Book Club dates & book choices - 2023
The Halesworth Bookshop Bookgroup meets on the second Wednesday of every month, at 6pm in The Bookshop, Halesworth. New members welcome, just come along. See our list for the year ahead, chosen by book group members..
Wednesday 8th March.
Ruth’s Choice - Where Poppies Blow: The British Soldier, Nature, the Great War by John Lewis-Stemple
Winner of the 2017 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize for nature writing.
The natural history of the Western Front during the First World War 'If it weren't for the birds, what a hell it would be.'During the Great War, soldiers lived inside the ground, closer to nature than many humans had lived for centuries. Animals provided comfort and interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches - bird-watching, for instance, was probably the single most popular hobby among officers. Soldiers went fishing in flooded shell holes, shot hares in no-man's land for the pot, and planted gardens in their trenches and billets. Nature was also sometimes a curse - rats, spiders and lice abounded, and disease could be biblical. But above all, nature healed, and, despite the bullets and blood, it inspired men to endure. Where Poppies Blow is the unique story of how nature gave the British soldiers of the Great War a reason to fight, and the will to go on.
Wednesday 12th April
Philippa’s choice - Summer by Edith Wharton
A story of forbidden sexual passion and thwarted dreams set against the backdrop of a lush summer in rural MassachusettsSeventeen-year-old Charity Royall is desperate to escape life with her hard-drinking adoptive father. Their isolated village stifles her, and his behaviour increasingly disturbs her. When a young city architect visits for the summer, it offers Charity the chance to break free. But as they embark on an intense affair, will it bring her another kind of trap? Regarded by Edith Wharton as among her best novels, Summer caused a sensation in 1917 with its honest depiction of a young woman overturning the rules of her day and attempting to live on her own terms.
Wednesday 10th May
Rosemary’s choice - The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett's classic story about Queen Elizabeth IIWhat would happen if the Queen became a reader of taste and discernment rather than of Dick Francis? The answer is a perfect story. The Uncommon Reader is none other than HM the Queen who drifts accidentally into reading when her corgis stray into a mobile library parked at Buckingham Palace. She reads widely (JR Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton Burnett and the classics) and intelligently. Her reading naturally changes her world view and her relationship with people like the oleaginous prime minister and his repellent advisers. She comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with much that she has to do. In short, her reading is subversive. The consequence is, of course, surprising, mildly shocking and very funny.
Wednesday 14th June
Alison’s choice - Nella Last's War by Nella Last
In September 1939, housewife and mother Nella Last began a diary whose entries, in their regularity, length and quality, have created a record of the Second World War which is powerful, fascinating and unique. When war broke out, Nella's younger son joined the army while the rest of the family tried to adapt to civilian life. Writing each day for the "Mass Observation" project, Nella, a middle-aged housewife from the bombed town of Barrow, shows what people really felt during this time. This was the period in which she turned 50, saw her children leave home, and reviewed her life and her marriage - which she eventually compares to slavery. Her growing confidence as a result of her war work makes this a moving (though often comic) testimony, which, covering sex, death and fear of invasion, provides a new, unglamorous, female perspective on the war years.'Next to being a mother, I'd have loved to write books.' Oct 8, 1939
Wednesday 12th July
Lesley’s choice - The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby
A young girl. A hidden treasure. A dark family secret.
'Evocative and enchanting - a future classic' Veronica Henry 'An extraordinary debut... beautiful, dark, haunting' Edward Carey'A captivating coming-of-age story' Daily Mail 'A bewitching read' Woman & Home Romilly Kemp has an idyllic childhood, roaming the wilderness that surrounds her father's ramshackle farmhouse. But when he makes her the star of his beautifully illustrated books, her carefree if somewhat lonely existence is threatened. The books are thought to hold clues to an elaborate treasure hunt, and strangers turn up at their door, anxious to get a glimpse of the 'Kemp Treasure Girl'. But when her father falls ill, leaving Romilly more isolated and alone than ever, she begins to delve deeper into the books - and her past. As she makes sense of the clues he has hidden, she finds a truth that is far darker and more devastating than any treasure hunt has a right to be.
Wednesday 9th August
Lynsey’s choice - Small Island by Andrea Levy
Small Island by bestselling author Andrea Levy won the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Orange Prize 'Best of the Best' as well as the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Whitbread. Possibly the definitive fictional account of the experiences of the Empire Windrush generation, it was selected by the BBC as one of its '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'. 'A great read...
honest, skilful, thoughtful and important' GuardianIt is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh's neighbours don't approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but with her husband, Bernard, not back from the war, she has little choice in the matter.
Gilbert Joseph was one of the many Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight Hitler. But when he returns to England as a civilian he doesn't receive the welcome he was expecting, and it's desperation that drives him to knock at Queenie's door. Gilbert's wife Hortense, who for years has sought a better life in England, soon joins him.
But London is far from the golden city of her dreams, and even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was. Small Island explores a point in England's past when the country began to change. In this delicately wrought and profoundly moving novel, Andrea Levy handles the weighty themes of empire, prejudice, war and love, with a superb lightness of touch and generosity of spirit.
Wednesday 13th September
Abbie’s choice - I Belong Here by Anita Sethi
Winner of the 2021 Books Are My Bag Readers Award for Non-fictionShortlisted for the 2021 Wainwright Prize"I knew in every bone of my body, in every fibre of my being, that I had to report what had happened, not only for myself but to help stop anyone else having to go through what I did. I knew I could not remain silent, or still, I could not stop walking through the world." A journey of reclamation through the natural landscapes of the North, brilliantly exploring identity, nature, place and belonging. Beautifully written and truly inspiring, I Belong Here heralds a powerful and refreshing new voice in nature writing.
Anita Sethi was on a journey through Northern England when she became the victim of a race-hate crime. The crime was a vicious attack on her right to exist in a place on account of her race. After the event Anita experienced panic attacks and anxiety.
A crushing sense of claustrophobia made her long for wide open spaces, to breathe deeply in the great outdoors. She was intent on not letting her experience stop her travelling freely and without fear. The Pennines - known as 'the backbone of Britain' runs through the north and also strongly connects north with south, east with west - it's a place of borderlands and limestone, of rivers and 'scars', of fells and forces.
The Pennines called to Anita with a magnetic force; although a racist had told her to leave, she felt drawn to further explore the area she regards as her home, to immerse herself deeply in place. Anita's journey through the natural landscapes of the North is one of reclamation, a way of saying that this is her land too and she belongs in the UK as a brown woman, as much as a white man does. Her journey transforms what began as an ugly experience of hate into one offering hope and finding beauty after brutality.
Anita transforms her personal experience into one of universal resonance, offering a call to action, to keep walking onwards. Every footstep taken is an act of persistence. Every word written against the rising tide of hate speech, such as this book, is an act of resistance.
Wednesday 11th October
Richard's Choice - Less by Andrew Sean Greer
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018 . .
Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the post: it is from an ex-boyfriend of nine years who is engaged to someone else. Arthur can't say yes - it would be too awkward; he can't say no - it would look like defeat.
So, he begins to accept the invitations on his desk to half-baked literary events around the world. From France to India, Germany to Japan, Arthur almost falls in love, almost falls to his death, and puts miles between him and the plight he refuses to face. Less is a novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart.
Wednesday 8th November
Sally's Choice - Grown Ups by Marian Keyes
Married to brothers Johnny, Ed and Liam Casey. Three very different women tied to three very different men. Every family occasion is a party - until the day the secrets spill out.
PLAYTIME IS OVER. BUT WHERE ARE THE GROWN-UPS? This book has been printed with four different colour designs: blue, green, pink and orange. Covers are assigned to orders at random so we are unable to accept specific requests.
'Comic, convincing and true. Grown Ups has an almost Austenesque insight into character. Keyes knows how to make serious issues relatable - and get a few grownup laughs, too' GUARDIAN 'Hilarious, alternately heartwarming and heartbreaking.
I loved everything about it' DAILY MAIL 'You may have written the best book of your career' CHRIS EVANS, VIRGIN RADIO 'Superb. Warm-hearted, wise and highly entertaining' OBSERVER 'Keyes at her best: capturing everyday voices with humour and empathy with writing that you'll devour in a weekend. Just pure and simple joy' STYLIST 'I loved every word.
I will be missing those gorgeous vibrant characters for many weeks to come' LIANE MORIARTY, bestselling author of Big Little Lies 'Messy, tangled complex humans who reminded me that few of us ever really sort our lives out at all' JOJO MOYES, bestselling author of Me Before You 'Her best yet. Charming, funny and poignant, but also profound, heartbreaking' NINA STIBBE, bestselling author of Reasons to be Cheerful
Wednesday 13th December
No Book Choice - Party Night