations, it was good to be reminded of the deep causes of mistrust and hatred which divide the Eastern Mediterranean states.  The wry humorous descriptions of the Greek-American families and the delicate handling of Calliope’s odd genetic history merit the term ‘sumptuously enjoyable’  A book with plenty of material for discussion.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  New /Waterside U3A
  • Review: The book received high marks from most members.  People liked the wide sweep of the novel and the vivid descriptions.  Good discussion about intersex issues.  Some felt the book should have been edited more.  We cared about the characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Romsey LGBT
  • Review: Well written with rich character portrayal and a well developed story.  Substantial historical content and a sense of underlying tragedy throughout.  
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Tuesday Crew

Rupert Everett - Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins

  • Review: Got a mixed reaction - some thought it very amusing and a window on showbiz of the first order.  Some detailed accounts of film making a bit tedious but 'Rupie' is a charming personality growing up in a difficult background.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree

Barbara Ewing - A Dangerous Vine

  • Review: Enjoyed by all our group, we felt this book gave a clear and evocative picture of time and place.  It sparked off an interesting discussion about New Zealand and the dilemmas of the characters in the 1950s.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Happy Readers
  • Review: Well drawn characters contributing to a multilayered story which gave a real insight into Maori culture and conflict.  Also resonant with elements of 50s England.  A slightly awkward syntactic style that but ultimately a page turner.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy's
  • Review:   After an unpromising start, this was judged a page turner.  The Numerous interesting characters, revelations about the cultural problems of the Maoris and white New Zealanders – the fifties era, the linguistic explanations all combined to make a book which stimulated considerable discussion.
    Star rating:**
    Reading Group:  CC Readers

Barbara Ewing - The Mesmerist

  • Review: On the whole we found this an easy read, which was interesting because of the details about 'alternative medicine' in Victorian times.  However, we did find the story a bit simplistic, with an all-too conveniently happy ending!
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A
 

F

Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong

  • Review: A mixed response to this book, some actively disliking it and others finding it a very realistic (sometimes too much so) story based mainly in the trenches of the First World War. It is true the scenes at the front are harrowing and do, as someone said, "go on and on" but perhaps this is to reinforce the reality that did indeed seem unending to those existing out there. Certainly a moving book that makes the reader think about his/her own attitude to war and those who have to fight them.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge Reading Group:
  • Review:  An excellent read.  The effect on the soldiers and their families in WW1.  The horrors and carnage of  ‘The Somme’.  The endurance of the troops in the trenches.  The follow on influence of this war on their descendants sixty years later.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review:We were unanimous in our praise for this book.  Extremely well constructed, sensitive writing with an excellent story line.  We all felt that we had learnt a lot about the war from his very thorough research.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Enjoying Books
  • Review: Our group found this a very powerful book.  It is also educational in the sense that it tells a very true picture of the WWI.  Well researched and well written.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: Unanimously enjoyed.  Vivid description of trench life in WWI.  Strong emotional relationships, disillusionment and strength of human spirit very well portrayed.  We found it satisfying that the fate of characters introduced at the beginning of the book were later told.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: The abiding memory of this book is the carnage of WW1.  You are there in the trenches and tunnels.  Birdsong is more than a history book.  It takes us from a highly charged affair in pre-war France via the horrors of trench warfare to hope and resolution in the 1970s.  Highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Sebastian Faulks - Charlotte Gray

  • Review: Thought provoking and harrowing in places. Difficult to get into and not a page turner but a rewarding read never-the-less.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: Mixed views on it, but general consensus was that it was not as good as Birdsong, and also that there seemed to be a lot of bits of stories tacked together in a rather chaotic manner.
    Star Rating: **
    Reading Group: Literary Ladies
  • Review: Much disagreement within the group.  Some people felt the storyline was weak and unconvincing.  Most of us enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Vichy France and found the descriptions of anti-Semitism extremely poignant and moving.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: We waited a long time to read this book, testament to its popularity.  It was much praised and enjoyed for the way the author managed a complicated cast of characters in a  difficult period of WW2 history of England and French occupation by Germany.
  • Review:  The group was really split over this one!  One person enjoyed it so much that she immediately reserved Birdsong - another title in the trilogy.  Another member found it difficult to get into and all the characters unsympathetic.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Valleydene

Sebastian Faulks - Engleby

  • Review: Well written.  Made us think about the subject.  Not a pleasurable book.  would read more by the same author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Villager
  • Review: Only one of the group enjoyed this book.  A despicable character.  Totally lacking in emotion.  But it created much discussion.
    Star rating:  **+
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 3
  • Review: Overall the group appreciated that Sebastian Faulks is a good writer.  However, all agreed that the subject matter was depressing and some could not finish the book for this reason.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Warblington

Sebastian Faulks - Human Traces

  • Review: exceptional book.  Well researched and quite a powerful story.  To some highly emotional especailly the African chapters.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Havers
  • Review: We felt this was a very long, complex novel that lacked any sense of time, place or reality.  The background was clearly well-researched but the excessive detail would have benefited from judicious editing.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Arle

Ellen Feldman - Scottsboro

  • Review: A book which should be made compulsory reading for anyone claiming to be socially civilised.  Not an easy read but no matter how much the topic is hated once started can not easily be abandoned.  Typical reaction 'I loved the book, but hated the subject.'
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Julian Fellowes - Past Imperfect

  • Review: Certainly kept going a good, lengthy conversation for group.  Everyone was impressed by witticism.  Some felt it could be an autobiography - no sentence should be missed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Tadley
  • Review: Opinions split on this book. Fellowes writes well but is sometimes a little wordy. Two members put life on hold to finish the book but others found the world of the bright young things of the late 60s a touch unpleasant. Satire it may have been but there was a feeling of admiration for these soon to be Sloane Rangers. It provoked discussion and any work by the author of Downton Abbey is worth a read.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Kate Fenton - Lions and Liquorice

  • Review: Not very popular. Quite clever ideas, but rather confused and lacking a satisfactory explanation or outcome. The 'bad' language was unnecessary and unwelcome.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group :
  • Review:  Easy reading but no quality work.  Many members felt the whole book was contrived and confusing.  Not many guessed the twist and some enjoyed working out the characters against Austen’s Pride and Prejudice of which the entire book is a parody.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review: Most of the group did not like it, finding the story confusing and lacking in subtlety and depth and the ending poor.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: BBC

P Ferguson - It So Happens

  • Review: An enjoyable read with interweaving but not confusing strands.  Quite uplifting with a number of positive relationships established and re-established.  The ‘gothic’ slant mentioned in the blurb passed us by!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy’s

Jasper Fforde - The Eyre Affair

  • Review:  Majority enjoyed it.  A silly book for intellectuals. Possibly enjoyed more by female readers because of the romantic novels it deals with. Zany with a cult appeal.  Mix between Harry Potter, Dr Who and James Bond.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Wed Group
  • Review: 2/7 enjoyed it a lot.  About 2 disliked it and 2 not impressed.  Good holiday reading which was not so funny for some people.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Weston Readers
  • Review: I found this book really intriguing.  Full of interesting concepts and amusing in parts.  However, most others in  the group thought it juvenile and superficial.  Overall not a popular choice.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Titchfield Book Group

Jasper Fforde - The Well of Lost Plots

  • Review:  Out of 14 members, only 3 had finished it, only one enjoying it! The others had found it impossible to read – too silly and surreal.  Some felt excluded by the literary allusions;  some found some passages amusing but then it would go off beyond what was comprehensible into realms beyond fantasy into utter pretentiousness!
    Star rating:   *
    Reading Group:  In-Sync Club
  • Review: As a group it was felt that the previous books in the series needed to have been read to fully understand it.  There were mixed opinions.  It encouraged some to want to read the others, although a few did not finish.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cowplain
  • Review: Promoted more discussion within the group than any other book so far.  We were disappointed at the lack of storyline, but enjoyed lots of the literary allusions and clever devices.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: North Hayling

Melanie Finn - Away From You

  • Review: Half of the group liked the book, half didn't (found it confusing going backwards and forwards in time).  All found the ending a bit lame.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The No Dickens Group

F Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

  • Review: Easy read - depicted the era - characters shallow and careless apart from Nick - enjoyed descriptions - sad ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club
  • Review:  Much discussion with varied response from our group from much appreciation through to acute antipathy.
    Star rating:  * to ***
    Reading Group:  Milford Reading Group
  • Review: A well observed and beautifully written novel.  A sad book, which made us aware of America post 1918 war.  The mixing of social classes and the influence of old and new money.  The characters were well drawn and were very real in the reading.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Why is this considered the 'great American novel of all time'?  Most of our group were distinctly underwhelmed.  Though we admired the carefully crafted language, the plot and characterisation left most of us dissatisfied.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Bidbury Mead WI
  • Review: excellent critique on the age.  Highly descriptive.  Exasperation in the characters emphasised this.  Some people queried that the content made it a classic.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Fannie Flagg - Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café

  • Review: All the readers of this group enjoyed the book. The way it was written was good. The characters were very real and the story in parts were quite comical. We felt the ending was rather tame. On the whole, a very good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Yateley and District Reading Group
  • Review: A slow start but after that a real page turner, real characters and surprising plot. We got a real feel for Alabama from the late 1920s to the late 1980s.
    Points of discussion.
    1. The relations of whites to the black population (the Ku Klux Klan
    2. Poverty in the depression
    3. Tolerance of behaviour and relationships
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Museum Group
  • Review: A beautifully crafted novel which demands to be read right through. The main plot, the story of the enduring love of two women, Idgie and Ruth, enfolded in the growing love and affection between Ninny Threadgoode and Evelyn Couch runs smoothly on a plethora of sub-plots. Read and you will come to know a cast of characters with a humorous take on life, great loyalty to their small community and an earthy morality which engenders a real respect for people as people. Read and you will laugh with them and agonise with them.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review:  Wonderful characters, well defined and utterly believable.  Splendid picture of life in Alabama from 1900s to late 90s including racial prejudice.  Important to read and understand the dates of the chapters and the person telling the story.  All agreed, a very good read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Milford
  • Review:  Heart warming.  Readable.  Period brought to life. Social history excellent.  Good to see blacks treated sympathetically.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The book was completed by all members with a mixed reception ranging from a beautiful story that touched the reader, to oh no not another southern American women's story!  Probably would not read another by the same author.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Amusing, different structure, refreshing; small chapters found to be enjoyable.  Dot Weems comments succinct and amusing.  Showed Evelyn's transformation from being down-trodden to a person in her own right.  characters all sympathetically portrayed.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Anton U3A
  • Review: We all loved this book!!  Masses to talk bour, great characterisation, full of humour, sadness and very though provoking.  Highly Recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies Who Lunch
  • The majority of the group thoroughly enjoyed this book.  One member even tried some of the recipes!  Some lovely charter vignettes.  Local colour well portrayed.  The weekly Gazette was a treasure.
    Star Rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: In general people enjoyed this book, with 2 storylines being carefully interwoven. However, we found the view of Alabama in the 30s rather sentimentalised with the poverty and racism not being fully brought out. In some ways Evelyn's story was the more interesting one.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Book Club
  • Review: Easy reading.  Not a book that engrossed us.  It was funny in parts but we felt there was no substance to the book and we thought there was no point.  We would not recommend this book to another book club.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Reading Enthusiasts
  • Review: A good read, enjoyed by all.  Covered many of the social aspects of the day in a very light and pleasant way - making you 'think' without being depressive.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Oakham

Susan Fletcher - Eve Green

  • Review: Many loose ends to the story.  Cleverly interweaving of time and characters.  Great details remembered from childhood.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: U3A Lymington
  • Review: A sensitive and poetic unfolding of characters, gently taking you through some of life's experiences.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Nat Gonella
  • Review: Enjoyable read - nostalgic view of life in rural Wales some 40 years ago.  Slowly revealed story and interesting plot with loose ends.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Blank Books

Ken Follett - Jackdaws

  • Review: A good 'Boys Own' story with exciting page turning plot.  Poor as literature, with caricatures rather than characters.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne Reading Group
  • Review: A good example of popular fiction with a simple theme; that of the organising and leadership abilities of women.  Ken Follett crafts an exciting story but his characterisation is Mills and Boone - shallow and does not do justice to the theme.  The book does not display any great literary merit, however, it proved an excellent choice for autumn break reading and engendered searching discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Thriller about espionage just before D Day.  Exciting to the end, well written with realistic characters and had the ring of truth about it.  All thoroughly enjoyed it and want to read more by this author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boarhunt WI

Ford Maddox Ford - The Good Soldier

  • Review:  Mixed reception.  A good read - clever if convoluted.  Interesting commentary on the times (1915) especially his background with the pre-Raphaelites.  Very good introduction.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review:  Very polarised reactions, from admiration to contempt, but it gave us plenty to talk about.  It's not a long book but it is quite dense, and some things need a second reading before they make sense.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fareham WEA

E. M. Forster - Passage to India

  • Review: We were impressed by the descriptive passages of this book. Set in the early part of the last century some of the text was difficult to understand. The cultural differences of the Indian people and the English attitude was extraordinary on those days. The story line was thought provoking. Dr fielding we thought was a strong characters. Our group was divided in recommending this book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Yateley and District U3A
  • Review: A thought provoking book. We discussed the characters in relation to their presence in the India of the 1920s and what would have been expected of them. How we view it in 2005. The book examines the British in India, the Indian population and early wish for self-government.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Museum Group
  • Review: Not an easy book to read but well worth the effort. Full of insight into the racial prejudice of the time and of Indian society and the Raj. Some beautifully written passages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review:  Much enjoyed – particularly well constructed prose and the way Anglo/Indian tensions were depicted.  Prompted much discussion about India, Pakistan etc.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  EMS Valley U3A Book Club
  • Review: A demanding but fascinating book.  Informative, multilayered and very thought provoking providing many discussion points.  Although characters and situation were depicted as extreme, we thought they were probably credible for that period.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Afternoon Group
  • Review: Provoked good discussion and debate and encouraged us to read more of Forster.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A reading group 2
  • Review: Not an easy read.  Thought provoking - raising issues.  Rambling at times; not always clear who was speaking in the dialogue.  A book of its time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton U3A
  • Review: Good discussion but it was generally felt that the language was too complicated.  Good story , tedious, disappointing at the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A book circle 3

Margaret Forster - Good Wives

  • Review: A most interesting read - it stimulated a great deal of discussion. Showed the changing role of wives.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review:  This was an interesting, well researched non-fiction book.  However, some members thought it was over-long and that the author allowed her own views on the status of women to colour her narrative.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review: Well researched and much to learn about Victorian life i.e. the African and Samoan lifestyle.  The book shattered many myths about well known people.  The author was considered patronising by a few members, 50% enjoyed the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: We found this book very interesting and an educational read. It was fascinating to learn of the changing roles of wives since Victorian times and we thought it was excellently researched. We would recommend this book as a very good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: This is a well researched and well written book about the lives of four very different women.  It provides great insight into the ways in which married women's lives and the way they are treated by society have changed since the early 1800s to the present day.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: The group enjoyed this book and found it very interesting and thought provoking.  Well researched.  Didn't always agree with the author, but this made for a good discussion in what makes a good wife.  Recommended for a lively discussion.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading group: Basingstoke Library Tues Reading Group
  • Review: Found this book most interesting - would not have picked it up without the book club - so helped us read "outside our box".  Proved stimulating for discussion  - everyone commented - even the one male in our group.  Highlighted differences in times/attitudes/social situations.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Alton Library

Margaret Forster - Over

  • Review: A sad, tragic novel.  Well written from the point of view of the grieving mother.  The story of the accident gradually emerges.  It portrays how members of a family deal with their loss in their own, quite different ways and the effect then on the other members of the family.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Club
  • Review: A familiar author to some members and 'over' was well received, promoting detailed discussion.  The narrative flowed easily, character description was good.  Although the mystery of the disappearance of Miranda was not completely satisfied, we did not feel the novel was sufficiently captivating to enthuse it to other readers.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Most of us found this a quick and easy read, but despite seeming simple and straightforward, the character portrayal was complex and we could see everyone in the family coping in their own way with grief.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review:  A very well written and thought provoking book.  This led to a very detailed discussion about grief and its ramifications.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford

Karen Joy Fowler - The Jane Austen Book Club

  • Review: A good proportion of the book is taken up with the life stories of those who attend the group. These are only moderately interesting. However, the use of quotations from Jane Austen's novels is aptly done and the responses of her family and other writers are fascinating when they give their opinions about the books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle No 2
  • Review: Very American, we felt it was trivial, rambling and shallow. Nobody in the group really enjoyed it and we felt it was rather an insult to Jane Austen's work.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ace of Spades
  • Review: Quite a pleasant read and I liked the way the chapters were laid out. The synopsis of Austen's works was handy - but I didn't really learn any more about Jane herself. My favourite novel is PERSUASION! The modern characters were quite interesting, but I did have to make a list of relationships and ages!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fareham Reading Group
  • Review:  This book left most of us puzzled as to why it had been written.  It seemed to a cumbersome vehicle for examining the lives of an odd collection of people, none of whom excited understanding.  One redeeming feature was the ability of the author to produce amusing one –liner jokes which towards the end of the book ( for those who made it that far) did lighten the reading.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside Theatre and Literature
  • Review: We quite liked the format.  The characters we didn't really get to know and never found out why Grigg was really included.  Two members said it improved on a re-read.  One said she couldn't be bothered to look at it again.  The rest thought it a light read - fails enjoyable.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Museum Reading Group
  • Review: Generated wide ranging discussion.  Jane Austen fans did not enjoy it.  Some will go on to read Jane Austen.  Little connection between JA and the characteristics of the club members.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A
  • Review: Several members found the book tedious, disjointed and found the langualge simple and not a well constructed book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford

Clare Francis - Homeland

  • Review: Disappointing - characters not developed.   We all felt it could have been more interesting.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Mulberry
  • Review: Clare Francis writes well and evokes the atmosphere of post war Britain.  The painful beginnings of change in our society.  Scarcities, lack of housing, rural poverty, a cruel winter and an influx of stateless Polish soldiers greet the homecoming men.  She deals sensitively with her subject but it does leave a feeling of depression in tune with the times she writes about.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We all thoroughly enjoyed this atmospheric book.  It is beautifully written, bleak in places, with characters, especially the male ones, well drawn.  We found parallels to todays world of tensions produced by immigration.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Odiham-Bridewell

Ariana Franklin – Mistress of the Art of Death

  • Review:  Brilliantly detailed crime novel set in the 12th Century with fascinating absorbing characters, excellent plotting and a contemporary feel.  Plenty to discuss even though all agreed a great read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Emsworth Crime

Ariana Franklin - Relics of the Dead

  • Review:  Very readable, well written, historically interesting vis a vis Henry and the development of the judicial system and the medical school at Salerno.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Seagalls

Caro Fraser - Familiar Rooms in Darkness

  • Review: This book was well received with a good story and characterization.  It was suggested there could have been more depth in some of the principal characters.  The French atmosphere was well defined.  Interesting ending - different opinions about what might happen.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review:  Beautifully written,  Every character well described.  Good story.  Could easily be taken from a true story it is that brilliant!  The humour is one you can connect with.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: WI
  • Review: An easy read but packed with complications tending to stretch our group to the edge of credable acceptance.  It did produce discussion in predictable areas but the group (all female) avoided the topic of Harry's past excursions over the socially acceptable line.  This was summed up with the belief that their husbands would not read such a book!
  • Star rating: **
  • Reading Group: New Forest Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature

Michael Frayn - Headlong

  • Review: Mixed feelings about this one but most people enjoyed it. None of the characters was sympathetic, with a particular dislike felt for Martin the central character. Large chunks of art history about Breugel a bit hard to get through and we discussed whether it was all real or spoof stuff made up by Frayn. The intrigue in Breugel's life mirrors the conspiracies and intrigues going on in the main narrative which dashes along at a cracking pace towards a frenetic climax, satirising the world of art history, academia, and the art market. Enjoyable and recommended by most of us.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: We liked the info on Brugel but thought the book went on too much about painting. Some parts were funny but also too unrealistic. Martin was not liked but his characterisation was considered good.
    Star rating: * to **
    Reading Group: Boater’s Book Club
  • Review:  This book received mixed rating.  In our group of twelve, five gave it 1 star, three gave it three stars, four gave it around two stars.  We thought it was well written and we’re glad we finished it!
    Star rating:  as above
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  Those interested in art history thoroughly enjoyed this story about a would-be art historian who thinks he’s discovered a lost Bruegel.   Frayn goes into tremendous detail debating the iconography of Bruegel’s paintings and although this is clever and fascinating, it could be said to hinder the flow of the narrative.  Some felt Frayn was a better playwright than novelist.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Entre Nous
  • Review:  This was a book with two well integrated themes.  One was research into Breugel and the other was pure fiction.  Some found the art was too detailed and slowed up the plot.  Main characters complex but mainly despicable but plausible.  Not to be taken too seriously we felt, sometimes funny.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: Mostly we loved the start to the book, found characters engaging and interesting, but thought main body of the book repetitive and stuffed with far too much detail of research which was really visual and would make fantastic TV film where you could see detail of pictures.  Unusually some members did not finish the book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Inner Wheel Club Winchester
  • Review: A very divisive book.  Many found the research irritating and irrelevant to the plot, although those who had some historical knowledge appreciated it.  The art history would have been interesting in its own right, outside this surprisingly weak novel by a previously enjoyed humour.  Many felt that the main plot was Implausible and negligible with unrealistic and barely likeable characters.  Some good humour and descriptive scenes.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne

Michael Frayn - Spies

  • Review: Gripping tale from the first page. For many of our readers it was reminiscent of their own childhood experiences - playing on bomb sites, the expression 'the duration' and 'the war effort'. There was a great feeling of secrecy that people didn't know what was going on and it was better not to ask. A tragic story with suspension brilliantly maintained. A good read.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : King's Somborne
  • Review: Provided good discussion which enhanced the group's appreciation and liking of the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A
  • Review:  A well constructed and interesting book, an accurate portrayal of life in war time England from a child’s viewpoint.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review:  Generally enjoyed tough 2/10 readers didn’t enjoy it.  Readers could relate to first part particularly childhood descriptions.  However, it was felt that some obscurity and plot complexity alienated the reader and that the end was not as satisfying as hoped – a bit of a cop out!  A good idea though.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Ems Valley U3A, Bookclub
  • Review:  This book was enjoyed and appreciated by each person in the group.  An unusual occurrence.  Beautifully written –wonderful grammar and use of English.  It was a nostalgic experience for all of us;  it spoke of a time when innocence lasted for several years longer than it does today.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  North Baddesley WI
  • Review: An enjoyable well written story very evocative of WWII.  Brought back many old memories.  Probably be enjoyed by the 'more mature' reader.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: A mixed reaction to this book although all of them positive.  The varied ways in which readers saw the story seemed to stem from their different ages and where they spent the historic period covered by the action.  Some found the opening chapters evocative of their own childhood experiences (remarkable since I am the only male in the group) and considered the middle section boring.  Others, myself included, were not initially grabbed but appreciated the skill with which Michael Frayn developed the plot.  The characters were brilliantly drawn, although just how well drawn was not obvious until the whole story was told.  Plenty to discuss.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature
  • Review: Very varied reaction.  Some found it very 'boys own' and only liked it towards the end.  Others really enjoyed it.  A good reflection of the time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Tuesday
  • Review: Very well written, giving a powerful and evocative view of a child's world.  Lots of 'secrets' gradually revealed keep the readers attention throughout.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: October Book Club
  • Review: Very detailed description puts the events in context, but this tends to slow the pace of the narrative.  Most enjoyed reading the book and would read others by this author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: The writing is a pleasure to read. A coming of age novel that brought back many memories. The group was divided about the story line, some loving it but others finding it a bit over complicated. We all agreed that we had to read more Michael Frayn.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Mixed feelings about book.  Evoked strong memories of childhood and the relationships between adults and children.
  • Star rating: ***plus
  • Reading Group: Stubbington Book Ends

Charles Frazier - Cold Mountain

  • Review: 90% of group loved this book.  The detailed descriptions and the authors prose delighted us.  Each scene was described as a picture of words and even the more unpleasant scenes were handled well.  A good read which made us think.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: Most of the group really enjoyed this novel.  Very well written.  The contrast between Ada - Ruby and Inman was well done.  we felt we were on the journey with him.  Those who haven't seen the film are now keen to see it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion Group
  • Review: Although it was decided the book was well written, it was considered tedious to read with so much environmental description.  It was also considered too violent.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havers

Kinky Friedman - God Bless John Wayne

  • Review: Mixed reactions - some hated it, others felt that it was an amusing pleasant read.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : Hartley Readers

Nicci French - The Memory Game

  • Review: We thought this was well written with some interesting characters. However it is not really a thriller (back cover) and we did think that there were several things left unexplained towards the end. This led to an interesting discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: An improbable murder so secondary to the main plot as to be almost incidental: what family, however complex could have written-off the disappearance of a beloved daughter as the Martello - Crane ménage seemed to have done. No one in our group could find any character with which they would have made common cause. Nor would any have been comfortable in a building Jane Crane designed. The endless food preparations were boringly reminiscent of the scenic passages in Walter Scott novels. Any investigative journalist would have been proud of the psycho-therapy chapters. The stark ending left everyone feeling it had been rushed to meet a deadline.
    On the plus side, once started it was difficult to lay down.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Mixed reception.  Most thought it was a very 'commercial' book tackling a 90s issue, 'false memory'.  However, most felt compelled to finish it - a page turner towards the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: St Mary's RC Parish

Nicci French - What Do You Do When Someone Dies

  • Review: A gripping read.  The coming together of the two stories was really well done and happened almost without being noticed.  Many readers surprised to learn about the 'author' - there were no gaps.  Wonderful to know a husband and wife could cooperate so well!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle

Esther Freud - The Sea House

  • Review: The group found this book and undemanding read. It was enjoyed but all felt the story lines at the end were unsatisfying. Too many loose ends.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Museum Group
  • Esther Freud - The Sea House
    Review: Rather confusing at first until one realised it was in two different periods. Most of us enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ** to ***
    Reading Group: U3A - 1
  • Review:  Enjoyed by all the group.  Very interesting plot – three time scales.  Descriptive writing excellent.  Deserves second reading.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A
  • Review:  Esther Freud has a keen eye and her descriptive writing is engaging, but not enough to hold the reader comfortably through a very long read into the substance of the story.  Although one assumed that the two plots would somehow in the end by connected, after two thirds of the book one was not inclined to care.  Most of the group admitted to having jumped to the end out of frustration, only to have been thwarted by the rushed way in which the author revealed the relationships in a few very compressed chapters.  This was a book read out of obligation than pleasure.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside Theatre and Literature
  • Review: It was not an easy book with many layers.  The characters were undeveloped and it was very confusing.  Only was character considered likeable and she had a minor, very minute part.  We even had problems with the star rating - majority vote.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: It gave us lots to talk about, but we felt it was lightweight and had 'thin' characters leaving too many unanswered questions.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hampshire Hotties

Stephen Fry - The Hippopotamus

  • Review: Our book circle disliked this book. They could see no redeeming features at all - language, obscenities and very weak story line. So we discussed the book carefully, looking for any redeeming features and found very little.
    Star rating: no stars
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: For anyone getting beyond the first chapter this book has much to offer a reading group, raising, as it does several social topics not usually dealt with so openly. Three of our members did not finish the book, finding Ted Wallace too much to stomach, not accepting that such a character with so much anger and such a fluent vocabulary could exist. If he can they don't want to know and they missed his emergence from his cover. A clever plot well structured with some very fine English writing. Shades of GB Shaw, Oscar Wilde and PG Wodehouse
    haunt this book as Stephen Fry moves beyond his own adolescent brashness to a civilised and fully believable conclusion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review:  Weak women characters.  Sex – obsessed plot.  Perhaps written for the money?
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Bridewell Beauties
    Review:  A modern day PG Wodehouse!?  Very enjoyable.  Some members didn’t enjoy.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Bookends
  • Review:  A very funny story but what a shame it is spoilt by a school boy indulgence in bad language.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We felt the writing style and sentence construction were excellent and well crafted - Fry has a way with words, BUT did scenes of a sexual nature have to be so graphic?  Was the book meant to shock or was it a reflection of the authors view of life?
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Page Turners
  • Review: Unnecessarily crude, far too much toilet humour.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Well written (apart from the bad language), good storyline, especially the Jewish/Nazi element. 'One of the best books we've read'.  We were put off by the scene with the horse.  Kept picturing Stephen Fry!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion Yateley

Alexandra Fuller - Don’t let’s go to the Dogs

  • Review:  Created more discussion than any other book.  Enjoyable read – most interesting.  Informative and thought provoking.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Book Circle 3

John Fullerton - A Hostile Place

  • Review: A mans book?  Realistic descriptions of culture and countryside of Afghanistan.  Topical at this time.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A Reading Group 2

John Fullerton - Monkey House

  • Review:  Excellent thought provoking read.  Gritty knowledgeable drama with main character the city of Sarajevo under siege.
    Much discussion provoked on nature of warm, moral dilemmas, living conditions.  Conclusion – grim but enlightening, ie stories behind the new headlines.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Crime Readers Group Winchester Library

Frances Fyfield - Trial By Fire

  • Review: Views varied from gripping, well constructed to 'waste of time'.  Post discussion we agreed that Fyfield made good observations on life e.g. neglected children.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
 

G

Mary Gaitskill - Two Girls, Fat and Thin

  • Review: All our group agreed we would never recommend this book. It is to say the least lewd and we are surprised it was published. We query whether it is really what the public want to read with so much distress around, young abortion, pornography, bad language and violence. We would like to have burnt it!
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Fleet Townswomen's Guild Book Group
  • Review: Disliked the disturbing and unnatural sexual and violent descriptions. We considered the book about misfits and dysfunctional people and abused people (the latter well done). Also considered the descriptions of the inter relationships were well done. However, there were mixed opinions on how well the book was written.
    Star rating: * to **
    Reading Group: BBC

Patrick Gale – Notes from an Exhibition

  • Review: In addition to being an excellent read it is a great source for group discussion on  a wide range of personal behaviour and relationships.  Patrick Gale gets empathetically under the skin of a cast of characters so seemingly diverse one is tempted to doubt that they could survive each other, but leaves the reader with a sense of understanding and acceptance of their lives.  This is a book not to be missed.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Well liked by almost all the group.  Interesting structure with multiple viewpoints and unexpected twist at the end.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fareham WEA evening
  • Review:  good insight into Quaker religion and what it's like living with someone who has bipolar.  Generally enjoyed by group.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Bookworm Bunch Ringwood

Patrick Gale - Rough Music

  • Review: A complicated story but rewarding if you persevere.  Good insights on family life, the effects of secrets and Alzheimer's.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: LGBT
  • Review: We found the book disjointed - probably the effect of it having been written as six novellas.  We liked the descriptions - very evocative of the time and it brought out much interesting discussion in the group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Jennie's Friends

Damon Galgut - The Good Doctor

  • Review: We thought it was 'a good read', well written but could not understand the plot.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Quite an easy read, but the group felt it didn't get very far and ultimately unsatisfying.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: Interesting commentary on modern South Africa, unknown to most of our readers.  Good narrative flow, not a happy book but enjoyable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Denmead

Steven Galloway - The Cellist of Sarajevo

  • Review: Stark and brutal in its honest descriptions of fear and courage.  Human nature exposed in desperate times showing both good and evil.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: Group agreed this book was a compelling read of courage, losses and grief.  Each character gave an insight into a world of chaos and harrowing circumstances.  A good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:

Jane Gardam - Old Filth

  • Review: We thought it was ‘witty and wise’ and an enjoyable read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group 1
  • Review:  Much humour within a story depicting the deprivation of a Raj orphan.  Within the group, some did not enjoy reading this book whilst others were impressed with Gardam’s ability to write.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Entre Nous
  • Review:  Completed by all in the group and enjoyed.  The consensus was that her writing provoked some vivid images and interest.  However, some people didn’t like the jumping about of time periods.  As a group this book did not provoke that much discussion.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Enjoyed by the whole group - liked the way it was written.  Made on laugh and cry.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Liss
  • Review:  Gave insight into how the much older generation coped with situations and emotions.  Brought a tear to the eye.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Koinonia
  • Review: It was a good read, great story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Newlands
  • Review: A refreshing read - unlike anything read before.  Enjoyed numerous sub plots and their links.  The reader was kept hooked utnil the end.  A technically skilled writer shifting time frames.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading group: Stubbington Book Buddies

Simon Garfield - Our Hidden Lives

  • Review: We found it interesting and particularly felt it would be useful for school children to understand the feeling s of ordinary people.  It was a book you could pick up and put down.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cambridge Book Club
  • Review: Difficult book to review as contribution written by several people.  Interesting insight into the lives of five diarists during the latter years of the 1940s - depressing times after six years of war in Europe.  Took quite a long time to 'get into' the book and for the characters to develop.  Needed much concentration - enjoyable read on the whole.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  The Benches

Helen Garner - The Spare Room

  • Review: Really loved by all, an honest account of a very difficult experience.  Clear, accurate writing.  Believable characters, 'no violins'.  Thank you for introducing us to this book and author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Although after a quite extended discussion, the group with reservations agreed on a star rating of three.  Asked if they would recommend it to a friend the answer was 'probably not'.  they found Garner's style of writing refreshingly different from British and American novels and became aware that colloquial Australian holds a great deal of the unfamiliar.  Looking beyond the plot they found the motivations of all the main characters well worth exploring.  This is a thought provoking novel if you are prepared to be challenged.
    Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: The book was a graphic representation of how people cope with cancer.  It portrayed each personality very well.  It showed the strains of caring for someone and the strain cancer can put on friendships and family relationships.  It was an interesting and thought provoking book, we did not enjoy the ending and would not recommend it to a friend.
    Star rating:*+
    Reading Group: Reading Enthusiasts
  • Review: A thought provoking book about a very touchy subject.  Harrowing story of friendship and love.  Provoked a lot of comment from the group.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group: Alverstoke Ladies

Elizabeth Gaskell - Ruth

  • Review: We were all glad that we had read it, but often found it hard going.  Although it exposed the hypocrisy of Victorian morality, we felt that there were themes that are still relevant today.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: It is a well written book albeit a bit intense which made it a bit difficult to get into.  Very much reflects the stigman of being an unmarried mother at that time.
  • Star rating: **plus
  • Reading group: Perspectives

David Gates - Jernigan

  • Review: The central character is self obsessed and the others more sketchily drawn because Jernigan is too busy talking about himself.
    The style of writing does the job and is convincingly the work of an egomaniac alcoholic.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Silk Mill Reading Group

Laurent Gaude - Death of an Ancient King

  • Review: Probably a book for young adults.  For them at least the myths, legends and folk tales drawn on may be new.  Well written but bloodthirsty, whilst not really engaging the reader.  Give me the "Dark Materials" saga any day.
    Rating: 1 Star
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Maggie Gee - The Flood

  • Review: We enjoyed the discussion - lots to say.  However, it is the third book in a trilogy which none of us had realised until the meeting and explained the sketchy details.  It would have been good to know.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Book Group
  • Review: Most thought the book had an interesting concept but for some it was considered shallow, disjointed and depressing although it did reflect well mothers guilt and the current times, the foxes were fun.  We thought there were too many characters.  It would have been useful to know beforehand it was part of a series.
    Star rating: */**
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Maggie Gee - The White Family

  • Review: Maggie Gee deals sensitively with racism from the perspective of the perpetrators.  Beautifully written, the White Family is taken apart and stripped bare.  A powerful novel, well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: This novel was well received by the group especially for its social history theme.  The characters and the changing face of British city life were well portrayed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Rather mixed views but provoked an interesting discussion on all the issues raised in the book.  Some found it predictable but others excellent and engrossing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: The group considered 'The White Family' a book worth reading and recommending.  An allegory using the Victorian symbol of The Park as the good society, throws a strong light on some social changes in progress in Britain today.  The characters are well drawn and believable though not all admirable.  As one reader put it 'I did not enjoy the book but i did enjoy reading it.'  Maggie Gee uses the technique of devoting separate chapters to individual characters skillfully and to commendable success.  It generated a very vigorous discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Sophie Gee - Scandal of the Seas

  • Review:  Mixed reactions with dislike of the way the romantic episodes were portrayed.  Historical research was excellent and some characters were absorbing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KYC

Sue Gee - The Mysteries of Glass

  • Review: Enjoyed as a whole by most of the group.  Some areas of plot - ice accident - understated.  Led to lots of discussion.  Painted very clear picture of the countryside and showed empathy for the 'times'.  Some voted as 4 stars
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Beautifully written with evocative descriptions.  Victorian hypocrisy and guilt are sympathetically dealt with.  Not everyone enjoyed the plot but all admired the writing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: This novel received an uncontested four stars from the group.  It is a group leader's joy with a wealth of source references to the title theme.  The heavy, church-based descriptions of the main character's thoughts and actions initially seem tedious but are so well written they set the scene for what is a very engaging human story.  Our discussions ranged from Darwin and dageurroeotype to St Paul's epistle to the Corinthians.  The picture of humanity encompassed in the life of one village is tellingly displayed.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Provoked a lot of discussion.  Group divided in opinion of writing.  Some felt description of certain parts was too repetitive, others liked this detail.  Good escapism back to a life lived in simpler times.
    Star rating:***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A

Elizabeth George - A Place of Hiding

  • Review:  A very mixed reception.  A ‘wordy’ book, not one of her best as even admirers admit.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Too long, too many  'red herrings', which made the timescales very questionable and put the motive for the murder into doubt.  Even dedicated Lynley readers found the book tedious and not up to Elizabeth George's usual standard.  There is enough material here to warrant three books: a murder, an historical story about the war and a travelogue.  Only one reader thought the knitting together of the many strands worked and even she was disappointed with the reason for the murder.  Most people would not have read beyond the third chapter had they not felt committed to the ethos of our group.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre & Literature

Adele Geras - Facing the Light

  • Review: An easy read with language which neither demanded or extended the reader. Characterisation plausible but rather lacks substance. Could have undertones of depression and definite sibling rivalry and suppressed feeling led to reasonable amount of discussion - could make a light film or serial in woman's magazine.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton (Lymington)
  • Review: Unmemorable - not enough depth or plot.  Too long.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Knackered Mums

Nicci Gerrard - Solace

  • Review: 9 members considered this an excellent well written book - believable people, atmospheric either when describing emotions, scenery atmosphere.  Two members thought it a soap opera but still accepted it a well written novel.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Tess Gerritsen - The Killing Place

  • Review: For a number of us this was our first thriller.  We all found it easy to get into and there was action a plenty.  Everyone enjoyed it and we wanted to read the previous books in the series though it is not necessary to do that to enjoy this book.  Would recommend.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Literary Lovelies

Amitav Ghosh – Sea of Poppies

  • Review: There was too much use of local patois, too little story about the opium trade, too much description of the ships of that time.  A difficult book to read, we were all disappointed (several did not complete the book).
    Star rating: *+
    Reading Group: Morning Tide WI
  • Although many found it took awhile to get into the book, all finished it (despite its length of more than 600 pages). We found the story very exciting and the descriptions very good. The array of characters were liked, as was the history about, for example, the East Indian Company, the opium trade, British Empire attitudes, the religions and cultures and caste system, the Raj, the food at the banquet. Also seen as interesting were the trumped up charges and the court case against Neel, the various aspects of the ship Ibis, the location of the places mentioned and the spiritual possession of Baboo Nob Kissin (various interpretations about this were put forward and we had all viewed it in different ways).

    Not liked by some were the poverty and perverted sex descriptions. Also the dialects and pigeon English were generally not liked but were discussed extensively. It was felt a glossary would have helped. Some felt the book was too bitty with too much detail. It was considered complex and to be a book that needed to be read carefully. Everyone was driven along by the story line. The ending was not liked for its abruptness, however it was highlighted that it is to be part of a trilogy! Many are now looking forward to reading more.

    The last person to speak happened to have read it on a Kindle. This highlighted many additional aspects like the meaning of the dialects and pigeon English,, as a glossary is provided! Also that the author is related to Neel as well as the authenticity of the story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club .

    Robert Goddard - Never Go Back

  • Review: All enjoyed this book.  It was an easy read although at times it was difficult to keep up with all the different character's nicknames.  We all agreed we would like to read another of his books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: J.A.P.As
  • Review: Probably the least regarded of all the books we have had from library stock, but a discussion of its shortcomings proved fruitful.  Too much confusion over the nicknames of the characters dampened early enticement for the reader to continue reading.  Identification with any of the main characters was difficult though we did recognise the stereotypes.  The plot was pure Thirty Nine Steps, the red herrings Agatha Christie and the dialogue reminiscent of 1930's boys weeklies.  However once started the story romped home to a fairly safe ending.
  • Star rating:**
  • Reading Group: New Forest Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature

Robert Goddard - Sight Unseen

  • Review: Too complicated.  No empathy with the characters.  Not one of the best books we have read.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3

Peter Godwin - Mukiwa

  • Review: Excellent book.  Really brought home the present problems.  Educational.  Well written; Group will read follow-up books.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: An exciting 'page turner'  - an adventive story,  yes, but also an insiders memoir of the horrific trauma that was the changeover from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.  Written with great clarity, tinged with sadness.  Well worth a read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: KYC
  • Review: A superb read.  The author’s account of growing up in Rhodesia and the final transfer of power.  His schooldays and boyhood belonging to both white and African people, told with humour and realism.  His relationships are well drawn and one senses the people in a terrible dilemma.  Africa, the space, tribal lore and how he handles them make one realise how it was to be there.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Arthur Golden - Memoirs of a Geisha

  • Review: We all thought it was too long.  The first half was fascinating and illuminating, second half was tedious.  We got bored with the Chairman.  All in all everyone enjoyed the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book circle 3
  • Review: An interesting cultural read - we were amazed that the author was a man.  Very informative.  The book created a great deal of discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Paints a picture of life in Japan.  Excellent social history.  A readable tale, excellent description but travels only at surface level and lacks real depth.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Clever, well written.  Male author really got under the skin of the characters.  Beautiful descriptive writing.  Thoughts and feelings well explored.  Much learnt about life in Japan - both pre-war and later.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Beautifully written, it is hard to believe that the author is a man.  If you haven't already read this novel please do so as it opens up a whole new culture.  Seductive thought this novel is we all had qualms about the way that children, girl children of course, were groomed for what is in effect the sex trade.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A lot of discussion.  None of us knew anything about Japanese life at all.  We found it all very interesting and well described, but how cruel they were to those little trainees.  A good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Liss Book Club
  • Review: Loved it, every single one of us!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI
  • Review: All found it beautifully written (4 of us had read it before) and an interesting story, esp. the characters and the Geisha's way of life (their training, their being sold into it, their Kimonos etc). The difference between a prostitute and a geisha was discussed as well as the sale of their virginity and the usage of abortion. Also discussed was that Japanese men seem misogynist and that the book was written by a man. The ending was considered hurried and weak but interesting and more information would have been appreciated esp. about post war geisha work. The move to New York and becoming a business women was admired.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: The group were divided on the merits of this long powerful novel.  It was agreed that it was an insight into one of Japan’s rather mysterious institutions, but several found it rather depressing and perhaps too difficult for Westerners to understand and respect.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: We all agreed it was a great book.  'Theatre and ritual - fascinating'. 'Very believable'. 'An eye opener to Japanese culture', 'Gripping'.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Chocolate Book Group
  • Review: All agreed a great insight and held us all.  Great sacrifices shown by the girls, spitefulness and crudity but strong spirit of survival.  We were all impressed by the strength of the writing.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Lymington WI
  • Review: Majority liked it.  Good social history.  Some felt ending a bit contrived.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: A very enjoyable (if quite long) book - so hard to believe it was written by a man!  The characters were so believable, the detail fascinating, and it was easy to accept the principle of autobiography.  A very detailed description of the training of a life of a Geisha in the pre and post WWII eras, the only criticism would be that the book has a slightly weak ending, we felt.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Stubbington Village WI

Jason Goodwin - The Janissary Tree

  • Review: All agreed interesting new subject, not all liked it.  Wanted glossary of names and places and a map.  Wanted to know more of Ottoman Empire
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: A fascinating insight into life in 19th Century Istanbul and the Sultan's palace.  The detective story was weak and at times seemed disjointed.  Disappointing ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fair Oak WI
  • Review: Interesting, good background research - rather slow to get started and slightly weak plot.  In spite of this an engaging first novel.  a glossary would have been useful!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:

Laurie Graham - The Future Homemakers of America

  • Review: Light but enjoyable read was the opinion of most of our group.  Our male member thought it was a 'woman's book' with only one of the male characters appearing in a good light.  Initially it was difficult to keep straight in our own minds all t
  • he characters.  The voices and accents of the audio version of this book were particularly good.
    Star rating ***
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Enjoyed by every member of the book group.  Interesting because of the social history involved and the mutual support offered as these six women undergo everything life throws at them.  Characterisation excellent.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Champagne Book Group
  • Review:  We enjoyed the book, although ostensibly ‘an easy read’ in fact dealt with important issues relating to family, end of life and death with kindness, understanding and humour.   For those of us growing up in the 50s and 60s there was an element of nostalgia: the lifestyle then and now, and changing attitudes etc.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sway
  • Review: An amusing and enjoyable book.  Highly believable, easy to read but still covering many issues - friendships, politics, religion and many international events.  A very good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Havers
  • Review: Home, heart, health and happiness - are the four H's which support an American house. We thought this book was written by an American - but enjoyed the nostalgia which it provoked.  We liked seeing how the women developed and how opportunities opened up for them in the 1960's/1970's.  We loved the newspaper clippings.  A good read - lots of discussion.
  • Star rating: ***plus
  • Reading Group: Not known

Laurie Graham - The Importance of Being Kennedy

  • Review: The book raised awareness of the history of the Kennedy family among the younger members of the group.  They found it more interesting as it sparked interest in that era.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: A comfortable read.  Most of our group having lived through the period in which the novel is set found the story as told by Nora Brannan familiar but fresh.  The twin forces of Joseph Kennedy's obsession with the goal of siring the first Roman Catholic President of the USA and Rose Kennedy's religious narrowness producing a financially rich but morally dysfunctional family, is a tale for our time.  Laurie Graham seems effortlessly to write weighty matters in a most entertaining way.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/waterside U3A

Laurie Graham - The Ten O’clock Horses

  • Review:  We had mixed opinions on style but found it an excellent portrayal of the era, invoking memories of the 60s.  Enjoyed the humour and complex family relationships.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Woodlands
  • Review: A good read and very enjoyable dialogue.  Our discussion of the book led on to discussion of the social changes in the post-war years.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A

Linda Grant – The Clothes on Their Backs

  • Review: An excellent read enjoyed by all.  Vibrant, well-drawn characters.  Strong themes of identity, survival, loyalty and family relationships.  Also well written humorous incidents.  Strongly recommended!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne
  • Review:  This is a well written and well observed book, a series of events which linked up to historical events and made the characters who they were - not particularly likeable but one had to keep reading to the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Linda Grant - When I Lived in Modern Times

  • Review: Generally well received.  The group felt they wanted to find out more about the history/[politics of the day.  Found it an 'easy' but thought provoking read about the variety of Jewishness/her (Evelyn's) naivety - victim or not?
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: A clever and informative book - atmosphere and characters well described.  The group learned so much about the time of history when much was changing.  Much conversation came from the book with substance.  Understood why an Orange Prize winner.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Sara Green - Water For Elephants

  • Review:  The highest scoring book with the group this year.  Wonderful atmosphere, rich description and exotic characters (human and animal).  Gripping plot and fast paced story all the more enthralling as many of the incidents described were taken from real events.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Page Turners

Graham Greene - Our Man in Havana

  • Review: A rather silly book which some found amusing.  Most enjoyed it, but it didn't engender very much discussion.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: In-Sync

Graham Greene - The End of the Affair

  • Review: Brilliantly written with clever insightful style.  Intense emotions covering the themes of love, hate, jealousy, obsession, faith, doubt. Not a cheerful read and main characters are totally unlikeable although there are touches of humour from minor characters.   Religious aspect dificult to relate to, especially the miracles at the end.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Graham Greene - Travels with my Aunt

  • Review: I shan't be able to give a star rating for the group since opinions ranged from "I didn't like it at all". "The characters were more like caricatures", to "Thoroughly enjoyed it; well written, properly structured and an Aunt who had had and was having lots of fun.
    No star rating:
    Reading Group: Selborne Reading Circle
  • Review:  Mostly enjoyed but found ultimately disappointing.  Felt that Green got bored writing the second half.  A good beginning and some good observations of characters.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Ems Valley U3A Book Club
  • Review: A joy to read - entertaining.  Well written, good English.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: A lively, witty and funny book.  Beautifully drawn characters, one can really see them.  The plots and settings are realistic and possibly drawn on Greene's own experiences.  The Greene novel was new to us all.  General opinion - will be re-reading this.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Generally it was enjoyed especially  the bizarre aspects, the characters and the anecdotes. It was considered very well written. However some found it repetitious and dated.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: An account of some rather unlikely characters soon after the Second World War. When published (1969) this book was considered funny, but not now by my group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Morningtide WI

Philippa Gregory - A Respectable Trade

  • Review: The whole group enjoyed the characters and the history detailed in the book and it lead to a very interesting discussion on various modern aspects of 'slavery' and the responsibilities of present generations on the aspects of the past.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling U3A Literature Group 2
  • Review: You are in safe hands with Philippa Gregory.  She always produces a well written and well researched book.  Here she highlights a rather dark chapter in our history - slavery, especially in connection with Bristol.  A sombre topic but nonetheless a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI

Philippa Gregory - The Boleyn Inheritance

  • Review: Although many of us did not profess to be fans of historic fiction, we all enjoyed this book.  It is not a classic piece of literature, but it is a romp which keeps you enthralled to the end.  We liked the way the author had taken a small number of facts related to the Queens of Henry VIII, added to them the essence of the Tudor age and produced an enjoyable story.  For those who read 'The Other Boleyn Girl', it was interesting to see how the characters from that novel evolved in this one, particularly by the use of three narrators.  This would be a good holiday read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brats et al

Philippa Gregory - The Other Boleyn Girl

  • Review: Absolutely brilliant, very interesting story and brings history into the mind much easier.  Everyone thought it was really good.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review:  Too long and repetitive.  Terror came across.  Court intrigue well drawn.  Historical accuracy questioned.  Lavish spending – where did money come from?  Henry’s mental state questionable.  Lack of medical knowledge.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Compelling reading.  A must for any book group.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Between the Leaves
  • Review: Yet another Philippa Gregory novel that was immediately given four star rating but still generated a good deal of discussion.  It was compared favourably and unfavourably with her other novels and with Vanora Bennett's Queen of Silks, both writers convincingly taking the readers into lifestyles far removed from their own.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading group: New Forest Waterside

Philippa Gregory - The Other Queen

  • Review: Reading three characters points of view added to the interest of the 'story'.  Brilliantly researched and beautifully written, enjoyed by the group, some of whom will reach for Gregory again.  The quality of research and factual aspect deserves much respect.  This book has introduced and re-established an interest in the genre.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Philippa Gregory - The Queen's Fool

  • Review: A page turner. All group members thoroughly enjoyed the book particularly as the series on Elizabeth 1 has recently been shown on TV.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cambridge Reading Group
  • Review: A very interesting approach to a familiar topic. Very good when describing life at court - but less so when writing about the heroine's own life and romance when it becomes quite "Mills and Boon".
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A Reading Group
  • Review:  Good yarn well researched.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Enjoyed by all, superb read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Young Group
  • Review: Unanimously enjoyed.  A well researched informative and interesting historical romance.  Good description of characters and storyline not too difficult to follow.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: An excellent read of the period between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.  So many different facets of that time are brought into this novel - religious persecution, the supernatural, life at court, dynastic insecurity, the position of Jews in Europe, the fall of Calais to the French and the might of Spain.  An easy and interesting read - almost unputdownable.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: A good read.  Kept our interest going; made history come alive.  Well written and engaging.   Three of use have gone on to read other books by Phillipa Gregory, none of us having read any before.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Park Road Readers
  • Review: Historically very convincing.  thoroughly enjoyable characters, well drawn and convincing.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Villagers
  • Review: An excellent story shedding a different light on a period of English history most readers think they know and understand, but see through lenses biased by early sectarian teaching.  Told in the first person by a barely possible Jewish go-between, this tale clears the muddy waters flowing between Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth even if it is fast filtered through fiction.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Opening up a new area of history to some members.  A well written new assessment of the Mary/Elizabeth story.  Some found it a bit long winded in places but most enjoyed this book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Very cleverly done.  Fiction and historical together, different perspective to the Elizabeth/Mary story.
    Star rating: ****+
    Reading Group: Fawley
  • Review: Our group thoroughly enjoyed this book.  P Gregory is a very easy read.  This is the second of her books we have read and in both instances they provoke a very wide ranging discussion from the historical facts, politics of the time and the religious aspects.  Would thoroughly recommend.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Whiteley Word
  • Review:  We all thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It never ceases to amaze the imagination of authors.  Hannah a Spanish Jew becomes the Queen's fool.  She is asked to spy on the Queen.  It really brings out the thoughts of the age, the enemity between sisters.  How dangerous to be the 'wrong' religion.  fantastic.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: Written as in it's time - some transported back to Tudor times.  Graphic account of Calais/religious persecution/insecurity of throne.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Philippa Gregory - The Virgin's Lover

  • Review: Thought this was brilliant, wasn't expecting this to be as good as it was.  Made perfect sense.  Good yarn. Use of the present tense dose not add to fiction.  Made me want to research the period.  Based on fact.  Liked the character.  Cecil entertaining.  Enjoyed better than The Other Boleyn Girl.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

John Gregson – East of the Sun

  • Review: This book took a long time to get into but was worth the effort.  We all enjoyed the book.  It gave a good insight into life at that time in India and to the lives of women.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Ends
  • Review: Entertaining, easy read, probably preferred by female readers.  Good descriptions but lacking in depth - although well researched.  Would have liked more about India itself.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Kate Grenville - The Idea of Perfection

  • Review: Some of the group found this hard going due mainly to lack of speech marks making conversation and thought hard to follow. The book gives an excellent picture of outback Australian townships. Very well written with a slow moving development of characters. Well worth persevering with.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Woodlands Reading Group
  • Review:This book is about a small town in the middle of nowhere, where nothing happens.  However, it brilliantly concentrates on the individual personalities of the characters.  Frequently funny and poignant.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Accentors Book Group
  • Review: We enjoyed the descriptions which evoked the era.  Thought it might be a rather miserable book but found the humour good.  A very apt title.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Wednesday

Kate Grenville - The Secret River

  • Review: We felt the book gave us an understanding of how harsh life was for the poor, both in London and Australia.  However, we felt that generally the characters lacked depth and were therefore difficult to care about, other than Thornhill to some extent.  Informative, but failed to engage.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Sandy's
  • Review: An excellent read.  The novel depicts the life of William Thornhill from his early lift of poverty in London, his life of petty crime and ultimate capture and sentence of transportation for life to Australia in the early 1800s.  The book charts the difficulties early convicts/settlers had during the first years of colonisation and the impact their arrival had on the aboriginal peoples.  A well drawn novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fleet U3A
  • Review: Overall the book was enjoyed - the writing was good, it was an 'easy' read.  Criticisms included sketchy characterisation, some odd leaps in the plot and unexplained outcomes.  However it excited interest in Australia's history and its people.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers

John Grisham - The Broker

  • Review: An enjoyable read for all of the group with an introduction to the genre for one.  With believable characters and a well told tale the story held the reader's attention.  Some suspects (satellite espionage) a little too close to the truth.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Everton

John Grisham - The Innocent Man

  • Review: Very scary.  Put up my blood pressure.  Hard to believe it is a recent true story.  Guilty until proved innocent.  Seems to be no review, fail safe checks.  Frightening and no apology.  Baseball statistics and background unnecessary.  Made angry by the incompetence of the police, lawyers, judge.  Very readable - like a case history.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Sarah Gristwood - Elizabeth and Leicester

  • Review: Well written, researched and a very balanced account.  Almost storyline rather than biographical.  Well liked.  Excellent bibliography and page footnotes.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree

Sara Gruen - Water for Elephants

  • Review: Strange topic.  Warmed to it.  Lovely ending.  excitement.  Good study of elephants.  Elephant did it.  Hard to get into.  colourful.  Brilliant old people's home stories.  Gook Links.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Caroline Newton

David Guterson - Snow Falling on Cedars

  • Review: A little difficult to get into, but well worth the effort. The unfolding courtroom drama and the personal relationships complicated by racial prejudices made fascinating reading. Atmospheric description of scenery and lifestyles
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Woodlands
  • Review: Each one of enjoyed this book. We were impressed by the poetry of the language. Also the juxta position of the two ethnic groups - and how war affected the finely balanced community
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Jennie's Friends
  • Review: A very good read investigating not only a crime but also prejudice, love both childish - mature, morality, the results of immigration and internment. Much discussion ensued on these themes. Some of the language was beautifully descriptive and the characters well drawn. The description of the island and sense of place, the fishing camaraderie, strawberry fields etc was excellent.
    Star rating: *** (definite 3 verging on 4)
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: A well written, drawn out and complex thriller involving race relations, fishing, Seattle and district. Well drawn stereotype characters showing life there in all its aspects fifty years ago. Suspense well held despite length. A rich tapestry of simple people in unfamiliar situations.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A - 6
  • Review:  This book received a high rating from the whole group.  An interesting and different  novel with several themes and racism.  Long lost young love.  People’s perceptions and readiness to jump to conclusions.  Also, interesting to read about a different area of the USA.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Brockenhurst Reading Group
  • Review: Very enjoyable book.  Well worth reading, full of interesting facts of the cultures of the people.  Well written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book.  The descriptions were beautiful and the characters interesting.  That period in history in USA is not one we are familiar with so it was very thought provoking.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: A beautifully descriptive book highlighting an area of history we didn't know much about.  A great read!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Knackered Mums
  • Review: This book completely divided our group - a bit like Marmite they either loved it or hated it.  Perhaps it was not a good book to have over the Christmas period as there are a lot of very descriptive passages.  Those of us who loved it got really involved in it and enjoyed the whole premise of the story being told during a trial.  A very interesting insight into American/Japanese relationships in this period of time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cambridge
 

H

Mark Haddon - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night

  • Review:  The book was generally appreciated.  Three in the group had experience with children and the syndrome, with varying degrees of approval as to how Mark Haddon presented it.  An enlightening book.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Milford on Sea
  • Review:  Very interesting story, very educational. Some of us did not like it.  Others found it fascinating.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A
  • Review:  A unique book giving insight into the mind of Christopher and the devastating effect on his family.  Style totally suitable to the topic – cleverly written.  Illuminating.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review:  Brilliantly written with insight into Asperger's.  Recommend as a book for discussion in Reading Groups.  Would be interesting to hear reviews from Special Needs (Asperger's) Groups.
    Reading Group:  U3A Reading Group II
    Star rating:  ***
  • Review:  Easy to read book.  We all learnt a lot about what it is like living with Asperger's.  Three people had experience of children with the condition.  One said that Christopher’s behaviour was exactly like that of the boy she knows.  Christopher’s ability with mathematics contrasts sharply with his inability to understand other people’s feelings.  We were impressed with what Siobhan had taught him – rules and strategies to help him to cope.  The contrast between his mother’s and father’s reactions were noted.  We liked the sketches and diagrams as his way of explaining things.  An outstanding book for all in our group.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Thursday Reading Group, Basingstoke Library
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed this book and learnt a lot from it.  Several members had personal experience of autism and recognised much of what went on in the story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: An easy read with hidden depths.  Funny and sad, but very interesting.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: Thought provoking; easy reading; disturbing; excellent insight into mind of an autistic/Asperger's and effect on family.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: The general view was that this book gave a good insight into a mind set that the majority had no experience of.  The killing of the dog was never explained but was the 'excuse' for the story line and added to the mysterious quality.  It also showed the relationship with the father and dependence on him by Christopher.  A good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review: Extremely well researched and written.  Believable characters giving a good insight into Asperger's syndrome.  Enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Rapley
  • Review: Very well written, engaging and a good insight into the subject matter.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Milford Ladies
  • Review: All 8 of us greatly enjoyed the insight into the world of autism. Several of us are ex teachers and we found it moving and informative.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: SR Reading Group
  • Review: Everyone in the group loved this book and got a huge amount from it.  The discussion was stimulating and we clearly felt it had enriched our understanding of people.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: HIP Reading group - Winchester

George Hagen - The Laments

  • Review: George Hagen did not inspire the group as a whole - story contrived at times.  Sympathy for the husband and felt he was well characterised.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: U3A Reading 4 Pleasure

George Hagen - The Servants

  • Review: Lightweight entertainment.  Some potentially interesting ideas which are not fully developed.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: October Books

Catherine Hall - Days of Grace

  • Review:  Beautifully crafted, a well written story enjoyed by all.  The characters came to life and challenged 'hidden' aspects of life, relationships and control of others.  Very moving incidents are described and brought to life throughout.  Unanimous highest star -first ever!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Everton

Sarah Hall - The Electric Michelangelo

  • Review:  Only 1/3 of our group managed to read this.  Those of us who made it (with a dictionary) loved it - beautifully written, a slow burning love story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: Rich, complex, highly original.  Not the easiest read but those who stayed with it found it a rewarding experience.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: October Books

Simon Hall - The Death Pictures

  • Review: An unexceptional easy read.  Best feature was the newsroom atmosphere, its worst was the implausible plot.  Good enough to pass the time but never likely to be a best seller.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Emsworth Crime Group
  • Review: A traditional crime novel, with a journalist helping the police to solve two major crimes.  It keeps the reader's interest but the characters are not well developed enough.  It is his first novel, and it will be interesting to see how he develops.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books

Mohsin Hamid - The Reluctant Fundamentalist

  • Review: Very thought provoking.  Made us all reassess our views on prejudice.  The style of writing took a lot of getting used to.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Monks Brook U3A
  • Review: A discussion provoking book written in a very unique style. The group was split on their feelings about it.. some loving it while others hated it. Worth a read.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Lee Reading Group
  • Review: We all mostly enjoyed this book; we all admired it.  We found the "single" view first person narrative elegant, though we had differing opinions as to whether it was a tense "What will happen? Who is threatened?" situation or a non-realism more stream of conciousness piece to refer to and provoke thought about issues of nationalism, identity, dominance, history etc etc.  Most of us were interrupted in and affected by the Erica story but did not agree re how well it was integrated into the book overall.  
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reaging Group: Hawkley Book Club

Sophie Hannah - Little Face

  • Review: Only one of the group enjoyed this book.  Unbelievable in parts.  Idea was good but badly developed.  Confusing characters not likeable and the ending was weak.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review:  The general view was that this novel was difficult to read due to it being written in the first and third person and the story kept switching between time zones.  We also felt the story was unbelievable and far fetched. i.e. the characters were not 'real' or behaved in a normal way.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
Georgina Harding - Painter of Silence Review: Our view was unanimous: a delightful read. It was beautifully descriptive of Romania 1939-1950's - a country of which we knew nothing.  With an interesting deaf mute character inspired by a real life painter.  We all felt that the ending was somewhat of a let down, but it was a very minor fault. Star rating: *** Reading Group: The Pageturners

John Harding - One Big Damn Puzzler

  • Review: A really original idea with some genuinely funny passages.  We also felt however that the book tried to deal with too many themes which made it too long and rather sprawling.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Book

Titania Hardle - The Rose Labyrinth

  • Review: Intelligent read and a complex plot (shades of Da Vinci Code).  All the clues leading to 'the discovery' were hard to solve but it was a readable book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Thomas Hardy – Far From the Madding Crowd

  • Review: A book which stands the test of time.  A celebration of English life with an ear for country people’s dialogue.  Dry wit.  Need a love of words to really appreciate it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell at Odiham
  • Review: A wonderful book. Hardy is the master of description. It is a book that requires concentration and some of the group found that they did not have the time needed to really enjoy it.
    Rating: *****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Titania Hardy - The Rose Labyrinth

  • Review: Most of us enjoyed this as a light read; some found references obscure.  It lost steam at the half-way point.  Many parallels with Da Vinci Code.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: White Lion Group
  • Review: There was the basis of a good story here, but readers found that the thriller element was not thrilling enough, and the ‘romance’ element was too Mills and Boon.  Very disappointing.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group:  October Books

Jane Harris - Gillespie & I

  • Review: Don't be put off by the length of 'Gillespie & I' as, once you're hooked into the lives of the narrator Harriet Baxter, the artist Nat Gillespie and his ill-fated family, you won't want to put this book down.  Set mainly at the time of the Glasgow Exhibition in 1888, this is a clever, impressive and sometimes humorous novel; intricately plotted and open to different interpretations.  Reading Jane Harris' 2nd novel certainly led to some lively discussion at our reading group meeting and if we had been the jury at the integral court case, there would not have been a unanimous verdict.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Waterlooville RG

Joanne Harris - Chocolat

  • Review: A very enjoyable book on many levels. Well written and closely observed. Characters are complex. This book generated more discussion than any other we have read. Not the light read we at first assumed it would be. Well worth reading
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I Reading Group
  • Review: Joanne Harris' 'Chocolat' prompted a lot of discussion in the group. Some members found the story unbelievable in places and not inclined to believe in 'witches'. Others thought it a delightful read, mouthwateringly so, the characters well drawn provoking sympathy or irritation and beautifully written. We will read more of Joanne Harris"
    Rating:
    Reading Group : H.I. Townswomen's Guild Reading Group
  • Review: We gave it 7½ - 10. Our views varied on this book - some said it was slow and a bit boring, but the majority enjoyed it and found the characters interesting, the chocolate aspect a bit too much and a lot of discussion took place over the 'darker' side of the novel - the Blackman, magic etc. Generally enjoyed - more than the film.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Weds afternoon group
  • Review: We thought this book whetted our appetite to explore the literary comparison of chocolates to the emotional turmoil of passion, jealousy and guilt.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Happy Days
  • Review: Very readable and enjoyable, treat it as a fantasy and it is most enjoyable.  Much better than the film.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A Group 2

Joanne Harris - Coastliners

  • Review: Tip - Read first part of book straight to sort out the characters, of which there are many. Good picture of an isolated community. Negative view of island life.
    No ratings
    Reading Group: U3A
  • Review:  An intriguing book set on an French island with two opposing communities.  Several story lines which keep one guessing to the end.  Well drawn believable characters.  The group all enjoyed the read and discussion afterwards.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review: Not the best of Joanne Harris.  Loosely structured with unconvincing time scales and no endearing characters.  The ending was so rushed several people found it necessary to read the last few chapters more than once to make any sense of the plot and even then read the relationships wrongly.  The entrenched ideas of the islanders though believable did not make for a pleasant read and oddly, Claude Brismand was perhaps the one person who behaved completely in character.  However, the book generated fierce discussion and is therefore excellent as a reading group choice.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre & Literature

Joanne Harris - Five Quarters of the Orange

  • Review: Mixed reactions to this book, some members thought there were a few ‘loose ends’ in the story. Generally thought to be a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brockenhurst W I
  • Review: A beautifully crafted novel with all the threads neatly and believably tied at the end. For everyone there was closure or the prospect of closure. As a vehicle for discussion of what circumstances do to parents, what parents do to children and how children rise to the challenges of circumstances, this is a classic.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Literature Group
  • Review: Able to read this book through with no difficulty and quite a lot of enjoyment. Food featured a lot and the descriptions of the French countryside were good. Most of the group enjoyed it, but jumping from period to period was a bit confusing. One bored by the fishing and thought the book should have been more about the 'Recipe Book'
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : North Baddesley W I
  • Review:  All enjoyed the book, but with many questions re its plot lines, consistency and some reservations.  Also no significance and relevance of some of the events.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hartley Readers
  • Review: We agreed this was well written with strong characters, few of whom were likeable.  The harshness of life under the occupation was in contrast to the emphasis on food and recipes central to the story.  The family division begun during the occupation continued long after the war ended.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle Reading Group

Joanne Harris - Gentlemen and Players

  • Review: Intriguing book - very clever though out plot.  A really good page turner.  Evil and enjoyable at the same time.  Excellent author.
    Star rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: A very readable book with an intriguing plot.  Narrated by a pupil (comprehensive secondary school) and an old master (grammar school - classics).  Two storylines set eight years apart, combine to bring the story to its devious denouement with a twist (unexpected) at its end.  Provoked lively discussion about school/teachers and pupils, regarding attitudes to each other.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Unusual plot - interestingly written.  The pace of the story varies but fascinating towards the end of the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford

Joanne Harris - Holy Fools

  • Review: Most members enjoyed it, but parts were very far fetched and unbelievable.  The tightrope walking sequence at the end was a particular case in point.
    Star rating: no rating
    Reading Group: In-Sync
  • Review: A very well written book - uncomfortable and uneasy.  Very strong characters.  The shorter chapters increased the tension.  Wonderful example of mind control and revenge.  Also the power of love - a dark read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Havers

Robert Harris - Enigma

  • Review: A good choice of setting, as most people are fascinated by the story of Bletchley during World War 2. Also a thoroughly researched 'techno-thriller' which readers agreed was a page-turner. There is also strong human interest with some well-drawn characters. The atmosphere of Britain in wartime is captured evocatively. A very fine example of its type which is why we gave it a top rating
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: October Book Group
  • Review: Quite a few found the technical side hard going.  Didn’t rate it as a thriller, and thought the story long, but the enigma history very interesting especially to find out about Bletchley Park,  Would ‘try’ other titles by author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Robert Harris - Pompeii

  • Review: We all loved this book. It taught us more about Pompeii and was so well researched you could almost feel you were there. It is very rare for us all to agree and like a book so much and yet want to discuss it in depth.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Book Group 4
  • Review:  We were rather divided about this book!  We all appreciated the depth of research but after that others were bored with the pedantic prose whilst others were fascinated.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Enjoying Books
  • Review: A book marked with the stamp of the journalist and none the worse for it.  Convincingly researched and presented, the technical details had the piercing simplicity of Vitruvius and Harris has clothed Pliny with just enough modernity to make the book acceptable for todays reader.  The group discussion ranged widely to match the extent of human behaviour portrayed and evoked a mixture of responses.  The one certainty was that it was a great read.  Readers not yet into the wealth of fiction dealing with Roman civilisation were set off in new directions by veteran Romanists.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature
  • Review: A wonderful read, fast and gripping.  Harris’ writing style is very straightforward, no frills and this makes the novel all the more real and the events so terrible.  Our group read it during the Icelandic volcano ash problem.  How coincidental is that!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: It was considered riveting, full of intrigue and emotion with good visuals and very descriptive of life then and historical aspects especially the banquets, the aqueduct, diarist and corruption.  The characters and their names were enjoyed.  The ending was not liked by all and it was compared to a docudrama.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Robert Harris - Imperium

  • Review: This was a very popular book with only one member disliking it.  The discussion concentrated on the quality of the writer and how he makes detailed historical events very interesting and can be related to modern life.  There was further discussion on the factual life of Cicero and his times with interest in further reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling Library

Sarah Harrison - Life after Lunch

  • Review:  A totally silly book – our unanimous verdict.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  The Olive Tree
  • Review: Reflection of modern life.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Well constructed, interesting twists.  Most people would not choose the book, but felt it was 'all right'.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Characters believable , many humorous incidents and conversations.  Good discussion about need to have an affair just because marriage appears dull.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Not a great choice for a reading group - we felt it was quite predictable and so didn't have much to discuss about it.  Nothing wrong with the story, just more of a holiday read.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age

Lilian Harry - Under the Apple Tree

  • Review: Does tend to stray into 'Mills and Boon' territory, but it is well worth reading for the insights it gives into wartime life.  More discussion was generated by the book than most others we have read.  Do read it for that, particularly if you live in Hampshire.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
    Review: Well liked by some, others found it tedious.  Too verbose but accepting it gave an insight into WW2.  Little to discuss - just a few incidents.  Made for a less than normal discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havers
  • Review: We all read it to the end and were interested in the information about Portsmouth during the Blitz, but did not find it very satisfying as a novel; too much dialogue, not enough plot and almost too much detail.
  • Star rating: **
  • Reading Group: U3A 6

Catharine Hartley - To the Poles without a Beard

  • Review:  Easy to read.  Interesting that a person with Catharine’s background an personality should make such a trip.  Good insight into logistics of polar exploration.
    Star rating:  ** and a half
    Reading Group:  Earls Close Group Book
  • Review: The best thing about this book is the cover.  We would not want her on our expedition.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Villager Reading Group
  • Review: Very easy to read.  Catharine Hartley managed to irritate all of us at some point during the book.  Having said that we were impressed by her journeys and all learnt something about polar exploration.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Much discussion regarding the character of the author.  It was refreshing to read some first hand experiences and to learn how they lived in the North and South Poles.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Dull and disappointing.  Doubt about the truth of the account, felt a lot had been embellished.  Why did the publishers think it worth while?  Stimulated a lot of discussion.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Samantha Harvey - The Wilderness

  • Review: Mixed reactions to this book from group members.  All found it difficult to get into and some didn;t ever get into it.  Some questions are answered and some disappear in the fog, which we imagine is what it is like to have Alzheimer's
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends
  • Review: Not a popular book with anyone, partly because of the content and its rambling presentation.  The style did nothing to engage the reader.  A complex subject glossed over.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Everton

Max Hastings - Armageddon

  • Review:  An easy to read style which is fluent and engaging.  Thought provoking and insightful facing overwhelming circumstances, especially in relation to Dresden.  Gives different perspectives to warfare.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Everton

Kirstan Hawkins - Dona Nicanora's Hat Shop

  • Review: A very enjoyable read.  An excellent mix of believable characters - lots of humour, human themes - highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Stubbington Book Ends
  • Review: Only half the group finished this book.  Those who did found it an amusing tale of life in a South American village.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Torey Hayden - Ghost Girl

  • Review: This book divided our group.  Responses ranged from 'hating it' to 'couldn't put it down'.  The lack of a proper ending left most dissatisfied.  Its genre (misery) was not one we would want to explore at all.  One is enough!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Barnfield Book Club

Torey Hayden - Tiger's Child

  • Review: We all enjoyed it - A first!  We found a lot to discuss.  Some of us hadn't heard about the author before and had initial reservations about the subject matter.  However, we thought it was well written and thought provoking.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: White Lion
    Review: A very good read, thoroughly enjoyed by all readers.  Made you think how lucky we are.
    Star rating: ****
    Review:   Group felt this was journalism rather than literature.  Very thought provoking and generated memories of similar incidents especially amongst the teachers in our group. Moving and upsetting but upbeat ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne

Elizabeth Haynes - Into the Darkest Corner

  • Review: Some of us finished it, one person only read 2 pages. Mixed reactions. One found it too disturbing but on the whole well written and gripping story and unputdownable.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: The Blank Books

Shirley Hazzard - The Great Fire

  • A disappointment – not really valid as an award winner.  Sentence construction got in the way of the story.  Rather implausible wandering.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review:   The disjointed writing at the beginning captured the uncertain times they were living through.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Circle

Miranda Hearn - Nelson's Daughter

  • Review: The best part was the epilogue!  Very repetitive - no chronological order.  The author had done her research but to what end?  So much reported speech is it all true?!  What information could be relied on?  It did not flow, very confusing style, however, we did see Nelson in a different light.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: All agreed it was a lost opportunity to tell what could have been a good story.  Hopped around too much - confused.  Characterisation very poor and sketchy.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: We did not like the way in which the narrative switches about in time.  A vivid account of living with an alcoholic.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A Group 2

Joseph Heller - Catch 22

  • Review:  A novel which was clearly breaking ground when it was first published, does not wear well.  Although the themes (the futility of war, the incompetence of leadership and the deviousness of commerce) are in some ways as pertinent today as they must have been in 1955 - 1961, perhaps due to our greater exposure through the media to the reality of the unreasonableness of society, almost without exception our readers made heavy weather of the book.  Not all found the humour funny, many were confused by the large cast of characters and the general feeling was that the story and its import could, today benefit from very rigorous editing.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Divided opinion.  'Mash' Meers, Woody Allen?  Anti-war, black humour, unforgettable characters.  good to know the origins of this well known phrase.
    Star rating: no rating
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review:  A book similar to the TV series Mash.  Difficult to read as events were not in  a linear sequence and members could not identify with the characters.  Enjoyed 30-40 years ago when it was a ground breaking book, but now seeming somewhat dated.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group

Zoe Heller - Notes on a Scandal

  • Review: As an ex-teacher I found the subject matter rather uncomfortable. However, such things do happen and one has to accept that.
    The book was very easy to read and the blurb on the back of the cover gave one a fairly apt description of the contents.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review:  Everyone really enjoyed the book especially the characterisations for example the sinister Babara and the descriptions of the teachers and their environment.  The moral issues were also discussed.
    Star rating:  *** to ****
    Reading Group:  BBC Boater’s Book Club
  • Review: Well written, comprehensive read.  Subject matter felt uncomfortable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Well written, disappointing ending.  Characters described well, but subject matter could be slightly offensive.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: Most members enjoyed the book although they found the character - Sheba - not completely convincing.  Some enjoyed the book more than the film, others now want to see the film!  Enjoyed the undercurrents but were not surprised by the ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Beautifully observed.  Excellent characterising.  Contemporary theme – people reacted to the characters differently.  Astute analysis of loneliness.  Humorous as well.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Ernest Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea

  • Review:  The book was actually not a very interesting read, but the discussion was revealing about what it could mean and the meaning of life.  We felt it was linked to the ideas of existentialism.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: Short novel with much depth and metaphors; moving story of dignity and respect for the natural world.  Much Christian imagery.  Was the novel based on Hemingway's struggle and life?  All of our group rated the book highly; robust writing where every word counted.  Did Santiago go fishing again?  Or was he now at peace?
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: The Benches

Judi Hendricks - Bread Alone

  • Review:  A very ‘readable’ book that provoked lively discussion.  We were sympathetic towards Wyn and the way she faced her problems, but weren’t sure we ‘liked’ her as a person.  We explored her relationship with her mother and the way she felt about her father.  Is Mac, the right one for her, we are unsure!  Hope there is a sequel.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  The Laurels Reading Group
  • Review: Appealed to the bread makers of the group.  Sounded authentic.  Couple of French mistakes which were annoying.  Author's sense of humour liked by some.  Light read, quite pleasant.
    Star rating: ** or ***
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: The group was divided - some thought it utter tosh, others though it an interesting commentary on modern life and fleeting relationships.  Enjoyable but slight and predictable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Patrick Hennessey - Junior Officers' Reading Club

  • Review:  Mixed reviews with two not able to finish the book.  The section on Afghanistan proved very enlightening to those with no experience of military life.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:  Andover Library

Philip Hensher - The Mulberry Empire

  • Review:  We thought this was ‘hard going’.  Good descriptions but rather repetitive.  ‘Intense and descriptive’.  Lots of different story lines which did not come together.  A bit disappointing.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review:  Nobody made it to the end of this book!  Too much prolonged description and not enough human interest were the main reasons.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Ladies of an Age
  • Review: This is not an easy read though historically accurate.  Clever writing but perhaps he was trying too hard to copy so many other writers.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Georgette Heyer - Arabella

  • Review: This is a happy book to read when you are feeling depressed.  It tells the love story among the upper classes about 1750 and the historical details are correct.  When she was writing Heyer's books (over 50) were very popular, but my group , 50 years on, thought this book dull and boring.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Morning Tide WI

Carl Hiaasen - Death in Cuba

  • Review: A well-constructed piece of American machismo. It's construction suggests that the authors were raised on Tom and Jerry. A good read if not taken too seriously; plenty of clues and thankfully few red herrings but with a reasonably acceptable twist at the end. We had a split within the group as to whether of not the hero did or did not get his Chinese girl friend alive out of China as his final bonus.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: New Forest/Waterside U3A. Theatre and Literature

Carl Hiaasen/Bill Montalbono - A Death in China

  • Review: Good page turner.  Well put together considering it was written by two authors.  Enjoyed by all our group.  A first!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fingle Reading Group

Christine Dwyer Hickey - Tatty

  • Review: Sad, moody, believable, depressing.  Would have liked to know more about the author - background? autobiography?  Easy to read
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Kate Hickman - Courtesans

  • Review:  Only one member managed to complete but this was due to a busy time of year rather than not liking the book.  An interesting topic despite being written dryly in places and digressing from the main chapters.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Hankley Book Group
  • Review:  Quite a reasonable read but repetitive and the detail sometimes tedious.  Agreement on the introduction which gives a good overview.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  The Olive Tree

Julie Highmore - Pure Fiction

  • Review: No-one loved this book, but taken for what it is, it's an easy chick lit read.  Ideal for holidays or commuting.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Tuesday Afternoon

Reginald Hill - The Death of Dalziel

  • Review: Gripping read from start to finish, mixed reception from one member who doesn't like detective novels.  Author must be very clever to devise plot.  One reader a little upset with language.  Three out of Four would read another of his books.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Ringwood Readers

Susan Hill - The Woman in Black

  • Review: The whole group enjoyed this book although two found the ending predictable.  All said it was compulsive reading with atmospheric descriptions.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Atmospheric but not scary.  Skillfully written with an eye for detail, especially the pea-souper fog, house on marshland.  The low key narrative of the tale makes the horror more plausible
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: This is a well written book which we enjoyed.  The character of Arthur was interesting, but we did not know why the ghost targeted his child.  Good use of genre devices.  Chilling ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: An atmospheric story full of tension.  Extremely descriptive characterisation and an excellent tale you will want to read to the end.  Scary!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  The Tuesday Crew

Zoe Hiller - Notes on a Scandal

  • Review: In our group one would not recommend the others found it readable and good for group discussion.  Interesting subject for the group as we have several teachers.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:  Lymington U3A

Victoria Hislop - The Island

  • Review: A fantastic book, raises ones awareness of leprosy and how it was treated.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Elson Readers Group
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book very much.  Not just for the story line about people (one of us thought the main characters somewhat black and white) but because there was so much interesting background: about leprosy and the island colony; village life, local characters and festivals; the interaction with the German occupation.  We rated it as outstanding for a first novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Faregrove Court
  • Review: A most interesting and unusual topic - leprosy and the interweaving of the family sagas made it a 'good read' despite a somewhat clichéd style.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Not a great work of literature but we thoroughly enjoyed it.  we effortlessly learnt about leprosy in relatively modern Europe as we raced through the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Not a great work of literature but interesting subject matter.  Characters rather clichéd.  An easy read.  Atmospheric picture of Greek village life and a society of outcasts making the best of a terrible situation.  End reassuring and upbeat overcoming the feeling of guilt after years of keeping these dreadful family secrets.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne
  • Review: This book generated a lot of discussion by all but one of the group.  Most felt her description of life on the island both fascinating and moving.  Wonderful characters.  A very good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: All the group really enjoyed this book.  Felt we understood a lot more about leprosy and horrified that it still exists in so many places in the world.  Vividly detailed account of life on Spinalonga, presenting the lives of its inhabitants with great empathy.    A fascinating and moving love story, a gently gripping read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: We all thought the subject of the leper colony at Spinalonga was fascinating.  We were shocked by how little we had known.  Only one of us thought this overrode the slipshod writing, 2D characterisation and 'clunky' linking storyline - we didn't need the invitation to use the contemporary characters Alexis and Sophia in order to relate to characters' experiences in the 30s and 40s but we did need to engage with the earlier generation not cliches.
    Star rating: Half
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review: A true picture of a Greek community with believable interpretation of the prejudices towards leprosy.  A text book first novel which engenders empathy.  The text is beautifully written with excellent characterisation.  The highest score we have alloted ever.
    Star rating: ****
    Star rating: Everton
  • Review: A fictional story of life at Spinalonga, a small isle off Crete where people with any sign of leprosy had to live.  In 1957 as medicine had found means of controlling and even curing leprosy in Europe, Spinalonga was closed and its remaining patients allowed to live on the mainland or in hospital.  Enjoyed by all who would have given it ten stars.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading group: Morning Tide WI
  • Review: A most enjoyable book; believable characters.  Sad and moving, well written and a good insight into the Cretan life at the time as well as the Spinalonga leper colony and leprosy itself.  Definitely recommended.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Bookends.  Hayling Library.

Peter Hoeg - Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow

  • Review: Very mixed reviews. Not an easy book to read and understand - but very good if you like snow and ice. Smilla is not a very sympathetic character. Questionable whether the author can write wholly from a woman's point of view.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Entre- nous
  • Review: Beautifully written book - difficult to think that it is a translation. Very much enjoyed by 50% of the group, the other 50% unable to finish it.
    Keeping track of names in a foreign language is more difficult . Very violent in places.
    Star rating: ?
    Reading Group: Cambridge
  • Review: Probably the least popular of the seventy-odd books our group have read since the reading group stock was first set up.  This is a tough novel; main characters few of our readers could identify with, venues surprisingly alien although in our own hemisphere and a forest of place and people's names most wanted to forget.  However, some found it a challenging and enjoyable read and would have rated it ***, but the group reaction was less charitable.  It did give us a good sixty minutes of discussion.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:  Well written prose, but a challenge to keep up with the intricate plots.  An interesting insight into the complexity of snow and of the Greenland -Danish connection.  A book not to everyone's taste.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: Difficult beginning, so many names and characters.  Improves later.  Interesting insight into a post-colonial text (Denmark/Greenland) and geography and prejudices of the area.  Very mixed genre!  Not all subtleties easy to follow, some probably relate to the Danish culture in a way that doesn't translate easily.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: This was indeed a challenging read - beautifully written - you can feel chilled to the marrow - gripping in its plot - complicated in its twists and turns.  Chick lit this is not.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group:

Alice Hoffman - Blackbird House

  • Review:  Almost like, short stories – most dissatisfying – NOT SUITABLE for reading groups – not enough substance.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Abbotts Ann Reading Circle
  • Review: Some found this book fairly ordinary, but others really enjoyed it.  More a collection of short stories than a novel, but it is very well written.    We find American authors divide the group more than any others.  Do you?
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:  We felt most of the individual stories/fairytales were very good. Reservations centred on how the stories linked or failed to link together. The book did not seem to know whether it was a novel or a collection of short stories. But the author has developed a rather lyrical style which will doubtless appeal to many readers.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Book Club

Alice Hoffman - The Ice Queen

  • Review: Well written as always, but a very depressing story.  A bit of a disappointment after the Blackbird House, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Alice Hoffman - The Probable Future

  • Review: All enjoyed this compulsive read.  The use of language, descriptions and weaving of story were well appreciated.  The characters were believable and the 'messages' and inter-woven relationships added to these.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: This is a story laced with so many social, historic, superstitious and personal threads that it is a fabric well worth unpicking and given adequate guidance should be good material for a discussion group.  Reader Guides which are accessible on internet provide starting point questions which can be developed dependant on the background experience of the group members.  Our group response was varied but left several members wanting to read more of Alice Hoffman’s work and in reading group terms, that is a success.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Corinne Hofmann - The White Masai

  • Review: Most of us couldn't put it down and will never forget it and would like to read the sequel.  we found it incredible that a woman would be so carried away by lust that she would give up everything to marry an illiterate Masai warrior and live in a hut in his village.  An extraordinary story.  With a bestseller and film rights she must have made a fortune in the end!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A group 4
  • Review: A woman who is self centred and strong willed almost totally refusing to compromise towards the strong social traditions of the Masai.  The novel offers little insight and analysis of Masai culture.  Little description of Kenyan countryside or wildlife – disappointing.  A naïve woman who engendered no sympathy in spite of, at times, life-threatening encounters.  Felt she ‘took’ from her husband and caused him great stress resulting in his drug taking and ultimate breakdown of their relationship.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Benches

Wendy Holden - The Wives of Bath

  • Review:  Utter drivel.  Is this chick lit? Don't waste your time.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Amusing in parts - tongue in cheek humour.  Satirical - exaggerated opposites - could easily relate to real life.  Good description of characters.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:  Havers

James Holland - Fortress Malta

  • Review: Impressively factual, but lacked a certain continuity with the characters.  Despite being very knowledgeable on the historical side, it did not go far enough to sustain interest.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Some found the technical and political daunting, the human interest was interesting, especially about the age of some of the pilots and the endurance of the Maltese people.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Alan Hollinghurst - The Folding Star

  • Review:  As a result of this book, unfinished by everyone in our group, one of our members has resigned.  This is the sad story of a sleazy homosexual.  There was a great deal of discussion about the book and sexuality at our meeting.
    Star rating: no rating
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Group 4
  • Review: This book divided the group from couldn't finish it, to couldn't put it down.  Some found sexual descriptions too OTT, others thought them a very necessary part of the story.  Nobody had much sympathy for any of the characters and most generally agreed that it improved as it progressed.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: North Waltham Evening Group
  • Review: Edward Manners character was strongly portrayed as obsessive, lonely but pathetic and disillusioned.  Some sexual encounters were very explicit, sometimes cruel and over-emphasised and their vivid description could offend or upset readers.  The novel was well written with evocative descriptions stimulating olfactory and visual senses.  A good book worthy of full and lengthy discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Benches

Sheri Holman - The Mammoth Cheese

  • Review: Readers who got into this book found a very well written story about 'ordinary people' and their flaws.  The author is completely non-judgemental, there are no 'heroes and villains'.  Also some interesting facts about US history and geography!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: October Books

Homer - The Odyssey

  • Review: The groups was split; some really enjoyed it and found it a very good read.  Others found it ponderous, boring and repetitious.  Of note was the hospitality extended to strangers in ancient Greece.  The stories were found to be interesting and the grotesque monsters and deformed creatures encountered by Odysseus very 'Harry Potterish'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • review: Entertaining, graphic, thought provoking.  Made for a good discussion.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

A M Homes - This Book Will Save Your Life

  • Review:  Slow to get going but entertaining anyway.  Not sure it was completely believable but it's nice to know we're not alone in our dramas!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Nick Hornby - A Long Way Down

  • Review: Initially put off by excessive bad language, we became interested in the characters and were intrigued in the way Hornby resolved their problems or at least to carry on living.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: West Meon WI
  • Review: Some of us found it funny, most of us found it disappointing, with rather cardboard characters.  A bit formulaic and possibly written with film scripts in mind.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

Nick Hornby - Juliet Naked

  • Review: This book takes up the classic Hornby themes of "geek-ness" and odd relationships. It is occasionally very funny, but the ending is unsatisfactory, and overall it was not a satisfying read. We all agreed that discussing the book together helped us understand more about the book's themes.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Fareham 5:30

William Horwood - The Boy With No Shoes

  • Review: Made some of us laugh and cry.  An evocative view of childhood in a coastal town in post-war Britain.  Prompted lots of discussion within our group.  Glad to see a happy ending!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: We considered this a thought-provoking book of the author’s memory of his troubled life since 1950, with mention of some of his happier experiences.  In general the group like it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Morning Tide WI
  • Review: The whole group enjoyed this book despite the unhappy times in Jimmy's childhood.  These were balanced by some really outstanding characters who gave him kindness.  A heartwarming story, well rounded off at the end.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A

Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns

  • Review: we couldn't find enough superlatives for this wonderful book.  Many a tear shed reading it.  A real eye opener into life in Afghanistan over the last 40 years.  A real 'couldn't put down' book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Alverstoke Ladies
  • Review: All the group liked this book.  They read of what had happened in Afghanistan both under the Soviets and the aspects of the Sharia law under the rule of the Taliban, they were deeply moved by the story of Mariam and Laila, and they felt that the story was very well written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Morningtide WI

Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner

  • Review: The whole group liked this book a lot. The plot, the background, the style and the characters are all compelling. It offered matter of lengthy and animated discussion. We can't wait for his next book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group 6, Petersfield
  • Review: compelling; sad; distressing; powerful; poetic; deceptive; shattering; moving; intriguing; optimistic; educational (historically and socially); innocence of youth; themes of redemption; sin of omission.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: This book caused some discussion among the Group. It was felt by some to only have theme although the setting and period was interesting. A fairly good read with a mixed reception.
    Star rating: ** or ***
    Reading Group: U3A Group 1
  • Review: Generally enjoyed by the group - we learnt a lot about Afghan history and culture.  Occasionally found the dialogue arduous.  Provoked a good discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: We learnt lots about a place in the news. It seemed like a biography rather than a novel.  Very explicit.  It had more impact than if it had been visual.  Coming of age novel.  Thoroughly enjoyed by all - glad we were persuaded to read it.
    Star rating: *** or ****
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Top notch, well written, absorbing, revealing, thought provoking./T
    Star Rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Superb reading, mix of emotions.   Felt very involved with all the characters.  Author very perceptive of human condition, family ties and relationships.  One's basic characteristics never change - Hassam was always loyal for example.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Lymington
  • Review: A heart-wrenching book, but a most worthwhile read.  All members voted full marks - only for the second time (the first was A Prayer for Owen Meany - J Irving).
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Extremely well written.  Compelling and moving story.  We found it quite informative of the culture and life in Afghanistan under Russian and Taliban rule.  Graphically violent in places although not in a gratuitous way.  Voted our best book this year!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Excellent narrative and description which gave a very real feel to the places and people.  Hope and love comes out of the cruelty and despair.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Overton & Whitchurch U3A
  • Review:  It was considered a wonderful book and an easy read and has everything one wants in a book with many aspects like its descriptions, expressions (poetic), emotions, characters, symbolism and relationships. We commented on the info about Afghanistan, the lack of female influence and the comparisons with today's life.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: The Kite Runner was judged unanimously to be the best written book that we have read this year.  We all enjoyed it far more than any of the last 12 we have read.  The actual writing was excellent, the content extraordinary; the knowledge imparted wonderful.  It was difficult to put down as the need to know what happened next was so strong.  More books by this author please.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Entire group voted it book of the year.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group 2
  • Review: A fantastic read and a very good portrayal of life in Afghanistan.  Made us all realise how lucky we are to live in Britain!  We had a brilliant discussion on many topics arising from the story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Life
  • Review: Loved how the author described his childhood, some shocking scenes, disappointed with the end of the book - more like paraphrasing used in films - almost like a different author!  Enjoyed by everyone even those who had previously read it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Wills Way Worms
  • Review: All loved this book - found it powerful and moving.  Easy to read as it was so compelling, content far from easy though.  Very well written.
    Star rating: ****+
    Reading Group: Damzals

Ted Hughes - Birthday Letters

  • Review: Very evocative. Beautiful language. Well worthy of all the prizes gained
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: This was not a popular selection.  Most of the group found it obscure and gloomy; some did not try to complete it.  On the positive side, the majority recognised Hughes' brilliant imagery and there were two of us who particularly enjoyed it.  I, for one, intend to buy my own copy.  This is definitely not a normal book club 'easy read' but some knowledge of the Hughes/Plath relationship might have helped the group to understand and appreciate the poetry a little better.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms

Stephen Hunt - Court of the Air

  • Review: Dreadful!  not one member of the group actually finished it - several gave up after a couple of chapters, even those who like Sci-Fi.  
    Star rating: 0
    Reading Group: North Waltham Book Circle

Graham Hurley - Nocturne

  • Review: A well scripted story, which demonstrated to our readers just how far the social norms have shifted during the past half century. What do they teach in university these days? Interesting that a male novelist should create such a confident woman involved with so many flawed men. In the end she quite clearly had to produce a daughter. Economically drawn characters and believable dialogue.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: New Forest/Waterside U3A:Theatre and Literature
  • Review: Roughly 50 - 50 really liked book or found it rather predicable. Two didn't finish reading and missed Gilbert - Tom character, pity - I liked it!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: A good read! A page turner which created interested and animated discussion. Not everyone "really" liked it. The issues of a woman in a man's world and struggle for 'powers' prompted much thought.
    Star rating: ** - ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: We were rather ambivalent about this book. All but one of us completed it, and we all found it a very easy read. However, two of the Group thought it was very well written, with great characterisation and a good storyline, three thought that, although it was an enjoyable story, it was a bit nonsensical and far fetched, whilst the remaining two thought it was poorly written, had no empathy with the characters and found it completely unbelievable.  We all felt that it was odd that the main character, Julie, would remain in a flat, living on her own, where the other occupant of the building obviously had severe mental issues - if he wasn't completely psychopathic! This is what, for most of us, made the story unrealistic, although we accept that if she had moved out, there would be no story.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A Reading Group

Graham Hurley - Permissible Limits

  • Review:  For those of us who enjoy Hurley’s usual police procedurals set in Pompey, this was a total surprise.  Most people found it lacking emotion and felt it may have been because Graham Hurley was writing from a woman’s perspective.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Ladies of an Age
  • Review: A mixed reaction - the majority found it hard going, especially the technical details of  engines and flying.  One only found it a page turner.  The main characters were psychologically unreal.  Minor ones occasionally ludicrous (a pet crocodile?).  Was Hurley trying to write a modern Nevil Shute?  (his detective fiction is much better).
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bidbury Mead WI
  • Review:  Who did the author write for - man or woman?  Characters unbelievable and female characters obviously written by a man.  Technical writing and description very good.  Mixed response from 'boring' to 'couldn't put it down'.  On the whole disappointing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Angela Huth - Easy Silence

  • Review: Starting with the ironic title 4 readers voted Easy Silence to be funny macabre, well written and true to life in many ways. However sadly the other 3 found it irritating and not worth reading
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I
  • Review:  We all enjoyed this book about obsession.  It provoked more discussion not only because of the story but the author’s use of language.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Cambridge Reading Group
  • Review: Well written - excellent characterisation, witty, plausible.  Created a great deal of discussion and laughter.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: an easy read - very dark humour at times.  Good characterisation.  Some parts rather sad, showing lack of understanding between the generations and the selfishness of some characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: An enjoyable, easy holiday read.  Rather farcical situations, not very believable.  The characters we felt would not have tolerated the situation in the real world.  Nasty end with little impact.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: This book provoked a lively discussion.  We all thought it was well written.  Some people appreciated the black humour but some did not.  We enjoyed the poetic language.  All the main characters were well described and delightfully eccentric.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Tuesday Afternoon

Elizabeth Hyde - The Abortionist's Daughter

  • Review: Mixed reaction on a sensitive issue.  Bill, the daughters ex lovers obsession was very realistic.  Would we like to re-read this book?  No!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Phoenix
 

I

Arnaldur Indridason - Hypothermia

Review: Divided opninion - some found it dull, humourless and boring but others were impressed by the character studies and the bleak atmosphere.  It was regarded as an "easy" read but might merit another read to appreicate its subleties. Star rating: *** Reading Group: C C Readers

Miranda Innes - Cinnamon City

  • Review: Enjoyable read.  Page turner - good information of the culture.  Journalistic style.  good picture of the trials and tribulations of buying and renovating in Marrakech.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Everton

Kazuo Ishiguro - When We Were Orphans

  • Review: We felt that the plot was unrealistic and the characters were unsympathetic and uninvolving. Some of the descriptions of the life of the international community in Shanghai were interesting
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : Gosport U3A: Reading for Fun
  • Review: Most of the group liked it enough to finish it but found it slow and somewhat confusing.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : U3A Book Group 4
  • Review: This book was enjoyed by the majority of the group. It was well written and very atmospheric . . . The part of the book dealing with pre-war Shanghai was enjoyed by all. As in 'Remains of the Day' the main character was a flawed personality, the outsider, but then as someone pointed out 'aren't we all'. Well worth reading.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I Reading Group
  • Review: Our group had divided opinions - hence the 2* and 4* ratings. Some had high expectations following the good reviews and were disappointed , finding it fragmented and even infuriating. Others felt it was a fascinating read, enabling us to understand the character of child damaged through the tragedy of losing his parents. It was a thought-provoking book, which caused a good discussion - ideal for reading group.
    Star rating: ** - ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Having engaged in not one, but two discussions of this book, the general feeling emerged from within the group that we had either misunderstood what novel writing is all about, or the numerous complimentary critics listed on the back cover were suffering from mass 'the king's new clothes' syndrome.  In writing style and plot structure Ishiguro is not so much ploughing new ground as clearing a brown field site.  As for interesting imaging of war and its effects on ordinary people; Pat Barker does it much better.  If the style of writing was meant to highlight the disjointed nature of the lives of orphans or virtual orphans its success was doubtful, since it irritated most readers almost to the point of giving up early on.  Clearly Christopher and Sarah did not move out of their childhoods until late in life, but this is not a complaint exclusive to orphans: Jennifer fared better than many.  This book benefits from the reading discipline a group imposes.  One lady enjoyed it unreservedly!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A Theatre and Literature
  • Review: We did not enjoy this book as we though it had a 'nightmarish' quality.  We thought it was written in a stilted style and the author shows he is unaware of English idiom and social structure.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Kazue Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go

  • Review: Slow start didn't grab you.  More interesting towards the end.  Very sad.  Interesting subject kept you thinking.  Written well from a young person's point of view.  Expected some characters to question things - would have made for a better story?  Superb, profound, frightening.
    Star rating: ****+
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Disturbing book - caused a great deal of discussion and disquiet about genetics/cloning/organ donations.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: This book provoked a great deal of discussion.  Works like 'horrifying', 'frightening' and 'dark' were spoken.  All the women said they found it interesting but the men did not like it at all.    Someone said they thought it was an awful warning of things that might happen!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: We found this book to be very thought provoking, a great book for discussion.  An extremely controversial subject but a gripping storyline.  Every member read the book to the end.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Mill Hill Book Club
 

J

Kate Jacobs – The Friday Night Knitting Club

  • Review: All agreed it was a slow start, but good once we got into it.  Interesting to see how the relationships developed.  All, bar one member, were surprised how it ended.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Stubbington Book Ends

Howard Jacobson - The Finkler Question

  • Review: On the whole the book was not enjoyed.  No story and no conclusion.  No sympathetic characters.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: Apart from a couple of readers, our group found this title tedious, laborious, too philosophical.  majority did not complete the book.  (Sorry!) There were some good parts, but overshadowed.
  • Star rating:*
  • Reading Group: Jane and Nick's Fleet Library Book Group
  • Review: This is a frustrating book in many ways.  Self-indulgent - written in beautifully constructed prose - but inhabited by characters with which we could not identify.  We did not really know more about Jewishness despite 400 pages.
  • Star rating: **
  • Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Howard Jacobson - The Making of Henry

  • Review: Not a holiday read - a little time and effort required.  While it was laugh out loud funny at times it could also be quite tediously wordy.  Didn't find Henry a particularly likeable character but most enjoyed this book and it was very well written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ace of Spades

Erica James - Gardens of Delight

  • Review: This was an easy romantic read - as a novel of the genre it probably deserves more than 2* but was in no way a challenge, however we did finish it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Erica James - Love and Devotion

  • Review: All found this to be an enjoyable/readable book.  Some thought title a little misleading, but story dealt well with grief of losing a sibling/child.  Liked the quotes at the start of each month.  A gripping book we wanted to get to the end of.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: No Dickens

Peter James - Dead Simple

  • Review: Absolutely brilliant, the whole group of book readers thought it marvellous.  He graphically explains things so well and keeps you guessing until the very end with a few twists and turns along the way.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: An extremely good, well written book full of thrills, twists and turns.  Full of suspense and intrigue.  Everyone wants to read more of this author.
    Star rating: ****+
    Reading Group: Havers

P D James - Death in Holy Orders

  • Review: Very mixed response. Few felt too many troubled characters, dark miserable setting. Others thoroughly enjoyed - good mix of characters. 'A real page turner'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookends
  • Review:  First read by half group of this author.  Accepted the descriptions were very good but half the group considered it very involved and had difficulty in recalling who is who.  A surprise realisation; the group spent all the discussion in discussing the writings, no one mentioned individual characters.  This a complete reversal to norm.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  WI Read Group Hedge End
  • Review: Not a very interesting setting.  Members didn't believe in the characters or in the murderer's reasons for doing the deed.  Not very gripping, not as good as her other books.  well written, language good.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: In Sync
  • Review: A very good read.  Perhaps too much repetition of detail.  Good characters and good dialogue.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Liss Book Club

P D James - The Lighthouse

  • Review:  I do like murder mysteries but at times was bored and skipped pages.  Seemed to drag on a bit.
    Reading Group: Upper Clatford WI
  • Review: We have different taste in books and yet we all really enjoyed it.  A classy whodunit - improved our vocabulary.  We all were on tender hooks as to the murderer - it was a real page turner.  An excellent read.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: More that 'just' a detective story.  We finished with respect for James' command of language, structuring technique and phrasing.  The novel is notable for its descriptions of the sea and the night sky; the sea, in fact, is as much a character as any described therein.  James' views on the role of women in society threads through the novel.  All in all the book and its author gave much material for wide ranging discussions.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature

Sebastien Japrisot - A Very Long Engagement

  • Review:  A good read provoking an emotional reaction from us all.  We would recommend it to other groups.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review: We were overwhelmed by the different set of names, who everyone was, but this generally didn't matter as we liked the characters.  We felt the translation was beautifully done.  While this could be seen as just another 'war' story.  It was convincing and authentic.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ten for Books
  • Review: A wide range of opinion.  Could be confusing due to multiplicity of names, often for the same character.  The ending was a matter for interpretation.  A powerful and moving depiction of the atrocities of the first world war and the impact on ordinary people's lives.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Arle

Pam Jenoff - Kommandant's Girl

  • Review: We thought this book a crass treatment of a sensitive subject; appallingly edited and overall we are unable to understand how it came to be on the book club list.  Three people enjoyed its 'light read' quality.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: White Lion
  • Review: Most enjoyable read, built up the tension well.  Very believable in most cases, but was never going to have a happy ending.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends

Liz Jensen - The Ninth Life of Louis Drax

  • Review: Particularly gripping novel about a boy (Drax) in a coma.  The power of the mind of somebody in that position was explored - in this case somebody highly intelligent with a very strong character.  Very atmospheric (forest fires coming closer).  Full of suspense as we are trying to find out who exactly led Louis to fall from the cliff!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ace of Spades
  • Review: It was different!  Our group was divided with many starting but not finishing.  Those who finished thought the ending predictable.
    Star rating **
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Jerome K Jerome - Three Men in a Boat

  • Review: Everyone enjoyed some aspect of this book, it made many laugh out loud whilst others were delighted with the Thames side descriptions.
    We are all ‘off’ to see Marlow.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger W I
  • Review:  A book which gives great pleasure, timeless and light-hearted.  Real ‘innocent’ fun.  Enjoyed by the whole group – who revisited it in some cases.  Stands the test of time!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review:  Very much enjoyed by all.  It provoked a lot of discussion, reading out of funny passages etc.  We thought the introduction was excellent and an insight into a changing era which benefited the working classes in an unexpected way.
  • Review:  Three loved this book, the others accepted there were wonderful cameos especially the dog meeting the cat.  Historical interests very good with so much information about the river and environs.  A slightly dated humour but oh the innocence of life – sad it has gone.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hedge End WI
  • Review: A mixed reception from the group, did not meet many expectations.  Captured the spirit of the age.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: The book prompted an unexpected level of discussion and clear divisions of opinion, though almost without exception readers found something with which  they could identify, find pleasing, be appalled or find boring.  People familiar with the Thames loved the travelogue, and the historically minded enjoyed the slanted views of the history.   The attitude to the drowned woman, and to the Germans would have been distasteful had it not pointed-up how attitudes have altered over the century since the book was written (and how they have not changed).  The split rating of the book arose because some found the style too dated, not easy to read and the jokes infantile; while for others the book provided a light-hearted read.  All agreed the late Victorian 'clerking classes' as portrayed were remarkably naive but warmed to Montmorency.  The introduction was invaluable.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literacy
  • Review: This book was enjoyed by all the group for its sly deprecating wit, occasional laugh-out-loud incidents and its revelation that Victorian England is not all that different from today’s society in many ways.  Pretension, late trams, unopenable cans!  A bit of light relief on one level but a lovely piece of social observation.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: The group was split, those who enjoyed it loved the anecdotes of the travellers, the descriptions of the places they went to and the dog's adventures.  A very humorous story with insights into the lives of the emergent lower middle classes.
    Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Phoenix
  • Review: Group was divided in comments.  Most people found parts amusing.  Appreciated it was of its time and style.  Interested to see the contrast with other literature of its time.  Can understand why it was a best seller at the time.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Alton Library

Griff Rhys Jones – Semi Detached

  • Review: Amusing in parts with good descriptive paragraphs but generally disappointing.  Although it brought back memories, all the group found it tedious and it struggled to be awarded 2 stars.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Anton U3A

Lloyd Jones - Mister Pip

  • Review: A really good read.  Based on fact - civil war on an isolated tropical island.  The horrific effect on Matilda, children, parents and rebel force and how they react to the story Great Expectations is gripping.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Sadie Jones - The Outcast

  • Review: We all agreed a very gripping book and very insightful for a first novel.  Had the author personal experience?  We all 'felt' for Lewis and so much wanted things to go right for him which we felt they were starting to do at the end.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cambridge

Markus Jusak – The Book Thief

  • Review: An excellent book – humorous, sad, emotional, amusing and compassionate.  Underlining fear of the people from the Nazi regime.  Unusual, different and one of the best ever reads in the six years of the group.
    Star rating: ****+
    Reading Group: Havers
 

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Jackie Kay - Trumpet

  • Review: A brilliant story about love transcending conventional stereotypes of gender and the shock of discovery.  Poetic and lyrical writing; fine character vignettes.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: LGBT

Peter Kay - Sound of Laughter

  • Review: We did not connect with this book as it lacked lustre and imagination.  One member found it funny.  He came over as a very nice guy.  We felt that perhaps he is better in person in a club or theatre environment.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group:

Erin Kaye - The Art of Friendship

  • Review: Enjoyed by the majority, we all felt that we could relate in some aspect to all the friends and their situations.  A 'light' read but surprisingly enjoyable and believable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Garrison Keillor - Lake Wobegon Days

  • Review: A fictional account of the history of a small town in Minnesota. Some of us had fond memories of hearing the author read this book on Radio 4 years ago. Reading it ourselves was a different matter - most of us found it pretty hard going, difficult to get into and tedious to wade through all the spoof footnotes, and large cast of Norwegian-American characters which padded out the book enormously. There was a general feeling that things improved from about the middle of the book, however, with lots of witty passages, but on the whole, we found it hard going.
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: Not one member of the group enjoyed the book. Very few finished reading it.
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : WI Reading Group (North Baddesley)
  • Review: An excellent book to own. Richer than a traditional Christmas cake and as likely to make you sick if you eat too much at a sitting, Equally funny and very boring in parts. The frequency and length of the footnotes were deemed irritating by the whole group. Most readers chose to ignore them after page 47 (about 450 words) which was unfortunate since there is a great deal of wit and insight in the footnotes. A rare picture of the state that gave us Scotch Tape and was alone in not voting for Ronald Reagan.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Literature Group
  • Review: A nice slow read.  Interesting look at 1950's small town America.  Lovely cameo's of first and second generation Nordic settlers and their customs, farming and commerce.  A young persons view of his world.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: A deeply divided group.  Two people loved it - the humour and descriptions, others gave up or found it boring.  Many had memories of it being read on the radio.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group

Jonathan Kellerman - A Cold Heart

  • Review: Who is the 'first person' writing at the beginning?  Characters well described.  Jeff Harding adds authenticity to the story, in the spoken word version.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A

Stephen Kelman - Pidgeon English

  • Review: Gritty and realistic, provoked a good discussion. We liked the innocent view point on the ugly inner-city life.  The humour and African spirituality lent a philosophical flavour to the grimness.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley

Thomas Keneally - The People's Train

  • Review:  The novel was quite hard work according to some of us.  However, the pace increased in the second half - perhaps due to the fact that we could relate more to the events in Russia during the revolutionary era compared to activities in Queensland, Australia pre-1917.  We were divided as to whether the novel was well written - in need of a sequel!  Historically interesting, written as events unfolded, therefore only passing mention of figures such as Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin (who were, unbeknown to the narrator, to play a large part during the political upheaval).
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Part One - The history of the early 20th century Australian socialism was very interesting.  The characters did not really come alive and it was difficult to identify with them. Part Two - was in journal form and made the Russian Revolution very real.  The organisation and characters were believable.  Heroism and bravery were counterbalanced by the worst of human behaviour.  We all found this a very hard read.  It is very scholarly and well written.  We all found we had to discipline ourselves to finish it.
  • Star rating: *
  • Reading group: Museum Book Group
  • Thomas Keneally - The Widow and Her Hero

  • Review: Part Boys Own Adventure and part a study of futility of war and heroism for its own sake.  It has two narrators and an understated an unsentimental style.  Themes of war, heroism, the foolhardy bravery of young men, the danger of delving too deeply into the past and betrayal come out strongly.  A truly haunting and compelling novel, quite short for such complexity.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Marion Keyes - Further Under the Duvet

  • Review:  Really enjoyed this book and found the author, very witty and diverse.  
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Someway

Sue Monk Kidd - The Secret Life of Bees

  • Everyone in the group enjoyed the book (the first for the whole group).  Average out of 10 - 81/2 points.  Most read very quickly, couldn't put it down.  broad appeal - loved the aspect through the eyes of a 14 year old.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: We all loved this book.  Lily's search for 'the mother' against the backdrop of the civil right movement and set in South Carolina - paradise.  One member thought it was too sickly sweet, too dripping in honey, but nine of us welcomed such sweetness.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: St Mary's Parish Book Club
  • Review: all considered it a good read with good descriptions.  Especially of interest were the three sisters, the friendships, the racial situation and their rituals.  As a point of view on racism it was considered a very valuable book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Everyone loved this book.  The writing is vivid, the characters very well drawn and the setting and background seemed authentic.  Easy to read despite dealing with serious issues such as racism and the civil rights movement.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Easy read - page turner.  Good picture of discrimination in southern states of America.  At end wanted to continue to follow what happened next.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: The Saints
  • Review: A good read about life in South Carolina with racial tensions, and three sisters living on a honey farm and a young girl's quest to learn about her mother.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review:  An unequivocal 4 star rating.  In addition to being a pleasure to read, this novel provides a great source of cross references which can be deeply discussed.  It is unsurprising that it is standard reading for eleven year old children in the USA.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Charles Kingsley - The Water Babies

  • Review: Most of us had read this as children; as adults, we saw more in it - social criticism, Victorian attitude to death, Darwinism, religious overtones and political incorrectness! It isn't necessarily a child's book since some of it's vocabulary is quite detailed and specific but there was a surprising amount to discuss. The author had local connections too which gave us an extra aspect.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: The Museum Group

Barbara Kingsolver – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

  • Review: Barbara Kingsolver is passionate about her subject – the first part is rather too didactic, but it developed into an interesting picture of family life and self sufficiency.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Barbara Kingsolver - The Lacuna

  • Review: Lovely writing style.  May seem hard to get into but certainly worth the effort.  Historically accurate and informative but not 'heavy'.  Great characters - memorable expressions.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Wednesday Crew

Barbara Kingsolver -The Poisonwood Bible

  • Review: Most of the group thought this was a wonderful novel, one of the most powerful and thought-provoking we'd read in ages. It was hard to get into, but soon you were swept along by the rhythm of the narrative recounted by the women of an American family caught up in the post-colonial world of the former Belgian Congo. Highly recommended.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: This novel tells of the life of the family of a missionary in a village in the Congo in the early sixties, where they arrived totally unprepared, and of the events following independence. Narrated by the mother and four daughters, each character comes alive. Barbara Kingsolver can conjure up pictures with a few words and it is a book you can't put down. We thought it was brilliant"
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Andover U3A Reading Group
  • Review: Highly readable. Excellent characterisation. Good vision of that part of Africa - historical, anthropological, etc. Need to persevere at the beginning.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford W I
  • Review:  All the characterisations were excellent and the way it was written, each chapter by a different personality  with its personal voice assisted this.  Also of interest was the history of this missionary plus the Congolese current and past way of life.  Very topical just now.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Boater’s Book Club
  • Review: Beautifully written, full of wonderful characters, some likeable some definitely not.  You can almost smell the jungle.  Set against the events of Congo Independence the Price family, ignorant and naive set out as missionaries.  A tale of mans inhumanity to man made readable by flashes of humour and the sheer determination of some of the characters.  A must read.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Some found it hard to get into.  Many found it longer than necessary, but overall it was well liked, and gave us a lot to talk about.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: We found this book absorbing as it painted a vivid picture of the Congo at the time when it gained its independence (1960).  We found the character Nathan Price still lives today - and exists in all religions where fundamentalists abound.  A most interesting story.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Some of us found the book a challenging read.  The writers skill in blending the different female voices was admired.  The juxtaposition of historical facts and fiction was thought provoking and illuminating.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: Raised may issues about missionary work and the arrogance of Western culture.  I liked the different voices and responses to life in the Congo in the 60's, but felt towards the end the novel could have been edited as it started to drag.  Africa has been cruelly abused, very thought provoking.
    Star rating: ***
  • Review: Unanimously thought to be the most thought provoking book we have read.  Enjoyed by all both by content and the way it was written
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: Aroused a great deal of discussion about missionaries, western culture, language and misogyny.  Excellent read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Booklovers
  • Review: An epic and impressive novel; narrated by the wife and four daughters of missionary, Nathan Price; who takes them on his mission to the Congo.  Interesting, educational, very moving.  Great characters.
    Star rating: ****
    REading Group: Jane and Nick's

Sophie Kinsella - Can You Keep a Secret

  • Review: Chic lit in a word - main character not really believable but an easy read.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group:
  • Review: An easy, light-hearted, humorous read.  Can be taken at face value.  A bit of fun.  Good one to curl up with on the sett with a bag of pick and mix sweeties.  Has put us off G-strings.
    Star rating: ***
  • Review: This book is "Chick lit" in a word, A light hearted humorous and easy read, and a bit of nonsense. It is a good one for a holiday read if that’s what takes your fancy.. Emma’s character is not really believable, and the plot is rather predictable and shallow. Most of the group felt they would not read another book by this author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Matthew Kneale- The English passengers

  • Review: Mixed. Two members gave it 10 out of 10. Some of the rest didn't read more than 100 pages and didn't relate to the characters. About a third of the members finished it but would probably only give it 2 stars. Very interesting from an historical point of view. Favourite characters were Peevay and the captain. Some people thought the different voices clever, other irritating.
    Star rating: Not given
    Reading group: Bishopstoke Reading Group
  • Review: Universally disliked, apart from me. No-one (apart from me!) finished the book - a few didn't start. Print was too small and cramped for some readers.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: This did not capture anyone's imagination so some did not finish.  May be a man's book - only one I've met who enjoyed it was a man!
    Reading Group: Weston

Dorothy Koomson - Goodnight Beautiful

  • Review: The book was very emotional, most of our book club cried.  We thought the characters were very complex and not always likeable but the book provoked a lot of discussion within our group.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group:  Reading Enthusiasts

Dorothy Koomson - The Ice Cream Girls

Review: Most enjoyed this as a "light" read.  Several felt it raised serious issues of domestic abuse.  The prison details were convincing, other factors of the plot were less successful. Some editing would have helped. Star rating: ** Reading Group: C C Readers

Dorothy Koomson - Marshmallows for Breakfast

  • Review: The general conclusion was that this book was directed at a specific market and we were not of that market.  There were enough themes to support a trilogy; the effects of rape on an individual, of alcoholism on children, of infidelity on relationships and of bullying in the workplace.  Koomson seems to be addicted to adjectives, exotic eye colouring and the random use of passages in italics.  The overall structure of the novel was sound enough but despite cross checking no reader offered a rational reason for the culinary subtitles save that the writer may have an eating disorder.  Surprisingly the ending was, for Kendra and all the main characters rational and completely satisfactory.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: We had very high expectations for the book as we enjoyed another book from the author, but we were left disappointed from the substance and the content.  We felt that the book had no real ending and we wanted more considering the synopsis of the book.  We would not recommend this book.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:Reading enthusiasts

Elizabeth Kostova - The Historian

  • Review: Well written but overlong.  Very divided over it as  a group, but those who persevered read to the end with great interest.  Great descriptions of the countryside involved.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group1
  • Review: A mixed bag of opinions.  two of us found it boring and hard going and gave up.  four of us enjoyed it; clever narrative structure, but too long.  Good evocation of place.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Park Road Readers
  • Review: This novel proved too daunting for several members of our group who did not finish reading it.  The rest rated it highly.  The multi-voice technique for unfolding the plot requires the full involvement of the reader; it is not a book for skimming or speed-reading.  There are wonderful descriptions of place reminiscent of Sir Walter Scott and complex historical details, all of which are essential to unfolding of the plot.  For the narrator of the story to remain un-named, even in dialogue, through a novel eighty chapters long gives a subtle seasoning to this retelling of the Dracula story.  Our resulting discussion was more about the nature of evil than of the structure of the novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Nicole Krauss - The History of Love

  • Review:  Intriguing, confusing, enigmatic, beautiful book of profound loss, a puzzle worth unravelling.  Like peeling an onion.  The excerpts from ‘The History of  Love’ were entrancing.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  The Non-Book Club
  • Review: Interesting but confusing reading with a  disappointing ending.  A detective/love story.  Mixed views in our group, not recommended to everyone.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Park Road Readers

Hari Kunzri - The Impressionist

  • Review: We were unanimous with our praise of the first novel by Kunzri.  Messages we thought that the author was trying to convey (and quite successfully), were subtly hidden in humour and in incongruous settings so avoiding rigid and confrontational and divisive arguments.  Would make an excellent film.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Benches
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Camilla Lackberg - The Hidden Child

  • Review: Interesting mixture of domestic life, police and criminal activities.  We learned about the affect of Nazi occupation of Norway and neutral Sweden and how past events affected lives in the present.  A good read.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group:  North Baddesley WI group 2

J Lahiri – Unaccustomed Earth

  • Review:   An interesting, well written selection of short stories culminating with a group of three related tales…almost a novella.  Some characters lacked definition, all stories have a sense of loss, each character seemed disassociated both from friends and family.  We rated this book as a little above average.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review:  Well written stories which draw you in.  Haunting, stories stay with you, so good basis for discussion.  Quite powerful.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives

Lorna Landvik - Tall Pine Polka

  • Review:  Mixed reviews for this book.  We felt that it provoked a good discussion so we gave a higher mark, but the writing and story were patchy.  Interesting idea to have 2 stories in one book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter

Lynda La Plante - Above Suspicion

  • Review: A good read.  Well researched.  Enjoyable but no deep interpretations.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review:  Most people enjoyed the book.  The storyline started well but was a bit slow in the middle.  Good ending.  Three members thought it quite horrific.  Anna Travis is a resourceful detective and would like to read more books based on this type of murder.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley and District U3A
  • Review: Plausible, fast moving plot.  Good red herring along the way.  Thoroughly enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Erik Larson - The Devil in the White City

  • Review: A disappointing read; exhaustive details of architects, builders and events which failed to link successfully with the murder chronicle.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Redhouse

Stieg Larsson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

  • Review: The author’s background strongly influenced the book.  Strong characters.  Some of the plot definitely unsavoury.  Some sympathy for Salmander.  The book changed our views of Sweden.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review:  Exciting/page turner.  Looking forward to reading sequels.  Taught about Sweden.  Everyone enjoyed.  Rattling good yarn.  Interesting characters.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ringwood Readers

Hugh Laurie - The Gun Seller

  • Review:  Some humorous moments at the start of the book but these tended to tail off as the plot unfolded.  Very complicated plot which required some concentration to follow.  Mixed reaction from members of the group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A

Mary Lawson - The Other Side of the Bridge

  • Review: Well reviewed by the group.  Considered to be dour by some, but a very believable story.  Interesting insight into how siblings differ but both crave their parents affection.  A very good overview of life in this town at different times of the year and different periods of time.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ecchinswell
  • Review:   Gentle but a lot of meat/substance in it.  All enjoyed it.  Characters main and minor vividly portrayed.  Incidental information e.g. 2nd World War, passage of seasons enrich the story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fareham 5.30
  • Review: Very readable.  A good blend of several characters, most of whom were affected by same event in their lives.  Good blend of past and present in the way they connect and lead up to conclusion of book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A Group 2

John le Carré - Absolute Friends

  • Review: You didn't understand it until you had read it. You had to read every word. Enjoyed by most of us. The ending was a bit sudden.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Overton Thursday Group

John le Carré - The Constant Gardener

  • Review:  Majority liked the book.  Here are some of the comments:-  compelling:  Thought provoking: beautifully written: good characterisation:  easy to read:  would read more le Carré.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Some found it rather heavy going, but persevered.  They found the past a bit intricate.  Others enjoyed very much the  picture of embassy politics and people contrasted with the sleazy activities of those involved in or with the pharmaceutical industry .  Excellent delineation of characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Faregrove Court
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed the book.  Good atmosphere, believable plot.  Some personal experiences of similar situations.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Well written and up to John le Carré's usual standard.  Intriguing, gripping story.  Compliments the film, adding details to increase enjoyment
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy Lane
  • Review: Tackles pharmaceutical corruption world wide.  The story line mirrored the convoluted relationship with the foreign office, big business and different countries.  Mixed feelings about this book and some found it not easy to follow.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird

  • Review:  A well constructed book, which we enjoyed.  A realistic portrait of the racial divide in the American South in the 1930’s.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A
  • Review:  A story, gripping from first to last with its eternal themes as important now as in 1960.  Our group members were all able to visualize Maycomb and identify the spread of characters.  Most had monochrome memories of Gregory Peck but these did not detract from their literacy assessment of this brilliant novel.  It generated ninety minutes of wide ranging discussion.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  New Forest - Waterside U3A Theatre and Waterside
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed it as an insight into the minds of children, the different relationships.  It deserves to be a classic.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book group 3
  • Review: Superb book.  Language, characterisations, plot excellently progressed.  Some of the group had read it previously but found even more to appreciate in the book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Accidental
  • Review: Ground breaking for its time.  Characters well described and developed.  Insightful.  Clear idea of small town prejudice in deep south.  Real classic.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Bridewell
  • Review: We loved it!  Beautifully written.  If you only ever read one book in your lifetime make sure it is this one.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Knackered Mums
  • Review: A brilliant, sensitive novel told through the voice of a nine year old tomboy.  A history lesson about the American deep south – as true today as it was in the thirties.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Redhouse
  • Review: All of the group felt the book well written, and although dealing with important issues and prejudice, an easy read.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: Petersfield Library

Laurie Lee - As I walked out one Midsummer Morning

  • Review:  Very enjoyable reading.  A good adventure undertaken by an in experienced person who learnt a lot from his journey.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A
  • Review: Loved by us all for its lyricism.  It is a prose poem full of wonderful images even of dire poverty.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Beautifully written - prose as poetry.  Evocative - feeling that group wanted to know more especially his experience in the Civil War.  His music was his way in to the people.  Charismatic personality.  Gem of a book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The overall opinion of the group was not positive.  One person thoroughly enjoyed it and has now bought the book. There was some disquiet about the credibility factor of some of what he had written and felt that there was some poetic license. It is described as an autobiography.  We were unsure how his family in the 1930s knew where he was staying to write to him.  He kept on the move through Spain and yet was able to collect his post from different venues along the way.  Also it seemed he was able to communicate with the locals quite easily as he travelled through the different areas of Spain and their many dialects. Yet when he set off to travel he knew only one phrase in Spanish. We appreciated the beautiful descriptions of both town and country.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Michael Legat - The Silk Maker

  • Review: Each member enjoys the research and history of the silk industry - well written. The story line was considered bland-obvious and tedious, a typical "trouble at mill" story. Only one person would bother to read another book by this author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Very disappointing - we were all looking forward to it, but it fell far short of our expectations.  It failed to create any atmosphere or provoke any sense of life in those times.  The one point of interest was the actual process of silk manufacture but again this was incomplete.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Cambridge

Ursula Le Guin - Left Hand of Darkness

  • There were very mixed views on this book.  What was not liked in particular was the usage of language (made up names and words), in fact the language was called a "linguistic jumble". Some couldn't get into it, nor could the title be understood or even the story line worked out. It was felt the sex aspect was unnecessarily endless.  On the positive the book was considered to have some clever ideas, that it stretched the imagination and allowed us to reflect on our way of life and how we view "differentness".
    Star rating: *+
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club
  • Dennis Lehane - Moonlight Mile
  • Review: Being a group of ladies we were apprehensive that this book may be a little too "butch" for some readers.  Those that did finish it, all enjoyed it and some even went in search of otehr titles and movies connected witth this author.  It was a gritty storytline but with good plot twists to keep you guessing.  Would recommend to ladies and gents alike!
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group - Lippy Ladies

Donna Leon - Aqua Alta

  • Review:  A light enjoyable read.  A reasonable plot with rather stereo typed characters.  A look at Venice from the locals viewpoint.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review:  The majority enjoyed the book noting the vivid atmosphere of the environment, relationships and contrast between family and work.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hedge End WI

David Lessels - A tramp In Africa

  • Review: Excellent, good reading, fascinating.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: We couldn’t decide if it is a history book, guide book or adventure story.  The men in the group enjoyed it more than the women.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Doris Lessing - The Grass is Singing

Review: All our members "enjoyed" this book, despite its unremitting misery : it was compulsive reading.  One member, correctly we think, saw it as a metaphor for the - then - future of Rhodesia. Star rating : *** Reading Group : Godshill WI

Kathy Lette - Foetal Attraction

  • Review: Not worth reading as a book club.  Very little discussion necessary.  A beach book.
    Star rating: *
  • Review: We thought this book was without substance.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Happy Days

Primo Levi - If This is a Man/The Truce

  • Review: Compelling read, straight forward and unemotionally told.  Filled in a lot of gaps in our collective knowledge of these dreadful events.
    Star rating ****+
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: essential reading.  Brilliant dispassionate account of horrific experience in Nazi slave work camp; survival, as an exceptional individual man.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: Our group simply could not stop talking about this book and the whole subject of the holocaust.  We think everyone should read it.  It took us into areas, previously unexplored like Dante's Divine Comedy and the psychology of 'in' and 'out' groups and group conformity.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: St Mary's Parish Book Club, Gosport

Andrea Levy - Small Island

  • Review: Thought provoking. Funny. Wonderful character observation. Clever device of writing - first person for each character.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Victoria Reading Group
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed this book. Beautifully portrayed characters. Thought provoking, generating much discussion. Evocative of the post-war era.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review:  We enjoyed this book very much.  We thought it was very cleverly constructed, that the characterisation was good and amusing .  We felt the times (wartime and 1948) were authentic and the conditions in which the characters lived were true to life.  It made us feel guilty about racism and ignorance.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  U3A Emsworth
  • Review: Generally enjoyed by all the group - some were pleasantly surprised.  Warmed to all the characters, graphically written, kept the pace.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Universally enjoyed 'couldn't read fast enough, so good'.  All older readers bar 2 did not know about the problems!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Thought-provoking.  Beautifully written - the era of 1948 well conveyed.  Ironic humour.  Each chapter a story on its own.  Engaging and entertaining.  Excellent descriptive writing - both cultures cleverly conveyed.  We all greatly enjoyed this.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: Very interesting and well written.  Everyone got something out of it.  Portrays four people coming to terms with life and the shifting of their ambitions in an environment of deprivation and prejudice.  Told with warmth and not distorted by political connections.  A difficult subject handled in a novel and even handed way.  A book enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review:  Everyone loved the book, felt it held the attention, was very readable, well researched, perceptive and emphatic. The TV series was also liked. The description of wartime, racial attitudes, Jamaican and British life at that time and the characters (esp Bernard and Arthur) were admired. The ending was not liked by all (pregnancy).
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: One of those novels to be read slowly.... enjoying and savouring every word.  Much humour and excellent description of the main characters.  Easy to read but showed, after WW2, how racial prejudices was fairly rampant in a rundown, bomb devastated England.  Recommend the novel as a good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Very well written and observed.  Explores the whole aspect of prejudice.  It was written with some humour without being disrespectful.  It described life before and after 2nd World War.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2  
  • Review: Andrea Levy with remarkable skill reminded our group of the tensions which maintained in Britain immediately after the 39/45 war when boatloads of West Indians arrived.  She also enlightened readers, unfamiliar with the society they were coming from, of the culture shock they were experiencing.  The two pictures were tellingly pitched against the behaviour and attitude of the Brits in India.  We were still feeling superior about 'Our Empire' then.  Small Island was considered a 'good read' but some of the group are still uncomfortable with novels of the current 'meanwhile back at the ranch' style of construction with chapters devoted to individual characters.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Characters and venues well described, amusing in parts.  Very good insight into life at that time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Ladies
  • Review: good social history of the time.  Excellent characterisation.  Good illustration on copies of books.  Recommended good read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Generally well liked, some of us found it slow to start.  Excellent characters, the story was believable.  Made us debate the race question.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: The book captures the era of 1940's/1950's Britain vividly through the eyes of its characters.  The issues of race versus class prejudice were explored with disturbing accuracy.  Not everyone enjoyed the book, but we all appreciated its skilful writing.
  • Star rating:***plus
  • Reading Group: Arle

Andrea Levy -The Long Song

  • Review: This book was enlightening and described human endurance with pathos and humour.  It takes a while to get into the story before you are drawn into the characters lives.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2

Marina Lewycka - Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian

  • Review: All enjoyed this book. We felt it was a good contemporary subject and all sides were sympathised with. It made us laugh and we liked the interwoven hidden story of the characters earlier lives. Some thought it was farcical and not believable - this was the minority.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review:  A good read.  A lot of layers, more depth than approved at first, a good book for group discussion.  We were surprised at the humour prize.  Some bits were funny, some black humour, near tragedy, near farce.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Keyhaven Book Circle
  • Review:  Maybe too plausible!  Easy read, page turner, felt by some to be lacking in depth or literary merit.  Others really enjoyed the book.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Weston Readers
  • Review: Well constructed plot and a good use of language with a Ukrainian accent coming through very strongly.  Full of family truths and our heroine shows great compassion
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Our group had very mixed views on this book.  It was an entertaining and informative black comedy with a pleasing positive ending for all of the characters.  There were many layers and it was touching in places.  The characters, however, tended to come across as caricatures
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Title and presentation behind the story behind the cover.  Fabulous - could not put it down.  A compelling read - the humour aspect was rather watered down or not in tune with our sense of humour.  The book tackles issues of immigration with great insight.  The interpretation of the main characters language was very funny.  Like a biography - it read well.  Cover reminds us of war paper.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Most of the group enjoyed this book and found it comic.  However, a small minority perhaps dealing with elderly relatives found it rather dark and depressing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Botley
  • Review:  Very funny, true to life, poignant, easy to read, short snappy writing.  Enjoyed the ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Andover Library
  • Review: Very amusing, well depicted characters, very feasible.  Discussion ensued about people's backgrounds and what makes them who they are.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group2

Marina Lewycka - Two Caravans

  • Review: Lively and humorous with good descriptions. Described the plight of immigrants well, but the plot became disjointed after the first few chapters.  Thought provoking but rather incredible in parts.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KYC Ladies

Nell Leyshon - Black Dirt

  • Review: Sad, sinister but with detailed descriptions as the dying man recalls his childhood.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Wednesday
  • Review: Loved language a ‘layers’ of story.  Felt characters were well drawn.  Thought the dark side was skilfully handled.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review:   Neat read and quite moving. There were unanswered questions at the end but it’s a short, easy read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:

Rosina Lippi - Homestead

  • Review: One reader didn't enjoy the book, but even she with the other eight thought it well written with many excellent sections.  It was at times bitty - one wanted to continue with the episode in hand.  The descriptions of the environment and hardship of the area were excellent.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Penelope Lively - The Photograph

  • Review:  Very well written, tedious people well portrayed.  Elaine’s gardening knowledge etc much enjoyed.  Clever development at the end evoking much sympathy for Kath.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Petersfield U3A Book Circle
  • Review:  A good light easy read;  some thought the character less than convincing.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Keyhaven Yacht Club Ladies
  • Review: Unanimously enjoyed.  The finding of the photograph led to the unravelling of various relationships and we thought that the insight into the characters was excellent.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A group 1
  • Review: In the main the group liked the writing of this book, but were critical of the rather weak plot.  Most did not really enjoy it though all wanted to reach the end in order to discover the explanation of the main characters death.
    Star rating: **
    Solent U3A
  • Review: None of the group liked reading this book but it is extremely good for discussion.  The characters were cold and mainly shallow.  Kath the dead woman seen holding hands with a man in the photograph.  She is not known by her husband, sister and friends.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review:   Concise, beautiful prose, superb piece of literature.  Very cleverly crafted with excellent use of verses.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Readable, well crafted and well written.  Enjoyed the way the characters evolved and the gradual re-evaluaition of relationships.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Dogmersfield

Attica Locke - Black Water Rising

  • Review:  A readable book but not as rivetting as the reviews suggested.  The ending petered out after a very busy plot.  The characters were rather superficial and not very likeable overall.  It seems to have been written with a film script in mind or a second novel.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Perspectives
  • Review: Engaging, enlightening, entertaining?  No - at least in our opinion.  Rather long winded.  A good start but the over complicated plot left us confused.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Accidental

David Lodge - Author, Author

  • Review: This book provoked a lot of discussion - opinions varied from: 'One of the best books the group has read' to 'I nearly lost the will to live, trying to finish it!'
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Romsey School Staff
  • Review: There was a wide range of reaction to this book from our eight members, from considering it very interesting and well written, to not being able to read it at all!  Some of us felt that it got bogged down in too much detail in the central section.  It led to a very animated discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selbourne Book Group

David Lodge - Deaf Sentence

Review: This group of hearing impaired people felt that the novel was funny and well observed - not without its flaws but an excellent representation of the problems of hearing loss. Star rating: **** Reading group: Winchester HIP Reading Group

Joan London - Gilgamesh

  • Review: Although the group gave this book a three star rating, their reasons were far from uniform.  The fabled Gilgamesh and his epic search for enlightenment had not before come to their notice and Edith's seemingly irrational behaviour following her encounters with Leopold and Aram did not make much sense.  Some found the situation at Nunderup too depressing, others thought the conclusion of Edith's quest away from a pointless life too rushed at the end.  All thought it was a good read and a few were left wanting to read the book again and find out more about Gilgamesh.  Our discussion profitably visited many topics.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Held some readers in thrall.  Although the story was rather improbable in places regarding the war, the plight of the main characters - Enid and Jim - was believable.  We felt we should find out more about Gilgamesh.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Everton

Kate Long – Swallowing Grandma

  • Review:   A sad subject but was easily readable and had moments of humour as well as sadness.  A grown up version of Jaqueline Wilson
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Fareham 5.30
  • Review: Enjoyed by most  - found it very lighthearted.  Thought the characters were interesting - especially the way the mother's perception was written in dark print.  Compelling with great sensitivity.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray

Michelle Lovric - The Remedy

  • Review: Most members found this a page turner.  Mixed levels of enjoyment due to gritty nature of the subject matter.  Lots of descriptive content and historical fact - well researched.  It was a good book for a reading group, provoking mixed reactions and good discussions.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ecchinswell

Rosemund Lupton - Sister

  • Review: An irresistible read with an engaging story - believable and gripping.  Top marks given by all.  So pleased that we came across this inadvertently due to not receiving the requested title!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Overall we all enjoyed the book.  Very unexpected ending and depressing in parts.  Very emotional, took us all on a rollercoaster of a story.  Very well written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Yummy Mummy's
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M

Colum McCann - Dancer

  • Review:  Many felt they would rather have read Nureyev's biography than this docudrama/faction, although some found it an interesting way of learning about him. Most did not like the odd style and the implied debauchery. It was found bitty and the characters and story line confusing. Most did like the info about Margot Fonteyn and the information about Russia especially his childhood
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Pete McCarthy - McCarthy's Bar

  • Review: It made us laugh - we compared it to other travel books we have read i.e. Into Siberia (much happier) and Bill Bryson and Tony Hawkes - they have a better reason for travelling than him. Those who have visited Ireland agreed that it is like that!! Some members found the book 'too light' for their taste.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Bedhampton Reading Group

Frank McCourt – Teacher Man

  • Review:  A well told, vigorous memoir about teaching disaffected children in New York.  A compassionate man.  Raised many interesting issues about education.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Titchfield Abbey
  • Review: A disappointment after Angela's Ashes.  We felt that it was a self indulgent book - the writer always harking back to his awful childhood.  However, it was an insight into education in America with some humorous incidents.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Elizabeth McCracken - Niagara Falls all over Again

  • Review: Enjoyed by some - cliché by others. Self centred characters. Wanting to read others by the same author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford W I
  • Review:  We enjoyed aspects of this book, especially the Sharp family relationships but also found it depressing in that the two main characters did not achieve their potential and the ending was sad.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A

James McCreet – The Vice Society

  • Review: This book has an unusual style and it takes a little while to get used to it, however, when you do it does move at a good pace and keeps the reader interested throughout.  There are some intriguing characters with most of the main ones well enough defined to be believable, even if they are a little predictable at times.  The setting is generally quite well described enabling the reader to get a good sense of the characters environment.  To develop into a series the characters will need a little work and possibly a couple of new characters introduced, but overall it is a decent effort.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:

Colleen McCullough - Morgan's Run

  • Review: Rather two dimensional characters.  It took perseverance to get more than half way through.  Very well researched!  Some of writing led to questioning about grammar and sentence structure.  Doubtful whether we would read a sequel!  Rather a boring read.
    Star rating: **
    reading Group: Everton
  • Review: A real insight into life for the convicts in the 19th Century.  Well written and researched.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Cliffhangers
  • Historically well researched.  Gripping.  Characters showed strenght and initiative.  Painted a wide picture of the times and places.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group II

Val McDermid - The Distant Echo

  • Review: Too long, unconvincing, entertaining read, characters still unknown at the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: A good read.  Excellent description of characters.  Gave 'food for thought' on many subjects.  Slack conclusion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Oakham Alton

Iain McDowall - Cut Her Dead

  • Review: rather a macabre story but interesting, although the author tended to be too elaborate at times, unnecessarily we thought.  Didn't really like the style of his writing I'm afraid.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags

Ian McEwan - Atonement

  • Review: Majority thought it was an excellent book although slow to start. Very descriptive and thought provoking Part 2. Satisfying Part 3 bringing things together and providing answers and outcomes of events and people.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library
  • Review: The only book in 4 years when everyone agreed on its brilliance - wonderful descriptions of people places and situations. Easy to read with humour and characters one could emphasise with. Brilliant descriptive writing, especially Dunkirk and hospital "procedure"
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Well written, thought provoking.  Not everybody enjoyed this book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Beechings
  • Review: The whole group enjoyed and appreciated this book.  Very descriptive and evocative of either the slow, hot days in the country in 1935 and the chaotic, bloody scenes at Dunkirk and the hospital.  Characterisations also excellent.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: Part 1 - mixed reviews.  Description too protracted and story too slow v  reader drawn into the atmosphere and psyche of the characters.  WW2 and nursing - most considered this to be the best part.  Was believable and there was empathy with characters and situations.  Well researched.  Ending - ambiguous, 'a cop out' (not all agreed).  Was atonement achieved - Briony's 'novel' puts the record straight but does not help the 'victims'.  Promoted good discussion and different points of view.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Maisemore Gardens

Ian McEwan - Enduring Love

  • Review: A tense and unusual beginning gets the reader involved immediately. This story of obsession set in contemporary Britain, is a dramatic and gripping read.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Highly recommended by Hayling Readers' Group
  • Review: "This book is absorbing and disturbing. The first chapter draws you in and opens up all sorts of possibilities' and then pulls it all back together in an inevitable ending. Science, literature and medical syndromes are amongst the themes explored. A very good read for a group"
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Fordingbridge Reading Group
  • Review: A generally appreciated novel . . . Some members find too much introspection hard to deal with. Rated highly on theme, plot, characterisation, style and scene setting. Ample material for discussion. A good "group read" Rating:
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Literature Group
  • Review:  The group found the unpredictable nature of this book intriguing.  Although we were all pleased to have read the novel, no one felt they had enjoyed it.  McEwan has a rare skill in his style of writing that all found compelling, first chapter was amazing.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review:  A gripping read with psychological overtones which made one slightly uncomfortable.  Eight of us thoroughly enjoyed the style and use of language although we felt the acquisition of the gun an unnecessary interlude.  The steady and intense relationship of the key players which slowly fell apart bringing them to the verge of personal disaster as well developed and the research undertaken to produce this novel gave an authenticity to the book.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  After Eights, King Somborne
  • Review: Reasonably enjoyable - some interesting subplots.  Bit long winded in places.  Very original ideas.  A good start to the story.
    Star rating **
    reading Group: Oakley Bookworms
  • Review: A dark story, which not all readers felt comfortable enough with to finish.  Some found it a real page turner.  Subject good, well researched and well written.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI
  • Review: The general opinion of the group was that the book was disappointing and not what was expected.  One member was of the opposite opinion and we had a very interesting discussion with everyone contributing on various aspects of the story.  A strong opening which did not deliver.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: Well written.  Worth reading and though provoking.  A bit like a lecture.  Some of the group want to read more of the author's books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Ian McEwan - On Chesil Beach

  • Review: All agreed it was well written; a sensitive description of a very sad situation.  The subject matter was not to everyone's taste.
    Star rating: **
  • Review: McEwan's ability to 'mirror' the thoughts of others is outstanding.  He writes on the demoralising effects of shame, secrecy, shock and the devastating effects of lack of understanding inward thoughts of others.  His message in the book is how the lack of a word or gesture can make so much difference to life.  This is a very well written book and makes one realise how (with hindsight) we - all of us can appreciate how different our lives would have been if we 'spoke up' when the opportunity arrived.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lee
  • Review: The majority of our readers agreed the book was very well written, with excellent descriptive passages, but they didn't like the content.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: There was a mixed response to this novel.  Some fount it very funny, others thought it a small tragedy.  Basically we thought it a study of misunderstanding or lack of communication between a couple.  All of us, however, enjoyed McEwans elegant prose style.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: We thoroughly enjoyed this read - we had a lively conversation about naivety and ignorance and incompatibility of the couple.  A compelling read, beautifully crafted and we would recommend it heartily.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Ian McEwan - Saturday

  • Review:  Interesting political context, well integrated into absorbing plot.  Impressive research and detail. Stunning, accomplished, tedious, self indulgent, thrilling, empathetic, gripping, dramatic tension, formulaic.  A brilliant writer.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  King’s Somborne
  • Review:  A very interesting day and enjoyed by all but one member could have done without all the medical details.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Liss
  • Review: A lively discussion - 2 people didn't like it at all - remainder scored 3 or 4.  Stimulated a good discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough Library
  • Review: The Group was divided in their opinion about this book.  The beauty and intensity of the language were appreciated by those who finished it.  Our insight into Henry's consciousness was as richly rewarding as his fish stew!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: This book is everything the critics have said in its praise.  For once the book exceeds the blurb.  A most compelling three hundred pages; rare example of how a novel can be.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:   Sparked a lot of debate and left an indelible mark on most of us.  Fourteen page squash match was of particular note!
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Bookworms

Ian McEwan - The Innocent

  • Review:  Generally it was considered that the book reflected the times well with good characterisations.  It was well written and everyone wanted to finish it.
    Star rating:  *** to ****
    Reading Group:  BBC Boater’s Book Club
  • Review: Well written and plotted tale of naive young man caught up in first romance and espionage in post-war Berlin.  Slow start, but worth the read
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling Island U3A
  • Review: Good story; everyone found the gory description of Otto's dismemberment too upsetting to read.  Gripping to the end - raised questions about who was 'The innocent'.  Excellent descriptive writing, but would you recommend someone to read it for enjoyment?
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: A book of its time (1990's).  The violence in it was unnecessarily graphic and did not enhance the story.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman - Long Way Round

  • Review:  The book split the group.  Half liked it and half didn’t.  It provoked a lively discussion. The main criticism was it lacked scenic description and was some what limited in vocabulary.
    Star rating:  ** and a half
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Not liked.  It was found boring and considered an ego trip about them and their riding aspects and full of whinging.  There was not enough about the locations, people or Unicef.  Did they even write it themselves?
    Star rating *-
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Jon McGregor - If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

  • Review: 4 thought it was great, 4 disliked it, 4 thought it was well written but no plot and no character development
    Star rating: ** ½
  • Jon McGregor - If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things
    Review: Lack of plot and direction. No punctuation or sentence construction. Title apt - unremarkable. Muddled, pretentious, irritating.
    Star rating: None
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review:  Hard to get into.  There was a mixed reaction from the group but some members enjoyed it.  It was a good description of urban street life where neighbours don’t know each other.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Library Wed Group
  • Review: One person absolutely loved it.  The majority enjoyed the way it was written, but would have liked the characters to be more identifiable.  Some were disappointed by the ending.  On the whole reasonably enjoyable, but wouldn't read it again.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Majority of group loved this.  Poetical style very refreshing.  Slight disappointment for some at 'tame' ending, but others thought it beautiful for the fact it was so 'ordinary'.  Highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fareham
  • Review: Some people found this a really different read due to the style of writing.  Others felt you did not get to know the characters and struggled to finish it because of this.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: A triumph of poetic prose and sensitive observation of a small, ordinary collection of people.  Though set in a North of England town, its universality led our readers, mentally to place it in several other areas in the UK.  By centring our discussion initially on the idea of a moment of complete stillness and exploring our personal experiences of such events, we were able to inhabit a world of which we are all aware but rarely acknowledge.  This is not an easy book to read, but for anyone finding joy in the development of the modern novel, it is a must.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature
  • Review: An intriguing good read.  The lyrical quality, poetic prose, language usage and sentence construction was discussed extensively.  The characterisations were clever, one was never sure if people were who/what they were.  The ending was considered wide open and interpreted differently by various members.
    Star rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Intriguing book and a clever idea but it didn't flow comfortably.  Interesting and descriptive - perhaps worth re-reading.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Katharine McManon - The Rose of Sebastopol

  • Review: This was a very romantic Victorian tale related with all the false modesty of the period:  the constricted lives of women, oblique hints at lesbianism, paedophilia and class distinction.  The main characters are all dispatched on pointless quests which succeed only in revealing that war is brutal and bloody, that the British army succeeds by default and that Florence Nightingale was not quite the angelic force history portrays her.

    The descriptive writing is at times powerful but the novel's structure is such that for many, only the group allegiance got them thought the first third of the book and left them undecided about who qualified as the heroine.  The need constantly to explain character motivation by flashback to earlier times suggests a lack of confidence in telling a straightforward story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Andy McNab - Deep Black

  • Review: Many initially did not want to read it but actually found it an enjoyable and exciting read, although we did not like the use of the F word and the use of special and technical language especially the mnemonics.  However, the details of life were considered interesting and that they did reflect reality to some extent.  2 members had the opposite views to above.
    Star rating:  **/***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Gil McNeil - The Only Boy For Me

  • Review: Brilliant laugh, a light-hearted easy read.  Some found it slightly contrived, one person found it boring and didn't rate it.  Most thought it an enjoyable read between more challenging books with ephemeral content, a moment in the mind.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Cowdray

Shena Mackay - A Bowl of Cherries

  • Review: Not a popular choice, the language was too precious, confusing plot, a weak novel.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review:  Varied reactions.  Well written but unsympathetic characters.  Some found it plausible.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  Whitchurch Book Group
  • Review: Strong characterisations, some credible others not so.  Very long sentences and descriptions.  Chaotic plot at times.  Reasonably good read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI

Shena Mackay - Heligoland

  • Review:  Not one reader enjoyed this book, many gave up reading.  Unconvincing characters, (a few votes for Rowena) rambling episodes.  Language often pretentious – not the language of the characters.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Very disappointing - generally we felt pretentious use of language.  Lacked development of characters.  Began to improve towards end but then stopped!
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Redhouse
  • Review: Terrific descriptive opening, then it fell away a bit, but there was a satisfying ending.  Great feel of late 40's and early 50s e.g.plastic popper beads and corduroy leggings.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: All Saints

Ben Macintyre - Agent Zigzag

Review: Well-written, gripping story about a brave but unpleasant individual.  Everyone enjoyed this straightforard account. Star rating : *** Reading Group: C C Readers Review: An unexpected pleasure to read, giving a fascinating insight into the war with interesting and often humourous chracters. Satr rating : ***/**** Reading Group : Stubbington Bookends

Sinclair McKay - The Secret Life of Bletchley Park

  • Review: We awarded 4 stars for the content and not the writing.  Some liked the conversational style others found it reminded them of a cub reporter on a local paper.  We all agreed that the story of what happened at Bletchley was worth reading the book for.  We all learned something new about the story of the Enigma Machine.  Much discussion was generated and we were impressed by how the codes were cracked and security kept.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Derek Malcolm - Family Secrets

  • Review: A varied response from love to hate.  Those who enjoyed it appreciated the way it was written and the account of the trial.  Discussion focused on the 'class' aspects in terms of emotion and control.  Was this a feature of the times or society?
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Everton

Amulya Malladi - Mango Season

  • Review: An interesting subject giving an insight into a culture. The recipes and kitchen scenes were very visual. Easy to read and a good story - would recommend it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Whitchurch
  • Review: With vivid descriptions and marvellous characters the very heart of the conflict between Indian and Western values is captured. It is done with humour, delicacy and above all beautiful writing. A real treat.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A most enjoyable read.  Interesting about traditional culture, very amusing.  How heroine changes attitudes and the resulting changes in the lives of her relations very well done.  Good 'red herring'.   Wonderful punch lines!  Need a sequel!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: Generally enjoyed by the group.  We liked the insight into contemporary Indian society and how it comes into conflict with western values.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 1

Henning Mankell - One Step Behind

  • Review: This was an excellent read. Enjoyed by everyone in the group. Eagerly awaiting reading another by same author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Brockenhurst WI
  • Review: A good read but the Swedish people’s and places were very confusing.  A “drama.. personae’ would have been helpful.  Some people thought it was too long.  (The map was totally useless!)
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Book Circles
  • Review: Easy to read; enjoyed by all.  Good plot and storytelling, all members of all ages enjoyed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Botley Reading Circle
  • Review: The dark brooding tension of most of the novel contrasts beautifully with the action at the end.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Henning Mankell - Side tracked

  • Review: All the group loved it! We liked the detective, enjoyed the dour humour and felt that the book portrayed an accurate account of police work ie the officers had to do boring, repetitive jobs, but the read was by no means boring and repetitive. A little gory in parts, but we'll read more of his books.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: Andover NWR
  • Review:  Enjoyed by most of us.  Pretty gruesome at times.  Interesting to learn something about Sweden.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Well constructed, but no charm.  No-one liked the horrific descriptions of the murders.  
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Group 3
  • Review: Plot of this detective novel was well constructed - somewhat gruesome in places.  Inspector Wallender an extremely believable character.  intriguing that the reader knows more than the inspector.  A very good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: Opinions divided within the group.  Some disliked the violence and repetitive descriptions, others thought the main characters well described.  Good page turning yarn.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Well written page turner.  Good characterisation.  Group guessed ending early on.  Good title – explained the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Goodworth Clatford WI

Henning Mankell - The Return of the Dancing Master

  • Review: A ‘page turner’ – even those who were uncertain had to keep reading it. ? Something lost in translation. Swedish aspect difficult.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: A good page turner.  Interesting description of Sweden. Not everybody likes detective stories but the subject of a Nazi link with Sweden was interesting.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U31
  • Review: Loses impact in translation.  Convoluted, slow, long winded.  Difficulty over place names - better map at the front.  Visualise the places more easily than the characters.  Lots of loose ends.  irrelevancies in the details.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: A complicated story with too many characters, confusing themes and a depressingly cold atmosphere.  This book is, however, a surprisingly good read.  Two main characters driven by their fears, one of the past the other of a threatening future, carry the plot.  The proposition that evil is just below the surface in all societies sits well within a country of which most British people have a vague but benign view.  The content of this book can be profitably discussed at several levels there being so many characters with so many motives.  A deep book well translated.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:  Detective thriller with pace and interest i.e. main character who is battling cancer as well as solving a murder (or two).  Wonderful description of landscape – oddly ‘flat’ ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Chris Burgin
  • Review: A really good thriller.  I was totally engaged from the beginning.  It was thought provoking over the moral issues; also it showed an insight into how the main character was dealing with his cancer.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cliff Hangers
  • Review: A real thriller, couldn't wait to turn the page.  We were surprised by the subject matter.  Sweden is a very big country with a small population.  We were aware of distances covered in the police investigation, which seemed very slow.  The men were more believable than the women.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Hilary Mantel - Beyond Black

  • Review: Out of 9, 8 did not like it, finding it disjointed, boring, repetitious, slow, sleazy and poorly written with poor characters and nothing happening. One liked it finding it descriptive, dark, funny and shocking. Some found the subject matter of the occult interesting. 5 out of the 9 did not choose to finish it
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Hilary Mantel – Wolf Hall

  • Review: Stimulating, interesting.  Very well researched and very readable.  Looking forward to the sequel!  Interesting insight into Tudor life.  Thomas More an interesting character – not very attractive and very stubborn.  A different approach from the usual laudatory books.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Joan Marble - Notes from an Italian Terrace

  • Review: We all enjoyed the author’s descriptions of Rome and its inhabitants and their way of life. Lots of humour here. Some of us thought this more interesting than the gardening aspect of the book. Very easy reading. Excellent as a holiday book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Titchfield Reading Group

Sandor Marai - Embers

  • Review:  Well written, insightful, very well crafted.  Evocative of Vienna etc – vivid pictures of places including General’s castle.  Gothic setting …Vehicle for examining the nature of friendship rather than narrative.  Some thought it a bit too long.  We would recommend this book.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  U3A Winchester Modern Novels Group 2
  • Review: Extremely well written.  Characters well drawn and maintained throughout.  An extraordinary tour de force on the point of the author as the General analyses and muses on his experience of friendship, love, betrayal and sadness.  A story of wasted lives and intransigency - but which is a good page turner.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KTC

Petros Markaris - The Late-Night News

  • Review: Promising start not realised.  Cumbersome plot and awkward translation.  Little sense of place.  A missed opportunity.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Emsworth Crime Group
  • Review: A very good story with many facets but no likeable characters - possibly due to translation, the nuances were missing.  Names a problem and the 'tourist map' situation unnecessary.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havers

S Marlowe - The Memoirs of Christopher Columbus

  • Review: Overall it was considered a good historical view of the time although the facts questionable.  It was well told as “a yarn”, half the readers didn’t finish it.  The writing style with its language usage, flippancy, repetitiveness and many various stories was compared to “Carry on Columbus”.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Cambridge
  • Review: Universally unpopular with the group, one thought parts were good.  We felt there was too much 'padding' and pretention of descriptions.  The first part before his voyage read as though it were written by a fifteen year old boy.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Ecchinswell
  • Review: The group was evenly divided about this book.  Half found it an unusual, clever and interesting way of presenting a biography and really enjoyed it (although all agreed the latter part of the book was overlong and overcomplicated.  The other half of the group found it difficult to 'get into' the book and would have preferred a conventional biography.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Gabriel Garcia Marquez - Love in a time of Cholera

  • Review: Excellent. Well researched. Succinct use of language. Some thought too dense. Perceptive description of a long marriage and other relationship.
    Star rating: *** to ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review:  A beautiful use of language.  Lyrical but always down to earth.  A very good translation.  Some loved this book, others found it boring.  Do see what you think.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:  In spite of the lyrical writing, the group found this book difficult.  It was either skipped or unfinished.  As a love story it didn’t have any reality.  Found it difficult to flesh out the characters.  We did consider that it was written about a culture, that was totally foreign to us.  Provoked a very lively discussion.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Museum Book Group
  • Review: unanimous view that it was a well-crafted novel with vividly described scenes and characters.  Required some effort due to the lack of chapter breaks and minimal dialogue, but definitely worth it – we were rewarded with humorous observations and thoughtful insight into everlasting love from youth to old age.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne
  • Review:   A masterpiece.  Marquez observed the many aspects of love, marriage and old age with humour and wisdom – against rich descriptions of changing lift in Latin America from about 1880 – 1950.  Very highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: We thought this book was going to be good because of the pedigree of the author, but we were disappointed.  We struggled with the book and found one of the main characters repellent.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: Provoked much discussion.  Wonderful writing - somewhat improbable characters but richly imaginative.  Subtle humour.  great insights into marriage, old age and an era and country far from what we know.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: Probably a book of its time.  Two of us read it twenty years ago and loved it, but now are disappointed on re-reading.  We found it heavy going and difficult to follow and didn't understand the ending.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Damzals
  • Review: Magnificent read.  Superbly crafted - simple story.  Wonderful use of language.  A joy.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:
  • Review: Excellent translation and a well constructed book.  Well drawn characters.  A good analysis of love, from a mans point of view.  A great storyteller.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Yann Martel - Life of Pi

  • Review: For the first time we all enjoyed this book. Knowledgeable, imaginative, exciting, extraordinary, thoughtful and funny.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Keyhaven Yacht Club
  • Review: Excellent book. Really makes you think. Well written and endearing, we loved it, thank you!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Forrest Arts Reading Groups
  • Review: Beautiful, imaginative writing style.  Extremely well researched.  Philosophy and religious side came over as rather pretentious.  Some members did not like the ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: Slow start, hard to get into.  A challenge to read.  An outrageous story, very vivid imagination.  Middle bit exciting.  Boys ideas on religion very interesting.  Very strange ending, needs explaining.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Those who persisted with the book enjoyed it.  a 'very tall story'.  Well written zoological detail, well researched.  what was the truth?  Provocative prose.  Original.  Very different.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: All thought the 'animal behaviour' side made quite an impact on them.  It was also quite illuminating about human behaviour, i.e. strengths and weaknesses in adversity.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Readers for Pleasure
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed it!  A remarkable feat of the imagination it made us think about the boundaries of credibility.  Unskippable descriptions.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 1
  • Review: This is a very unusual and thought provoking novel.  It is a good book for reading group discussion and will generate some lively debates.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havant
  • Review: The group was split evenly on this book.  Half gave up and said it was fantasy and they are realists.  Half marvelled at the authors knowledge and ability to spin a fantastic, yet almost believable tale.  Was the alternative story the truth?  Who knows.  A lovely book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Phoenix
  • Review: Clever, well written.  Could be read on several levels.  Made to seem believable.  Lots of symbolism.  Page turner.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Mixed reactions!  All agreed a tough and sometimes uncomfortable read.  Packed with tension and suspense.  We enjoyed the way it made us think and empathise with the characters but frustrated by the somewhat 'open' ending and incoherence of the religious themes with the character's adventure.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Books and Biscuits

Valerie Martin - Property

  • Review: A well written compelling novel.  Not a pleasant story but one that should be read.  Man's inhumanity to man was alive and active during the slave trade in America
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Extremely well written, very compelling, however no bonding with the characters.  All very glad we read this book though.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hook
  • Review: An intense, brooding, many layered novel.  Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Barnfield Book Club

Alexander Masters - Stuart: a Life Backwards

  • Review:  The group felt a really good choice ‘not enjoyed’ as such as a really tough subject matter.  Some beautiful insights and flashes of humour.  Very moving and also informative.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  MLA South East
  • Review: Not a book to be forgotten!  Created much debate.  The group were unanimous in their opinion that it was a very moving book.  although, some felt the writing was rather disjointed!
  • Review: Mixed.  Not all finished - too depressing, others found it absorbing.  Raising important issues relating to people with special needs etc.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookends
  • Review: Our one word descriptions of this book included: frightening, miserable, inevitable, challenging, injustice and friendship.  Very much an eye opener on the system and the majority of our group rated Master's handling of the biography very highly indeed - the highest score we've ever given to a book in our 11 years or more.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Adrian Mathews – The Apothecary’s House

  • Review:  Mixed reviews - most people were interested at the beginning of the book – thought the idea of picture being photographic discovery, and link with Hitler was promising.  But the length of the book; excessive description and prose was off-putting.  Some people though the archaic language was funny.  One comment – book started as it ended – nobody gained.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Too long, convoluted and too many characters going nowhere.  Atmospheric description of Amsterdam but on the whole unsatisfying and irritating.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Simon Mawer - The Fall

  • Review: All enjoyed this gripping and involved tale.  Combines well great descriptions of climbing and complex relationships between main characters.  Good discussion followed.  Most would recommend.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: Well written, but also easy to read.  Very poignant, full of 'if onlys'.  An all women group we enjoyed the descriptions of climbing.  We liked the multi-layered complexities of all the relationships and thought the twist at the end was very well worked out.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives
  • Review: Loved the climbing aspects to the storyline.  Many of us ready to take to the hills!  Twist at the end not a huge surprise.  Sad ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sentinel Housing Association

Simon Mawer - The Glass Room

  • Review: An excellent book.  A good book for a book group because there is so much to discuss.  Possible to read on many levels.  The plot cleverly built up tension.  the characters were well drawn and interesting.  Thoroughly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Perspectives

Simon Mawer - Mendel's Dwarf

  • Review: Very much enjoyed by everyone.  Hours of discussion - stimulating, well written and informative.  thought it a great read.  Didn't quite understand all the science but didn't really interfere with the story itself.  Many layers to the book - love story, history and science.  Not the book i would have chosen myself - it made you think!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Victoria Group Gosport
  • Review: This double-stranded story mixes modern genetics research with a gritty, spunky love story and the history of the foundations of genetics.  The main thrust of the book raises questions of the dilemmas of finding faulty chromosomes etc.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Accidental

Peter May - The Blackhouse

  • Review: A crime novel for those who don't like crime novels and for everyone else. Beautiful moody descriptions of the Hebrides, finely drawn characters and a good story.  We thoroughly recommend this book.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Frances Mayes - Under the Tuscan Sun

  • Review:  We found it repetitive – so much so that several people did not finish it.  Too much description of local buildings – mostly very similar.  Not a “page-turner”.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Cambridge
  • Review:  Disappointing
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Keyhaven Ladies
  • Review: Although all our group agreed that it was well written and very evocative of Tuscany sun, scenery, hill top towns and markets, some of us thought the theme of restoring old houses in foreign parts has become hackneyed.  The rest of us enjoyed the book and felt it was almost as good as a holiday.  We mostly felt that the recipes and wine sampling were excessive.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne Book Circle
  • Review: What a disappointing book!  We felt that it had been cobbled together from articles written for an American magazine.  Result producing a disjointed narrative that was neither a travelogue, memoir or cookbook.  Could not relate to either the author or her husband and felt that even of the ten years of restoration of her property she did not become absorbed into the local community.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Benches

James Meek - The People's Act of Love

  • Review: Good writing and descriptions.  Some scenes and dialogue contrived.  Opened up a little-known historical period.  Vivid evocation of Siberia, the deep cold, fear, turmoil, the fragility of life.  Not an easy read and some found it depressing.  Perplexing.  A re-read would be illuminating.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review:   Well written and graphic but quite depressing.  Love being the cause of weakness is the issue and there is depiction of aggressive macho behaviour.  The portrayal of time/place isn’t easily understood, but a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:

James Melville - The Body Wore Brocade

  • Review: Mixed views. Not a very good detective story, more about relationships and Japanese culture. (We do want to find out more about Noh theatre). Generally easy reading. It was suggested we read the earlier stories to see how the character of Otani develops
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : Brookmans
  • Review: None of us really enjoyed this book. We thought the characters were boring and the plot was over simple. It did not give much insight into Japanese culture and people.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A

Charlotte Mendelson - When We Were Bad

  • Review: We found the characters well written but irritating - an extremely dysfunctional family.  We found the references to Jewish culture interesting.  The slightly jokey tone of the book didn't come off.  We would not necessarily recommend this book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Tuesday Afternoon

Stephanie Meyer - The Host

  • Review:  Several members were dubious about reading a book on a theme of "aliens". However, everyone found it a real page-tuner. The writing was spare but powerful with authentic and atmospheric descriptions of the desert, the rocky cave dwellings and lives of the resisting human population. Although we had to suspend dis-belief, the underlying theme rang true and raised interesting questions about human nature and the mysteries of the universe. A highly imaginative work with engaging and complex characters and challenging situations.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: Very gripping story, extremely well written, imaginative, authentic in descriptions of landscape and character.  Provoked discussion of science-fiction in general.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers

A D Miller - Snowdrops

  • Review: generally enjoyed by all.  Deceptively simple book which proved more interesting through our discussion.  Well crafted page turner.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Aldershot

Sue Miller - The Senator's Wife

  • Review: Why start in the first tense.  The book was quite a light read - an interesting theme which did not really develop.  One spent time waiting for something to happen.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: An easy read - a very abrupt ending.  The relationship between the younger woman from a dysfunctional background, and the older woman who led a self-indulgent life proved an interesting scenario.
  • Star rating:***
  • Reading group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Spike Milligan - Puckoon

  • Review: 50/50 split of liked and really enjoyed or conversely couldn't get into the humour and Irish connections.  'Bog' standard laughter with some memorable passages such as the 2sq feet in the pub in opposite County.  For those who like it, it stands the test of time.  Best read aloud!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton

Magnus Mills - Three to see the King

  • Review: Brilliantly written. Easy read leading to a lively discussion. 7 out of 9 found it both interesting and memorable. They thought 'the King' was a messianic figure/cult leader/Michael of All Angels - taking clues from the names of Disciple's given to other characters. Many seemed a symbol of womanhood - mixture of past (holy) women and woman through time, most would have liked an end with more enlightenment . . .
    Rating: ***
  • Review: An enjoyable read - unique writing. Provoked much discussion, especially the "allegory" aspect. We wondered which country it was set? Evoked memories from one of the group who lived in a tin house in the Himalayas.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Group 3
  • Magnus Mills - Three to see the King
    Review: Good summing up of human relationships one is a sheep - goat. A quirky novel. Unusual novel in which nothing seems to happen - which is intriguing. As the Guardian says "Philosophy for fiction lovers".
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group

Anchee Min - The Last Empress

  • Review: The views differed totally on this book especially was it a historical book or a novel. Some found it boring, unconvincing, unfocused, repetitious and plodding. However others found it an interesting insight into the Forbidden City, its rules/protocol, the eunuchs and the historical aspects of China, also a grand effort with lots of research. All had views on the way it was written.
    Star rating: *+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Rohinton Mistry - A Fine Balance

  • Review: An absorbing book which we would never have chosen on our own.  It made for one of the best discussions we have had in the group .  A book many of us could not put down.  Brilliant,  informative and deeply moving.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Group 3
  • Review: A gripping and epic read.  Convincing characters, engaging and emotional, informative and educational.  Highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives
  • Review: A cultural experience.  Insight into the 'State of Emergency' and impact on people at that time.  Stay with it - gains momentum.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Steering Group

David Mitchell - Black Swan Green

  • Review: A funny, sad and thoughtful book.  Mitchell's portrayal of a 13 year old life experiences was very true to life and the understanding and kindness of his teachers of his difficulties was very heart warming.  The book was well researched which made for a very nostalgia read for the group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Many of us were reminded (painfully) of our adolescence.  We tended to be split between finding it a ‘misery memoir’ or actually, in spite of much of the narrative, quite upbeat.  Felt the author/narrator slipped into some over-sophisticated observations thus the ‘voice’ faltered.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review:   Every member of the group enjoyed this book.  So well written.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Brookmans
  • Review: We felt the book was an accurate portrayal of the early 1980s and brought back memories of the time.  The book was easy to read and was an interesting insight into the mind of a 13 year old boy.  We found the story rather disjointed and felt that some story elements were introduced and not expanded.  The group was equally split about whether they would recommend the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brats et Al
  • Review: The group generally, aged 62-80, did not enjoy this book as could not relate to teenage boys thoughts!  However, on a personal level i thought it both amusing and perceptive.  I have a 14 year old grandson and he enjoyed it and said it was pretty representative of that age group.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Readers for Pleasure
  • Review: Fascinating insight in to the mind of a teenager - wonderful characters - very sympathetic view of a stammerer and the trials of adolescence.  very amusing and yet poignant.  Our only criticism is that there was too much dialogue.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: A coming of age story set evocatively in the 80s.  A slow start but well worth persevering past the first chapter to a truly bitter sweet story.  There is some 'bad language'  but it is entirely in context with the 13 year old boys using it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

David Mitchell - Cloud Atlas

  • Review: Only 4 out of 11 actually read it! The seven found it hard to read and most didn't get past first chapter. The few who read it did enjoy second half. Didn't get the connection between stories. Best stories …………..of Timothy Cavendish and Louisa Rey ………. Why was it ………..who read it?
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann
  • Review: We found this a harder read than we thought it would be and ultimately less satisfying then the hype had let us to believe. There was no Eureka moment where we felt the six stories had any real connection with or impact on each other. Though very clever and well written, we wondered what the point was. Some of us also found it a little too gritty and gruesome at times.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Park Road Readers
  • Review:  The group as a whole found this a difficult and challenging book to read- 2 or 3 did not finish it.  The spoken word edition with its different voices pointed up the cultural and era changes well.  The linking between each section was intriguing and the Sonmi and Timothy Cavendish stories provoked most discussions as to whether they were real or hallucinatory.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Sherfield English Page Turners

David Mitchell – Ghost Written

  • Review:   Although some parts were enjoyable, we didn’t see the connection between the stories.  Not encouraged to read his other work.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Jennie’s Friend
  • Review:  It felt like short stories, some better than others mostly in different styles.  Most readers couldn’t get links.  It was felt philosophical viewpoints were reflected.  Generally it was considered an unconventional book.
    Star rating:  ** to ***
    Reading Group:  BBC

Nancy Mitford - In Pursuit of Love

  • Review: Was great fun to read and enjoyed by the whole group.  The description of characters in a domestic humorous stetting brought the story to life.  In discussion the autobiographical and the fictional past became apparent.  The war years were well noted and saw the family adapt to new situations.  Ending rather abrupt.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review:   Many of us were re-reading this after a gap of many years and still found it highly entertaining.  We had an interesting discussion about the lives of the Mitford sisters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne

Jacquelyn Mitchard - Cage of Stars

  • Review: Probably the best read in several years.  Plot - well organised, characters - most interesting and believable.  Storyline - well written and it kept the readers intrigued to the very last page!  Will definitely read more of this authors novels.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI

Lorrie Moore - A gate at the Stairs

  • Review: Some extreme scenes.  Wide appeal.  Well written, good use of language.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Damzals

Tim Moore - Do Not Pass Go

  • Review: Boring and tedious were mentioned alongside interesting, amusing and full of snippets of history.  The history and information were on 'overkill'.  The book should be read at leisure, not as a monthly turn round.  Several considered getting it for reference.
    Star rating: **
    reading Group: Hedge End WI

Michael Morpurgo - Private Peaceful

  • Review: All our members were moved by this book and several to actual tears.  I cannot recall any negative comments which is very unusual in the group where responses are normally very varied.  The tale was simply told and i alone was rather taken aback at the simple sentence structure as i started the book, then realized that the book was directed particularly at children and finally that it was written as a child - a child sent to war.  It would be interesting to know if children were as moved as were we older people.  The early chapters at first seemed rather a pastoral idyll with maybe an idealized mother who showed such clear and sympathetic understanding of what her sons faced.  Soon however the rigidity and, as we now see it, the intolerable workings of the class system intruded, not only pushing the boys into war but following them there in even more extreme ways.  The hideous actions of Sergeant Hanley also pinpointed how the powerless when they get some power can wield it.   
    Book Group: NWR
  • Review: This book was well written, with good clear vocabulary.  Captured the atmosphere of rural life pre 1914 and the horrors of war.  A good talking point.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: A good book to introduce children to the horrors of war.  Plenty of issues to discuss for children.  Not an adult book, although many of us responded emotionally to the tragedy.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: It was felt that as a children's/teenage read it was well-written and concise, with a simplistic telling of a complex issue and an interesting take on social and military history.  By the same token, it was felt to be over-simplified with black and white morals and behaviour.  We were mostly pleased to have read it and found it poignant with a salutary twist at the end.  As an adult read it rated 2/4 but would award it 4/4 as a children's  book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: A complete consensus that this was a delightful book simply and beautifully written.  Country life before the First World War was depicted as was the development of the young men as they moved to the horror of France.  A very successful book for young and adult readers.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: The book was beautifully written and very descriptive.  However, some characters divided our group - especially Charlie.  The story was very moving and the ending even moved some of our book club to tears.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Reading Enthusiasts
  • Review: Very sensitively written.  We especially enjoyed the description of the family life growing up in the countryside.  It bought home the horrors of the war in the trenches.  An unexpected twist at the end.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies of Milford

Clare Morrall - Astonishing Splashes of Colour

  • Review: Most enjoyed the book although it was difficult to get inside the character, in particular with her illness. Easy read and gripping.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review:  The group generally found this book compelling and easy to read,
    Reading Group:  Yateley Library Reading Group

Blake Morrison - And When Did You Last See Your Father

  • Review: A good read.  A difficult subject dealt with in a compassionate and often humorous way.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Titchfield Book Club

Toni Morrison - Beloved

  • Review: Remarkably well written. Thought provoking and challenging read. Could be used as a study book as different views can be discussed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Ace of spades
  • Review: Most appreciated the narrative and style although found the subject very distressing.  Often confusing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review:   Discomforting/disturbing.  Challenging.  Moving.  Touching.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Barnfield Book Club

Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon

  • Review: This is an absorbing book, full of life and colour and fascinating characters; beautifully written, a real eye-opener into black American culture evoking sympathy and admiration for its people
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Littleton Book Club
  • Review:  This book is rather like peeling an onion because of its many layers and different characters.  It wasn’t until we got into the book that we came to appreciate it.  Persevere!
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A II
  • Review: We found this book difficult to understand in the beginning both in the complexity of characters, language and content.  The second half was easier to read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Wednesday

Greg Mortenson - Three Cups of Tea

  • Review: Really divided the group
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Ringwood
Roger Mortimer/Charlie Mortimer - Dear Lupin Review: Not everyone found it witty and entertaining.  Some were incensed by the concept, and found themselves being judgemental.  others enjoyed it very much. Star rating: *** Reading group: Bridewell Beauties

Kate Morton - The House at Riverton

  • Review: Immensely readable page turner - gripping.  Really good unexpected ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley
  • Review: A pleasant read but a little drawn out.  We thought Morton had a good hold on the class system of that era.  Characters well drawn, some good touches.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Kate Mosse - Labyrinth

  • Review: Well researched, over complicated, historical part very well done.  Let down by the modern story.  not well fused. Descriptive.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • An excellent novel needing a fair amount of reading time and serious concentration.  With several themes, a fresh look at French history, the brutal behaviour of the Roman Church (Christian?), another consideration of the Grail myth and the idea that personality can be sustained on biological or perhaps spiritual paths, all make it a thrilling mystery.  This is story-telling at its best and a source for serious discussion.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Very long, overuse of descriptive narrative but well researched and written.  Inclusion of langue d'oc seemed unnecessarily pretentious and ending was disappointingly undramatic.  Good read for a long, lazy holiday.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Sandy Lane
  • Review: Historic story interesting and intriguing.  Modern story rather contrived.  Research, obviously deep, gave the story credence.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford

Kate Mosse - Sepulchre

  • Review:  Most felt it was overwritten, over researched, in need of a good editor, with poor characterisations, based on The De Vinci Code with the expectation of it becoming a tour/travel book and that it was reusing Labyrinth. The parallel stories were not liked however a few ideas were considered good.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Andrew Motion - The Invention of Dr Cake

  • Review: A well crafted fantasy.  Lovely descriptive passages with regard to Dr Cake's room.  The distinction between fact and fiction was very blurred and caused a certain amount of confusion.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies U3A
  • Review: The group had mixed feelings.  The descriptions were liked, especially of the area, the journey, the funeral and the Victorian aspects of communication.  How true it was and what the story represented were discussed at length.  It was considered well written, readable and different.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: The group was not absolutely sure whether the subtleties were too confused for clarity, but on the whole accepted it as a book they would recommend.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

Patricia Mullin - Gene Genie

  • Review:  Interesting subject handled fairly well.  The main characters were weak, but the supporting females were very strong – reflection of real life?  Raised lots of good discussion points and an interesting and lively meeting ensued.  Lots of ethical questions to be thought over.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Biscuits, Books and Banter (Yateley Library)

Alice Munro - Runaway

  • Review: We had chosen this book because one of the group had read The View from Castle Rock, the story of Alice's family history which had been enjoyed.  We didn't enjoy this set of short stories.  We felt that the characters weren't described very well and many of the stories had an ending that was very inconclusive or unbelievable.  It was also slightly strange that in a book of short stories, there were three stories (about half the book) about one characters as if the author had a theme which they had toyed with as a novel but then decided that there wasn't enough for a longer piece of work
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Brats et al

Huraki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore

  • Review: This is the first book in our first year that we all (5) liked.  Very complicated and difficult to understand at times, but never the less gripping.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group

Iris Murdoch - The Bell

  • Review:  Enjoyable book generating lots of discussion.  It was well written although some thought dated.  Main characters were odd and it was difficult to understand their feelings.  Some mystery in the story which encouraged us to read on.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: A wonderfully crafted novel.    Very descriptive of human faces, attitudes and actions and a compelling read.  A class above most of the books we have read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review:   A good reading group book with plenty of points for discussion.  The characters were not particularly likeable but still interesting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Perspectives

Iris Murdoch - The Sea, The Sea

  • Review: Although beautifully written, we felt that this book was too long.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A Reading Group
  • Review: This is a complex novel and not for the faint-hearted.  Only 3 in our group finished it, the rest feeling it did not enthuse them sufficiently to attempt the finishing line - hence the 1* rating.  I selected it because i knew it would be a challenge, there being no straightforward plot or clear ending, and the central characters all being tiresome and eccentric to varying degrees.  What it did achieve was a lively debate, which is what the group is all about.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: Well written - compulsive reading.  Disappointing ending , too rushed - everything wrapped up in a hurry.  Charles and egotistical has-been thespian.  Caused a lot of discussion and laughter.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Wonderful language and writing which kept most of the group fascinated.  Such characters – many unlikeable but realistic in their eccentricities.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wednesday
  • Review: Over half the group did not finish it.  Too long, contrived and convoluted.  Solipsistic characters who were unconvincing and unlikeable.  However, there were some lovely evocative descriptions and themes of lost youth, memory and self-examination.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: Many felt the book to be too long, found the main character unlikeable and others quite odd.  Those of us who enjoyed the book admired the style of writing, especially descriptions of the sea, sky and the village. The introduction to the book was superb and well worth reading for its content alone.  We found many phrases and sentences in the the book itself to be eminently worth remembering and even noting down; these led to much discussion as we though through them together.  Several of us planned to read the book again as we felt that would be worthwhile.
    Star rating:***
    Reading Group: Cliffhangers

Julie Myerson - The Story of You

  • Review: At first, most readers thought this would be a difficult book to finish but, after a few chapters, although not always clear as to what was actually happening - concluded that it was an interesting concept and thought provoking.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI
  • Review:   Not an easy book to get into, but it contained plenty of material which stimulated discussion.  The extended ‘Nicole created’ sexual dialogues with YOU most readers found boring.  Opinions were divided over the husband Tom’s attitude and how much it contributed to Nicole’s retreat into herself after the daughter’s death.  That the emotional hook left following the unresolved teenage relationship when the young American walked out of her life was there, gave her an easy route into self-delusion.  Too slow to be a thriller it was however honest with the timing of its clues.  Not a happy read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
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V. S. Naipaul - A House for Mr Biswas

  • Review: Not all finished it, but all recognised the high quality of the writing, even if they couldn't warm to the main character!  (personally it is one of the three best modern novels ever).
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: North Hayling
  • Review: A gentle and delightful book.  Vivid characterisation and descriptions.  An insight into a different culture.  Could have been slightly shorter.  Interesting to start at the end!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: Very long book - waste of time and paper!  3 novels in 1 book?  Does one need to understand the culture to find it comic?  Very depressing - the hopelessness of life.  He failed in everything he tried - a loser.  well written, but not enjoyable - would not read anything else by him.  Brilliant characterisations.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: The majority of the group did not enjoy, indeed did not finish this book.  A small minority enjoyed it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: The group had very mixed reactions to the book.  Several failed to get into the book, finding the style of writing difficult.  Several failed to see anything comic about the story.  Most, however, finished the book and gained enough from it to stimulate a searching discussion of the themes (father Vs son relationships) and (the ex-colonial state of limbo many Indians find themselves in).  The general conclusion was that Naipaul's written English is beyond reproach but he cannot conceal the very large racial chip on his shoulder.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: None of us liked this book.  We were not engaged at any level either in the exploration of an unknown culture and the characters emerging from it, or in the story line.  We did not find it 'comic' nor drawn in by the use of language and ideas.  It was a disappointment.  And, many found the amount of reading daunting for the time available.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Barnfield Book Club
  • Review: Most found it overlong and depressing.  Mr Biswas portrayed as a pathetic character.  Little humour was detected.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Entre Nous

Azar Nafisi - Reading Lolita in Tehran

  • Review:  A challenging read.  Generally thought to be hard going and not a page turner.  An interesting insight into life in Iran but we’re unsure of the accuracy.  Does the author paint a true picture?
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Hook Reading Group
  • Review:  We found this book hard going.  It had some fascinating facts about life in Tehran before and after the revolution but the long “dissertation style” English literature lectures were hard to read and rather samey.  We would not recommend as a book group read.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review:  We found this book hard going.  It had some fascinating facts about life in Tehran before and after the revolution but the long “dissertation style” English literature lectures were hard to read and rather samey.  We would not recommend as a book group read.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review: a fascinating and often disturbing look at life for women in Iran through the eyes and experience of the charismatic literature professor, Azar Nafisi.  Engrossing comparisons with the life and politics of the country, with novels by Henry James, Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen.  we all enjoyed this book immensely.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Library
  • Review: We were all interested in - and learnt about - women's life in Iran. But we found the book an intellectual
    rather than an emotional read. There are some passages where she uses beautiful language and also describes
    language beautifully. But we were essentailly not engaged with the author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: 5:30 Fareham Library
  • Review: Fascinating.  Very condensed and slow reading because there was so much to take in.  A vivid picture of life in Tehran and subjugation of women.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Irene Nemirovsky - Suite Francaise

  • Review: Well received book.  Generated discussion about the oddness of occupation by those living through it.  A very descriptive and evocative novel that was easy to read.  A war novel that is not horrific, an unusual look at WWII though eyes of a person who was living though it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review: The interweaving storylines in part 1 helped to mirror the confusion as the families fled Paris.  A much gentler pace was achieved in part 2 by focusing on one main theme, reflecting the relative calm of the occupation.  An interesting read enhanced by good use of detailed description.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy's
  • Review: Unusual book - wonderful prose, a great insight into French life during the war.  Beautifully drawn characters.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book.  It is beautifully written and evocative of the time.  The insight into the flight from Paris and the early stages of the occupation is fascinating.  The appendices provided a lot of material for discussion.  readers should be sure to include those.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kingsclere
  • Review: Interesting account of local French people living under German occupation and the relationships between each other and with the occupying soldiers.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: This beautifully written ann poignant novel initiated a thoughtful and reflective discussion.  Some comments included 'It felt disjointed/incomplete'  undersandable due to the author's tragic circumstances.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fleet Library Readers
  • Review: Superb characterisation and vivid descriptive passages. The atmosphere of the 2 sections are very different - the first dealing with the chaos of the flight from Paris and the second finding a way to live under the occupation that followed.  The group found it moving, emotional and thought-provoking, except for one member who thought it too dispassionate.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Eric Newby - A Short walk in the Hindu Kush

  • Review: A mixed response: some loved it, others found it a bit dull.  Good discussion about the attitudes shown by writer to ethnic groups he met.  Quality of his writing enjoyed.  All pleased that we read a book we might otherwise have rejected.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kingsclere
  • Review: A thoroughly enjoyable read.  Full of incident giving colour to landscape, people and way of life of an area of the world little know or understood even today.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: Enjoyable.  Very vivid descriptions.  The author adopts the reader.  Terrific writing.  Difficult names.  More of a mans book.  So British.  Typical upper class adventure.  Author very observant - noticed so much about people.  Sense of humour.  Bit dated.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

David Nicholls - One Day

  • Review: A good book for the younger generation and yet, one for any age as we watch the characters mature.  Well constructed, but a slow start as we get to know the characters.  Worth persevering to the end.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle

Juliet Nicholson - The Perfect Summer

  • Review: We felt that there was more focus on the 'aristocracy' than the 'man on the street' and we would like to have had the other perspective.  Some of the group are now interested in learning more about this period of history through other books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Botley Book Circle
  • Review: Superb researching but most felt a regurgitation of too many facts and didn't fully enjoy it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Alverstoke

Virginia Nicholson - Singled Out

  • Review: Unanimous opinion - the subject was interesting and she wrote well, but the book was repetitive, too long and the type too small.  However, it led to a good discussion.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Selbourne Book Circle

William Nicholson - The Society of Others

  • Review: The author's first adult novel gave our group much thought for discussion with a range of views concerning the subject person in the story.  Quite well written, good description of people, country and urban areas.  The inclusion of several painting masterpieces added special interest in the tale.  Ending speculative - who was shot!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches

Audrey Niffenegger - Her Fearful Symmetry

  • Review: All members finished the book, one found it depressing.  We thought it well written and interesting to observe life from a ghosts point of view.  Thee was a great deal of insight into how one of the characters worked through his bereavement.  It gave the group plenty to talk about.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI 2

Audrey Niffenegger - The Time Traveler’s Wife

  • Review: Mixed reviews from members in our group. Some found it took a long time to get into the book and relate to the characters, but was worth it in the end. Others thought that the plot lacked something. The overall feeling was that it was confusing to begin with due to the fact that the story flipped around in time.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KPMG Reading Group
  • Review: Very imaginative and enjoyable but a demanding read. A sad love story, which brought tears to the eyes.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: Love story with a 'twist'. A way of using a concept lie time travel to explore a story of love, passion and loss.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Robins Book Group
  • Review: Feelings were very mixed on this book. Some found it impossible to get on with, while others were fascinated. Needed careful study of dates to keep up with the story line. A complex plot, well written but rather too long.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Woodlands
  • Review: Mixed reception.  Plot to make you think.  A hard book for some,.gripping for others.  We searched for hidden meanings and could not find them.  Characters were believable but the time changes were confusing and challenging
    Star rating: ** or ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Only two persons in the group enjoyed this book.  The others found it difficult to understand, although the middle section up to the wedding was enjoyed.    3 people could not read it.
    Star rating: *-***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Strangely original; vivid writing; repetitious; gratuitous violence.  Very different views and comments from members - many members did not want to finish the book even.
    Star rating *+
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: A very 'different' book which had a mixed reaction from our group.  some members dislike fantasy - I found the book tedious and couldn't relate to the main characters.  Others found it quite a page turner with an unusual story, at times poignant and moving.  A beautiful love story but not very deep and little to discuss - not a good reading group choice for this reason.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bedhampton
  • Review: Our group had mixed reactions, 2 people finished it and enjoyed the story, 6 gave up finding it too complicated and far fetched, 2 wanted to follow the love story.  It threw up lots of unanswered questions.  Most of us are aged 45+ but our 20 year old and children all loved it an encouraged us to keep going!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Kings Community Church
  • Review: The intensity of the love story was admired.  It was thought provocative especially re: free will, the emotions and time travel.  It was compared to a cubist picture.  It was considered a re-readable book especially as it had so many aspects.
    Star rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: A very strange but enjoyable book.  The writing was imaginative and the characterisation superb.  As long as the reader can suspend belief, this is a book to love.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Holbury/Fawley U3A
  • Review: A most satisfying love story carrying with it so many problems of 'ordinary' married relationships understood and shared with the group.  There was a general willingness to accept a suspension of disbelief about time travelling, the author having successfully defined Henry's problem as a genetic malfunction.  Almost everyone reported having found a way of dealing with or ignoring the changing ages of Clare and Henry.  A good read well worth the four star rating.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:   Should be persevered with.  Several of the group did enjoy the story throughout.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Andover
  • Review: The group was split between those who were able to suspend belief (they loved it) and the other half who couldn't keep up with all the shifting dates and occurrences.  Needs perseverance.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Tuesday PM

Bao Ninh - The Sorrow of War

  • Review: This book provoked very strong reaction. 50% loved it, 50% hated it. A good discussion was had. Generally people thought it provoked the pointlessness of war very well but was sometimes harrowing. Hard to read as it jumped between past and present and future. Worth preserving with.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley Library Reading Group

Larry Niven - Ringworld

  • Review:  A book that split the group along genre lines.  Conceptually impressive but some felt the plot and characters were underdeveloped and lacked dimension.  A mixed reception on the whole.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sci-fi and Fantasy
  • Review:   You need to be into Sci-Fi for this and we were not!  One member who completed it said that it was a good adventure story.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Damzal

Elizabeth Noble - The Reading Group

  • Review:  A good holiday reading with interesting issues.  We found lots of discussion points on womens lives at different ages.
    Star rating: ** ½
    Reading Group:  Enjoying Books
  • Review: Another Aga Saga, but not reading group material.  No real issues, saccharine characters, unbelievable, too tidied up at the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: Many didn't enjoy "The Reading Group", finding it trivial, sentimental with shallow characters. It was considered that there were too many characters and this was confusing and that all seemed to have a lot of baggage. Did it reflect life? --- it was decided yes it did. It was commented that many characters were reflected in other characters within the book. Not all of our group "got" the link of the summary of the month's book read and a character. It was felt that the book itself was not about a Book Club and that usage was annoying. It was seen as an exploration and reflection of women's life and that men were presented as weak.   We discussed the lives of the characters. For brevity, these are not included here.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club
  • Review:   Chick lit, holiday reading, easy.  Characters were believable.  Relationships with the books rather overlooked.  Personal relationships the most important part of the book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Freya North - Love Rules

  • Review: This book fails to engage a reader.  However, those who persevered found some story line and managed to the end.  The language and sexual connections left some group members sceptical about the modern age while others glossed over these aspects.  Not popular.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Everton
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Joyce Carol Oates - The Falls

  • Review: Author has good powers of description. All readers had difficulty in relating to main character. All readers disagreed with press critique on cover. All readers not anxious to read any more novels by this author
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Abbots Ann Reading Circle
  • Review:  A good read.  Occasionally found it long winded and labouring a point or character.  A very in depth study of the 1950s – the prejudices extortion, corruption, greed and the early awakening of environmental problems.  The main character Ariah was not particularly likeable – her second husband, Dirk was quite believable – a family with many secrets.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Milford Reading Group
  • Review: Generally liked, but was criticised for its length, failure to examine the outcome of the 'love canal' scandal vis a vis the people who suffered as a result.  A good read if sometimes repetitious.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review: The description of Niagara Falls and its recurrent them throughout the book was very powerful.  However, the main character was a 'difficult woman' for whom our reading group had no empathy.  The other characters were not developed very well.  However, the story lingers in our memories - surely the sign of a good book!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fleet U3A

Joyce Carol Oates - Middle Age and Romance

  • Review: The group thought the book was over long and somewhat over stated. One member thought it reminded her of "Desperate Housewives" in the portrayal of bored and very rich women in the United States.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A Literature Group
  • Review: With few redeeming features - wordy and over long.
    Star rating: no rating
    Reading Group: Dogmersfield
  • Review: A rambling verbose overlong novel.  Particular descriptions and incidents well described, but tends towards repetition, self indulgence and - even though the author tells us the novel is a romance - goes so far over the top that she veers towards a gothic Mills and Boon.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: We were all 'underwhelmed' by this book, expecting more from such a well known US author.  Good in parts, but not sufficient depth for us!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: 104 Books
  • Review: Not a normal choice for our group as individuals.  It took a lot of perseverance to get into.  Later on the viewpoint of individual characters became the story of each in relation to the main (dead) character.  Very shallow and lacked impact.  Too long and heavy!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton

Joyce Carol Oates – The Gravedigger’s Daughter

  • Review: A dark book which is not an easy read.  Difficult to know characters that one cannot know in depth.  A storyline with an unsatisfactory ending.  One member would read another book by this author.  The rest found this a cold and difficult book.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Barack Obama - Dreams From My Father

  • Review: Most of the group really enjoyed this book and found it very interesting and beautifully written.  An eye opener into the problems of identity of a mixed race child whose father is absent.  Some were more sceptical and thought it may be self serving.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: What a fascinating insight into the early life of the present US president.  Beautifully written, it really helps us to understand what makes the man he has become.
  • Star rating:***plus
  • Reading Group: Enjoying Books

Edna O’Brien - In the Forest

  • Review:  We did enjoy this book although we found it very black.  The language was flowing and poetic even though the subject was difficult.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: Descriptively written but too dark a subject matter for our group.  Wonderful insight into a tortured soul.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: We were glad we weren't required to buy this book.  A beautifully written, horrible book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Joseph O'Connor - Star of the Sea

  • Review: An excellent read.  A real insight into social history.  All the characters were well drawn.  If there was a criticism, maybe it was a bit too long.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI

Maggie O'Farrell - After You'd Gone

  • Review: Style of narrative was particularly engaging for half the group, the other half struggled. The author generated great empathy for main character. Really mature accomplishment! Some found the language a bit jarring.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Logos
  • Review: Well liked by all the group, unexpectedly!  Blurb does not do justice to the wonderfully unsentimental description of loss of a partner.  Good characterisation, believable, interesting.  This is not chick lit, but very accessible.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ten for Books

Maggie O'Farrell - The Hand That First Held Mine

  • Review: Despite a slow start we were drawn into the story.  Several twists held our interest.  Needing to know the connections between families and individuals kept us reading.  Good story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Maggie O'Farrell - Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

  • Review: This clever story uses the interaction between the characters and its effect upon them, of Esme being incarcerated for sixty years.  This book caused much lively discussion.  we remembered the closing of the asylums and the reason for many old ladies being patients was that they were socially inconvenient.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Rageh Omaar - Only Half of Me

  • Review: We found the book disappointing - unable to reach any conclusion as to whether the author actually felt that the 'conflict' was paramount or even could be resolved.  Coldly written....by a journalist reporting facts.  Last paragraph very pessimistic offering little hope.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: There was a mixed reaction amongst the group from great interest in his description of Somali culture to 'a complete turnoff', but it certainly stimulated a very lively discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: It was interesting to hear of the authors other side (i.e. Muslim upbringing).  However, although interesting in parts we didn’t feel it gave a balanced view or a deeper insight into the problem.  Rather ‘bitty’ and lacking any humour.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review:   Vigorous discussion.  Interesting/a different background/family history/presentation of a totally unknown (to us) nationality upbringing.  Some questions not answered.  Nice to have a non-fiction for a change.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI

Heather O'Neill - Lullabies For Little Criminals

  • Review: A very well constructed novel.  It was shocking in its reality.  Vivid portrayal of a child's experience expressed by an adult.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group:

George Orwell - Nineteen Eighty Four

  • Review:  After reading 1984, we felt that George Orwell was very forward thinking, dealt with deep political issues in a passionate manner but tended to let the political issues overtake the plot.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Happy Days
  • Review: A prophetic works as far as world events since 1949 have happened.  A depressing read but a great work of literature.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
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Kathy Page - The Story of my face

  • Review: A very mixed reception - from those who did not enjoy it and gave up reading after a few chapters to those who thoroughly enjoyed reading it and considered it a good read. However one member read it but found it so forgettable that the title and subject matter could not be recalled a week later!
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Victoria
  • Review: Once again very mixed views from our group - one or two really liking it, others not.  Several thought some of the characters were not believable and rather inconsistent.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Literary Ladies
  • Review: Most of our group liked this and thought it was well written.  They found the story interesting (if not altogether believable) and could empathise with the characters.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Fawley/Holbury U3A

Pat Parker - Regeneration

  • Review: Highly recommended.  Beautifully written, quite compulsive.  A detailed account of the sufferings caused by the horrors of the trenches in WWI.  Some fascinating cameos.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group

Carolyn Parkhurst - Lorelei’s Secret

  • Review:  About a distraught husband searching for the answer whether his wife took her own life or died by accident.  Yes, we found some part highly unbelievable but it provided a lengthy and productive discussion.  The ratings by our group varied more than usual so I have taken a mean average.  The people who rated it highest, were people we concluded - had known suicide victims and the grief they left behind and are very aware of mental health problems or were romantic and liked dogs!!  Do still read it if none of this applies to you!!
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Tadley Library Reading Group
  • Review: A strange story – easy to read with some interesting elements but ultimately the main theme was too unbelievable and detracted from Paul’s character – none of us could believe he would undertake such a strange course of action.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Sandy’s

Jean-Francois Parot - The Saint Florentin Murders

  • Review: Well written book, historically well documented.  The plot was excellent, but the characters confusing!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Rivermead

Tony Parsons - The Family Way

  • Review:  Mixed reactions from the reading group.  Some enjoyed the book others less so.  A ‘holiday’ slightly formulaic.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Romsey Abbey Reading Group
  • Review: really enjoyed this book.  We thought it was wonderful that a man (the author) could have such sensitivity to a woman's feelings.  It also had a nice happy ending for a change, gave us a lift.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags

Harry Patch - The Last Fighting Tommy

  • Review: Some of the group found it difficult to get into, but most enjoyed it.  The social comment, the futility of war, war as organised murder was interesting.  Some surprised at what an ordinary chap Harry Patch was and his lack of interest and enthusiasm for being a soldier.  All found it an honest story and enjoyed the two writers.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review:  As Harry only spent about 3 months in the trenches this is really a book about his life near Bath.  The military trimmings being mainly supplied by his c-author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Ann Patchett - Bel Canto

  • Review: The book set the scene perfectly - all sense of time ceased, The tension was palpable, at the same time we were lulled into a false sense of security. The epilogue surprised everyone. All agreed - an excellent read.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Andover NWR
  • Review: One reader couldn't get past the first 30 pages. Most of the others really enjoyed it.
    Star rating: ** plus 1/2 !
    Reading group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: Enjoyed by all but one of the group. Characters well drawn and believable. Good suspense and covered so many aspects of love. Didn’t like the wedding at the end. Unnecessary we thought.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A No 3
  • Review: Well liked by group. One saw it in musical form (classical). End strange but inevitable. One new reader 'tried hard', didn't make it but will try again.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Not well received - no-one enjoyed it.  Slow, self-conscious - certainly mirrored the boredom of such a hostage situation.  Several read another book while 'reading' this one.  Would not recommend it.
    Star rating: none
    Reading Group: Weston Readers
  • Review: We all enjoyed this book.  There was a section in the middle which we found to be slow - perhaps this was to reflect the monotony of the situation.  The ending surprised us all.  No general consensus on the reason for Gen and Roxanne's marriage.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ecchinswell
  • Review: All the members of the reading group enjoyed this book.  The writing was of a very high quality and it deserved to win the Orange Prize.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Havant
  • Review: Enjoyed very much by 3 members but not enjoyed by others.  Great study in human relationships and communications between strangers despite language difficulties.  The ending of the book seemed contrived but no other ending really seemed possible.  The wedding did not seem appropriate.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: A mixed reaction within the group e.g. 'Wonderful, couldn't put the book down' , 'Too contrived to be plausible', 'Good character development'.  Some club members felt belief had to be suspended and the plot enjoyed like an operatic drama.  Lack of exact geographical detail made the story rather vague.  The atmosphere was rather claustrophobic.  No-one predicted the details of the ending.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Barnfield Book Club
  • Review: This novel about love affairs in a hostage situation provoked a variable response; some enjoyed it greatly, others found it hard going.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: October Books
  • Review: This book caused a great deal of discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: White Lion, Yateley
  • Review: An enjoyable read.  The dynamics of the developing relationships were well drawn, the hopes and dreams for the future were quite poignant.  The restricted physical environment  led to very intense focus on the relationships and the individual characters were well defined.  An interesting premise - a book to be recommended.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Sandy's
  • Review:  Some found it contrived and boring.  Very slow pace but picked up towards the end.  Frustrated at not knowing where it was set initially - garlic was the clue.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Alverstoke Ladies

Ann Patchett - Run

  • Review: Very mixed comments. Generally the opening chapter was liked as was how the story unfolded, and the characters. It was considered a charming, good story by some and most would like to read more by this author. However some found it a collection of endless, unconnected short stories.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Iain Pears - Stone's Fall

  • Review: This book sparked a lot of debate.  It was long, so you needed to be able to set aside a good period of time to read it in one sitting.  It has hidden depths, and with a lot of surprises as the layers were peeled away.  A very strong plot.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Women Who Read

Tim Pears - In the place of fallen leaves

  • Review: This provoked a lively discussion but the group largely found the novel unsatisfactory. Set in 1984, but it felt as if it was set much longer ago, feeling of a pre-war novel.. Some of us liked the lyrical quality of the language, and the dreamlike atmosphere against which events were played out, but mostly we were irritated with the magic realism which seemed to infuse everything. Some felt the male author displayed arrogance in assuming the narrative voice of a 13 year old girl. We felt there was too much going on in the book so that it became confusing. It felt as if there were four books competing for attention in the one volume.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: With some wonderful, memorable characters this lyrical family story narrated by a young girl is a thought provoking read. Set in a small farming community in the late 20th century it interweaves the events of one very hot summer with past happenings. Highly Recommended
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Hayling Reading Group
  • Review: 70% enjoyed book tremendously. We thought it was very well written, almost poetic. It conjured up fantastic images of rural life, (more 50s than 80s) and the long hot summer. 30% thought author never really got anywhere with story and thought a man should not write from girls perspective.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review:  All group members enjoyed this book – it was so evocative of this past hot summer, with country folk and their emotional lives.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A Group 1
  • Review: After some hesitation over the opening pages, most of our group went on to enjoy this fascinating book.  It was agreed to be strong on atmosphere and character, though one reader felt it lacked narrative drive.  We had an animated discussion about it, which is always a good sign!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne Book Circle

Lesley Pearse - Remember Me

  • Review: An extremely good read that has been well researched,  The book details the story of Mary Bryant who was transported on the first fleet to Australia.  It is evocative of life in Georgian times including graphic details of conditions during transportation.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Whitely Towns Womens Guild

Stef Penney - The Tenderness of Wolves

  • Review: A gripping adventure, strong characterisation but rather anachronistic language.  Wonderful descriptions and imagery of the harsh landscape and climate.  An air of suspicion and uneasiness pervades the story.  There were some loose ends, but that didn't bother most of the group, although not all agreed about the books worth.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: All felt it was an excellent book, but a number of loose ends left people frustrated and characters not developed enough.  Descriptions of the Canadian wilderness and intense cold were excellent.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Alverstoke Ladies
  • Review: Whilst everyone enjoyed the descriptive passages, the group was split.  An exceptionally good first novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Reactions mixed.  good landscape and condition description.  Too many characters, too quickly introduced, called sometimes by surnames, sometimes first names - confusing!  Better written as series of books, enough material for this.  characters insufficiently developed to sustain real interest in character.  too many loose ends.  Style: changes of tense, present and past, worrying!
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Cliffhangers
  • Review: Confusing, frustrating, too many loose ends.  No conclusion.  Several people gave up.  History of Hudson Bay Company interesting.  Descriptions of a very convincing landscape and atmosphere of 19th Century Canada.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Anne Perry - No Graves as Yet

  • Review: The majority verdict was that this book contained a flimsy and ridiculous story line.  The characters were stereotypes - the upright upper classes and the doltish lower orders speaking in local accents - which was difficult to read.  11 lines describing a dress was unnecessary and irrelevant padding.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Jodi Picoult - Keeping Faith

  • Review - Inspired a lot of discussion - especially on spirituality vs religion dependent on our own perspectives and experiences
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Botley Book Circle
  • Review: There were some mixed feelings about this book within the group.  I personally enjoyed it, finding the theme of the narrative an interesting concept.  I also liked the fact that there was a contra argument to the religious aspect of the book.  It was well written and I found myself eager to read it.  It proved a good book for discussion within the group as it promoted varying opinions about religion in particular.  I shall certainly read other books by this author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:

Jodi Picoult - Mercy

  • Review: A mixed reception which provoked a lively discussion.  Generally it was felt that this book was only good in part.  Some of the group enjoyed it, other s didn’t, but no-one was ecstatic about it.  It was felt that some of the detail was unnecessary to the plot and was simply ‘padding’ out the storyline.  First time readers of JP were disappointed.  Not her best novel!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fleet Library

Jodi Picoult - My Sister’s Keeper

  • Review: All the group enjoyed the book. Provoked a lively discussion on medical ethics.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havant Library Reading Group
  • Review:  All members of the group enjoyed this book.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Cambridge Road
  • Review:  All agreed – very thought provoking.  Was plot from personal experience?  Some – unhappy with “jumps” from one character’s views to another’s.  A storyline that would be remembered.
    Star rating: ?
    Reading Group:  Abbotts Ann Reading Group
  • Review: Several readers cried after reading this fascinating book.  The book was so well researched most were surprised by how a serious moral and ethical subject could be turned into such a good read.  Most enjoyed this book more than The Pact, and those who had read The Pact predicted one of the two twists.  The book was believable and an excellent examination of a modern dilemma.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: In discussion we considered the personal motives for the actions of the characters and the moral standing of each of them.  Although we found justification or at least sympathy for each characters position we still ended up divided about the 'slippery slope' implications thrown up by the novel.  Touching so many human emotions the story reached all of us, although in many different ways.  An excellent reading group book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:  The group enjoyed the book.  We discussed all the characters and the ethical issues surrounding the story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Augusta Park

Jodi Picoult - Nineteen Minutes

  • Review: The book was considered by most as a page turner, well written, easy to read, but easily forgotten.
    All mentioned the similarities to "We need to talk about Kevin". The bullying, reflections on life for young people( especially those who don't fit in), the lack of understanding & compassion by those who should have been supportive, gun culture in the USA and peer group pressure were all discussed.   There were mixed comments about the characters like:-interesting, well written, unsympathetic with Peter, in particular, being talked about.   It was considered there were some interesting anecdotes and reflections on society and the impact of the incident on people's lives. Trolls were discussed.  Not all chose to read or complete it. Most do not like reading books with so many pages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Jodi Picoult - Perfect Match

  • Review: Compelling read but far fetched.  Enjoyable.  change of narrator a bit annoying.  All in all our best book yet for all our readers!
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Reading Circuit Lymington

Jodi Picoult - Plain Truth

  • Review:  All our members enjoyed this book – very readable, but they felt that the romance between Ellie Hathaway and her ex-lover was not really necessary to the plot.  Led us to find out more about the Amish community.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Woodlands
  • Review: 6 ladies enjoyed the books and 3 were disappointed with it, or found it didn't 'grip' them.  Most found the court scenes protracted.  However, all thought the Amish way of life was an interesting subject if unreal.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray Park
  • Review: Interesting to discover more about the Amish culture.  Everyone finished it - story led us on, but too many threads and contrived in parts.  Ellie very unsympathetic a d Katie a bit unbelievable.  Sarah (mother) strong and possibly the best - Samuel another strong character.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Novel Ideas
  • Review: Very well researched, well written book - informative about the Amish community.  Clever way in which the facts were gradually given a twist in the tale right at the end.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group:  Enjoying Books
  • Review: Well researched and gave us an insight into the Amish way of life.  made us assess prioities in life, honesty and dishonesty: well written and enjoyable.
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: West Hill Readers

Jodie Picoult - Salem Falls

  • Review: This book provoked a very lively discussion and was enjoyed by the majority of the group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Jodi Picoult is a great storyteller.  Salem Falls provoked a lot of discussion but we all agreed that there were too many sup plots any of which would have stood by themselves as a story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Jodi Picoult - The Pact

  • Review: Excellent story.  Gripping and fast pace.  Rollercoaster of emotions.  Produced much to discuss in group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Easy 'holiday' read with a lot of unresolved issues.  No literary merit, but well researched (prison and court).  well posed moral dilemmas make the reader question own stand and thinking.  Disappointing ending.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Marge Piercy - Sex Wars

  • Review: Marge Piercy offers us a wide and exotic canvas on which she paints a devastating picture of the 'brave New World' of the United States.  A long way from Little Women or the New England reformers of Henry James' novels, Sex Wars gets into the tenements and whore-houses of New York and makes us feel the dirt and degradation.  It leads to a view of their struggle for women's suffrage little know or appreciated on this side of the Atlantic.  We are reminded too that the extremes of religion and politics have not changed much in the past hundred years.  This is a thought-provoking book for anyone prepared to be provoked.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature
  • Review: Few finished the book.  Switching characters and time frames confusing.  Not strong characters - who was who?  Awful places to live and cold!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

D B C Pierre - Vernon God Little

  • Review: A very dodgy start, but well worth persevering! Disturbing (if sometimes funny) picture of extreme modern society.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Reading Group
  • Review: One reader enthused about the book, the humour, the clever construction.  However the majority had mixed feelings about whether it was worth reading and hence why we couldn't agree on a rating. It was certainly difficult and some ideas were rather subtle which probably would benefit from reading again, if you could stand it.  A number of readers gave up because of the foul language and the unpleasant subject matter.  Could this really happen in the USA?  Vernon received most of our sympathy being the only character worth saving amongst a community of "bad apples".
    Rating:
    Reading Group: Locks Heath Reading Group

Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar

  • Review: All found it an easy quick read and considered it autobiographical, sensitively and well written and interesting with more to it than the first read highlighted, however all thought it would be difficult to recommend. We all liked the information on New York, the characters especially Ester (her intelligence, new awareness of life, how she described her thoughts, her usage of the fig tree) and we liked the title The Bell Jar and how that was represented in the book. All commented on the aspects of depression, its treatment, how it had come about and why she was depressed, her searching for self, the ordeal it created for her mother and the suicide attempts. It was considered good that the book was published when it was considering how suicide was viewed at that time. Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Blub
  • Review: A beautifully written description of the disintegration of a young woman's mind.  A powerful and emotive book.  Quite difficult to read knowing what ultimately happened to Sylivia Plath.  But definitely worth reading - highly recommended.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading group: Perspectives
  • Review: This was a difficult book to "enjoy" - but several of us did; others found it profoundly depressing.  Nonetheless, it was beautifully written, with some beautiful prose.
  • Reading group: Godshill WI

Bella Pollen - Hunting Unicorns

  • Not universally enjoyed!  A minority though it a nice, light read - others gave up before finishing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Our group found little to discuss about this novel.  Only their commitment and its availability over the snowed-in holiday period induced most to persevere with it.  As a critique of the English landed gentry it was neither funny nor sufficiently acerbic to hold attention.  Its one saving grace was the shortness of each chapter.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Carmen Posadas - Little Indiscretions

  • Review: Problems fulfilling expectations. No recipe secrets revealed. Weak characterisation. Storyline was weak from the start. Too many characters not needed. Generally dull and boring.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Abbots Ann Reading Book

Terry Pratchett - Feet of Clay

  • Review: We had polarised opinions of this book.  Generally felt difficult to get into.  Quite enjoyable when plot started towards middle.  Generated on new Pratchett fan.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Botley Book Circle

Terry Pratchett - Thud

  • Review: It was an experience to have read, never having explored a Terry Pratchett publication before.  There were so many characters making it very hard to start, and the promised laughs were few and far between .  However, after our discussions and analysis of the life situations touched on, one or two of the reading group members who gave up before the end (or never got started) thought they would have another attempt.  It was decided that 'Thud' wasn't one of his best and those who 'had a go' probably wouldn't read another Pratchett story.
    We thought it merited between 1 and 2 stars
    Rating: 1 Star
    Reading Group: Locks Heath Reading Group

John Preston - The Dig

  • Review: Good, interesting read - names and places - content of story - true facts.  Details formed into an intriguing story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI
  • Review:   Stimulated further internet interest in Sutton Hoo.  Wished it was longer.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI

Marcia Preston - Butterfly House

  • Review: Read in a flash.  Couldn't put it down.  Easy to read, yet the book dealt with real issues.  Complex plot kept you guessing until the end.  Creditable characters were all important.  All but one of the group loved this book and would read another by same author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Very enjoyable read, enjoyed by whole group.  Believable characters and dealt with sensitive issues i.e. alcoholism and homosexuality with care.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends

Lily Prior - La Cucina

  • Review: We were of mixed opinion over this, a good laugh, atmosphere, enjoyed descriptions of the cooking …….. One member of the group compared it to J Harris – Chocolat – but did not think it was so good. Characters not very attractive. Found the ending indecisive.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Afternoon Group
  • Review: A quick easy read, quite explicit language in places. An intriguing look into mafia and peasant culture in Sicily. I wonder how different it is today. I liked the list of characters - it was necessary!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: A good read but not admired by everyone. Much of the story was somewhat over the top as was the amount of detail devoted to food preparation and eating, though some thought that perfectly acceptable in a modern novel.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Liss Reading Group
  • Review: We felt this book was a passionate, humorous, entertaining read which left us wanting more!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Happy Days
  • Review: This was an exciting, sensual love story.  It transports you straight into Sicily and you are living Rosa’s life, her ups and her downs, her highs and her lows.  We all felt that you have to get past the first few chapters to get into it.  WE all had our own conclusion of the ending, each have different views.  It needs a follow on book.  Suggestions have been made about this being made into a film.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: The Yummy Mummy’s
  • Review: Entertaining romp read.  Evocative writing very descriptive, lovely descriptions of food and Italy.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Jane's Cook Group

E. Annie Proulx - The Shipping News

  • Review: We liked this book very much, although some found it hard going at the beginning. It's a large and complex novel incorporating themes of regeneration, redemption, and the power of love to change people's lives. The characters are diverse, and most of the action is played out against a bleak Newfoundland, dominated by the sea. Some felt the role of the women characters to be rather passive, but there are also some strong women like Agnis Hamm with her ability to overcome all kinds of hardships. There's lots of humour in the novel too, and much to think about and discuss.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: We all enjoyed it and found it gripping and imaginative giving a great feeling of the hardships of life in remote country in bad weather
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Bookworms U3A
  • Review: We were struck by the style - most found it excellent and very descriptive, one found it affected. The journey of Quoyle to humanity, the bleakness of Newfoundland, the humour of the characters, the wonderful pictures painted gave us all plenty of matters to discuss.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: After Eights
  • Review: A very well researched novel. The short sentences . . . seem to resemble the landscape. Wonderful descriptions of an inhospitable country and the people trying to live in it, "Cod Cheeks" will be long remembered.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Shipton Bellinger W I
  • Review: Generally well liked within the group, though some of the sentence construction initiated everybody. Very descriptive of the bleakness of the land and simple way of life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: Mixed response from the group.  Difficult language but good descriptions.  Liked the knot allusions.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: This book gave us much to discuss from the unusual sentence construction which some found annoying to the excellent descriptions of the area.  We found some good examples of expressive use of language.  It was not an easy read but worth the struggle to finish.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review: Mixed reaction - most were put off by the first part, but started to enjoy it once it got to Newfoundland.  We had a good laugh recalling incidents in the book.  Advised to read the book first, before seeing the film.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Alverstoke Ladies

E Annie Proulx - That Old Ace in the Hole

  • Review: Enjoyed by all. Wonderful evocation of the deep south -people and places and a fascinating story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: U3A Group 1
  • Review:  Some people found it over long but enjoyed what they did read.  Those who finished thought the descriptive writing excellent and after giving up trying to remember all the names, got the feeling for pan-handle history.  Glad the hog-farms lost out.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  North Baddesley WI
  • Review: Not a book any of our group would have chosen, attracted by the cover, it was however mainly enjoyed.  Most readers found the first five or six chapters difficult to get into and only the discipline of commitment to the group carried them on, which is one of the main virtues of reading groups.  Our discussion uncovered the many strands of history, geography, community intercourse and eco-political manoeuvring in the Texan/Oklahoma panhandles which could apply anywhere.  The vehicle of a rite of passage of the young man, Bob, carried the story forward at an accelerating pace and Annie Proulx tied up all the loose ends to achieve a sunny ending.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A theatre and literature
  • Review: A very mixed reception - some loved it whilst others hated it.  Everyone agreed that the descriptive writing was superb.  Strangely no-one was luke warm.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Superlative description, very evocative of the place - and meticulously detailed research, but slow-paced and lacking in direction so abandoned unfinished by several readers despite recognition of the extremely high quality of the writing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Sandy Lane
  • Review: A book that needs some perseverance - half the group gave up, the others really enjoyed the detail.  Not so much a story as a series of stories.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group:  Wednesday

Philip Pullman - Northern lights

  • Review: For some it took a while to get into this novel, but it was worth the effort as even those who hate science and fantasy fiction, found it a marvellous read. Pullman's imagination and narrative skill were so clever and convincing that the reader soon accepted all the strange things in and aspects of the world he had created. The many and varied influences including Milton, C.S. Lewis and William Blake were all cleverly assimilated into this book. A cracking narrative pace left most of the group keen to read the next two books in the series. Four stars to this one.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: Only 3 of our group enjoyed this book - 3 only read 50 pages (5 finished it).  It was considered to be a children's book for teenagers.  3 stars for inventiveness.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A book group 3
  • Review: This was not enjoyed by the majority of our group as they do not like 'fantasy' books.  We all found the subject interesting and it provoked much discussion.  They thought it definitely a child's book.  
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group
  • Review: Most of us enjoyed it.  Not a book that most of us would have picked up.  Found it pacy, descriptive and wonderful imagination.  Loved the daemons and feisty character of Lyra.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Barbara Pym - Quartet in Autumn

  • Review: A sad and depressing book but still a very good read.  Characters completely believable.  Could relate first or second hand to these people.  Two of the nine members disliked the book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review: We liked the acute observations of the 'ordinary and everyday'.  It was great but had a depressing side but had it human too.  some of us wanted to give them all a shake and a few tips on how to brighten up their lives.  Provoked lots of reminiscences of the 1960s and 70s.
    Star rating: ***/****
    Reading Group: Wednesday Reading Group
  • Review: The characters and the office environment were thought disturbing, but realistic and reflected the books era well.  However, generally the book was found depressing, grim, dark, boring, uneventful and without a plot.  We did see it as a lesson in life.  Everyone had other expectations of Barbara Pym.
    Star rating: *-
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Most of us enjoyed this subtle, poetic and worthy novel.  Pym has echoes of Muriel Spark and Jane Austen.  Two younger members of the group felt it wasn't for them, but we all agreed it was beautifully written.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review:   Beautifully observed – excellent characters – sad little lives but hugely entertaining.  Some thought it dated, but we all appreciated her portrayal of ordinary people.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
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Ian Rankin - Black and Blue

  • Review:  We liked it!
    Star rating:  ***½
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: If you enjoy police stories this is a splendid one.  It is delightfully complex and employs enough of the vernacular to keep you on your toes.  The descriptions are vivid and in fact informative at the same time.  The characters also ring true.  It is a good read!
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport U3A
  • Review: Some dissent re: the negative atmosphere and characters (too unrealistically dark?)  others found the atmosphere convincing.  Generally good a the time but fairly forgettable.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review: 'Inhouse' language sometimes got in the way of a smooth read.  The fact that this is the 15th in the Rebus series also makes it a little difficult for those new to the books.  However the book has depth and a lovely dry wit.  Descriptive powers interesting and style polished.  An author once discovered who begs to be explored.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group

Pauline Rawson - Tide of Death

  • Review:  Formulaic, amateur crime novel with nothing new to offer.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Emsworth Crime Group

Kathy Reichs - Bare Bones

  • Review:  Enjoyable, easy read.  Good cliff hangers at end of chapters.  Lots of characters but the author does recap regularly.  Probably best read in one chunk.  Slightly disappointing ending.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  The Chocolate Group

E M Remarque - All Quiet on the Western Front

  • Review: Everyone should read this book - a beautiful translation of a moving and harrowing WW1 story; an opportunity to delve into history, memoirs and poetry and consider the possible effects of combat particularly on very young men.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Page Turners

Ruth Rendell - End in Tears

  • Review: Group very disappointed even Ruth Rendell fans didn’t like it.  Too many characters in a convoluted story, too much coincidence in an unbelievable story.  Not well written.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Mulberry

Emma Richler - Sister Crazy

  • Review:  Our group found this book good to read at first, but the constant first person thought processes style became too much for many.  We were also disappointed by the lack of conclusion and the many vague references to things that were never elaborated on.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Biscuits, Books and Banter

Ben Richards - The Mermaid and the Drunks

  • Review: read by most with a variety of opinions - too many undeveloped characters, poor plot progression.  We felt the author tried to show off with his knowledge.  Who chooses the library books?
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Hawkley Book Group

Gregory David Roberts - Shantaram

  • Review:   Not all the group managed to read the book completely but all of us had read some of it.  Those who completed it thought it an excellent read and very memorable.  Those who only read part felt it was beautifully written and the description of life in India were very vivid.  Those of us who did not complete it would like to borrow it on our own tickets from the library.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Cambridge
  • Review: Insightful and educating, quite enjoyable but way too long.  We began reading it, thinking it autobiographical, and found it too fantastic to be believed.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Buzet Book Club

Deborah Robertson - Careless

  • Review:   Nearly everyone in the group enjoyed this look at people’s reaction to grief.  There are some very poignant and astute observations with a whole spectrum of characterisations.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Botley Book Circle

Marilynne Robinson - Home

  • Review: Thought provoking, very atmospheric, well written.  good evocation of life in a 1950s home.  Sad
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Barnfield Book Club

Peter Robinson - In a Dry Season

  • Review:  A detective story with many sub-plots.  The descriptions of life in a very rural village during the last war are very good but other sub-plots seem to muddy the waters a bit.  Generally enjoyed.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:This book was well received even by members who are not keen with crime novels.  Characters and authenticity of flashbacks to war conditions were most pleasing.  This author is now on 8/9 members booklist.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Jed Rubenfeld - The Interpretation of Murder

  • Review: The group enjoyed the descriptive passages concerning the building of New York.  Not many sympathetic characters - the poorer working classes none humour.  Plenty of corruption - even the coroner turned out to be crooked!  Some found it overlong - common with first novels, they seem to want to put everything in.  Possibility of a great adaptation for a film!
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Forest Arts

Bajwa Rupa - The Sari Shop

  • Review: A most interesting story, well told with pace - each character clearly drawn.  One could hear the sounds and arrive at an exciting, although depressing picture of life.  In many ways a shocking tale of aspiration and hopelessness.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: KYC
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Shan Sa - The Girl Who Played Go

  • Review: Quite confusing between the two main characters having a chapter each, but basic story interesting.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cheerful Bags
  • Review: We universally disliked this book - it told an emotional story in such a way that the reader simply did not empathise with the characters.  It was disjointed and a rather empty piece of literature.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Fawley Holburn U3A

Lorna Sage - Bad blood

  • Review: This is an autobiographical account by the late Lorna Sage of her family, and her own life within it until she graduates from Durham university. Set in pre- and post-war rural Staffordshire, the author paints a fairly grim picture of her dysfunctional family from her eccentric grandparents via her parents to her own experiences which culminate in her becoming a teenage mother, and then graduating from Durham university with a first-class degree. Most of the group didn't enjoy this book, disliking the the way in which Sage portrayed her family and her role within it. We didn't like its rather bitter and yet self-congratulatory tone. It was felt to be evocative, however, of a rural childhood in the 1950s.
    Rating: *
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: The group rated this book highly for its readability and regretted that we are unlikely to have the joy of more of Lorna Sage's writing. While the description of vicarage life and the atrociousness of village schooling shocked some of the group, a 'round the table' expose of everyone's schooldays settled the authenticity of the writing. That Lorna broke the mould was clear but our discussion revealed in how many ways and to what extent, fuelled by her anger she drew from disadvantage, a positive outcome.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Literature Group
  • Review: Very well written. Group divided as to 'liking' the book and the authoress. All could identify with the period. Very strong characteristics
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Brockenhurst
  • Review: Good portrayal of social history of the time and family dynamics.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: The whole group found this a good read, described as 'a page turner' in its style and creation of life during the post-war period.  But some found the author dislikable, overall, we enjoyed reading this autobiography.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: There was a mixed reaction from the members to this book, some felt it was poorly written but others enjoyed it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

John Salinger - Catcher in the Rye

  • Review:  An intriguing description of two days in the life of a 16 year old boy.  A crisis in his life told from his point of view and in retrospect.  The reader may empathise with the character or find him really irritating.  Timeless teenage angst.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: A unique book of its time, an American classic but difficult to read in this modern era.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: Well written book of a teenage boys gradual journey towards breakdown.  Troubled by low self-esteem, parental neglect, inability to reach expectations and the death of his brother.  Written in the first person the character comes across strongly.  The book tends to drift with no real conclusion.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review:   Generated a long discussion points we focused on: Language, Era, Writing style.  Interesting reading.  Enjoyed by most of the group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Book Bites

C J Samson -  Revelation

  • Review:   Rather like a medieval Midsomer Murders!  Historical London scenes very good.  Facts on religion rather unclear (RC or Protestant).  Overall enjoyed by half the group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Keyhaven Yacht Club

C J Sansom - Sovereign

  • Review: Easy to read portrayal of Tudor England at the time of Henry VIII.  Questionable use of expletives during the 16th century.  Unexpected twist at the end of the novel.  Good 'beach' read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches

C J Sansom Winter in Madrid

  • Review: Gave fascinating insights into a complex period that is hard to analyse.  Too long and some details jarred.  Many felt it was contrived and various elements had echoes of many other novels.  On a positive note – it created a vivid atmosphere ‘filmic’.  Dialogue convincing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: The author has deviated from his very successful 'Tudor' period novels to write about Spain during part of the 20th Century.  good plot, with surprising twists.  We thought that, although we rated it fairly high, his other novels were more researched.  characters were well drawn.  No happy ending though!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches

Dorothy L Sayers - Murder Must Advertise

  • Review: Some group members foudnd this hard going at first.  But we agreed that it was a style of writing very much of the period and you had to relax into the book.  This is not a hard hitting page turning, what's coming next, frantic storyline.  It is a comedy of manners.  The period and setting are well defined.  The advertising industry laid bare and we think much the same as today in how it views consumers.  It is witty and very funny in places.  Class divisions form an integral part of the unfolding story.  All in all an enjoyable read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Crime Readers

Dorothy L Sayers - Strong Poison

  • Review:  It took a few chapters to get into the book.  Lord Peter Wimsey was an irritating character, but he did a give a flavour of the 1920s.  As the book progressed his intellect was shown as he began to unravel the truth.  There's a light touch in the book when a lady whose helping gives a 'séance' with tins and needs making noises!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms
  • Review: This book was liked by our reading group. We all thought it was an easy, enjoyable read, very much a book of its time with elements of politics and feminism
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: Most members found it an easy read and enjoyed the plot and representation of 20s Britain.  Two members found Lord Peter Wimsey an annoying charcter and did not like the story and gave up early on.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Daniel Scheinmann - Random Acts of Heroic Love

  • Review: We really enjoyed this book, although the content was quite disturbing.  The two completely separate stories each showed, in their own way, how obsessive love can be.  We thought the way the two were then shown to be the same was beautifully done.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Holbury/Fawley U3A
  • Review: We thought the book had a good beginning.  We liked the fact it was a true story, but we wish it had told us that at the beginning.  We also felt the ending was rushed.  But overall, it was an enjoyable read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Reading Enthusiast

Bernard Schlink - Self's Punishment

  • Review: We were disappointed as we all loved 'The Reader', and found this confusing.  There was poor character development, however, there were amusing and quirky parts.  Found the Nazi/German/industrial espionage aspects of interest.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: A complex but brave book.  Some liked it reflectively, others did not find it to their taste - all were pleased they read it to broaden horizons.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Book Worms

Bernard Schlink - The Reader

  • Review: Some members felt the first section was too long and would not have continued if it was not a group book. However the second half was more interesting, and the story provoked a lively discussion. Very interesting ideas on the burden of guilt.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Andover U3A
  • Review: Everyone should read this book!  We all felt this dealt with difficult issues brilliantly.  Very easy to read but very thought provoking.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ten for Books
  • Review:  Excellent book for promoting discussion.  The concept is unusual and slightly disturbing, but the writer does an excellent job in making it seem believable.  Michael's relationship with Hanna is very well written as the story and their ages go on.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter
  • Review:  The book generated a lively debate.  Many commented on the problems of illiteracy and the horrors of the Stalags.  One member found the seduction of the young boy abhorrent - this was not a problem for other members.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Havant Library
  • Review: This was very stimulating for a book group in that it inspired interesting discussion about motives for our actions; whether we should always obey orders, whether the shame of being a guard at a concentration camp is greater than the shame of illiteracy etc.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Brilliant! This aroused two hours and more of discussion.  The syle and characters were admriable.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: Booklovers

Alice Sebold - The Almost Moon

  • Review: Extremely well devised story of a dysfunctional family.  Explores all kinds of self but unexpressed feelings around family and life generally.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review:   Not a comfortable book to read but all found it compelling.  Some understood the reason why Helen killed her mother – others found this reprehensible.  The first person narration made the story more upsetting.  The title and the reason behind it was of interest and thought to be beautiful.  A very American novel with intense self-scrutiny.  Well written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: We found this book gave rise to some telling discussion on various subjects of social conscience and social responsibility.  It was thought to be a compulsive but not enjoyable read.
  • Star rating: **/***
  • Reading Group: Alton Library Thursday Group

Alice Sebold - The Lovely Bones

  • Review: In many ways a disturbing book.  Interesting characters.  Some felt the end was contrived and not necessary 13-2 in favour.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Brilliantly written, a bit harrowing but very good.  Slow in the middle.  Good analysis of the effects of murder on a family.  Thought provoking.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann Book Club
  • Review:  Interesting concept but story not complete.  Odd topics not resolved.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review:  A moving, touching story.  All the characters were believable and sympathetically portrayed.  The style was engaging, well paced plot and unusual structure.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Titchfield
  • Review:  Found it a very moving, emotional story, well written with depth to the characters and how they coped with their lives afterwards.  Difficult start but well worth persevering.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review:  Subject matter challenging.  Good beginning, unbelievable in parts, interesting to see family dynamics after tragedy.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:

Asne Seierstad - The Bookseller of Kabul

  • Review:  Three of us rated it, four, two and three were in the middle.  It produced a good discussion about women and Afghanistan. We all thought it was a very interesting book.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  We were all glad we had read the book but found it very disturbing.  It involved a lively discussion and we were fortunate in that one of the members had been to Afghanistan in the comparatively liberal days before the Taliban. This is a book that should be read both for content and presentation.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Selborne Book Circle
  • Review: Group had mixed feelings - some thought it very informative and enjoyed reading about the country - although horrified to learn about the lives of the women.  Others thought it strange that she found this knowledge without the language and questioned the authors objectivity.
    Star rating **/***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: Not a great work of literature but what an insight into lives totally alien to us.  read it and be thankful to be a woman in Britain!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A vivid portrait of a complex and, to us, horrifying world, particularly for women. Dispassionately written but the foreword indicates the writer's fury with the system that keeps women suppressed. There was some sympathy for the unpleasant Sultan as head of his family. One member revealed that the family is now suing the author which seems unfair and yet another way for Sultan to make money. Some chapters were outstandingly good in their descriptive powers
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review: This book gave us some insight into the life of one Afghan family and the wider society.  Although we found the situation depressing, we enjoyed the reading.  On the whole we felt it was an ‘outsiders’ view, rather that and ‘inside’ story.  Although Seierstad lived with the family her viewpoint remained that of a European.  We had a very long discussion about the many factors contributing to Afghanistan’s problems.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: St Mary’s R. C. Parish
  • Review: Without exception the group enjoyed this book.  We admired the journalistic style of writing.  It increased our awareness of the effect the different regimes had on the people of Kabul.  The level of repression and subjugation of the women was beyond our comprehension.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Gosport Book Worms
  • Review: A non-fiction tale of life in Afghanistan in 2001 of a bookseller and his extreme control over his whole family, his mother, wives, sisters and their families for whom he was the bread winner.  Most of the group were disappointed at the lack of cohesion of events which meant no story.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Morning Tide WI
  • Review: Very variable, mixed opinions.  Some strong emotions expressed.  Educational.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Rachel Seiffert - The Dark Room

  • Review:  We thought this was a thought provoking story.  As we are all over 70, some had served in the allied zone in 1950.  The book explores the history of the holocaust from the people who were the perpetrators (active or passive) and how present day Germans come to terms with feelings of guilt.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A

Vikram Seth - An Equal Music

  • Review: This is a book that carries you along. Those members without a musical background felt they missed out, but the majority found the portrayal of a group of people working together realistic. The different personalities were well developed and engaged one's interest.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Andover U3A Reading Group
  • Review:  Majority of the group enjoyed the book.  Two felt the need for musical knowledge to appreciate it.  Story well written but plot rather laboured, but worth reading.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Weston Readers
  • Review:  Mixed opinions – some thought it was the best book they’d ever read.  One person was irritated by it and didn’t finish it!  Most thoroughly enjoyed it – good discussion for reading group.
    Star rating:  *** and a half
    Reading Group:  Entre Nous
  • Review: Most of the group enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it especially to anyone who enjoys music and a well written story.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford
  • Review:   Most of us enjoyed the read and found it compelling, even though some passages were quite drawn out and not easy to follow.  Great descriptions of Venice and the way musicians work together.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford Mondays

Vikram Seth - The Golden Gate

  • Review: Universally disliked it.  Couldn't 'get' the verse structure - why?  Agree the library list should indicate that the books in verse so you can choose in full knowledge.
    Star rating: no rating
    Reading Group: The Accidental Reading Group
  • Review: We were blown away by this book, reading been rather put off by it being in verse!  But it is so clever yet and 'easy' read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: 10 for Books
  • Review: This book got a very mixed reception from the group.  Only seven members admitted to reading it completely.  The idea of it being written in rhyming verse blocked some; being unable to gain any idea of where the plot was heading discouraged others.  An eighty minute review of the fundamental elements of the book revealed that our group have a deeper understanding of the purpose and scope of story telling than they realised.  Only three readers seemed to appreciate the richness of the humour.  Not a book to be tackled without reasonably versed and sympathetic leadership.
    Star rating: Too confusing
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:   With Apologies to Vikram Seth:
        Four of us sat with the wine
        And discussed if the book was sublime
        We felt the other six missed a trick
        For giving up because of the rhyme.         Claire absolutely ‘loved it to bits’
        While Maggie thought ‘ it went on a bit’.
        Rupert the Bear was seen as inspiration
        As the reading required some dedication         All of life was in the story, with girls and boys and life and death
        The end was sad with Jan’s demise
        With touching thoughts on Mum’s last breath
        And a baby’s birth quite a surprise         Laurie was full of poetic technique
        And we all found Seth full of cheek
        His chapters, bio, comments in verse
        Were felt amusing, could be worse.         On the whole the thoughts were good
        And we were reluctant to return the book
        Because it wanted revisiting and more
        For a chance to again enjoy: ¾ was the score         Star rating: ***
        Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Vikram Seth - Two Lives

  • Review: The biography instigated a reasonable discussion.  Both the first third and final third of the book were felt to be flat - not stimulating interest.  However, the plight and horrors during the Nazi regime in Germany brought into focus the trauma suffered by ordinary people; and the prolongation of their discomforts during the Russian occupation of Berlin,.  We gave the read 6/10.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches

Diane Setterfield - The Thirteenth Tale

  • Review: A compelling read with evocative descriptive passages interwoven through a strong narrative thread.  A good book for discussion as enough was left open to interpretation to generate different viewpoints including the extent to which the ghostly elements were unsettling.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy's Reading Group

Mary Ann Shaffer - The Guernsey Literacy Potato Peel Pie Society

  • Review: Whole book in the form of letters.  Enjoyable, but left no lasting impression.  Pacey.  Didn't flag. Different.  Did learn something from this book.  Would have liked to have known more about Elizabeth.  Made me laugh and cry.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: This book was highly rated by the group.  We learnt a lot about the occupation of Guernsey through the members of the society and we loved the characters and the way that their incredible stories were told in a matter of fact way.  The style of the book (in the form of letters) worked very well.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Page Turners

Saira Shah - The Storytellers Daughter

  • Review: Felt it was interesting but rather disjointed and the story did not flow.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Victoria
  • Review: 'Enjoy' is hardly the right word.  I was gripped, caught up in Saira's search for her roots and moved by her descriptions of the beauty of Afghanistan.  What a complex country of national, factional and obsessional groups.  She tries so hard to help and after her great efforts and deprivations, her hardships during her journeys, she finally has to return to the West - somehow defeated and yet enlightened and most knowledgeable.  May all politicians read this book and learn!  I learned a lot.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Library Thursday Group
  • Review: Well written, raised pertinent issues leading to in depth discussion.  Clarified the position in Afghanistan.  Time line confused.  Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies

Tom Sharpe - The Midden

  • Review: We really did not like this book. The humour is really black and the characters grotesque. We could only really sympathise with the dog! We thought it very old-fashioned for a book written in the '90s and very anti-police and homophobic
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review:   Quite annoying.  Seems a bit dated now despite only being first published in 1996.  Not quite on a par with Porterhouse Blue and Wilt.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Tom Sharpe - Wilt in Nowhere

  • Review:  Not a book we would recommend – comical written humour is too far fetched and not in the least believable.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Milford Reading Group
  • Review: We found this book coarse; characters not developed, storyline weak.  Totally uninteresting.  Most of the group reject the book.
    Star rating: none
    Reading Group: Hampshire Gold Club Ladies
  • Review: Classic Tom Sharpe - slightly predictable, very slapstick humour.  Some interesting scenarios, well written as usual.  Wilt and Wilt Alternative are much funnier books!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Mums Reading Group
  • Review:   It was difficult to find a redeeming feature to this book.  Despite the enthusiastic reviews we failed to appreciate either the humour or the quality of the writing.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Bookends

Owen Sheers - Resistance

  • Review: An excellent first novel with beautiful prose, showing Sheers still as a poet.  An interesting exploration of human emotions and traits.  it was enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wynngates
  • Review: Well written would have read it even if not for book club.  Good descriptions/characterisations.
    Star rating:  ***+
    Reading Group: Botley Book Circle

Jack Sheffield - Teacher, Teacher

  • Review: Most agreed it was an OK read, but nothing very remarkable.  Many thought it was all too twee with all problems getting sorted out and village life portrayed as idyllic in 1970s.  We thought it may make a good Sunday night drama as each chapter was like an episode with problems solved by the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter

Ben Sherwood - Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud

  • Review: This is a book about second chances, about the process of grieving - about learning to let go.  Love between siblings, parents and children, men and women and love which transcends death.  Background characters beautifully observed.  Convincing relationships sometimes straying into sentimentality.  A minor criticism credulity stretched just a little over physical relationship twixt Charlie and Tess, but overall a delightful life enhancing read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Lee Reading Group

Carol Shields - Happenstance

  • Review: Interesting and well constructed novel which provoked discussion. Ideal book for a reading group drawing on male - female differing perceptions of moral issues within marriage.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Easy to read if a bit mundane.  Preferred the wife's tale; her character was much better drawn than the husbands.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Carol Shields - Jane Austen

  • Review:Most enjoyable looking at Jane Austen from a different point of view.  Interesting how Jane's life is compared with her characters and plots.  The viewpoint of an author writing about another author presents a fresh view of a well known life (we previously read Clare Tomalin on Jane Austen).
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree
  • Review: There was a mixed reception from the group to the book.  We did not feel that this was a biography in the real sense.  It was interesting but there was very little of Jane Austen's life in it, apart from scant details which we already knew.  We felt that the book lacked substance.  We noted that Carol Shields had written many novels but this book seemed to be more like an essay than an in depth biography when compared to authors such as Claire Tomalin.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies

Carol Shields - Property

  • Review: Not an easy story to read in terms of content, but written in an easy reading style.  Characters were all unsympathetic which was a problem for some readers.  Good picture of slavery and relationships between master and slaves, but it was felt it didn't have anything new to say.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A

Carol Shields - The Stone Diaries

  • Review: Daisy Goodwill's unpromising entry into the world heralds an eventful and varied life seen through various and different perspectives.  On her unexceptional exit from it, reviewing her past she is not reconciled.  A cleverly devised novel with many characters who 'speak through' Daisy at times and places of her life and convinces the reader that Carol Shields has achieved a fine fictional autobiography.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: World of Books U3A Portsmouth

Carol Shields - Unless

  • Review: Unless divided the group leading to more discussion than we have had for months - greatly helped by your Topics for Discussion. Please may we have these for future books. Unless was compared with Life of Pi and we could see why the latter won the Booker.
    The Reta Character frustrated us. Why was Nora not dragged to a doctor and why did they all accept the gloves?
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: U3A Book Group 4

Anita Shreve - A Wedding in December

  • Review:  Enjoyed by most members (male and female).  Decided that it was more of an exploration  of people’s inner thoughts than a linear story.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A
  • Review: Characters more important than plot but all well constructed.  Setting was good.  Not claustrophobic in spite of limited setting.  For some it had been a life changing experience.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Interesting well drawn characters - the story unfolds slowly.  The Halifax novelet sometimes intrusive, although becomes more relevant as the story progresses.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review:   Not one of Anita Shreve’s best books but still a page turner.  All felt the story within a story disrupting.  Overall poor narrative structure spoiled a good basic theme.  Some felt the story within the plot more interesting than the novel itself.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lee
  • Review:   Long haul flight reading.  Agnes’ historical ‘story’ was not relevant – although interesting.  Characters were well drawn and endings realistic.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: A good summer read.  Characters well drawn.  Good sense of place.  Would be happy to get another book by this author.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: Well written - characters well drawn.  Title meant what it said.   Thought provoking.  Tragic in its situation.  Etna as selfish as Nicholas in the end.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: The book divided our book club with the majority disliking it.  However, we managed to discuss it for  a long time.  Some felt it was easy reading, yet others felt there was too much going on and thought that it wasn't gripping.  Strangley some of our club enjoyed 'the story with the book' better than the actual book
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group:  Reading Enthusiasts

Anita Shreve - All He Ever Wanted

  • Review: Very animated discussion.  Enjoyed the style, found ourselves gripped.  Some loved it, some hated it.  Although finding the characters unsympathetic, we generally agreed that it was a well written study of ambition, secrecy and obsession.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne

Ann Shreve - Body Surfing

  • Review:  The meaning of the book and its title were discussed (considered a metaphor of life). The descriptions were considered good especially of the beach house, the area and its society. Generally the relationships and characters/personalities were found interesting and the emotions well shown. Most found the jilting at the wedding hard to take. Most liked it and considered it a quick and easy read, although there were too many "bolt on" bits, some found the narrative lacking".
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club

Anita Shreve -Fortune's Rocks

  • Review: Anita Shreve is a new author for out group and Fortune's Rock impressed us. We thought the tale of a disastrous love affair, the social manners of the times and the differences in the life of rich and poor was beautifully told. We will read more of this author.
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Hayling Island Library Readers' Group
  • Review: Well worth reading for the insight into life in the 1890s in that part of America. The author has a great gift of description and brought the surroundings alive, and the class ridden society with its bigotry and lack of understanding. Olympia grew through the experiences and responded to the challenges life threw at her. By the end of the book Pierre's future had been well if unexpectedly established
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : K. Y. C. Ladies
  • Review: There were 15 of us at this session and 3 people really like this book, 2 people thought it was terrible and the rest thought it was well written but hard to believe in places.
    Star rating: ** (and ½)
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: A well-written novel with particularly good descriptions. We liked the first half of the book better than the latter parts. Several of us found the characterisations unconvincing and we all thought the man was poorly drawn. We would have liked more about the Franco-Americans. The ending was weak.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Totton UIIIA
  • Review:  Excellent book for a reading group stimulating much discussion.  A scandalous story for the time 1899 which could have seemed tacky, but Anita Shreve treats her characters with dignity and compassion, combining amazing prose with detailed descriptions of the landscape, the coast and the everyday life of the time – for middle and nothing classes.  Very highly recommended.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Entre Nous
  • Review:  Most of us did not like this book after reading the first few chapters.  We persevered and were delighted that we did.  We all enjoyed this well written and thought provoking book.  We will be looking for more Anita Shreve.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Shipton Bellinger WI

Anita Shreve - Light on Snow

  • Review:  All readers enjoyed this book.  Simple but with strong emotional overtones and a story line with many possibilities as the plot unwinds.  A great deal of empathy of the girl.  Lots of hidden depths and response from readers about the “system” and its effect on the individual.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Everton Village

Anita Shreve - Testimony

  • Review:   Generally thought to have been a good read, although a few ladies thought the style and subject matter rather irritating.  Provoked a very lively and interesting discussion about human frailty and taking responsibility for ones actions in life.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford on Sea WI

Lionel Shriver - The Post Birthday World

  • Review: Have no empathy with characters.  Had high hopes about this book having read We Need to Talk About Kevin, but no-one in the group finished reading this book.  Author bit obsessed.  Too long.
    Star rating
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Lionel Shriver - We need to Talk About Kevin

  • Review: This book prompted the longest discussion we have ever had. In general it was well received but a small minority found the characters and plot of no interest. The ending came as a huge surprise to most people.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: WEA Afternoon
  • Review:  The majority of our group felt the book was unbelievable, in that the characters of Eva and Kevin were badly constructed.  We felt the story was un-necessarily sickening with the Author’s voice being too dominant and her motivations questionable and transparent.  One member loved the book.
    Star rating:  Three members NIL stars, One member ****
  • Review: This is not a book that we 'enjoyed', but one that was very thought provoking.  It is an emotionally draining book to read as it covers a very difficult subject.  It is a brilliantly written book that had a huge impact on us all.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Waterstones Group
  • Review: We agree wholeheartedly with 'Rocky Mountain News' - uncomfortable yet utterly mesmerizing.  Well crafted, clever novel which we found fascinating but very disturbing.  It engendered an excellent discussion, in which we agreed that nature - not nurture was to blame.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: We found it a demanding but rewarding read with an unexpectedly shocking twist at the end.  We would hesitate to recommend it because of the psychological damage it might do.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review:   Brilliant, controversial.  This book has proved the most controversial so far.  Very well written.  Well done the author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Willis
  • Review: A must read book. Irritating to begin with but persevere because you will soon become hooked on a story that will shock you and certainly make you think about what causes wickedness in children - nature or nurture. Your group will not be short of ideas for discussion. You probably know what it is about but don't be put off, Shriver handles her subject with sensitivity and so apart from it being very thought provoking it is a very good read.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Group was split.  Some thought it the best book they've read in ages, others never finished it as they thought it boring.  Provoked a long discussion on the content and mother/son relationship.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group: Andover Library
  • Review: A very wordy book which needs concentration.  However, as story evolved, well worth persevering with.  A gripping read which will leave you asking lots of questions.  A very good book for a reading group.  A fantastic book.
    Star rating:  ***+
    Reading Group: Reading Enthusiasts.

Neville Shute - A Town Like Alice

  • Review: A lovely book.  We recommend it highly.  The main characters are wonderful and the story beautifully constructed.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Accidental

Neville Shute - Requiem for a Wren

  • Review: The story pivots round the accidental killing of the 7 people on the plane and her atonement.  Well constructed and country descriptions were good.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Goodworth Clatford.

Alan Sillitoe - Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

  • Review: Seemed outdated to us all having seen the film so long ago - yet it was worth reading and we were able to look beyond the obvious storyline and could see how the main character was drawn from real life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Tadley

Nigel Slater - Toast

  • Review:  Generally considered an enjoyable read by the Group.  It provoked plenty of discussion.  A nicely written book that was easy to read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hawkley
  • Review:  Mixed reviews within the group.  Generally readers thought it was sad and that Slater was obsessive about food and that the book was a release for emotions.  Some thought it humorous and entertaining, others were irritated by the lack of chronological order of events.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Library Wed Afternoon
  • Review:  Generally considered an enjoyable read by the Group.  It provoked plenty of discussion.  A nicely written book that was easy to read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hawkley
  • Review: An enjoyable read.  Enjoyed the nostalgia of yesteryear.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Marchwood WI
  • Review: A very pleasant and enjoyable read which evoked many memories of our own childhoods.  A mixture of humour, happiness and sadness which evoked a lively discussion among the group.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Olive Tree

Mark Slouka - The Visible World

  • Review: The book is beautifully written but very complicated story.  Learnt a lot about World War II.  Interesting use of the poem by Auden 'As I Walked Out One Evening'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Accentors

Gillian Slovo - Ice Road

  • Review: Divided opinion led to lively discussion. Generally more members liked than disliked. Good for learning about Russian history. Individual stories of the characters relieved the overall depressing theme.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Yateley Library Reading Group
  • Review: Very much enjoyed by all, despite appalling story.  Felt very 'Russian'.  Characterisation acute.  Good presentation of atmosphere.  We learnt a lot about the Communist state.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: Most found it hard to get into and that it lumbered to start with. However it was generally considered well written/crafted and easy to read (like a child's book) and that it came together at the end with the second half being most interesting. Many commented that they felt it needed its length to reflect the detail and could not have been edited.
    It was thought to have too many characters who were captivating but quite complex. It was considered difficult that their names changed. The stories within the book were considered good reflecting romance, history, tragedy with excellent descriptions especially the ship and ice aspect, life in Russia including prison life and the value of life, also the affair with Jack, Anya and Natasha's life and the invented history etc. Most really liked it and felt it left one with a feeling of hope.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club
  • Review: An ambitious book, covering a wide sweep of events.  It conveys the fear and hardships of the Soviet people under Stalin.  Very readable.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle
  • Review: Very moving, engrossing and beautifully written.  Wonderful vignettes, well constructed, excellent character development.  Epic historical setting.  Highly recommended!
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne book group
  • Review: Not the best Slovo.  Three stories in one, a plethora of characters and Russian names.  Many of the group gave up before the book became more interesting.  Unfortunately others have done the siege of Leningrad and life under Communism which we enjoyed more.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: An enthralling story set in the perilous days of the Russian purges.  Real events intertwining with believable characters.  Some of the group found the Russian names difficult.  Interesting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental

Jane Smiley - A thousand acres

  • Review: One person thought this was wonderful. A few thought it was quite good, but most of the group gave it a two star rating. It was well written but the characters were not that believable.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review:  Well observed small town/family story.  A reversal of the Lear story – here the girls are the underdogs – in Lear, the women are on top.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Generally well received.  We were impressed how the author cleverly worked in aspects of the King Lear text.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Jane Smiley - Moo

  • Review: This is one of those books where there are so many characters and interweaving plots that it's easy to lose one's way. There are many interesting characteristics and observations about university campus life and a good deal of humour, but not an easy book to discuss in a group and a bit of a slog to get through
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : NWR
  • Review:  Boo Hoo to Moo
    We have read Moo
    It was a lot of poo
    Now over to you!
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Tarte’s Tatins

Ali Smith - The Accidental

  • Review: We cannot fathom how this book won the Whitbread prize or was short listed for the Booker.  Only one of our group struggled to finish it.  The rest of us gave up somewhere between pages 50-100 - bin it!
    Star rating: none
    reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 4
  • Review: The narrative didn't flow.  Virginia Wolff did it better.  As a group we did not enjoy the book!  A disappointment.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Alexander McCall Smith - Espresso Tales

  • Review: An excellent book for our first read.  Kept (most of) us turning the pages avidly.  All of us sympathised with Bertie - the trip to Glasgow/meeting with Lard O'Connor our favourite section.  We could have done without Ramsey Dunbarton's memoirs.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bidbury Mead WI
  • Review: A rather fragmented story - obviously because it had been written for serialisation.  Some strong characters - particularly Bertie and we all enjoyed Bertie's story, but found some of the other characters rather weak.  Some good insight and understanding of different characters/personalities.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Alexander McCall Smith - The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

  • Review:  We all enjoyed this charming book.  It held our interest right from the start when Mma Ramotswe solved the mystery of the bogus “Daddy”.  The details of Mona Ramotswe's’s early life and that of her father’s was cleverly woven into the story.  We liked the descriptions of Botswana, the atmosphere of the land itself, seemed quite magical – so different from our own.  We look forward to reading the next book in the series.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Titchfield Abbey WI
  • Review: An enjoyable light read.  Simple stories.  Most unusually everybody enjoyed it.  The African attitude is most refreshing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: An enjoyable light read - affectionate portrayal of Botswana life and people.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Faregrove Court
  • Review: Mixed opinions - more against than for.  Suitable more for junior reading.  All felt the description of the countryside good, could feel the heat.  Not inspired to read more of the author's books.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Mulberry

Alexander McCall Smith - The Full Cupboard of Life

  • Review: Enchanting and enjoyable book, very descriptive with lots of warm characters and good humour.
    Star rating ***
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: A splendidly gentle compelling read, full of compassion, morality and warmth. Mme Ramotswe deals with problems in a very modern psychological manner. A good insight into country Botswana life.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: Strongly mixed reviews - some loved it, others found it boring, slow with no real story. Some thought it was written in a childish way. However, some said it was true to life in Botswana and rich in character.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Everyone delighted to have a Botswanan at the meeting to explain everything.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle
  • Review: A gentle ramble through Botswana where good always triumphs over evil.  If you've seen the TV series you will know the characters, but the book takes you into their world.  A feel good novel to turn to when you need to restore your faith in human nature.  The mere sight of the cover restores the spirit.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Alexander McCall Smith - One City

  • Review: A great disappointment.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Alexander McCall Smith – The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

  • Review:  A ‘beach holiday’ read, a lightweight book.  Pleasant, but not absorbing.  If we had not seen previous No1 Ladies Detective Agency on TV we were unable to visualise the novels characters.  Would not actively seek any other novels by the author.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group:  The Benches

Alexander McCall Smith - The Sunday Philosophy Club

  • Review: Much as we liked his Botswana books, we found this disappointing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:   Have we been spoiled by The No.1 Lady Detective series?  Not convinced by Isabel’s character, but on the whole we love McCall Smith’s style of writing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington WI

Betty Smith - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

  • Review: A fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable story of a young girl's character being shaped by growing up in desperate poverty but being anchored by strong family ties and loyalties, belief in hard work and education, and enjoying the rich experiences of the Brooklyn environment with completely believable characters, wonderfully brought to life by the author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Headley Reading Group
  • Review: This book was thought to be well written and an inspiring account of a young girl's life overcoming poverty, superstition and ignorance in the early 1900s and ending on a triumphant note - a story of the American dream.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A
  • Review: Some members enjoyed this book, others found it tedious.  Presented as a novel, it read more as a series of incidents that lacked a clear sense of place and time.  In its day (1943), it was considered a humorous and inspirational book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle

Liz Smith - Our Betty

  • Review: Some of us enjoyed the books random, quirky memory style.  But others found it too light.  We all felt it had an immature writing style.  The 50 year old actress in the group found it very enlightening.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Accidental Book Club

Rebecca Smith - A Bit of Earth

  • Review: Most of the group loved this book and read it twice.  The characterisation was excellent and we felt the author had great empathy with her characters.  Having the opportunity to hear where the inspiration for this story came from and the authors thoughts was an added bonus which we thoroughly enjoyed.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Cambridge

Rebecca Smith - The Bluebird Cafe

  • Review: Good characterisations but all the effort to introduce them was pointless as they seemed to go virtually nowhere.  Book read like a Readers Digest condensed edition or an outline for a novel.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann WI
  • Review: Readers found this inoffensive. For those in a group who struggle to finish a book they will certainly finish this! Lightweight, pleasant, nothing dramastic hapens.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: Damzals, Yateley

Virginia Smith - The Ropemakers Daughter

  • Review: Groups opinions were varied . One thought it was super, one found it very depressing, several rather shallow in subject matter. Good description and sense of mystery. Beginning better than ending. Too much gratuitous sexual description- book need a warning in case of offending people.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Monks Brook U3A
  • Review: A good first half but went down hill rapidly. Interesting ideas about fantasy taking over real life. Unrealistic characters. Tried too hard - many things said just for effect.
    Star rating: * - **
    Reading Group: Whitchurch Reading Group
  • Review:  Disappointing but stimulated a lot of discussion.  A younger age group might have enjoyed it better.  Lack of empathy made it difficult for some.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  Goodworth Clatford WI
  • Review: Dreadful.  At times it felt like reading the efforts of a teenager trying to be clever, but that is probably unfair to teenagers.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Zadie Smith - On Beauty

  • Review: Where is the story?  We didn't like any of the one dimensional characters.  Thought provoking, made us think about relationships and roots.  Also the difference between families.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: The Villager Reading Group
  • Review:  We were unanimous in our view on this one - disappointing!  Good writing,  but the story came to no obvious conclusion and the characters dilemmas weren't satisfactorily dealt with.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: Huge diversity of opinion 2 men gave it full marks - others couldn't finish it.  Well structured, excellent character portrayal of academic USA/UK life in two opposing families.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: There was lots to say about 'On Beauty' with opinions divided on whether it was a good, well written book or not worth finishing.  Were the characters too complex, the issues too numerous and the book too long?  We seemed to agree, Kiki was our heroine, Howard was a waste of space and the book finished with us none the wiser as to how they were all going to turn out.  
    Star Rating: **+
    Reading Group: Locks Heath Reading Group

Zadie Smith - The Autograph Man

  • Review: Not an easy read but thought provoking, worth reading.  Some would give it a second read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A Group 2

Zadie Smith - White Teeth

  • Review: This book was received with the predictable range of reactions our group after some five years together, can be relied upon to produce. For a few, swearing is still a near no-no; for some, immigrant culture is ever alien; both topics provided excellent discussion material. The book was generally enjoyed but it was felt that it would have benefited from some rigid editing. The plot line was not strong enough to sustain interest for what is a long novel despite the excellent handling of dialogue and comic take on unfunny situations. An author worth following.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : New Forest/Waterside U.3.A Theatre & Literature Group
  • Review: Very mixed opinions. The characters did not develop and the book did not hold our groups attention
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : U3A Book Group 4
  • Review: Rather overlong and complicated.  Could take or leave Zadie Smith, but recognise her command of language and story weaving skill.  Her research into WWII and ethnic awareness are faultless.  A complicated book not 'enjoyed' but respected.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Everton

Dava Sobel - Galileo's Daughter

  • Review: Well researched, absorbing. Fascinating insight into the times and ways of the period.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties
  • Review: Excellent, beautifully written, very informative.  great insight into the influence of the church at that time.  Aroused a lively discussion in our group.  Very good book club choice.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Brighton Hill U3A
  • Review: Quite a difficult read initially but well worth the effort.  The author makes science accessible.  The relationship between Galileo and his daughter is very movingly brought to life.  The stranglehold of the Catholic Church regarding all aspects of life but particularly science/invention is horrifically described also the yawning divide between the lives of men and women.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Lee
  • Review: All found it difficult to read especially as there were so many characters at the start, there were lots of quotes, too much scientific information, the conversation was not like for being one sided, it was repetitive and it jumped around chronically. It was considered to be more about Galileo than his daughter. On the positive side the letters were found to be delightful, the life in the convent was interesting although sad, as were the aspects of church versus science and the ending was liked especially the calendar. However it was considered that although the subject matter was interesting it was not well handled in this book. Out of 10 people only 2 finished it (one being the host) highlighting that most did not like it
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Boaters Book Club
  • Review: Despite the title it is a wonderful account of Galileo's life and times.  It is a wonderfully researched book, very detailed and well written.  It is a slow read but well worth close study, touching as it downs on the dichotomy between scientific research and the Bible.
    Star rating: ***
    REading Group:  The Book Group

David Starkey - Six Wives of Henry VIII

  • Review: What scholarship.  A book to dip in.  At times whole mass of details overwhelming.  Overall enjoyable.
    Star rating: ****

John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath

  • Review:  Brilliantly written – wonderful description of characters, gripping and very human.  Enjoyed by the whole group, without exception.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  U3A Book Circle 3
  • Review: A great classic still very relevant today with wonderfully drawn characters.  A triumph of hope over despair as they cross the dust bowl of America - not a holiday read.
    Star rating: ****
    reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 4
  • Review: Everyone agreed that this was a book well worth working through; powerful, well written and at times a heart rending insight into the trials and tribulations of a family looking for 'the promised land'.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: KYC
  • Review: Our group found this a fascinating, multi-layered book, beautifully written.  Excellent for a reading group to discuss.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Perspectives

C. Steward - The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society

  • Review: A breath of summer air.  Those who had not read the previous books really enjoyed this.  Those who had still enjoyed it but preferred the earlier ones.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Mari Strachan - The Earth Hums in B Flat

  • Review: Good book for a reading group to discuss.  Interesting historical detail of Wales and the 1950s.  The title did not fit the book?  Possible crossover for teenagers.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Perspectives
  • Review: General opinion was a delightful book with the author showing brilliant ability to get into the mind of a child.  Brought back many childhood memories.  One member did feel that the underlying blackness had risen too close to the surface by the end of the book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Dean Lane

Nicole Strauss - The History of Love

  • Review:  An interesting story but a very difficult read.  Density of detail, confusion with names.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Denmead Reading Circle

Charles Stross - Accelerando

  • Review:  Full of interesting ideas, but far too long and incoherent.  Needs an editor
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  WCA Reading Circle

Judith Summers – My Life With George

  • Review:   Very endearing story, funny, sad and remarkable really.  The difference a dog can make to people’s lives in times of distress.
    Star rating:
    reading Group: Cheerful Bags

Kate Summerscale - The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

  • Review: Only two out of ten of us finished this book.  Most of us felt that the start was promising; anticipating a good period drama or an interesting insight into Victorian detectives.  But gave up half way through - 'it was hard to remember all the characters', 'it was like a puzzle you wanted to concentrate on but couldn't', 'too many sidetracks', 'Mr Whicher was trying to be reactive but the system wouldn't recognise his worth'.  Evidence from historical texts, paintings, papers, books was interesting to start with.
    Star rating: *
    Reading  Group: Cowdray Park
  • Review:  Most people did not enjoy this book.  did not read well - too many cross references.  One person really liked it because of the literary associations and early detection.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review: The historians in our group enjoyed the detailed and thorough research and found the insight into the history of detection and crime literature interesting. The majority, however, found the writing unengaging and felt the known facts are too spare to make an interesting book.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Patrick Suskind - Perfume

  • Review: Unusual, different, perhaps even unique, both in terms of style and narrative. Involving an amoral perfumer who is a genius with scent but not possessing of a scent himself. In order to create the perfect scent he murders a number of girls but is caught. The book is dark and perverse, none more so than the ending. Not necessarily a book to enjoy but certainly one to give you plenty to think about and discuss.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Alton Library Reading Group
  • Review: Most of our group didn't like the theme of the book, but found it compelling reading.  Would recommend it.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gluttons for Books
  • Review: The group found this book disturbing in many respects, but on the other hand some of us enjoyed the style of the novel.  It flows (although it is a translation), and its descriptive power is considerable.  An unusual and powerful allegory.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: Excellent, intriguing, descriptive, well researched, fascinating, educational, disgusted some of us in an addictive kind of way!  Unanimous 10/10 loved it.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bookaholics

Vikas Swarup – Slumdog Millionaire

  • Review:   We all enjoyed this book.  It has some painful lows and joyful highs.  After a short discussion we watched the film which we also enjoyed, and then chatted about the differences and similarities between the two.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Valleydene

Graham Swift - Last Orders

  • Review: Tackles the subject of death in a humorous and unsentimental way, peopled with characters that spring from the page. Told predominantly, from the male point of view, this shouldn't put women readers off. Londoners will recognise the ambience instantly.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Hayling Island Library Readers' Group
  • Review: This book provoked much discussion - we thought it well written with appropriate language for each character. We found parallels with the Canterbury Tales- a pilgrimage through their different lives as well as on their sombre errand. Liked the open ending - what might happen next.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Littleton Book Club
  • Review: Also read Waterland.  Last orders was the preferred book with a bitter sweet story.  Waterland was a more difficult read with the story of the fens echoing into the lives of the characters.  Two very different voices from a very good writer.  A very big read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Personally thought it wonderful, but majority of group found the style (time and people) confusing.  They did admire content, but found difficulty in establishing who was who.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hayling Island U3A Group 1
 

T

L Tademy - Cane River

  • Review: Excellent book, enjoyed by all members.  great story based on fact and verbal histories of the time.  An interesting slant on the 'slave book' and very thought provoking.  A very good book group read as lots of discussion ensued, but fairly long and not all members finished.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Biscuits, Books and Banter

Amy Tan - The Bonesetter's Daughter

  • Review: The cultural differences between the East and West and the old and young makes an interesting story.  We also liked and appreciated the cover design.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  The Accidental Book Club
  • Review: An enjoyable read.  An interesting insight into Chinese culture.  A well crafted plot with believable characters.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Stubbington Bookends

Donna Tartt - The Little Friend

  • Review: Sometimes overly descriptive. Atmosphere and characters good. Some readers frustrated by non-conclusion of 'who dunnit!' Conjured up vivid images and atmosphere with chases etc. Viewed through eyes of 12 year old - really different and interesting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Abbotts Ann
  • Review:  The group thought the book was over long.  The characters were difficult to believe and the members were unable to relate to the society described.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Southampton U3A

Donna Tartt - The Secret History

  • Review: A book most of our group found compelling although hard work in the reading.  Only one member of the group admitted giving up after the first chapter.  Even our least comprehending reader expressed enjoyment, but in our subsequent discussion revealed that much of this many-layered novel passed over her head.  From a search for a theme we learned more about personal attitudes than usual and how shallow is our knowledge of Greek legends.  Although we rated it **** there seemed to be a feeling of uncertainty as to why we rated it so highly.  Perhaps the spectre of Homer was hovering over us.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A

Andrew Taylor - The American Boy

  • Review:  The book was enjoyed by all the group who felt it was very well written.  Provoked a good discussion.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: A mixed reception.  Reminiscent of a Victorian melodrama.  Lacked coherence.  Descriptions of early 19th century London were interesting.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A
  • Review: Victorian melodrama and creepy expectations of some dark undertones enjoyed by all members.
  • Star rating: ***
    Reading group: Winchester Inner Wheel

Elizabeth Taylor - Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont

  • Review: We had very mixed reactions though all agreed that it was beautifully written and that the characterisation was good.  As a very elderly group several found it too near the bone and depressing, consequently disliking it while the other half, accepting its theme of old age, considered it a book they wouldn't have missed.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Selborne Book Circle
  • Review:  Set in a London Hotel c. 1950, it is a picture of old age and independence.  It was a parallel with today - the tightrope walked between sheltered housing and the nursing home.  Believable characters.  The interaction between residents, staff and few visitors is very real.  A good read.  Not a comfortable one.  We will read more Elizabeth Taylor.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Roma Tearne - Brixton Beach

  • Review: We enjoyed reading this book, particularly the interesting characters and the grandfather-granddaughter relationship.  The book is thought-provoking and well-written. It gave us insights into what it's like to move to a foreign country where you can't integrate, and the power of memories.  There was unmitigating sadness and tragedy for virtually all the characters, and we were left wondering why the author had written such a miserable story... we know that a lot of it is autobiographical, and she seems to believe that terror is everywhere. The book certainly contains a message about fate and acceptance of fate - which may explain the passivity of the characters. Because of this, not all of us would read another book by this author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fareham 5:30

Peter Temple - Truth

  • Review: A highly divisive book.  The deliberately stripped back style demands re-reading for full effect (or comprehension!) and is very effective at setting mood.  Temple doesn't make things easy for the reader, rather than explicitly spelling things out, he puts the clues there but many times leaves the reader to put them together.  If you can do that it's a stunning book.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Fleet Library Readers

Jean Teulé - Monsieur Montespan

  • Review: We felt that the charcters were shallow.  A bawdy romp.  Could have been better written, better characterisation, less emphasis on the sex, more on the history.  Monsieur is a sympathetic character however and the peasant characters quite well drawn.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

Josephine Tey - The Daughter of Time

  • Review: An excellent and entertaining read. We will never look at historical 'facts' in quite the same way again. Alastair Campbell didn't invent spin, in fact he could have learnt a trick or two from Henry VII. Highly recommended.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • A police superintendent, in hospital, after an accident, gets very bored. A friend suggests he solve an historical crime and brings him copies of portraits. He is intrigued by Richard III's face and decides to investigate the mystery of the Princes in the Tower. Aided by a young American doing research at the British Library, they come to a surprising conclusion. Minor characters - his nurses, surgeon, the Matron, his housekeeper are all well drawn and help the story along.
    With one exception our group thoroughly enjoyed this well researched book and we had a good discussion.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group Selborne Book Circle
  • Review: The group enjoyed this with some reservations - not 'great' literature but a stimulating subject.  It was probably original in its day - now people prefer the more vigorous historical novels.  More in the nature of an essay than a novel.  It makes the reader re-consider prejudice and ready made opinions.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:  CC Readers
  • Review: Intriguing slant on the history of Richard III.  We were lucky that we were reading this book when his bones were found ina car park in Leicester!  We enjoyed reading and learning the historical aspects of this book.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Gtoup 2

Paul Theroux – Millroy the Magician

  • Review: Almost universally panned.  Only one person liked it, most didn’t finish it.  Too long, repetitive, creepy, disgusting.  The only positive opinion liked the descriptions of the magic and the satire of American evangelical preachers and business practice.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Fareham WEA Evening
  • Review: Mixed reception.  Disturbing and unsettling.  Too long and repetitive.  OK of you like magic.  Realism.  Promoted lively discussion.
    Star rating: *+
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge U3A 2

Leslie Thomas - Waiting for the Day

  • Review:  A very easy read – humorous book – giving an insight into the day to day life before the invasion, especially being local.
    Star rating:  **
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A
  • Review: We really enjoyed this book.  A painless way to absorb history.  Much discussion and some memories were stirred.  We highly recommend Waiting for the Day, but then we do live on Salisbury Plain!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Majority of group didn't finish book due to the slow story line and disjointed story.  
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Cowdray
  • Review: Out of nine members, only one enjoyed this book.  Bland, without substance and bitty were the general comments.  A few thought of it as an easy read.  Those who tolerated it were of an age to recall the war through childhood.  Disappointing.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hedge End

Rosie Thomas - Iris and Ruby

  • Review: we enjoyed the interesting relationships between the three generations of women and how they changed and developed during the story.  There was good use of poetic language describing the poignancy of memory loss.  A good read (although the constant change of voice and person was a bit too much).
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Sandy's

Harry Thompson - Penguins Stopped Play

  • Review: A 'different' book with some resonances in travel and sport.  The descriptions of places and people were clear and vibrant.  What an interesting if short life Harry Thompson led.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Colin Thubron - In Siberia

  • Review: Universal enjoyment - of writing, information (few knew anything about Siberia and felt much better informed), and writers engagement with people he encountered.  Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: An excellent, well written book which caused detailed discussions.  Despite the sad ending we would recommend this to other groups.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies Who Lunch
  • Review: A sweeping panorama of events and places – the vastness and inadequate nature of a society apparently sifting through the ruins of the old Communist era; not quite clear of what can fill the vacuum and harking back to several imagined golden ages.  ‘The ice fields are crossed forever by a man in chains’ summed up for many of our group what this book is all about.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:   Written like a classic with some poetic phrases.  The description gave a graphic picture of the not so modern Russia and Siberia (in Western terms).  Most were surprised at the ‘sudden’ and without reflection or comment from the author.  An observation without personal comment or judgement from a consummate traveller.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Everton

Alan Titchmarch – Nobbut A Lad

  • Review:   Most members enjoyed the book – recalling memories from their own childhood.  One disliked it as bland.  Most thought it was well written with good characterisation – all believable.  No health and safety!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Havers

Colm Toibin - The Master

  • Review: A beautiful writing style - we felt that it fell between 2 stools - neither a biography or a novel and therefore found it quite a difficult read. We were at a disadvantage not, having read any of the Henry James novels which we are now anxious to do.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Enjoying books
  • Review:  Not enjoyed by any members of the group and only completed by a few.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group
  • Review: A well received book despite highly intellectual.  Read as a biography to help with the understanding.  Many unconnected incidents or follow up situations.  A clever book with the author 'getting' into the mind of another author.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI

Leo Tolstoy - Anna Karenina

  • Review:   Everyone enjoyed it despite its length which is rather longer than modern readers are used to! The descriptions, characterisation and themes were enjoyed by everyone although some admitted to skipping over the longer digressions. Although the title of the novel is given to Anna, many of the other characters attracted our sympathy or despair in equal measure - it was a great study of humankind and its strengths and weaknesses. The description of Anna's descent into paranoia was outstanding. We now want to read War and Peace - one day!
    Star rating: *****+
    Reading Group: CC Readers
  • Review:   Everyone loved this, admired the characterisation, humour, descriptions, complexities.  If any complaints were given it was that for today and not serialised, it was very long, occasionally boring.  But could feature as a book to take to a desert island for comfort and interest.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: CC Readers

Steve Tolz – A Fraction of the Whole

  • Review:   A book which divided the group (into fractions!), but we agreed it was well written.  Some of the group thought it rambled.  It’s a story based on existentialism – philosophical.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Accidental Book Club

Claire Tomalin - Jane Austen - a life

Review: This book provoked a lot of discussion because of the amount of meticulaous detail it contained.  It offered great insight into Jane Austen's novels and the social history of her time.
N.B. there is a family tree at the back of the book.
Rating: 3 Stars
Reading Group: Arle

Claire Tomalin - The Invisible Woman

  • Review: A book of painstaking research into the hidden life of Charles Dickens and his alleged mistress, Nelly Ternan, a young actress. From the book you gain considerable insight into Victorian attitude to social morality especially with regard to the theatre; the position of actresses and women in general. Tomalin exposes the hypocrisy on which much of the morality was based, but also gives an inspiring account of the struggle for independence of the four remarkable Ternan women. Light is also shone upon Dickens work; the influence of his theatrical passion, his addiction to fame and his reluctance to acknowledge his flawed character
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : World of Books U.3.A Portsmouth
  • Review: This book was made more interesting for us as a member of the group had family connections with one of the areas in the book. We felt it was book with depth of scholarship but it did not “romp” along. The background of the acting profession was very good and added to our knowledge of Dickens. It also showed well the position of women in Victorian society.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review:  This biography made a lot of very few actual facts and was found to be on the dull side.  Not recommended – not up to her usual standard.
    Star rating:  *
    Reading Group:  U3A 1
  • Review: It was a flimsy subject, but the authoress made the most of it.  Good historical detail regarding the theatre.  It showed how precarious life was for men and women in Victorian times.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bridewell Beauties

Claire Tomalin - Samuel Pepys, The Unequalled Self

  • Review: As rich as a Christmas pudding.  A fascinating educational insight into the period.  Beautifully written but not an easy read because of the amount of detail.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Anton U3A Bookies
  • Review: Some of our group thought this book was going to be heavy reading but to our surprise it was the one book that received the highest marks from individual to group reading marks, and we would all recommend to other groups to give it a go.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Tadley Thursday Book Club

Paul Torday - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

  • Review: Enjoyed by everybody in the group.  Beautifully written.  More by this author please when they become available.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI
  • Review: enjoyed by all.  Can be read on many levels.   Good and interesting format.  Good characterisation and plotting.  Informative.  A good read for book clubs.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Forest Arts
  • Review: Generally enjoyed; in parts very funny; obviously quite ‘Pooterish’ - some parts like Hamlet’s letters/fiancée seem extraneous and a bad fit with the cartoonish satire.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review: Most of us found this book highly amusing; we felt it was very original and easy to read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: An original story involving amusing political satire.  An enjoyable read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Group 2
  • Review: Warm and humourous.  An original satire on the world of political spin and opportunism. Believable and poignant characters.  Contemporary themes of east-west relations and politicians vs scientists very relevant.  Well written and enjoyed by all the group.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: King's Somborne

P J Tracy - Want to Play

  • Review: A well written page-turner
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: The majority of the group really enjoyed the book and thought I was a page turner.  One member found the language to be particularly blasphemous and as a result did not finish the book.  Others were put off by the ‘Americanisms’ of the language.  Overall though it was a positive response, hence the 3 stars.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Cowdray

Barbara Trapido - Juggling

  • Review: Not very memorable. Contrived throughout. Would not recommend.
    Rating: **
    Reading Group : Thruxton Bookends
  • Review: A well-written, gripping first chapter but, unfortunately, the following areas are disappointing. Trapido tries to combine reality with fantasy and concludes with a Shakespearean ending that fails.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Redhouse Reading Group
  • Review:  Good fun, too many characters to remember!  End was somewhat trite, but explained by the Shakespearian references.
    Star rating:  ** and a half
    Reading Group:  Ten for Books
  • Review:  The writing style was enjoyed by the group and the majority of the group completed it.  The story line moved in some very bizarre ways which at times stretched credibility.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Hawkley Book Group

Barbara Trapido - Frankie and Stankie

  • Review:  Detailed but light-hearted description of a girl growing up in South Africa under apartheid.  Group members found it nostalgic as the subject was of similar age to themselves.  Most found it difficult to read as there was a lot of information and backtracking.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Eastleigh Library Wednesday Group
  • Review: Much discussed.  Historic content good, but over descriptive.  It should be classified as biographic.  Well thought of.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Solent U3A
  • Review: Many of the group didn't finish it because they found the style tedious and too autobiographical (too much detail).  Lack of plot - neither a novel nor autobiography.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review: A fictionalised memoir which fluctuates between delightfully anecdotal descriptions of growing up in South Africa in 1940's and 50's and the much darker - and obviously strongly felt - view of apartheid.  Perhaps more a woman's tale because of the female details.  A book for reading aloud.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: Interesting slice of South African history.  Particularly social and also political - more enjoyed by the ladies of the group.  Initially a 'light' read but more can be gained in good discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Lymington U3A
  • Review: This novel produced mixed reactions.  Some readers enjoyed the historical details about a society which had existed in parallel time with our own.  Several found the staccato style irritating at first but read their way into it.  The various political, religious and social barriers in South Africa generated very vibrant discussion.  Almost everyone appreciated the humour.  
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: Members got bogged down with detail.  Some good descriptions i.e. adolescence which we could relate to, but overall a mediocre read.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:  Stubbington Book Ends

Rose Tremain - The Colour

  • Review: The colour in this novel is gold, which is the cause of obsessive greed and which brings neither of the main characters happiness. A husband and wife move to New Zealand in search of a new life. Rose Tremain tells their story with vivid descriptions of their isolation, the harshness of the land the weather and the quest for the impossible.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: A very easy read, entertaining. Enjoyed a lot by several members but questions about historical accuracy. Well written but perhaps not a very memorable book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wickham - Forster
  • Review:  Very enjoyable!  Fascinating details about the New Zealand gold rush which I had not heard of before!  A wonderful story but rather too much, I thought, of the explicit sex!
    Star rating:
    Reading Group:  Romsey U3A
  • Review: Very good, colourful, descriptively written, dull at times which made it slightly depressing and sedentary.  Read by all of the group.  Not one of her better books!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Hawkley
  • Review: Too long, but fairly interesting.  Storyline of boy and Maori girl seemed inconsequential to main story.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Chatalot
  • Review: So many themes: unresolved guilt, a search for personal freedom, the powerful lure of gold, lack of comprehension of fundamental differences between races, the extreme testing of loyalties gave plenty of scope for discussion.  All of these plus a new and interesting picture of New Zealand and a beautifully tender love story.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review: An epic, majestic tale of human frailty and greed set against a cruel landscape.  Strong, beautifully observed characters (especially the women), though Joseph totally unsympathetic.  The impact of European settlement on Maori culture was interesting but a bit distracting as it did not seem to gel with the main plot.  A compelling, lyrical read which kept the reader guessing till the end.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: The majority really liked this book. It was considered a good reflection on New Zealand, people's life, people's desire, gratification, greed, arrogance, personal drive, survival and relationships. The characters were enjoyed including those on the periphery as well as the main ones, in particular, Lilian the mother-in-law with her garden, pigs, china repair; Pare for her representation of Maori culture and mysticism; Joseph for his weaknesses, gold fever and hidden secret of Rebecca; the Chinaman for his culture, garden and lovemaking; Dorothy and Toby for their way of life and Harriet for many reasons. It was felt that there was a lot of symbolism in the water, earth, house being washed away, as well as the gold itself. Lilian's repairing of the china is an example of this. Some "darkness" was also seen as in the abortion conducted by a vet, the cow being snowed in, Will's situation (which was part of an extended discussion), and being pecked to death by ostriches whilst wearing a hat. It was considered that the book consisted of many different but parallel stories some of more or less relevance. Rose Tremain was considered a good writer and most liked the bits and pieces even though they didn't always exactly fit. Many would like to reread it. It was also considered that much was achieved in a relatively short book (about 350 pages). Most finished it quickly as they were enjoying it so much. However some did not like it in total.
    Star Rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club
  • Review: We were disappointed - not the best of her books.  The title 'The Colour' felt ironic in such a dreary drab atmosphere in the tale.  The highlight was near the end, the scene in the cave mirrors Hemingway's description at the beginning of 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'!  Hard to find the heart of the story.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ten for Books
  • Review: All enjoyed this brilliantly written book although it was ponderous in places.  An interesting insight into the hardships of early settlers in New Zealand and of people trying to find gold.  The brutality of Joseph is well portrayed both in New Zealand and England, as is the bravery of Lilian and Harriet.  A good read.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group: Phoenix

Rose Tremain - The Road Home

  • Review: Dark, depressing story.  Main character had few friends, no hidden agendas.  Perhaps because of coming from a village.  Author deliberately doesn't say exactly where 'home' is - representing immigrants from Eastern EU countries.  Good beginning, got lost and dragged in the middle, rushed ending.  Quick, happy everything tied up.  Ending too good to be true.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Review: Everyone thought very highly of this book - both individually and as a group read it received one of our highest marks.  We all agreed she had researched exceedingly well and we will now read more of her books.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Tadley Thursday Afternoon Group
  • Review: A book that everyone should read to explain the immigrants point of view.  A thoroughly enjoyable book, beautifully written, superb characters and very well researched.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: 8 out of 10 readers loved this book, thinking RT a very moral writer.  We couldn’t stop talking about her, the main character and the issues raised about migrant workers; the pretentions and realities of British life in the 21st Century; pornography versus art; male v female perceptions.  We will read more of Rose Tremain.  We particularly liked the cadence of her language, her insights and humour.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: St Mary’s RC Parish
  • Review: Overall a most interesting and engaging novel.  The main character was less convincing than other portrayals, but Tremain offers a taste of British life as a member of the underclass/immigrants.  The kitchen scenes were brilliant.  The references to Hamlet were apposite but rather contrived.  A very warm and happy ending.
    Star rating: ***
  • Review: This is an interesting story of an East European immigrant to London and his efforts to make enough money to keep his family at home.  The linked love story is shallow.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Morningtide WI
  • Review: A well written account which gave a good insight into the life of an immigrant - recognising their sense of isolation and the drama and frustration of living away from home in a foreign country.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Oakham
  • Review: A very enjoyable read although flawed in parts.  A true reflection of human life. It is unusual in modern novels to to have such an optimistic ending, which made it a pleasure to read.  An excellent array of characters.
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Kings Somborne
  • Review: We were all smiles as we discussed this book.  Members vied to cite their favourite group of characters. A story of an immigrant from an unnamed Eastern European country that encompassed all facets of human nature. For once the blurb on the book was right. "Rose Tremain writes comedy that can break your heart"
    Rating: 5 Stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We admired her writing style and enjoyed the story.  It was good to have a happy ending! But it did not go without criticism.  A little predictable and a number of stereotypical characters - otherwise great!
  • Star rating: ***
  • Reading Group: Victoria

Adriana Trigiani - Lucia Lucia

  • Review: 'Rather light and woolly'
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Wellow Reading Group

Adriana Trigiani - Big Stone Gap

  • Review:  We liked it!  Very readable and visual.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Whitchurch
  • Review: We found it amusing and it gave us an insight into American small town life in the 70s.  We were left with unanswered questions about some characters and their storylines.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group 2

Anthony Trollope – The Warden

  • Review: We all loved this book.  It was comfortable, delightful, contemporary, concise with amiable characters in a difficult situation.  Could easily be set today.  Masterful.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King’s Somborne

Joanna Trollope - Second Honeymoon

  • Review: This book was nearly enjoyed by everybody.  Very well written showing life today when the children leave home and how Edie learns to adjust when she begins working again and then they all want to return.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Bookworms

Jonathan Tropper - How to Speak to a Widower

  • Review: We all really like this, finding it funny, yet sad, thought provoking and poignant.  We thought the characterisation was brilliant, and we liked and empathised with the characters.  Most of us would like to read other books by this author.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Fawley/Holbury U3A

Lynne Truss - Eats, Shoots and Leaves

  • Review: You'll either love it or hate it but this book is a painless way to absorb grammar.  If 'cream tea's' set your teeth on edge - this book is for you.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Lynne Truss -Tennyson's Gift

  • Review: This bizarre and fascinating novel has a wealth of eccentric historical characters with a plot that centres round Julia Margaret Cameron's obsession for Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Appearances by Lewis Carroll and Ellen Terry add to the element of farce that runs through the book which is an amusing and enjoyable read
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Hayling Island Library Readers' Group
  • Review: 1. Needs perseverance but improves later in the book.2. Needs background knowledge of the characters.3. Aroused mixed feelings in a group of 8. 4. Fascinating interweaving of Tennyson and Dodgson's work
    Rating:*
    Reading Group : Petersfield U3A Book Circle III
  • Review: Rather a contrived novel, but accurate historically. Of interest because of setting in I.O.W;comic in parts, especially in descriptions of characters. The storyline is not inspiring and does not hold the attention of the reader
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Petersfield U3A Book Circle II
  • Review: Far too whimsy and nonsensical for most of group but it did produce much discussion. Gave knowledge of Victorian personalities. Not for general appeal we felt.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review: Very humorous and well written. Important to know the background of these late Victorian characters in order to appreciate the references. A very funny story, written as a farce. We felt it would make a good stage play.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Most people were disappointed with this book.  Funny - no, we didn't think so.  We also would have liked to know if this was really the true situation in the Isle of Wight.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A Group 1
  • Review: Diverse response - most enjoyed it after an initial stumbling start.  Surreal and very funny.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: The group was very divided and the book caused much discussion.  Some loved it, others didn't like it at all so we were unable to give a star rating.
    Reading Group: White Lion

James Twining - Double Eagle

  • Review: Rather tedious and cliched.  The author squeezed a lot of technical information into this book at the expense of the story.
    Rating: 2 Stars
    Reading Group: North Hayling Reading Group.

Anne Tyler – Digging To America

  • Review:   This was not a popular book among the group.  Some were fascinated by the minutiae, others bored by it.  It was felt to be a ‘womans’ book, some of the men did not finish it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Ems Valley U3A
  • Review:  A heart warming account of the meeting of different cultures.  Amusing and entertaining; an easy read which belies the depth with which relationships are explored.  We all enjoyed it.
  • Star rating: not given
  • Reading Group: The Democrats

Ann Tyler - The Amateur Marriage

  • Review: Most enjoyed it. Lead to much discussion on modern marriages.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Warwick Worms
  • Review: Most thought that this was a fairly average book. A bit slow and dull. We could emphasise with the situation and characters. Description of era very good and brought back childhood memories. Characters were credible and family situations realistic.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Library
  • Review: We felt this book was realistic, thought provoking and well written.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Happy Days
  • Review: 60's really well told.  Poignant observations of a family torn apart by tragedy.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Villager Reading Group
  • Review: All our group enjoyed this novel.  Tyler is very good at creating the social fabric over four decades of an Anglo-Polish community.  Some of us also enjoyed the occasional droll humour and sudden swift changes of mood.  A worthwhile read and with a unique style.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms

Anne Tyler - Noah's Compass

  • Review: A gentle story with astute observations of every day human behaviour.  A touch of humour, despite dealing with dysfunctional relationships.  The novel ends with a sense of hope.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Arle
 

U

Barry Unsworth - Losing Nelson

  • Review: Disliked by all, but it did generate discussion. Pity we had to read the book first.
    Star rating: No stars
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: We considered this to be a very skillfully written book.  Main character's obsession with Nelson fascinating.  Much discussion about cult of celebrity and meaning of heroism.  Anyone who enjoys faction would find the interweaving with fact and fiction and looking at life from different view points very satisfying.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature Group
  • Review: A difficult book to read but gave considerable discussion.  The obsessive main character with nelson and his secretary - so inter related. the lesser characters played a part. The ending was shocking but the group was split about meaning. Unusual and very clever.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: Havers
  • John Updike - Rabbit at Rest

  • Review: Two thirds of the group enjoyed their first reading of J Updike with its vivid detail of life in USA (and old age as well).
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Petersfield - U3A 1
  • Review: The group (3 men, 5 women) were divided on this book.  Half are reading other of Updike's 'Rabbit' books to fill in the full story.  The others found the pace repetitive - little change of momentum.  Very good USA contextual descriptive work.  Very fine writing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Hartley Readers
  • Review: We were pleased to have familiarised ourselves with such a renowned author but the bulk of the group did not enjoy reading it.  Rabbit's crude, foulmouthed character was just so unsympathetic.  The novel seemed very overwritten and attempts at reading aloud were difficult because of phrasing and curious punctuation. Great discussion material however.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Southsea Literature
 

V

Abraham Veghese - Cutting for Stone,

  • Review: This was a great story, with a set of lovely characters, both major and minor. Some people found it hard to get into, as so much background has to be described before the twins' story can really be told. One person found the medical descriptions of operations a bit too detailed. We all appreciated the resolution at the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fareham 5:30

Various – The Natural Shorty Story Prize

  • review:  Five stories by five authors.  This provoked lots of discussion regarding common themes, various styles and personal favourites.  Very easy to read – the short stories were short!
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ladies Who Lunch

Salley Vickers - Miss Garnet's Angel

  • Review: This intriguing novel traces the life of a retired school teacher as she leaves her familiar uneventful life in London to spend six months in Venice. The transformation which Miss Garnet undergoes is inextricably linked to the art, history and culture of Venice and is interspersed with the story of Tobias and the angel from the Apocrypha. We very much enjoyed this novel
    Rating: ****
    Reading Group : Queen Mary's College Library Reading Group
  • Review: A pleasurable read. A book you could return to again and enjoy as much the second time round
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Petersfield U3A Book Group 4
  • Review: A gentle enjoyable book in a wonderful setting – good interlocking of past and present stories – learnt much and intrigued by Tobias and the angel.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Milford Reading Group
  • Review:  For once we all really enjoyed this book on all its levels and though Tobias’ tale took some getting used to, its relevance became clear as the stories merged.
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  KYC
  • Review:  We all found it interesting but not compelling – most of us didn’t ‘get’ it until the end.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Whitchurch Book Club
  • Review:  We really liked this one!
    Star rating:  ****
    Reading Group:  Friends of Farnborough
  • Review: It's never too late to change your views/behaviour, whatever your age?  We thought it conjured up Venice beautifully, that the characters were definitively portrayed 'fully fleshed' individuals.  Liked the two stories running alongside one another.  Enjoyed her writing style but at times sentences too long and difficult to understand.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Brockenhurst
  • Review: Mixed reception - some did not finish.  Those who did quite enjoyed, particulary the apocalyptic references.  Seemed to be set in the 30s not present day.  The setting of Venice enjoyed, character of Miss Garnet changed a great deal by the end of the book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Monk's Brook U3A
  • Review: Our book club thought there were too many stories going on at the same time which made it difficult to enjoy and follow with sympathy.  Only one of our members, upon second reading, found it more comprehensible than the rest of us.  Somewhat disappointing.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Verity's Book Club

Salley Vickers - Mr Golightly's Holiday

  • Review: A clever plot, an enjoyable read, with a surprise ending. From a group of ten, two members objected to some of the language used. The main opinion was 'a good book'
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Solent UA
  • Review: I really enjoyed this book – most particularly the first half, before I “cottoned on” to the fact that all was not as first appeared. I loved the village characters, particularly Paula and Johnny and found the humour very well observed.
    No Star rating
    Reading Group: Basingstoke Library Thursday Afternoon Group
  • Review: Well written if a bit too over the top in some descriptions.  A pleasant rural story spoilt somewhat by becoming a game of spot the reference.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: A much enjoyed read.  A fable with engaging description and well-drawn characters.  Beautifully written by a consummate crafter of the written word.  Well deserved top grading – an author to return to.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group:  Everton
  • Review:   For the first time since our group started making use of the county reading group store there was a universal one star rating reluctantly given for this book.  Salley Vickers certainly writes descriptive English beautifully but whatever Mr Golightly’s Holiday is, it is certainly not a novel.  Our discussion left us wondering at what readership market this psycho-religious excursion was aimed.  Only the discipline of the group carried most of us through the first third of the book and it was not considered in the least funny.  Not a book we would pass on to a friend.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: New Forest/Waterside U3A
  • Review:   Very divided, generally a poor reception, many did not finish the book.  Too many characters not well developed, untidy and misleading.  One reader re-read after finding out the denouement and enjoyed it.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group:

Salley Vickers - The Other Side of You

  • Review: Interesting, thoroughly enjoyed by everybody.  Good use of other art forms.  The mention of Caravaggio's painting and descriptions of Rome showed the author's knowledge and gave greater depth to this well written book.  Quite thought provoking and would recommend this book.
    Star rating: ***+
    Reading Group: Bookworms
 

W

Alice Walker - Now is the time to Open your Heart

  • Review: Disappointing to those who had read 'Color Purple'. It felt self-indulgent and, although written well, it did not engage any of us. Several people did not want to finish it.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Mandala
  • Review: Rather varied reception of this book from different members of the group.  All thought it was well written and interesting book.  Most struggled with the meaning of events in the Amazon.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: This book nearly lost me 2 new members as they disliked it so much.  The majority did not complete it.  It was thought to be the drug induced ramblings of a character they could not become interested in - Oh dear!
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: The Laurels
  • Review: Tells the story of a couple whose relationship is floundering, who go off on separate journeys to discover themselves and who come back to a stronger relationship.  Kate is a seeker who has explored many spiritual paths.  Her journey along the river is like the endless journey of life - it goes on even if individual people have shorter spans.  Yokes journey is more finding his roots/self.  The first half of the book is more enjoyable, the second more confusing as to its meaning.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Eastleigh Wednesday Group
  • Review: A book which provoked a wide-range of reactions, and the group did not feel it was possible to give a 'star rating' to it. On the one hand, Alice Walker is confronting the really important issues that we usually ignore: what are our choices in life? How do we relate to those around us? What is our response to the inhumanity that we see examples of every day? She writes about her characters with great sensitivity and there is no doubt that her heart is in the right place. On the other hand parts of the book are laden down with fake mysticism, dodgy philosophy and irritating New Ageisms and is very hard to follow in parts. It is difficult to separate the Kate the central character from Alice the author, and so one keeps forgetting that one is reading a novel.   Certainly very interesting and would recommend to other groups for that reason: it should produce a good discussion!
    Reading Group: October Book Group

Julie Walters -That's Another Story

  • Review: A pleasant, light hearted read. Interesting stories about her childhood and growing up in Birmingham. Amusing anecdotes from her acting career. Not a great autobiography but worth reading.
    Rating: 3 Stars
    Reading Group: Rivermead Close Book Club

Minette Walters - Fox Evil

  • Review: Wonderfully interesting. Filled with twists and turns. Intrigue, questions, who did it? Very well presented.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: The Young Group
  • Review: A very gripping but complicated story that resolved itself in a satisfactory conclusion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Happy Days

Minette Walters - The Chameleon's Shadow

  • Review:  Some loved it, some didn't finish.  A thought provoking whodunnit.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI

Minette Walters - The Devil's Feather

  • Review: Most weren't sure if they would like this book.  Expectation it would be more gruesome.  Some were dissatisfied with the ending.  Sub-plot more enjoyable than main story, but some looking for more of a connection than there was.  Very clever twists turns and couldn't or rather didn't guess the end.  The use of emails distracting and confused some 'who is this from' - a device to present background details quickly to the reader.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village

Tricia Wastvedt - The River

  • Review:  We found the structure of constant haphazard flashbacks irritating and hard work and unnecessary.  The characters and place were well drawn - however, too many characters leading to confusion as to relationships.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: KYC
  • Review: Constant time shifts were confusing as they were not long enough to establish the characters.  A fairly easy read but with some plot elements over contrived and the ending somewhat dark.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: Sandy's Reading Group

Sarah Waters - Fingersmith

  • Review: Nominated for both the Orange and Booker prizes 2002 this dark, compelling read set in Victorian times tells the story of two young women. Though brought up in very different circumstances their lives become firmly linked and with secrets slowly unfolding the reader is held spell-bound by the sheer inventiveness of the author. With a wealth of characters the plot twists and turns but is always believable and the reader is treated to often shocking revelations along the way.
    Rating:
    Reading Group : Hayling Readers' Group
  • Review: Sarah Waters has a great gift of spinning and weaving a tangled story which holds the suspense from beginning to end. She has almost a Dickensian talent for painting the scenes and the characters. One can almost smell the filth in Lant Street, and the fear in the madhouse, but feel admiration for the loyalty of the people living with Mrs Sucksby. A book you just have to read to its end.
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : KYC Ladies
  • Review: Hugely enjoyable, very well written with unexpected twists maintaining the suspense until the end. The characters were very well portrayed and Victorian times well researched.
    Star rating:****
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: We all loved this book. Lots of unexpected twists and vivid imagery made it a page turner. Great characters, many reasons to read more of Sarah Water's other books.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Ladies of an Age
  • Review: A well constructed story, rather 'wordy' in parts. Very descriptive (the thieves kitchen, the madhouse) a touch of Charles Dickens! The idea of lesbianism put some of our group off this book.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Brookmans
  • Review: Very mixed opinions within the group - some really liked and others deeply disliked - some clever twists in plot but hard to like any of characters.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Literary Ladies
  • Review: Melodrama with Dickensian roots.  Most of the group found they had to read to the end even though it has an unsavoury flavour and unpleasant characters.  Strong stuff.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A 1
  • Review: Enjoyed by most of the group.  A good read with plenty to provoke discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: Excellent first half, but failed to live up to initial promise.  Lots of twists and turns, good story telling.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Barnfield
  • Review: This book divided the group - half found the book unreadable, half were riveted by it.  Those of us who enjoyed it were mesmerised by Waters writing with its depiction of the Victorian underworld and its vivid characters.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms

Sarah Waters - The Little Stranger

  • Review: Gothic novel/ghost story?  Strange book.  Very English.  Bit slow.  Enjoyable/brilliant/didn't think much of it.  Got to know the characters.  Reminded me of Wilkie Collins.  All the character names were relevant.  All the clues were there.  The house was a character.  Well developed supernatural story, not a ghost story.
    Star rating:
    Reading Group: Wallington Village
  • Rather implausible in places with characters rather weakly drawn.  It took perseverance to complete the tale.  would perhaps be better as a film if 'worked up'.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: Most of us disliked this book: the characters were dull, the narrator shallow. We found the end - with no
    explanation of the "little stranger" (either a real or fictional one) unsatisfactory. We could see how the author was
    using the book to portray class.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: 5:30 Fareham Library
  • Review: General feeling was disappointment - a damp squib of a story.  Ending was inconclusive.  We felt it started off promising a gripping story, but failed to deliver.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Dogmersfield
  • Review: An engaging mystery that follows the fortunes, and non fortunes, of an old aristocratic family struggling with a decaying stately home.  You decide is it supernatural, mental illness or murder.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Chandlers Ford Tuesday PM
  • Review: Mixed reactions - a lot thought it was rather tedious and repetitive, and we all felt it had a very weak ending, leaving a lot of loose ends..
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Alverstoke Ladies

Sarah Waters - The Night Watch

  • Review: This book was not enjoyed by anyone, the characters were not liked - very confusing structure.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Petersfield U3A book circle 3
  • Review: The group did not enjoy this book.  It is about lesbian love and behaviour in the second world war.  The group did not like the subject content.  Because of the way it was structured it did not develop the characters and so it was difficult to engage with the story.  It was disjointed and a tedious book written backwards in time which did not make it easy to follow.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: Anton Bookies
  • Review: The majority of members praised the book in terms of skillful writing, gradual revelation of the characters and imaginative descriptions of gruesome wartime tasks.  There were mixed reactions to writing the story in reverse and some sexual content.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Entre Nous
  • Review: Mixed reactions, only finished by half the group those who liked it liked the details.  Slow start but picked up towards the end.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Andover Library

Katherine Webb - The Legacy

  • Review: Two plots skillfully interwoven.  Imaginative insight into how the past affects the present and the course of people's lives.  Good characterisation.  Particularly enjoyed the description of life on the prairie.  Well worth reading.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Ems Valley

Mary Wesley - Jumping the Queue

  • Review: There was a mixed reaction to this book.  Some of us found the characters unbelievable and the dialogue heavy handed.  Others enjoyed the touches of black humour and best of all her descriptions of London, the trams, restaurants, parks.  Overall we gave it 5/10.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: Opinion was sharply divided and scores varied from no marks (1 member) to four (1 member) with 2 giving just 1 mark.  We thought the characters were not believable and the subject distasteful though at the time (1983) was ground breaking.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Southampton U3A

Judy Westwater - Street Kid

  • Review: Most of the group found the book an easy read.  Made some very emotional and slightly depressed.  Some found it hard to believe that a person could go through so much without anyone helping them.  Some questioned why was it a best seller.
    Star rating: **
    Reading group: Cowdray Park

Francis Wheen - When Mumbo Jumbo conquered the World

  • Review:  None of our group managed to read all of this book.  It is certainly one you need to read occasionally as an essay.  We felt it was extremely wordy and not a page turner in any way.  Many of the arguments we agreed with but felt the author was enjoying his feel for words and saying the same thing over and over again.
    Star rating:  
    Reading Group:  Cambridge Reading Group

Simon Winchester - The Surgeon of Winchester

  • Review: Excellent. Great use of language. Parallel storytelling - a good device. All agreed a great read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Bridewell - Odiham
  • Review:  Very interesting – both from the Broadmoor angle and the writing of the OED.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Blackwater Valley U3A
  • Review: Surprisingly readable.  Enjoyed by all.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Jacqueline Winspear - Maisie Dobbs

  • Review:  The group agreed this was a pleasant and easy read, though the style of writing was found to be a little tedious.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A 1
  • Review: Enjoyable book mixing detection, psychology, history and relationships in an unusual way.  All characters well portrayed.  One member thought that events occurred without a lead and also led to assuming a situation.  Still well received.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Hedge End WI
  • Review:   Good easy read.  Nursing and war scenes well researched and thought provoking.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: St Andrews 5th Warnborough

Elizabeth H Winthrop

  • Review: The story is based around an eleven year old girl who has stopped talking.  It is set in New York and New England during December in the run up to Christmas.  It is a very gentle book with attention to detail.  There is nothing to ground the book in any decade, so there is a timeless quality, yet also a feeling of tension as Christmas approaches.
    Star rating: **+
    Reading Group: Fleet U3A

Tim Winton - The Riders

  • Review: A very positive book, a quest, a tale of obsession and a portrait of a loving father/daughter relationship pushed to the limits. Our group loved the author's use of language and portraits of life in Ireland and Greece. We would have liked a different ending . . .
    Rating: ***
    Reading Group : Basingstoke Library Afternoon Group
  • Review:  We found this a well written and very exciting story.  It was disappointing though to find so many unresolved issues leaving one rather frustrated.  The first half of the story in Ireland was greatly enjoyed.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  U3A 1
  • Review: Although we all agreed that the lack of ending which ‘found out what really happened’ was disappointing this book provoked lots of discussion and interest.  It kept us reading and certainly was not long winded or boring.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Crookham

Maritta Wolff - Sudden Rain

  • Review: Good book club read as stimulated lots of discussion.  Insight into life in the 70's which struck a chord with some group members.  Disappointing end.
    Star rating: **/***
    Reading Group: The Waterfords

P G Wodehouse - A Damsel in Distress

  • Review: Some thought it hilarious and refreshing and others thought it shallow and predictable.  All agreed beautifully written and well crafted.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: King's Somborne
  • Review: This novel failed to ignite any amusement in our group.  Very disappointing read - did not instill interest in reading other Wodehouse novels.  Plot weak, outcome predicable.  first published in 1919, reflected the audience of the time... we felt it dated and unsophisticated for todays readership.
    Star rating: *
    Reading Group: The Benches

David Wolstencroft - Good News, Bad News

  • Review: A disappointing book, may make a reasonable film as some of the author's good ideas in the story failed to materialise (inability to expand clearly his thoughts).  Not really exciting though and certainly not attaining Le Carre (whom we thought the author was attempting to emulate).  We would not read David Wolstencroft's second spy book.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Everyone enjoyed this book. It moved along at a fast pace and was certainly not predictable. Main themes were trust and revenge, two prominent characters, both very like able.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: Mill Hill Book Club

Jennifer Worth - Shadows of the Workhouse

  • Review: A beautifully written book giving a true insight of what goes on in the workhouse.  Sad and funny but shameful that these places were still alllowed to exist in the 1950s!  A wonderful read.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: New Life Romsey
  • Review: Generally well received with some enthusiastic responses from some and reservations from others.  The anecdotes resounded with the experiences of several members either in the 50s or having lived in the area of 'former' workhouses.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Everton

Clarissa Dickson Wright - Spilling the Beans

  • Review: This book was interesting and informative but difficult to understand in todays conditions.  Full of interesting people and places, but should be taken with 'a pinch of salt' or a 'gin and tonic.'
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Solent U3A
  • Review: A very honest book of her life.  The family background and life with a brilliant alcoholic and abusive father.  Her outstanding early career and her decline into alcoholism.  Her fight back with AA and TV career. A most interesting insight into the making of her programmes.  We found this a most interesting read and applaud her courage.
  • Star rating: ****
  • Reading Group: Museum Book Group

Edward Wright - Clea's Moon

  • Review: A well written first novel set in the Hollywood of the 1940's.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review:  Most said they would not have chosen it but then found it a page turner. It was considered to reflect a real story, the real World, although it is hard to accept child abuse goes on. Many commented on the mafia influence, identity protection, description of Hollywood, California, landscapes, nightclubs, Cowboys and Indians and the actor's reflections on his life. The sadness of the life described was also commented on. It was considered that child abuse would probably not been used in the story had it been written in the era it was set (post WW2). The book was likened to Raymond Chandler and Dick Francis stories and considered good material for a film. One member had totally different views and did not like it at all.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Boater's Book Club

Oswald Wynd – The Ginger Tree

  • Review: Rather slow going to begin with but gave interesting insights into life in the Far East at the turn of the 20th Century.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Fordingbridge and District U3A
  • Review: Why isn't this book known for the classic it is?  One of the very few books we all not just liked, but loved!  Beautifully written with vivid descriptions   of China and more particularly Japan at the beginning of the 20th Century.  The story of Mary and her survival in an alien culture will hold you spellbound.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
 

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Rachel Zadok - Gem Squash Tokotoshe

  • Review: On the whole the marks were much lower than we normally give ranging from 3 to 6.5 out of 10.  Some found it unbelievable, however we still had a very long discussion on it so from that angle it was a worthwhile read.   Some of us felt there were parts of it that certain lines, paragraphs were very nicely expressed and memorable.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Thursday Group Tadley Library

Carlos Ruiz Zafon - Shadow of the Wind

  • Review:  A good read and a very good translation.  A pity the author gives such a negative picture of the Spanish family.  Intricate plot very well managed.  Likewise general characterisation.
    Star rating:  ***
    Reading Group:  Liss Book Club
  • Review: Mostly liked it.  One member really disliked it.  There were many characters - got a bit confusing but on the whole the group liked it.  Very good translation into English.  Good descriptions of Barcelona - a good read.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Monksbrook U3A
  • Review: Rather long but a good story.  Large range of characters made it difficult to get to grips with.  Needed perseverance, gruesome in places.
    Star rating: **
    Reading Group: Everton
  • Review: A good intersting read.  Densely written, translated well.  Held our attention but didn't grip.  Some good humour and some well drawn characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Park Road Readers.
  • Review: Gripping story, a well written read.  We found the historical aspects interesting.  Clever intertwinning of sub-plots with very interesting characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Enjoying Books
  • Review: The group found this book thoroughly entertaining and absorbing invoving mystery, tragedy, magic, human and first rate story telling.  Based in Barcelona in the post war years, it gives a real glimpse of life in post civil war Spain.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Sherfield English Page Turners
  • Review: Enjoyed by the majority of the group.  Atmospheric, good descriptions of Barcelona in that period.  We all liked Fermin!  Some of the group thought that some of the characters were two dimensional, others that the letter tying the ends up a bit of a let down.  Provoked a lively discussion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Forest Arts
  • Review: Our group enjoyed reading this book and it led to a good discussion afterwards.  It was no surprise to find that the author had been a scriptwriter as there is a feeling of film scenes in the way the story is presented, each one revealing a  little more of the intricate story as it reaches its satisfying conclusion.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Keyhaven Book Circle
  • Review: A page turner.  Beautifull written (and translated).  Violent, tender, moving.  A sombre, brilliant novel.
    Star rating: ****
    Reading Group: Gosport Bookworms
  • Review: Beautifully written and well translated.  A gripping story with compassionately drawn and memorable characters.  Set in poor Franco Barcelona, the city seems an additional character.  Who could resist the idea of a cemetery of forgotten books.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Shipton Bellinger WI
  • Review: The book was rather split but positive on the whole.  Some felt that there was enough in the book to make a trilogy!  Also that it would make a very good film.  Personally i found it engrossing and a fascinating read.  All loose ends perfectly tied up at the end.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: Wednesday
  • Review:   Varied cast of memorable characters.  Atmospheric almost Dickensian but with shades of gothic melodrama.  Good read on the whole, disjointed in places.  Light relief supplied by Daniel’s friend, fermin as novel set in the violent, frightening and suspicious time of Spanish civil war and eventual Franco Dictatorship.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group: The Benches
  • Review: Intriguing, lures you into the winding streets of Barcelona.  We agreed that it was a challenge to read but worth persevering.
    Rating: 4 Stars
    Reading Group: North Baddesley WI Reading Group 2

Markus Zusak - The Book Thief

  • Review: Inspirational and affecting.  Felt very attached to characters.  Lovely descriptive prose/characters.
    Star rating: ***
    Reading Group:Barnfield Book Club
  • Review: Excellent and unique.  it shows the ability of words and books to inspire hope, love and friendship.  This book demonstrates how [we] book lovers can escape the harsh realities of life through reading (just as Liesel did).
  • Star Rating: ***plus
  • Reading group: Willis Museum Reading Group