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Book club favourites #14

by Brandon King

A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaler, (trans. Charlotte Collins)

This story of a quiet life lived in the Austrian mountains is not for everyone. It is slow paced but beautifully told. Andreas Egger faces hardship in his life but his quiet stoicism and fortitude helps him through. It is a simple story but the enjoyment is in the journey. At only 208 pages it is a short read if you find you do not like it.

Do No Harm: stories of life, death and brain surgery, by Henry Marsh

This 2014 non-fiction book was an unlikely hit. It gives an insight into what it is it really like to be a brain surgeon, to hold someone's life in your hands, to drill down into the stuff that creates thought, feeling and reason. How does a surgeon live with the consequences of performing a potentially life-saving operation when it all goes wrong?

Strange Weather in Tokyo, by Hiromi Kawakami (trans. Allison Markin Powell)

"Tsukiko is in her late thirties and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, Sensei, in a bar. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake and come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly into love."

Strange Weather is quirky and full of Tokyo colour. It does not race along but once you get into it you will want to find out what happens.

One, by Sarah Crossan

This book won the Carnegie Medal for 2016. If you want something to challenge your group this may be one for you. The story is told in free verse and is about a pair of conjoined twins and is narrated by one of them. Much of the story deals with the everyday difficulties of life for the twins. It is bold and challenging and will certainly give your group plenty to discuss.

The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien

This was the first new book by Edna O’ Brien for a decade when it appeared in 2015. A wanted war criminal, masquerading as a healer, settles in a small west coast Irish village. The community are in thrall. One woman, Fidelma McBride, falls under his spell and this novel charts the consequences of that fatal attraction.

The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett

"A man is walking down a country lane. A woman, cycling towards him, swerves to avoid a dog. On that moment, their future hinges. There are three possible outcomes, three small decisions that could determine the rest of their life. Eva and Jim are 19 and students at Cambridge when their paths first cross in 1958. And then there is David, Eva's then-lover, an ambitious actor who loves Eva deeply. 'The Versions of Us' follows the three different courses their lives could take following this first meeting. Lives filled with love, betrayal, ambition but through it all is a deep connection that endures whatever fate might throw at them."

If anyone remembers the film Sliding Doors, they will find this has a similar plot. It is a love story with three variations. Some readers loved this, others found it confusing. You will have to judge for yourself.

The Land of Decoration, by Grace McCleen

This was a 2013 Richard and Judy pick and it is easy to see why. The narrator Judith, who is bullied at school, lives with her widowed father who has brought her up as a member of a Christian sect. Judith is desperate not to have to go to school so she sprinkles homemade snow over the miniature world she has built in her bedroom hoping that it will turn to real snow and not have to go in. Amazingly when it is time to go to school she finds they are blocked in by a freak blizzard. Then she starts to hear the voice of God...

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes

This is a sci-fi title but don’t let this put you off if you do not usually read Sci-Fi. It is another shortish book. There are themes like the treatment of people with learning disabilities which will get your group talking. Once you start this one you will want to keep reading.

The story revolves around the fortunes of Charlie, an employee at a bakery who is attending remedial classes at the local college. Because of his low intellect, his work colleagues pick on him and treat him cruelly. Then he is offered the chance to take part in a scientific experiment, involving himself, and a mouse called Algernon, who are subjected to groundbreaking treatment that significantly improves their intelligence levels, and their progress is mirrored throughout the novel. As Charlie becomes increasingly intelligent, his academic prowess becomes a threat to the others.

The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss

"A young girl, hoping to find a cure for her mother's loneliness, stumbles across a book that changed her mother's life and she goes in search of the author. Soon these and other worlds collide in 'The History of Love', a captivating story of the power of love, of loneliness and of survival."

This one came highly recommended. There are many voices and stories interweave. It is a love story - a book about a book.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, by Denis Thériault (trans. Liedewy Hawke)

Secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside, Bilodo has found an escape from his lonely and routine life as a postman. When one day he comes across a mysterious letter containing only a single haiku, he finds himself avidly caught up in the relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other using only beautiful poetry. But it will only be a matter of time before his world comes crashing down around him.