August Picks

Ann’s been reading:

Funder, Anna (2011)  All that I am.  Hamish Hamilton. Gripping from the first line – ‘When Hitler came to power I was in the bath.’ A novel based on a true story of Jewish German dissidents who had escaped to London in the 1930s to avoid the increasing brutality in Hitler’s Germany. In London, they continue their political work against a background of mistrust and threats from the regime.  This builds to a shocking climax which gives the novel its thriller quality.  Told through the voices of two of the protagonists. About dark times and great personal sacrifices, but  does not sensationalize or romanticize the people or events.  Well paced. Definitely recommended.  Rating: 9/10.

Jan’s been reading:

Agus, David B (2011) The end of illness.  Simon & Schuster.  Tackles fundamental questions, and challenges long-held wisdoms about what “health” means.  Shows us  how a new perspective on our individual health will help us achieve the goal of a long and vibrant life.  Also offers an insight into new technologies that promise to transform medicine in our generation.  Seminal work.  Rating: 9/10.

Carol’s been reading:

Watson, S J (2012) Before I go to sleep. Black Swan. Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.  Christine tries to reclaim a life gone to pieces.  Intriguing.  Debut psychological thriller.  Rating 9.5/10.

Lynne’s been reading:

Perkins, Emily (2012) The Forrests. Bloomsbury. Dorothy Forrest is immersed in the sensory world around her. From the age of seven, when her odd, disenfranchised family moves from New York City to the wide skies of Auckland, to the very end of her life, this is her great gift and possible misfortune. Through the wilderness of a commune, to falling in love, to early marriage and motherhood, from the glorious anguish of parenting to the loss of everything worked for and the unexpected return of love, Dorothy is swept along by time.   Not a fully-fledged story, an observation. Well written but a difficult read.  Rating: 8/10.

Devonshire, Deborah (2011) Wait for me!  J. Murray. Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire tells the story of her upbringing, describing her parents  (fictionalised by her sister Nancy), and talks candidly about her brother and sisters, and their politics. She writes brilliantly about the country and her deep attachment to it and those who live and work in it, her active role in restoring and overseeing the day-to-day running of the family houses and gardens, and in developing commercial enterprises at Chatsworth. She speaks poignantly of the deaths of three of her children, as well as her husband’s battle with alcohol addiction. A total joy. Rating: 9/10.

Raewyn’s been reading:

Jackson, Joshilyn (2010) Backseat saints. Grand Central.  Rose Mae Lolley’s mother disappeared when she was eight, leaving her to a life as a battered child and wife. Now, as demure Mrs. Ro Grandee, she’s living the very life her mother abandoned. She’s all but forgotten the spirited girl she used to be. Then Rose Mae gets the courage to hightail it out of Texas, running from a man who will never let her go, on a mission to find the mother who did. Torrid subject matter. An incredibly well written insight. Rating: 9.5/10.

Jenny’s been reading:

Boyd, William (2012) Waiting for sunrise. Bloomsbury. Vienna, 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, walks through the city to his first appointment with eminent psychiatrist, Dr Bensimon. Sitting in the waiting room he is anxiously pondering  his neurosis when a young woman enters. Lysander is immediately drawn to her intense beauty. Her name is Hettie Bull. Their subsequent affair is both passionate and  destructive. Moving from Vienna to London’s West End, from the battlefields of France to hotel rooms in Geneva.   Not William Boyd as I like him. Unsympathetic main character. Great descriptions of Vienna and London. Rating: 8/10.

Bennett, Alan (2003) Writing home. Picador. Bringing together the funny, revealing, and lucidly intelligent writing of one of England’s best known literary figures,  including journalism, book and theater reviews, and diaries.  This revised and updated edition includes new material from the author, including more recent diaries and his introduction to his Oscar-nominated screenplay for “The Madness of King George.” A chronicle of a life in letters. Rating: 8.5/10.

Angela’s been reading:

Hemingway, Ernest (1994) A Farewell to Arms.  Arrow. In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway’s description of war is unforgettable. He recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteer and the men and women he meets in Italy.  Not only a novel of war but also  a love story.  A classic. Highly recommended. Rating: 9/10.

Jan Mc’s been reading:

O’Neill, Joseph (2009) Netherland. Vintage. In a New York City affected  by the events of 9/11, Hans — a banker originally from the Netherlands — finds himself marooned among the strange occupants of the Chelsea Hotel after his English wife and son return to London. Feeling lost in the country he had come to regard as home, Hans stumbles upon the vibrant New York subculture of cricket, where he revisits his lost childhood and, thanks to a friendship with a charismatic and charming Trinidadian named Chuck Ramkissoon, begins to reconnect with his life and his adopted country.  Really good little book.  Rating: 9/10.

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