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  loved 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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