Wednesday, 30 December 2015

We Were Liars - E Lockhart

Apologies for the shortness of this review but this is one of those books where you can't really say much without giving away the plot of the book and I would hate to spoil it for anyone!

Everyone had managed to finish the book as it was a really quick read and relatively short, however most people came away from it not feeling it had been that great a book. Many of the book club members were unsure as to the point of the book as they were reading it, and this feeling was not alleviated by the plot twist at the end.

This story hinges around one big secret hidden by multiple little secrets that are used by a particular family to ensure that their lives continue in the way they have become accustomed to. As a reader you don't know what that large secret is until almost the very end of the book at which point everything is revealed. Then you can look back at the rest of the story to see all the little secrets that were being used as well. We think this might be part of the reason why the book is called we were liars, although we're unsure of why a small group of the youngsters called themselves liars in the years preceding the larger lie.

We talked about the lives that this family lives, with them having a private island and each daughter having their own large house. They have servants on the island that the family don't even know the names of. Even with all this privilege the daughters and squabbling over whose house is larger and who should get what when their father and mother die. The father isn't much better as he plays the daughters and his grandchildren off each other to make them do what he wants while promising them each other houses and inheritances. All in all it's a pretty ugly family situation.

This book is aimed more at younger people, maybe mid teens, so we wondered if this was a book that is more suited to them rather than us and this is why we didn't enjoy it quite as much?

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10.

We Were Liars - E Lockhart - Questions


I’m sending out these questions a little early so please be aware that if you haven’t started this months book (We Were Liars) then there might be spoilers!

  • Is the Sinclair family acting of their own free will or are they in some way merely moving through patterns established in fairy tales that existed long before them? Consider the author's use of Shakespeare's King Lear and Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

  • Was the ending a surprise...or did you see it coming? Return to earlier passages in the book and locate instances of Lockhart's of foreshadowing of events to come.

  • Do you trust Cady's narration? Is she lying...or hallucinating?

Looking forward to seeing you all on Thursday 17th December.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey - Rachel Joyce

Almost everyone in the book club finished this months book, although not everyone enjoyed it. It was felt that although the style was very light and it was easy to read it wasn't every enjoyable.

This is a parallel book running alongside the story told in "The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry", which most of the book club members have read for a previous meeting. However, there were some new members who had not read the first book and they felt that they might have been missing something from this book having not read Harold Fry. They did enjoy parts of the book but they wondered if some elements might have had a better explanation if they had read both books. However, on the whole the books do work well as stand alones.

It was interesting reading about the hospice where Queenie was spending her last few months, we felt that it wasn't as bleak and dark as we expected it. In fact there were some lovely humorous elements along with some entertaining characters such as Finty, in amongst the many visits of the undertakers car. It felt as though the people there were trying to live their lives as best they could rather than thinking about the things that were wrong with them. We're not sure if this is completely accurate, but Joyce did do a lot of research by visiting hospices so we can only assume that it is.

We felt very sorry for Queenie as she seemed to be on the edges throughout her life until the moment that Harold decided to go on his walk to visit her. Queenie just seemed to be like background noise in peoples lives, she seemed to think she was important but in fact we don't think that many people really noticed her at all. She didn't seem to have a proper close relationship with anyone within the book, she always seemed to not want to get close to anyone, there was always a reason for this but never a particularly good reason. Although given this she did seem to find a certain type of happiness within her life, nothing big and flashy but possibly enough for her?

The relationship between Queenie and David was interesting as this did add an extra element to the Harold Fry book which we hadn't seen before. In fact we hadn't really got to know David before so he was in fact an extra character in this book compared to Harold Fry.

Overall we gave this book 6.5 out of 10.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey - Rachel Joyce - Questions


Here are some questions for you to have a think about before the book club meeting on Thursday. As usual do not read the questions unless you have either read the whole book or you’re happy for certain parts of the book to be spoilt for you.

  • ‘When I woke, I had a visitor. She had a grapefruit on her head. She’d also brought her horse’. From the beginning of the novel, it is clear that Queenie is under the influence of morphine. With hindsight, how far do you think reality blurred with illusion?

  • In her own letter, included at the end of The Lovesong of Miss Queenie Hennessy Rachel Joyce says that the patients at St Bernadine’s are a ‘chorus for Queenie – her backing vocals’. However, Finty and her fellow patients are described in vivid detail. What backstories might you give them?

  • In her letter to Harold, Queenie describes how she witnessed David’s declining mental health. Do you put David’s troubles down to nature or nurture?

The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff

Everyone in the book club finished this book and they all found it very enjoyable, although it does take a little bit of getting into at the beginning. Some book club members didn't like the hopping back and forward in time, but it was always very clear where you were in time and who you were listening to. This book is very dense with lots of information and little side stories and back stories, but while you're reading it you really don't feel that bombarded with information, this is a great skill for an author.

This book is full of magical realism like monsters in the lake, so you do need to be able to suspend your disbelief a little bit. Some book club members enjoyed this element more than others. We had a short discussion on the difference between magical realism and the different types of fantasy novel such as sword and sorcery, or urban fantasy as this is not an area that many of the book club members generally read from.

As we were reading the book some book club members felt that some parts of the story were not explained well enough, we just had to believe that something had happened, or just go along with the story. We felt that a little more explanation might have helped us with our belief in the reality of the story.

We enjoyed the small town feel of the book, it feels like Gilmore Girls or something similar in that everyone knows everyone else and also their genealogical background. There are lots of little rituals and traditions that go on in the town as well which felt comforting if a little odd at the same time.

With regards the title of the book we felt that the actual monster living in the lake was not monstrous at all, and in fact was loved by the citizens living in the town. That monster had an air of protectiveness towards the citizens rather than one of menace. However, when you look at some of the human characters in the book such as Ginger and Marmaduke you could see some truly monstrous creatures.

Some of our most favourite characters in the book were "The Buds". We loved their almost female relationship with each other, it's unusual to see a group of men so supportive within a novel, it's generally a group of women who serve that role within a book. Overall we did like a lot of the characters and felt that they were really well written to the point that they felt real. At the end of the book we wanted to find out more about some of the characters but we also felt sated with the ending, it felt quite right.

Overall we gave this book 6.5 out of 10.

The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff - Questions

Hello everyone,

I hope to see you all on Thursday for this months book club! Here are some questions for you to think about while you’re finishing your book. As usual please do not read these questions unless you have finished the book as there will be SPOILERS!

  • What did you think of the range of voices and time periods the author employs in The Monsters of Templeton? How would the novel have been different had the story been told from a single point of view, or been set in one era?

  • Of the many characters from the past—Marmaduke Temple, Davey Shipman, Charlotte and Cinnamon, Elizabeth Franklin Temple, to name a few—which one(s) stood out for you? Why?

  • What did you think of Willie’s search to uncover her father’s identity? What did each new layer of history teach Willie about her family? Why was it important that Willie learn everything she learned?

  • What was your opinion of Ezekiel Felcher at the beginning of the novel? Did it change as the novel progressed? Did you think that Willie might stay in Templeton to be with him? What do you think she should have done? What do you think she will do in the future?

  • What does the book’s title mean? Who or what are the "monsters" it refers to? What, exactly, does the word "monster" mean in the context of this book?

Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking - Susan Cain

This is one of the very few non-fiction books that the book club has read and we found it pretty hard going as it was quite boring. Many of the book club members did not manage to finish the book, and they felt that they would be unlikely to finish it after the meeting. They felt that the author went over and over the same point rather than giving more information on the different aspects of introverts and extroverts.

Having read this book we decided that everyone is on a scale from very introverted to very extroverted, with most people having some elements of both depending on the circumstances they find themselves in. We all then tried to decide where we would put ourselves on this scale, and where others might put us. Having said this we wondered if an introvert could or even should become more extrovert in order to get their ideas out in the open. We also talked about how the world we currently inhabit has a great emphasis on meetings and group working, and whether we feel that this excludes introverts. We wondered if we had ever ignored an introvert accidentally or whether we are used to being ignored by extroverts during meetings.

We didn't much like the sweeping statements, we would have preferred to have some more evidence, possibly more scientific in nature rather than all the little stories. We did like the comparisons between the Eastern and Western worlds and their definitions of politeness with regard introversion. Some more bits like that in the book would have been interesting.

We wondered if this is a book that only introverts would really enjoy as it's very focused on them, maybe extroverts would find it dull as it has little or nothing to do with them. Maybe a little more to do with extroverts might have attracted a wider audience, though to be fair the book is meant to be about introverts.

Overall we gave this book 5 out of 10.