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Did you know that the first recorded reading groups were among women working in factories in the nineteenth century? And now, according to research undertaken a few years ago, there are tens of thousands of groups meeting regularly in the UK reading everything from literary classics to technical manuals! Of course, if you are in a book group, choosing what to read next can be a serious matter as not every book has subject matter that can really be discussed. So to help you LoveReading has decided to lend a hand by, each month, selecting a number of books we feel are perfect and will give your group a rewarding discussion as well as a rewarding read.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
Crossing genres in style, this just has to be one of my favourite novels of the year. Set in the marshlands of North Carolina, the majority of this story takes place in the 1950’s and 60’s. The prologue begins in 1969 with the body of Chase Andrews being found in the marsh. The first paragraph of the prologue introduces surprising beauty, the marsh simply sings, it settled into my mind and became a part of me. The central character is Kya, we meet her as a child, and the truth of her life is immediately apparent. As the novel moves backwards and forwards in time, Kya emerges as the Marsh Girl, and suspicion begins to hound her after the body is found. Author Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist who has worked in Africa and written non-fiction, this is her debut novel. Descriptions entered my mind in wafting movement, I fell in love with the marsh and the girl who lived there. Where the Crawdads Sing is truly touching, almost hauntingly beautiful, and opens a doorway to a different world. It has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
Hands up if you love a confident, penetrating, darkly brilliant psychological thriller, if you do then do step this way, as ‘Blood Orange’ is a stunner! Alison is defending her first murder case, all while having an affair, drinking too much, staying out too late and neglecting her husband and daughter… her life is about to get seriously complicated. Alison tells her own story, no holds barred we hear it as it is, and sometimes it isn’t pretty. I have to say that at times Alison wasn’t on the top of my list of favourite people which gives the story real attitude. I was completely drawn into Alison’s world, hovering over her shoulder, watching, and yes I admit it, sometimes judging. Harriet Tyce allows the story to open up in front of you, all the information is there, consequently, I found myself tugging at tendrils and picking at tantalising frayed edges as I read. This is one seriously addictive book, I read it in one sitting, so do set aside plenty of reading time. ‘Blood Orange’ thrilled me, it is just so readable, yet also feels clever, raw and real - so it comes as highly recommended from me.
35 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood takes us back to Gilead. Following three characters we are introduced to perspectives outside of those of the Handmaids. This is a terrific book that rounds out Gilead and tells of its downfall as opposed to being a direct sequel. A perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about this restrictive, dystopian regime and for anyone who wants the questions they had at the end of The Handmaid's Tale answered.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
A special and beautiful book to fall completely and irretrievably in love with. Audrey can not understand why her two daughters are estranged, or why her granddaughters have never met. She is determined to reunite her family, however at the heart of the problem is a secret that has been kept for 30 years. Either Audrey, Jess, or Lily head each chapter and while travelling forward over several months, they also revisit the past. Hannah Beckerman allows secrets to hover, creating an energy that weaves through the story, suggesting, cajoling, calling to past events. The different view points collide and sometimes splinter, which left my thoughts testing and questioning possibilities. I found such strength and beauty in the characters, I think they will remain with me for some time. If Only I Could Tell You, is a heartbreaking, truly fabulous read, you may well sob, but believe me, it is worth it!
I have completely and irretrievably fallen in love with this book. I entered thinking one thing, and left feeling so, so much more. Billy at over one hundred years old, decides to look back over the loves of his life. Richard Lumsden has created a wonderfully rounded and appealing main character, surrounded by an equally gorgeous supporting cast. I slipped into the pages and just wanted to remain there, the past calls and cajoles, intriguing suggestions form and grow, before the present enters once again. There were times when my heart broke, each piece forming a collection of love just for Billy. The Six Loves Of Billy Binns is a beautifully readable and emotional tale, full of laughter and tears you really couldn’t ask for much more, highly recommended.
Written in Singlish - “a tossed salad of the different languages and Chinese dialects that the country’s multiethnic population speaks” - this exhilarating novel follows brazen Jazzy’s mission to marry a wealthy “ang moh” (white) man. Almost 27, she warns her friends that ”if we don’t get married, engaged or even nail down a boyfriend soon—my god, we might as well go ahead and book a room at Singapore Casket… But luckily for us, we still have one big hope: ang moh guys”, because “if you wear a tight tight dress or short short skirt, these ang mohs will still steam over you”. To this end, Jazzy’s life is an intense cycle of spending her days working for a newspaper editor who likes to “rubba rubba” his employees, followed by long nights at fancy clubs. Through her predatory attitude and enduring of a whole lot of objectification, this novel is razor-sharp on male entitlement, inequality, racial stereotypes and global capitalism. Indeed, Jazzy wasn’t always a Sarong Party Girl herself: “I would see women who are so obviously going after guys just for status and really look down on them. What kind of woman is so pathetic to chase after a husband just for the kind of handbag, car or condo they can buy them?” And then one night, it seems that enough is enough. Jazzy has an epiphany at dawn after a one hell of a wake-up call night out. What a fresh, funny and wildly acerbic treat this is.
A clever, oh so clever read, where the story sits simmering, creating pools of tension and unsettling bursts of awareness. The police rule Sadie’s death a suicide, however a year later, questions are being asked and her friend Avery may well have to provide answers, can she clear her name? I was thrilled when The Last House Guest arrived in the post. Megan Miranda’s books are a must-read for me. A provocative, sharp, beautifully readable journey awaits each time. The story slides between 2017 and 2018, encouraging questions to kiss questions. The more I found out, the more I realised I didn’t know. Avery is a fascinating character, she sits on the edge of two groups, leaving her stranded. My thoughts tossed and turned as I read, I felt slightly unsettled as I waited, wanting to know the truth. The ending is a high-octane rush of a ride and I found myself perched on the very edge of my seat. Focusing on friendship, and how well we ever truly know someone, The Last House Guest has a commanding energy and is a compelling read.
In a truly beautiful reading experience, encounter the footnotes of a time long ago, meet people capable of committing murder, of holding a stinging need for vengeance, of feeling deep abiding love and friendship. If you see the term fantasy and usually turn away, please don’t, instead choose to step inside and feel the connection to the Italian Renaissance, allow the people to become known, experience their emotions, appreciate the eloquence of the writing. I adore the work of Guy Gavriel Kay, and have done since I was a teenager, epic in scale, intimate in focus, these are books that have allowed me to step outside of myself and experience a different world, though one that feels recognisably ours. You can read this as a standalone, however if you have read some of his other novels, then the land in which this is set will call to you, and there are moments of awareness as you look around and feel the landscape, architecture and even at one point the half-forgotten presence of an age-old entity. I can recommend ‘A Brightness Long Ago’ with my heart and soul, it really is wonderful and so sits as one of my picks of the month.
A beautifully chilling gothic story set in Victorian England that gripped me from the start. It tells the stories of Ruth Butterham and Dorothea Truelove, two very different women from opposite ends of the social scale. Ruth’s is an abusive, bleak, harrowing tale and the narrative splits between Ruth and Dora as their lives intersect in Oakgate Prison where Ruth is imprisoned for the death of her mistress, and Dora attends to comfort prisoners as part of her charitable work. Dora becomes obsessed with Ruth driven by her interest in phrenology - is she mad or murderer, victim or villain? A story of abuse, murder and a hint of supernatural. I couldn't put it down.
Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.