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Book club favourites #22

by Brandon King

The House by the Lake, by Thomas Harding

In the summer of 1993, Thomas Harding travelled to Germany with his grandmother to visit a small house by a lake on the outskirts of Berlin. It had been her 'soul place' as a child, she said - a holiday home for her and her family, but much more - a sanctuary, a refuge. In the 1930s, she had been forced to leave the house, fleeing to England as the Nazis swept to power. The trip, she said, was a chance to see it one last time, to remember it as it was. But the house had changed. Nearly twenty years later Thomas returned to the house. It was government property now, derelict, and soon to be demolished. It was his legacy, one that had been loved, abandoned, fought over - a house his grandmother had desired until her death. Could it be saved? And should it be saved? 'The House by the Lake' is a history of Germany over a tumultuous century, told through the story of a small wooden house.

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf

Set in Holt, Colorado, a small town east of Denver, this tale brings together the stories of a high school teacher raising his two boys alone, a pregnant teenager with nowhere to live, and two elderly bachelors farming on the outskirts of town.

On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons, by Laura Cumming

In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them. It was another 50 years before she even learned of the kidnap. The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art writer Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother's strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community. Cumming began investigating with a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast - the postman, the grocer, the elusive baker - but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach - including her own. 'On Chapel Sands' is a book of mystery and memoir.

Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich

One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, sing snatches of songs as they while away the time. But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction. In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in 'Idaho'.

The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn

It's been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna's lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

Three Things About Elsie, by Joanna Cannon

There are three things you should know about Elsie. The first thing is that she's my best friend. The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better. And the third thing - might take a little bit more explaining. 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died 60 years ago?

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

Spanning four generations, Isabel Allende's family saga is populated by a memorable, often eccentric, cast of characters. Together, men and women, spirits, the forces of nature and of history, converge in a brlliantly realised novel.

Unexploded, by Alison MacLeod

An evocative and deeply absorbing novel about an English family in Brighton during the shadow of World War II.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter's world is shattered when she is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

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