Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell

Almost the entire book group managed to finish this book and they almost all enjoyed it too!

We found that having no chapters made this book a little tricky in terms of finding places to stop, but that the different voices within the book were very clear meaning we didn't get confused even with the lack of chapters.

We had a long discussion about how women were treated in this paternalistic version of the world, and sometimes they still are in this day and age. We felt that we needed a little bit more about how Esme lived in the institution, what was her life like etc. We did get a little of this but we wanted more just so we could understand things a little better. We were also interested in finding out a little more about how places like these closed down, it all just seemed so sudden and with so little thought for the people living there.

We liked the ending of the book but we do worry for Esme, what exactly will happen to her. Given how long she has been institutionalised it could be difficult for her to get used to living out in the real world.

Overall we gave this book 8 out of 10.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Questions


Don’t forget that the next book club meeting is on 15th December, not the last Thursday of the month! Also, we’re having our pot luck that night so please let me know what you would like to bring if you haven’t already.

Here are some questions for this months book so you might want to look away now if you haven’t finished the book:

•    When Iris gets the call from the psychiatric hospital, she is put in a very difficult position. What does she stand to gain and lose from the decision she eventually makes? What would you do in her shoes?
•    Why do you think Esme was sent to Cauldstone, and never released to go home? Do you think she is mentally unbalanced? Give examples from the book to support your opinion.
•    As Iris discovers more about Cauldstone, she discovers some of the more outrageous reasons that women were sent to "mad houses" like it. According to the novel's descriptions of that time period, what do you think drove this trend? Do you think changes have occurred in our view and treatment of women who don't "behave"? Why or why not?
•    How did you find the end of the book? Can you think of any alternative endings that might have worked? What do you imagine will happen to these characters after the last page is turned? Has the author satisfied your interest in these characters?

Moriarty - Anthony Horowitz

Everyone in the book group had finished this book but not everyone had read the short story. It doesn't honestly matter if you've not read the short story it's just an interesting additional element. We were left wondering why there was a short story in the first place.

As this is a Sherlock Holmes type of book we were all reading it looking for any red herrings or twists that had been put in to put us off the scent. We were all wondering for example who the coughing man was, was he relevant to the story etc. Having done this throughout the reading of the book when it came to the end we were left wondering if this did actually need to be a Sherlock book at all. It was a good book but it doesn't really need to be a Sherlock book. We felt that there were a lot of elements that were missing and just didn't feel quite like a Conan Doyle Sherlock book, but what was Horowitz trying to achieve with this book? Just to slightly emulate the style or to truly add another book to the Sherlock canon?

We all felt that the ending of the story was very much telling and not doing. There wasn't as much action as we were expecting especially given that some of the group had previously read some Sherlock stories and there is a certain amount of action in some of them.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

Moriarty - Questions

Hello everyone!

I hope you’re all enjoying this months book club book Moriarty. Here are some questions you might like to look at while you’re reading the book:

•    Have you read any of the Sherlock stories mentioned in the book, or indeed any Sherlock stories at all? Did you decide to read some prior to getting into this book? Did you find that this new book was faithful to the original Sherlock stories?
•    Were you upset that this story is narrated by people other than Sherlock and Watson? Or did you find that this was a positive thing?
•    Would you consider this a good crime novel, did it keep you guessing or had you figured everything out way in advance? Did the pacing suit the story, did it grab you and carry you along or did you feel that it dragged a little?
•    The most important question, did the ending catch you completely by surprise? Be honest!

All The Birds In The Sky - Charlie Jane Anders

Almost all the book group finished this book even though many in the group felt that the book meandered around a lot. Many of those who got to the end felt that it fell a little flat and weren't impressed with it. We are wondering if there will be another book and this will become a series given the openness of the ending.

We all felt that this book was a lot of different genres all mixed together making it tricky to decide what kind of book you were reading. This made it difficult to decide how to read it because we weren't sure what was going to happen next. We felt that maybe the author needed the courage to pick just one genre and stick to it rather than stuff all her ideas into the one book.

We weren't entirely sure when this book was set, we felt it might be in our very near future but in a slightly different time line to ours as they were going through the beginnings of an apocalypse and we don't think that's what we're going through at the moment. They had some technology which felt similar to ours such as the caddy, but it wasn't quite the same as things we have.

There were a lot of interesting characters within this book but they were unfortunately not looked at very closely, we all wanted to hear more from a lot of the background characters. Maybe this would have fleshed out one of the story lines a little more.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.

All The Birds In The Sky - Questions

Here are some questions about this months book that you might want to look at once you’ve finished the book in time for the meeting:

•    Which side did you feel more drawn to, the magical or the SciFi (nature versus science)?
•    This book is compared to The Magicians by Lev Grossman a lot, has anyone read that book, or watched the TV series? Would you say the two books do compare?
•    How did you feel about the two very distinct parts to the book, the first being the two protagonists childhood, and the second being 10 years later?
•    Did you enjoy the mishmash of different genres? We see elements of magical realism, fantasy, SciFi, apocalyptic, and a bit of romance. Or did you find it confusing?

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Almost everyone finished the book apart from one who felt she really could not finish it as she did not enjoy it at all.

Everyone had a real problem with the end of the book, we felt that it was very hurried but at the same time it had too many lose ends and not enough clarity to it.

We all enjoyed the fact that we were reading about women becoming stronger through the book, while the men in story became weaker and weaker. We were essentially watching the unravelling of this family group as the various rules outside the house were gradually seen to be being broken within the house. This was an interesting discussion point within the group. We all decided we enjoyed watching Petronella becoming such a strong woman who really tried her best given the circumstances to protect her family.

We also discussed the whole aspect of the miniaturist and why she was in the book at all. Some people felt that she was somewhat pointless and just confusing, while others felt she was an interesting gothic element along the lines of Daphne Du Maurier.

We felt that the ending of the book means that there is hope, even though such tragic things happened during the rest of the book. We kind of want to know what happened next, but understand that we'll just never know. We also wanted some kind of short story about the miniaturist to explain where she came from and where she went.

Overall we gave this book 6 out of 10.