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Book Group

Meet @ 2pm on 1st Monday of the month in the Advocate Arms (Market Rasen)


The subject of this month's review was named, somewhat coincidentally, ‘The Book Club' by CJ Cooper.

The story is set in a Cotswold village in the present day and the main protagonists are a  group of friends. There is Tom, an artist, who is gay, but is a confidante to Lucy, Maggie and Rebecca. Lucy is a recent addition to the group having escaped London, a failed romance with her married boss, and is searching for a new source of income for when her redundancy money runs out. Maggie is a successful Interior Designer married to the local doctor, whilst Rebecca is trying to run a perfect house with two ideal children even if  her attempts at being a domestic goddess seem doomed by the lacklustre support of her hapless husband, Sam, who means well but often falls short of the mark when it comes to the tasks Rebecca has set him.

The four are living a harmonious life of easy-going friendship, but each is harbouring their own dark secret. All might be well except for the arrival of the fifth protagonist, Alice, who moves in next to Lucy. We learn that Alice is socially awkward but, as a means of integrating herself into the friendship group, suggests starting a Book Club.

Lucy, however, feels very uneasy about her new neighbour and begins to suspect that she has malicious intentions, confirmed by the impression formed by her friend Liz who tells her, in no uncertain terms that she should get away as soon as possible. As the story progresses Alice uncovers what each character is hiding and is soon sowing seeds of poison that take root as  successive books are debated and each secret is forced into the open.

Alice quite clearly has a distorted view of her own existence, but nobody makes the connection between the disintegrating friendships and her arrival for her successful strategy is to make each guilty party believe that it is one of the original friends who has been indiscreet. Alice's agenda, we learn, is based upon imagined injustices caused by Lucy that involve not just revenge  upon her, but the destruction of all those near to her.

The final denouement wreaks havoc but also leaves many unanswered questions, although one thing is certain, nothing will ever be the same again.

Although a minority of the group found the book to be well-written and enjoyable, for the majority there were many unanswered questions concerning the credibility of the plot-lines and the manner in which so many loose ends were left hanging. Several thought that the characterisation of the protagonists had not been developed enough for them to be visualised and that the plot seemed to resemble a television or stage plot. One of us even commented that it resembled an inferior episode of ‘Midsomer Murders'! All in all many expressed their doubts as to why such a seemingly close-knit group should believe the newcomer as opposed to friends that they had known for some time and why they should react so negatively to imagined slights rather that to talk to their old friends later about why they should react as they had.


‘This is Going to Hurt' by Adam Kay was this month's selected book. It follows six years in the life of a junior doctor based upon extracts from his diaries interwoven with many anecdotes and situations which range from mainly hilarious through several  dark, to a very few heart-wrenching episodes culminating, almost inevitably, in the author becoming so emotionally drained that he resigns on the verge of becoming a Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

For several members this was the second time of reading or followed viewing the recent television dramatisation, but the message of the book was not diminished. For many it was the realisation that ‘junior' refers to a wide swathe of the profession from newly qualified to very senior clinicians and for some of the group who had worked in the NHS, the stories reflected many similar ones that they had encountered during their professional lives. There was much to commend the book for its' humour, the subjects of which anecdotes cannot really be repeated here save that when the author was writing a presentation on births outside of a hospital setting, he concluded that ‘home deliveries are for pizzas'.

For many the current roots of the unrest amongst junior doctors are very well illustrated, and although covering the years up until 2010, former NHS employees in the group concluded that things had certainly not improved since then and that the expectation that staff shortages should be made up with additional unpaid working hours probably extended across the whole public sector. Even so the subject matter was informative as some felt that they now knew how to deliver a breech birth whereas the writer of this review believed that the book, when read, was an effective contraceptive!

Finally, the group concluded that choosing a career such as medicine at the age of eighteen based on very limited information or experience was flawed and also that it would be interesting to read a similar account based upon post pandemic experiences.

Paul Rowland



The book selected this month was ‘Leviathan' by Rosie Andrews set during the English Civil War. The Leviathan is one of the names used to portray evil as referenced by many authors of the past. The narrator, Thomas Treadwater, is recovering from a wound received in battle and is summoned home by his sister to attend his ailing father. He is too late for not only is his father dead but the family farm has gone to ruin and  a maidservant (Mary) has been imprisoned accused of witchcraft by his sister (Esther). These are (supposedly) enlightened times and Thomas, ‘a rational man' is no more inclined to believe that Mary is a witch than the local magistrate. Esther, however, has taken up with the local witchfinder in defiance with Thomas' wishes.

As the story unfolds Thomas has Mary, the maidservant, released into his custody and seemingly has a chance to forge a new career for himself as the magistrates' clerk, this chance replacing his original dream of emigrating to Virginia to become a tobacco farmer. What transpires is that Esther, his supposed sister was actually rescued from a shipwreck as a baby and brought up as his sibling. Even more astounding is that the storm was created by ‘The Leviathan' a force of great evil that has apparently taken root in Esther's soul and that it was she who killed her putative father and then encourages her fiancé, the witchfinder, to take his own life. Mary and Thomas manage to sedate Esther and over the next forty years keep her locked in the attic in a catatonic state until she emerges and encourages a rapidly ailing Thomas to return her to the sea where the evil spirit within her can be reunited with its' monstrous form.

More than a few readers loved the book's dark atmosphere and were gripped by the unfolding story although quite what the evil force was and what did it want from Esther were not evident. Thomas appears to have devoted his life to preventing the evil spirit from doing further harm although he could have allowed Mary (his eventual wife) to have continued administering stronger doses of the sedative. This he refuses to do until, with almost his final act of strength, kills her after the evil parasite within her has killed many more sailors in a catastrophic storm.

Not all readers found it enjoyable however, either finding the plot to be barely credible or that the general mistreatment of women, the passivity in the patriarchal society, and the way they did not act against Esther, even though other women had suffered badly as a result  very annoying. The idea that the only way to fight the Leviathan was to be pious and pure was frustrating too, as that seemed to reinforce the societal norm which expected women to behave perfectly. Alas, however, It could, perhaps, have  been an accurate depiction of the times.



Our book choice for August was ‘Daisy Jones and the Six' by Taylor Jenkins Reid. The plot starts by telling us about ‘The Six', a moderately successful band founded by two brothers, Billy and Graham. After a couple of fairly successful albums, they are introduced to Daisy Jones, a self-taught musician of prodigious talent, but no success. She and Billy record a duet that becomes a massive hit following which a collaborative album is planned to be called ‘Daisy Jones and the Six'. The album becomes one of the major recordings of the 1970's, but the making of it and the subsequent tour tell us of the protagonists' battles with drugs and the rock and roll lifestyle. At the heart is the love triangle between Billy, Daisy and Billy's wife Camille, but also featured are the struggles of the other group members to make their voices heard during the production process, and their own battles with life on the road.

The book is written in the form of transcripts from interviews and during the final chapters it is revealed that the author is Billy and Camille's daughter, and, as a final reveal, tells us where each of the protagonists is now. In common with another book by the same author, ‘The seven husbands of Eleanor Hugo', the author has taken several stories that may or may not have happened at the time and created a background narrative that binds the work together and the material provides a form of quiz as to who the reader might think that ‘The Six' are based on!

Our group was divided upon the merits of the book, several not finishing it, feeling that it was unclear as to who the audience for it was meant to be. The major issue for the dissenters was the ‘documentary come script' way in which it was written. Of course, the subject matter might only appeal to those interested in the processes that go into the production of a body of music. The book itself became more than a little repetitive and boring should you not have the songs being referred to close by so that you could listen to and appreciate them! However, in the end it was about the love triangle and the ending had a warm feeling to it in which Daisy and Billy are urged to write one more song together.

Paul Rowland 


The book read this month was ‘Conclave' by Robert Harris. The subject matter was rather inauspicious since it told of the election of a new Pope. Even so, we found it a fascinating explanation of the process and background such that we became invested in the subject matter as told by our narrator, the Dean of the College of Cardinals (one of the most important officials after his Holiness). He tells us that he has no desire to be the new Pope, not only feeling himself not well enough, but also owning up to....having doubts! However as the story unfolds we are given an insider view of the main contenders for the papacy and the opportunities and, more importantly, the threats presented by each.

The group were unanimous in their opinion that this was a good read although the majority admitted to skipping the author's description of many of the supporting archbishops who are named but play no further part in the story. In fact, this omission in no way seemed to detract from the enjoyment of the book! 

As the front runners emerge it seems that each either poses a danger, or has a dark secret, that would be catastrophic to the church should the truth ever emerge, and although our narrator finds himself emerging as a contender, there are enough clues to ensure that who eventually emerges will be beneficial to the church. Thankfully the Conclave chooses an outsider who is acceptable to all, only for there to be an unexpected twist to the tale. How this is handled and the hares that are set racing as the reader ponders ‘what if' leads to a satisfactory conclusion and also a desire of many of the club to want to read more of Robert Harris' work.


June 2023

For once there was a universal opinion on ‘Death at the Auction' by EC Bateman! In a nutshell it was light, easy to read but perhaps not a book that you would remember for very long!

The plot concerns the daughter of an Auction House owner returning to help out following breaking his leg, only to have her renewed spell as Auctioneer spoiled somewhat by her ex-husband who rushed in as the final lot went under the hammer. He told her that she was making a serious mistake. The said lot, an old wardrobe, then burst open to reveal the body of the business's rival auctioneer. What follows is a diverting and mildly amusing detective yarn with a good helping of ‘red herrings' and incidental characters thrown in that ends with an attempted cliff-hanger when she (not very convincingly) believes that her son has met a sticky end and the subsequent unveiling of a surprise villain.

The book is a good advertisement for Stamford without becoming too bogged down with the intricacies of auctioneering and there are plenty of loose ends to fuel the several sequels that have followed. The group concluded that it would make an ideal read for a long journey or holiday even if the author's over observation of the outfits worn or the state of the female characters' nail treatments was a little distracting!

Paul Rowland


The book discussed this month was ‘The Twyford Code' by Janice Hallet. In brief, the initial part of the book comprises a print of a series of voice messages left on a mobile phone by an ex-prisoner, who we are led to believe is trying to solve a mystery from his schooldays, based upon a hidden code within a series of children's books which were written by an Enid Blyton type character named Edith Twyford as well as  being  the narrator's life story. However, just when we have been led to believe that a climax has been reached and the narrator has met his end, the story branched off to provide an alternative interpretation and a more upbeat conclusion provided by a different character.

The Group were evenly split between those who loved it and those who detested it! In fact, one reader commented that it was a ‘Marmite' novel! However, the content was the source of a lively discussion, and it was observed that the writing was a good example of the treatment of several strands of a story as well as being a good example of an unreliable narrator.


March 2023 ‘This Boy' by Alan Johnson, former Home Secretary and MP for Hull West and Hessle.

It may be worth noting that we normally read an eclectic mix of titles but, on this occasion, we have found ourselves reading two consecutive biographies.

‘This Boy', the first in the autobiographical series on the life of Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary and former member of parliament for Hull-Hessle. The story covers his birth in 1950 and his formative years growing up in the Notting Hill/ North Kensington area of London in a series of unheated and damp rented flats long before the area became respectable and unaffordable to anybody of less than wealthy means and concludes with his wedding just after his eighteenth birthday to a single mother four years his senior.

His father contributed very little to the household and deserted the family to run off with the local barmaid when Johnson was eleven. His Mother and later his elder sister kept him safe and away from the clutches of the care system through a series of menial jobs and his first career choice was to have been music. Those hopes were dashed just as they were about to be realised when, after an audition for a professional group his guitar and other equipment were stolen. As the book concluded Johnson's career had moved on from leaving school at fifteen to stacking shelves in a supermarket to joining the Post Office.

Later books in the series deal with his life as a Postman in the Slough/ Burnham Beeches area to becoming a union official and then leader of the Communication Workers Union. During that later life he impressed Tony Blair enough to be selected as an MP for the 1997 election after which he made his mark bringing long-standing grievances for Hull Trawlermen to a successful conclusion and holding several high-ranking cabinet posts.

The group had, as usual, mixed feelings ranging from ‘all right' to being enthusiastic enough to want to read the later volumes. Several members felt that the living conditions described, and the social attitudes reflected those that they had encountered in their own lifetime and that the contributions to his life of his mother and especially his Sister had been outstanding, During the conversation a comparison was made to ‘Shuggie Bain' which was thought to be a more entertaining and better written example of the ‘growing up in adversity' theme.


February 2023

The Group found ‘Lady in Waiting' by Anne Glenconner to be  readable and mostly entertaining, giving an insight into the life of the first born child of the 5th Earl of Leicester who tried very hard but failed to be a boy thus meaning the title and the tenure of the family seat would pass to another branch of the family.

We followed her journey from being a successful if unorthodox seventeen year old travelling sales representative for her mother's pottery business to debutante in the post war era of austerity whose ‘coming out' dress was made from an old parachute!  During her sales trip to the United States she received the summons to be one of the Queen's Maids of Honour at the Coronation and in later years to becoming a long term companion to Princess Margaret. She was clearly well connected and although not wealthy in her own right, married the very rich if eccentric Colin Tennant the future owner of Mustique.

Alas the fairy tale had a very dark side for she lost two of her five children in tragic circumstances and had to battle to ensure that a third received treatment to make a partial recovery from what would otherwise have been a fatal motorcycle accident. If that was not enough misfortune her marriage was far from ideal and the group concluded that it was the mores of the time that prevented her leaving a man who, although a sometimes brilliant companion could also be exceedingly petulant and unpredictable. The protagonist also gave an interesting insight into a long association with Princess Margaret without being indiscreet or judgmental.

Paul Rowland

January 2023

"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Bronte is considered by many to be one of the first feminist books that highlighted the iniquitous position of women in a time when not only their property and earnings legally belonged to their husbands, but also their children. Although not everyone was able to finish the book(something to take on a long cruise), the majority found it an enjoyable read .... althoiugh one reader noted they felt like a child, just learning to read, being presented with a book which contained "too many words"!

The content provoked a lively discussion about how and why women could put up with abusive relationships in the victorian era and how British society could abolish slavery, on the one hand, but women had to waite a further seventy years to gain any rights at all.


December 2022

The book we discussed this month was ‘The Paris Library' by Janet Skeslien Charles. For the first time all the group agreed that this was a very good book, well written and thought provoking. It is about a French girl who is working in the American library during the second world war when France was occupied. We hear about her colleagues and the problems they had to face and the decisions they had to make. It really is well worth a read. We also welcomed a new member, Anita.

Our next meeting is on January 6th at 2pm. at the Advocate Arms Hotel in Market Rasen, when we will be discussing ‘Tenant of Wildfell hall' by Anne Brontë. New members are always welcome.

Lesley Brewis 




 !   News

Our next meeting will be on Monday December 4th at the earlier time of 1pm as we shall be discussing ‘Shuggie Bain' by Douglas Stuart over lunch at the Advocate Arms.

New members are always welcome, you just need to turn up in 2024 and look for a group of people who aren't dining!

Paul Rowland


New members are always welcome, just turn up on the day!

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Books on order .......



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