May 2022 Book Choice




Apeirogon by Colum McCann

This novel brought out many different emotions from the group. The book is based on a true story of a friendship of two men – an Israeli and a Palestinian – who were brought up to hate each other’s race but who were united by the grief of the killing of their daughters in the Israel / Palestine conflict by the opposite side. It shows how the two men are now journeying together, because of their grief, and striving to find the road to a peaceful future.

The book has a large number of stories weaving through it and describes the limitations under which both sides live daily, both emotionally and physically. It is written in 1001 chapters; some are only one single sentence long and some of the group felt it took a while to get used to this fragmented structure. The group’s opinion was divided about the book itself, with some members describing it as beautifully written, very creative and a wondrous read which had them thinking deeply about all aspects of it. Other members, whilst acknowledging the skill of the author in his writing and research, felt it was a very harrowing and difficult book to read and that some of descriptions were given in graphic detail.

It is a hard hitting and powerfully written book and the group were divided in recommending it; some recommended it very highly and others recommended it only to those people who had done some research before starting it. The groups average score for the book was 7.

 



 

April 2022 Book Choice



While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart

Nobody had time to sleep at the latest Page Turners meeting as the latest novel was vociferously discussed.

The book is set in two timelines, 1944 and 1953, and tells the story of a baby given away by a mother as she boards the train to Auschwitz and the consequences of this action.

Some people thought the Holocaust section of the book was dealt with in a “shallow” and “trivial “manner. Others thought the book was “banal” and “unbelievable ” with characters that could not be related to. Most people finished the book, and wanted to see how the moral and emotional dilemma at the core of the book, would end. No spoilers here…you will have to read the book! However, with scores ranging from 7 to 2, and an average of 4.5, you will be reading a book not received with huge plaudits by the Page Turners!

 



 

March 2022 Book Choice


About Grace by Anthony Doerr

 

This is the author’s first novel.

David Winkler is 59 and is going home for the first time after 25 years. He has been a lover, a husband, a father and a hydrologist. Since he was a child he has been plagued by premonitions. In one he dreamt of a flood; dreamt that he failed to save his baby, Grace, and so left before he had to see it happen. The consequences of this decision marks the rest of David’s life, first as an exile on a Caribbean island, then as an old man, come back to Alaska to find his daughter. Throughout he is determined to photograph the ephemeral beauty of snowflakes.

We had all read All the Light We Cannot See, one of the author’s later books. We loved this and found About Grace what we can only describe as a ‘let down’ and a disappointment. We didn’t warm to David as a character, he seemed fickle and strange in his decision making.

There was some wonderful prose describing the warmth of the Caribbean and the incredible cold of Alaska. The Aurora Borealis with its ‘shivering emeralds and blues trimmed with red, jade, violets and an eerie green’ But this prose was so protracted and went on and on. Just how many ways can you describe a snowflake, we asked ourselves!

The score for this book was one of our lower ones, a 5, and we were unanimous in not recommending it as a good read.

 



 

February Book Choices


Snap by Belinda Bauer

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. ‘Jack’s in charge,’ she said. ‘I won’t be long.’

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.

Meanwhile Jack is still in charge of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.

 


But the truth can be a dangerous thing …

A taut, suspenseful new novel from award-winning thriller author Belinda Bauer in which a woman being menaced by a knife-wielding home invader is connected to a string of burglaries in a quaint bedroom community, and the brutal murder that left three children motherless three years before.

The group scored an average of 7 for this quirky and well written thriller. Overall, it was described as an easy, enjoyable read.

There were a number of threads which initially some found quite confusing but it was interesting to see how these all came together at the end. Good descriptions of characters and environments in the story although there were also a number of unrealistic situations. A number of the group would recommend it to others to read

 



 

First Meeting of 2022 Outdoors.


Welsh Government Covid restrictions meant the Page Turners had their first meeting of 2022 outdoors. The group gathered under unbelievably blue skies and strolled towards Watchtower Bay. Whilst sitting on the wall in the winter sun, the group were invited to comment on books they had received from Secret Santa at the Christmas meeting.

Nicola thought her Christmas in Wales, by Dewi Roberts had some diverse material but wouldn’t recommend it as a Page Turners monthly read.

Diane was enjoying the intense Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles but recommended reading it in small sections.

Jill’s House of Windows by Barbara Newhall Follett required a huge suspension of belief…and a

belief in fairies. The author wrote the book when she was 12…what were you writing when you were 12?

A Bit of a Stretch by Chris Atkins was Helen’s selection and highly recommended this account of the British penal system.

A Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards was a novel Jenny couldn’t get into.

May’s gift of the Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell was hugely interesting to May, especially how the author attempted to describe why the Danish are amongst the happiest people in the world!

Lynne found Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed an enjoyable read based on the Tempest.

Babs book, Snap by Belinda Bauer was selected by the group as their next monthly read…so more details will follow in next month’s What’s On!!

Sandra was happy to have received The Survivors by Jane Harper, a novel set in Tasmania, which she considered a good read.

Is there a book in this list you would have liked to have received from Secret Santa? Santa certainly had a very diverse choice in his sack!

Happy reading in 2022.

 



 

Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A life Unstrung By Min Kym


.  Gone: A Girl, A Violin, A life Unstrung

By Min Kym


At 7 years old Min Kym was a prodigy, the youngest ever pupil at the Purcell School of Music. At 11 she won her first international prize. She worked with many violins, waiting for the day she would play ‘the one’. At 21 she found it: a rare 1696 Stradivarius, perfectly suited to her build and temperament. Her career soared. She recorded the Brahms concerto, and a world tour was planned. Then, in a train station café, her violin was stolen. In an instant her world collapsed. She descended into a terrifying limbo land, unable to play another note.

This is Min’s extraordinary story of a young woman staring into the void, wondering who she was, who she had been. It is a story of isolation and dependence, of love, loss and betrayal, and the intense, almost human bond that a musician has with their instrument. Above all it’s a story of hope through a journey back to music.

This is a book that most of the group said they would not have read if it hadn’t been recommended by a musician in the group. Having said that, there was overwhelming praise for the book despite over half saying that they found it full of sadness and loss – the violin, her childhood, the lack of a paternal presence in her life – with many gaps and things unsaid in relation to Min’s family and her recovery from depression. Many felt they were left with questions after finishing the book.

There was some discussion about whether the pressures Min was put under to play and excel, her acquiescence with male domineering figures in her life might have been in some part due to her cultural background. It was agreed that the book was brilliantly written and gave a fascinating insight into the relationship between a musician and her instrument, the life of a musical prodigy and solo performer. The book may well have been written as a cathartic process for Min coming to terms with her loss.

Average score 8.

It was interesting to learn that many musicians are always self critical of their own performance and that for musicians, music always comes first.

Many thanks to our host for the toasty warm fire and cakes!

 



 

The Bell in the Lake’ by Lars Mytting


The Bell in the Lake’ by Lars Mytting

Norway, 1880. Winter is hard in Butangen. The lake has frozen, and the ground is too hard to bury the dead. Astrid Hekne dreams of a life beyond marriage and children, and working to the end of her days. Then Pastor Kai Schweigaard takes over the small parish, with its 700-year-old stave church. The two bells in the tower are said to hold supernatural powers.

It is rare that a book receives similar praise from a diverse group of people reading it. An average score of 9.5! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the book praising the translation, the research, descriptions of the landscape and the cold, the incredible detail of the stave church, and the characters. There was an incorporation of myth and folklore but the story still remained believable with descriptions of the hardships of farming and the long dark winters. Some of the group had been fortunate enough to visit Norway and to see stave churches, of which few remain, and for them the book was evocative and brought back memories of Norway.

The ending felt slightly rushed but as this is the first of a trilogy, this was perhaps as an introduction of what is still to come.

Many thanks to our host for delicious tea and cakes!

 



 

A Tale for the Time Being


The group met in bright sunshine to discuss ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2013.

In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home in British Columbia. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes, heartbreak and dreams of a young girl desperate for someone to understand her. Each turn of the page pulls Ruth deeper into the mystery of Nao’s life, and forever changes her in a way neither could foresee.

The book met with mixed reviews – some people finding it difficult to finish the book as a result of some of the distressing issues raised within it. However, an interesting and general discussion regarding Japanese culture of today and years gone by ensued, comparing this to our own Western values. Generally the book was not considered cheerful and described as complex with many themes – friendship, ecology, Gaia, philosophy. It was, however, considered well written.

Scores varied from an average of 8 by those who had finished it and 4 by those who had not, giving an average of 7.

 



 

A Child In The Forest


We discussed ‘A child in the forest’ by Winifred Foley (no longer in print, but available as an audio book or second hand). The book was originally written for broadcasting on ‘Woman’s hour’. It is the autobiography of a young girl, born in 1914, growing up in a mining village in the Forest of Dean. She has a great love for her family, the Forest and her life there, in spite of their poverty ( no electricity, or running water and shortage of food). At the age of 14 she went into service, first in London, then in the Cotswolds and then on a Welsh farm. The working conditions were tough.

For many people in the group, the book provoked childhood reminicences of their own. There were interesting portraits of characters in the village. The descriptions of nature were good but we wanted more details about the forest. The book emphasised a child’s delight in simple things, in contrast to much of modern consumerism. A couple of readers found the vernacular was off putting and thought a glossary would have helped. Several thought the book was ‘not a page turner’ and preferred other autobiographies like ‘Cider with Rosie ‘ .

We all enjoyed the delicious cake and a chance to meet up again without restrictions. Score 7/10

 



 

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn


At last the Covid 19 restrictions relaxed enough to allow us to meet in Jill’s lovely garden with delicious cake to follow!

We discussed The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. For Raynor Winn and her husband Moth, the cruellest of diagnoses and the simultaneous collapse of their business opens an unexpected door to salvation through a journey which, over its length, transforms into a sweeping narrative of inner courage and nature’s ability to heal. They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

There were mixed feelings regarding the book. Nearly everyone agreed that it was a good read with great evocative descriptions of the weather, geography and the hardships encountered. It was not a negative book despite the sadness of their situation with lots to smile at.

However, many felt that it didn’t quite ring true. There was some criticism of the lack of Moth’s viewpoint or communication with their children, despite the couple’s closeness; Ray seemed in denial of Moth’s condition and that she was pushing him. Ray came across as not a very nice person. Many felt that there had been a lack of planning in relation to equipment, irresponsibility in not considering Moth’s medical condition or medication and some resentment about their taking advantage of others.

All agreed that it was good to read a book that led to wider discussions regarding ‘wild’ camping on private land which could encourage others to think that it was possible and right to do (although illegal in much of Britain), the problems of litter in wild places and sharing long distance walking stories.

Scores out of 10 ranged from 6 to 9 resulting in an average of 8.

Other books discussed:

Barak Obama’s autobiography

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards

A Single Thread by Tracey Chevalier

The Bell in The Lake by Lars Mytting.

 

 



 

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