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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.

 Dates for 2020

28 January        Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif [held at members house]

25 February      Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

24 March           Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

28 April             A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett

26 May              A Place called Winter by Patrick Gale

23 June             Life Class by Pat Barker

28 July              The Frayed Atlantic Edge by David Gange

25 August         Women of the Dunes by Sarah Maine

22 Sept             to be decided

27 October       to be decided

24 November   Open meeting


 Contact for the group is Larraine Gray, 01595 840517.



Book Reviews for 2020


Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif  28 January 2020

 I forced myself to read this book but then I read it again and began to understand what he’d been getting at. I saw that the thread going through it is a social commentary. There were lots of true comments and he gives a lot from the refugees’ aspect. The dog is a philosopher too! Ali and his wife’s inability to understand each other was well written I thought. I really began to enjoy the book. I think Trump has read this book! I found the dog interesting. It’s not an easy read and I wouldn’t recommend it.

 After 20 pages I nearly gave up but then I checked the book’s reviews and read on.I loved the dog but what is the book about? Is it meant to be Sci-Fi or satire? I will not read it again and I won’t recommend it.

 I read the first chapter and thought it might be interesting but when I began the second chapter I decided “No” and put it to one side. I couldn’t get into the story and felt it was as if it was written by someone with a large chip on their shoulder. It did not capture my interest at all.

 I didn’t finish it. I thought it was dreadful. However, I did like the dog. It’s a slow book. What was he trying to do? He took pot-shots at people. Why? If the whole book had been about the dog I would have enjoyed it. As it was he seems to be constantly “having a go” at the West and trying to show how clever he is.

 The review I read about this book said it was a satire. I couldn’t find anything to laugh at. It is very jerky to read and the different narrators made it confusing. If he had stuck with the dog it would have been better! I found it irritating and I still don’t know what happened at the end. Reading it in bits didn’t help. The cover didn’t put me off. I thought the cover was quite nice.

 I did read it all the way through. I struggled with so many ”gonnas” but after I accepted this it went better. I liked the descriptions of life on the edge. Not sure if it was Iran or Syria? The mother’s unequal passion for her boys was well written as was Momo’s passion for economics and his future. I didn’t understand what was going on in the book though. Was Colonel Slater a ghost? I enjoyed the cultural sensitivity but his writing is not always very clear. It’s a writer’s responsibility to write clearly. There is lots of black humour in the book but I didn’t get a belly-laugh out of it.

 I didn’t finish the book. I didn’t like the swearing or the writer’s attitude. It wasn’t my sort of book.

 I actually bought this book before I knew the group would be reading it. When I started to read it I realised I had previously bought an earlier book by the same author but I got bored and gave up after 20-30 pages. When I started this one I found it equally unengaging but I am glad I persevered. The book became more interesting. It well illustrates the paradoxes and futility or wars and in particular how NGOs work in war zones. However I didn’t find the interest continued and after an interesting middle section I thought it rather petered out and the finale was especially unsuccessful. Overall, whilst I don't think it was an especially good or enjoyable book I am glad I read it. Once I got well into it I thought I might go back and have another attempt at reading the earlier book but by the time I finished this one the idea had worn off!

 I found the book and the main narrating characters rather flat and detached in that the dialogues of each of the main characters became increasingly circular and repetitive. I also felt that like Heller’s “Catch 22” it was largely a satirical and often cynical perspective on the USA’s middle east policy. I had my suspicions that some of the characters may be spirits of their former selves and when the direct hit by a smart-bomb was described it was rather implausible that they survived. Sadly, I felt the ending was messy and confusing to say the least, as rather than interesting dialogues taking place between the spirits it was a disappointing melee. I would score it 4/10.


The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker 25th February 2020

I was interested in how people lived at this time and how it felt to be there. This book showed a different approach to wartime Germany in that it showed decent people with humanity and positive attitudes in amongst all the other situations. It is a well written book and is easy to read. I found a lot of it cheerful and heart-ful. Reviews that I read neglected the positive side.

I really enjoyed the book. I thought about the courage it took them to stand up and be counted. The events made me think we may have to make this type of choice soon for ourselves. I was a little tear-eyed at times. I would absolutely recommend it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this even though I was concerned we had had quite a few war stories recently. It’s a lovely book and so well written. It showed the goodness that was there. Was Anton a Friar or a Priest? The book made less of a horror story about the incident with the disabled children - which was truly awful. I felt the author was restrained in her writing. The Bells were a bit fanciful though and of course there was the villain in the party member who terrorised the village. It’s a good story. It has a start, a middle and an end. I will keep it.

Unfortunately I have been so busy I was unable to read much other than the first few pages. However after the group’s comments I will read it. It seems a very fluent book and the story appears to flow. I am reminded of the words “Mans’ inhumanity to Man”.

I have read “One for the blackbird, one for the Crow” by this author and I enjoyed that. I read this one on my Kindle and I enjoyed it too. It gave us a side that we don’t hear very much about. These were ordinary people. I liked the style of writing very much. It was fascinating to read the account at the end about the origins of the story. The passage about the disabled children was dealt with quite gently really and not in a gratuitous way. I shall keep the book and recommend it.

I read this a while back and re-discovered it on my Kindle. I was aware from the beginning that this was not a novel really but more a family history and the author did justice to the story. Reading this book didn’t make me go and look at her other works. This story looked at that time through the eyes of different generations. Good and/or bad we can look at it differently from the age we are and what we thought we knew. I thought Anton an understated and self-effacing man. The author didn’t make a great deal of what happened at the school and perhaps this may be missed by today’s generation. You have to take your hat off to people who have that type of courage.

It made me think about the ways they realised they hadn’t looked after their democracy. The book made me think about that a lot. Regarding the question of Christianity – how did God allow someone like Hitler to happen? I did get uncomfortable with the heavy Christianity as expressed by the author. Anton behaved as I would like to think I might. I found the book a bit difficult to get into. But there are some good strategies used. Why did he want to marry Elizabeth? Why would she be prepared to marry a penniless person? Hawker maintains a good level of fear from Page 1. One of its good points is that he doesn’t know how to be a good husband and we have to wait for Page 250 for that first kiss.

I felt that this was a beautifully written account of a gentle and sensitive Anton Starzman, trying to exist in Nazi Germany where Hitler’s NSDAP espoused an evil doctrine which clashed with his own sense of morals and ethics. The respect that develops between the two main characters, Anton and Elizabeth, metamorphs gently into a blossoming love during incredibly dark and threatening times. I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

This is a literary novel about the quiet heroism of those in Germany who did not agree with Hitler’s government. It gives us a picture of Germany in the 1940s we seldom hear about. Even silent defiance against the SS ran risks. The sentence which includes “Somewhere beyond the ragged edge of night, light bleeds into the world” is very revealing. The moral dilemma which is central to the story is very well described. It is a story of courage in the face of evil, written using evidence of first-hand experience of what the NAZI credo led to. At times the writing resembled a long-winded sermon, but the descriptions of the hard life of eventual hunger and lack of clothing felt very real to me. In the main I enjoyed the book.

I agree with everything the other members have said. I enjoyed this book so much. I also loved the feel of the cover! To me it’s a film waiting to be made, maybe by Steven Spielberg? I did think James Stewart would have been good as Anton but now I think Ralph Fiennes would be better. After all he is still with us! I shall definitely find space on my shelves for this and will press it into the hands of visitors when they come to stay.














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