“The Labyrinth of the Spirits” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“The Labyrinth of the Spirits” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The first few pages of this 500 page novel giving the description of Regina Aeronautica’s bombardment of Barcelona during The Spanish Civil War and the subsequent escape of Alicia Gris, the heroine, was extremely evocative and the brutality of the Franco Fascist era from 1936 until his death in 1975 particularly well written.
The story is basically a detective novel where Alicia Gris acting as a police agent is commissioned to find Don Valls who has mysteriously disappeared.
The novel is gritty, gripping but at times very dark with several difficult passages of graphic details of gruesome tortures.
Despite the fluency of the narrative the writing occasionally becomes rather mundane and the momentum is lost but Zafón soon rectifies these passages by introducing an absorbing twist.
Apart from two dissenters the group found the tome fascinating and a real page turner with most of the group awarding marks of 9 and 10. The overall mark was 7.
Thank you must go to our hostess, Jill, who provided us with delicious cake

“A Terrible Kindness” by Jo Browning Wroe

“A Terrible Kindness” by Jo Browning Wroe

This debut novel promoted an interesting and lively discussion between the Page Turners.

William Lavery is a young, recently qualified embalmer who has joined the family business. When news of the disaster at Aberfan reaches him, he immediately volunteers to attend and it becomes his first job as an embalmer. The care and compassion he shows to the mostly young victims of that terrible tragedy, was beautifully portrayed, but had a profound effect on William’s life, to the extent of leaving his wife in later years because of his fear of having children of his own. He is forced to face up to his own issues concerning family and friendship which had been left to fester over many years rather than being dealt with. The book proceeds to become William’s biography.

Following the death of his father, an undertaker in the family business, William wins a music scholarship and becomes a Chorister in a Cathedral School. However, rather than pursuing a musical career, which his mother desperately wishes him to do, family traumas redirect him into a career of embalming and results in him becoming estranged from his mother for many years.

It was mostly agreed by the Page Turners that the book was very well written, thought provoking with interesting characters, and extremely emotional at times. However, some thought that it was very inappropriate to use the tragedy of Aberfan as the opening to a fictional novel. Additionally, it was pointed out by a few of the group that the story became predictable and thus a happy ending was perhaps produced too easily. William was not always a likeable character and some of the traumas he experienced were as a result of his own actions and should not have been blamed on others.

Despite the difference of opinions, the final score of 8 confirms that this novel is recommended as a good read. A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe




Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
Harper Lee wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel
To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960 which became a
classic of modern American literature and went onto
become an iconic film starring Gregory Peck.
Following its publication, Harper Lee was subjected
to a whirlwind of publicity tours which she found
difficult. It remained her only published work until
Lee is reported to have said in 2011 that there were
two reasons that she never wrote again; “One, I
wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I
went through with To Kill a Mockingbird for any
amount of money. Second, I have said what I
wanted to say and I will not say it again.” She died
in 2016.
To Kill A Mocking Bird remained her only
published work until Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015. It is understood that
she didn’t want the book to be published.
It was therefore with interest that the Page Turners
group read Go Set a Watchman. The book contains
versions of many characters from To Kill a
Mockingbird although it is set some years in the
future when Scout is a young adult and returns to her
childhood home town. The book was completed in
1957, although it has been published as a separate
piece of work.
Nearly all members of the group were very
disappointed in the book feeling that it was very
much a first draft and was a series of disjointed
thoughts and ideas. It was difficult to read it as a
stand alone book without comparing it with To Kill
a Mockingbird.
The book received an overall score of 4.



“The Reindeer Hunters” by Lars Mytting

“The Reindeer Hunters” by Lars Mytting

For the Page Turners, the Reindeer Hunters was an eagerly anticipated read, after the first book in the trilogy, the Bell in the Lake, had received unanimously good reviews from all the book club members. However, there were disappointing reviews from the majority of the Page Turners and a rapturous reception from an enthusiastic minority. All agreed it was well written, but most were unhappy with the pace of the story and found it boring and uninteresting! Those that enjoyed the book were drawn into the book by the characters, and the description of a rural Norwegian village and the hardships that were endured at the beginning of the 20th century. Some were looking forward to the publication of the final part of the trilogy….others were definitely not!

A range of scores, with an average of 7…so have a read, and see what you think!

A score of 10 for Helen’s brandy ice cream was agreed by everyone!!

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

“The Island of Missing Trees” by Elif Shafak

A rich magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal. This was a book that the whole group enjoyed and more than one person scored it as 10 out of 10 – a rarity indeed! The book is narrated from an unusual viewpoint, which some people found difficult at first! But all were in agreement that Elif Shafak uses exquisite language in her writing and intend to read more of her books.

An interesting discussion was generated re: truth and reconciliation and the potential impact on all involved – victims, perpetrators and innocent family members. We discussed the effects on soldiers of fighting during WW1 and the resultant unimagined effects on people. At that time, there was no psychological support offered to veterans. In contrast, people are encouraged to talk about their experiences in today’s world. However, first and foremost the book is a love story! Well worth reading!


Lucky Dip Books

Various Books

During our December meeting each member placed a book into a Lucky Dip and the individual books drawn by the Page Turners were read and summarised for our January meeting as shown below:

Leonard And Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession

This is the story of two ordinary single friends, Leonard and Hungry Paul. They are quiet, gentle and kind. There is no dramatic plot, just the humorous details of their lives. Well written and a relaxing read. Score 7 out of 10.

City Mission: The Story of London’s Welsh Chapels by Huw Edwards

Broadcaster Huw Edwards tells the history of the setting up of the Welsh Chapels and Churches in London and examines the patterns of Welsh migration. Milk Couriers from Wales drove their dairy herds to the Royal Parks in London and local residents would take their jugs to buy milk. The Milk Couriers then gave monies to build the Chapels and Churches and having made their fortunes returned to the Welsh valleys. An excellent book. Score 8 out of 10.

Red Dog by Louis de Bernieres

A short novel by the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. This is an enchanting story about a dog in Western Australia which alternatively has you in stitches or floods of tears. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Score 8 out of 10.

Becoming by Michelle Obama.

An autobiography by Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama and details her life from a young child in Chicago to First Lady of the United States of America. She is always striving for perfection but is likeable, hard-working and very genuine. She tells her story in her own words and it is extremely well written. A very enjoyable book and highly recommended. Score 8.5 out of 10.

Dictator by Robert Harris

An historical novel which is the third part of a trilogy and covers the final 15 years of the life of the Roman lawyer and politician Cicero as seen through the eyes of his loyal Scribe Tiro. It is extremely well researched and covers the period when Julius Caesar was assassinated, and the Roman Republic collapsed. Highly recommended. Score 10 out of 10.

The Bonesetters Daughter by Amy Tan

This book deals with the relationship between a mother and daughter and tells two stories. One is about Ruth, born in the USA. The second is about her mother, LuLing who was born in China in the early 1900’s and later emigrated to the USA where she married and was widowed when Ruth was very young. LuLing’s story is revealed in stages, as is that of her mother, father and their families and is both fascinating and complicated. A really interesting and enjoyable book. Score 8 out of 10


November 2022 Book Choice

“The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield

What a lively discussion about this tale!


Everybody has a story.

Angelfield House stands abandoned and forgotten. It was once home to the March family. Now Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield’s past and its mysterious connection to the writer Vida Winter. Vida’s history is a tale of ghosts, governesses and gothic strangeness.

Fascinating, manipulative Isabelle; brutal, dangerous Charlie and the wild untamed twins, Emmeline and Adeline.

What has Angelfield been hiding? What is the secret that strikes at the heart of Margaret’s own troubled life? And can both women ever confront the ghosts that haunt them?

Our Review

Well! Here are some of the comments in our discussion, we agreed that we would remember it was Halloween and that it was a FAIRY STORY.

Disturbing story beautifully told. Bizarre and unbelievable. Feat of construction of a huge cast of characters. Well crafted and descriptive. Didn’t enjoy. Love her writing. Descriptive and drew you in. Compelling with a fascinating twist. And so the debate went on ……

This is an example of the beauty of the language for me:

“Bones?” said Miss Winter. She was paper-white and there was an ocean in her eyes, vast enough to drown all my fury.

“Oh”, she said.

Oh. What richness of vibration a single syllable can contain. Fear. Despair, Sorrow and resignation. Relief of a dark, unconsoling kind. And grief, deep and ancient”.

Our score was a resounding 8. I think that can stand as a recommendation so how about giving The Thirteenth Tale a go and let The Page Turners know what you think.

Sylvia Harvey


September 2022 Book Choice

“The Fortune Men” by Nadifa Mohammed

The Fortune Men portrays life in the racial, cultural hub of Cardiff’s Tiger Bay in the early fifties. It centres on the plight of a Somali man, Mahmood Mattan, who finds himself on trial for the murder of a local shopkeeper.

Mahmood is a chancer, a father and a petty criminal who is innocent of the crime, but as the local paper of the day described, “Almost within a stone’s throw in which he lived in Cardiff, Mahmood Mattan was executed…” He was the last man to be hung in Cardiff prison. Many years later, the conviction and execution of Mahmood became the first miscarriage of justice case ever investigated by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and in 1998 Mahmood was exonerated by the Court of Appeal.

Nadifa Mohammed, whose father knew Mahmood, is herself a British Somali and seems well placed to write Mahmood’s story. Nadifa manages to paint a credible picture of life and the events in the 50’s that led to the wrongful conviction of Mahmood for the murder of a white woman just because of the colour of his skin. It is a story of racism, discrimination, police corruption, conspiracy and cruelty.

The Page Turners thought it was an important story that needed telling, as racism remains an issue today, and on a regular basis there seem to be reports of miscarriages of justice when wrongly convicted people are freed.

Many book club members thought the writing style and language used was difficult, especially when there were many words in foreign languages that were not translated. Some felt that sentences and

descriptions were overly long and descriptive passages tedious to read. Some readers did not like the fictionalised account of this historical event and would have preferred to read a biography of Mahmood.

Everyone agreed it was an important event that needed to be told; the discussion was mainly around the telling. Have a read and judge for yourself! The Page Turners average score was 6.5!


The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, red roses for love.. But for Victoria Jones it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After her childhood spent in the foster care system she finds she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. The story follows Victoria’s blossoming into adult life as she haphazardly learns to trust and be trusted, to love and be loved.

This book was well received by the majority of us. It was agreed that the effects of the care system upon young people was very well understood (the author had herself been a foster parent). Victoria’s difficulty emerging into independent life was palpable; we wanted her to succeed in life.

The history of flowers and their changing language was beautifully versed. The inclusion in the book of a dictionary of flowers and their language made for fascinating study, although there was disappointment when favourite flowers of our own turned out to have negative attributes (eg sunflower: false riches, yellow rose: infidelity) There was relief by most that the book ended on an optimistic yet realistic note. This enjoyable book scored an average of 7/10.

August 2022 Book Choice

“Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight “- An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller

Alexandra Fuller gives an insight into growing up within a dysfunctional family in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe at the time of the bush wars. She tells us about her experiences – many of which are harrowing. She gives details of an unruly and chaotic life; her mother was an emotionally remote woman, who was eventually diagnosed with manic depression. However, the author tells her story with humour and honesty and her memoirs are fascinating. It does include references to the family’s racism and their attitude to the black community in which they were living.

Most of the group felt that the book was well written and that the author recalled her childhood memories in detail. We talked about the lives of the family and the author’s relationship with other family members. A few of our group had lived as ex-pats in African countries and this led to a full discussion about their experiences while living there. It was generally felt, however, that although Fuller had lived with and

accepted apartheid as a child, she made no reference in the book to it being unacceptable now that she is an adult and living in another country. The book received mixed reviews from the group and these views were reflected by our overall scoring a of 6/10.


July 2022 Book Choice

“The Songbirds” By Christy Lefteri

Nisha is from Sri Lanka. She is a nanny/domestic help in Nicosia, sending money home to support her daughter. Nisha has disappeared and her story is written through the eyes of her lover Yannis, and her employer Petra. Petra struggles being a mother to Aliki with whom Nisha has a strong loving bond. Yannis adores Nisha, but we uncover his secret life of hunting and trapping of songbirds, a delicacy at wealthy tables.

This beautiful book provoked a lively discussion, particularly about modern day slavery. All of us would recommend it even though the subject matter was quite harrowing. It was written in compassionate and eloquent language and this compelling novel scored a unanimous 9.

Our meeting concluded with delicious homemade strawberry ice cream. Thank you, Helen


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