December – The Vanishing act of Esme Lennox

Merry Christmas lovely readers! This month we went for the triple again, two books as normal and a Christmas book. The Christmas book that I chose resulted in a spin off movie night watching ‘It’s a wonderful life’ in our pyjamas, whilst supping Mojitos next to the Christmas Tree, it was definitely a ‘wonderful’ night with the girls.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell

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When Steph chose this book, I happily added it to the list, I say happily because I had read it before. Ok time to confess…..not only had I read it before, but I had recommended it to many many people because…it is my favourite book. I did not tell the group this before the meeting, and I read it for the second time with a little trepidation. What if it wasn’t as good as I remember? What if, having read many more books since, it didn’t hold up? What if I didn’t even enjoy reading it the second time? There really was nothing to worry about at all.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a wonderful book, it drags you in and holds you tightly with every turn of the page. The story is told from three perspectives (Esme, Iris & Kitty), and even though it doesn’t have any chapters, it doesn’t confuse at all. Esme is, when the book begins, an elderly lady, who has spent the last 60 years in an institution for those who were mentally ill. The institute is about to be closed down, and her next of kin is her great niece Iris, so she is contacted regarding the rehoming of Esme, the main problem being that Iris has no idea that she even has a great aunt.

The story covers the travesty of women in the 1930s being sent to institutions with no real reason, it covers Esme’s past life, Iris’s past and present relationships and Kitty’s (Esme’s sister) past. I was sad, shocked, horrified, I laughed, I almost cried and I simply couldn’t put the book down. I cannot explain quite how emotive this book is, I can only say that it just felt real, I went on the rollercoaster ride with both Esme and Iris, and I was so utterly satisfied by the ending that I did a little fist pump.

Here is an author that isn’t afraid to write the book that she wants to write, she wrote from the heart and I can only commend her for this. I don’t say this very often, let alone shout it but.. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!! I happily gave the book a 5* rating, as did a couple of the others who came to the meeting, I think the group average was a high 4.5*, I hope that you read it and that you love it as much as I did.

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

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Funny Girl is simply wonderful, I could not put it down, nobody writes characters like Nick Hornby. Well I say that, but this is the first Nick Hornby book I’ve ever read, however I feel like I know him from his films, ‘About a Boy’ has wonderful characters, as does ‘High Fidelity’. Here we have a story about a woman, a woman who knows what she wants, and is not willing to compromise, which, considering that she is young and the book is set in the 60’s is quite something. Barbara is a strong woman, in a man’s world, and she takes life by the balls and says sweetly in it’s face ‘You are MY life, I will make the decisions’, and I fell in love with this character.

The book begins with Barbara winning a beauty contest and promptly deciding that this is not for her, she does not want to be just a ‘pretty face’, nor does she want to be known for her bombshell body, she wants to be an actress, and make people laugh. This is not just a book about Barbara, the other characters have solid story lines, and I came to care for everyone (well maybe not Clive so much), and was invested in their lives. I loved the photos throughout the book, there are not many, but those that are there really add to the story.

The real joy of the book for me is that Hornby writes characters when they are young and when they are older, and does both beautifully. I just loved this book, I gave it 4* and the others in the group pretty much agreed.

The Greatest Gift – Philip Van Doren Stern

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or ‘The greatest disappointment’? I am totally glad that this wee story was written, and even more glad that some absolutely amazing scriptwriters took this very short story and made such an epic film based on it, but I was disappointed by the book. Firstly the book took about 35 minutes to read, it is such a small part of the story in the film ‘It’s a wonderful life’ and adds nothing to the story that I know and love. Secondly the book is quite expensive (if you don’t have a kindle), and it is so very short it is not worth buying. Thirdly, there is little in the story of how much George Bailey actually did for the town he lived in. In short, it’s too short. This is a great concept, the idea of showing someone the differences that they made on others by simply being in their lives, but the writing isn’t fabulous, and it lacks the heart of the film it inspired. My advice would be to watch It’s a Wonderful life, enjoy the wonderful performance of James Stewart, see, feel and hear Bedford Falls, and remember that it was inspired by this short story, but don’t bother reading it, because the film is just perfect, this story is not.

Happy Reading & Happy Christmas!

Mel x

 

 

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