Books I’ve read

How It All Began by Penelope Lively
This is my Book Club title for July 2015. I’m reading it a bit early so I’m making notes as I go otherwise I’ll have forgotten it when it’s time to discuss it!

Characters -
Rose, PA to Henry
Gerry, Rose’s husband
Charlotte, Rose’s mother who is mugged
Henry, Rose’s boss who needs a lot of looking after
Marion, Henry’s niece who runs an interior design business
Jeremy, Marion’s married lover
Stella, Jeremy’s wife
Jeremy and Stella’s daughters Daisy and Emma
Gill, Stella’s sister
Paul Newsome, Stella’s Divorce Lawyer
Anton, Charlotte’s English student

The book opens with Charlotte being badly injured during a mugging and Chapter 1 and 2 describe the consequensces of this event to all the characters lives.

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The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This is the Book Club choice for December 2013

On the whole I enjoyed this book. I didn’t have any trouble getting into it. It was different and intriguing.

It did start to irritate me when I got about half way through it. I started to wonder what part Allan would play in Kennedy’s assassination or the Moon landings, but he skipped right over those years. I did think that it was very odd that this man managed to get involved in most of the major events in history and yet no-one has heard of him. For me that was a stretch of the imagination a bit too far.

The other thing that I found irritating was the fact that it was two stories mixed in together. I’d be engaged in reading about an incident from the past, turn the page to find out what happened next, and find that we’d time traveled to his present day and a completely different story.

I’ll give this book a score of 6

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Toby’s Room by Pat Barker

This book is the Book Club’s choice for May.
It’s probably not a book I would have chosen myself, but even though the subject of how people coped with WW1 was quite grueling, it was quite an easy book to read.

The story followed several individuals and documented how the war affected each of them, and how their lives were connected to each other.

Toby was Elinor’s brother, and when the family was told that he was ‘Missing, Believed Killed’, Elinor became obsessed with finding out what had happened to him and how he had died if he was dead.

It became obvious that there was something wrong and Kit who was with Toby when he died, didn’t want Elinor to know what had happened.

Eventually the truth is told to another friend who tells Elinor what happened to her brother. At least, it could be the truth, or it could be the story that Kit is telling to hide the truth. He is the only person who knows as he was the only one there.

I’ll give this book a score of 6 out of 10

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Charles Dickens A Life by Claire Tomalin

I’m not enjoying this book which is the Book Club choice for April 2013.
I’ve read just over a third of it and I’m ready to give up. I will try to continue but I’ll find it hard work.

It started off well and I was enjoying reading about Dickens early life.
Once he started writing, the book became so detailed with, in my opinion, unnecessary minutiae that I found it completely boring. A lot of it was about how much money Dickens got for which bit of writing, but it meant nothing to me because there was no explanation of how much £500 was worth in the 1800s.

According to this book, Dickens treated his wife Catherine appallingly. He had several unacceptable passionate obsessions with young girls, even wanting to be buried with his wife’s younger sister. We hardly hear anything of his wife except to say that she’s pregnant, which seems to happen annually.

Did Dickens really ignore his wife except to impregnate her? Or did Claire Tomalin decide not to include her in this book? Either way would be bizarre because Dickens has many close relationships with both men and women which are described in detail by the author.
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I’ve nearly got to half through way now and I’m giving up. I can’t bring myself to waste any more time reading this book. It has continued to be unnecessarily detailed minutiae and the more I read of Dickens the more I dislike him.

If the book had been half the length giving less detail, I think it would have been interesting.

My score for this book is 2 out of 10 because I enjoyed the first bit about Dickens’ childhood.

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Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
The Book Club choice for March 2013

I’ve never read any of Maeve Binchy’s books before, so I was looking forward to trying this one. It’s quite long – nearly 500 pages, so I wondered if I would struggle to finish it in the 10 days I had left before the next Book Club Meeting. I soon found that I needn’t have worried as it quickly became one of those books you didn’t want to put down.

We follow the life of the main character, Ria, and her friends and the people who affect her life. Ria marries the man she loves, has two children and a beautiful house and should be able to live happily ever after, but there’s a feeling of foreboding that nothing can be that perfect and something will go wrong.

Sure enough, it does, and I had to keep reading to see how everyone would cope with the difficulties in their lives. All their lives were connected, and it was their help and support of each other that got them though the traumas and tragedies.

My score for this book is 9 out of 10 and I’d happily read more of Maeve Binchy’s writing.

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Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
This is the Book Club book for October 2012.
I’ve read several of Kate Atkinson’s books and enjoyed them, but I found this book very difficult to get into.

I started reading it at the beginning of October and I found it very depressing. The characters had nothing to endear them to me and the disfunctionality of the family made reading the book an unpleasant experience.

After the first 100 pages, I gave up and read something else. I decided to have another go towards the end of the month, but again I couldn’t get past the first 100 pages, and getting that far was a struggle.
I read to be entertained and to learn, but this book just made me depressed so I decided to stop reading it.

It surprised me that this book was so different from the other Kate Atkinson titles I’d read and enjoyed. Perhaps she was writing in a different genre which is obviously not one I like.
Unfortunately my score will have to be 0 out of 10

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The Quality of Mercy by Barry Unsworth
This is the Book Club choice for September 2012. When I saw it I wasn’t sure about it. I certainly wouldn’t have picked it up myself, but that’s the whole point of a book club, that I read authors and genres new to me.

Some books are really hard to get into, but this one grabbed me in the first paragraph.

It’s set in the 1760s and features a mining community in Durham, the slave trade, banking, the law and life in London. Life is very hard for everyone, but especially for the poor. Two six year old sons of mining families are making the most of their last few weeks of play before they turn 7 and go down the mine.

The first half of the book seems to be taken up with a court case concerning an incident at sea that included live slaves, men and women, being thrown overboard to drown. I found it very wordy and confusing and a struggle to get through.

I also got bogged down with a myriad of characters and so many different threads to the story which I found confusing.

There was an anticipation and tension because it was evident that several of the characters were heading for the same place and likely to meet each other. I was wondering if the outcome of those meetings would be good or bad?

I found the second half much easier to read, almost as if it was written by a different author.

After reading my way through the book, I wanted to know what would happen to all the people that I’d been following, but for me, the whole thing fell flat and fizzled out. Yes, it did say what happened to the charcters, but after all the buildup, some of which was very longwinded and tedious, it felt like an after thought rather than the climax of the whole book.

All the way through the book, I was wondering about the title. Now I’ve finished it, I’m still wondering. The only mention of ‘The Quality of Mercy’ that I could find was when Jane was considering her response to Kemp’s proposal of marriage. She didn’t see it as something he had, but as something she might be able to encourage in him if she married him. A very tenuos link.

For me this book was disappointing and my score is 2 out of 10

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Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

This is the Book Club choice for August 2012. I enjoyed it, on the whole. There were a few detailed descriptions I could have done without, and I felt it was a bit muddly. It was as though the author had a lot of ideas running round his head and was in so much hurry to put them down on paper that they came out in a rush and a muddle. But then this is Ian Rankin’s first book, and he may have become more organised.

John Rebus, the main character, did some very strange things that I found irritating. I found myself shouting at him not to do it – but he didn’t listen.

I like to have all the loose ends tied up at the end of a book, and there were lots of ends left loose here. Such as, how did he survive the helicopter drop?

It ended very abruptly which left me up in the air.

This book was a bit harsh for me, and I’ve concluded that either it’s written for men or I’m a wimp!

My score is 5 out of 10

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Down Among the Dead Men by Michelle Williams
A Year in the Life of a Mortuary Technician

This book was a suggestion by the Book Club I belong to, but hasn’t been our set book yet. I’m not sure I would have chosen it myself, but I’m glad I read it.

The book endeared intself to me early on as it was set in the mortuary of the general hospital in the town where I grew up so it was familiar to me as were the areas of the town the author referred to.

The characters, the mortuary technicians, were likeable, and like a lot of people in difficult jobs, were full of humour.

The book was written in quite a matter of fact way, which was good for the subject. I didn’t continue reading a detailed description of eviceration, which is the removal of the internal organs from a body as I was starting to feel sick! but that was the only bit I needed to skip.

I found the book interesting and informative. I had often wondered what happens when someone dies, and now I know.

I’ll give it a score of 6 out of 10

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