Posted on 14th April 2016

By Holland Park School Reading Groups

Holland Park School review Mobile Library

David Whitehouse

Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku is an archivist of his mother. He catalogues traces of her life and waits for her to return home.

Bobby thinks that he’s been left to face the world alone until he meets lonely single mother Val and her daughter Rosa. They spend a magical summer together, discovering the books in the mobile library where Val works as a cleaner. But as the summer draws to a close, Bobby finds himself in trouble and Val is in danger of losing her job. There’s only one thing to do — and so they take to the road in the mobile library…

Quirky, dark, magical and full of heart, Mobile Library is both a tragicomic road trip and a celebration of the adventures that books can take us on. It’s a love-letter to unlikely families and the stories that shaped us.

“A light-hearted novel addressing pressing societal issues – such as domestic violence, single-parent households and mental illness – Mobile Library deals with such matters a sensitivity that transforms the reader’s mind. Being written in the style of a fairy-tale with an unorthodox ending, Whitehouse beautifully represents the role that serendipity plays in one’s life. He…

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Posted on 22nd October 2015

By Portslade Library Book Group

Mother Island Review by Portslade Library Book Group

Bethan Roberts

How does it feel to come home from work one evening and find your two-year-old son gone?

How does it feel to steal another woman’s child? To take a boy from his mother, and try to make him yours, make things right?

This is the story of two women, Nula and Maggie, joined by old family history and love for the same little boy.

Mother Island provoked contrasting reactions in our book group and would be an excellent book for discussion. “Mother Island is a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down,” said one member, whilst others found the story simple and predictable. The author examines family relationships and the serious consequences when these break down.  Maggie abducts Samuel, the two year old son of her cousin Nula, for whom she has been…

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Posted on 22nd October 2015

By Peninsula Arts Reading Group

Mobile Library Review by Peninsula Arts Reading Group

David Whitehouse

Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku is an archivist of his mother. He catalogues traces of her life and waits for her to return home.

Bobby thinks that he’s been left to face the world alone until he meets lonely single mother Val and her daughter Rosa. They spend a magical summer together, discovering the books in the mobile library where Val works as a cleaner. But as the summer draws to a close, Bobby finds himself in trouble and Val is in danger of losing her job. There’s only one thing to do – and so they take to the road in the mobile library…

Quirky, dark, magical and full of heart, Mobile Library is both a tragicomic road trip and a celebration of the adventures that books can take us on. It’s a love-letter to unlikely families and the stories that shaped us.

Mobile Library is a fable about fables and a book that oozes a love of children’s literature.  It is a tale of unlikely heroes and heroines, where the goodies are complex but the baddies are truly bad. The story explores many themes.  One is the nature of family and parenting, as it follows a group of characters as they steal and travel the country in a disguised mobile library….

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Posted on 22nd October 2015

By Close Encounters Book Group

The Offering Review by Close Encounters

Grace McCleen

I thought it began the day Father came home without work. Then I thought perhaps it really began the day we arrived at the farm, rumbled up the track, opened the gate and stood looking around as if we had found ourselves in some enchanted land…

Something happened on Madeline’s fourteenth birthday, something so traumatic that it triggered her mental breakdown. Many years later, she still can’t – or perhaps won’t – recall the events of that night. A charismatic new psychiatrist, Dr Lucas, believes he can unlock Madeline’s memory by taking her step by step through the preceding year, when her father moved the family to an island he was certain God had guided them to. Money was short, her mother often unwell and her father a volatile presence. Yet Madeline loved their rural idyll, sensing God in every blade of grass; and when things started to go wrong, she thought she knew how to put them right. But as Dr Lucas unearths the past, it becomes apparent that she was seriously misguided – and that he is treading on very dangerous ground.

Lyrically evoking the rhythms and beauty of the natural world, The Offering is a novel taut with foreboding, a haunting tale of misplaced faith and a heartbreakingly damaged psyche.

The group agreed that “The Offering”, by Grace McCleen, was well-written and very readable. The vivid voice of the narrator carries the reader through the story: her description of the natural landscape of the island is sensuous throughout, while her ability to create a sense of foreboding, particularly around the house, garden and the office of Dr…

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Posted on 22nd October 2015

By The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered London Reading Group 2015

The Incarnations Review by The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered London Reading Group 2015

Susan Barker

Beijing, 2008, the Olympics are coming, but as taxi driver Wang circles the city’s congested streets, he feels barely alive. His daily grind is suddenly interrupted when he finds a letter in the sunshade of his cab. Someone is watching him. Someone who claims to be his soulmate and to have known him for over a thousand years.

Other letters follow, taking Wang back in time: to a spirit-bride in the Tang Dynasty; to young slaves during the Mongol invasion; to concubines plotting to kill the emperor; to a kidnapping in the Opium War; and to Red Guards during the Cultural revolution.

And with each letter, Wang feels the watcher in the shadows growing closer …

Sweeping between China past and present, THE INCARNATIONS illuminates the cyclical nature of history, and shows how man is condemned to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

“This is a beautifully written book, very clever. I love the intertwining of present and past through these biography letters Wang receives mysteriously, allowing the reader to visit these fantastical worlds in well known Chinese historical eras. Absolutely loved it. Can’t wait to read Susan Barker’s next book.” MediahAhmed   “All of the incarnations end…

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Posted on 22nd October 2015

By The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered London Reading Group 2015

A Man Lies Dreaming Review by The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered London Reading Group 2015

Lavie Tidhar

Deep in the heart of history’s most infamous concentration camp, a man lies dreaming. His name is Shomer, and before the war he was a pulp fiction author. Now, to escape the brutal reality of life in Auschwitz, Shomer spends his nights imagining another world – a world where a disgraced former dictator now known only as Wolf ekes out a miserable existence as a low-rent PI in London’s grimiest streets. 

An extraordinary story of revenge and redemption, A Man Lies Dreaming is the unforgettable testament to the power of imagination.

A Man Lies Dreaming purports to be an interwoven narrative following ‘Wolf’ (quickly revealed to be Hitler) and Schlomer. Schlomer the choice of the second narrator ‘in another time and place’, is as ‘real’ a person as Hitler a Pulp fiction author but most readers would be unaware of this for he left no mark on popular culture his…

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Posted on 9th December 2014

By Gareth Watts

Whatever Happened to Billy Parks

Gareth R Roberts

The book unflinchingly charts the self-destruction of its eponymous hero with a sure touch.

In footballing parlance, there’s something more than a little ‘route one’ about Gareth R Roberts’ Whatever Happened to Billy Parks? and its efforts to emulate the success of David Peace’s bestseller The Damned United. The cover font and colour combination are pretty direct simulacra, and its game-of-two-halves structure (alternating chapters between the rise to prominence…

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Posted on 6th August 2014

By Harriet Dunlea

All the Days and Nights

Niven Govinden

Niven Govinden’s intensive examination of relationships, art and death in All the Days and Nights will leave readers emotionally moved and unsettled by the characters it lays bare. The novel holds a magnifying glass over the lives of Anna Brown, a somewhat successful artist of the twentieth century, and her husband and muse, John Brown. Anna is dying and working on what will be her final piece of artwork. John, on the brink of losing the woman whose works have shaped his identity, leaves to track down his portraits that are scattered across America.

Niven Govinden’s intensive examination of relationships, art and death in All the Days and Nights will leave readers emotionally moved and unsettled by the characters it lays bare. The novel holds a magnifying glass over the lives of Anna Brown, a somewhat successful artist of the twentieth century, and her husband and muse, John Brown….

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Posted on 5th August 2014

By Lye Down With a Good Book Reading Group

Mr Loverman

Bernadine Everisto

Before being given this novel to review I had never heard of the author or read any of her previous work – fiction or verse fiction. Firstly I read the blurb on the back cover and thought, although not my usual choice of read, it sounded like a clever story line. I also liked the cover photos and thought the character looked like an interesting man – how true that turned out to be!

I can honestly say I was hooked from the very first page – the humour that runs throughout the story begins right at the start.

In 2014, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize worked with the Regional Literature Development Agencies to find reading groups across the UK to read the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning titles. Mr Loverman by Bernadine Everisto was read by the Lye Down With a Good Book Reading Group from Lye and below are reviews from its reading…

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Posted on 30th July 2014

By Peninsula Arts Group

All the Birds, Singing

Evie Wyld

We really enjoyed this book. Members described it as ‘gripping’, ‘a crackling page-turner’, and ‘a gritty, pacey read’.

All the Birds, Singing tells the story of Jake, a stoic tough and mistrustful woman as she flees her family and the Australian outback and works her island sheep farm in England. From the beginning her androgynous name raises a question and throughout it makes you think about gender and sexuality. The sex is bluntly described and unromantic as it so often is for a vulnerable runaway. Jake is a person trying to escape and the puzzle of the book is escape from what and whom ?

In 2014, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize worked with the Regional Literature Development Agencies to find reading groups across the UK to read the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize-winning titles.  All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld was read by the Peninsula Arts Reading Group from Plymouth and below are reviews from its reading group members. 

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