The Book Group continues to meet as and when possible adhering to ever-changing guidelines.
Here are some book reviews which we think our members might be interested in.
Slow Horses by Mick Herron
This is the first of a series called the Slough House books. Mick Herron is an award-winning crime writer. The Slough House books are currently being developed for a television series with Gary Oldman as Jackson Lamb.
This book was recommended by Rosemary and reviewed by Julia. It met with mixed reviews from the group.
If you are someone who enjoys TV crime dramas and thrillers like Line of Duty, then this might be a book for you. It describes how a bunch of previous MI5 operatives, who have been “set aside”, co-exist, somewhat seedily, on a daily basis. The cleverly devised plot has frequent twists and turns as information about each character and the web of their past relationships is gradually revealed. I found it easy to read, well observed and think it would appeal to those with a sense of black humour. I would say I did enjoy reading it and was keen to know what the next turn of events would be, and why. There are violent events but they are described as facts with mainly appropriate emotional responses from characters and without detailed indulgent descriptions. I suspect it is a “Marmite” book. The first of a series for those who enjoy it or find it interesting. I think I will read more of these, but might wait until our own external world is in a better place.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
This was recommended by Mary and reviewed by Shirley, Ros and Rosemary. It was very popular with the group.
It is set in wartime France, the separate and intertwined stories of two sisters, Isabelle and Viann, who both make a brave contribution during the occupation. Kristin Hannah, an American, based the story on a Belgian woman who she researched which led her to want to know more about the French occupation.
I found this a compulsive read and thought provoking, but I somehow did not feel as emotionally engaged with Vianne as I did with Isabelle. I don't know why. This novel certainly showed the real horrors of war and the strength and courage that people can find within themselves to help others and still feel able to love.
Having finished The Nightingale, I wanted to say that I am glad I read it. It was about the experience of the two sisters in the French occupation. I thought both were heroic, Isabelle (The Nightingale) because she did not have the responsibility of children and Vianne because she did. I loved the characterisation of Vianne, just a little more subtle than of Isabelle because of her personality possibly, and the drawing of their relationship and the memory at the end of their mother’s saying that “someday they would be best friends, time would stitch their lives together”. I could empathise with that having sisters! The horror of the occupation made it a dreadful book though, not only because of the brutality but also I thought the sub-theme of lack of value placed on children’s life during the period. Vianne alludes to that at the end in its effect on Sophie. It is an interesting reflection in the context of the covid crisis too. I am glad to have read it but I would not wish to read it again because it was harrowing.
There were so many threads to tie up at the end. Did she ever tell her husband, what happened to Ari, and what about Gaëtan??? It was done very neatly I thought and escaped sentimentality. I think it is a book which will remain with me, whilst others get forgotten, as you know! Thank you Mary for recommending it.
I really enjoyed this book. As Hilary said I found it gripping, lots of emotions, from happiness to sadness, anger, fright and frustration. But a lovely story which from my point of view seemed well researched. I couldn't put it down.