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Book Group  SU3A Book Group


This Group is for people who enjoy reading. The books we choose come from an eclectic background and may be contemporary novels, well known classics, not so well known books and members favourites. These can be fiction or non fiction.

There is no particular format for discussion, some may not have finished the book, some will have enjoyed it, others not, but this in no way deters from lively and often humorous discussion. The books are chosen and agreed by members, normally on a 6 months basis.

 We meet from 2pm - 4pm on the fourth Tuesday of the month at Isleburgh, in the Radio Room. We occasionally have to change rooms, but the exact room will be displayed on the Isleburgh information board in Reception.

 New members are always welcome. Come along to a meeting and see what you think, you may find it difficult not to join in the discussion.

 The Books for 2018 are:

 23 January The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

An exhilarating nature memoir about recovering from alcoholism set in Orkney that was a runaway hit.

 27 February This meeting was cancelled due to the threat of bad weather.

 27 March The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

A blissful novel of unapologetic appetites, where desire and faith mingle on the marshes, but friendship is the miracle.

 24 April Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Never before has aging been such an important topic.

 22 May The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Schaffer and Burrows

A film of this book is being released on 20th April

 26 June  A Short Walk to Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

The is one of the most successful travel writers of his generation. Tough, extrovert, humorous and immensely literate.

24 July    The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain

Mark Twain hilariously recreates those very first days.

 28 August   Elemental by Amanda Curtin

Moving from the north-east of Scotland, to Shetland, to Australia this is a novel about the life you make from the life you are given.

 25 September   Daughters of Spain by Jean Plaidy

Due to Wool Week, Islesburgh is not available, so this meeting will be held at a members home.

 23 October   Snow Falling on Cedars by D Guterson

 27 November   Poems reflecting women and womanhood

 No meeting in December.


19 January   I capture the castle by Dodie Smith

 Contact for the group is Larraine Gray, 01595 840517.

Members' Recommendations

Kate Atkinson:    Life after Life.  Set during WW2 it gives different outcomes to decisions taken.

Annie Proulx:      The Shipping News.  Winner of the Pulitzer Price, a story about an unfortunate man making a new life for himself in Newfoundland - has an unexpected Shetland connection.

Jo Nesbo:            Redbreasts.  Crime on a big scale.

Peter May:           Entry Island.  A stand alone novel

Andrew Gray:      Read everything he wrote!

Hilary Mantel:      Giant O'Brien.  I found this strange but couldn't leave it alone

Tim Bonyhady:     Read everthing he wrote!

Katherine Weis:    The Marriage Game. Tells of the shenanigans which came into play with Elizabeth I keeping  allies happy with promises of her hand in marriage.

Hilary Mantel:       Wolf Hall. Bring up the Bodies

Diana Nyad:          Find a way

William Graham:   Ross Poldark and The Loving Cup. The two ends of the Poldark Saga.

Susan Fletcher:   The Silver Dark Leaf

Emma Campion:  The Kings Mistress

Margery Sharp:     Cluny Brown

Kate Mosse:          The Taxidermists Daughter

Dilly Court:            The Orphans Dream

Lesley Pearce:       Without a Trace

Harper Lee:            Go set a Watchman

Muriel Banbery:     The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Elizabeth Gifford:   Secrets of the Sea house

Adam Greydehoj:   I have not Answered.  Weird but lots of Shetland in it

Anne Patchett:       Magicians Assistant

Diane Settlefield:   The Thirteenth Tale.  Bellman & Black

C J Sansom:           A Matthew Shardlake story.

Amanda Curtis:       Elemental

Mairi Hedderwick:   Shetland Rambles.




Review of 2018 Books.


Members comments from the review of “The Outrun” by Amy Liptrot 23rd Jan 2018

This was well written. It was extremely honest. The descriptions of Orkney were most enjoyable. It started by being depressing but ended in an inspiring way.

The book describes addiction/alcoholism very well. You can find bright bits to take out of it. The characters were skeletal though. The author’s early years seem to show a bleak and grey place and she obviously had a struggle to integrate.

The early part was quite depressing to read however there are some lovely phrases to appreciate. Its an intelligent book but is very sad. The part where she moves to Orkney was very interesting.

This was an honest and restrained account of the author’s struggle with her addiction. Tensions within the family meant she was lonely as a child. The author didn’t seem to “get” the specialness of the island. The Orkney part of the book was disappointing.

I didn’t like the book at all although it was interesting. Some of it was repetitive and it could have been written as a series of articles. It could have been edited better. The author has a good turn of phrase and there are some wonderful descriptions. It seemed slightly self-indulgent.

The descriptions of Orkney were enjoyable. Her denial of church illustrates the mood swings when she was young. I enjoyed the description of the weather conditions combined with the exploration of nature. The beginning was difficult to read.

This was a difficult book to read and hard work. It showed the isolationist world of a huge city. It’s a compelling book and I admire the author.

I found it very difficult to read but I persevered. It has some wonderful descriptions. I felt sorry for her with the solitary childhood and her being unable to make friends. The last part was easier to read but I shall not read it again.

This is an evocative account of her struggles. She is very self-absorbed. Her narrative became repetitive. It’s a heart-rending book. I will keep it but I shall be careful who I lend it to.

I didn’t like it however the author has a talent for beautiful descriptions. It’s a book of 2 parts. I was irritated because it was bitty. I found it unsatisfactory. A good editor would have moulded it into a smooth book.

The author seems to have enjoyed an easy time on her island with a car, WiFi, and a bursary to support her time there. She was seeking a cure with the natural environment. Others have written similar books but have done better. I shall be careful who I recommend it to.


Members’ comments on  “The Essex Serpent” by Sarah Perry, 27th March 2018

I was reluctant to read this but was drawn in by it. The writing is beautiful. Marked contrast between science and religion. Stella’s  character was drawn very well. The serpent is a symbol for the human condition.

It made an impression on me. Although, I struggled to read it at first. I didn’t want to go back to it and then I did. I couldn’t fit any characters into boxes but Stella is obviously the victim. In the end I enjoyed it.

I was unsure of it at first but then I found I liked it. There was a lot of food for thought , particularly in the relationships described.

 I took a long time to read this and I didn’t enjoy it. I felt Perry was trying to be Dickens. I did finish it though. I did like the letters , they were short and to the point. Stella irritated me beyond belief. I quite liked the beggar character though.

 I was waiting for something to happen. There was Village superstition rather than Town superstition. The characters were very well written but I didn’t like the gruesome medical descriptions.

 It was dreadful and  I won’t read it again.

 I loved this book. I loved the feel of it and the smell of it. Better than holding and using my Kindle. I liked the use of the letters. It was a Curate’s egg – some good parts, some bad. I really liked the use of words and although the characters were not terribly believable they were well written. I was surprised Stella didn’t die. It’s not a flawless book but I enjoyed it very much.

Second time around my opinion has completely changed and I found I enjoyed it. But why did she write It? Was she exploring the social elements? I thought Charles and Katharine were awful people. It showed how education improved peoples’ lives. The letters were interesting but not deep. What wasn’t said in this book was as important as what was said.

 Second time for me too. I liked the historical setting and the fossil hunting aspect. Yes, the characters were strongly described but I couldn’t like any of them. I liked the Gothic style of the story telling. I disliked the episode of the hysteria at the school. The social themes expressed sustained the tensions throughout the book.


Members comments on Being Mortal by Atual Gawande,  24th April 2018

This should be essential reading for all trainee doctors. The message is “Listen to the patients”. Some people know how it should be done but most don’t.

I agree with the principles as written . Medical staff should let the patients continue to be the person they are. I felt the book was too long and was disappointed that there wasn’t enough about family involvement.

I tried twice to read it but it depressed me and I felt my age so I left it.

I didn’t finish but I do agree with it. In my case the hospital did ask us what the patient would want which was good and right for us.

It drew me in. I was interested in the assisted living section but it is not bedtime reading, all that delving into bodies. It confirmed some things I had been thinking about for some time. The sentences were short and it didn’t flow that well.

I thought he writes well. His style suited the subject. However he used the term “passed” rather than “died” and I found this irritating. I will raise this subject with my family and I am already making plans.

I had read this before and found it really impressive. It made me look at things differently. We are lucky to have the NHS. Whilst we appreciate the professionals solve problems and will keep trying to discover new treatments we don’t want them to do this with our loved ones.

I didn’t like it but I read it. He’s too pleased with himself. This is old hat and very American. All the examples were from the middle classes. I agree that the patient must be what matters. I found it profoundly depressing as it gives a vision of where the NHS is heading. We need to find a compromise.

This was quite timely for me. We need to find out what the patient and family need for there to be a good death. Live for today! It brought me hope and I hope people reading will realise that you can control your destiny.

Once I started it pulled me through. It was difficult to read at times and brought back feelings of guilt. I need to have a conversation. Would I recommend it? I don’t know.

There we are then. It was a good discussion with everyone having a chance to put forward their views. I think I can say that even though quite a few of us found it depressing we did find it a valuable and productive exercise.

Members Comments on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Schaffer & Burrows. 22 May 2018

 It’s a warm book, the characters are warm people. Elizabeth is the main character with Juliet as a type of MC. I liked the writing and the quirky bits. Glad I read it before I saw the film which I felt was cold.

It’s well written with  memorable quotes. It has love, courage, war and, of course, the letters. We have lost the art of letter-writing. I felt the love interest was predictable.

I found the book unsettling, I had to keep trying to recall who was who. I enjoyed it and will recommend it.

I searched the internet for the characters and found them with their names and a summary. I enjoyed this book, a second time of reading but will recommend it selectively.

I too read this for a second time. I chose not to see the film. I quite liked the letter writing bit. I like that Juliet was looking for a story as this means we get to know a lot about Elizabeth. I enjoyed it.

I liked the letter form but the bit about Oscar Wilde irritated me. It jarred with me. I did enjoy the book though.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There is the personal quality in the use of the letters. Sadness, anger, humour, dismay and companionship. The reading group and the way it was formed was lovely. Elizabeth and Juliet are very similar with very strong characters and an acute sense of right and wrong.

 The author is a good story teller. The first part was funny and bubbly. Onwards it was a subject too difficult for her to handle well. Elizabeth was too unrealistic, almost a saint, it doesn’t work like that. It crumpled under the weight of the story she was telling. Two important bits stood out for me: 1)The fact and the act of reading and 2)Why do you need to read and why is it important?

Members Comments on  A short walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby, 26 June 2018

 Newby was a product of the thirties in that he survived WW1 and was used to sustained exercise. He was typical of a certain type of Englishman. He and Hugh had the courage to face whatever needed to be faced.

  It took me ages to get into it. I think they were both barmy but they carried on. It’s a well written book but I wished there had been better maps and more details about the tribes they encountered. I did enjoy it , you can’t not admire them. His poor feet! I liked the funny bits, they didn’t take themselves too seriously.

 I quite enjoyed it. It livened up as it went on. My copy finished quite abruptly – did I miss something? There are wonderful descriptions but I would have liked more about the flora and fauna. I felt they were foolhardy because their actions put other people and the animals they used at risk. There are some very amusing pieces in it.

 I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t like the introduction by Evelyn Waugh one bit but it didn’t put me off. I was hooked from the beginning. The place names were familiar to me and the descriptions of the Indian guides and how they were treated was typical of the region and time. The actions of the Civil Service rang true.  These two guys were eccentric through and through. I didn’t want it to end and I will read it again.

 I’m certainly not going there for a holiday! The sights, sounds and general terrain as described made me wonder why? Why did they do it? They are obviously courageous people. On the whole I enjoyed it but I didn’t enjoy the detailed descriptions of their ailments. I liked the style of his writing, he’s laughing at himself and Hugh. It was full of  interest and instruction. I am glad it was a short walk!

  I was worn out by the end of it. I liked the fashion house part and the climbing in Wales. The book after that seemed to be a catalogue of calamities and trials and tribulations. Not my idea of a good time. I was not surprised the wife bailed out early on even though she encountered her own set of problems on the way home. I wondered at our two heroes going off alone into the wilds whenever they had a spat and no-one seeming to worry about them.    

Members comments on The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, July 2018


On a second reading I found it disappointing. Was it because I expected better from Twain? I enjoyed that Eve was the one who named the animals etc. and came up with new words. Death is explored but how did the babies happen? Victorian times perhaps?

I really enjoyed it. It was a lovely surprise for me. It’s a never-ending story.

It was fascinating and quite clever in bits however when it became disjointed it became less entertaining.

Mmmmm. I was looking for more from him. I got cross with it. Bits were funny but some parts were irritating. I don’t regret reading it but won’t recommend it.

He uses very descriptive terms. I half enjoyed it. Parts were slow and drawn out and I am afraid my interest waned.

I thought the first part was brilliantly written. Eve never stops for breath! Quite exhausting. I liked the description of the baby arriving. The role reversal of the two characters was interesting. Adam came to the fore after the apple.

I didn’t like the style of writing. The moral sense coming after the apple was interesting. And Satan’s part of the book was good. The bit in the park was disappointing. It was short with good bits.

It was short stories and I was expecting a classic from Mark Twain. Good sentences and quotations from both Adam and Eve. Twain recognises Woman’s superiority.

It was disconnected short stores and I don’t like short stories. I chuckled at the first part. I didn’t finish it and I do not intend to.

I agree. I was irritated by it and won’t finish it.

The foreword explains the bringing together of the various articles.

I liked the writing style. It was so ridiculous it was funny. I liked the bossy, organising woman. I didn’t like it when Eve became subservient. I didn’t like the story about the monument. Twain got bitter towards the end of his life and it shows towards the end of this book. He was bitter, unhappy and less sympathetic.

I enjoyed the humour and the mannerisms of Adam and Eve. Some passages made me chuckle. Twain’s descriptions could fit the reasonings of people living in our modern age. Some things just don’t change – like men and women not understanding each other. I enjoyed the book and will be buying a copy for my own library.


Members comments on “Elemental” by Amanda Curtin August 2018 


I loved the book! Many of the words and mannerisms were close to those that I experienced when living in Footdee. The strict moral codes seem to continue on despite modern life moving so quickly into a wider acceptance of personal choices.

I enjoyed the character development and the dialogue which can make or break the flow of a book.

I tried to read this book in a public area and couldn’t. I found it very emotional. I loved it.The author has an amazing way of creating images to get such a pull from the book. It was very dramatic.

I loved the style of the writing and the atmospheric sense. The main character was writing for her grand-daughter and it is a successful way of involving the reader.

This is well researched. It showed the claustrophobic life at this time. Redheads were seen as a real problem for the person concerned and for the family and community. The writing is very good and doesn’t sugar-coat the situations in Shetland or Australia. The final part is modern and, I felt, a bit rushed and not written with such care.

Some words seemed wrong to me. My personal history meant I was close to it. But woollens on a washboard – really? Perhaps it was a way of felting? I felt it was a bit meandering and repetitive in parts. She is trying to make a mystery of it. It was slow to my taste. I have mixed feelings about it.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can identify with it because I come from a fishing family. These were the first generation of women who went out and earned money but their lives were not their own. Mother is the lynchpin of the family. The book emphasised the good and the bad in the community. Emigration was covered well as was the First World War. A well- crafted book. Thank you.

I kept starting it and then had to read it because of our group deadline. I loved the way it is written. Looking back on thing is a nice device. The descriptions are amazing, the lifestyle, the smells, the grouchiness. I found it evocative and quite moving. I like the addition of the poetry, it was an escape for her. The mental illness of the people returning from war with no help given was well portrayed.

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written. However I didn’t enjoy the second part so much. I liked the Herring girls though.

On the whole the book was very well received and enjoyed by the group. An author to look out for in the future perhaps?




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