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    Book Club

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    A Number One New York Times Bestseller

    'Painfully beautiful' New York Times

    'Unforgettable . . . as engrossing as it is moving' Daily Mail

    'For sheer escapism pick up Where The Crawdads Sing. . . there is writing that takes your breath away' The Times

    'All is not as it seems in this heartbreaking coming-of-age bestseller' The i newspaper

    From the back of the book:

    For years, rumours of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast.  So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Mash Girl.  But Kya is not what they say.  Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand.  Then the time comes when she yearns to be loved.  When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kay opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens.

     

    My Review (to come):

     

    The Plague by Albert Camus

     

    The Plagueby Albert Camus

    Albert Camus's world-renowned fable of fear and courage

    Winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

    An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.

    'A matchless fable of fear, courage and cowardice' - Independent

    'Magnificent' - The Times

     

    From the back of the book:

    The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr. Rieux, resist the terror.

    Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. He studied philosophy in Algiers and then worked in Paris as a journalist. He was one of the intellectual leaders of the Resistance movement and, after the War, established his international reputation as a writer. His books include The Plague, The Just and The Fall, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. Camus was killed in a road accident in 1960.

    My Review:

    I have mixed feelings about this book as the first half was excruciatingly slow, but the second half I quite enjoyed.  The descriptions of the town and the banal feelings of the overall population become repetitive very quickly.  In contrast, the descriptions of the main characters were cold and unfeeling (despite this being explained later).  Given the current epidemic we are experiencing, there have been so many emotions that people around the world have shared.  As a result, Camus' writing on the feelings of the people in the town come across as obvious and not particularly insightful.  If we had read this in another time, maybe it would have made the first half of the book more interesting.

    (slight spoilers)

    From the second half of the book, it felt like there was an actual story as something ALMOST happened as Rambert was planning his escape.  From this point on, I was able to stop thinking of the main characters as needing to be fully-fleshed out people and more as a vessel for Camus' philosophical thoughts on the different facets of human nature and how they can influence our reaction to a plague/terror.  It feels like the allegory with the Nazi occupation of France was more effective in this part of the book, although, I agree with critics who feel that using a natural disease is not an appropriate substitution for something so horrific perpetrated by other people.

    On the whole, I think the book sparked a good discussion for our book club, with a number of people disliking the book entirely.  However, I appreciated the insight into how different people react when faced with a terrible fate and society's willingness and desire to quickly celebrate any progress and forget the ills of the recent past.  He was quite clear not to paint anyone with an "evil" brush, instead choosing to explain the motivations behind the characters.

    I believe there can be some parallels drawn to social injustices and racism that we see today, a foreboding that the book leaves us with.  In each instance, the larger population initially reacting with indifference to a threat they can not see or experience themselves.  And in keeping with this book, many people are now waking up to the realities of the "plagues" of today and choosing how they will meet the threat.

    Here is a quote from the book that perfectly sums up my feelings:

    "'...the plague is merciless.'

    'On the whole, it is,...but if you persevere, you can have some pleasant surprises.'"

    3/5

    Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty

    Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

    Perfect lives or perfect lies? The unputdownable Sunday Times No. 1 Bestseller and Richard & Judy Book Club pick, from the author of HBO's award winning Big Little Lies

    'A super-suspenseful page-turner' Mail on Sunday

    Nine Perfect Strangers is the gripping, funny and thrilling bestseller from Liane Moriarty.

    'The suspense keeps building in an enjoyably zany thriller' Guardian

    From the back of the book:

    Nine perfect strangers, each hiding an imperfect life.

    A luxury retreat cut off from the outside world.

    Ten days that promise to change your life.

    But some promises - like some lives - are perfect lies . . .

    The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other. Watching over them is the resort's director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat's glamorous facade lies a dark agenda. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what's about to hit them . . .

     

    My Review:

    I had no idea what to expect when I started this fun, well-written story.  The first person narrative changing with each chapter kept things interesting and made it easy to picture the different characters' personalities.  I thought it would be a creepy suspenseful book, but it was more of a strange, twisted read with a bit of light-heartedness thrown in.  The main character, Frances, was especially entertaining and I enjoyed her non-stop, neurotic inner monologue.

    So although this won't make you reach for the tissues or provoke any particularly deep thoughts, I appreciated the book for what it was.  I would definitely take this on holiday with me to read on the beach (when we're allowed to do that again!) and would not hesitate to pick up another one of Lianne Moriarty's books.

    4/5

    Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman

    Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Rootsby Deborah Feldman

    Now a Netflix original series!

    “A brave, riveting account... Unorthodox is harrowing, yet triumphant.”
    — Jeannette Walls, New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle

    “Compulsively readable, Unorthodox relates a unique coming-of-age story that manages to speak personally to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider in her own life.”
    — School Library Journal

    “An unprecedented view into a Hasidic community that few outsiders ever experience.”
    — Minneapolis Star-Tribune

     “Eloquent, appealing, and just emotional enough... No doubt girls all over Brooklyn are buying this book, hiding it under their mattresses, reading it after lights out—and contemplating, perhaps for the first time, their own escape.”
    The Huffington Post

     

    From the back of the book:

    Unorthodox is the bestselling memoir of a young Jewish woman’s escape from a religious sect, in the tradition of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel and Carolyn Jessop’s Escape, featuring a new epilogue by the author.

    As a member of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism, Deborah Feldman grew up under a code of relentlessly enforced customs governing everything from what she could wear and to whom she could speak to what she was allowed to read. Yet in spite of her repressive upbringing, Deborah grew into an independent-minded young woman whose stolen moments reading about the empowered literary characters of Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott helped her to imagine an alternative way of life among the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

    Trapped as a teenager in a sexually and emotionally dysfunctional marriage to a man she barely knew, the tension between Deborah’s desires and her responsibilities as a good Satmar girl grew more explosive until she gave birth at nineteen and realized that, regardless of the obstacles, she would have to forge a path—for herself and her son—to happiness and freedom.

     

    My Review:

    No spoilers...

    This was a fascinating insight into a community that, growing up in New York, I really only saw from a distance.  It was interesting to hear that about a community living in modern day America continues to oppress and control its female members with the justification of righteousness and holiness.  There is no doubting the strength of character inherent in the author who managed to escape this commnunity.

    Vague spoilers...

    My disappointment in this book is that although the memories and stories were interesting, it all felt a bit dry.  I don't think a ghost writer would have been appropriate given that the author's first-hand account does add poignancy to the book, but the storytelling wasn't exactly riveting for me, especially some of the earlier chapters.

    I also wanted to hear more about the actual struggles the author had with escaping this oppressive life in a very close-knit community.  What I can imagine in reality was a very difficult leaving process filled with mixed emotions seemed to be glossed over in the book.  'He wanted a divorce.  I said yes.  I left.'  It was an abrupt ending that may have been due to the fact that this was written very soon after she left the Hasidic community, but the epilogue only provided a vague update when a couple chapters addressing how her grandparents reacted and her explanations to her very young son would have finished the story for me.

    Most of the members in the book club really enjoyed the book and it made for great discussion, but we generally agreed regarding the ending.

     3/5 stars

    Behind Closed Doors by BA Paris

    Behind Closed Doorsby BA Paris

    ‘If you love The Girl on the Train read Behind Closed Doors.’ - Elle

    ‘Twists our expectations of the entire psychological thriller genre’ - The Guardian

    ‘The tension builds almost unbearably’ - Good Housekeeping

    ‘It took me just an afternoon to read this book and by the end, my heart was pounding. If you like fast and frantic stories, you’ll love this.’ - The Sun

    From the back of the book:

    Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.

    You’d like to get to know Grace better.

    But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

    Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

    Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

     

    My Review (no spoilers):

    As a caveat to my review, this book might be okay as a forgettable beach read.  It was very quick to get through and as some positive reviews said, if you can ignore plot holes and suspend belief, then you may find the book a bit of fun.

    Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as I often found myself saying "no one would ever do that!!"  I thought the characters were not well developed and therefore their motivations and actions did not make a lot of sense.  One of the book club members put it very well saying "it feels like this is a caricature of what a psychological thriller is supposed to be."  Enough said.

    1/5 stars