November – The Chaperone

Curling up on a cozy chair with a blanket, a latte and a good book is what winter is made for. November is where it begins…

Laura Moriarty – The Chaperone

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At first glance, it is easy to assume that The Chaperone is a book about Louise Brooks from the perspective of the woman tasked with looking after her. Surprisingly, this is not the main story in the book, it is really the story of a woman (Cora Carlisle) who uses the role of chaperone for Louise Brooks to delve into her own past. Taking Louise to New York gives Cora the opportunity to explore a part of her childhood that she has long since left behind her. Cora also has a chance to explore the New York that was out of her reach as a young child, and in contrast to her life in the city.

The most interesting storyline in the book is Cora’s relationship with her husband. I am not going to go into depth as I don’t want to spoil the story, but it is incredibly interesting for the reader, as it is far from straightforward. Louise is painted as smart, sassy, sexy and just a little bit too full of attitude for a teenager in the 1920’s, but as you read on there is a sadness about her that is hard to ignore, and I found myself feeling sorry for her and for the lack of love and guidance from her parents. The task of chaperoning Louise is not an easy one, but Cora strikes a good balance between guardian and confidant, allowing Louise a little freedom, but reigning her in when needed.

I loved this book because I lost myself not only in New York in the 1920’s, but also in Cora’s life, both present and past. I was so totally lost in the story, that I read it over two days and it was just perfect for a cold Autumn weekend. The book explores the themes of racism, sexuality, relationships, ageing, poverty and neglect in a well-written thought-provoking story, that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a book to give them a great big hug. I gave the book 4.5*, the group rated it an average 3.5* so it was not for everyone, but it is one that I am very glad I chose it because it was just what I needed.

John Buchan – The Thirty-Nine Steps

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Being a Hitchcock fan, I was really looking forward to reading this book. The story is set just prior to the outbreak of the great war, and Richard Hannay arrives home one evening to find a stranger on his doorstep, the man is in trouble and fears for his life, so Hannay takes him in. The following day he returns home to find the man dead and fearing for his own safety, he dupes a milkman, borrowing his outfit to escape unseen by the killers.

Hannay goes on the run to Scotland, presumably because Buchan is Scottish and therefore found writing Scotland easier than sending his hero off to Norfolk. The majority of the book is the story of Hannay on the run, evading the ‘bad guys’ and attempting to find out why the stranger in his home was killed. The adventure is good, although the hero is somehow able to slip in to and out of danger with the greatest of ease and at times and with incredible luck, that after a while just gets silly.

I enjoyed the book for several reasons, firstly it was short, therefore there were no rambling descriptions and the story kept my interest. Secondly it did have an element of danger and I’m a sucker for Hitchcock/Agatha Christie, lastly, it entertained me, I actually enjoyed the ridiculousness of Hannay’s James Bond-like luck, it made me smile. I gave the book 4* and the others gave it 2.5* – 3.5*

Happy Reading

Mel x

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December – Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all

How on earth I found time to read two books in December, with pantomimes galore to run at College I have no idea, but I did find the time and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the Book club meeting was at the end of the last day of work before Christmas.

Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all – Jonas Jonasson

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Having read and loved ‘The hundred-year-old man’ by Jonas Jonasson, I had high hopes for Hitman Anders. Sadly this book has none of the charms of ‘The 100-year-old man’, and actually very little charm at all. The three main characters are fairly well developed, though not at all likeable. Per Perrson is a young man who is dissatisfied with his lot in life and feels that he is owed more, he blames his family for his situation, and wallows in his misfortune. The disillusioned Priest, who has her head screwed firmly on, is the brains of the operation, always has a plan, whatever goes wrong, and takes control of the situation, dragging the others along with her. Hitman Anders is somewhat deluded (with his ‘ethical’ rules) this could have been funny, but it was kind of blah. This is an unlikely trio, and I kept hoping that perhaps as the book went on, they would show some development, as individuals and as a group, but it was not to be. In fact, there is a point in the book where the author adds the joke that they have come full circle and are right back where they were several chapters before, this was cute, but sadly only served to remind me that it was all a bit pointless.

The main problem for me with this book is that it is filled with danger, or the suggestion that danger is close, there is peril, there are guns and bombs and hitmen, and honestly, I should have been on the edge of my seat, but actually, I didn’t really give a shit. I didn’t care what happened to anyone in the book, I didn’t want to read on to see where the story would go, I just wasn’t engaged. Sure it was easy to read, and no it didn’t take much brain power and in that respect, I suppose it would make a reasonable holiday read, but it really wasn’t good enough for me to recommend it to a friend. I gave the book 2.5* and in hindsight, that was a little generous, the group were mostly in agreement with 2* – 2.5*, however, there was one who gave it 4.5*, so maybe you will love it? I doubt it, but I’ve been wrong before! 😉

Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

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Alice in Wonderland is a story that I love, a story that I know well, a book that I… have never read. What? How did that happen, how could it be that a book that has been present in my life for 40 years is a book that I have never picked up? Never mind, that’s not important, the fact is, I know that story inside out right? Wrong! What I know inside out is the wonderful Disney film, the one which assured me that I could ‘learn a lot of things from the flowers’ and that there are 364 unbirthdays and in which Tweedledum and Tweedledee are present, not so the book. It turns out that those things happen ‘Through the looking glass’ and the film is a mishmash of the two, I am shocked.

Reading Alice in Wonderland for the first time at 46 years old was fabulous, the story is adorable, it is fantasy at it’s best. Who doesn’t love the idea of a rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a pocket watch and a very mischievous disappearing cat? The story is dark but it stays just the right side of surreal, this allows the reader to disassociate from the things that happen and rather than being concerned for Alice, we are intrigued and excited to find out what on earth will happen next. If you want to read a story that explores Wonderland in a much darker way then I can thoroughly recommend ‘Beware the claws that catch Alice’ by Christina Henry, it’s not a light read, but it is beautifully written and offers a unique twist on Carroll’s world.

Alice is so well known that there is little more for me to say, other than to recommend that you read it, whatever your age because it really is one book that you can lose yourself in without having to commit to weeks of reading it. I gave the book 4* and the others all gave it 4* – 4.5*, even if you don’t read children’s books, pick this one up sometime and give it a go, I bet you’ll fall into the rabbit hole too.

Happy Reading

Mel x