Book Group 1 – Books Read

About the book and a review

The Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – published 2014

Group’s comments – In April 2020 we read The Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans. It is set in World War Two and the parallels with our present predicament are very evident.   The characters are beautifully drawn with genuine feeling and atmosphere. It is all light-hearted in a serious and difficult time in our history.

To be safe from the bombing, evacuees are sent to St Albans.  Noel a ten year old boy from an unconventional background is such a case.  He suffered from polio as a young child, so when the selection comes no one wants a child with a limp.  Eventually Vee takes pity and takes him in.  Noel is very intelligent but only speaks when he needs to.  The household consists of Vee’s mother, who spends all her time writing letters to the leaders of the country giving advice.  She is not as batty as she seems.

Then there is Vee’s son, Donny.  He seems a bit simple at first but don’t be taken in: he is into a really good scam.  He has a heart murmur, so he advertises to take the army draft for someone wanting to dodge it, for a large sum of course.  Noel and Vee also are on the make, but that is really only to pay the bills of which there are many.  Their scam is to make house to house collections for the various war efforts.

The real villain of the piece is the air raid warden.  Now he really is a nasty man- stealing from bombed houses.  It is Noel to the rescue, when he recognises the stolen suffragette medals in a pawn shop belonging to a lady, with dementia, from whom they were ‘collecting’.

Diary of a Medieval Lady by Philippa Moseley – published 2005

Group’s comments – If you are interested in local history and the status of women at that time, then this is the book for you.  Set locally and deals with the bloody War of the Roses.

In 1411, ten-year-old Elizabeth Courtenay, the intellectually precocious and lively daughter of the Earl of Devon, starts to keep a diary in a light-hearted fashion as a relief from household tasks and embroidery. Little does she realise then that as an adult she will go on, not only to record the difficult day-to-day life of a Lady of the Manor, but also an extraordinary series of misfortunes and disasters.

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes – published 2017

Group’s comments –  This was our book choice in October 2020.  Our general opinion of the book was that it was quite a good read but too long at over four hundred pages.  The title was misleading as it was not a murder done to or by the Mitfords and she was using the Mitford name to gain interest.

It was in fact a real murder and the victim was a nurse who had served in the First World War called Florence Shore.  In real life the murder was never solved but in the book it was committed by Mabel and her accomplice.  As Mabel was a real person we wondered how her family felt about her taking the blame.

Sixteen year old Nancy Mitford is determined to solve the murder and goes to unlikely lengths to do so.  I know the Mitford were an extraordinary family for the 1900s but all the same.

One of the less credible characters, with the unlikely name of Louisa for a washer woman’s child, is appointed under nursery maid and collaborates with Nancy to solve the murder and behaves in a too sophisticated way for uneducated girl.

We don’t think the merging of fact and fiction blends well.  There are two more books in the same genre but we won’t will be reading them.

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson – published 2018

Group’s comment – We all loved it.

Inspired by a true story, The Sealwoman’s Gift evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place. Icelandic History brought to life makes this a very moving, believable and enjoyable read.   In 1627 Barbary pirates raided the coast of Iceland and abducted some 400 of its people, including 250 from a tiny island off the mainland.

Enslaved in an alien Arab culture, Ásta, the pastor’s wife, meets the loss of both her freedom and her children with the one thing she has brought from home: the stories in her head.  The Sealwoman’s Gift is about the eternal power of storytelling to help us survive.

The Words in my Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd – published 2016

Group’s comment – This is a marvellous book combining little known facts with fictional bits to fill out the story. We recommend it to anyone who likes history and a good story.

This historical novel is the reimagined true story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in 17th century Amsterdam working for an English bookseller.  One day a mysterious and reclusive lodger arrives – the Monsieur – who turns out to be Rene Descartes.  This is the author’s first novel, it is available in hardback, paperback and as an e-book.

Book Group 1 – Authors