Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Homesick - Eshkol Nevo

We were very lucky, as part of Jewish Book week to have a meet the author event with this author. a fascinating, honest and erudite speaker.

This is an interesting book, not the least for giving us an honest window into modern Israeli life. The book deals with the homesickness of it's main characters and the effects this has on their lives. It is a novel that is written from the viewpoint of several different characters, polyphonic, and each character comes off the page as a complete and individual voice. It is a lyrical book that keeps you engaged to the final page.

It will make an excellent reading group book.

I was especially interested in his portrayal of the Palastinian character and his interaction with the Jewish characters. This for non Israeli readers gave the book balance.

When questioned Eshkol revealed that he interviewed many Palestinians to find the voice of Saddiq. He also revealed that it was this character that has made this book so controversial in Israel, and a bestseller. It deserves to be one here too.

Boy A - Jonathan Trigell

This book I found deeply disturbing and morally confusing. It would make a superb reading group choice.

A young man of 24 is released from 14 years in prison, with a new identity. As a child of 10 he was involved in the killing of another 10 year old.

This book causes you to question all your closely held beliefs. Should the punishment fit the crime? Is what happens to young people in prison institutions, and I believe that the book accurately portrays what can happen, reprehensible or deserving? Do killers deserve forgiveness? Can they be rehabilitated? When is a child a child and when a monster? And what should we as a society do about them.

This book also raises deep, hard questions about the role of the media in demonising some children and putting others on pedestals thus making victimns of them all.

I challenge anyone to read this book and remain unmoved and unchanged. It gave me nightmares.....

Of Merchants & Heroes - Paul Waters

This is a novel we were again lucky enough to be sent copies to Read and review by Pan Macmillan.

I enjoy historical fiction and this book was no exception. His ability to bring alive the Graeco Roman period is brilliant and this aspect of the Roman obsession with Greece an interesting theme in the novel. I liked the way he wove "real" characters into the novel.

This really is a coming of age story, a tale of revenge , pirates and conflict. It is also a same sex love story and this is where for me personally, I disengaged. I felt the novel needed stronger female characters to keep me interested and also there are only so many descriptions of men's rippling, grappling torsos that I can take!

I have added some reviews from our team in the comments below.

Eat pray, love - Elizabeth Gilbert

I loved the idea of this autobiography and we were lucky enough to be sent copies for our reading groups by Bloomsbury. The idea is fantastic, a depressed woman, after a traumatic divorce, spend 4 months in Italy, 4 months in India and 4 months in Bali, finding herself.

I have to say I was put off by the huge celebrity endorsements on the cover, I am rather cynical I am afraid.

Well I was stunned, I dislike this book intensely. I found Elizabeth Gilbert the most irritating woman on the planet. The section in Italy was quite fun, in spite of the moaning, but when she got to India I just had to question whether this was real or fantasy. Her mystical experiences came over as false and a bit textbook. ( I have travelled many times to India and am a yoga teacher as well) perhaps she did experience them, it just all seemed a little neat. I thought the section in Bali was interesting but again I just could not warm to her, perhaps this book is just too American for me. I imagine if you like those US tell all, angst shows then this is a book for you.

It made a good book group read as the group was evenly divided between those that loved it and those that did not. It certainly led to an interesting discussion....... Here are some comments, let's have some positives too please....

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Another melodrama, and I found it irresistable and was unable to put it down. This was a book I read into the night. A brilliantly written story of loss, seperation, madness. A gothic style novel par excellence. Creepy houses, well drawn characters that play on your mind,a sense of mystery that makes you read on and on. Oh and incest, twins and death!

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite novels, as is Wuthering Heights and this is a modern novel that approaches so closely to the calibre of writting of these masters, it is sure to become a modern classic.

A great book for a reading group and an absolute gem that I will read and re-read for many years to come!

The Rose of Sebastopol - Katherine McMahon

I picked this book up before it was picked as a Richard and Judy title as I love historical fiction and the period interested me, having just finished a series on WW1.

This is a really melodramatic story. It is about growing up, challenging yourself, and the deep seated effects that childhood experiences can have upon you.

It is well written, pulls you into the history and atmosphere of the period and is multi layered. It will make a good bookgroup book.

After the novel I found myself, looking up the Crimea and the war as it seemed so extraordinary for Britain to go to war for this obscure place. I love books that challenge my perceptions and that increase my historical understanding. That said do not feel that this is a heavy tome. It is in effect a melodrama and a love story, and perhaps a study a two very different women and how their lives are shaped but not constrained by Victorian England.

The Man in the Picture - A Ghost Story - Susan Hill

The evenings are getting lighter, for a real fright read this soon. It needs the dark, maybe a flickering fire and then you are all set! This short book, almost a novella, has the traditional scarey ghost story absolutely taped. It is brilliant. It is set in Venice and Cambridge University and the central theme is a mesmerising, macabre and dangerous painting. I cannot say more without revealing too much. Do read it and give yourself a scare!

We shall not sleep - Anne Perry

This book is the conclusion to a 5 book series set in the first world war. It is utterly absorbing, due to Anne Perry's brilliant atmosperic writing you can really emerse yourself in the period. For me the plot of who the evil "Peacemaker" is, or even the individual whodunnit of each novel, was secondary to the atmosphere of the trenches, the suffering and sheer bravery of these men who either volunteeered or were conscripted, the women who drove ambulances or nursed and the sad futility of the death of so many. I cannot recommend this series more highly.

If you cannot get enough of the First World War than can I recommend this Blog it is great!

WW1 - Experiences of a British Soldier

The Burry Man's day - Catriona McPherson

As you will know from reading my blog I do like Christiesque Whodunnits, but I am afraid this one left me cold. I enjoyed the first book in the series and thought the series looked promising. However, this was twee Scottish and to be frank I was bored and solved the mystery a third of the way through, a great shame......