Llantwit Major Reading Group
Llantwit Major Library Book Group meet once a month
If you would like to submit your own review of this title for the group to discuss in the next meeting, just leave it at the desk in Llantwit Major before the next meeting
If you would like to join, please get in touch with Deborah Morgan on:
The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen
This divided the group which usually makes for a good discussion but the plot left so much left to interpretation, it was difficult to pinpoint a common point to debate. Half of the group managed to complete this book, two members didn’t feel it was worth persevering, another two kept the book to complete later as they were hooked but unable to finish in time for the group meeting. Most thought they would benefit from a second reading as there were several unanswered questions. We wondered if something had been lost in a translation which appeared to be very literal at times.
The story begins with re-written versions of classic books appearing in the library and it soon becomes apparent members of the mysterious Rabbit Back Literature Society are involved. Rabbit Back is a town shrouded in folk lore and those fantasy elements place this book in the science fiction genre but the overall impression was this is a very difficult book to categorise. Some found the horror elements disturbing, likewise physical contact during The Game. Others thought it wasn’t at all creepy but more dream like. The ending was a bit unsatisfactory too…none of the group really knew what/who the dogs were attacking. That said, the collective score was a very respectable seven out of ten. Definitely a book to read slowly while taking notes.
Llantwit Major Book Group meets the third Wednesday of the month and if you would like to contribute a book review by 24th September, we are reading Bleak House by Charles Dickens.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
The majority of the group did not find this book relevant or interesting to the modern woman’s place in society, although they did question how many similar constraints might occur within royal circles today.
Most didn’t finish the book, but those who did all found the ending unsatisfactory and questioned why the main protagonist Newland Archer chose not to see Countess Ellen Olenska…was this left open for a sequel?
One or two members enjoyed the descriptive style of writing, it was the plot which they felt lacked substance. One member out of ten would recommend this as a good read.
Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch
This book certainly split the group, however, the majority found the writing compelling and clever and most were keen to explore other work by this author.
From the outset you are drawn into the basic and very human side of Victorian London with evocative smells and provocative scenes. This is a story of so many themes, but friendship and survival are at its heart…along with a few exotic animals. Those who were not so keen, finished the book but as the story progressed, they thought the tone changed and the scenes become too graphic for their taste.
Llantwit Major Library Book Group recommends Jamrach’s Menagerie.
The Root of the Tudor Rose by Mari Griffiths
Llantwit Major Library Book Group was very fortunate to have the author visit immediately after our discussion. Whilst explaining how the library resources had been invaluable during research into the history of Catherine de Valois, Mari was also able to explain some very interesting detail about the duplicity of Henry VI’s uncle.
The group agreed this was a thoroughly enjoyable read where fact and artistic licence blend seamlessly. The story is one of passion and duplicity which revolves around Henry VI’s reign and two very important foreigners within his court…his mother and her lover.
Llantwit Major Book group highly recommend this superb read.
Unfortunately this book was not well received by the group with several members failing to finish it…that said, it is definitely one for a lively discussion!Although well crafted with meaning within every page, the structure does not make for an easy read. There is very little white space, and most found the long paragraphs and lack of dialogue unhelpful in moving the story along. The plot takes place in a day in the life of the main protagonist Henry Preowne. An altercation he has leads to a very dramatic climax but even this theatrical end was perceived by some to be unrealistic.
Although one or two enjoyed it and agreed the book gets better as it progresses, there is always such a distance between the reader and the storyteller that as one book review states (New York Times): ‘his art comes perilously close to stifling life altogether’, a sentiment on which some agreed.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
All members of the group agreed this was an entertaining, humorous novel; some even enjoyed a couple of ‘laugh out loud’ moments. The main protagonist, Don, a high functioning person with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, is looking for a wife. Through Don’s narration, you soon learn logic is his favoured tool for decision making. However, on occasion we felt this was not always consistently voiced and his actions were out of character.
Whilst appreciating ‘learnt behaviour’ could change some aspects of his life, there were a couple of scenes which appear to have been written more for a visual audience, (possibly with a film/play in mind, rather than a novel?), or to quickly round off the storyline.We questioned the aim of the book, particularly given the number of other publications on the market with a subject matter relating to Asperger’s, and concluded that what this particular book does well, is provide an insightful view of the different ways each character navigates their complex emotional world…Don just does things his way. The phrase ‘normalising the condition’ was used more than once in the discussion and by different members of the group, but always followed by a united ’whatever normal means!’
Whilst the themes are issue lead, the book is light and verges on the chick lit genre. Llantwit Major Library Book Group unanimously recommends ‘The Rosie Project’ as a good read.
The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
A unanimous thumbs up for this one. All who attended the meeting agreed it was a light and enjoyable read. This is the first book by Kirsty Wark and due to her journalistic background expectation was high. None of the group had visited Arran and the description of the island was superb… a great tourism advert! The charming idiosyncrasies of island life were juxtaposed well with the harsh reality of grey city Glasgow life.
The group liked the way each chapter was titled either Elizabeth or Martha as this helped with the timeline switches. Wark also writes Elizabeth in the first person and Martha in the third which maintains Martha’s position as an outsider. Elizabeth on the other hand is providing us with her legacy; the intimate details of the most memorable events in her life. We thought perhaps the last chapter by Martha could have been changed to first person to show she had been accepted back to her roots.
There was a slight note of disappointment at the way the strands finally converged leading to perhaps a too conveniently tight ending, but the characters were diverse and entertaining and each had an arch which conveyed a different journey but with themes of love and loss.
The group gave this a collective score of 7/10.
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
The group were unusually small in numbers this week but even so there were mixed reactions to ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’. Chris was moved to tears but Ruth and Lynn were impatient with the main character and felt he could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he had just opened the letter! He wallowed in unnecessary self pity and wasted twenty years of his life. Ruth and Lynn felt it was difficult to believe that Luc would concur with the infidelity of his wife.
Everyone liked the descriptions of the journey through France and the changing landscape. Chris found parts of the story very moving particularly his journey from despair to life and hope. The book recommendations at the end were highly amusing.
A Week in December
Not all the group completed this novel. Initially some found the technical aspects of the financial information confusing and decided not to persevere. The number of characters introduced in one paragraph, (invitees of the dinner party), together with their background information, was also hard to retain and a couple of the group had to make notes to remember who was who! That said the majority found it a well written read which gives an interesting snapshot of London life at different levels of society during a short period of time. The settings were interesting such as the description of riding up front on an underground train as it enters a tunnel.
This book was published in 2009 and is set in the run up to the financial crash. The parallels of reality and fantasy are echoed in virtual and true worlds, drug induced haziness and with questions such as ‘where has all the money gone?’ being answered with ‘it was never there’.
The villainous acts of several characters made them appear almost pantomime vivid and together with the tragic lives of others made this a depressing read for some group members. Overall we give this a combined score of 6.5-7 out of 10 and agreed that although enjoyable, the score is reduced to reflect the structural complexity of the piece.