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

Book Review Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend

About the book

Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too.

Comments

We had a range of opinions between 2 & 7 out of 10. Some of us like the fact that is was a believable story but we would not want to live in this town in the middle of nowhere.

We liked the way the letters gave structure to the story. Sara knew a lot about the people in the town and they knew all there was to know about her, because the old lady had told the towns people all about Sara; the old lady felt Sara would be good for the town.

Read by Winsmead Readers

Book Review The Rising Tide by Anne 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 book was enjoyed by all of our readers.

For a murder mystery there were many Red Herrings with multiple character storylines to keep readers enthralled and guessing as to who the “villain” was.

Each change of story line evoked another possible suspect and probable cause for the murders.

Most readers found the book compelling reading. The character development of the police investigation team was absorbing, and the exposure of each team member’s character flaws was enjoyed by our readers.

The sudden twist at the end of the book was found by all to be a real shock that nobody saw coming.

This book has encouraged many in our group to read more of the “Vera” books.

Read by the MJ Readers