Thursday, 27 February 2014

February Books - Group Reading

A shorter month and fewer books read too.  Thank goodness my Book Club deadlines keep me focussed and force me to make time for reading or some months I might not read at all!

Rachel Joyce's "Perfect"
Each month, a member suggests a choice of books for the monthly read and then we vote.  While I waited to get hold of the February "winner" I grabbed one of the "rejects" from the library: Rachel Joyce's "Perfect".  Right from the start I knew I was reading a book that would haunt me. Like many of last month's books it had different narrative voices and times, alternating between present day Jim and a young schoolboy Byron growing up 40 years earlier.  Byrons's schoolboy view of the world is naive and confused.  Reading between the lines of clipped conversations, the reader has a better idea of the potential chain of events spiralling out of control.  Recently released back into the community, modern day Jim is equally lost and confused following the closure of the psychiatric home where he's lived for many years.  Again the reader watches with a greater understanding, uncomfortably anticipating the reactions of Jim's co-workers as he struggles to cope in the "real" world, relying on OCD rituals to soothe his fears.  The alternating narratives intertwine and gradually reveal their connections ... with a final surprise twist for the unwary.

"The Cuckoo's Calling" - Robert Galbraith
February's Book Club "winner" was "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K.Rowling).  This book had its flaws, not least the ridiculous choice of name for the private eye hired to re-investigate the death of model Lula Landry: every mention of Cormoran Strike set my teeth on edge!  However the plot raced along with plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing and, despite some heavy sign-posting revealing the murderer, I couldn't work out the motivation.  I was reminded of the Agatha Christie novels I loved as a teenager - we even had a Poirot-esque big reveal in the final pages.  Galbraith/Rowling is planning to write another few (six?) books featuring Strike and his female sidekick Robin.  As there were plenty of unanswered questions about the characters' pasts and several intriguing hints about future developments, I'll probably read on.

Louisa Young's "My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You"
Finally I am currently reading March's "winner" in plenty of time for our next meeting.  Louisa Young's "My Dear, I Wanted To Tell You" was chosen because the centenary of the outbreak of the "Great" War is being celebrated commemorated this year.  Riley is a working class lad in love with upper class Nadine and she with him.  When she is removed from his life, he volunteers to serve in the army for the duration of the war (he viewed the alternative of enlisting for a year as an excessive commitment).  Riley's descriptions of life on the front line, the field hospitals and his periods of leave back in Blighty have had me in tears several times. Whilst there are some graphic descriptions of the effects of warfare on the common man, it is the emotional impact on Riley and his fellows that really hits home.  The book also recounts the lives of several women left behind who, under normal circumstances, would have been content to live out their wifely/motherly/spinsterly lives but are forced into  new roles thanks to the lack of men and the straits of wartime.  The novel is so well crafted that I have no idea how the main characters' stories will develop and I cannot wait to continue reading.  Highly recommended (so far)!

Do you belong to a reading group?  How do you choose which books to read?


Lesley G said...

"Perfect" sounds pretty good, thanks for the review.
Jemma, my dear, I cannot imagine you crying at a book - beginning to see your softer side ;) This one also sounds like a good book. I've just read "For Nick" recommended by Gillian and thoroughly enjoyable :)

Lisa said...

I seem to have stopped reading :-( I can't remember the last book I actually read. And even that last book was probably some easy "beach" read (even though I can't remember the last time I was on a beach but I think you know the type I mean.)
No book clubs for me. I don't read German so it would be tricky. Would love to be in one though - like you say, it might keep me accountable to read something regularly.

thanks for the reviews. Will leave the Rowling one off my list - I'm not much of a mystery reader.

ComfyMom~Stacey said...

I've been considering the Rowling book but there is a backlist for it at the library & ebook site.

I'm too picky about my reading material to do well in a reading group unless it is very very specific in it's interests. I'm on Good Reads and I do follow along with the Tudor group's monthly reading when I can get a hold of the book, but mostly I just scan the new book section at the library.

S said...

I'm failing miserably at keeping up with my book club selections this year - still mired down in the middle of Jan's book. I had mixed feeling about The Cuckoo's Calling too. I listened to it on audiotape and was really turned off by all the unnecessary profanity. But I did like the quick pace, so I'll wait and see on the second book.

furrypig said...

ooh fab book reviews Jemma..... I love reading but also have to make an effort to actually do it! I am a member of 3 book groups can you believe! I just got perfect from the library, I have the JK book on my kindle and I will read the other one as what a great recommendation (in fact I will suggest it for a book club book me thinks!) I am currently reading the lie by Helen Dunmore also about WW1 and not for any book clubs! Just started it so not much to say!

Beverly said...

I tried a book club a few years ago but found I didn't like being told what to read lol One of my sisters has been in the same group for about 20 years. I finally finished The Book Thief, it was good but for some reason seemed to drag on to me. Think I will go for something lighter next.