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!
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.
In October 1815, after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to live the remainder of his life in exile on the remote Southern Atlantic island of St. Helena. There, on what he called “the cursed rock,” with no chance of escape, he found an unexpected ally: a spirited British teenager named Betsy Balcombe who lived on the island with her family. While Napoleon waited for his own accommodations to be made livable, the Balcombe family played host to the infamous exile, a decision that would have far-reaching consequences for them all.
We generally did not enjoy this book although most of us researched the characters after finishing it. We were not engaged with the story and felt that modern ideas and opinions were to too prominent in the narrative. We would have been more interested in reading about the central characters’ life in NSW as a result of their time and experiences on the island.
For years, rumours of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
Starting in the 1950s, set in North Carolina, Where the Crawdads Sing follows the story of Kya, who grows up alone after being abandoned by her family. She learns her life lessons from the wildlife around her. Learning how to hide from the truant officer and hunting skills to catch food.
We absolutely, unanimously loved this book! Loved, loved, LOVED IT! Beautifully written; we felt like we were in the shack, or hiding in the marshes, or on the boat exploring the water ways of the swamp. We enjoyed the way the story alternated between Kya’s childhood and, her present day. This book kept us guessing to the very end. To an ending none of us picked and loved all the same. We loved Kya, her quiet strength and determination. And the wonderful characters that surrounded her (Jumpin & Mabel) and the relationships she had with all of them. Even the not so likeable ones. They were real, and people we could relate to. The book covered a whole range of issues, loss and abandonment, racial prejudice, social injustice, and love. We cannot recommend this book enough.
A great book club choice. Albert Facey’s life spans most of the twentieth century and his memoir written in later life for his children and grandchildren has justly become an Australian classic. From his infancy in the Eastern states to his early childhood in Kalgoorlie and in many small towns in country Western Australia, we follow the gruelling and heart rending story of his early childhood. Abandoned by his mother as a toddler, his wonderful Grandma is his anchor. He is reunited with his mother and family as a teenager and takes a range of challenging jobs until the outbreak of the first world war. He fights in the hellish conditions at Gallipoli where he received wounds which stayed with him throughout his long life. Despite these hardships, he remains optimistic and hard working and meets and marries his soul mate Evelyn. They have six children. Simply written by a man who had no formal schooling, this is a valuable historic document as well as a touching and wonderful read.
Although we all felt that this book was well written, the topic did not capture us and most of our members did not finish reading it. The author was obviously very passionate about his topic but we found much of it depressing and repetitive. What we did take away from our discussion was that in the early days of settlement of the land people were fighting against the environment to survive whereas now we are fighting for the environment to survive. We can learn from the past, recognise mistakes and good intentions and make better choices.
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.
Read by MJ Readers
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.
The darkest part of our recent history, this story is the heartrending account of two survivors of Auschwitz. Lale and Gita met during three horrendous years of incarceration and their story is a tribute to their survival against all odds. History made personal in this way leaves a lingering mark on readers. A book well written and researched and well worth reading.
This novel was written with so many layers. It was complex yet at it’s heart, a family story with real, relatable characters.
We found the writing in the beginning chaotic but as the story evolved, it was very reflective of the lives of the characters. The style reminded us of a children’s spirograph with all the interwoven, bouncing lines coming together to form a resolution of reconnection, healing and love.
We so enjoyed the use of metaphors, succinct language and vivid descriptions. They had us laughing and crying. A novel well worth taking the time to read.