Book Review Jessica

Jessica by Bryce Courtenay

About the book

Jessica is based on the inspiring true story of a young girl’s fight for justice against tremendous odds.
A tomboy, Jessica is the pride of her father, as they work together on the struggling family farm. One quiet day, the peace of the bush is devastated by a terrible murder. Only Jessica is able to save the killer from the lynch mob – but will justice prevail in the courts?

Nine months later, a baby is born … with Jessica determined to guard the secret of the father’s identity. The rivalry of Jessica and her beautiful sister for the love of the same man will echo throughout their lives – until finally the truth must be told.

Set in the harsh Australian bush against the outbreak of World War I, this novel is heartbreaking in its innocence, and shattering in its brutality.

Comments

Our group was divided in their enjoyment of this book with some finding the story an enjoyable and informative read while others were very put off by the nastiness of some characters all throughout the book. So many morally bankrupt people.

The characters were found to be very one dimensional, either “Black or White” in their moral and ethical “goodness.”

Another criticism was about the story line which, to some, was very convoluted.

A few of our readers know the region this story was set in and found the author struggled to describe the Australian bush adequately.

However, those that liked the book really enjoyed it! 

There was agreement that the second half of the book was more enjoyable and informative than the first half of the book. The characters were more dimensional and the legal proceedings regarding stolen generation children and families were thought provoking and revealing. 

Some readers did not enjoy the first half of the book enough to continue on for the second half developments. They found this book depressing

We found this was definitely not a book for people who have inter-family traumas, and some found it to be a long read waiting for something good to happen.

Read by MJ Readers

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 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