Book Group

Contact Cathy Wilde or Lesley Winrow.
[email protected]

We meet on the fourth Wednesday of each month upstairs at The Conservative Club, Uppermill. Discussion starts 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.

The Book Group is available to Saddleworth WI members only.


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.

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.

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.

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.

As the 4th Wednesday of December falls between Christmas and New Year we are looking to bring the meeting forward as usual. There is no WI members meeting in December so we have agreed that we should hold our meeting on Wednesday 7th December. This only gives 2 weeks from the November meeting to read the book but it’s not a long book so we should be fine.



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