Book Group

The venue where we meet has changed. We will still meet on the fourth Wednesday of each month, the new venue is upstairs at The Swan, Dobcross. Discussion starts promptly at 7.30 pm.

You are welcome to join us. Come along and see what it’s all about, even if you haven’t read the book for the month.
If you are interested in knowing more about this sub group please contact Angela Darvill and Lesley Lewis at [email protected]

Please ask at one of our meetings if you would like to be added to our Book Group WhatsApp.

The Book Group is available to Saddleworth WI members only.


Tuesday January 23rd
The Machine Stops by E.M Forster (Ansuya Patel)

The story describes a world in which most of the human population has lost the ability to live on the surface of the Earth. Each individual now lives in isolation below ground in a standard room, with all bodily and spiritual needs met by the omnipotent, global Machine. the story conjures a world of individual humans isolated in such rooms They pass the time by streaming lectures and videoconferencing as the titular tends to their every need. It is a world in which everything — music, food, even your bed — is summoned by the click of a button.

Due to storm Jocelyn our January meeting was held on Zoom! Fifteen members logged on to discuss The Machine Stops by E M Forster, and a further 10 members had previously submitted their thoughts and scores. It didn’t go unnoticed that it was ironic we were using modern technology to discuss this science fiction short story, written over 100 years, which was based around the reliance on technology! Many people drew links between the situations faced by the main characters and and our own social isolations during recent lockdowns. The book was thought provoking and generated mixed reviews – scores ranged from 1.0 – 5.0! 

“It seemed just as relevant now even though it was written so long ago”
“This was something I wouldn’t have read without the book club”
“I was glad it was a short book”

The book scored 3.5. 

February 28th
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Susan Newton)

A woman who raised herself in the marshes of the Deep South becomes a suspect in the murder of a man with whom she was once involved.

Abandoned by her family, Kya Clark, otherwise known to the townspeople of Barkley Cove as the Marsh Girl, is mysterious and wild.


22 members attended the great new venue upstairs at the Swan Inn, Dobcross. Thanks to Sharon the landlady for accommodating us.

The book is set in the salt marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s. There was consensus that this book was a really good read, and it was well written. The book dealt with some challenging issues such as isolation, racism, discrimination, abandonment, vulnerability, and abuse. The books main character Kaya experienced some of all these issues in her life and her relationships with others were difficult, however she did experience love and sensitivity from Tate, Jumping and Mabel. We had a lengthy discussion about the characters, the only negative point was perhaps that some of the issues explored may have not been fully believable.

The author clearly brought her detailed knowledge and love of the natural environment to the book. The descriptions of this were enjoyed by everybody.

Most people didn’t expect the twist at the end but felt what Kaya did was understandable.
The book scored highly overall with a final score of 4.6

March 27th
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (Margaret Thompson)

One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbours—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life.


17 people attended the meeting and six people gave reviews online.  

There was a lively discussion about the book with members really enjoying and learning about the historical context of the Great Depression, the Dust bowl era and the migration of families in adversity.  

The characters were well liked particularly the strong women characters and their resilience, friendships, and fortitude. The issue of the way the migrants were treated and the conditions they found themselves in was incredibly moving. There are parallels of the situation in the world today. We looked at the evocative photographs of the migrant woman by Dorothea Lange.  

Overall people really enjoyed the book although recognising the depressing content was difficult to deal with.  

There were some differences in scores with the overall score being 3.7.  

April 24th
Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Lesley Winrow)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo tells the tale of the 79-year-old main character (Evelyn Hugo) and her life as an actress in the golden age of Hollywood.

Evelyn Hugo is famously reclusive but decides to give one last interview at the age of 79. The catch is that she will only speak to journalist Monique Grant.


17 members attended the meeting to discuss April’s book and eight more sent reviews via the Book Group email.  

The evening’s discussion started by thinking about the merits of Evelyn’s different husbands and which one was our favourite! The central character, Evelyn, was driven to get on at any cost and questions around her happiness and the impact of her actions were also discussed. There were very mixed views about Evelyn and whilst some people empathised with her and her desire to escape her life and better herself others were less sympathetic about the lengths she went to. 

Looking below the surface of the characters there was a thought provoking discussion about how the different characters were living their lives hiding their identity and the prejudice portrayed in the book. Whether this was Evelyn’s denial of her racial background, the prejudice behind the false assumption of Monique’s father’s guilt or the judgements towards the LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood at that time.  Like other books discussed this year the group debated the extent to which these attitudes have changed today. 

The overall score for this book was 3.3.  

May 22nd
The Accident Man by Tom Cain (Alison Blackman)

The job is to organise a car crash in a Paris underpass.

But Carver is being set up. When he discovers the real identity of his target, and more importantly the identity of the target’s female companion, he knows one thing – his life is over.


The Accident Man by Tom Cain

Thirteen members braved the dreadful weather to attend the meeting in May with 8 others, who were unable to join us, sending in their review. The book was about a ‘contract killer’ who specialised in making the deaths appear an accident. His latest job was to kill the occupants of a car in a Paris tunnel.

There were many varied opinions of this month’s book but most all members agreed that the level of violence was too much and perhaps unnecessary. Some found it a little distasteful to use the death of Princess Diana as the basis of the story, with the person who ordered the contract and the reason for it both unexpected and interesting.  Several members ‘warmed’ to Sam Carver despite his occupation and some did not. It was felt that the beautiful Russian female was a bit of a cliché.

As is usually the case when some members ‘really enjoyed the book’ whilst others found it ‘not their cup of tea’ a good discussion followed.

With scores ranging from 1 to 4.5 / 5, the overall score was 2.5

June 26th
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (Angela Darvill)

Alice Lindgren has no idea that she will one day end up in the White House, married to the president. In her small Wisconsin hometown she learns the virtues of politeness, but a tragic accident when she is seventeen shatters her identity and changes the trajectory of her life. More than a decade later, when the charismatic son of a powerful Republican family sweeps her off her feet, she is surprised to find herself admitted into a world of privilege. And when her husband unexpectedly becomes governor and then president, she discovers that she is married to a man she both loves and fundamentally disagrees with. As her husband’s presidency enters its second term, Alice must confront contradictions years in the making and face questions nearly impossible to answer.


This month we read Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel, American Wife, based on the life of Laura Bush.

It is the story of a young girl, Alice who accidentally kills the young man she is in love with, and the evolution of her life in the aftermath of that tragedy.  The book is about childhood, family secrets, expectations of being a girl growing up in the 50s and 60s, friendships, ethics and being married to the US president.

14 people attended on a very hot day. 5 reviews and scores were received from people who could not attend.

As usual there were varying opinions about the book. The majority enjoyed the discussions of Alice’s life and her journey from librarian to first lady. Most agreed it was a lengthy book with a great deal of description.

The group felt that the book was written with very close parallels to the life of Laura Bush and some questioned the ethics of this.

Alice marries Charlie who is entirely politically different to herself, we as a group discussed the challenges of this for Alice once her husband becomes president. We  had a lengthy discussion about US politics.

The ending was interesting – finding out that Alice did not vote for Charlie!

Scores ranged from 2 – 4.
Overall score 3.4

July 24th
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (Gill Stott)

The novel presents a fictionalized account of the life of Lucrezia di Medici, the subject of Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.” Little is known about Lucrezia, who died in 1561 at age 16, and O’Farrell’s narrative explores Browning’s suggestion that her husband, Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, murdered her after she failed to produce an heir.

August 28th
Every day by David Levithan (Lelsey Lewis)

Every Day is the story of a 16-year-old entity simply known by the letter A. He wakes up every morning in someone else’s body who is of the same age and geographic area as him. A otherwise has no control over whose body he will enter. Sometimes A wakes up as a boy. A has always been this way and has come to accept it. Until, that is, A ends up inside the body of a boy called Justin and falls for Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon.

September 25th
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Pam O’Ryan)

The story of a mother and son’s desperate attempt to flee Mexico for America.

The mother is a Mexican bookseller who is forced to flee as an illegal immigrant to the United States, along with her son, after her journalist husband exposes a local drug kingpin.

October 23rd
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn (Sue Greenhalgh)

This is a memoir about a married couple who walk the arduous 630-mile South West Coastal Path.

Raynor and her husband, Moth, are in their fifties when they lose their beautiful farmhouse in Wales due to a legal battle.

November 27th
Triflers Need Not Apply by Camilla Bruce (Christine Burbidge)

A fictionalised account of the first recorded female serial killer, Bruce’s brilliantly chilling portrait of Bella Sorensen’s murder spree in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Chicago is a compelling psychological study of a woman determined not to be dictated to by a society of men.

No meeting December


January 25th

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley

The story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to unexpected friendship, and even love.


January’s meeting was very well attended, with 24 members present, most of whom thought the book was an enjoyable, easy read but possibly a bit predictable at the end. One or two members were less enthusiastic, finding the characters and story to be unrealistic and cliched. The lively discussion covered a lot of the topics in the book, such as the power of a sense of community and the pitfalls of social media when badly handled.

“A good holiday read”
“Warm characters”
“Would make a good film”
“Lukewarm about it”

The book scored 3.8.

February 22nd

How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

When Grace Bernard discovers her absentee millionaire father has rejected her dying mother’s pleas for help, she vows revenge, and sets about to kill every member of his family.


Our book for February was How to Kill your Family by Bella Mackie. The meeting was attended by 13 members, with several others sending in their reviews and scores. Many members were fairly indifferent to the book, with others either loving it or not enjoying it at all.

“Didn’t like the main character”
“Good twist at the end”
“Makes you want to find something good in everyone”

The book scored 3.2 (an average of scores ranging from 1 right up to 5!)

March 22nd

Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

Detective Sergeant Manon Bradshaw tries to sleep after yet another soul-destroying Internet date – the low murmuring of her police radio her only solace. Over the airwaves come reports of a missing woman – door ajar, keys and phone left behind, a spatter of blood on the kitchen floor.


Our book for March was 
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. The meeting was well attended by 21 members. Everyone enjoyed the book and a lively discussion took place on the topics raised. The book contained little details about their personal lives that brought the characters to life, something often missing in crime thrillers.

“Guessed the ending which spoilt it a bit”
“Male characters are not painted in a good light”
“Couldn’t put it down”
“Really enjoyed the book”

The book scored 3.9

April 26th

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline so she can keep a closer eye on him. They are meant to be. The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants


Our book for April was The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton.

People felt :-
“There were some funny moments”
“I wanted to find out what happened”
“It made me cross in parts”
“The ending was disappointing

However it led to a lively debate about relationships, stalking, the aviation industry lifestyle.
Score 2.9

May 24th

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

THEN She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.
NOW It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. Then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet. Before too long she’s being introduced to his nine year old daughter, Poppy. Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age….


The book for May was “Then She Was Gone ” by Lisa Jewell.

The book tells the unsettling story of what happens to a young person who goes missing and the impact on her family at the time and then when years later her body is discovered.
It is a dark and distressing story but ultimately the family do find some hope.

Twenty one members attended the meeting and the majority described the book as a real page turner. The book scored 4.2

June 28th

Dissolution by C J Sansom

Henry VIII has ordered the dissolution of the monasteries and England is full of informers. At the monastery of Scarnsea, events have spiralled out of control with the murder of Commissioner Robin Singleton. Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer, and his assistant are sent to investigate.

Our book for June was Dissolution by C J Sansom
This book was described as ‘marmite’ but with the majority of members enjoying it very much. In true Book Group style many of our members would not have chosen to read such an historical novel themselves but most were happy to have done so and several members are planning to read the next book in the series.
The book achieved a score of 3.8 with comments ranging from ‘got bogged down’ to ‘best book this year’.

July 26th

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbour clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment.


Our book for July was A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins.
Members had a lively discussion about this book, a great deal of which centered around the complex characters portrayed. Whilst many felt they didn’t feel empathy for the characters it was agreed that the author was skilled at creating vivid character descriptions.  The book achieved a score of 3.0.

August 23rd

The Man Who Forgot His Wife by John O’Farrell

Lots of husbands forget things: they forget that their wife had an important meeting that morning; they forget to pick up the dry cleaning; some of them even forget their wedding anniversary. But Vaughan has forgotten he even has a wife. Her name, her face, their history together, everything she has ever told him, everything he has said to her – it has all gone, mysteriously wiped in one catastrophic moment of memory loss. And now he has rediscovered her – only to find out that they are getting divorced.


There was lots of laughter and lively discussion from 20 members of the book group discussing the August book John O’Farrell’s ‘The Man Who Forgot His Wife‘.

Many felt it was an uplifting, light hearted read with plenty to chuckle about – especially the frequent one liners! Whilst opinions about the main character, Vaughan, changed throughout the book there was a unanimous opinion that his friend Gary was ‘irritating’ and didn’t give the best marriage guidance advice! 

Alongside the humour the book was thought-provoking and members empathised with Vaughan and how he coped with his memory loss. A question about relationships and seeing “arguments” from different perspectives also generated lots of discussion! The book scored 4.0. As the leprechaun would say “Top o’the mornin’ to yers!

September 27th

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

A beautiful and epic novel that spans nearly a hundred years, The Thread is a magnificent story of a friendship and a love that endures through the catastrophes and upheavals of the twentieth century–both natural and man-made–in the turbulent city of Thessaloniki, Greece.


The book for September was ‘The Thread’ by Victoria Hislop 
Overall, the group members thought this was a very enjoyable and interesting book set in a beautiful location in Greece.  

“The book enlightens the reader with the history and description of Thessaloniki in a story that spans almost a century”  

We had a lengthy discussion of the characters and many empathised with some of them. However, some felt the characters could have had more depth.  
There were sad, moving, and memorable details about the once thriving multicultural city where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in harmony until events divided these families.  

Overall score 4.2

October 25th

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Dear Reader, Enclosed are documents relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. We have reason to suspect that they are innocent, and that there were far darker secrets that have yet to be revealed. We believe that the killer has given themselves away. It’s there in writing, hidden in the emails, texts, and letters.


Twenty members of the book group met to review the October book ‘The Appeal’ by author Janice Hallett. A great deal of the discussion centred around the format of the book and the impact it had upon the reader’s understanding and enjoyment. Opinions were split! It was also interesting to discuss the merits of physically reading the book, listening to it as an audio book or reading on a device.

It was agreed that the author managed to create a sense of suspense around the murder and many members hadn’t identified the murderer until it was revealed at the end. The author also managed to provide some humorous moments which amused the members. In discussing the characters, whilst it was felt the format didn’t really enable readers to get to know them, it was agreed that Issy was manipulative and her twist of allegiance at the end of the book supported this.

The sequel to this novel was discussed, as were the merits of a screen adaptation. Perhaps Lower Lockwood will become the next Midsomer Murders after all!

The book scored 3.4.

November 22nd

Because of You by Dawn French

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock . . . midnight. The old millennium turns into the new. In the same hospital, two very different women give birth to two very similar daughters. Hope leaves with a beautiful baby girl. Anna leaves with empty arms. Seventeen years later, the gods who keep watch over broken-hearted mothers wreak mighty revenge, and the truth starts rolling, terrible and deep, toward them all. The power of mother-love will be tested to its limits.

REVIEW of Because of you by Dawn French.

The meeting was well attended.  Several reviews were shared from members who couldn’t attend. 

The reviews were mixed with some people loving the book and others thinking the story was good in parts but not always credible. There was some empathy for some of the characters especially in relation to the pain of baby loss and the strength of a mothers love. They were differing opinions about the character of the policeman – his language made some laugh but some thought his humour was inappropriate.

The opinion of the beginning and ending was also mixed with some finding it extreme and unbelievable whilst the ending made others cry.  
Overall score 3.

December 6th

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it’s the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel–prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with—of all things—her mind. True chemistry results.

REVIEW of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus.

Without doubt the majority of the group really enjoyed this book.

The group loved the writing and humour in the book and the excellent descriptions of the characters. The members also loved Six Thirty’s role.

A feminist theme runs clearly throughout the book and the members enjoyed this aspect.

The questions generated lots of discussion about the impact of upbringing, parental influences on individuals and the difficulty of fitting in. We explored the position of women in today’s society.

“The book has a fantastic array of believable characters and has some important messages.”
“Elizabeth is a gifted scientist who refuses to conform to the female stereotype of the age, her directness is endearing, and she is fearless.”
“Harriet was really genuine, and a lovely friend and she had a symbiotic relationship with Elizabeth.”

Highest score of the year 4.7


January 26th

Meet me at the Museum by Anne Youngson

Professor Anders Larsen, an urbane man of facts, has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. He does not know that a query from a Mrs Tina Hopgood about a world famous antiquity in his museum is about to alter the course of his life. Youngson’s debut novel which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Awards


“Loved the way the characters developed”
“Felt like an affair by letters – very intense”
“Gentle interesting book”
“Slowed down in the middle”

There were 17 members present and several more sent in reviews and scores, giving a final score of 3.7. Most members enjoyed the book but with reservations. Some interesting and lively discussion followed, on a wide variety of subjects.

February 23rd

How to Play Dead by Jacqueline Ward

A psychological thriller. Ria Taylor is everything to everyone. Wife and mother, the centre of her family. And the manager of a refuge for women whose partners have driven them out of their own homes.


“A chaotic book”
“Impossible to imagine what these women are going through”
“Guessed some of the twists quite early on”
“Harrowing in places”

There were 14 members present and several more sent in reviews and scores, giving a final score of 3.4.
Most members felt that the book was a very worthwhile read but the subject matter meant that it wasn’t an easy read. It sparked a discussion as to whether we, as a WI, could do anything to help women in similar situations.

March 23rd

Twenty Years a Stranger by Deborah Twelves

Is it possible for anyone to really know another person?

Based on astonishing true life events, this book takes you through the ever changing life of Grace and her shocking discoveries.


“Incredulous story”
“Easy read”
“Page turner”

It always adds to the Book Group meeting when the author attends. In March we reviewed a book written by Deborah Twelves – ”Twenty Years a Stranger”. Deborah answered many questions from our members and gave us a little insight into her life. The members enjoyed the twists and turns of the book and the fact that it had a Saddleworth connection made it even more interesting. Thank you very much Deborah, I believe that this is possibly the latest we have ever stayed at a Book Group meeting. We also had a guest from Tytherington Treacle’s WI in Macclesfield, who was in our area visiting a friend who is one of our group.
The book scored 2.9

April 27th

The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations the last thing she expects is builders uncovering a body – two bodies, in fact. Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Nothing Saffy need worry herself over. Until the police launch a murder investigation and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner – her grandmother, Rose.


“I was hooked”
“Easy read”
“Dropped a bit in parts”
“Thought I guessed but was proved wrong”

Eighteen members attended the Book Group meeting and everyone seemed to have enjoyed this thriller with its interchanging characters and timelines. There were several twists and turns which kept the reader guessing right up to the end. The score was 3.95.

May 25th

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

From the exclusive beaches of Monte Carlo to the verdant grounds of Maxim de Winter’s stately home Manderley, where we are transported into a social and psychological world of creeping menace and dark desires.


“I was hooked”
“Well defined characters”
“Beautifully written”
“It draws you in”
“Grips you all the way through”

Eighteen members attended the Book Group meeting and everyone said they enjoyed this gripping classic. The book portrayed a feeling of fear and menace. several people kept changing their opinion of some of the characters as they developed. Several members had seen film versions of Rebecca and felt that they didn’t do justice to the book. The score was a very high 4.75.

June 22nd

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.


This book tells the story of two American families whose lives and fates are deeply interwoven. Steinbeck’s story telling really brings the characters alive and draws you into their world as their joys and tragedies unfold. 

Although only a small number of members were able to attend the meeting several members did post their reviews. On the whole most felt the book deserved the status it holds as a classic novel. The novel received a score of 4.5.

July 27th

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The story of two deeply damaged people, Connell and Marianne, who develop an intense relationship that transcends the norms.
A story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.


The book for July was Normal People by Sally Rooney. This is the story of two emotionally damaged young people set in the modern day.

The book could be described as “marmite,  you either like it or hate it”. This was the view of the group. Some felt it was very emotional and profound, others felt is was dull with no real story or plot. One of the topics of the discussion was ‘are these normal people?’ Perhaps read it and see what you think?

There were 15 members present and the group rated the book 3.3

August 24th

The Binding by Bridget Collins

A tale of forbidden love, buried secrets and unspeakable betrayal. Set against a landscape that is part Victorian gothic and part medieval outlier.


The book for August was The Binding by Bridget Collins. Although not everyone’s cup of tea, the book sparked off some interesting discussions. Some absolutely loved it and others felt it left a lot of interesting topics unexplained. Opinions ranged from ‘a bit strange’, ‘confusing’ and ‘frustrating’ to ‘quite profound’, ‘gripping’ and ‘intriguing’.

There were 15 members present and the group rated the book 3.25

September 28th

1984 by George Orwell

Futuristic purgatory becomes real. A nightmarish vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world, it follows the life of Winston Smith, a low ranking member of ‘the Party’, who is frustrated by the omnipresent eyes of the party, and its ominous ruler Big Brother.


The chosen book for September was George Orwell’s 1984. This is a harrowing book that delivers such a powerful message and a warning of what the world could become. There are many facets to the book which demonstrated the world we live in today. Just look at how big brother is everywhere and the term “false news” is so true today. A lengthy discussion ensued about the content and how relevant the story is today. Lots of examples were used to demonstrate this. 

The meeting was attended by 10 members and scored it at 4.1

October 26th

A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale

Set in Cornwall, paralysed 20 year old Lenny Barnes commits suicide in the presence of priest Barnaby Johnson. The tragedy’s reverberations open up the fault-lines between Barnaby and his nearest and dearest.


Our book for October was A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. The story opens with a suicide and we learn of the family and friends in the life of priest Barnaby Johnson. All members at the meeting enjoyed the book and would be happy to read more from the same author. We thought that the characters were well drawn and with one exception, were very likeable. Some didn’t like that the story was not in chronological order but got used to it.

12 members attended the meeting and the book scored 4.1

November 23rd

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm.


Our book for November was The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris. The general consensus was that it was too sad as a book, with no light relief for any of the characters. Some of the group thought it was well written, but others felt it was too wordy. Many felt it was interesting to hear how the freed slaves coped with their new found freedom, something most of us hadn’t considered before. It wasn’t a very popular book with most of the group and some said they wouldn’t recommend it to others.

“Made me very sad”
“Interesting period of American history”
“Too many threads and too many characters”
“Well written”
“Loose ends”

14 members attended the meeting and the book scored 2.9

December 7th

As I walked out one Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee

A memoir by Laurie Lee, a British poet. It is a sequel to Cider with Rosie which detailed his early life in Gloucestershire after the First World War.


Our book for December was As I walked out one Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee. Most of the group thought it was well written, but some felt it was too much like a school text to be enjoyable.

“Hard work at times”
“Really enjoyed it”
“A lot of description”
“Well written”

14 members attended the meeting and the book scored 3.9



Nigel – My Family and Other Dogs by Monty Don

When Monty Don’s golden retriever Nigel became the surprise star of the BBC Gardeners’ World, Monty wanted to explore what makes us connect with animals quite so deeply.

The first Zoom of the year was a huge success with the group reviewing Nigel – My Family and Other Dogs by Monty Don.

Monty Don is a great writer who is well known  for his gardening books but here he has created a warm, witty touching book around his love of dogs.

He speaks about his relationship with a number of family pets and the part each one played in his family’s life. Monty is without doubt a wonderful gardener but in this book it is clear he is also very much a dog lover as well. 

This book, although enjoyed by the group, had very mixed reviews. Some felt it was very laboured with others feeling he had captured the relationship between man and his dog well. Some of the group felt the use of historical information such as the history of dogs in society added an extra layer to the book. 

“Nothing outstanding as a book”
“Made me want a dog”
“Well written”

“Could relate to own dogs”
“Appeal to dog lovers”
“Rambling in parts” 

This year the group will scoring each book out of five; this book received overall  2.5.


The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

The unforgettable love story of a mother blinded by loss and her husband who insists on their survival as they undertake the Syrian refugee trail to Europe.

This months book was The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri. This is a well crafted book tracing the struggles and trials of a husband and his wife who are escaping Syria to England. The book examines the difficulties and horrors refugees face when fleeing their homelands. Although the book is a work of fiction it does have a ring of authenticity. The book also is in some ways a love story about the two main characters and how their love endures the difficulties life throws at them and how hope endures. The story should make the reader question the refugee crisis and the trauma that people go through to reach a safe country.

“Question the stereotyping of refugees”
“Although fiction could so easily be true”
“Subject matter makes it a difficult read”
“Strong characters”

There were 20 members present and the vote was 4.2

MARCH 24th

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

A Story of Race and Inheritance is a memoir by Barack Obama, that explores the events of his early years in Honolulu and Chicago up until his entry into law school in 1988.

The book for March was Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama. The book is a memoir of his early years and tells a story of race and diversity and his journey which leads him on his path in life to eventually become the president of USA. He recalls the people who influenced his life but also the impact of an absentee father. Although his relationship with his father was nonexistent he states, “ my mother gave me my drive but my father gave me my dreams’.

The group had very mixed views about the book.

At times heavy going”
“Due to number of characters confusing at times”
“Good description of places”
“Explored the complex issue of absentee fathers

There were 19 members present and overall the score was 3.2

APRIL 28th

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.

The book for April was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Written sixty years ago during the Civil Rights Movement in America, the book explores the loss of innocence with its focal point of racism. Although tackling a very serious subject, there was humour that came through and some very sympathetic characters. The group had very positive views about the book and an overwhelming majority enjoyed it.

It was suggested that every year the Book Group should read and discuss a classic novel such as this.

“Really enjoyed reading it again”
“Still controversial”
“Things haven’t really moved on in attitudes towards some topics”
“Pertinent that we are discussing it now”

There were 14 members present and overall the score was 4.65 (apologies for the mis-calculation on the night).

MAY 26th

The Trouble with Elephants by Julia Wolfendale

One is never enough!
The extraordinary events at the Belle Vue Zoo in the Victorian Era.

The book for May was The Trouble with Elephants by Julia Wolfendale and is the story of the extraordinary events at Belle Vue Zoo in the Victorian era.

This was Julia’s first novel which she started writing as a child then redrafted and completed recently. It was inspired after visiting the skeleton of the elephant called Maharajah at the Manchester Museum and after reading the newspaper reports of Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester Central Library.

“Feel good”
“Heart warming”
“Perfect children’s book”
“Nice read during Covid restrictions”

17 members discussed the book which, for some, brought back many happy childhood memories of visiting Belle Vue and even of riding the elephants. The book scored 3.1

After the discussion the author joined the Zoom meeting. She gave us a great insight into writing the book and even showed us her childhood handwritten notebook and an image of herself with Maharajah’s skeleton. She kindly answered several questions from the group. The perfect end to a lovely meeting.

JUNE 23rd

The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre

The double life of a KGB insider recruited by MI6 features microfilm, Soviet secrets and a daring escape.

The book for June was The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre and is the story of the double life of a KGB insider recruited by MI6 featuring microfilm, Soviet secrets and a daring escape.

“Enjoyed it”
“Overwhelming but fascinating”

14 members discussed the book. There was a lively discussion about his contribution to world peace and there was surprising and fascinating information about several British politicians. The book scored 3.35.

JULY 28th

Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

A controversial and darkly comic story of the frustrations of being a childless women in the modern baby-obsessed world.

The book for July was Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty and is the controversial and darkly comic story of the frustrations of being a childless women in the modern baby-obsessed world.

“Didn’t feel sympathy for any of the characters”
“When able to hide behind social media it can bring out the worst in some people”

“Didn’t fulfil its potential”
“Not many character descriptions”

13 members met at Uppermill Conservative Club to discuss the book, and another 6 met on Zoom. There was agreement that the book wasn’t well written and readers couldn’t identify with the subject matter. It sparked a discussion about social media and the harm it can do. Most people said they would not recommend the book. The book scored 1.65.

All those at the Conservative Club agreed it was lovely to be back meeting face to face and those who met via Zoom appreciated being given the choice of meeting venue.


I am I am I am by Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie O’Farrell’s astonishing memoir of the near death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life.

The book for August was “I am I am I am” by Maggie O’Farrell, her own memories of her near death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life.

17 members attended and due to the lovely warm evening the meeting was held al fresco. Although everyone agreed that the book was well written the subject matter raised various options.

“Well written “
“Loved it’
“Self indulgence by the author “
“Interesting rather than enjoyable “
“Not an uplifting read”
“Parts of the book depressing”

The book scored 3.6.

Next meet is on the 22nd September at the Conservative Club Uppermill at 7.30pm. The book is The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick. Phaedra will be the guest speaker at the WI meeting in October.


The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick

A single father gets an unexpected second chance at love as we follow one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places

The book for September was The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick. 

The story is part mystery part romance and tells the quirky story of a single father who gets an unexpected second chance of love in this new novel from local writer Phaedra who will be the guest speaker at the October WI meeting.

“Predictable story“
“Not enough depth or substance” 
“Okay as a light holiday read“
“Story and characters not developed enough“

The book scored 1.9.

The next meeting will be on the 27th October at the Conservative Club Uppermill at 7.30pm.
The book is The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. 


The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved murders. But when a brutal killing takes place on their very doorstep, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The book for October was the debut book of Richard Osman ‘The Thursday Murder Club‘. The book is set in a retirement village and is about a group of elderly friends who meet up once a week to investigate historical unsolved murders. Then a brutal murder takes place and they find themselves caught up in a real live murder investigation.

“Ambles along nicely“
“Okay story, funny in parts”
“A little like reading Enid Blyton”
“The story became a bit muddled towards the end“
“Characters  are likeable” 

Easy reading and overall enjoyed by most of the group.
Score 3.75

The next book group meeting is on Wednesday 24th November at 7.30 in Uppermill Conservative Club. The book is ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell.

Also at this meeting we need to select the books for 2022 so if you would like to put a book forward please write details on a piece of paper for entry into the draw. 


Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A fictional account of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet who died at age 11 in 1596.

The book for our November discussion was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. This is the fictional account of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet who died at the age of 11 in 1596. It tells the story of Agnes, her playwright husband and their children and it gave us an insight of life in that time.

‘Struggled to get into it but it became a page turner’
‘Beautifully written’
‘Detailed and interesting’
‘Wrapped up in the story’
‘Already recommended it’

15 members attended the meeting and the majority loved the book. It achieved a score of 4.1

We chose our 2022 books at the meeting which can be seen here on the website.


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Between life and death there is a library. When Nora Seed finds herself in the Midnight Library she has a chance to make things right. Up until now, her life has been full of misery and regret.

The book for our December discussion was The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The majority enjoyed the book, although several felt it dipped in the middle.

There were 14 members present and five more sent in reviews and scores, giving a final score of 3.7