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For all of you in reading groups and need guidance to select your next group read look no further than our reading group category. Why not print off a few opening extracts to read before you decide?
Told by many voices, some wise, some wicked, this is the story of a close community under unbearable strain. What is the breaking point where neighbours and even sisters will turn against each other? The older people remember the Great Plague of 1348, an unimaginable horror that decimated Europe, England and the village of Porlock. Now Porlock is threatened once again, but is this natural disease God’s will or the curse of a witch? A mother of lost sons, a religious fanatic, a dwarf ex-jester, a lonely noble woman and others each tell their side of this harrowing story. Charm and sensitivity run throughout the narrative making this a frighteningly believable story. Medieval Porlock is skilfully evoked and some of the landmarks of the story are still visible today. A moving and disturbing tale of humanity pushed to the edge of society and beyond collapses. Those who fear the fashionable modern ‘zombie apocalypse’ would do well to read this and remember that the past also held life-changing horrors. Exciting, enthralling, enticing, disturbing and enjoyable, this is a wonderful read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst October 2016 Reading Group Book of the Month. Click here to view a Reading Guide for The Plague Charmer.
A smart and sassy take on a 21st century mum making her way in the world, trying not to cause too much damage but also hoping that maybe, just maybe she may be able to find the contentment within herself that she so badly craves. For one day we enter the life of Eleanor and she’s determined that today will be different and if nothing else she’s determined to leave the world a better place than she found it. Then her day takes an unexpected turn as the past creeps into her present. Suddenly there are questions demanding to be answered. Why is her husband on a ‘vacation’ she knows nothing about? Where is he disappearing to each day? How will she explain to Timby about the sister she never talks about? And what will happen to The Flood Girls? Long since consigned to the back of the closet. Maria Semple’s fresh, unique voice is full of humour and yet also captures the same complexities we all experience trying to find our place in the world. Through this novel we have a snapshot of Eleanor’s life, her fears, her pain and the thing that makes it complete in so many ways. We also experience the crazy thoughts that often flit in and out of her head. Thoughts we can all relate to and the unexplained conclusions we leap to and in turn the consequences they have on our happiness. Semple expertly weaves past experiences into Eleanor’s day as we see her trying to track down her husband whilst also being confronted by a sister that she no longer acknowledges. Today Will Be Different shares the hope that we can learn to be more accepting of who we are and allow ourselves to be happier. Semple’s writing style is sharp and one that you may either love or hate but it’s bold and distinctive and personally I loved it. ~ Shelley Fallows October 2016 Book of the Month.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. Our first-person narrator, Anne Jaccobs, is an extraordinary young woman for her period. This is Georgian London in 1763 and she a lady eager to learn. When her tutor oversteps the mark she diverts and becomes infatuated with Fub, the butcher’s boy. Her well-to-do family have plans for her but 19-year old Anne is an interesting, forceful character. In a novel rich in period detail we follow this spirited girl through some highly unexpected scenarios which two-thirds of the way through the book turn into a bawdy romp. At times dark, at times humorous, this is an historical novel not to be missed, a debut from the much-loved Blue Peter presenter. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Isolated at the tip of Australia as a lighthouse keeper, emotionally traumatised World War I veteran Tom fears for his wife's sanity after her third miscarriage. Then a boat turns up carrying a dead man and a newborn baby. They bring the baby girl up as their own. The repercussions of this on the girl's biological family, and eventually Tom's guilt, are movingly portrayed. This covers vast themes, moral dilemmas and heartbreaking decisions. A doom-laden tale which really does make you question the rules as along the way someone has to get very hurt indeed ... but whom, is Tom's dilemma. Powerful stuff and highly recommended. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Click below to view the trailer for the film adaptation of this book which opens in the UK on 4 November 2016. The Lovereading view... What a brilliant and memorable debut. Superb characters, heart-rending plot and, set on an island 100 miles from Australia, a uniquely beautiful setting. After the horrors of WW1 Tom finds first solace as a lighthouse keeper and joy as he shares the experience with his young wife. Then one morning a decision they take, seemingly for the best, has devastating consequences. We think this is a perfect book for reading groups.
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Inventively entertaining, niftily plotted first novel set in New York during the city’s effervescent infancy. It’s 1746 and a young man by the name of Smith arrives in New York from London with an order for £1000. He takes it to a Lovell, a banker based on Golden Hill Street, in order to have it cashed. “Lord love us,” Lovell exclaims at the sight of so large an amount. “This is a bill for a thousand pound”. Speculation is duly aroused: what on earth is Smith planning to do with such a quantity of cash? And what’s his purpose in the city? But Smith emerges from the counting house as “a young man with money in his pocket, new-fallen to land in a strange city on the world’s farther face”. The depiction of place is gratifyingly sensory. New York and its citizens are vibrantly evoked, from the “perfumes of hot bread and well-ground beans” on Smith’s morning meanderings, to the “African footmen with wigs powdered to the colour of icing-sugar” he sights in a church congregation.While the puzzle at the heart of the novel is not revealed until the very last pages, the plentiful and nimbly executed plot twists provide much satisfaction throughout. Part mystery, part homage to eighteenth century literature, this is an exuberant literary delight with all the readability of a page-turner. ~ Joanne Owen Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2017 | Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017 | Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017 | Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2016. The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘Pre-revolutionary New York, and a stranger arrives in town, where he finds a ferment of social jostling, politics and money that invites adventure. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that's full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed. His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist's voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat.’ Costa judges' comment: “This spirited, wonderfully witty novel sets sparkling characters and a lively plot against a richly-realised backdrop.”
One of our Books of the Year 2016. October 2016 Debut of the Month. Gosh, this is an absolute treasure of a debut… and it’s full of delightful, delicious quirkiness. 69 year old widower Arthur sets out to find the truth behind a charm bracelet he discovers when sorting through his wife’s wardrobe. Arthur quickly realises that before she met him, his wife had a whole host of experiences, and Arthur knew nothing about them! Phaedra Patrick writes with a beautifully light touch, yet imbues each page with a meaningful eloquence. Arthur is a joy to get to know, you feel his sadness and bewilderment at his loneliness and loss, then as he steps out on his quest, you witness his cloistered heart and mind unfurling towards the possibilities that life can offer. ‘The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper’ fizzes with gentle humour, it encouraged my thoughts to wander in new directions, and charmed the cockles of my heart. This is a beautiful little gem of a read and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson
One of our Books of the Year 2016. A brilliant debut from a fresh and unique voice, ‘A Boy Made of Blocks' is a book that will make you laugh, cry and think to yourself ‘thank goodness, it’s not just me!’ This wonderful book is one that every parent, every friend of a parent and every person who ever raised a judgemental eyebrow whilst witnessing a ‘difficult’ child should read. Alex is reeling from life. He's left the family home and has never felt further from his wife and son. He loves them both dearly but parenthood can put a strain on any relationship and having an autistic son adds even more pressure. Sam, his beautiful yet unreachable son, is a problem that Alex is finding impossible to solve and whilst suffocating under the responsibility he feels towards his family Alex finally hits rock bottom. Until that is Sam discovers Minecraft and so begins an adventure of a father finally finding a way to understand his son and maybe himself too. I adored Keith Stuart’s writing style. It was fresh and honest but with no trace of bitterness. Some moments were so beautifully written they made my heart ache and moved me to tears. He captures so much in so few words and I came to love his characters and felt truly sad when I reached the final sentence. A beautiful debut that not only changed the way I look at autism and children considered ‘different’, but also the struggles we all face within our lives today.' ~ Shelley Fallows September 2016 Debut of the Month. A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'It’s hard for me to be objective about A Boy Made of Blocks: it’s the book I most want people to read, partly because when they do, they universally love it. It both has massive commercial potential and is a singularly modern, heartfelt and meaningful piece of writing. It is absolutely not an ‘issues’ book, but a wonderful, funny, emotional story full of memorable characters, wit, and warmth. It’s the kind of novel people fall in love with – I certainly did – and has one of the most uplifting finales I can ever remember reading.' ~ Ed Wood, Editorial Director – Sphere Fiction
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Poignant, moving and funny, I chuckled my way through this delightful (but no longer secret) diary from the rather lovable Hendrik Groen. Hendrik has reached the age where his address book is depressingly empty and his life has become an endless string of funerals and conversations concerning bowel movements, the latest list of ailments and euthanasia. The care home he lives in is like a waiting room for death and so in an effort to keep his own sanity he decides to write his memoir. He intends to record it all, the mystery of the fish murderer, the suspicious activities being carried out by those who run the establishment and last but by no means least the happenings of THE-OLD-BUT-NOT-DEAD club. Hendrik is an endearing character who I very much enjoyed spending time with in this gentle read that left me feeling a little sad but hopeful. Snippets of the life he lived and what remains of it filter in throughout the book and have a greater sense of poignancy as they merge in with the everyday happenings of the here and now. When we are old we are still very much the person we have always been, hopefully reading this will remind us all that behind each and every elderly person lies a story. ~ Shelley Fallows September 2016 Debut of the Month. Sarah Broadhurst's view... An old people's home in the Netherlands is the setting for this satire but it could be anywhere except for the small amount of political references. But Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela's deaths are commented upon too. With a vast cast of residents and all kinds of worries and problems we concentrate mainly on a group of friends who form the 'old-but-not-dead club' where each member organises an outing. They do more than most old people ever think of: take a cookery lesson, wine-tasting, painting, synchronized swimming, tai chi, bowls, golf and such. Hanging over the home is the threat of renovation, therefore change. Our narrator is determined to get sight of the regulations and decides to challenge the board. Solicitors become involved. His three closest friends have a dramatic and sad year which is sensitively portrayed. The action takes place over that year and is written in diary form. Personally I feel that if you are involved with the elderly you might find this all a bit disturbing despite it's amusing style. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017. Traversing continents and generations, this sublime debut explores identity, self-sacrifice and dislocation with elegance and wit. It’s 1968 and Yuki Oyama decides to stay in New York with her friend, Odile and her friend’s mother, Lillian, when her parents return to Japan. “I wouldn't belong”, she muses, plus “she didn't want to be her mother following a sad man around the world”. Despite sharing a bed with Odile, Yuki never feels close to her. Odile is wrapped up in forging a modeling career, and then heads to Italy, abandoning Yuki to Lillian and her violent boyfriend. Abandonment, loneliness, and seeking solace from loneliness are recurring themes. Some years later, when she has a home, a husband who loves her, a baby son, and the talent to be an artist, Yuki remains unsettled, and feels a desperate desire to leave. A sense of longing - and never quite belonging - is poignantly evoked as the narrative alternates between Yuki’s story through the seventies, and her son’s life in 2016, culminating in a tense, bittersweet reconciliation in Berlin, where she’s made her home. While this novel’s language treads soft, it leaves a deep imprint, and makes for a powerfully, memorable reading experience. ~ Joanne Owen
Shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award 2016. This witty and twisty tale of an elderly con man intent on a final hurrah when he initially goes on a blind date with a retired, wealthy woman, brings more than smiles to the face. However she is not all she appears to be and as his own past is slowly unveiled in parallel to the con he studiously devotes himself to, increasing layers of lies and domestic intrigue are revealed which often turn the elaborate plot upside down. With echoes of Patricia Highsmith but without the die-hard cynicism, this is an affectionate and deliberately old fashioned psychological thriller with just the right touch of humour and humanity. Engrossing and with a tightly-engineered plot that holds surprises at every corner and what is there to dislike in a thriller where the main character is in his 80s? ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Just fabulous. This is one of those wonderfully rare books that sets you in the middle of a familiar location and then prowls down a previously unexplored and unexpected path. Roy, vain and full to overflowing with self belief, is a liar of the highest order, it is second nature for him to deceive, to swindle and cheat, and Betty is Roy’s next target. Exquisitely pitch perfect, with clear and self assured writing, the story slides backwards in time, releasing information, raising suspicions and spiralling down into darkness. Nicholas Searle doesn't rush this tale, he openly describes Roy’s thoughts and feelings, allowing a connection to this con man, a connection that breeds disquiet and foreboding. As I turned the last page, I paused, and felt within, one of those electrifying moments before applause bursts forth. Deceptively subtle and surprising, yet bold and fearless, I will be shouting about ‘The Good Liar’, from as many rooftops as I can find. ~ Liz Robinson A 'Piece of Passion from the Publisher... I want to tell you about this fabulously compelling novel Viking is publishing in January. The response within Penguin has been extraordinary so far – with staff in every department raving about it. There have been so many ‘water cooler moments’ with people asking: ‘when did you guess?’ or, ‘I didn’t see that coming at all!’ So, dodging any possible plot spoilers, here’s a little description of the book: The Good Liar is a story of deception, brilliantly imagined – the story of a conman, Roy, about to embark on the final con of his career. His target is Betty, a woman whom he is planning to seduce and then run off with her life savings. Roy is incredibly creepy and Betty is wonderfully admirable, if a little mysterious. The twists and turns of the narrative are endlessly surprising.I’ve been in publishing for twenty years and I have only very occasionally come across novels as original as this. I have also, only very occasionally witnessed such an amazing in-house response. It would be terrific if you liked the book as much as we all do. I would love to know what you think and please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you’d like to know more about the novel or the author.Thanks so much for your time.Yours sincerely, Mary MountPublisher, Viking/Penguin
Early on we meet Lucy, twenty-four, who needs a heart transplant. She is a plucky girl trying to live a normal life greatly hampered by her sad ill health. For eighteen months she has been on the transplant list. Preparing to go on her first holiday ever with just her sister her family watch the television News and a report on a train crash which eventually turns into a motorway crash. Among the victims are three close women friends, all badly injured. We swing back four months and get to know these three, their reliance on each other and their reason for being in that crash. Interspersed with their lives is their post-accident hospital treatment where surely one will die for Lucy to get her heart. Which one is where the suspense is ratcheted up throughout the latter half of the book where huge revelations occur which threaten to destroy the women’s friendships. This is a tale exploring many strong issues; fertility, loyalty, betrayal, responsibility, young motherhood, divorce, independence, dementia and much more. Pretty powerful stuff and excellent for reading groups.
One of our Books of the Year 2016. August 2016 Book of the Month. Tense and full of intrigue, this is a novel that sinks into the depths of obsession and discovers a very dangerous game afoot. The newly opened, glamorous lido calls to Natalie and in one summer her life changes beyond all recognition. The prologue and first chapter declare from the outset that a dramatic event has occurred. The story explores the whole of the summer, occasionally touching on the past and then suddenly switching directly to the aftermath. These jarring changes in time create a feeling of foreboding as the timelines slide towards their inevitable collision. Louise Candlish excels in looking at the darker side of relationships, she discovers thoughts and feelings that are recognisable but at the same time feel dangerously untouched. ‘The Swimming Pool’ is a slow-burning and thought-provoking read, and the last few gripping pages had me immediately reaching for the beginning.
Perfect Books for Reading Groups
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 dicussed. 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.
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