Book club

Whitley WI Book Club (WI members only)

Our Book Club meet on the Monday following the main WI meeting at 10 am in Whitley Village Hall – please look on the calendar to check details.

Helen Carey leads the group and we usually choose a book for the month and order multiple copies from Stockton Heath library for our members to share. There are usually between 6 and 12 people at our meetings and we always start with tea/coffee and biscuits.

Members take turns lead the discussion on the book we have just read and everyone there has the opportunity to say what they thought of the book. This often promotes some lively discussion on the specific book and also the wider issues that it raises. We each score the book out of 10 so we have some means of comparing the different books read.

We then go around the room and each member shares an overview of different books that they have read during the month, giving us lots of ideas for wider reading. Helen takes notes about these and circulates includes these in her review of the meeting which is emailed out to book club members.

Our next meeting – Mon 8th April at 10.00 am

Our book is Outbreak by Frank Gardner

A very well attended meeting discussed ‘The Forgotten Sister’ by Caroline Bond.The story was about an adopted girl and the discoveries she made as a teenage. It provoked a great deal of discussion about the book, the choices characters made, and the wide implications of the story. One of our most popular books in recent months.

Our book for this month was a comedy mystery, The Dead Ringer, an Agatha Raisin Mystery by M C Beaton., one of a 35 book series about an amateur sleuth in a Cotswold village.

The team of bellringers have many disagreements within the team and between other villagers. The outspoken local detective Agatha Raisin, who lives in a nearby village, is drawn into the various events. When a body is found in the crypt the police and the media become involved. This is followed by other murders over the following weeks. The book recounts the interactions between the villagers until the truth behind the murders is finally unravelled. The ‘undercurrent’ of the story is the relationships, and ‘search for love’ between the large cast of characters.

It was probably our most unpopular book ever – a few found some parts worth a read, but most didn’t enjoy it and not everyone finished it. The general view was that there were too many characters, not at all believable and not well written. However, it is clearly a very popular series, adapted as a ‘TV soap’ so maybe we just need to recognise the book as a very lightweight, modern story with humorous if unbelievable characters!

We are carrying out a survey to see which books from the libraries might be the most popular choices, so that everyone has the chance to contribute to our list of books for 2024.

Other books read recently

High Force by L G Frost
I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The Mistake by Katie McMahon
The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
TattleTale by Sarah J Naughton
The Betrayals by Bridget Collin
Tell Me How This Ends by Jo Leevers
The Girls who Disappeared by Claire Douglas
The Lines We Leave Behind by Eliza Graham
A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy
Trump – The Prison Diaries by Lucien Young
The Christmas Postcards by Karen Swan
The Secret Path by Karen Swan
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2024 by Lia Leendertz
Diddly Squat – A year on the Farm by Jeremy Clarkson
Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson
Little Wing by Freya North
The Storm we Made by Vanessa Chan
The Owl: A Biography by Stephen Moss
Atalanta by Jennifer Saint

Several members also reported reading books recently recommended at our Book Club. The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley is proving popular – we may try to get hold of a few copies for members to share.

December 2023

8 of our members met in December to discuss ‘Swallowtail Summer’ by Erica James. Three men had been close friends since childhood and for many years they gathered at Lynston End on the Norfolk Broads to spend the the summer with their wives and children. However this will be the last year, as one of the trio, whose wife drowned in the previous year ,has met a new partner and plans to sell the house and make a fresh start abroad.

They are joined by his new partner’s stepchildren and there is a bittersweet atmosphere. The friends do not take to his new partner or her family , and we also become aware that there have been other tensions within the group, going back many years. The book tells the story of the dramas of the summer, the changing relationships and an ending which includes some new beginnings

Susan Lynch led the discussion on this ‘holiday read’ book and group members had very different opinions. Some found it drawn out, not well written, and irritating, others really enjoyed the book and would recommend it.

Other books read recently
A number of these had been recommended by members in previous months

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
An Inspector Calls by J B Priestley
Murder at the Winterbottom WI meeting
Rotherweird by Andrew Caldicott
A Murder Inside by Frances Brody
What You are Looking for is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie Farrell
A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

November 2023

We had expected to have a guest author for this meeting, but unfortunately that had to be cancelled. Instead members were invited to talk about a ‘classic’ that they had read.

10 members had a lively and very interesting discussion, bringing back memories for many of us. Classics may suggest a little ‘boring’ and ‘old fashioned’ – but most members clearly really enjoyed the books they described – many had been made into films. A very successful meeting.

The classics described were

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – Mary
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett – Jean
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Mary
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – Susan L
Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett – Jonty
A Town like Alice by Nevil Shute – Pat
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Helen

Other books read
Fathers and Sons by Richard Madeley
Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Secrets at Maple Syrup Farm by Rebecca Raisin
Summerland by Lucy Adlington
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapdine
The Holiday by T M Logan
Murders at the Winterbottom Women’s Institute by Gina Kirkham
The Silk Roads – A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan
A Murder Inside by Frances Brody
A Secret Garden Affair by Erica James

October 2023

11 book club members met in October and we discussed The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The book records the village’s life and dramas through the war years from different people’s perspective. The women of the village form a new choir which helps them support each other and deal with various village dramas. Individuals mature and build different relationships as the story unfolds

Jean led the discussion and most members enjoyed the book, as a fairly light read which gave an interesting insight into the war years, and also into village life. Some members remember living through the war years and could relate to the account of those times. We had an very interesting discussion and gave the book a score of 7.6 out of 10.

Other books read

Mrs Fytton’s Country Life by Mavis Cheek
Almodis by Tracey Warr
Small Things by Claire Keegan
The Clinic by Sally Anne Martyn.
My Father’s Son by Alan Cummings
The Husband’s Secret by Leanne Moriarty
The Secret Barrister by Anon
The Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
The Home Front by Kristin Hannah
Castles in the Air by Judith Corbett
A Murder Inside by Frances Brody
The Coffin Maker’s Garden by Stuart Macbride
Various Lucinda Riley books
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.
The Dirty
South by Alex Wheatle
The Last letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes
A Trick of Light by Louise Penny
Days at the Morisake Bookshop by Satoshi Yagisawa

September 2023

At our September meeting we had agreed to discuss poems that we enjoyed, rather than a specific book. Unfortunately a number of our regulars were unable to attend but 5 of us had a very interesting discussion about our chosen poems/poets and why we enjoyed them. 3 other members who couldn’t be there sent in their choices.

Many traditional poems featured – our schooldays obviously had some influence on our memories of poems – almost all of our poems were written before 1900.

The chosen poems were
The Mock Turtle’s song by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
‘Autumn ‘ by Walter de la Mare (1873 – 1956)
‘London’ and ‘The Sick Rose’ by William Blake (1757 – 1827)
‘Spring Goeth all in White’ by Robert |Bridges (1844 – 1930)
‘Spring’ by William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)
‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning (1812-1889)
‘A Smuggler’s Song’ by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1889)
‘The Roman Centurion’s Song’ by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1889)
‘A Spaniel called Beau’ by William Cowper (1731 – 1800)
‘The Pyracantha Anthem’ by Pam Ayres (1947 – )
‘Sea Fever’ by John Masefield (1878-1967)

Other books read

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
The Clinic by Sally-Anne Martyn
The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton
44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
One Moment by Linda Green
Love, Pamela by Pamela Anderson
An Italian Girl in Brooklyn by Santa Montefiore
The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley
The next Whitley WI Book Club meeting is on Monday October 9th 2023 in Whitley Village Hall at 10.00. The book is the Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan.

Just a reminder that the November Book Club meeting will be in the afternoon of November 6th, 1.30 for 2.00pm with a talk by local author Jaquie Farrell.

July 2023

This book took us back to Elizabethan times and the relationship between the successful playwright William Shakespeare and his younger brother Richard.

The first written scripts of the plays are stolen, and Richard bravely decides to try to retrieve these – with an unfulfilled promise from William to give him the role of Romeo when the new play is performed.

The reader is drawn into the relationships within the theatre company and the violence, poverty, cruelty and appalling social conditions of Elizabethan times.

Most members found the book a little heavy-going.

June 2023

Our June book was You People by Nikita Lalwani and 8 of us met to discuss the book and Helen welcomed Susan M who joined us for the first time.. Most people found it difficult to get into the book, but learnt a lot about issues related to illegal refugees, the problems they face and the pressures of being away from their families while trying to build a new life. Tuli runs a restaurant in London, and, on the surface, goes out of his way to help disadvantaged people, who had become separated from their families. He seems to build close relationships with those he is helping, including several illegal immigrants who staff the restaurant.

Helen read Susan L’s useful analysis of the book, which opened our eyes to the possibility that Tuli was actually a drug dealer and his workers became victims of ‘modern slavery’. Most of us had to read the book twice to fully understand what was going on, and agreed it was not a book we would have chosen to read had it not been for Book Club.We had a really good discussion about the many issues raised and gave the book a score of 7.2

Other books read

The Wind that Shakes the Barley by James Barke
Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
The Vatican Secret by David Leadbetter
Holy Island by LJ Ross
Things go Flying by Shari Lapena
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton was NOT recommended
His and Hers by Alice Feeney
Daughters in Law by Joanna Trollope
The Second Sight of Zachery Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

April 2023

8 of our members met in April to discuss The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous. The average score given was 7.3.

Jean usually does some notes giving a synopsis of the book, and a list of the main characters. For this book she produced a second set, linking the characters in the 2 different time zones and members found this very useful for this rather complex story.

Feelings about the book were mixed. Many of the members did not feel the book was well written, found it a bit confusing and didn’t like the different time zones and sections in italics

Several members felt the book needed reading twice to fully understand the plot. Betty got over the time zone problems by reading the 1988 sections first, and then went back to the beginning and enjoyed the book!

Other books read

Short story by Peter James
The Covent Garden Ladies by Hallie Rubenhold
The Marriage Act by John Marr
The Gambling Man by David Baldicci
Electra by Jennifer Saint
The Wind that Shakes the Barley by James Barke
The Golden Mole by Katherine Rundell
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

March 2023

Our book this month was The Marlow Murder Club by Richard Thorogood – some of you may know him as author of the popular BBC series ‘Death in Paradise’

Judith Potts is 77yrs old and happily lives alone in a faded mansion in Marlow, sets crosswords for The Times, and there’s no man in her life to tell her what to do or how much whisky to drink. One evening she witnesses a brutal murder. When the local police don’t believe her story, Judith and two unlikely friends decide to investigate for themselves – they become the Marlow Murder Club. After 2 more murders, they untangle the puzzle and solve the crime.

At the start of the meeting, Chris circulated an interesting article by journalist Rachel Halliwell, which gave an insight into the author’s inspiration for his three main characters, Judith, Suzie and Becks. Opinions on the book varied – generally members found it light and entertaining, but without a lot of depth to it and not a lot of development of the characters. It was a similar style to Richard Osman’s books. The average score was 7

Other books read

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart
Godmersham Hall by Gill Hornby
Almodis: The Peaceweaver by Tracey Warr
A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Granchester Grind by Tom Sharpe
Murder in Mind by Lyndon Stacey
A Killing in November by Simon Mason
A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail
Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan
Still Life by Louise Penn

February 2023

The Kindness Project by Sam Binnie

Alice’s estranged mother dies in Cornwall and Alice, as sole beneficiary, visits Polperran Village to sort out the estate. She has been left a strange bequest – different tasks to help several villagers. Each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, and she makes close friends in the process. Several were struggling with mental health problems which added another dimension to the story.

Mary led the discussion and there were diverse opinions about the book. Some members enjoyed the book and others struggled with it, finding it rather long winded but found the ending satisfactory. Members enjoyed the descriptive writing about Cornwall and village life and found the interaction between characters interesting.

We had a long and interesting discussion, found plenty to talk about and it raised many questions and issues. We scored it 6.6 out of 10

The next Book Club Meeting is on Monday, March 6th 2023 at 10.00 am in Whitley Village Hall. The book is The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood.

Other books read

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell
Lights Out Liverpool by Maureen Lee
Small Things Like These by Clare Keegan
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini
The Wedding Guest by Jonathan Kellerman
An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz
The Clinic by Sally-Anne Merlyn

December 2022

Jean led the discussion on ‘Force of Nature’ by Jane Harper. Most members found it difficult to get into, but it got better towards the end – rather longer than it need to be was a common thread. The book is set in South Australia and centres around a company ‘team building weekend’, ending in the death of one of the team members.

The company organising the event were thought to be extremely negligent in not providing contingency plans. We discussed the 3 different stories going on

  • the previous relationship between Alice and Lauren while at school, where Lauren was bullied by Alice
  • the relationship between the 5 members of the group on the trip
  • the relationship between Alice’s daughter (Margo) and Lauren’s daughter (Rebecca), where the bullying pattern repeated itself

We gave the book a score of 6.7

Other books read

When Life gives you Lemons by Fiona Gibson
Blackeyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
The Man I think I know by Mike Gayle
The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak
My Pen is the Wing of a Bird by 18 Afghan women
The House across the Street by Wesley Pierce
The Wedding Dress by Danielle Steel
The Wood by John Lewis-Stemper
Mothers and Daughters by Erica James
The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

Jean shared copies of the next book – ‘The Kindness Project’ by Sam Binnie. This will hopefully be a relaxing change from the psychological thriller and detective genre we have read recently. We will not be having a January meeting so will discuss this book at our meeting on Feb 6th.

2023 Books

January – no meeting
February – The Kindness Project by Sam Binnie – Score 6.6 out of 10
March – The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood – Score 7
April – The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous
May – no meeting
June – New People by Nikita Lalwami

Previous years

2022 Books

The list below shows the books that we read each month during 2022 and includes the scores that we gave each of the books (when we remembered to score them!):
January – The Secret Wife by Gill Paul – Score 7-8
February – I See You by Clare Macintosh
March – Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
April – The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl
May – Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton – Score 7-8
June – Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie – Score 8
July – The Map of Us by Jules Preston – Score 7.5
August – The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick – Score 7.2
October – The Silver Road by Stina Jackson – Score 6
November – An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
December – Force of Nature by Jane Harper – Score 6-7

New members very welcome

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