Category Archives: bookclub

Wake – Anna Hope


Set over five days in November 1920, Wake follows the lives of 3 women in the aftermath of the First World War, in the run up to the burial of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey. It focuses on the effect of the war on the women left behind, and the general disruption to society in the years afterwards.

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Wake manages to get across the feeling of collective grief felt by society after the war, and the dreadful situations many people found themselves in, particularly the poor soldiers who were traumatised, then abandoned by the government shortly after they returned home.

The chapters are interspersed with the story of the Unknown Warrior: the finding of a suitable body, the process of transporting it from France, and finally the burial. I liked how this linked the different stories, with it being the big news of the day, all the characters discuss it.

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The three main stories in the book are about Hettie, a dancer at the Hammersmith Palais, whose brother has returned from the war a broken man. Evelyn, who lost her lover during the war and is now living a very grey existence without him. Finally, Ada whose son is missing, presumably dead, but she never received an official letter about him.

The stories of these women mean that a large cross section of the whole society are covered by the story. Different age groups and classes are all involved, and all are broken by the war in different ways.

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Wake was chosen by my book club as we would be meeting near Remembrance Day. I really enjoyed in and was particularly glad to not have to read a book about how grim life in the trenches was. It was nice to read about how grim life in the UK could be after the war. 😀

The burial of the Unknown Warrior gives a potentially depressing book a more hopeful ending as it signifies the start of a collective healing for society and for some of our main characters. I really enjoyed Wake and would definitely recommend it.

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Miss Nightingale’s Nurses – Kate Eastham

Ada Houston’s brother, and only surviving family, goes missing on Liverpool Docks. As she strongly suspects he has ended up on a ship to the Crimea, she follows and ends up becoming a nurse, helping the wounded of the Crimean War. Set in the 1850s, through Ada’s journey we find out about the origins of nursing as a profession, and about the Crimean War. It’s a really enjoyable read and I learnt loads from it too.

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breakfast.

In all honesty, I would never have picked this book to read in a million years. It doesn’t have a cover that appeals to me – it slightly makes me judge it and want to run away. I read it because it was chosen for a book club I’m in. And even more interestingly, Kate Eastham IS IN THE BOOK CLUB. No pressure then… I approached it with trepidation, but genuinely enjoyed it. I’m not even just being nice. It’s a really good book. The book club discussion was also really good because Kate was there (BRAVE!) and so we learnt a lot about the process of getting published too. It was a great night at book club!

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theming my picture with some NURSING STUFF

Ada Houston is a great character. She’s strong and quite feisty, without it being over the top. I loved the ending, which I won’t spoil here, but let’s just say that I was dreading one thing happening, and that thing didn’t happen, and I was very happy. Hahaha. She encounters Florence Nightingale briefly, on her way to the front. There she has a lot more to do with Mary Seacole.

I didn’t really know anything about Mary Seacole before reading Miss Nightingale’s Nurses, or much about the Crimean War at all. Coincidentally, my five year old daughter has been learning about Mary Seacole at school, and she saw the cover of Miss Nightingale’s Nurses and asked if the lady on the cover was Mary Seacole! I mean, no clearly not, but she recognised the type of nurses outfit from the Crimean War times. She then went on the tell me some facts about Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale (like before them, you could just do a job if you decided to, and then afterwards you had to be trained. They made hospitals clean. Florence had a lamp. And they were from 200 THOUSAND years ago. So close). So yeh, this book provided some sort of idyllic, educational moment in my household. Ha!

 

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That chocolate was completely EPIC.

Ada’s adventure allows us to travel right to the front and get fully involved in some Crimean War action. We get to find out about the horror of war for the soldiers, and also for the supporting people like the doctors and nurses. It’s definitely not a sanitised look at the effects of war – there are some quite detailed medical bits in this book! But above all else, it’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it.

This is the first in a series of books that are all generally themed around the history of nursing. The next book is about nursing after the Crimean War, in Liverpool. Where the Nightingale nurses came home and became established in hospitals.  I think this one will be interesting too!

 

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

The Music Shop is a sweet love story about a nice man who runs a music shop, and an unusual German lady.

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Frank, the shop owner, also has a special skill. He can tell exactly what music a person needs to listen to. What they *really* need at that moment in their life. And he’s kind. And he will only sell vinyl. He’s very strict about that. But it’s 1988 and vinyl is on its way out.

Franks’s shop is on a little tucked away street of independent shops called Unity Street. There’s a bakers, a funeral parlour, a tattooist, a florist, and a shop for religious iconography. All struggling to survive against the big chains in town. The cast of characters in Frank’s world are great. The other shop owners, and various regulars in the shop, were all quirky enough to be interesting without being unbelievable.

Enter Ilse, the unusual German lady with a green coat who rocks Franks’s world. Ilse is the only person who Frank can’t decide what music she wants.

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I liked The Music Shop. It’s very sweet and it has a quite sweet ending. But the sweet ending also made me feel really quite sad. It was bittersweet. I can’t explain more without giving the plot away.

I struggled to picture Ilse. Not having a picture of her in my mind – age, shape, anything really – made is tricky for me to connect with her character. But I’m now wondering if that was the point… like Frank couldn’t read her… and neither could I… ooh…

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I really liked Frank and his shop though. The (many) descriptions of music were really enjoyable too. Frank seemed like such a sweetheart and I just felt this even more as his childhood, and his relationship with his mother, is revealed to us as we go through the book.

Overall it was a nice read. As a music fan, I loved all the music references, and music chat. But it’s a sweet love story, easy to read, and has some fab characters.

Out of the Blue – Sophie Cameron

Out of the Blue is a sweet YA book about angels falling from the sky and being killed on impact with the ground. They can’t seem to use their wings during the fall. Until one survives and is found by Jaya. Jaya now has to figure out how to hide the angel, and help her get home.

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The story moves along nicely and I liked all the characters involved. I’m not going to spoil the plot here, but we have a dead mother, interfering siblings, disability, gay and bi characters, being foreign, issues with religion, neglectful parents going through a hard time, love, betrayal, cults, and an angel that can only talk in radio 4. There’s a lot going on!

Overall, I liked how this story had good pace and drama. I also really liked the Scottish location, and really liked how the angel picked up phrases from radio 4.

 

Crisis – Frank Gardner

James Bond, but he’s nice and a bit boring. I can’t really write a review for this book. It was for book club and loads of others really liked it, and some people didn’t and I just found it a bit meh.

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I love this about book club – being made to read books I wouldn’t normally pick up. Sometimes it leads me to something I love, and other times it’s just not going to work so well. But I like being made to read away from my comfort zone.

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I’ve struggled so much with this review, that it;s taken me five weeks to write it, and I’ve got four books I’ve read since to review waiting. I realise that I *could* just have skipped it, or wrote the other reviews first… but that is not how my brain likes to do things. So here we are. I can get on with the other reviews now!

Still Me – JoJo Moyes

I’m not going to say a lot about this book. I am definitely not the right person for the series of books this is part of (though I enjoyed the first one, Me Before You). Many, many people love this series, and that is great. They aren’t wrong, this book just isn’t for me.

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I ended up reading it because it was chosen for book club. I had already read the first in the series, but clearly I couldn’t skip the second book (After You), so this as a book club book, actually meant I had to read two books! Two books I didn’t like….. urrrghhhhhhhh…

Our main character is Louisa Clark. While still grieving for Will, and drifting aimlessly, she takes a job in New York as an assistant to a rich lady. We meet her as she arrives in New York having friendly banter with an immigration officer. Because that’s what immigration is exactly like in the USA.

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I did this one as an audio book.

She becomes the assistant of Agnes. I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but she is concerned about men a lot. Then things happen where she feels sorry for herself, but then magical amazing things just land in her god-damned lap.

I get irked by the number of characters who are basic stereotypes, and I don’t really like Louisa either, though her character develops in this book to be more like I wanted her to be from the start!

The saving grace of Still Me is old lady Mrs De Witt. Fiesty, fashionable, ferocious Mrs De Witt. Thank you Mrs De Witt.

The End.

Conclave – Robert Harris

A book about a bunch of old dudes sitting around and choosing the next Pope. Sorry, a THRILLER about choosing a Pope. What?? I was glad this was chosen for book club because I couldn’t see how this book could possibly be as good as everyone said it was.

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I ended up really enjoying Conclave. It makes a nice change to have elderly people as the all the main characters. I wasn’t so enamoured about the dude level of this story, but I can forgive it because at least there was a clear reason for it! The youngest cardinal in the conclave is a sprightly 62, and all the reeeaaalllly old ones (over 80 years old) are not allowed in to vote.

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I liked how the ‘action’ was centred around these old dudes and them having meals, then being shuffled off the the Sistine Chapel for a round of voting or two, then back for a meal, then a bit more voting, then another meal, and to bed! There were some events that happened in the outside world, but it barely affects our conclave of elderly cardinals.

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Having said all that, there builds a real anticipation over events. I almost cried when the next Pope was chosen. As if! Me, a committed atheist, almost moved to tears by a fictional Pope being decided on. Craziness. And of course none of the events are going to be as straightforward as they could be, even if a few things were a little predictable, not everything was.

I’ve also learned more than I could possible want to know about the choosing of a Pope. I ended up on a Wikipedia adventure after the Pope who exploded is mentioned. And I now know more than I could ever want to know about Cardinal clothes.