Happy New Year Everyone!

I hope you had a lovely festive time, with lots of good books to read.

Thank you for all your good reviews—it’s interesting to read them all. I am sorry we are not able to include every review in the blog, but time and space mean that we have to select. This doesn’t mean we don’t want them!! So please keep sending them along.

I know most of you have a break from meetings in December, but here are some titles you might like to pick up on in the New Year. So, here are some suggested New Year Reads :

Queen of the Desert by Georgina Howell ( reviewed by Kinmond Court group)

This is the story of Gertrude Bell, a most extraordinary woman of her time. After her adventures as a mountaineer and archaeologist, she became obsessed with the Middle East, and Iraq in particular. The author quotes constantly from Gertrude’s correspondence , so that the reader becomes intimately familiar with Bell. Everyone should read this book-it may give an insight from an historical point of view, of the present situation in the Middle East.1


The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell  ( reviewed by Farnborough book club)

There was a good discussion around this book, so many issues brought up , within a book which was easy reading , with small chapters. Against all the odds, the group are glad to have read it.



They also loved Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide.

The concept of the house being the main character was an interesting one,and unlike 1similar stores such as Downton Abbey, it did not remain with the family, but had different owners , which made it’s progress through history, interesting and varied. It ishighly recommended, well-written and prompted discussion. An unusual book.  ( this book will no longer be available after January )


The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan has had an “excellent” rating by two book groups. ( Coleshill & Farnborough)

1It was a very popular book with members, combining historical and moral issues as well as having a good plot and a surprising end. Very well-written , and a good read at many levels. The book creates an atmosphere of post-war Britain, and the way people’s experiences affected their attitude to their former enemies. 


Nora Webster by Colm Toibin, reviewed by PECC  ( Marsha)

This is a good book. We enjoyed it’s nuances and came to know and like Nora. She is beautifully portrayed as a conflicted, complex human being, who didn’t allow us to get too close to her. Struggling with her grief and the pressures of small town life, the atmosphere was one that we could identify with, as her story unfolded.  The story evokes the minutiae of domestic life and we were drawn into her world. 1

The relationships within her family are very real, and the troubles handled in a non-sensational ,realistic way. The use of particular pieces of music, as Nora finds herself through singing, adds another dimension to her story, introducing more characters from outside her own family but who are very much part of the small town culture.   


One of the most popular books of last year has been The Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor. If your group hasn’t yet picked it up, I urge you to try it next year. Here is what Scholar’s Court in Stratford thought of it :

Two readers scored the book 10 out of 10 “ I appreciated the history”  “ I couldn’t put it down” . Others found it less of a page-turner, but still enjoyed it for the criss-crossing narratives, variety of characters, and, in particular, the evocative descriptions of life in London in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire. The historical detail is very good and appears to be well researched.1

The switching between first-person and third-person narrative voices was thought clumsy, making it easy to lose the thread. But the overall interweaving of a number of different stories and themes worked well ,especially as the strands were brought together in the later stages.

The two main characters- although very unlike each other- were well-developed, sophisticated in conception, and interesting in different ways.  There were a number of intriguing secondary characters who appealed to different readers in different ways. But almost all of us had difficulty keeping track of the great sprawl of other characters and some of their complicated relationships. We would have appreciated a cast list for reference.

The action contains a number of set pieces which readers found exciting and suspenseful, but a full and final resolution of the initial mystery seemed to be missing. ( This is because there will be another volume)

We all found the book evocative and intriguing, but, to enjoy it to the full, we recommend readers approach the book as an historical fiction, based in fact, rather than the murder mystery which the blurb suggests.   


Lastly, here are three recommended Classics, if you want something different :

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, a witty story of manners, says Kinmond Court in Leamington. Jane Austen was a woman born before her time. There has been some criticism of the lack of discussion of politics in her work, but Austen overcomes this by her insight and characterisation.

The Card by Arnold Bennett , read by Warwick Library group : this is the first book ever, where no one disliked it. 14 out of 15 positively liked it. A straightforward , episodic story, written wittily and with humour, about an interesting and charismatic character.

Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck gave a Coleshill group a puzzle: why is it considered a classic text when it doesn’t match up to expectations in terms 1of literary skills? However, the content was exceptional, and we felt this justified it’s reputation.  It shows a great depth of understanding against those with mental disability, and on the basis of race and gender.



Happy Reading !  Jan