March Picks

Julie’s been reading:

Hoffman, Alice (2011) The Dovekeepers.  Simon & Schuster. The lives of four women intersect in the year 70AD, when nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Rome on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert.  The ancient historian Josephus claimed that two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale  in the desperate days of the siege of Masada, when supplies are dwindling and the Romans are drawing near.  Wonderful, poignant and believable. Rating: 9/10.

Trollope, Joanna (2012) The Soldier’s Wife. Doubleday. Dan Riley is a major in the British Army. After a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan, he is coming home to his wife, Alexa, and young daughters he adores. The outside world sees reunions as a taste of heaven after months of hell. But is it?  Dan finds it hard to adjust back into normal life, much to the disdain and frustration of Alexa, who can’t figure out why her husband is suddenly wholeheartedly devoted to the army. Fascinating look at relationships, the camaraderie of war, and the lives of those left behind. Told with empathy.  Rating: 8/10.

Jan’s been reading:

Massie, Robert K (2011) Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.  Random.  Born of a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself through sheer determination into the Empress of Russia.  Possessing a brilliant mind, and a disciple of Enlightenment philosophers, Catherine sought to become the embodiment of the “benevolent despot”.  Massie, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Nicholas and Alexandra and Peter The Great  focuses once again on a pivotal time of social and political change in Russia.   This biography of a remarkable leader with a dramatic personal life,  is a very readable  and enjoyable.  Highly Recommended. Rating: 9/10.

Jan Mc’s been reading:

Lupton, Rosamund (2011) Afterwards. Piatkus.  This story is written transcendentally. Grace and Jenny hurt in a school fire are living as spirits in the hospital. Together they embark on a quest to uncover the suspicious circumstances surrounding the school fire responsible for both women’s condition. As they uncover secrets hidden in the lives of the community around them, Grace begins a race against time to stop a malevolent figure intent on destroying her family.   Really good read.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Roz’s been reading:

Boyne, John (2009)  Mutiny on the Bounty. Transworld. Fourteen year old pickpocket John Jacob Turnstile is on his way to be detained at His Majesty’s Pleasure when he is offered a lifeline – the job of personal valet to a departing naval captain. The ship is the HMS Bounty, the captain is William Bligh, and their destination is Tahiti.  A recreation of the famous mutiny from John’s perspective, the story is packed with historical detail, and presents a very different portrait of Captain Bligh and Mr Christian.  Good read.  Rating: 8/10.

Angela’s been reading:

Fraser, Flora (2010) Venus of Empire; the life of Pauline Bonaparte. Murray.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, Pauline Bonaparte was a famous beauty. She shocked Europe with her love affairs, her opulent wardrobe and jewels, and, most famously, her decision to pose nearly nude for Canova’s sculpture. But just as remarkable as Pauline’s private life was her fidelity to her brother Napolean. She was witness to his great victories and when he was exiled to Elba, Pauline followed him there, and after Waterloo she begged to be allowed to join him at Saint Helena. Well researched and highly readable,  Rating: 8.5/10.

Jenny’s been reading:

Patchett, Ann (2005) Bel Canto.  Harper Perennial.  Based on the Lima Crisis this book is about a group of terrorists who hold high executives and people of high political standing hostage. It explores how the terrorists and hostages cope with living in a house together for several months.  Many of the characters form unbreakable bonds of friendship, while some fall in love.  Awarded Orange Prize for Fiction and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.  Enjoyable. A fascinating read with unexpected twists.  Rating: 9/10.

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