May – Daughter

It’s May, and a whole year since our first meeting!

I am so pleased that I started the book club, for several reasons, but mostly because, however bad my day has been, however much I think ‘I could do without this tonight’, each and every meeting has me laughing loudly. I love sharing thoughts about the books we have read, sharing other interests and chatting about life in general with this amazing, diverse group of women, that I am lucky enough to call my friends.

Well that’s the soppy stuff done, on with the blog..

Daughter – Jane Shemilt

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I don’t even know where to begin with this book, and I don’t know why I am ever optimistic of finding a great thriller in a best sellers list. This is not a great thriller, nor is it even a good one, in fact, if I am honest it’s total drivel, with a poor plot, a predictable ending and some thoroughly unsympathetic lead characters.

Daughter is a missing child thriller, with two narratives running through it, both told by Jenny (the mother) but set in two time periods, present day and the time of Naomi’s disappearance (about a year ago). Importantly, I must say that I didn’t like Jenny, so had little interest in her narratives, it might have made the book somewhat more readable if one of them had been from someone else’s point of view, perhaps Naomi’s friend or boyfriend.

In Jenny we have a mother who is rarely at home (working), telling us that this is a good thing as her children have grown up knowing how to be independent (the father is working long hours too). No surprise then that it turns out that she knows nothing about her kids’ lives, her insistence that she was close to her daughter and that she knew everything about her life was irritating since every time she asks her kids a question they ignore or don’t answer her.

I happened to be reading this one on holiday with another book club member, she said she wasn’t enjoying it ‘I think it’s because I don’t have kids, I can’t understand how she feels’, I told her that that wasn’t the issue, it was just badly written. You do not have to have a child to feel the depth of despair at losing someone you love, a good writer could have written this in a way that anyone could feel empathy, the fact was, even with 3 kids, two of them teenage I simply didn’t care. I didn’t care what had happened to Naomi, I didn’t care that Jenny lost the daughter that she spent so little time getting to know, I didn’t care that the father had an affair, I was just cross that this was the book that I was reading on my holiday and it was so dull!

If I write more I will spoil the book for anyone who might still want to read it, though I do hope that I have managed to save you from wanting to do so. I will say though that as much as I disliked the book, and myself and two others only gave it 2*, some of the group gave it 4.5*, and it is rated 3.5* on Good Reads, both of which surprise me, but who knows you might be one of the ones who love it!

A place called winter – Patrick Gale

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Ok, confession time, I really really didn’t want to read this book. I read the blurb and my usually easy going ‘I’ll read anything’ facade crumbled. I had picked it from a list sent by one of the club members months ago without really paying attention, simply thinking it was her turn to have one of the choices make the cut. So two weeks ago I picked it up, and I started to read…

I fell for this book, and I fell hard, I really couldn’t put it down. Why? because it felt real, which is because, as we find out at the end of the book, it is based on Gale’s own great grandfather. I loved the harsh reality of the difficulties of being gay at the turn of the 20th century, and the internal battle of feeling something that was considered so wrong. I liked Harry Cane (the main character) very much, he had guts, he went out and worked hard, having come from a privileged background and he took care of his family & friends.

The book is beautifully written, describing scenery and people beautifully, I could feel Harry’s despair at the bleak nothingness of his plot of land, and the epic work that he would have to do to live and farm there. I felt his sadness at having to leave the family he loved, and I felt his deep love for his brother. As well as his relationships with family, I ┬áloved his bond with Ursula in Bethel and with Petra in Winter, and I was saddened by his inability to openly live his life.

I am a little weird, and I have a bee in my bonnet about books that have the typical crowd pleasing ‘Hollywood ending’, and I often think books could have taken my breath away by having a more shocking, less happy ending. Whilst reading ‘A place called winter’ I just kept thinking ‘this had better end well for Harry’, I truly did want nothing but happiness for him. I won’t tell you whether or not I was disappointed by the end, I will only recommend that you read it and find out for yourselves.

The group scored this book an average 4*, I was torn, is it 4.5 or 5*? In the end I gave it the 5* because it is such an absorbing book, and I fell in love with Harry and the fact (which I found out after I had read the book) that it is based on the real story of Harry Cane!

Happy Reading!
Mel x

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April – The Rosie Project

The sun is shining, it is nearly a year since I started the book club, and we ventured into two very different genres this month.

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

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Fans of the tv show ‘The big bang theory’ will understand when I say that ‘The Rosie Project’ is essentially ‘Dr Sheldon Cooper searches for a wife’. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics, he has been on dates in the past, but they never go well, his social issues make him pretty hard to date. If you have someone in your life with asperger’s syndrome, you will easily recognise it in the main character, though he does not.

Don is scathingly honest, irritatingly precise & extremely organised, and rather than seeing the overall picture, he focusses on the tiniest little details of each situation. He is incredibly likeable, even though you can easily understand why his relationships do not work out. His loyalty and willingness to go out of his way to help his friends, makes him the sort of lead man that you can’t help hoping that things will work out for.

Rosie is kooky, cool and significantly more interesting than most leading ladies, she is totally the opposite of his ‘ideal woman’, who, I hasten to add, probably doesn’t exist. I liked Don, but I loved Rosie, she was real, and added a lot of colour to the story. The main plot centres around Don helping Rosie to find out about her past, I will not spoil the book by going in to detail, but I loved how much he invested in helping her, time wise, financially and emotionally.

I was reading this book for the second time (not something I would normally chose to do, as there are so many books that I have yet to read) but again I yelled at the book, I laughed often and I could not put it down. There is something quite joyful about ‘The Rosie Project’, and having a son with Asperger’s syndrome myself, I think that Don is beautifully written, showing not only the extreme frustrations of trying to hold a conversation with someone so single minded (The ice cream incident), but also the lovely honesty of his life, and the deep way he cares for, and looks after his friends. As a group we gave the book 4.5*, this was unanimous and the girls asked if we could add the sequel to our reading list, this is a great fun, easy, lovely book.

The Ocean at the end of the lane – Neil Gaiman

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Sci-fi is not a genre that I normally choose, and if I am honest that probably won’t change based on my feelings for this book. I didn’t hate it or anything, in fact it was quite good, it just didn’t inspire me to read more Sci-fi.┬áThe marketing for this book says that is is for adults, but it did feel like it was written for a teenage audience, and although I am not opposed to reading kids books, I did not love this one the way I loved ‘Holes’ or ‘The boy in the striped pyjamas’.

I loved the thought that a whole ocean can be in a small pond, or in fact a bucket, and I loved Lettie and her family, who were so welcoming and protective of the boy who was only 7 years old and stuck living with a monster masquerading as a nanny (Ursula). I thought the story was pretty good in an ‘all is not what it seems’ way, and I thought that the descriptions in the book were fabulous, to the point of making me feel quite ill at times (the foot incident).The main problem, I think is that it wasn’t long enough, or it missed something out and I am not even sure what, but I was left with the feeling that it was all a little confined. It was like all of these incredibly strange things happened (or didn’t and the boy was insane) but only in a very small area, and the rest of the world was normal.

I will try again with Neil Gaiman, because I enjoyed the writing, if not the story, and I would recommend this book to teenagers as I think they would really like it. The group gave the book 3.5* and I gave it a respectable 3*, and I fully expect to find a Neil Gaiman book that I love at some point in the future.

Happy Reading!

Mel X