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Bookworm Book Reviews

HER LADYSHIP’S GIRL
ANWYN MOYLE

Anwyn Moyle was born into poverty in 1918 in a Welsh mining village. In order to make a better life for herself she came to London at the age of 16 and worked as a 'skivvy' in a grand house and then as a lady's maid. She had a tempestuous love life and marriage, giving birth during the Blitz. She saw London change out of all recognition during her lifetime. Anwyn kept a diary all her life, chronicling her changing fortunes. She died in 2013.

I wasn’t sure if she was a strong or a weak willed person.  At first she was strong by leaving Wales to live in London but was nearly taken in by William Harding. She seemed strong when getting a post as a lady’s maid to Miranda Bouchard but then ‘showed herself up’ with Henry Rivers. She went back to  being a kitchen maid and overcame a dreadful injury when working in a pub. Why couldn’t she see what she was getting into with Alan Lane? She made good with the launderettes but then allowed herself to be used by William Harding again. Was this being used or was it her  intention? Margaret

An autobiography that seems more fiction than fact. Anwyn fell on her feet at every step. At 16 in the 1930s in the terrible working conditions of an upper class home she learned how to become an excellent cleaner/cook and did even better as a Ladies Maid. Finding good friends to help her at the worst of times and recovering from a dreadful accident without the help of the NHS, she survived a rotten marriage and learned how to cope through living life but not by reading books. Sylvia

Anwyn was an admirable woman; talented and industrious but with a poor taste in men. She proved to be an easy lay for Mr Harding and lost that job because of it and then lost her position with Miranda Bouchard because she didn’t say no to Henry Rivers. All the time and effort she had put into improving her career was wasted for lack of a ‘no’. The Colonel’s Lady and Judy O’Grady were definitely not sisters under their skin in this case. Her husband turned out to be another waste of time but he did provide her with children and the means to gain financial independence. Angela

Some parts of the book didn’t quite add up for me and the language got too flowery but maybe that was  due to her Welsh heritage.

Bookworm Score 9
Our next read: The Ashes Of London by Andrew Taylor

THE BLACK EYED BLONDE, A PHILIP MARLOWE BOOK
BENJAMIN BLACK

Benjamin Black is the pen name of John Banville a Man Booker Prize Winner.

In this evocative crime novel he returns us to the world of Raymond Chandler’s singular detective, Philip Marlowe.

An enjoyable read, well written and exciting. We all enjoyed it but not  enough to bother reading a genuine Raymond Chandler. Bookworm Score 7.5

THE LITTLE PARIS BOOKSHOP
NINA GEORGE

The international bestseller, translated from the German by Simon Pare.

On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a 'literary apothecary', for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers.
The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. His memories and his love have been gathering dust - until now. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building on Rue Montagnard inspires Jean to unlock his heart, unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past and his beloved.

Didn’t float my boat. Angela

Sometimes confusing, sometimes boring and occasionally interesting. Yvonne

However, other Bookworms thoroughly enjoyed this read and gave it high scores.

Overall Bookworm Score: 7

Next Read: The Black Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black

A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY
CARYS BRAY

In many ways the Bradleys are a normal family. Zippy is 16 and in love for the first time; Al is 13 and dreams of playing for Liverpool; 7 year old Jacob believes in miracles and so does his Dad. Their mother doesn’t believe in anything any more, not even getting out of bed. How does life go on, now that Issy is dead?

I felt for the children and was cross with the parents. Dad was useless and had no understanding of the needs of his family and Mum just gave up. Little Jacob was left to fend for himself, waiting for a miracle to happen. Didn’t like the glib ending. Susan. Score 8.

At first I didn’t like this book. The death of a child and a recent personal bereavement decided me not to finish it but I read on and the more I read the more I became impelled to finish it. The Mormon doctrines, beliefs and rituals left me cold. For each member of the family the way forward is hard. A compelling read, well written but not a likeable book. Yvonne. Score 8.

A very interesting book and I liked the way it was written. I warmed to the children - the unfortunately named Alma with his love of football, Zippy with her teenage romantic fantasies of Captain Wentworth in Persuasion and her Mormon based marriage fantasy about Adam. Jacob was so appealing, trying to resurrect his sister. Ian was an instant dislike as he was too concerned with other people and his need to be seen as Bishop Perfect. Claire seemed to be a channel for Carys Brady to express what had happened to her in real life. However, I saw the Mormon Church as the main character. Angela. Score 9

Overall Bookworm Score - 8

THE TAXIDERMIST’S DAUGHTER
KATE MOSSE

The clock strikes twelve. Beneath the wind and the remorseless tolling of the bell, no one can hear the scream ...

1912. A Sussex churchyard. Villagers gather on the night when the ghosts of those who will not survive the coming year are thought to walk. And in the shadows, a woman lies dead.As the flood waters rise, Connie Gifford is marooned in a decaying house with her increasingly tormented father. He drinks to escape the past, but an accident has robbed her of her most significant childhood memories. Until the disturbance at the church awakens fragments of those vanished years ...

This is a book that I would never have chosen to read, not my preferred reading at all. However, I found it a fascinating story, one that was difficult to put down. The descriptions of the surrounding marshes and creeks all added to the atmosphere of this gothic murder mystery. She is a good writer and I may read another of her books. Rosemary

I found this book easy to read and enjoyable (if that is the right word for some of the chapters which were very graphic and gruesome). The intrigue throughout kept my interest, firstly for the death of Vera and then why the other individuals went missing. A well written book and I would read another of hers. Margaret

The Taxidermist’s Daughter had me hooked from the prologue. Mention of the double seamed jacket with a nipped in waist and the rain dripping down between neck and collar, skin and cloth gave a realistic touch. I was struck by the similarity of the basic plot line with Gone Girl. Both have women carrying out meticulously planned revenge strategies. This book is more gruesome than Gone Girl but the writing is infinitely better. I have really enjoyed reading it and my only carp is the happy ending. Angela

We all said more or less the same. Bookworm Score 8

GONE GIRL
GILLIAN FLYNN

Amy Dunne disappears on the day of her 5th wedding anniversary. All gradually uncovered evidence suggests that her husband, Nick, is somehow involved. Did he kill her? Was she kidnapped? What happened to Amy? One thing is clear, Nick and Amy's marriage wasn't as perfect as everybody thought.

A popular book apparently and a film has been made. We thought it poor, with a convoluted, improbable plot line and didn’t even bother to score it.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
IAN FLEMING

James Bond saves the world from a dastardly plot by SMERSH and gets a beautiful girl too. As he does.

This book is now dated but we could understand why it was popular so soon after WW11. Ian Fleming’s background and career gave the plot some credibility and it must have been good just to read about the Cold War rather than fighting it. Yvonne really enjoyed it but the old fashioned attitudes towards women was off putting for some of us. Bookworm Score 6

THE FORTUNE HUNTER
DAISY GOODWIN

In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies. Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

We all quite enjoyed this one. It made a pleasant, light summer read. Sisi had some strange habits including veal face packs under a leather mask and Bay Middleton is alleged to be the father of Clementine Churchill. Facts were lightly mixed in with the fiction. Daisy Goodwin has also written the ITV Series Victoria.

Bookworm Score - 9.

THE PENGUIN BOOK OF MODERN BRITISH SHORT STORIES
FORD MADOX FORD

A collection of 34 short stories by famous authors including Fay Weldon, Beryl Bainbridge, Edna O’Brien, Salman Rushdie, Graham Greene.

On the whole I did not enjoy these stories. A few seemed reasonable but maybe they were just the best of a bad job. Some seemed to be stories where nothing at all happened. Angela

An interesting mix. Nice to be able to dip in and out and read in whatever order I fancied. Mary

Not very modern. Found most of the stories dull and uninteresting. Very dated, stuck in the 50s and 60s with topics that do not appeal to modern day readers. Helen

Bookworm Score 5.

THE GOOD SOLDIER
Edited by Malcolm Bradbury

Two outwardly happy couples meet at a German health spa just before WW1. Their loveless, adultery-ridden relationships gradually disintegrate with tragic consequences. Inspired by the author’s own personal life.

Graham Greene thought that this is probably one of the finest novels of our century. It is Ruth Rendell’s favourite novel and she has re-read it about twenty times.

None of us enjoyed it. We all agreed with Helen who said it was the longest short book she had ever read. No plot, no interesting characters, a laborious read.

Bookworm Score - 1

AUNTS ARE NOT GENTLEMEN
P G WODEHOUSE

Bertie Wooster and Jeeves head off to the countryside where they are besieged by Aunts and confusion - the usual plot. A pleasant read if you enjoy Jeeves and Wooster.

Bookworm Score - 5

THE BUCKET. MEMOIRS OF AN INATTENTIVE CHILDHOOD
ALAN AHLBERG

A book in the form of prose and poetry describing Alan’s life growing up as an adopted child in wartime Oldbury.

Mary did not enjoy this book and thought he should stick to writing books for children. The rest of us delighted in it.

Bookworm Score: 9

TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE
ANN CLEEVES

This is one of the 15 titles in the Quick Reads series which were given away free on World Book Night in April 2016. These books aim to encourage those who don’t already read for pleasure. For Bookworm it didn’t quite work. The book features the fictional Shetland detective Jimmy Perez and maybe it would encourage some people to read one of the full length books. Those of us who have read them found the Quick Read version to be a disappointment.

Bookworm Score: 4

THE GOLDFINCH
DONNA TARTT

This is a very powerful book - and improves on the second reading. Theo Decker is traumatised by the death of his mother when he is only 13. His ongoing sense of loss pervades the book from start to finish. It could be used to explain his downward spiral into alcoholism, drug dependency and borderline criminality. The descriptions of his drug abuse and their effects are very real and saddening.

I found the final few pages hard - on both readings. I still can’t decide what would become of Theo but what I have decided is that I will buy Donna Tartt’s next book as soon as it is published. Mary

This is probably the best book I have ever read in my life. Margaret

I thought this book was wonderful. Helen

I did not expect to enjoy this book as I don’t particularly like modern American fiction. Brownie points for Bookworm or I would have missed a real treat.

I liked the descriptive style of writing and found the part dealing with the bomb blast and aftermath to be particularly gripping. I have little knowledge of living a life fuelled by drink and drugs but it sounded very convincing.

I can understand why it won a Pulitzer prize - such a lot of work and research has gone into it. I would like to read it again as I ended up rushing through it and will definitely read more Donna Tartt. Angela

Bookworm Score - 8

TRAVELLING TO INFINITY: MY LIFE WITH STEPHEN
JANE HAWKING

I found this very easy to read and an interesting view of the private lives of two very interesting people - one an unlikeable genius the other an overworked wife and mother who could not rely on the public care service although the health service did great work keeping a motor neuron patient alive for so long. I think they had more than their fair share of air miles! Glad she found a more like minded new partner.
Sylvia. Score 9

I think she deserved a medal for putting up with him. Even without his illness he should never have married. He was too absorbed in physics and would never have made a good husband or father. His illness enabled him to concentrate more on his field.

She tries to make the best of her lot - a lot that would break most people and split most families in that position.

She says she loved him for his courage, wit, his sense of the ridiculous and the absurd, his wicked charisma but shows little evidence of these. More his pure strength of will and refusal to give up.

The person she shows is a genius, determined to fulfill his dreams come what may. He rides roughshod over his family and his wife’s interests. Like many disabled people his wants and needs are paramount.

He looks down at everyone else as mentally inferior and, as he gets more recognition, so his own sense of worth and importance grows.

I think Nurse Mason did Jane a favour in splitting them up giving Jane the chance to have a normal life with a decent loving man.
Helen Score 8

I found this book irritating and did not enjoy it. I had too many questions that did not get answered. Why on earth did she marry him? What was the attraction because it didn’t come over to me. He is portrayed as an arrogant loudmouth who belittled her tastes and beliefs and frightened her with his reckless driving. What were his redeeming features? None were mentioned in that part of the book.

Did she want to be a saint or a martyr? Such a lot of the book is devoted to moaning and complaining but they still managed recitals, concerts, dinner parties, holidays, trips abroad, visits to friends and relatives. How, if she was always exhausted and he was allegedly poorly paid. They weren’t restricted to a fortnight in the August school holidays like most people in Britain at that time.

They did get help - lots of it. Friends, relatives, his colleagues all pitched in. Somebody’s cleaner came round, someone sent their Nanny, both sets of parents gave money. Later on there was Jonathan Hellyer and his family.

Jane took up singing for relaxation but went straight into competitive level. Thereafter singing seems to take up as much time as a full time job. She founded the Cambridge Baroque Camerata as a surprise for Jonathan. How did she find the time, energy or money if she was supposed to be permanently fatigued and broke?

She uses dramatic language to describe the end of their marriage ‘flames of vituperation, hatred, desire for revenge leapt at me from all sides, scorching me to the quick with accusations’. Two pages later she is off to Spain with Stephen acting as his interpreter at a prestigious awards ceremony. Why?

From reading this book I have formed the impression that she grew to actively dislike Stephen and wrote the book to shatter his image but has done it in such a way that she comes out as Mrs Wonderful. By the end of the book I had grown to dislike both Hawkings.
Angela Score 5

Bookworm Score - 7.5

SECRETS OF THE LIGHTHOUSE
SANTA MONTEFIORE

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all - quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn't love, her job is dragging her down and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won't follow her - to her aunt's house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret - and a future she never knew she might have. Meanwhile, Caitlin Macausland is mourning the future she can never have. She died tragically in what the village thinks is suspicious circumstances, and now she is stuck in a limbo, unable to move on. And between the two of them is an old lighthouse - the scene of so much tragedy. Can each woman find the peace she so desperately longs for? And can they find the way to live again?

This seemed to be a book written to a formula, perhaps an up market Mills & Boon. Easily read and totally forgettable ... but lots of minor irritations along the way. On page 156 Conor Mascausland clocked in as 44 years old - magically by page 263 he had gone backwards to 42.

The two lovers went to Mass and took bread and wine at Holy Communion. Being brought up Irish RC I have never taken wine (not a common RC practice). I checked - in Eire you can request wine if you are a coeliac as normal wafers contain gluten. No mention of dietary problems in the book.

All a bit too unbelievable and lightweight. Score 2 but only because it wasn’t offensive like Bryony Gordon. Mary

Specsavers need their glasses on to have shortlisted this book for an award. An Enid Blyton book for grownups. Even as a love story it is not well written - too cliched and stereotyped. Like wading through treacle. The Irish family are all caricatures. Conor is a typical romantic male lead straight from Mills & Boon.

I waded through the story but even as a romance it did not add up to much. There are better writers out there. Score 2. Helen

Yes, I enjoyed it and would read another of her books. Rosemary

Read this the first weekend. Delighted to see that according to The Daily Mail blurb she is the new Rosamunde Pilcher so knew it would be an easy to read story. It was and I give it 8 out of 10. Sylvia

Bookworm Score - 4

THE WRONG KNICKERS
BRYONY GORDON

This book chronicles the alcoholic, narcotic and sexual behaviour of  Daily Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon during her 20s.

For the first time ever we were vigorously and vehemently united in our dislike of this book. We have not a good word to say about it .  Bookworm Score 0.

JONATHAN STRANGE & MR NORRELL
SUSANNA CLARKE

In this doorstop sized book (over 1000 pages) Susanna Clarke has created an alternative Regency period where English magic has fallen into disuse. A York man, Gilbert Norrell, is determined to restore its status and performs amazing feats of ‘practical magic’.  Desperate to impress the Government he restores a young lady to life with the help of an amoral Faerie King.  He then takes on a pupil, Jonathan Strange who helps Wellington to win the Battle of Waterloo. The book is written as a pastiche of authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.

‘Too’ was the  favourite word from Bookworm: too big, too dark, too silly, too depressing. Except for me, who really enjoyed it. I liked its syle and it made me laugh.

“Norrell - he hardly ever spoke of magic, and when he did it was like a history lesson and no one could bear to listen to him.”

“They were gentlemen magicians which is to say they had never harmed anyone by magic - nor ever did anyone the slightest good. In fact, to own the truth, not one of these magicians had ever cast the smallest spell, nor by magic caused one leaf to tremble upon a tree, made one mote of dust to alter  its course or changed a single hair upon any one’s head. But, with this one minor reservation, they enjoyed a reputation as some of the wisest and most magical gentlemen in Yorkshire.”

 "It has been remarked (by a lady infinitely cleverer than the present author) how kindly disposed the world in general feels to young people who either die or marry. Imagine then the interest that surrounded Miss Wintertowne! No young lady ever had such advantages before: for she died upon the Tuesday, was raised to life in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and was was married upon the Thursday; which some people thought too much excitement for one week.

Bookworm Score - 10 from me and 0 from everyone else.

UNDER ANOTHER SKY: JOURNEYS IN ROMAN BRITAIN
CHARLOTTE HIGGINS

This book records the author's travels in search of the elusive remains that dot what was once ancient Rome's northernmost territory. Also how the past has been remembered (and forgotten) by generations of antiquarians, poets, painters, and archaeologists The thread running throughout is the story of a determined pursuit of architecture and artefacts throughout the mainland – sometimes on foot across fields, council estates and garden centres, but more often in an unreliable blue camper van.

Her enthusiasm and interest for the subject shines through but she meandered off into historical anecdotes and analogies that spoiled the book for most of us.

Bookworm Score: 5

AN OFFICER AND A SPY
ROBERT HARRIS

I really enjoyed this book. It held my attention all the way through. It is told through the eyes of Colonel George Piquart of the French Army who realises that his fellow officer Alfred Dreyfuss, a Jew, has been falsely accused of leaking secrets to the Germans. When Dreyfuss is convicted of treason and sentenced to solitary confinement on Devil’s Island Picquart must decide whether to take on the army, intelligence services and government to prove his innocence. It is a question of duty and principle faced by every whistleblower down the ages: follow his conscience or be loyal to his superiors.

I enjoyed reading about a part of history of which I had no knowledge through the excellent story telling of Harris. Harris appears to have a keen eye for the period and the story felt properly situated. The mannerisms and speech felt appropriate and he also told the story of the rampant anti-Semitism that was running through France at the time.

The evidence against Dreyfuss was thin and ambiguous. The book is about power and structures and how they affect life. It illustrates how bureaucracies cover up their mistakes by saying that it is for the good of the country.

Intriguingly there was little love lost between Picquart and Dreyfuss. These two men were entwined and dependent on each other and yet there was no contact between them. This story should have been fiction. The fact that it is based on true events made it shocking. Elaine

and so said all of us except Mary who was not so impressed.

Bookworm Score: 8

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH
VERA BRITTAIN

Vera Brittain was 20 when WW1 broke out. She grew up in a comfortable, middle class home in Buxton and won an exhibition to Oxford despite her parents’ traditional ideas about a woman’s place being in the home. When War broke out she raged against the injustice of it and volunteered to work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. By the end of the war her fiancee, her brother and two close male friends were dead.

This book was a difficult read but I finished it. My only real criticism is in the language of the book. It was not only that I did not understand some of the words but the length of her sentences sometimes left me going back to the beginning to find out what point she was trying to make. Over all I enjoyed the book as I often thought of how my own mother must have felt when my father was called up and of my grandma receiving the telegram to say that he had been wounded. Yvonne

Finished a quarter of the book. Too wordy/dense but still good. May finish it in later life. Recommend watching the film. Mary

Full of admiration for Vera Brittain but did not like the way she writes. Too many convoluted sentences especially when writing about her academic life. Fortunately it seemed to ease off during the part about her nursing work. Will watch the film and am going to listen to a talk by Shirley Williams about her mother but will not read any more of her books. Angela

Bookworm score 8.5

DID SHE KILL HIM
KATE COLQUHOUN

A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery & Arsenic.

Did Florence Maybrick poison her husband? She was tried for the crime but the court’s verdict failed to settle the matter. James Maybrick was a hypochondriac who took many patent medicines containing strychnine, belladonna and arsenic. His much younger wife had accrued big debts and was pregnant by another man. Did she finish him off or had his medicinal habits killed him?

Not a successful read for us. It is a fact packed book, padded out with references to fictional heroines and events.

Neither fish, fowl nor good red herring. Either write a novel based on the events or stick to facts. Angela

A boring book. I didn’t care what happened to any of them. Mary

‘Boring’ was the overall verdict. Catchy title though.

Did she kill him? Two of us think she helped him on his way. Mary didn’t care either way and the rest of the group were inclined to think that Florence was innocent.

Bookworm Score - 4

THE ROSIE PROJECT
GRAEME SIMSION

Don Tillman, a Genetics Professor, has decided to get married. In order to find his ideal wife he creates a sixteen page, scientifically valid questionnaire to filter out  unsuitable applicants. Then he meets Rosie and his logical, ordered life is turned upside down.

A light hearted, amusing romance, easy to read and we all enjoyed it. Yvonne had been determined that she would not like this book, condemning it as ‘girlie’ but she ended up laughing out loud and now wants to read the sequel, The Rosie Effect.

Bookworm Score 7.5.

VANITY FAIR
WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY

This is a chunk of a book and much easier to handle on an e-reader.
Some of us had read it before, some were reading it for the first time but we all enjoyed it.

Most of the characters in Vanity Fair would transfer to a modern novel or soap opera with no difficulty at all. Chief amongst them is Becky Sharp with her ‘green eyes, fair skin, pretty figure and famous frontal development’.  Nowadays Becky would be on television and making regular appearances in Hello or OK magazine showing her beautiful home and loving marriage to Rawdon Crawley (a heavy dragoon with strong desires and small brains who had never controlled a passion in his life). Rawdon would probably be an investment banker as he was very good at gambling and had no scruples as to where his money came from.

Although the book was written over 150 years ago and contains a lot of verbal padding it is well worth reading. There are so many excellent characters and Thackeray influenced a lot of other writers. It was our link with the bicentenary of The Battle of Waterloo.

Bookworm Score - 8.5.

THE APPEAL
JOHN GRISHAM

John Grisham specialises in writing legal fiction. The group members who have read his books before say that this is not one of his best and recommend reading one of the earlier ones.

The Krane Company have been unlawfully and knowingly dumping toxic waste. The resultant water pollution causes a cancer cluster in a small town. A local legal team, Wes and Mary Grace Peyton, take on the task of suing Krane. The Company’s owner, Carl Trudeau, fights back using his considerable fortune and many dirty tricks.

The book gives the impression that, in America, money can buy you out of any trouble with the law.

Bookworm Score - 7

TURNED OUT NICE AGAIN - ON LIVING WITH THE WEATHER
RICHARD MABEY

A very small book - 90 A5 sides with lots of white space. Doesn’t take long to read. The writer  combines his own  weather memories, science and art to show the impact of weather on our lives and conversation. He claims that we should never apologise for our obsession with the weather as it is something that we all live with.

A few of the Bookworms felt that a dictionary would be handy when reading it. Rosemary thought it the kind of book she would buy as a gift.

Bookworm Score - 5.

ARTHUR & GEORGE
JULIAN BARNES

We all found something to appreciate in this book which covers the case of George Edalji, an Anglo Indian solicitor who was found guilty of injuring farm animals and sent to prison for three years. His father was a Vicar in the small Staffordshire village of Great Wyrley and the family had been subjected to many malicious acts  before George’s arrest. George was eventually pardoned after a vigorous campaign led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The case was very important as it led to the founding of The Court of Appeal.

There is also a lot of information about  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle making  the book as much ‘Arthur’ as ‘George’. The story has recently been the subject of a three part television adaptation. In March, there was an auction of letters proving that  Captain Anson (Chief Constable of Staffordshire) conspired with Staffordshire  Constabulary in fabricating evidence to thwart Conan Doyle’s investigation. The true identity of the animal killer is still unknown.

Conan Doyle and Captain Anson had a violent clash of personalities and this may be why George did not get compensation.

A good read, Bookworm Score 7.5

GAME OF THRONES
GEORGE R R MARTIN

This is the first book of the popular series being shown on Sky.

To start with the positives - Stella and Yvonne loved it and want to read more of the series.

Reading the book has already proved useful in crosswords and quizzes.

It was well written and much thought has gone into it.

On the other hand -

Mary and Josie made repeated attempts to get past page one but couldn’t.
Helen and Angela read a few hundred pages and then every fiftieth page in order to get to the end.
Margaret read a chunk and then gave up.
The rest of the group didn’t read it.

Most of the group just do not enjoy fantasy novels - silly names, unbelievable buildings and genealogy. A woman walks out of a fire suckling baby dragons?  We think not.

Bookworm Score - 9 from Yvonne and Stella. No comment from the rest of the group.

THE EXPATS
CHRIS PAVONE

Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double life, to start anew.

Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they claim to be and is terrified that her own past will catch up with  her.

The action moves very quickly; both chronologically and geographically. There are plots within plots and every character has secrets. It is a book that requires concentration to read and left us with  questions.

Kate Moore worked for the CIA and was a highly trained operative. Would she really have allowed someone she was suspicious of to use their family computer? Should it really have taken several chapters for her to realise that was not a good idea and the machine might be compromised? Would the CIA really use  a pregnant woman on such dangerous missions?

How did the Moore family find time to do all the travelling they did?

Our opinions were wide ranging. Mary was  very scathing - ‘the heroine is a CIA agent who kills and gives birth almost simultaneously. I didn’t care if Kate and Dexter and their unreal kids were blown up. I just wanted a satisfactory ending but didn’t get one. Won’t be buying/reading any sequel or watching any film.’

At the other end of the scale Josie has already bought, read and enjoyed the sequel.

Bookworm Score - 5.

LADY OF THE RIVERS
PHILIPPA GREGORY

This book covers the life of Jacquetta St Pol and is part of a series of books entitled The Cousins War. Jacquetta became the mother of Elizabeth Woodville who married Edward IV.

There is little factually known about Jacquetta but that is a Philippa Gregory speciality - to bring otherwise forgotten noblewomen to life. Mary finds her books too formulaic and Josie is not a fan either but most of the group enjoyed the book.

Bookworm Score - 5.

MY COUSIN RACHEL
DAPHNE DU MAURIER

Ambrose and Philip Ashley are cousins. Ambrose has raised Philip from babyhood and not only do they look alike, they think alike and behave alike. Ambrose, a confirmed bachelor, goes to Italy for the winter and suddenly marries the mysterious Rachel. Shortly afterwards he dies. Rachel arrives at their Estate in Cornwall and, before long, Philip is infatuated and wants to marry her.

Poison is the thread that runs through the book. Did Rachel poison Ambrose? Is she trying to poison Philip?

‘Cracking’ was a word used a lot in the discussion. A cracking read, cracking story, cracking opening line - ‘they used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days’. Sylvia did not like it at all, preferring to read a Maeve Binchy, but the rest of us were enthralled.

Bookworm Score - 9

A CASUAL VACANCY
JK ROWLING

The death of Barry Fairbrother  causes A Casual Vacancy on the Pagford Parish Council. Barry had been the main opponent of the plan to reassign a local sink estate, the Fields, to the district council of a nearby city thereby offloading responsibility for the residents and keeping their children out of Pagford’s primary school. The  ‘anti’ group are then determined to replace Barry with someone of their own opinion.

The picture postcard village of Pagford is, unfortunately, populated by people that it is difficult to read about. Simon Price, for instance, beats his wife and two sons,  Parminder Jawanda, a local doctor is unaware that her youngest daughter self-harms. The residents of the Fields are steeped in more obvious misery.

Mary found it a pleasure to read J K Rowling’s first book aimed at adults and thought it excellently done.  Rosemary quite enjoyed it too. Four of us only managed to get a third of the way through. Angela did finish it but would have liked a little humour to leaven the mixture.
Bookworm Score 7

Due to a complication with the Library  delivery  system - the van now arrives when it arrives rather than every week - our next read may be The Lady Of The Rivers, My Cousin Rachel or Death Comes to Pemberley. It all depends on which one arrives.

BRIDESHEAD REVISITED
EVELYN WAUGH

Have not read this book for years and did not enjoy it.  I was prejudiced against Sebastian Flyte from the moment he put his head through an open window and puked into the room. I found Charles Ryder to be particularly unpleasant. The plot was as thin as that for Downton Abbey - just people wandering round being rich. The style of writing left me confused sometimes and there were odd sentences that I just did not understand. Plus there  was an element of the Round The Horne ‘I know, I know you know’ sketches. Angela

I had made my mind up before I even received the book that I would not like it. The first chapters lived up to my expectations ... still I read on and slowly began to get into the story. What a strange and dysfunctional family it revealed. I could not identify with any of them, not even Charles. Yvonne

I never watched the series on TV. It did not appeal to me then and the book does not appeal to me now. Charles has as much personality as a hairbrush and Sebastian would be an odd bod in any generation - his looks and family background are the only things going for him. Nor do any of the other characters interest me. I do not have any feeling for them and do not care what happens to them. There are some interesting parts of the book and some amusing episodes but I generally had to fight falling asleep when reading it.  The crossing of the Atlantic has put me off cruising forever. Helen

Mary and Josie both love the book and are confirmed Bridesheaders. Both have read the book several times and are happy to watch the TV  version again and again.

For the rest of the group ‘boring’ and ‘no’ were words that kept cropping up.

Bookworm Score - 5.5. Mary and Josie  both gave it 9.

HALF OF THE HUMAN RACE
ANTHONY QUINN

Will Maitland, a county cricketer, and Connie Callaway, a member of the suffragette movement meet in the summer of 1911. The book follows them from the cricket pitch to the trenches of WW1, force feeding in gaol for Connie and a hospital run entirely by women for the war wounded.

Mary and Helen really disliked the book and hadn’t got a good word to say about it.

Yvonne, on the other hand, thought it just about the best book we have read since the group started. She enjoyed the cricketing scenes, the details of the WSPU activities, the trenches and the hospital blood and gore. She found the book hard to put down and her review was echoed by Stella.

Elaine found it really difficult to get into. The language was overly descriptive and old fashioned even for the time period of WW1. An example - ‘his constitutional took him into town when the war privations had rendered the streets cloudy and lugubrious.’

Angela found this book difficult to get into, too verbose i.e. ‘excavated rectangle’ for grave. Also found the use of ‘M-shire’ really irritating. Thought the descriptions of gaol, force feeding and the trenches were well done but Connie’s emergency operation was a step to far. A reasonable read but nothing that will stay with me.

Most of us found that it was worth the effort to persevere with the book and maybe a different author could have made it a really good read. It did provide us with material for a really good discussion.

The Bookworm score is 6. It would have been higher but for Mary and Helen’s low scores .

THURSDAYS IN THE PARK
HILARY BOYD

A light read, chick lit for the bus pass generation. We all managed to finish it but would not want to read any more Hilary Boyd books.

Bookworm Score 5.

THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
MARK TWAIN

Josie had read this quite recently but the rest of us had not read it since childhood. The book takes us on a raft trip down the Mississippi with Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave, Jim. Along the way they get involved with a series of odd characters until the eventual happy ending.

Mary thought that she would not enjoy it and had to start it twice. Then she got very hooked and found it to be a brilliant story, very well told and a true classic. Yvonne found the superstition and ignorance truly amazing and intends to read it again.

Angela liked Huck’s constantly falling asleep - proper teenage boy behaviour but found the stories irritatingly silly.

We had a good discussion about the arguments this book has spawned since first being published and the way attitudes have changed.

Bookworm Score 6

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