Book Review The woman in the Library

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

About the book

Hannah Tigone, bestselling Australian crime author, is crafting a new novel that begins in the Boston Public Library: four strangers; Winifred, Cain, Marigold and Whit are sitting at the same table when a bloodcurdling scream breaks the silence. A woman has been murdered. They are all suspects, and, as it turns out, each character has their own secrets and motivations – and one of them is a murderer.

 While crafting this new thriller, Hannah shares each chapter with her biggest fan and aspirational novelist, Leo. But Leo seems to know a lot about violence, motive, and how exactly to kill someone. Perhaps he is not all that he seems…

Comments

Four complete strangers, one of whom is a crime writer, are brought together in the Reading Room of Boston Public Library by the sound of a woman screaming. After learning that a young woman has been murdered, they become firm friends almost immediately! For the remainder of the novel we meet each of them; a law graduate who works as a journalist, a writer who has spent time in jail for murder, a Psychology student and our intrepid author.

The novel takes the form of a story within a story and as if that’s not confusing enough, each chapter ends with an email exchange between the actual author (who lives in Australia) and her friend in Boston. These emails involve suggestions about the developing story which become increasingly disturbing and violent. The style of writing where we learn various ‘bits’ about the four main characters as well as the email exchange is very disruptive of the flow of the story.

The narrative drags on from one improbable event to another involving these four naïve, self-obsessed and unrealistic characters. Everyone in our group felt the same about this book, which is quite unusual. We did not find it engaging, found the characters implausible and couldn’t wait for the story to end.

4/10

Read by Dundas Readers

Book Review Mrs Queen Takes the Train

Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

About the book

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is growing increasingly disenchanted after her decades of public service and years of family scandal. One day, the Queen takes things into her own hands and, in a spur-of-the-moment decision, leaves the palace alone and incognito.

An unlikely group of six, including two of the Queen’s most trusted household staff members, William and Shirley; one of her loyal ladies in waiting, Lady Anne; an equerry fresh from the battlefields of Afghanistan, Luke; a young equestrienne who minds the horses in the Royal Mews, Rebecca; and Rajiv, an Etonian spending his early 20s behind the counter in an artisanal cheese shop in Mayfair, and moonlighting as a tabloid photographer, are the only ones who know of her disappearance. They vow to find her and bring her back to the palace before MI6 turn her Scottish sojourn into a national crisis.

Comments

Most people have set opinions about the royal family. Some say wouldn’t it be lovely to be the queen, others say no way. This book portrays a queen who is naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world which is quite understandable due to her privileged position for her whole life. The story of the book is completely unbelievable. It was clear from the book that even though she was travelling incognito there were still people looking after her. We wondered where William Kuhn got his information.

It was easy to read but it is not a book that seeks to involve the reader’s intelligence or imagination.

We gave this book 6/10 (which for some of us was generous)

Read by Winsmead Book Club

Book Review Our Souls at Night

Kent Haruf

One of our members said ‘I loved this book, it touched my heart and then it broke it’. A short, simple and touching story told in plain, unadorned prose written by someone with an understanding of ‘alone-ness’ and isolation. This story taps into some of the inevitabilities of ageing.

Louis and Addie have been neighbours for years until Addie proposes that they establish a closer companionship. They are circumspect, but indifferent to small-minded gossip in their small town.

Addie’s young grandson, Jamie, comes to stay to escape the misery of his separating parents. To help his pain, a dog called Bonny, is added to the mix. Louis and Addie are perceptive and kind to Jamie and their own affection flourishes. When Jamie’s parents attempt reunion, Jamie’s father is savagely and punitively critical of the relationship between Addie and Louis resulting in its cessation.

Despite the apparent victory for small-minded bigotry and spite, Addie and Louis manage to re-establish contact. Maybe there is hope for their future?

8/10 – Read by Dundas Readers

Book review The rising tides by Ann Cleeves

About the book

Fifty years ago, a group of teenagers spent a weekend on Holy Island, forging a bond that has lasted a lifetime. Now, they still return every five years to celebrate their friendship, and remember the friend they lost to the rising waters of the causeway at the first reunion.

Now, when one of them is found hanged, Vera is called in. Learning that the dead man had recently been fired after misconduct allegations, Vera knows she must discover what the friends are hiding, and whether the events of many years before could have led to murder then, and now . . .

But with the tide rising, secrets long-hidden are finding their way to the surface, and Vera and the team may find themselves in more danger than they could have believed possible . .

Comments

This ‘whodunnit’ has neatly interwoven characters, time and events. The story revolves around Vera Stanhope’s team as they investigate 2 murders on Holy Island in Northumbria, both connected to a group of old school friends who were present at the time, as they were 50 years earlier for another death.

None of us warmed to Vera, who manipulates those around her, carries her own baggage and is bound to achieve a successful outcome solving the crimes.

The story is a sad one with mankind’s meaner aspects coming to the fore and none of the characters are happy people.

There is no doubt that Ann Cleves is a competent and literate writer but we all laboured through this story, none of us enjoyed it and some found it boring.

6/10

Read by Dundas Readers

Book Review Still Life by Sarah Winman

About the book

1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.

Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.

Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.

Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.

Comments

Most of our readers loved this book.

We found it to be a long epic story that weaves through the lives of diverse characters. These many characters, with their exposed personal faults and their redeeming personal traits, were discussed animatedly and at length by our group.

The main character, Ulysses Temper, was a much-loved character in the book.

One reader summed up the story well by saying “this is a story about flawed characters adapting to kinder versions of themselves and it seems to be by the influence of one man, Ulysses Temper.”

The story begins in Italy during the last stages of the second world war and moves from 1944 through to 1979. The descriptive narrative contrasts between the dirty smog of Londen’s east end and the Italian city of Florence. The beautiful food and piazzas, the history of magnificent art and the wonderful Tuscan countryside.

Our readers described the story as being about friendship, love, art and community.

A wonderful story of historical fiction. Beautifully written and researched by the author Sarah Winman. Highly recommended. A criticism of the book from some readers was that it was hard to read for them due to small copy print. This did not allow the story to flow easily and fatigued some due to the concentration required.

Read by MJ Readers