The Book Club

Are you an avid reader? Or perhaps new to the village. Did you know we have a flourishing Book Club?

The book club started about 15 years ago with just 3 members and our first novel was ‘the Girl With a Pearl Earring’. Since then we have grown into a small but enthusiastic group of committed readers. We meet monthly in different members houses for book discussion and a bit of gossip over a glass of wine. Books are chosen democratically: someone suggests a book which we may vote on. We aim to read widely — modern literary books, some classics and, occasionally, a thriller or a biography. We want to enjoy our reading but sometimes to challenge ourselves and read something we may otherwise not have thought of.To find out more about the Village Book Club contact Heather.
Activity Address Rose Cottage and various venues
Name of Contact Heather Mines
Contact Address Rose Cottage, Hall Lane, Hadlow Down, TN22 4HJ
Telephone 07974 204231
Email Address

Hadlow Down Book Club Review


Lancaster author Carys Davies photographed by Jonathan Bean

West  (2018)

‘The dizzying weight of the earth and everything in it and beyond it’

In contrast to our last read, the long novel Middlesex, this month we read the novella West, the first novel by an award winning short story  writer and poet, Carys Davies. Although slim, the book deals with big, some say, mythic themes., exploring our relationship with the environment. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review”

Hadlow Down Book Club Reviews

Firefly Henry Porter 2018.

Firefly is a political spy thriller, set in the world of refugees fleeing from Syria and ISIS. Naji is a brilliant thirteen-year-old who escapes from a refugee camp in Greece and makes his way across Europe with information vital to ISIS. He is pursued by a ruthless ISIS gang but also by a British agent, working for MI5 who want the same information.
The flight is beset by dangers which Naji uses his wits to evade. He encounters cruelty and suffering but also kindness and generosity, often from those who have little to give.
Henry Porter is a journalist. His novel is well-researched and shows his first-hand knowledge of the subject. He brings conditions in the refugee camp vividly to life as well as the dangers and suffering involved by those fleeing and the bureaucratic difficulties they face.
The novel is certainly a good page-turner but it is also a thought provoking book, very relevant at the moment –‘ a glimpse with a terrifying and random world in which there are few happy endings.’ (Guardian)


Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (2002)

Our next novel was a complete contrast – a family saga covering three generations of a Greek family, who flee from a tiny village in Asia Minor to prohibition-era Detroit, escaping from the Turks’ brutal invasion of Smyrna.
The novel tells the story of its narrator, Calliope Stephanides who has an intersex condition known as 5-alpha reduction deficiency so that she is born a girl but is realized to be biologically male at puberty and becomes ‘Cal’. This syndrome results from a recessive genetic mutation occurring only among inbred populations and the novel uncovers the family secret that caused it.
As an omniscient narrator Cal tells the story of past generations and then her own life, spanning nearly eight decades. Partly based on Eugenides’ own family history we learn of the experiences of Graeco-Americans in turbulent times in the United States – prohibition, race riots, Malcolm X and the Islamic movement.
When he becomes a boy, Cal moves away to San Francisco, and after mishaps along the road and sleeping rough, finds work in a peep show that displays people with ambiguous gender. Eventually he returns home for his Father’s funeral where his Grandmother confesses to the incestuous relationship that led to the gene that was passed to Cal and Cal determines to live a good life, eventually moving to Berlin where he  starts a relationship with a woman
This is a dense novel which took the author 9 years to complete.  However, he writes with a light touch and the novel is both funny and poignant with a touch of magic realism. Although some of the group felt there was too much detail, the majority of us enjoyed it and felt we had learnt a lot.

Next book ‘West’ by Carys Davies

Hadlow Down Book Club Review for March

Words define us, they explain us, and on occasion, they serve to control or isolate us.’

We think of a dictionary as giving objective, authoritative definitions of words, based on their usage and written sources. This is not entirely the truth, however – they also reflect the dominant culture. In this month’s book The Dictionary of Lost Words (2022) Pip Williams gives an account of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary – the first dictionary since Samuel Johnson’s (1755). Work began in 1857 and it was published in full in 1928. Her novel explores those words that are omitted or inadequately defined. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review for March”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review for February

An act of free and general pardon, indemnity, and pardon.”
Last month we read The Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris (2022), a historical thriller set in the 17th century in the aftermath of the Restoration. The Act of Oblivion (1652) was the edict that pardoned those who had fought against the king except for those directly responsible for his execution. One of the most prominent of these was Colonel Edward Whalley, a cousin and friend of Oliver Cromwell, who fled to America with his son-in-law Colonel Will Goffe. The novel follows their pursuit through the wilds of pre-revolutionary New England. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review for February”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review – December

 Grief “like sliding down the outside of a really long glass building while nobody can see you”.

The book group has followed the Lucy Barton novels by Elizabeth Strout so we were interested to read the third in the Amgash series Oh William! (2022) which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year. Amgash was of course the remote settlement where Lucy grew up in abject poverty and in an abusive home before marrying William, moving to New York and becoming a successful novelist. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review – December”

Book Club Review – November

I’ve always believed in inherited pain’

This month our chosen book is The island of Missing Trees by the Turkish writer Elif Shafak, shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022. It is about the Cypriot civil war and how the trauma of such a war imperils future generations as well as uprooting ordinary lives. It is also a Romeo and Juliet story of the passionate love affair between Kostas, a Greek Cypriot and Defne a Turkish Cypriot and it centres on the story how their daughter Ada comes to terms with the past she has never known. Continue reading “Book Club Review – November”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review

We had our usual summer holiday free choice of books in August and an interesting and diverse number to discuss ranging from 18th century to July 2022 and encompassing Africa, Venice and indeed the entire planet.

A Journey to the Western Isles of Scotland Samuel Johnson (1775), a weighty account of his eighty day journey through the Highlands and Islands, full of witty insights and powerful moral judgements. He is more interested in the social conditions with Enclosures just beginning but shows an 18th century lack of interest in the scenery.

Donna Leon’s novels set in Venice featuring the likeable Commissario Brunetti. If you haven’t read these novels you are in for a treat with well-rounded interesting characters, good plots and of course descriptions of wonderful food against the Venetian backdrop. If you want to read them in order start with Death at La Fenice (1992) but the novels get better as the characters develop. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review”

Hadlow Down Book Club’s August Reviews

Rebecca Stott’s “In the Days of Rain: a Daughter, a Father, a Cult”
Tara Westover’s ‘Educated’
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you: 2 Corinthians 6.17.

It seems that Jackie Kaye’s book gave us a taste for literary memoir so this month we chose Rebecca Stott’s “In the Days of Rain: a Daughter, a Father, a Cult” (2017) winner of the Costa Biography Award 2017, and also, as a comparison, Tara Westover’s “Educated”. It proved to be an interesting comparison, Stott’s book is an account of growing up in and breaking away from the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren, a deeply repressive fundamentalist Sect/ Cult , and Westover’s is also about growing up and breaking away but from an abusive survivalist Mormon family.
Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club’s August Reviews”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review for July 2022

What makes us who we are’

It is rare that everyone really loves a chosen book, but this month we were unanimous in our enjoyment of the Scottish Poet Laureate, Jackie Kaye’s memoir Red Dust Road (2010). Jackie’s birth father was Nigerian, and her mother came from the Highlands of Scotland, but she was the adoptive daughter of Helen and John Kaye, leading figures of the Scottish Communist Party. They gave her a warm loving upbringing but when Jackie herself became pregnant the found the need to find her birth parents became overwhelming. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review for July 2022”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review – June 2022

I live my life in widening circles/ that reach out across the world’ Rilke

Our book this month was one of the Mann Booker short-listed books, Great Circle (2021), by Maggie Shipstead, also short-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022. Referred to as ‘a ride of a book’, it was at times exhilarating although the book club’s members sometimes found it to be a rather bumpy ride. It was an ambitious novel on a grand scale, spanning a full century and the entire planet. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review – June 2022”