H D Book Club Review – July 2021 ‘Small Pleasures’

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.” Oscar Wilde

This month we chose a complete contrast to our previous book and read ‘Small Pleasures’ by Clare Chambers’ 2020, longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021 and selected for BBC2 ‘Between the Covers’ Book club. It has been described as a word of mouth hit, “almost flawless”, and I personally found it a delightful book.
Continue reading “H D Book Club Review – July 2021 ‘Small Pleasures’”

Hadlow down Book Club Review – June 2021

 ‘The Sympathizer’  by Viet Thanh Nguyen

“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.”

Fifty years ago David Ellsburg risked jail with his sensational leak of Pentagon secrets on the Vietnam War. His only regret now is that he didn’t release them earlier. In tune with the times, this month we have been reading ‘The Sympathizer’ by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a novel about that War and its aftermath and winner of the Pulitzer prize 2016.
Continue reading “Hadlow down Book Club Review – June 2021”

Book Club Review – “Klara and the Sun”

The Sun was always very kind to me. He was always kind to me from the start.

This month’s book is “Klara and the Sun” by Nobel Prize Winner Kazuo Ishiguro. I had looked forward to reading this as I really loved “Never Let me Go” when the book club read it some years ago and I knew that the two books had much in common, with their dystopian setting and their themes of sacrifice, solitude and exploitation. Continue reading “Book Club Review – “Klara and the Sun””

Hadlow Down Book Club Review – April 2021

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Pachinko is a foolish game, but life was not.’

Our book this month was “Pachinko”, by Min Jin Lee, an American Korean who spent time in Japan with her husband. This was one of the most popular choices among writers offering their summer choices to the Irish Times and a runner-up to the National Book Award for Fiction 2017.
Pachinko is a game of chance – a cross between pinball and slot machines in which the managers tilt the pins to make more money. Popular in Japan, but disreputable because of its element of gaming, Pachinko halls were often one way for Korean immigrants to make money, as do three of the main characters in the novel. The title of the book is literal but also metaphoric – life is like the game of Pachinko, especially for despised immigrants like the Koreans in Tokyo.

Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review – April 2021”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review – March 2021

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
Everything ends… doesn’t mean it wasn’t good’.

A few years ago the Book Club read Francis Spufford’s debut picaresque novel ‘On Golden Hill’. Described as a frolicsome, exuberant romp, all of us really enjoyed it and we were therefore keen to read his next novel, Light Perpetual’, a title taken from the Requiem Prayer. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review – March 2021”

Hadlow Down Book Club Review

‘Piranesi’ by  Susannah Clarke

This month we have been reading Susanna Clarke’s ’Piranesi’ (2020)
‘The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite’
I have to admit that I was reluctant to read this book – not my usual sort of thing at all – and to begin with I made slow progress.  However, the beauty of the descriptions and the mystery and suspense that develops drew me in and I found it a rewarding book to read.
It is set in the ‘House’, a fantasy world made up of Halls filled with classical statues.  Some Halls are very beautiful, others are sinister and potentially dangerous.  The Halls are washed by the tides of the sea and periodically high tides cause flooding while clouds drift across the high walls.  Within these Halls lives the narrator known as Piranesi.  He is alone apart from ‘the Other’ who he believes also lives in the House and who meets him twice a week for research.  Sometimes the Other brings Piranesi gifts, like shoes, vitamin pills, a ham and cheese sandwich. Continue reading “Hadlow Down Book Club Review”

January Book Club Review


This month we have been reading Anne Tyler’s ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road’, one of the shorter and more bittersweet of her novels but, nevertheless, quietly profound and longlisted for the Booker Prize.

It is about Micah Mortimer:- a man in his 40s, the youngest of a chaotic family of sisters; the only one to go to university and then have a professional job, but who opted out of corporate life and now scrapes a living running a one-man computer repair business and caretaking his block of flats, giving him free accommodation. His family regard him with affectionate bewilderment.
Continue reading “January Book Club Review”

‘Gilead’ by Marilyn Robinson – Book Club Review

“Existence seems to me now the most remarkable thing that could ever be imagined”

 During this lockdown the Book Club has been reading “Gilead” by Marilyn Robinson, published in 2004 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2005, often on lists of best or most influential books.
I think that Barack Obama gives one of the most succinct summaries in his interview with the author for New York Review of books (2015) ‘One of my favourite characters in fiction is a pastor in Gilead , Iowa, named John Ames, who is gracious and courtly and a little bit confused about how to reconcile his faith with all the various travails that his family goes through. And I just fell in love with the book.’
It takes the form of a journal and memoir, as written in 1956 and is addressed to the narrator’s seven- year- old son.  John Ames is 76, ill with angina and wishes to leave something of himself to his son.  He has led a lonely life: his wife and baby daughter having died many years ago.  In old age he married a young woman, a wanderer of little education but has wisdom and sensitivity.  Some of the loveliest passages in the book are as Ames watches his young son and his wife together. Continue reading “‘Gilead’ by Marilyn Robinson – Book Club Review”

Book Review – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

 If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.”

 Imagine a world where there is no illness or suffering; where embryos are created in test-tubes and raised in hatcheries – their caste determined by the chemicals the State injects into them, brainwashed as they sleep. Where the concept of family, mother or one sexual partner is repugnant – ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ – and death itself is sanitised and painless. Where doubts and worries are soothed by ‘soma’, which creates virtual worlds, and where games and lighthearted play are constantly encouraged; solitude and books actively discouraged.
Continue reading “Book Review – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley”

Book Review – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrel

He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass green turf,
At his heels a stone.    Hamlet, Act IV, scene v

“A wonderful book”; “I absolutely loved it”; “I started to re-read it immediately” – these were some of the book club’s comments on this month’s book ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell which has just won this year’s Women’s prize for Fiction.
Hamnet (another way of spelling Hamlet) was Shakespeare’s son, one of a twin with his sister Judith.  Little is known of him but he died in 1596 aged 11, and four year’s later his father wrote ‘Hamlet’. This is a fictionalized account of what might have happened. Continue reading “Book Review – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrel”