Book 26: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See is a tale of two teenagers on the opposite sides of war and all-the-lighthow events eventually bring them together to help them save each other and to touch each other’s lives in unexpected ways. Marie-Laure is a blind girl living with her father in Paris and Werner is a young German boy living in a mining village who comes to the attention of the Hitler Youth.


I loved it. The fascination of the the various characters thrown into a war environment, where nobody who hasn’t experienced it firsthand, can understand the pressures of trying to stay true to one’s innocence and goodness. Perfectly good people were forced through loyalty, patriotism and fear into doing awful things or, more so in Werner’s case, for remaining passive not going to the aid of his friend, Frederick, who shone like a perfect light throughout remaining true to himself, but at what physical cost.

Werner was a very good person but, on the other hand, did not go to protect Frederick and he had to live the rest of his life knowing what he had failed to do and reliving his disgrace in every innocent he witnessed being killed, eg the little girl in the red coat and her Mother.

Werner was motivated by the fear of ending up down a mine and being killed like his father and would do anything to get away from that fate. His yearning for more and his scientific bent gave him the opportunity to “escape” and join The Hitler Youth where he had to grapple with his conscience, his opposing fear of returning to the mines or even a fate like injury or death. He was not alone in this as The Big Giant was exactly the same: basically good but, to save his own life, he was willing to rip the clothes and shoes from people to keep himself warm, knowing that he was signing their death warrant in doing so.

It seems, some time after leading Marie Laure to safety, Werner found the Sea of Flames but rejected it, tossing it back into the sea. It was like someone throwing 5 Eiffel Towers back and nobody in their right mind would do that, so the young schoolboy said when told the story at the Museum. Why? Do you think Werner walked knowingly to his death on the beach of minefields, knowing he was recovering physically, but mentally not being able to live with himself, never being able to go back to the 2 people who personified goodness and righteousness? His sister, Jutta, whom he remembered as so black and white where right and wrong was concerned and would condemn his passive acceptance of evil. And the innocent and trusting Marie Laure, who rekindled memories of a past enmeshed in her family when he was awakened to the joys of learning and the quest for truth that he searched for in scientific principles, listening with Jutta to his first radio and hearing the voice of Marie Laure’s grandfather making learning fun.

Good against evil and the sad but warm feeling at the end that good had triumphed even though the cost was immense.

I would give this book 4.5 as it was so beautifully scripted, the language perfectly descriptive allowing me to picture each place/situation in my mind’s eye.

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Book 25: What Have I Done? by Amanda Prowse

Desperation comes out in many forms. This book explores the only way out for one woman whatafter years of psychological and physical abuse from a loathsome husband. As mother to his children the thoughts of leaving were never far away but what would happen to them if she left? A harrowing, yet interesting story of control, deceit and eventual comeuppance.

I had convinced myself I was not going to enjoy this book. The blurb on the back screamed ‘don’t open me’ and the subject matter left me feeling uncomfortable and slightly nervous. It was difficult to read at times but stories like this need to be told. We need to make sure that these women are not forgotten and are left to barely survive behind closed doors. Some might say it was an unfortunate end for this beast of a man but at least he got what he deserved. 3/5

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Book 24: The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

goatsWhen a woman unexpectedly disappears, the whole street is in shock.  Curtains are twitching, washing lines are overwhelmed with gossip and men waft their hankies in the 1976 heatwave without anything to say on the matter. Two girls respond by trying to find God. According to Matthew – you are a sheep or a goat, as they try to find God, we also discover that all is not as it seems, and secrets have a way of getting out.

After all the media attention and hype surrounding this fascinating story, I was left slightly disappointed. I didn’t feel the ending did the book justice and I was left frustrated with the lack of finality.  I could relate to many of the characters in the book and I think we all live in a street very much like this. I so wanted it to be more, but it just didn’t fit the bill for me. 3/5

I’m afraid I did not enjoy Goats and Sheep and struggled to finish it. 2/5


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Book 23: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Living a simple and yet rewarding life, Ove spends his days concocting a plan to join his recently deceased wife in heaven. His neighbours on the other hand, have other ideas for ovehim and before he is aware, he is mending fences,reversing trailers and all sorts. There are not many books out there you can call a ‘feel good’ read but this certainly is.

Some books are meant to make you cry, while others make you laugh until tears of joy run down your face. This month’s offering did both. The basic and yet intriguing manner Backman tells his avid audience has you hooked from the first chapter. A poignant and utterly compelling story about a man who is so distraught about his wife’s death, he plans his own so that he can be with her once again. I loved the annoying and yet wholesome neighbours who, little did he know, came to his rescue. A wonderful uplifting story of a grumpy misunderstood man and the people who love him regardless. 5/5

I must admit that I did not relish the prospect of reading a book with a Victor Meldrew character as the hero. How wrong I was.
Ove was an absolute delight and I couldn’t put the book down. I laughed and cried my way through it.
The dialogue relating to his beloved wife was particularly poignant and the translator deserves an honourable mention.
Two examples – “You’re dancing on the inside Ove when no one’s watching and I’ll always love you for that, whether you like it or not ” and (on her death) “If anyone had asked, he would have told them that he never lived before he met her and not after either”.
A totally absorbing read worthy of 5/5.

“A Man Called Ove” – I absolutely adored even though when reading the first page I said to myself that it would not be my cup of tea.  How wrong I was.  I would definitely award this 5/5!  I just loved it so much.

Ove was a man who was different but who accepted who he was and the hands that life dealt him without any bitterness or rancour. Throughout he maintained his integrity and did not rise to any insults that were thrown at him or the sniggers behind his back.
He followed in his father’s footsteps and worked on the railways where he was a model employee until he was falsely accused of stealing . Even his changed position did not put him off his stride although one glimpsed his sorrow at being wronged.
We rejoiced in his happy marriage and were saddened beyond words at the cruel fate of his unborn child and the injustice he suffered as the driver went unpunished and his wife committed to a wheelchair for life.
The way he dealt went about making practical adjustments for her was most touching.
The matter of fact way he tried to kill himself following her death and his involvement with the new family on the block was a interesting and amusing twist. The cat he loathed but who ended up living with him .the couple who were causing him such irritation and aggravation ,the neighbours ,children and others that he found himself unwittingly involved with was wonderful. His death brought tears to my eyes.
Ove was a man whom we would probably regard as on the Spectrum but who lived a life which to him was normal who bore his grief and suffering with great stoicism.
It was a funny thought provoking uplifting and rewarding read! I will give it 5/5 !”

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Book 22 – The Green Road by Anne Enright

Irish mothers have been well known to run tight ships, have exemplary behaviour from greenroadtheir off-spring at all times and to bestow their beliefs onto generations of their family until their last breath. Anne Enright manages to do just that as she takes you through the lives of one such family and the matriarch that sits at the helm.

This book certainly divided our book group as we came from many angles when dissecting the storyline. We all agreed that the mum, Rosaleen was a remarkable woman, one not to be crossed, which I’m sure has resonated with us all.

I thought this book was very descriptive – especially the Christmas scene and the effort certain family members go to for that one day. It was evident that between the siblings only some felt they had to help. I did laugh at quite a lot of scenes, mainly because they were funny and lightened the mood of the otherwise slightly depressing family story but also because I could relate to the characters from my own life and those around me.  As ever, they rally round together and prove that family is the best and we all must look out for each other regardless of our circumstances. In my opinion a thoroughly enjoyable book. I will be reading more of her novels. Excellent. 5/5


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Book 21 – We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Memories of 70s TV newsreels confirming that some towns in America were introducing chimpanzees into the family unit, will stick in the minds of those around then to believe it. Beside OurselvesRosemary takes you on her journey and the loss of her family through various means, as she tries to live a normal life after such an interesting childhood full of secrets and disappointments. Karen Joy Fowler excels in creating a world that you will not leave until the last page has been read.

I have just finished reading “We Are Completely Beside Ourselves” and the first thing I will say about the book is that it has greatly increased my vocabulary.  I had to keep stopping and looking up words like oneiric, estrus, stereotaxic and mimesis, etc.
I enjoyed the book in a peculiar sort of way but I found the author always managed to make me feel as if I was only getting half the picture.  She very cleverly (I’m sure she wanted to render us as unsure as Rosemary herself), though rather irritatingly at times, left me with only vague understanding.
I don’t know why but I had the strong feeling that Rosemary in the first few pages was male and, when eventually but quite soon, it became apparent he was a she, I still found it difficult to make the transition.  Whereas when I realised that Fern, Rosemary’s sister, was a chimp I accepted it as making absolute sense.
It came across to me very strongly that the family seemed not to function as a “normal” family group but that Fern had become the centre of the group, influencing all around her and most of all Rosemary, so much so that she couldn’t ever live an “ordinary” life thereafter, being in her own mind part primate.  Her brother’s whole life purpose was influenced by Fern in that he spent the rest of his life after Fern was taken away, protesting against animal experimentation.  Yet Fern was only part of their family group for 5 years!  After their separation Rosemary endured a lifelong feeling of being a misfit as it appeared that Fern did too as she didn’t fit into the norm for a female member of the chimp group but took control and became the superior group leader over the dominant male, totally out of character to normal chimp behaviour.
In all, the book was a very complicated “start in the middle” story that achieved the author’s goal, I believe, of rendering the reader unsure where they would be going next and cementing the idea that no good comes from messing with nature and one’s natural environment. 3.5/5

Every so often a book comes along and surprises you. This is definitely one of those books. Hooked from the very beginning, I didn’t guess the surprise until it was written out mid-way through the book. The whole story took on a completely different meaning from them on. Amused and saddened by the life the MC has led and is still trying to live just added to the fascinating story and made me want to read more and more. Life has a way of throwing things at you when you’re young, things you don’t really understand that can affect you throughout your adult life. It really made me stop and think. A dangerous past-time for some but a necessary one to understand the world we live in. 4/5

TOTAL SCORE: 24.25/35

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Book 20 – The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham

The Kennedy clan have always been a family that has interested the world since well Importancebefore Marilyn Monroe sang a fantastic version of happy birthday and Jackie O set the trend for larger sunglasses. This book is written from the point of view of the nanny, Nora Brennan, who was brought into to their home to care for the brood of youngsters destined for the white house and so much more.

Initially, I couldn’t get excited about the book and felt as if I was going to suffer each page I had to turn to get to the end. But, thankfully, it warmed up and the content, if not the writing, kept me going. I, of course, had grown up hearing about the Kennedy Clan and knew, like us, they were a Catholic family and very high profile but I have to say it was a real eye opener to read (although a novel used maybe some poetic licence about the circumstances and reasoning behind the decisions made, particularly the lobotomy) how cruel and calculating Joe and Rose Kennedy were when they thought anything might interfere with their quest to have a son in the White House. To me, they were not good Catholics at all, a disgrace to the name. I have since read up about poor Rose Marie and some of the troubles her brothers and sisters invited/encountered and is it any wonder that they were such a dysfunctional family with that kind of example. The prose wasn’t great in the book but I did warm to the lovable, loving and down to earth story telling of nanny, Nora. 3.5/5

There is a morbid sense of fascination with the elite that adorn our TV’s while watching the news. I loved the way Laurie Graham tackled the events that Nora would have seen in her time with them. A fly on the wall look at one of the world’s most famous families but I wanted more. 3/5 


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