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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.
Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.
Powerful and poignant, moving and provocative, this beautifully eloquent novel is set before and during the Second World War. People Like Us highlights love, humanity and kindness in the terrifying face of intolerance and hate. Hetty’s father is an SS officer and she passionately believes in Hitler, as anti-semitism grows Hetty finds herself falling in love with Walter. Walter is blonde and blue-eyed, Walter saved her life when she was seven, Walter was best friends with her brother who has joined the Luftwaffe, Walter is a Jew. Hetty narrates her own story, creating a bond, a link to this child who is raised as a Nazi. Louise Fein builds Hetty’s world for us from 1933, I could feel Hetty growing through the years, her voice changing as her thoughts formed, hesitated, altered. Hetty and Walter are relatable, believable, touchable. It is absolutely fascinating to see this life, from this viewpoint, one that you can consider and wonder, ‘what if that had been me’. People Like Us was: “inspired by [the author’s] own family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early thirties and today”. The author’s note at the end sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. As well as being a stunner of a read (you may want tissues handy), People Like Us has huge impact and deservedly sits as a LoveReading Star Book and Debut of the Month, this is one to climb the rooftops and shout about.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books.
This highly original, dark (v v dark) and sinister thriller breaks all the rules; such as switching from 1st, 2nd and 3rd person and having a highly fragmented timeline, but it delivers something thrillingly different. Four friends set up an agency to say ‘sorry’ and allow company executives to be absolved of guilt - but does that mean anyone can be absolved of anything with a simple transfer of cash?
March 2012 Book of the Month. This highly original, dark (v v dark) and sinister thriller breaks all the rules; such as switching from 1st, 2nd and 3rd person and having a highly fragmented timeline, but it delivers something thrillingly different. Four friends set up an agency to say ‘sorry’ and allow company executives to be absolved of guilt - but does that mean anyone can be absolved of anything with a simple transfer of cash?
A dysfunctional famlily saga that begins in London in 1962 and then moves to Manhattan 40 years later. Heller has created some very memorable characters and skillfully handles them, as a revelation causes the Litvinoff family to reconsider their lives.
Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel. Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. This review is provided by bookgroup.info.Fans of WHITE TEETH may be a bit disappointed with Zadie Smith’s latest novel. ON BEAUTY is not such a rollicking good read as her first book but what it lacks in pace it makes up for in characterisation and depth. The novel lays out its credentials from the first sentence: ‘One may as well begin with Jerome’s emails to his father.’ and goes on to draw much of its narrative from the plot of E M Forster’s HOWARD’S END. Smith’s story revolves, as does Forster’s, around two families who, although from a similar strata of society, have opposing political and moral viewpoints. Set mainly at Wellington, a fictitious Ivy League university, ON BEAUTY explores the rivalry between two art-historians: Howard Belsey – English, inclusive, liberal– and the ultra conservative, Christian, Monty Kipps. Despite being African American, Kipps refers to ‘the coloured man’ and wages a campaign on the campus against affirmative action. Inevitably, the two families get involved and the ensuing tensions provide great potential for high drama as well as comic situations. Some episodes are very funny indeed. Zadie Smith is very good at human relationships, family dynamics specifically, and some of her scenes are painfully convincing. By referring to Howard’s End, the author creates parallels and counterpoints between Edwardian England and the US east coast of the early twenty first century. Although, whereas Forster’s novel ends with the symbolic death of Leonard Blast under a pile of books, Howard’s ‘end’ in ON BEAUTY is not only a hugely optimistic redemption of his character but an affirmation of the value of love and beauty.This homage to Forster does beg comparison with someone who was a master of economy in his writing. In just a few spare subtle sentences he could illustrate the British class system in all its iniquity and complexity and it makes Smith seem a bit clunky and heavy-handed by contrast. That said, ON BEAUTY is a very accomplished novel, a good read and provides plenty to consider about love, fidelity, identity and the nature of beauty.The Lovereading view...Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. Set on both sides of the Atlantic, award-winning Zadie Smith's third novel, On Beauty, is a brilliant analysis of family life, the institution of marriage, intersections of the personal and political, and an honest look at people's deceptions. It is also, as you might expect, very funny indeed. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2011. Narrated with a distinct and fiery spice, Jinx and Lemon must find their own paths to redemption in this stunning debut novel in which over the course of one weekend they strip away the layers of the past to lay bare a story full of jealousy and tragic betrayal.
Contrasting rural Iranian life and traditions with a London immigrant's affluence, this is an impressive work of love, family and identity.
One of our Great Reads you may have missed in 2011. July 2011 Book of the Month. This is an utterly beguiling, magical, fable-like story that uses the relationships between humans and animals to address much bigger themes including those about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. Like his multi-million copy selling and Booker Prize winning Life of Pi, the reader is taken on an odyssey but this time to address the emotional legacy of the holocaust through Henry, an ordinary man with whom the reader will care greatly for and through Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey. It’s written on many different levels so it’s a book that is bound to create a big buzz both for and against it. Views are divided here but lovers of Life of Pi will I think find this an absorbing but possibly heart-breaking tale.
June 2010 Book of the Month. This is an utterly beguiling magical, fable-like story that uses the relationships between humans and animals to address much bigger themes including those about life and art, truth and deception, responsibility and complicity. Like his multi-million copy selling and Booker Prize winning Life of Pi, the reader is taken on an odyssey but this time to address the emotional legacy of the holocaust through Henry, an ordinary man with whom the reader will care greatly for and through Beatrice and Virgil, a donkey and a howler monkey. It’s written on many different levels so it’s a book that is bound to create a big buzz both for and against it. Views are divided here but lovers of Life of Pi will I think find this an absorbing but possibly heart-breaking tale.
May 2010 Book of the Month. A wonderful collection of characters, in a small Sussex village, all have their secrets, resentments, heartache and desires. A book that will keep you gripped from page one. This author is perhaps better know for his teen fiction but this book shows his talents cross over in to the world of adult fiction too.
This review is provided by bookgroup.info.This extraordinary novel by William Nicholson (better known as the playwright responsible for Shadowlands and co-screenwriter of Gladiator) is a surprise from start to finish. The narrator is a young man, passive to the point of inertia, whose motto is 'Life is hard and then you die'. He spends his time in his bedroom doing nothing - really nothing at all - until a pigeon gives him a sign that he should get away. This sets him off on a Kafkaesque journey where he is hurtled from violence to danger and back again via a cast of strange characters. His wry and, at times, very funny commentary reveals his personality (which is actually quite lovable) and its development along the way. It is a philosophical and spiritual journey and I have to admit that, as someone with a profound distrust of religion, I was tempted to put the book down as soon as the G word was mentioned. I had to remind myself that I read because I want to know what other people have to say and to keep my mind open. I'm glad I did because ultimately it's a thought-provoking book that calls for an oblique and humane perspective on the world. It also engendered a very lively discussion amongst our group.Sarah Broadhurst's view...Renowned childrenâ€™s author has written his first adult novel that he describes as â€œa thriller about the meaning of lifeâ€. It stars a normal teenager with no direction, no ambition and no motivation who sort of falls into hitch-hiking round Europe. With no destination, he goes wherever the lorry driver is going enduring the manâ€™s philosophical chat along the way. Borders are crossed and suddenly we are in very foreign territory indeed, a dangerous, frightening Kafka-esque place and our teenager walks into a nightmare. Reading it is like receiving a sharp punch in the stomach. A staggeringly impressive work.Comparison: Bernhard Schlinkâ€™s The Reader, Jim Crace, J M Coetzee.Similar this month: Yasmina Khadra, William Sutcliffe.
This stunning, sophisticated, legal thriller has been lauded with praise by some heavyweight crime authors [see the review section] and we can only agree. A community is shocked when a school boy is found brutally stabbed to death but it takes a shockingly personal turn when the son of the Assistant district attorney is implicated in the killing. How far will he go to protect his son? With twists, turns and some jaw dropping revelations it really is one that no crime fan should miss. Click here to view videos of William Landay answering readers' questions about this book. In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion for Defending Jacob a small number of Lovereading members were lucky enough to be invited to review this title - 'I am still thinking about the story five days later...You have to read Defending Jacob – it is quite simply a brilliant story!' Scroll down to read more reviews.
This was Golding’s 2nd published novel and hailed by critics as his best, so startling was it that one, Arthur Koestler, described it as ‘an earthquake in the petrified forests of the English Novel’.55 years on the novel charting the downfall of the Neanderthals, from their perspective, by the violent race of Homo Sapiens is still shocking.