Jan’s been reading:
Forster,Margaret (2010) Isa & May. Chatto & Windus. Isamay, a would-be academic and mother-to-be, is writing her MA thesis about grandmothers in history – from Sarah Bernhardt and Queen Victoria, to other influential grandmothers – whilst constantly being ambushed by her own grandmothers and family history and secrets. Engaging and unusual story about grandmothers and their powerful role in family life. Rating: 8.5/10
Ann’s been reading:
Neale, Emma (2011) Fosterling. Random House. A young man is found unconscious in remote Fiordland. He is over seven feet tall, his skin covered in thick hair which reminds onlookers of an animal’s pelt. When he wakes in a city hospital, he is eerily uncommunicative. Speculation begins. When a young woman befriends him and he starts to talk, his identity seems to grow more complex. On his release from hospital, events drive him into hiding. A engaging compelling story about innocence, society and our reactions to difference. Rating: 8.5/10
Michaels, Ann (2008) Fugitive Pieces.
Bloomsbury. Following the Nazi occupation of Poland, Jakob Beer, an orphaned Jewish boy, finds himself rescued by geologist and humanist Athos Roussos. Athos takes Jakob to his Greek-island home, where Jakob becomes his student. But the trauma of Jakob’s early life refuses to leave him. Living forever in the shadow of the Holocaust, he must steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history. Challenging read, the language sometimes gets in way of this story of love, loyalty and survival. Rating: 8/10.
Lynne’s been reading:
Avery, Ray (2010) Rebel with a cause. Random House. Ray Avery is the current New Zealander of the Year owing to his work in the Third World providing cheap cataract operations, incubators for babies and other creative scientific solutions. He was brought up in an orphanage and went on to become a scientist, a mentor, a millionaire, and a very successful businessman. His laboratories produce over 10% of the world’s supply of intraocular lenses. From his garage in Mt Eden Auckland, Ray manages a global network of experts. Got a lot out of it. Rating: 9/10.
Barb’s been reading:
Gee, Maurice (2002) Ellie and the shadowman. Faber. Ellie Crowther is fourteen and living in a hostel where her mother, a single parent, is a matron. Ellie grows up to be a spirited, original and forthright woman who becomes a well-known painter but her canvasses are haunted by the presence of a figure from her past she thinks of as her shadow man. Rating: 8.5/10.
Cunningham, Michael (2011) By nightfall. Thorndike. The whole course of one’s life really can change in an instant. Peter is forty-four, prosperous, childless, the owner of a big New York apartment, a player in the NY contemporary art dealing scene. He has been married to Rebecca for close on twenty years. Their marriage is sound. Peter might even describe himself to be happy. But when Mizzy, Rebecca’s much younger brother, comes to stay, his world is turned upside down. Examines the quest for unattainable, and temporal beauty. Rating: 7.5/10.
Montefiore, Simon (2010) Catherine the Great and Potemkin. Orion. Love, power, conquest and extravagance on a magnificent Russian scale. The story of one of the most successful political partnerships. Based on new archives, Catherine, a German princess is married lovelessly at 14 to the Russian heir. She ruthlessly seized power and ruled triumphantly for thirty years, with Potemkin, a brilliant flamboyant politician, strategist and lifelong lover. Well written, serious read. Rating: 8.5/10.
Blech, Benjamin & Roy Doliner (2009) The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the heart of the Vatican. Harper Collins. The recent cleaning of the Sistine Chapel frescoes removed layer after layer of centuries of accumulated tarnish and darkness. The Sistine Secrets endeavors to remove the centuries of prejudice, censorship, and ignorance that blind us to the truth about one of the world’s most famous and beloved art treasures. Interesting message. Rating: 8/10.
Jenny’s been reading:
Munro, Alice (2010) Too much happiness. Vintage. Ten new stories by the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize. Alice Munro renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories. In the first story a young wife and mother, suffering from the unbearable pain of losing her three children, gains solace from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other tales uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and, in the long title story, the yearnings of a nineteenth-century female mathematician. Rating: 9/10.
Morton, Kate (2008) Forgotten garden. Allen & Unwin. A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery . Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. Mundane and dull. Rating: 5/10.
Hannah, Darci (2010) The exile of Sara Stevenson. Random House. In 1814, Sara Stevenson, the well-bred but high-spirited daughter of celebrated Scottish lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson, falls in love with a common sailor, Thomas Crichton. On the day of their clandestine elopement, Thomas mysteriously disappears, leaving Sara heartbroken, secretly pregnant, and at the mercy of her overbearing family. Refusing to relinquish her hopes that Thomas will someday return to her, Sara is banished to an eerie lighthouse on lonely and remote Cape Wrath. A historical novel. Rating: 8/10.
Roz’s been reading:
Rosenheim, Andrew (2009) Without prejudice. Random House. Late one night, Robert Danziger receives an unexpected call from a childhood friend, Duval Morgan. Duval has spent more than twenty years in an Illinois state penitentiary for the horrific rape and assault of a young nurse. Now he is finally out. Robert has recently returned to his native city of Chicago to make a fresh start – but Duval is a voice from the past, and from a childhood Robert would rather forget. Robert reluctantly agrees to meet him, and is astonished to find he is proclaiming his innocence. But as Duval gradually starts to spend more time with the Danziger family, befriending Robert s wife Anna and young daughter Sophie, Robert’s trust is pushed to the limit and he finds himself wondering what his old friend really wants. A tale about the dangerous places trust can lead you to. Nice tension. Rating: 8/10.
Carol’s been reading:
Sultana, Farida (2011) The purple dandelion. Exisle Publishing. The true story of Farida Sultana, a Muslim woman and single mother whose early life in Bangladesh led her to question the traditions of Islamic culture. An arranged marriage at 18 took her to war-torn Iran with her husband and young daughter, before eventually settling in New Zealand. Having experienced domestic violence herself, she was conscious of the many immigrant women suffering under oppressive conditions in New Zealand, and she set up Shakti, NZs first ethnic women’s refuge which helps women and families of over 42 different ethnicities. A must read. All book club members encouraged to buy. Rating: 10/10
Gowder, Shilpi Somaya (2010) The secret daughter. Harper Collins. On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to Asha. But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the discovery that she will never have one of her own. After she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of baby Asha from a Mumbai orphanage, they adopt her. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, “Secret Daughter” poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Rating: 8.5/10.