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 All the light we cannot see

By Anthony Doer

Summary

Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret.

Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering.

At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in.

Comments

Our readers very much enjoyed this book. Some are highly recommending this book to others for a “good read.”

The reader follows two storylines in this book. One set in Germany with an orphan boy, Werner Pfennig, the other set in France with a young blind girl, Marie-Laure. Their stories are told in parallel from very different childhoods in 1934 to their eventual meeting in 1944.

Some readers did find the style of writing difficult to adjust to, jumping from timeframes and countries then back. These readers did not become as attached to the story and abandoned the book but most found they adjusted to this style of writing once the characters were established.

This style was described by one reader as “laying layer upon layer of information” steadily throughout the story.

There were many emotionally attaching characters throughout this novel, both French and German. The struggles for some young German boys and girls with a world that was rapidly evolving around them, a world they had no control over and were powerless against. One reader described this well as “a clash of the individual on the machine around them.”

The group felt that the two main characters, and many of the supporting characters, were beautifully written. Their individual life situations were very emotionally moving and thought provoking. This was achieved so well by the beautiful prose by the author.

Along with the stories of Marie-Laure and Walter there is a third dramatic suspenseful mystery story line following their paths. This story itself is also intriguing.

There was much discussion about World War 2 and how so much of this war was waged through the airwaves. Beginning with Nazi propaganda, their use of radio station and programme control in the brainwashing of the German people, particularly German youth. This was so engagingly written in the life of Werner and his sister in the German orphanage just before the war. The story then follows the use of radios by partisans in invaded countries bravely attempting to alert the allies to German troop and munitions movements.

Readers also commented on how they enjoyed the resolution of events after the war and how well it was managed by the author.

A highly recommended read. 

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler

Summary

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

Comments

Many of our readers really enjoyed this book while some were disappointed by the structure of the story. There was real division within our readers with this structural format.

The story centres around three generations of the Whitshank family and the house in which they live in Baltimore. The Whitshanks are an average family and the house itself is presented as a real character in the book. Each generation’s connection to the house is quite well detailed and each of the key inhabitant’s special feelings toward the house outlined.

Most readers agreed the book is well written. The author’s use of dialogue was excellent and the attention to descriptive character detail all throughout the book was very good. Some readers were transported easily to the time and place in the story while other readers found the abrupt transitions in time confusing and irritating, distracting them from the story line.

Some readers also found the story line laboured on and on at times and was really not taking them to anywhere that they felt was interesting.

There was also a feeling by many that the story had an anticlimactic ending with some readers feeling unfulfilled by the story.

There is definite humour frequently throughout the book and moments that are emotionally very touching. There is also one very big shock incident in the middle of the book that none of us saw coming.

For those readers who had read Anne Tyler before it was a good book but not her best.

Many readers however did enjoy the story, the characters involved and the descriptive skill of the writer.

A recommended read.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Club Book Reviews June 2023

The Liars by Petronella McGovern

Summary

A wife burning with resentment. A husband hiding the past. Their teenage daughter crusading for the truth. Who can we trust?

The close-knit community of Kinton Bay is shocked when fifteen-year-old Siena Britton makes a grisly discovery near a cave in the national park. Siena believes it’s a skull from the town’s violent colonial past and posts a video which hits the news headlines.

But her parents, Meri and Rollo, think the skull is related to their teenage parties in the Killing Cave back in the 1990s. And a school mate who went missing then.

None of them foresees the dangers that the discovery will create for their family. The dangers of past deceits, silences and lies that have never been resolved.

Comments

Set in a small country town on the coast of New South Wales after Covid 19, this is a story which revolves around the cases of three missing people from the 1990s.

When a skull is discovered, lives and lies begin to unravel; and events spiral out of control, especially in the Britton family around whom the story is focussed. This small community has been keeping secrets for many years and some in the community are haunted by their memories.

Only a few of our group read the whole story, having found the beginning very uninspiring. It was easy to read but ‘ordinary’ and ‘underwhelming’ was the group verdict; we felt that it would be better suited as a young adult read.

4/10 Read by Dundas Readers


Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

Summary

Welcome to Bascom, North Carolina, where it seems that everyone has a story to tell about the Waverley women. The house that’s been in the family for generations, the walled garden that mysteriously blooms year round, the rumours of dangerous loves and tragic passions.

Every Waverley woman is somehow touched by magic. Claire has always clung to the Waverleys’ roots,  tending the enchanted soil in the family garden from which she makes her sought-after delicacies – famed and feared for their curious effects. She has everything she thinks she needs – until one day she waked to find a stranger has moved in next door and a vine of ivy has crept into her garden…

Claire’s carefully tended life is about to run gloriously out of control.

Comments

Our group quite enjoyed this easy to read, fanciful story of a family of women with ‘magical’ gifts and an enchanted, backyard apple tree. It did remind us of a Hallmark movie and could imagine it also as a miniseries, even perhaps more suited to the young adult genre. There were some aspects of realism and conflict. We enjoyed the references to the language of flowers, the positivity of the environment as a healer and the hope and support that the women provided each other. The character of Evanelle was our favourite. She was eccentric, loving, somewhat ageless but a wise elder. The ending was predictable but satisfying.

Read by MJ Readers

Book Review The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Summary

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders.

But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer before it’s too late?

Comments

We all enjoyed this highly implausible but engaging romp set in a retirement village in England. We felt that it was a fresh, authentic take on a murder mystery story where elderly characters were created with respect and dignity. There was a sense of community and commonality despite each main character coming from disparate backgrounds, each bringing a skill and perspective that allowed them to work cooperatively together. At the heart of the story is Elizabeth, a former spy, who manages the group’s investigation while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim ably support her. Each character is interesting and sympathetically portrayed with a plot that keeps you guessing. We look forward to reading more books in this series.

Read by MJ Readers