Autumn is upon us – this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

I do hope many of you have been inspired by our Autumnal book promotion The Turning Year, you can browse the collection on our catalogue.

(Note, most are not in the reading group collection – just for yourselves to enjoy)


Moving on to reading group recommendations from our wonderful groups, try one of these for the Autumn:

Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

Stratford Oaks considered this a fascinating read, and fantastically researched, not at all sentimental, and gave it five stars.9780571325832

They consider it excellent. It is a fictional account of a soldier’s life, told in flashback. They found each chapter an interesting challenge, working out who the “I” is each time.

This is what the Guardian says:

What might cause puzzlement, however, is his decision to rotate the first-person narrative voice not between characters, but between objects involved in Captain Barnes’s story. The first three chapters, for example, are narrated by a tourniquet, a bag of fertiliser, and a boot. This is an interesting idea, and one that gives Parker freedom to shift his focus between characters and events in a way that might otherwise feel bizarrely staccato, but it also raises questions that impede the story. The more you wonder why body armour is more poetic than a running shoe, or why a detonating bomb favours alliteration, the less absorbed in the book you become.

However, the book is highly recommended by the group.


The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

Nuneaton Bookworms greatly enjoyed this. Members particularly commented on the gripping storytelling, effective characterisation, and talented use of language. Excellent, a very good discussion ensued.

9780349142685Here is what Good Reads says:

A suspenseful black comedy, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage. 

Although it stands alone, it continues Amanda Craig’s sequence of novels featuring inter-connected characters which illuminate aspects of contemporary life. It is the work of a writer at the height of her powers. 


The Wives of Los Alamos by Tara Shea Nesbit

Bishop’s Tachbrook group, which meets in Whitnash library, found this book very clever and unusual.

They thought it gripping, and very different from other books they have read. They rated it excellent, and would recommend it wholeheartedly, because it’s so interesting.

This is one of our older titles, so catch it soon, before it disappears!  9781408845899.jpg

Here is a quick resume from The Independent:

Sometime in the summer of 1943, a team of US-based scientists came home to their wives and announced that the family would soon be heading southwest. These twenty something women had no say in the move, and no idea where they were going; they might as well have been blindfolded. Stepping off the train in Sante Fe, New Mexico, they were led to an unmarked desert town with prefabricated homes and no sign yet of a hospital or school. There, unbeknownst to them, their husbands would soon assemble the first atom bomb….


The Sandcastle  by  Iris Murdoch

9780099433583Farnborough Book Club (at Southam Library) reviewed this:

This was an excellent book for a reading group, because opinions differed so greatly. Some loved the book, and others found it tedious. For those of us who admired her wonderful writing, her mastery of description and metaphor, it was a wonderful book. A simple adultery, on one level, but so much more, watching her characters unfold and gain in power, the subtle contrast between Nan and Rain—it all combined to make an excellent read.

If you haven’t read Murdoch before, it could get you hooked.  We all felt sad to think such a mind was finally destroyed by Alzheimer’s.


In Tearing Haste: Letters between Patrick Leigh Fermor and Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire.

Kinmond Court group in Leamington says:

This is a most interesting and absorbing book. It throws light on lives of people that most of us can have no conception.9780719568572

Patrick Leigh Fermor (later knighted) was a former hero soldier, an author traveller and raconteur. His letters are full of very descriptive and lengthy passages on his frequent travels. They also reveal his deep sense of humour.

Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire’s (Debo Mitford) letters are much shorter but no less entertaining and amusing.

Between the two of them, they talk of famous people as friends e.g. the Queen Mother’s nickname was “Cake”

The friendship of these two charismatic people grows over the years, and we are allowed insight into their personal lives; the joy of their friendship only increases the enjoyment in reading their letters.


The Girl in the Glass Tower by Elizabeth Fremantle

9781405920049.jpgRugby Friendship Society at Dunchurch thought this a very interesting and educational book.

Who has heard of Arbella Stuart, the girl who should have been Queen?

She was written out of history by powerful men…

This from The Times:

Lady Arbella Stuart is a forgotten protagonist in late Tudor politics. She was, throughout her childhood, the presumed heir of the childless Elizabeth I. Perhaps her story is obscure because it lacks the sudden drama of an execution, the pathos of the axe falling on an innocent neck. Arbella’s life was, instead, a slow slide towards tragedy.

Elizabeth Fremantle has rescued Arbella from obscurity by placing her at the centre of her fascinating novel.


Lastly, we have added 5 new titles to the list:

Attica Locke: Bluebird, Bluebird

Locke’s mesmerising new novel bears all the hallmarks of modern crime fiction: the9781781257685 alcoholic protagonist with the damaged marriage; the townsfolk who close rank against outsiders; the small-town law enforcement agent with murky loyalties. But Bluebird, Bluebird is a true original in the way it twists these conventions into a narrative of exhilarating immediacy.

(The Guardian)

 


Henry Marsh:  Admissions: a life in brain surgery

9781474603874Death haunts the pages of Admissions: the author’s fear of his own, and those of his patients. The book opens with two paradoxical epigraphs: “We should always, as near as we can, be booted and spurred, and ready to go” (Montaigne), and “Neither the sun nor death can be looked at steadily” (La Rochefoucauld). Few of us prepare adequately for death, but Marsh quite literally has: he keeps a “suicide kit” at home of a few lethal drugs he has acquired over the years. His second neurosurgical memoir is transgressive, wry and confessional, sporadically joyful and occasionally doleful. It is in many ways a more revealing work than his bestseller Do No Harm, and the revelations it offers are a good deal more personal. (The Guardian)


Maggie O’Farrell:  I Am, I Am, I Am

We are all, in one way or another, just moments from death. Catastrophe lurks wherever 9781472240767we care to look. Most of us tend not to dwell on our mortality since that way madness lies, but many have stood on the precipice, often several times over, and stared it        squarely in the face.

The writer Maggie O’Farrell, has chronicled 17 of her own near-misses. Written in self-contained essays, the events recalled here are blips, coincidences, flashes of folly, or plain bad luck Some are startling, but later shrugged off, others are lingering and life-changing.  (The Guardian)

 


Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire
9781408886793

Soon after the Manchester Arena bombing in May, the city’s central mosque declared it would not perform Islamic obsequies for the attacker. “We cannot offer prayers over someone who has committed such an act,” said the imam. His words reminded me of Sophocles’ play Antigone, in which Creon insists the traitorous Polynices cannot be buried within the walls of Thebes. Clearly, I wasn’t the first one to notice the parallel. In Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie’s seventh novel, the British-Pakistani writer re-imagines Antigone for our age of terror.  (The Telegraph)


Anita Shreve: The Stars are Fire

1947 Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear.9780349123585

Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control.

In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms – joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain – and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.

In what would tragically be her final novel, in The Stars are Fire Anita Shreve delivers a virtuoso drama that sweeps in both the devastation of loss and the strange fortitudes tragedy can bring. Brilliant in unveiling its revelations and uncannily true in its observation, Shreve’s last work only underlines fiction’s loss of a profound storyteller.


I hope you find some inspiration here and do keep sending in your reviews.

Jan.