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Name : Debra F.

My Reviews

Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Dark
A who dunnit with a twisted protagonist

Engleby is a first person narrative set in southern England during the '70s. A time when many of our book club members were still at Uni, so there was partial convergence of experience with the unreliable and occasionally amnesiac narrator: Mike Engleby. There is very little that is likable about Engleby, but this adds rather than detracts from the enjoyment of the novel. The reader learns about the principal female character, Jennifer, mainly through her diary, so she is not as well rounded as Engleby. The story covers Engleby's youth and early working life and his reactions to others in each phase. Each discrete phase: boarding school, university and life as a journalist was convincing, with the other characters clearly drawn, some of whom, although only playing a cameo role, are vividly memorable.
As a group we very much enjoyed Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong, many of us going on to read the author's full oeuvre. But Engleby was a departure from what we know of Faluks's works, but nevertheless a riveting read. Many of us could not put the book down - it's that engaging!

Shaw's Pygmalion. Kursmodell Englisch. (Lernmaterialien) by George Bernard Shaw, Hermann Bendl
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Brilliant
A classic you must not miss!

How the Dead Live by Will Self
Book Club Recommended
Self plays with your mind - as all good authors should!

Emma Brown by Clare Boylan
Book Club Recommended
You can see where the join is - and there are better Gothic novels out there

Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Slow, Informative
A helpful introduction to the birth of America

An interesting read, but like much non-fiction not a great book for discussion. I would prefer to get my bookclub history via fiction/faction.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Book Club Recommended
Brilliant, Gloomy, Interesting
An Everyman named Guy...

One of the best books about books of all time. Prescient, insightful to the human condition and yet uplifting. Brilliant for discussion. Read it! Also worth trying: The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind.

Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Dramatic, Dark
A true classic

Enjoyed lengthy discussion on the themes of this book. Amazed at how little society has changed, relatively, since this book was written. Emma is a memorable and flawed character - unforgettable.

Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Interesting, Dark
Dog-lovers who read should not miss this!

A fabulous read about human relationships told through via the metaphor of their interactions with dogs. A warm bath of a book; beautifully crafted, descriptive,lexically rich & with an inviting and at times mysterious setting. There are a few debut novel/creative writers' course "rocks" poking through, nevertheless enjoy getting to know a boy who doesn't speak and his dogs who somehow do. Keep the tissues nearby. Recommended. Look out for more books from this author.

Dramatic, Interesting, Adventurous
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - yawn

Stock characters: older(wiser) male investigative journalist (detective) plus "weirdo" (Asperger's/punk/Goth/anorexic) female sidekick with bad/sad childhood (hidden past/depths?) tackle 40 year old cold case. Text sprinkled with literary allusions like frosting on a 2 day old cupcake; add some gratuitous bad sex/sadism and sign up for "best seller". Almost 500 pages smelled badly of the fairly bluntly signposted red herrings. Forget the roll-mops find better. Agree with review at:

Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Beautiful, Difficult

So far (April) my best book of 2010. Laughed out loud many times and thoroughly enjoyed. French characters and attitudes were spot on. Loved the interplay between Renee, Paloma and the Japanese guy. Looking forward to discussing.

Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
Book Club Recommended
Difficult, Interesting, Slow
Absorbing Historical fiction

discussion questions at:

Fabulous read, which draws the reader in by using the present tense story telling. The author makes the setting of Tudor England fresh and exciting, by taking Thomas Cromwell's perspective, even though most readers would already know something about this historic period. Glorious language, great character development, and lo, it's just the first part of a planned trilogy. Great! 2 more books like this to look forward to!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Book Club Recommended
Insightful, Inspiring, Interesting
Something for the girly book groups

Ultimately this character-driven book will appeal to women more than men, because of the well-drawn female protagonists. Suffers from debut novel issues, e.g. getting the characters to "tell" rather than show their actions/beliefs etc, but nevertheless a page-turner which will make for good discussion by a reading group.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
Interesting, Dramatic, Addictive

The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah
Dramatic, Informative, Inspiring
Under-edited and cliched

A ww2 story that doesn't add to the canon in any particular way. Several thinly drawn characters whose behaviours and speech are frequently unconvincing. Several phrases are repeated throughout the book , which add nothing to the reader's understanding - in fact tend to irritate!

Very brief discussion of the book, as insufficient depth to plot, and the dreary stock characters. A definite case of tell and not show, which makes this little more than a beach read.

Last Orders by Graham Swift
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Unconvincing
Read 20 years ago - doesn't age well

a book of it's time, the language and petty sexism seem out dated

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Book Club Recommended
Inspiring, Insightful, Informative
unusual autobiography that will provoke discussion

A polymath doctor, with terminal lung cancer writes his own reflection on what death means. Searingly honest, including the trouble caused to their marriage by the busy, professional life of 2 doctors. Beautiful writing, with several reflections which pull you into his world view.
“I was less driven by achievement then trying to understand...What makes human life meaningful? Literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the most elegant rules of the brain”

Painful epilogue, written by the author's wife, but ultimately an uplifting read, giving hope. Highly recommended.

A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman
Book Club Recommended
Fun, Insightful, Beautiful
How grief strikes and how friendship can help

The eponymous hero is recently widowed and has now lost his job. At 59 he see no further point and plans his own demise. The early chapters feel something like individual episodes of a sitcom, but gradually,as the author reveals his past, the reader becomes more sympathetic towards Ove.

Some great characterisation particularly of the neighbours and the cat. Makes for fun discussion, but ultimately not a great read, as there is little to reflect upon.

Book Club Recommended
Dark, Insightful, Slow
Lively discussion of a modern satire

Unlikable characters always make for more interesting discussion! Having some understanding of present day USA social mores helps lift the satirical aspects.
Helpful questions here:

Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Dark, Slow

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Boring, Gloomy

The Wife: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer
Book Club Recommended
Addictive, Unconvincing
Interesting discussion, but not a keeper

The characters in this novel were not well drawn enough to me to be in any way convincing. Joan is an unreliable narrator, perhaps depressed, but fails to convey how her relationship with Joe lasted for so long. The denouement, in the last 20-30 pages, was no big surprise, not even the death of one of the players. There are many, better books out there, and some may even live up to the 'hilarious' quote on the blurb - but not this one!
Discussion questions here:

Days Without End: A Novel by Sebastian Barry
Book Club Recommended
Slow, Boring, Pointless
A book to be inhaled in a single session

This book, despite including several passages of graphic, violent battle-scenes, is an uplifting story of the power of love to conquer all. Beautiful, lyrical writing, well drawn characters and not too many stop-you-in-your-tracks, credibility-straining coincidences are woven into an unforgettable story. No prior knowledge of American history is required, although the book provoked this reader to find out more about the background to this tale's time-setting. Highly recommended.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Book Club Recommended
Gloomy, Slow
a modern classic

Set in the mid '50's, this book reflects the social mores of the time and yet the story, of the power dynamic in a marriage, is itself timeless. Superb, immersive writing and endless discussion points make this a great book club pick.

The Warden (Penguin Classics) by Anthony Trollope
Book Club Recommended
Interesting, Inspiring, Slow
Refreshingly contemporary satire, despite its age!

For many of us this was our introduction to Trollope. Once used to the style and the 'wordy sentences' , the quality of writing shone through. The characters are well drawn, often with Dickensian names, which forewarn the reader with their likey behaviour. The themes are universal: greed; well-meaning, but ill-informed youth rushing in; the power of crowds; the influence of the press & the entitlement of those with power and/or money.

Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Informative, Adventurous

A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
Book Club Recommended
Poorly Written, Unconvincing, Slow
Lively discussion couldn't save the poor editing

a plodding, predictable plot with many dull/wooden characters. More of a beach read than a literary affair.

The Accidental Recluse by Tom McCulloch
Book Club Recommended
Dramatic, Beautiful, Fun
Made for lively discussion

An unreliable narrator and a poet as author makes for an engaging read. Slightly weak ending. Would make a fantastic movie as the settings are all beautiful places.

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