The first day is Spring has sprung, the nights are starting to get lighter and it (sometimes) feels like it’s getting a tiny bit warmer. The signs of Spring are here so it’s time for our Spring 2022 Recommendations to highlight some of the titles in the Reading Group Collection and to share some of the reviews we’ve recently received from reading groups throughout Warwickshire.
Before we begin, if you want to know more about the Reading Group Collection, visit our ‘Reading Group Collection‘ page or browse the Collection itself here. You’ll find helpful tips and ideas for running a reading group as well as reviews both here and in our previous blogs.
If you’d like to set up your own reading group and get a Warwickshire Libraries Reading Group ticket, allowing you to borrow titles from the Collection for free, find out how to sign up here or pop into your local Warwickshire Library and speak to a member of staff.
Titles You Might Have Missed
With nearly 300 reading group sets in the Warwickshire Libraries Reading Group Collection, we know that sometimes picking just one can be tough. Here are a few titles that you might have missed when browsing the Collection.
Summer At Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham
Described as “An inspiring Jane Austen-like tale of an independent woman escaping the limitations of small-town life”, set in rural Australia and written by the author of ‘The Dressmaker’.
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Set in nineteenth-century Ireland and based on newspaper reports and a court case from the time, this novel was nominated for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. The story follows the lives of three women as they navigate folklore and belief, ritual and stories in County Kerry, Ireland in 1825
East West Street by Phillippe Sands
When human rights lawyer Philippe Sands received an invitation to deliver a lecture in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, he began to uncover a series of extraordinary historical coincidences. It set him on a quest that would take him halfway around the world in an exploration of the origins of international law and the pursuit of his own secret family history, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg Trials.
Part historical detective story, part family history, part legal thriller, Philippe Sands guides us between past and present as several interconnected stories unfold in parallel.
A God In Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
July 1914. Young Englishwoman Vivian Rose Spencer is running up a mountainside in an ancient land, surrounded by figs and cypresses. Soon she will discover the Temple of Zeus, the call of adventure, and the ecstasy of love. Thousands of miles away a 20-year old Pathan, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian army.
July 1915. Qayyum Gul is returning home after losing an eye at Ypres, his allegiances in tatters. Viv is following the mysterious trail of her beloved. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that a connection is about to be forged between their lives – one that will reveal itself 15 years later, on the Street of Storytellers, when a brutal fight for freedom, an ancient artefact and a mysterious green-eyed woman will bring them together again.
New Arrivals in the Reading Group Collection
We’ve also recently added some new sets to the Reading Group Collection. Titles include Warwickshire-based authors such as Bella Osborne, some Classics including murder mystery from Agatha Christie, non-fiction titles and the latest winners of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and The Booker Prize.
Anxious People by Frederik Backman
The Manningtree Witches by A K Blakemore
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
Piranesi by Susannah Clarke
Olive, Mabel and Me by Andrew Cotter
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave
The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas
Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan
The Promise by Damon Galgut
All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle
Enbury Heath by Stella Gibbons
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Summerwater by Sarah Moss
My Mother, Munchausen’s and Me by Helen Naylor
Frostquake by Juliet Nicolson
The Library by Bella Osborne
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Blackout by Simon Scarrow
How To Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak
The Paris Library by Janet Charles Skeslien
The Magician by Colm Toibin
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
Reviews from Warwickshire Reading Groups
The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett
From a group based in Nuneaton: “Our Reading Group virtual meeting coincided with World Book Day. Unlike many children dressed up for the day in their favourite fictional characters there were no headscarves, crowns or tiaras on show during our discussion of The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett, a traditional murder mystery with a royal difference with Her Majesty as super sleuth.
This light-hearted romp perfect for what’s been a gloomy February has proven to be one of our most popular reads. Most gave the book a thumbs up and with two of us being lucky to read it somewhere sunny and warm, it was decided it was more holiday than Booker Prize reading. Set in Windsor Castle, home and office for the Queen and family, it was a country house murder mystery with international intrigue. A couple of us struggled with the reveal which could have been drafted with more clarity. Some found the story contrived in places with a Le Carré fan describing the actions of the Governor of Windsor Castle and his security team as amateurs. One of us also questioned if the career path of Rozie, the Queen’s Assistant Secretary/Assistant sleuth would lead to a similar appointment.
Most of us were happy however to simply trot along and chuckle at the wittiness of the book, especially the Queen’s opinions of her housekeeping staff, drawing comparisons with Downton Abbey. The conversations between Prince Philip and the Queen were both entertaining and poignant with the novel being published before the death of Prince Philip.
We found the Queen to be a believable central character. We know from her public persona that Her Majesty is known for hard work and a sharp mind and liked how her character portrayed older adults in a positive way. The novel also prompted one of the group to think differently about the Queen and her role. We also appreciated how well the book had been researched, prompting us to recall past Jubilees and other royal events.
So a book which split us a little. Some enjoyed it as a quick read but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to friends, others are eagerly anticipating the next two novels.”
The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare
We received a very positive review of this novel from a Southam-based group: “A VERY good discussion. Also a unanimous 10/10 from all members – which rarely happens! Interesting look at some great characters and their very different experiences of being female. We would recommend – so much to learn about life in rural and city Nigeria. Themes of feminism, violence, modern versus traditional, education and more”.
All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle
A group in Leamington labelled this as “Difficult to put down”. They all ended up in tears and reported that this was a “Great book, very realistic, happy and sad”. They would also like a sequel so fingers crossed Mike Gayle has that on his radar and in his writing ideas!
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
From a group based in Warwick: “We had an excellent discussion, all except one person had read the book. Whilst not a book you would read for fun, we all agreed it was a fascinating story. First it starts from a black woman’s experience of being sold into slavery by her family and continues to consider slavery from the slave’s rather than the slave owner’s perspective. It was intriguing to follow the generations of two branches of the same family, one in Africa, Ghana and the other in America. Some of the descriptions of conditions for the slaves are graphic and unflinching; making this sometimes a hard read. We all agreed it is well written and that we learnt a lot.
Overall view of the book: Excellent. We all agreed that we would thoroughly recommend this book, as much for the insights into African and American history as for the parallel experiences of the families in Africa and America.”
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Another book labelled as unputdownable, this time by a group in Bulkington. Although not one they initially thought they would enjoy, ‘The Familiars’ turned out to be a book they felt was “brilliant”. It generated a good discussion, with strong characters and “the issues dealt with within the novel were relevant to the time but also within modern society”. An excellent read that sparked “a good discussion about how society perceives men and women from birth”.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
A group in Rugby shared their thoughts: “This book seemed a little bit slow at the beginning but we decided this was the author creating the ‘outback’ atmosphere. We all enjoyed the book and were all surprised when the killer was unveiled. We talked at length about what the book’s title meant and thought a lot about how justifiable the events of the novel were. It’s easy to read, well written with interesting characters and a surprise ending”.
We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet
From a group in Nuneaton: “Well written, good story with believable characters. Enjoyed having a good ending – a bit contrived to bring it to a conclusion. An easy read.”
Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem
Described by a group in Whitnash as a “marmite” book – some liked it, other didn’t and the overall verdict was that this was a “book to be dipped into but with lots of interesting stories and information. Well written and reminded of things we knew as well as giving us new information”.
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
A glowing review for this one from a group in Coleshill: “Very good discussion, including the use of several themes, hypocrisy, empire building, cultural differences and arrogance. Unpredictable ending for most of us. There was a degree of humour and the descriptions of places and people were evocative. We’d recommend it especially for the main character – he’s fighting his demons, is human and is trying to improve conditions for the future”.
The Lido by Libby Page
This “uncomplicated ‘fairytale’ style read” was thoroughly enjoyed by a group from Kenilworth. It was a light and enjoyable book, just right in the present climate, with a rewarding ending that left the group’s readers “feeling content and at peace with the world”.
Westwind by Ian Rankin
This title has divided groups who have borrowed it – some love it, while others, including a group based in Southam spent time discussing why they felt this one wasn’t nearly as good as Ian Rankin’s other novels? Some members of the group felt confused by the book, didn’t engage with the characters or story and although they felt the book was quite entertaining, decided that they would prefer to stick to some of his other works. What will your group think?
If you have any queries about the Reading Group Collection, you can get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to sign up for updates about the Reading Group Collection, including opportunities for groups to work with authors and poets in partnership with organisations such as West Midlands Readers’ Network and Poetry on Loan, please email your name, your group name and which Warwickshire Library you usually collect your reading group sets from to email@example.com.