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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.
January 2018 Book of the Month Abundant in moving insights into identity and memory, this charming slice of humanity is as elegantly formed and sweetly satisfying as the Battenberg cake depicted on its cover. Eighty-four-year-old Florence (Flo to her best friend Elsie) has fallen in her flat and, as she awaits help, wondering whether she’s “reached the end of her story”, her musings reveal a long-buried secret. “Everyone’s life has a secret, something they never talk about,” she remarks. “It’s what you do with your secret that really matters”, and what Elsie does with hers is determined by the unlikely reappearance of a man from her and Elsie’s past. Florence’s reflections on she how hasn’t done enough with her life, how life takes you down paths you hadn’t intended to wander, are wholly heartrending. She wanted to be a scientist, to devise a world-changing invention, but instead she and Elsie ended up in a factory for the entirety of their working lives. While there’s loss and sadness as the twisting tale unfolds, this is also a tonic for the soul - upliftingly wistful, poignantly funny, and the relationship between Flo and Elsie is wonderful. At once a bittersweet ode to the elderly and the passing of time, and a compelling mystery, this proves that sometimes it’s entirely appropriate to judge a book by its cover. I adored it.
January 2018 Book of the Month A masterclass in suspense awaits the reader in this almost understated, yet powerfully intense and dark novel. A family needing a fresh start move into a house where an unsolved double murder occurred twelve years previously, their actions set in motion an alarming chain of events. The first chapter was sharply powerful, yet almost dispassionately described by an observer, allowing me to bear witness, to remain on the edge. The characters are fascinating, each nudging feelings and thoughts in different directions as the various points of view created small time warps, as deception altered the vivid picture in my mind. J. Robert Lennon sets small seemingly inconsequential moments spinning together to create a throbbing tension which breaks with dramatic energy. Broken River is an intelligent, entirely captivating read with a hint of the uncanny skating over the pages - highly recommended.
January 2018 Book of the Month A gorgeous magical, quirky dream of a story. Lois exhausts herself everyday as a software engineer, she orders her food from two local cooks, when they leave the country, they also leave Lois with their sourdough culture, to feed, to look after, to keep alive. As her life alters, Lois learns more about, and creates a connection to the sourdough culture. Robin Sloan establishes with beautiful simplicity, a story that weaved a spellbinding path through my mind. I sank into and became one with the story, tasted, smelled, touched, felt. Sourdough with almost hypnotic, yet gentle intensity, takes on a life of its own to become a charming, irresistible read and I loved it. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Set across Sydney, Paris and Colombo, this masterful novel explores self-deception and the construction of public personas with scathing brilliance. While the incisively and honestly drawn characters are largely unlikable, their stories are compelling. Their flaws are artfully portrayed, and hold a mirror to many middle class conceits with razor sharp cunning. This is no conventional contemporary novel in which characters journey down an obvious narrative path, battling obvious obstacles along the way. Rather, it takes in the inner and outer lives of three protagonists, each of whom, in differing ways, are beset by self-delusions. They are connected via Pippa, a writer desperate for success and adulation. She tweets lies about damning reviews from her readers, spinning unfettered criticism into pseudo-self-effacing gold. There are many astute, amusing observations on personal motivation, and the façades we wear to manipulate how we’re perceived by friends, lovers, the world at large. As one character remarks, people have always “presented selective aspects of themselves”, and this novel demonstrates just that with incredible flair. There’s much self-conscious posturing, but little self-awareness, and the portrayal of middle class desperation to appear effortlessly liberal is excruciatingly spot-on. Deeply nuanced, and highly readable, this is an exhilarating breath of fresh air. ~ Joanne Owen
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | Shortly after the Russian revolution, a White Russian count is spared execution because of a subversive poem he wrote defying authority before the fall of the Czar and is, instead, exiled to an attic room in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow, where he once enjoyed a luxurious suite and all the amenities that wealth could provide. As he adapts to his house arrest, we follow his encounters with the motley denizens, employees and visitors of the hotel and watch how his state of mind changes alongside the Russia outside the walls of the hotel. Both meditative and, at times, truculent, this also forms a parallel history of Russia over the following forty years or so until the death of Stalin and for a narrative isolated inside a closed locale becomes amazingly broad in scope, reflective, expansive and so often terribly moving, albeit with much wit and humour. Unforgettable characters, both fictional and real life, a web of subtle relationships: all human life is here and a triumphant follow-up to Towles' debut novel which had been set in the glitter of New York in the 1930s. Long but wonderfully rewarding, this will make you laugh, cry and smile, an epic that never even moves outside the hotel's lobby! Loved it. ~ Maxim Jakubowski February 2017 MEGA Book of the Month. The Lovereading view... Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, the gentleman of the title, is not executed with his fellow aristocrats for he had already left Russia at the start of the Revolution and he returns in 1918. This mystifies the Bolshevik tribunal he stands before in 1922. He wrote a poem which is deemed a call to arms, but for which side? So he is placed under house arrest for life. Conveniently his address for the last four years has been The Hotel Metropol, the best in Moscow. Now moved to humble rooms in the old servant quarters in the belfry, he nonetheless has the run of the beautiful establishment, the restaurants and bar. He makes friends with the servants and guests alike and is dubbed by an old student friend who has suffered in the Gulag, “the luckiest man in Russia”. Intrigue, romance and friendship pepper the years as we follow the Count from 1922 to 1954, a time of huge change as a new Russia is created. With a nod towards the period in its style and lots of philosophy, I wouldn’t say this was compulsive but it is strangely hypnotic, one is certainly drawn to it although it isn’t an easy read. It is a comfortable book to be with despite its horrific span in history for imprisoned in his hotel, Rostov is indeed one of the luckiest in Russia. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Click here to read a Q&A with the author about this book.
Absolutely fascinating, a beautiful yet quirky read, this is a tale to make you wonder, to make you feel… A grandfather, on his deathbed, tells his grandson about his life, from rocket ships to prison, from love to aching for revenge, all is revealed. The story isn't released in sequence, instead it flits around in time, I was initially thrown but soon got used to, even welcomed the sudden disturbance to the storyline. Michael Chabon writes with an understated, elegant, yet wickedly spiky hand. There were times when I lost myself in the words that danced across the pages, others when I was brought up short, shocked and surprised. The author’s note at the beginning suggests there is a connection to his family, the acknowledgment at the end gives source to information, how much is actually true though, isn't revealed, but I have fallen in love with the memories scattered on the page. In the vast open thrilling space of ‘Moonglow’ is a wonderfully intimate collection of meandering, amusing, achingly sad, and truly fabulous stories. ~ Liz Robinson
This book seemed to come out of nowhere. It was the first Afghan novel to be written in English and it became a word-of-mouth bestseller in no time at all. Telling a tragic story of childhood jealousy and fear, it covers a bitter part of Afghan history in a painful tale that truly pulls at the heartstrings. A brilliant book. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Voted 2nd in the Books of the Decade by Lovereading readers. Richard Charkin, Executive Director of Publisher Bloomsbury, said: “We’re delighted that The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini has been selected by Lovereading as the number two title of the last Decade. We’re so pleased it continues to resonate with today’s readers and hope it will continue to do so for many decades to come.” Voted as the Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year 2006 and 2007. The Bloomsbury Modern Classic Series Restless by William Boyd Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
October 2017 Book of the Month A short, emotional and entirely captivating novel based on the real events that surrounded, enclosed and smothered the notorious Mata Hari. Mata Hari is a name that still evokes and conjures vivid images, this is a story that releases fact and weaves in fiction, until you're left with a concentrated, intense tragedy. The prologue introduces the end, a chillingly evocative photo followed by a news report, this may be a novel, but it doesn't feel like one, instead it feels as though reality is spilling from the pages. Several photos add an intensity to the already striking and memorable tale. By writing in letter form, Paulo Coelho allowed me to touch, to feel, to question, he made me look at Mata Hari as a woman rather than an exotic creature. ‘The Spy’ strips glamour, discards enchantment, yet there still remains an air of mystery about the fascinating Mata Hari, and I’m left with her still in my mind, I’m left wanting to know more. ~ Liz Robinson If you like Paulo Coelho you might also like to read books by Laura Esquivel, Diana Cooperand Louise Erdrich.
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. Three women are at the heart of this beguiling, elemental novel, in which the dialogue dances, and the force of Irish fairy lore weaves its eerie, all-consuming ways through a superstitious rural community in the early nineteenth century. Nóra’s husband was “a fit man, in the full of healthy” when he dropped down dead at a crossroads reserved for the burial of suicides. Nóra has already lost her daughter this year, and now cares for her grandson Micheál who, inexplicably, has ceased speaking and walking. In the words of Mary, the young girl who comes to work for Nóra, he’s like a “strange scarecrow”, “a baby’s plaything, made from sticks and an old dress”. The locals whisper that he’s a changling, that his mother was carried away by the Good People (the fairies), that he played some part in his grandfather’s untimely passing. Terrified of him, (Nóra’s nights are “shattered with the boy’s screaming”), and at her wits end, she takes the desperate measure of whipping Micheál with nettles, thinking the sting will make him move. It’s then that a neighbour says Nóra must seek advice from Nance of the Fairies. With her wise woman’s knowledge of herbs and spirits, Nance is “a pagan chorus”, “the gatekeeper at the edge of the world”, and has healed many a person in need. Although the new priest “has the word out against her”, healing is what she does, and so Nance agrees to “put the fairy out of [Micheál]”. As further misfortunes are blamed on the child, the three women work to restore him amidst an atmosphere charged with increasing hostility.Inspired by a real-life event, this is an absolutely stunning account of a poor community clinging to superstition and ritual in order to make sense of their isolated world. Chilling, and charged with earthiness, I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘This is a marvelously physical evocation of rural Ireland, which is deeply personal without ever being mawkish. With a cracking good narrative, Hannah Kent has conjured up an entire world that most of us would never see or know about, and has created three entirely different female characters who resonate long beyond the novel. The hold of the church and of superstition over the people is both totally believable and plausible.'
Set in the deep American south between the wars, this is the classic tale of Celie, a young poor black girl. Raped repeatedly by her father, she loses two children and then is married off to a man who treats her no better than a slave. She is separated from her sister Nettie and dreams of becoming like the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and rebellious black woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the support of women that enables her to leave the past behind and begin a new life. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
October 2017 Book of the Month | Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017. From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves. Here comes Autumn. On being Longlisted for the Man Booker prize Ali Smith said; "A lovely surprise – I'm very very chuffed – but especially to be on this longlist, in such bloody good company". You can read an interview with her on the Man Booker website here.
Three years ago Cardiff born Ellie moved into a small block of twelve flats in Kensal Rise, London. Her life is dull. She does tele-ad sales for a trade mag and then suddenly she gets postcards from Greece addressed to a S. Ibbotson at her address. They are from an “A” in Greece as he travels round the country. She loves them and sticks them to her flat wall. After a few months she is inspired to go there herself. As she leaves for the airport she picks up a small package from her post pigeon hole. It contains a notebook in “A”’s handwriting. So we learn the man, Anthony, was expecting his love to join him for a fortnight’s holiday though she never came. He was in Greece researching a book and has the advance which will last a year if he is careful. Dejected and in despair he goes travelling to forget, escape, lose himself … all those things Greece can offer, plus fantastic scenery and sunshine. As he is alone the locals embrace him and many tell him tales. There follows a series of short stories as he moves from village square to village square and listens. They are gentle, poignant, very Greek and quite charming. Some have religious undertones, some touch on mythology, quite a few are just human drama tales of love, deception, loss and sadness, although many do have happy endings. The most horrific is The Honeymoon, the sweetest Air on a G String. ~ Sarah Broadhurst