Book Review Educated by Tara Westover

Another book reviews by the Dundas Readers, enjoy!

Summary

Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.

As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.

Comments

A marvelous autobiography by an amazing young woman. “Educated” is set in Idaho, USA where Tara and her sister and five brothers were brought up by  radical fundamentalist Mormon parents. Her father, who has complete control over the family, makes a living buying and selling scrap metal. Her mother is an untrained midwife who also makes and sells homeopathic herbal remedies. Tara and her siblings don’t attend school and her father forbids contact with doctors and hospitals.

in her early teens Tara begins to wonder and then to question their lifestyle and beliefs. She passes an admission test to attend University at the age of sixteen and begins an agonising search for self-hood. This is summed up in her own words: “what is a person to do, I asked, when their obligations to their family conflict with other obligations – to friends, to society, to themselves”.

A beautifully written and heart rending story of our times.

Read by Dundas Readers, our score – 8.5/10

Book Review Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Our MJ Readers book club enjoyed reading ‘Force of Nature‘ by Jane Harper this month. Read their thoughts below.

About the Book

Lost, Cold, Desperate … Danger Runs Deep

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged Giralang Ranges is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with.

Far from the hike encouraging teamwork, the women tell Falk a tale of suspicion, violence and disintegrating trust. And as he delves into the disappearance, it seems some dangers may run far deeper than anyone knew. (from the publisher)

Comments

As with Jane Harper’s other novels, we felt that the environment was a central ‘character’ in this story. It was a menacing force that emphasised the dysfunctional relationships, frailties, jealousies and paranoia that each character displayed in some degree. We were drawn in by the story and it kept us guessing to the end. The conclusion was cleverly tied up and there was healing and understanding of how regrets from the past impacted each character and their ongoing relationships. Another enjoyable read.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Below is another book review from our amazing, MJ Readers book club.

The MJ Readers are a dedicated group of readers who managed to stay connected and enjoy their books & discussions all the way through COVID lockdown. Well done MJ Readers, thank you for inspiring as all!

Now, down to the important business of learning what the MJ Readers thought about their most recent read ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine‘ by Gail Honeyman.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Comments

Our group thoroughly enjoyed this book. It explored such an array of emotions. At the heart was loneliness and grief but there was also tolerance, understanding, empathy, kindness, love and acceptance. The mystery of Eleanor’s plight was gently unravelled and she grew and developed as her connections to others and their positive examples of family, love and commitment influenced her. The discovery and understanding of her past were devastating but we were left with a sense of hope for her and appreciation of how much loneliness creates a shell that can be so hard to break. It was also food for thought on how loneliness impacts people during these restricted times.

Book Club Review The Dictionary of Lost Words

Summary

In 1901, the word bondmaid was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it.

Motherless and irrepressibly curious, Esme spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of lexicographers are gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary.

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides  it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie,  a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

Comments

Our group thoroughly enjoyed this novel. We loved the descriptive writing, the historical perspective, the believable characters and the gentle, interesting way the emancipation of women was treated. We savoured the warmth of the relationships between families and women. It was a love story that involved people, places and language. The treatment of women’s suffrage ran throughout the story but we weren’t ‘hit over the head’ with it. We were connected to it in a subtle, sympathetic way as we observed it through the life of the main character and her observations of others and understanding of the use and meaning of words. Learning how the dictionary was compiled was also fascinating. A great read.

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Book Club Reviews May 2021

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

The words ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘painfully funny’ are on the cover of this book. These words resonated with us along with harrowing, crude and humourous. It’s the story of a commitment that turns from hope to sadness to burnout. We felt grateful for all that medicine provided but were sorry for the unseen personal cost to many of those who practised it. We came aware feeling more educated and aware of the realities of life as a young doctor and the running of the public medical system.

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Lion A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

Lion, by Saroo Brierley, is a very simplistic narrative relating the story of Saroo’s search for his birth mother. While the events of his young life were remarkable to those of us living in the western world, the writing of his story was not as gripping as one might imagine it should have been. It was no doubt a cathartic process for him to record it, but as a group we did not find it to be as powerful and emotive as we had hoped.

6/10 Read by Dundas Readers