Hello again from the Mobile Library Reading Group blog! Here's more reviews from our members. If you've read them, please add your reviews to the comments section of this blog post. We'd love to hear your thoughts whether you are a member of our group or not.
We have our spring 2014 Mobile Library Reading Group meeting on Wednesday 9 April 10.30am-12.30pm in the Library of Birmingham. This meeting is just for members of the group, but if you are interested in joining, please contact Jackie on 0121 464 6171 for details.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Reviewer: Su R
A thriller to end all thrillers! Psychological suspense worked out from end to beginning in minute detail. Hip New York couple with a disintegrating marriage; characters of wife and husband that change from good to bad and back again in an instant. Nothing is as it seems. Disappearance, murder, shady friends form the past, lies and mayhem. All resolved in the way of most marriages – an uneasy alliance held together by trying hard to seem to be what the partner requires at the same time as being yourself. Is it totally unrealistic or morbidly real? Brilliant!
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Reviewer: Margaret H
This is the story of the life of Hattie Shepherd, a black woman who escapes the oppression of the Deep South and moves to Philadelphia. It begins in1925 and her life story and those of her children keep pace with the century. It opens with the heartbreaking description of her going from joy to tragedy with the deaths of her first two children, twins, from bronchitis or croup. The grief leaves her unable to unlock herself again it seems throughout that the lives of her next children, although she loves them, she is not affectionate to them. Her husband is constantly unfaithful but never split up, even after Hattie has the one affair that makes her happy. The narrative concerning racial prejudice of the day is quite stomach churning I found. Each section deals with the fate of each of the children who mostly go out into the world and settle down elsewhere. Her daughter Bella is the one that hurts her the most by having an affair with Hattie’s lover but she then rescues her from a suicide attempt. They then live together in the small house that Hattie finally manages to buy. It is very readable and engaging narrative. The racial prejudice is an important and shocking element of the story. Hattie’s lack of affection and unbending strictness is sad, but her determination and backbone is awesome.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Reviewer: Kate Mc
Spiritually Uplifting, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wasn’t expecting to, I initially thought “God, no”, this is going to be awful. How wrong was I? The story evolves around 3 main characters, Harold Fry, his wife Maureen (she reminded me so much of my own mother), but a slightly harder version; and Queenlier, an ex colleague of Harold, who is terminally ill. Harold is retired and living quite a hum drum existence at home with Maureen, she is obsessed with cleaning and seems to really resent Harold, I took an instant dislike to Maureen at the beginning of the story, but my opinion of her changed dramatically as the story progressed.
One morning Harold receives a letter From Queenlier informing him that she is dying of cancer. This correspondence has a profound, life changing affect upon Harold. Harold prepares a brief response to Queenlier; he’s a man of little words. “I’m writing Queenie a note” he says. A note for God’s sake, she’s dying!!!! Actions speak louder than words though and so Harold’s pilgrimage begins. He decides to take the letter to a local post box, but when he gets there, he doesn’t stop. He continues, you think he’s going to stop at the next box, but no. Harold walks, “Cheerio Maureen” he said when he left, nothing untoward in his departure; he leaves Maureen behind to her own devices.
During Harold’s journey he meets some very interesting characters all with a story to tell. These people bring so much to the story, it’s wonderful the way they pop in and pop out, just how life is for us all. We meet strangers and sometimes we connect very profoundly with them. We share our lives, our pain and our joy. We live and learn together. Sharing increases love, its something we can all do more of. Harold listens to these individuals and shares their pain and in doing so, he begins to examine his own life and really listens to their experiences. By doing so, he develops insight into his own pain and suffering.
Harold and Maureen have a son, David. Maureen talks regularly to David, Harold doesn’t. What becomes apparent is the divesting effect that the loss of a child has. David is dead, though still very much alive for Maureen. Some people might think her behaviour odd, I don’t. My mum talks all the time to my sister Patricia. I think that’s a positive thing. Some people think its weird; let her rest in peace they say. I like to be reminded of her. Maureen is upset at Harold for displaying so little emotion towards David throughout his life. She’s so angry at Harold. My favourite line in the whole book is on page 126 when Harold in response to Martina, the Eastern European lady says “I am – as you rightly point out – f****.” I laughed out loud and thought of my own dad. He is so much like Harold.
Queenlier was a good friend to Harold and he feels that he let her down. Harold and Queenside’s ex boss was a nasty piece of work. He keeps a set of tacky Moreno glass clowns in his office; they once belonged to his late Mother. It appears that whilst under the influence of alcohol Harold breaks into his old employer’s office and smashes the ugly clowns to smithereens, well for Harold. However, it’s Queenlier who takes the blame and in doing so, loses her job. Harold feels like he’s let her down badly. He has never acknowledged what she did. He wants to make amends.
Maureen begins to see Harold as the man she was attracted to all those years ago. In remembering the past, Maureen decides she wants to join Harold on his journey and re connects with him. “Hello stranger, “she says as she joins a broken man sitting alone on a bench, hunched against the wind. This really moved me. I want this moment so much for my own parents. I was so moved at this point in the story, it was so beautifully written. Harold reminds Maureen of when they met at a dance, they share a memory, which has them both in stitches of laughter; they hang on to one another and just laugh. They remember their shared happiness. This is so poignant and so healing. I felt really uplifted and hopeful for them.
This is a story about love, loss and separation. A transformation and what appears to be a happy ever after. You want Maureen and Harold’s marriage to survive; you want them to be happy again. The power of love in a painful world is really what keeps us all connected in the end, without it life just doesn’t bear thinking about.
I loved the pilgrimage, what a fantastic book. Well done Rachel Joyce.