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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.

Contact for the group is Nicholas Hay on nicholasphay@gmail.co.uk




 Dates for 2021

26 January        The House by the Loch by Jackie Kay

23 February      Endurance: Shackleton's incredible voyage by Alfred Lansing

30 March          Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

27 April             Rites of Passage by William Golding

25 May              Life by Life by Kate Atkinson

29 June             A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Further reading to be decided.




Book Reviews for 2021

The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is well written, absorbing, and held my attention to the end. Kirsty Wark obviously loves the landscape, and I did get slightly lost in the place names at times, but I just let that go and concentrated on the people. Recommended!

Oh what a tangled web we weave ….” Seems to be an appropriate comment to make on the story Kirsty Wark has given us with this book. It depicts a family which appears, at first hand, to be content with life and all that gives them. But then as we look back into history we find that Walter has acted for the best of reasons ( he believes) and that his actions have affected so many of his family group. Surely we can all be guilty of loving someone too much at some time? “The House by the loch” is well written and Wark uses language engagingly. The story has a basis in a true event and she shows her journalistic expertise in relating these happenings and interweaving her own fictional drama. It is a good book and I am glad I read it, however it didn’t quite “hook” me. I will recommend it to others as a book which will successfully pass the time.

 Am I the only one I wonder who finds their response to a Bookgp novel materially brought into focus by its close juxtaposition with something else being read at the same time.

I was unsure, when this book arrived, whether it would prove to be an example of over-energetic TV journalist channeling her inner Tolstoy. Reading Wark, I couldn’t at first define why I was finding her unsatisfying, but set against another, vastly more proficient writer, her inherent clumsiness - how to handle back stories, a narrative line frequently obscured by extraneous detail, an effortful writing style - did clarify in my mind. Surely too this was a very journalistic liking for sensationalism. The character list was so complicated that I thought of Maureen - do you remember? - coming with a list she had written to sort out who was who. But the characters, unsubtly drawn, lacked credibility. They were plot devices. Though I did wait hopefully (I am a nasty person...) for beloved grandad to suffer his surely preordained cardiac arrest. No such luck. Perhaps, having confessed all, he might be allowed a tasteful painless slip away in his sleep. I finally decided that the real issue hiding in this novel is the effect of maternal disfunctionality on a family. But hidden under a profusion of verbiage is the author’s inability to decide what kind of book she actually wants to write - is it a thriller? Or a multi-generation family saga ? She wants it all. So she puts everything in. And the effect of putting everything in, as any fule kno, is to end up with a dog’s dinner.

No idea how came that I was reading the "Legacy of Elisbeth Pringle" (in some german paperback) before getting the copy of "The house by the Loch". As I did enjoy the first one very much about life on Aran, all the descriptions of plants and birds and some romantic envolvement as well, I was full of expectations when starting the next one. As usual I did make the mistake not making a family tree at the beginning - therefore I did find the first part very confusing. But then I did enjoy, perhaps a bit too dramatic for my liking with all the alcohol and depression. Again it was language, description of landscape and plants I did enjoy most. So in the end: many thanks for recommending it!

As I was the one to suggest this book I’ve made a bit more of an effort. I was happy to read it for a second time within the space of a few months.  It’s not my usual kind of book being more about happenings than about character. Knowing already that later in the story there will be life changing incidents makes it a different read and this time it has an edge on it perhaps because I know that it won’t be lovely for long. Maybe because of this the start seems a bit slow but then I got into the love between Walter and Jean and started to uncover the unhappiness of Edith and then Jean and then Fiona. Kirsty Wark takes her time to slowly reveal these mind states so that I gradually came to understand what was going on. Walter’s response to Jean and her mother is gentle, appreciative and kindly, though, as it turns out, not really understanding  what he was being faced with, or avoiding it. The book is very good on the pain of Iona’s accident and how unconsciously it repeats something for Jean. This is a nice little twist to the story as Jean did not know that the injured boy’s brother was driving the boat that caused the accident, but it’s almost as if she did.  The book is also very good on Walter’s love of Mary,  tenderly and feelingly reciprocated, less described, more like felt. Jean’s death is also very beautiful in the way Kirsty conveys Walter’s sadness and love and illustrates so well how hard I imagine it would be to care for a person I love who has an alcohol problem and know the best way to help. And it is difficult to read of the sadness between two people who love each other but can’t  be happy together because they have not been honest with each other at the start, the cause of a destructive addiction. Several strands in the novel make me think about buddhist notions of karma: Jean had been unable to tell Walter that she might be unhappy to live away from Ayr; Walter doesn’t pick this up, is attached to the lake and assumes that Jean and his children will be equally so; Jean, because unhappy about where she is living becomes more and more dependent on both Walter and alcohol to feel all right but she feels held on a downward track which she cannot get off even though she knows it will lead to her ruin . Jean’s terrible motoring accident seems to repeat itself in Iona’s death caused by the boy’s brother, almost as a kind of poetic justice, so it feels. Another connected strand is how things get handed down through the generations. Edith married the wrong man and compensated for her unhappiness by hiding away and creating a beautiful garden. So she couldn’t drive her daughter to hospital when in Labour. Jean was also unhappy about where she was living and allowed herself to be locked away by the loch just as Edith had been in Ayr. Walter’s sense of Jean in Carson added another dimension of the writer’s understanding of how characteristics get handed down through generations of family. I am reminded of how Manop did not tell me that he did not want to move to Edinburgh in 2011. That resulted in some difficult times as it was never spoken, only felt. We were careful not to make the same mistake coming to Shetland. It reminds me of how, even after years in relationship it is sometimes difficult to know what is going on and that a nasty surprise can easily be just around the corner.  Kirsty writes about these things with understanding and knowledge, I would say. The only issue I take with her is her description of alcoholism as a disease. A ruinous and often inescapable path, following experiences in a person’s life yes, a disease, no.  There is also forgiveness in the story, such an essential in life it seems to me and despite the opposite feeling sometimes, good people are usually around, such as the fishermen who took Carson out on the loch and understood what this meant for her and were gentle and thoughtful with her and indeed this was a lovely way to bring the story to a close. Kirsty describes things all very human and imperfect. Not great literature perhaps but lots to think about in the book and it has made me feel real in a way that others haven’t and I am grateful for it. 

I quite enjoyed this book but I would not call it a great read.  I enjoyed the descriptions of an area and landscape and I used to know quite well but have not been back for some 30+ years. This unchanging landscape was an excellent backdrop for the turbulence experienced by the family. This was a predominantly sad book which finished with hope for a way forward.  The characters and the family with their flaws, trials and tribulations were believable but I did not become involved with them or their story.  I was always outside. The complex plot took us on an emotional journey and kept a degree of suspense throughout. It's a book for a wet weekend when there's no chance of outdoor adventures.  Will I read it again?  No!  Would I recommend it?  Selectively.  I do have friends who would revel in it but others who would run a mile at the very idea.  Will I read another by Kirsty Wark?  I might in convalescence. 

I haven't finished to book yet - hope to do so before zoom. Its easy to read quickly and I'm happily whizzing through it though not particularly engaged by it. I've long been an admirer of Kirsty's but while she may be enjoying exploring a new direction I'm not sure this is where her real talents lie. I'm finding it a bit too clunky - full of literary cliches and not entirely convincing characters so I don't feel particularly concerned by what happens to them. However Kirsty shows she knows the area well and I've visited it on quite a few occasions so its pleasant from that point of view. I wouldn't read it again - but with so many books to read I rarely re-read a book (though I sometimes dip back into special favourites) so that doesn't signify much.







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