Authors we have read:

Chinua Achebe

Kingsley Amis

Martin Amis

Paul Auster

J.D. Ballard

Pat Barker

Julian Barnes

Saul Bellow

Peter Carey

Lewis Carroll

Angela Carter

Joseph Conrad

Anita Desai

Kiran Desai

Charles Dickens

JP Donleavy

Ralph Ellison

F Scott Fitzgerald

E M Forster

Elizabeth Grant

Graham Greene

Kate Grenville

Ernest Hemingway

Alan Hollinghurst

Khaled Hosseini

Kazuo Ishiguro

Franz Kafka

Yasmina Khadra

Barbara Kingsolver

Matthew Kneale

Hanif Kureishi

DH Lawrence

Stanislaw Lem

Doris Lessing

Marina Lewycka

Amin Malouf

Hilary Mantel

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Carson McCullers

Ian McEwan

John McGahern

Andrew Miller

David Mitchell

Vladimir Nabokov

Irène Némirovsky

Jeff Noon

Ben Okri

Orhan Pamuk

Annie Proulx

Philip Pullman         

Ian Rankin

Philip Reeve

Philip Roth

Salmon Rushdie

Jean-Paul Sartre

Gillian Slovo

Wesley Stace

John Steinbeck

Kurt Vonnegut

Paul Waters

Evelyn Waugh

Jeanette Winterson

Virginia Wolf

Richard Yates

Marguerute Yourcenar




What we've read, when we read it ...

January 2017

Edith Wharton: The Age of Innocence (1920) 256 pages, Wordsworth Classics

Edith Wharton's twelfth novel, it won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making Wharton the first woman to win the prize.
Set in the New York of the 1870's,  it is a deliciously hard-edged satire of the manners and customs of a small, inbred, very privileged circle of people in an era already long past when the book was published in 1920.

When Newland Archer, a rich, well-born young lawyer and his most proper fiancee, May Welland are about to celebrate their marriage, May's first cousin, the beautiful but worldly Ellen Olenska, arrives unexpectedly on the scene and steals Archer's heart...

The novel is romantic but not sentimental, and I'm a sucker for unhappy endings (Lionel Shriver)

February 2017

Christopher Isherwood: The Berlin Novels: Mr. Norris Changes Trains (1935)/Goodbye to Berlin (1939) 512 pages, Vintage edition

A soon as you pick this book up, you know you are in the hands of a first-class writer. Isherwood's characters are wryly drawn, with an attention to detail which makes them memorably human, despite their (often astonishing, often amusing) lack of innocence. Set in Berlin leading up to the rise of Hitler, he exposes with a light hand the chilling slow slide of ordinary Berliners, as they come under the influence of the Nazi regime.

Reading Goodbye to Berlin (the inspiration for Cabaret) is much like overhearing anecdotes in a crowded bar while history knocks impatiently at the windows (The Guardian)

Piquant, witty and oblique, Mr Norris Changes Trains charts the friendship between the young William Bradshaw and the mildly sinister Mr Norris in pre-war Berlin (Vintage back cover)

March 2017

Helen Dunmore: The Siege (2002) 320 pages, Penguin

It is 1941 during the Nazi winter siege on Leningrad that killed 600,000. This is a moving and intimate story of a family's fight to survive.

In this wise, humane and beautifully written novel she has written a masterpiece (Independent)

An important, as well as a thrilling, work of art (Independent on Sunday) 

April 2017

Jane Austen: Emma (1815) 358 pages, Wordsworth edition, ed. Dr. Nicola Bradbury

Finished in 1815, only two years before her death, this mature work has all the sparkle of her early books such as Pride and Prejudice, mixed with a deeper and sharper sensibility.
 
The novel's simple plot is spun into so much teasing variety through games, letters and riddles (...)  that the reader is never less than fully engaged, even charmed (Robert McCrum, The Hundred Best Novels in English).

May 2017

Paul Beatty: The Sellout (2015) 304 pages, Oneworld Publications

Man Booker Winner 2016.

A remarkable story that challenges with considerable humour, optimism and courage the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement and the holy grail of racial equality. 

Paul Beatty was born in Los Angeles in 1962 and is the author of three novels. He now lives in New York.

June 2017

Ian McEwan: Nutshell (2016) 208 pages, Jonathan Cape

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home –only she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude. The two of them have a plan. What they can't know is that there's a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.

A bravura performance, it is the finest recent work from a true master… Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a shocking tale of murder and treachery from one of the world’s master storytellers. (Telegraph)

(This has) all his hallmarks: elegant plotting, suspense, good characterisation and a chilling awareness of just how unpleasant people can be…Witty and thoughtful, this short, engaging novel punches well above its weight. (Daily Express)

2016

January 2016

Emily St John Mandel: Station Eleven (2015) 

 Genre: dystopian thriller of a decidedly literary bent. Place: Toronto at the start of a 'flu pandemic set to kill most of the world's population. Readers will be won over by Mandel's nimble interweaving of the fates of her characters and they will want to believe to the very end that doomsday can be survived. "An ambitious and addictive novel" The Guardian.

February 2016

Katherine Mansfield: Selected Stories: Prelude (1918), Bliss (1920) 

 "The nervous edge to the stories, their power to intrigue and disturb, explains why they have never gone out of print since they were first published" Prof. Angela Smith, University of Stirling.

March 2016

Jessie Burton: The Miniaturist (2015)

A well-received debut, set in Amsterdam, 1686.  18 year old Nella, new wife of illustrious merchant Johannes Brandt is made a present of a cabinet sized replica of their home.....

April 2016

Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London (2011)

Peter Grant is an ordinary London copper, until the day he brings in a ghost as a witness and is recruited to a special unit of the police, where they deal with the odd and otherworldly.  There's a lot going on in London that ordinary people never suspect.  Crime novel meets fantasy and very funny.

May 2016

George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss (1860) 
Set in the 1820's, the novel spans around 15 years in the lives of brother and sister Tom and Maggie Tulliver, starting with their childhood. Devoted until young adulthood, conflicts arise between them, centred partly on her affection for a young man, Philip Wakem, who is physically disabled. Deeply moral, passionate, complex as the heroine, this tragic tale is a must-read Victorian classic.

See 'Rereading: George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss' published in The Guardian 150 years after the book was first published.
Read The Mill on the Floss at Project Gutenberg.

June 2016

Rhidian Brook: The Aftermath (2014)

A tough emotional thriller, set in Hamburg in 1946, where Rachael Morgan arrives with her son to be reunited with her husband, a British colonel charged with rebuilding the ruined city. They are to live in a grand house, but Rachael is stunned to discover that they will be sharing it with the previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. Treachery is followed by vengeance, but somewhere there is also room for love… 

Superb. Conjuring surprise after surprise (Guardian)

July 2016

Han Kang: The Vegetarian (2015) (translated into English by Deborah Smith)

Winner of the 2016 International Man Booker Prize, this novel deals with a courageous woman's tenacious assertion of her own identity within a repressive society. Apparently settled in her ordinary marriage, the unremarkable Mrs Cheong decides one day to throw all the meat out of her freezer. This challenge to her husband's expectations of domestic order and tradition soon starts a chain of emotional and physical violence. Bracing, visceral, shocking, ripe with potent images(The Guardian, Jan 2015)

August 2016

Ursula Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness (1970) 256 pages

This novel  won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970.  Le Guin is considered one of the foremost writers of science fiction and fantasy.  In 2014, Le Guin was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters by the National Book Foundation, a lifetime achievement award. Her work is categorized as 'soft SF' because her novels, whilst involving the protagonists in interplanetary adventures, focus more on sociological speculation than on 'hard' science. 

In this novel, an emissary from  a supraplanetary body visits the planet Gethen or 'Winter'.  Here, the harsh climate has caused humans to evolve differently in one important aspect of life, but otherwise, they have their society, culture, and politics, which the emissary now has to navigate.

September 2016

Jean Rhys: Wide Sargosso Sea (1966) 192 pages

A powerful imagining of the back-story of Jane Eyre's 'madwoman in the attic', Bertha Rochester, Jean Rhys's brief, beautiful masterpiece is a classic study of betrayal and a seminal work of post-colonial literature.
 
Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who falls for her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, disturbing rumours circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own sense of belonging, Antoinette is driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine.

October 2016

Ali Shaw: The Trees (2016) 496 pages192 pages

A compulsive and imaginative post-apocalyptic novel in the vein of Pan's Labyrinth and Station Eleven.

An ancient forest springs up everywhere through the built environment returning the world to its primeval beginnings. The story follows four people as they struggle to survive in a world where nature fights back - from the award-winning author of The Girl with Glass Feet.

The Trees is a stunning and vivid examination of the relationship between humans and the environment ... Shaw masterfully brings every detail of the book to life. A wonderfully imaginative story, but also a compelling social commentary (Herald)

An English ecological version of The Road (Guardian)

Almost CGI levels of spectacle as Tarantino meets Middle Earth (Financial Times)

November 2016

Lionel Shriver: The Mandibles, A Family 2029 -2047 (2016) 400 pages

Shriver’s new book. There are plenty of novels about the end of the world, but Lionel Shriver has had a different idea. The devastation in this novel is monetary – its effect is to destroy the US economy so completely that the impoverished hordes are fleeing to Mexico.  You might disagree with Shriver about the seminal causes of the impending dystopia: climate change, the rapacious greed of corporations is what may destroy us. Shriver is more wary of the government, at first inept, then intrusive, and always demanding higher taxes. She makes an interesting case, however, and manages to twist the plot over and over so that unexpected events happen all the way to the end.  (Taken from The Guardian article by Jane Smiley, 18 May, 2016).  A powerful, clear-thinking writer you listen to.

December 2016

Margaret Elphinstone: Voyageurs (2003) 480 pages

A highly recommended tale of love and adventure in the Canada of the early 19th Century. A young Quaker woman goes missing in the Canadian wilderness.  Her brother leaves his farm in the Lake District to go in search for her.  We follow his journey, his encounters with Indians and the Canadian winter.  
Margaret Elphinstone  is considered a Scottish writer, although she was born in Kent, and studied in Queens College in London and the University of Durham.  She was until recently Professor of Writing in the Department of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow . She did extensive study tours in Iceland, Greenland, Labrador and the United States, living for eight years in the Shetland Islands.  Her themes are aspects of life in Northern countries.

In 2015 ...

At our December meeting, we discussed:

'The Big Sleep' by Raymond Chandler

The meeting was held on Monday, 7 December, 2015.



At our November meeting, we discussed

'Far From the Madding Crowd' by Thomas Hardy

The Meeting was held on Monday, 2 November, 2015.

At our October meeting, we discussed

'Cat's Eye' by Margaret Atwood

The Meeting was held on Monday, 5 October, 2015.

At our September meeting, we discussed

'The Blue Flower' by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Meeting was held on Monday, 7 September, 2015.


At our August meeting, we discussed

'Tender is the Night' by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Meeting was held on Monday, 3 August, 2015.

At our July meeting, we discussed

'Siege of Krishnapur' by J.G. Farrell

The Meeting was held on Monday, 6 July, 2015.

At our June meeting, we  discussed

'Remains of the Day' by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Meeting was held on Monday, 1 June, 2015.

At our May meeting, we discussed

'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman

The Meeting was held on Tuesday, 5 May, 2015 (the day after Early May Bank Holiday).

At our April meeting, we discussed

'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer

The Meeting was held on Tuesday, 7 April, 2015 (the day after Easter Monday).

At our March meeting, we discussed

'The Children Act' by Ian McEwan

The Meeting was held on Monday, 2 March, 2015

At our February meeting, we discussed

'The Narrow Road to the Deep Northby R. Flanagan

The Meeting was held on Monday, 2 February, 2015

At our January meeting, we discussed

'The Kashmir Shawl' by Rosie Thomas

The Meeting was held on Monday, 5 January, 2015




In February, 2013, we read:

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

You will need to take a deep breath before reading this book. Set in wartime Berlin and dealing with one ordinary working-class couple’s dogged but doomed resistance to the Nazi regime, it lays out all the apparatus of Gestapo terror and focuses with such unerring clarity, directness and authenticity on human weakness and suffering, that if you have a faint heart you might not get all the way to its horrific end.
We discussed this book on Monday, 4 March, 2013.


In January, 2013, we read:

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

As I write, South Africa’s international reputation has hit a new low. After the grim farce of the Pistorius trial, comes the brutal manhandling by police of a young black taxi-driver in Johannesburg, who later died of his injuries.
We discussed this book on Monday, 4 February, 2013.


In December, 2012, we read:

Voss by Patrick White

We discussed this book on Monday, 7 January, 2013.


In November, 2012, we read:

Death Comes To Pemberley by P.D. James

We discussed this book on Monday, 3 December, 2012.


In October, 2012, we read:

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie

We discussed this book on Monday, 5 November, 2012.


In September, 2012, we read:

Other People's Money by Justin Cartwright 

We discussed this book on Monday, 1 October, 2012.


In August, 2012, we read:

The Lost Honour of Katarina Blum 
by Heinrich Böll

We discussed this book on Monday, 3 September, 2012.


In July, 2012, we read:

Claudine at School by Colette

We discussed this book on Monday, 6 August, 2012.


In June, 2012, we read:

Pure by Andrew Miller

We discussed this book on Monday, 2 July, 2012.


In May, 2012, we read:

All Souls by Javier Marias

We discussed this book on Monday, 11 June, 2012.


In April, 2012, we read:

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

We discussed this book on Monday, 14 May, 2012.


In March, 2012, we read:

Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson

We discussed this book on Monday, 2 April, 2012.


In February 2012, we read:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

We discussed this book on Monday, 5 March 2012.


In January 2012, we read:

Daughters of Jerusalem by Charlotte Mendelson

We discussed this book on Monday, 6 February 2012.

What we read in 2011 here 

What we read in 2010 here

What we read in 2009 here


Some of the books that we read previously ... ... 


 
In December 2008 we read: 

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter

We discussed this book on Monday 5 January, 2009. Our February Newsletter contains our reviews. 


During November 2008 we read:
 
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell 

We discussed this book on Monday 1 December, 2008. Our January Newsletter contains our reviews. 


In October 2008 we read: 

Of Merchants and Heroes by Paul Waters

We discussed this book on Monday 3 November, 2008, with the author. Our December Newsletter contains our reviews. 


In September 2008, we read: 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

We discussed this book on Monday 6 October, 2008. Our November Newsletter contains our reviews. 


In August 2008, we read: 

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

We discussed this on Monday 1 September, 2008. Our October Newsletter contains our reviews of this book. 


In July 2008, we read: 

Solaris by Stanislaw Lemm

We discussed this book on Monday 4 August, 2008. Our September Newsletter contains our reviews of this book. 


In June 2008, we read:

The Shipping Forecast by Annie Proulx


In May 2008, we read:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 


In April 2008, we read: 

The Famished Road by Ben Okri 


In March 2008, we read:

Regeneration by Pat Barker




Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
The Third Man - Graham Greene
Mrs Dalloway - Virginia Wolf
Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Saturday - Ian McEwan
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
Leo the African – Amin Malouf
Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
The Ginger Man – JP Donleavy
The Fox – DH Lawrence
Vurt – Jeff Noon
The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst
Arthur and George – Julian Barnes
The Black Book
Nausea – Jean-Paul Sartre
Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept – Elizabeth Grant
The Ice Road – Gillian Slovo
A Room with a View – E M Forster
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian – Marina Lewycka
New York Trilogy - Paul Auster
Cats Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
That They May Face the Rising Sun - John McGahern
The Clear Light of Day - Anita Desai
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit - Jeanette Winterson
The Attack – Yasmina Khadra
The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Oxygen – Andrew Miller
Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel
Seize The Day – Saul Bellow
The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
The Pearl – John Steinbeck
For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers
The Secret River – Kate Grenville
Oscar and Lucinda – Peter Carey
Revolutionary Road – Richard Yates
Lucky Jim – Kingsley Amis
Scoop – Evelyn Waugh
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
English Passengers - Matthew Kneale
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
Everyman – Philip Roth
Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai
By George – Wesley Stace
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Northern Lights – Philip Pullman         
Snow – Orhan Pamuk
Fire in the Blood – Irène Némirovsky
Money – Martin Amis
The Second Plane – Martin Amis


What we read in 2011 here 

What we read in 2010 here

What we read in 2009 here