Napoleon’s Last Island by Thomas Keneally
In October 1815, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to live the remainder of his life in exile on the remote Southern Atlantic island of St. Helena. There, on what he called “the cursed rock,” with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British teenager named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be made livable, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have far-reaching consequences for them all.
We generally did not enjoy this book although most of us researched the characters after finishing it. We were not engaged with the story and felt that modern ideas and opinions were to too prominent in the narrative. We would have been more interested in reading about the central characters’ life in NSW as a result of their time and experiences on the island.
Read by MJ Readers
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
Starting in the 1950s, set in North Carolina, Where the Crawdads Sing follows the story of Kya, who grows up alone after being abandoned by her family. She learns her life lessons from the wildlife around her. Learning how to hide from the truant officer and hunting skills to catch food.
We absolutely, unanimously loved this book! Loved, loved, LOVED IT! Beautifully written; we felt like we were in the shack, or hiding in the marshes, or on the boat exploring the water ways of the swamp. We enjoyed the way the story alternated between Kya’s childhood and, her present day. This book kept us guessing to the very end. To an ending none of us picked and loved all the same. We loved Kya, her quiet strength and determination. And the wonderful characters that surrounded her (Jumpin & Mabel) and the relationships she had with all of them. Even the not so likeable ones. They were real, and people we could relate to. The book covered a whole range of issues, loss and abandonment, racial prejudice, social injustice, and love. We cannot recommend this book enough.
Read by Cultcha Club – Rating 9.5/10