Book Club 2021-2022

Book Review April 2022

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This is a book written as diary entries from the author’s time as a junior doctor between 2004 and 2010, a retrospective narrative written 6 years later. Ten members read and rated this book out of 5 marks – spanning the full spectrum: 1 person gave it 1, 2 gave it 2, 4 gave it 3.5, 2 gave it 4 and 1 gave it 4.5. However, the comments reflect an alternate picture.

One comment we all agreed upon is that junior doctors work extremely long hours, often have sleepless nights, and they are expected to be on top form at all times. Kay took the NHS to task over this. In real life, this is an ongoing problem, with most health systems experiencing the same issues. It becomes a national issue for a time, then eases, then rears its ugly head again, with only minor changes accomplished each time.

With regard to the general narrative, the comments ranged from it being too repetitive and facetious, with disappointing, light diary entries, to an irreverent, un-endearing tone. On the plus side it was funny, amusing and interesting. One member “couldn’t put it down”, but wouldn’t give it to any woman of child bearing age, or she would never have a baby! That surely removes a large portion of potential readers from the equation! I disliked the tone of the book, and found it far too flippant, the pace tedious, and Kay’s sense of humour quite disrespectful at times.

I am not surprised Kay left the profession considering he only went into it because he was “an A+ student”, and not because it was a burning ambition to become a doctor. He is definitely best served now being a successful script writer of many popular TV shows, having used these “diaries” as a template for his future career.

By Valerie Lynch Kelly

The next books for the autumn are as suggested:

The Herd by Emily Edwards

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Book Review March 2022

The Maid by Nita Prose

By Valerie Lynch Kelly

At the outset, The Maid contains quite a simple straight-forward plot – Molly the main character finds a very important guest dead on his bed in his suite in the very posh hotel in which she works, and on the floor she is responsible for keeping “in a state of perfection”. It quickly becomes a murder investigation as death from natural causes or suicide are ruled out, and unfortunately for Molly, she becomes the prime suspect.

The story becomes much more complicated and convoluted and we discover what a complex person Molly is. On first meeting her, she seems introverted and self-effacing and very aware of her difficulties in communicating socially in a “chatty way”, and tends to take people literally, thus inviting scorn, ridicule and dismissive responses. Her gran (now dead) has given her numerous strategies to cope, which constanlty come to her aid in many situations. She proves what a wonderful communicator she is when in court with the judge, and also in the role she had to play in setting Rodney up. Her character enjoys routine with every day exactly the same as the day before, and setting up her “portable sanitation miracle” – her trolley, which is also a “cornucopia of bounty and beauty” – her description employing her marvellous way with words. She also has some terrifyingly vicious punishments in her mind for how she would deal with those that cross her – from throwing a full kettle of water into someone’s face to believing “cheaters” deserve to be “thrown into quicksand and suffocate in filth”. The plot contains a few secrets as well, one being kept by Mr Preston, and the other more serious one, a life-changing plan concocted by Molly and gran, which Molly carries out before we meet her in the story.

An amusing, very easy-to-read and enjoyable book, for me. However, our readers had very mixed views ranging from “hating” the book to not really loving it, to loving it. The main contention was that though it was “funny” in places, the overall “loneliness and isolation” of a person like Molly was very sad. It was compared by some to Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing. Also, some were of the opinion that it lagged in the last third of the story; the dominance of gran over Molly’s life wasn’t enjoyable, and the happy ending was too neat.

Overall, a great book in that it invited such a varied response.

February meeting 

On Feb 17th, 6 of us met via Zoom to discuss Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan.  4 others, unable to attend, sent in their comments & ratings. 

This too short but beautifully written book is set over a few weeks in the run up to Christmas 1985  in New Ross. The country is in the throes of recession manifested in New Ross by the closed  shipyard, redundancies in the local factory, boarded up shops, lengthening dole queues and  emigration and descriptions of abject poverty. 

The story revolves around Bill Furlong, the local Coal & Timber merchant who has been managing  to make a living to provide for his wife Eileen and their five daughters. Throughout the book he is  referred to as Furlong which felt disrespectful to some but may have been the norm at the time.  Bill is a thoroughly decent man, always concerned about those less fortunate, knowing too well “ it would be the easiest thing in the world to lose everything”.  

Eileen keeps busy, especially now in the pre-Christmas period, baking, shopping ,and preparing  for the festivities and ceremonies. 

Bill is distracted, mulling over his past & wondering what really matters in life as Eileen relays the  latest gossip from the town. 

Many of his customers can’t afford to pay their bills, making the wealthier ones all the more  important. The local Good Shepherd convent is one such customer. They run a training school for  girls attended by the older Furlong girls. In addition the nuns have a laundry next door which is  reputed to do an excellent job for those who can afford the service. There are whispers too that  the workers there are girls of “low character who are being reformed” , or that it is a Mother &  Baby Home where the girls are cruelly exploited with their babies being sold to wealthy  Americans. Some chose to believe that the nuns were saintly people who did all the work  themselves. People suppressed their suspicions so by their silence were complicit in the cruel  treatment of the young girls.  

When doing his deliveries , Bill is deeply upset to inadvertently witness the exploitation and misery  of the girls, as they were cleaning the chapel. His own mother, an unmarried mother at age 16,  had been disowned by her parents. She was saved from a similar fate to those girls by the  goodness of her Protestant employer who gave them both a home and eventually set him up on  the path to his own business. His father had never entered the frame though we all speculated as  to his identity.  

Early one morning Bill discovers a young girl, who had recently given birth, locked into the coal  shed at the convent, half dressed and in great distress. He knows he has to act even if it brings  the ire of the Mother Superior & the townspeople down on him. We are left to speculate as to the  consequences of his actions within his family and for his business when the wider community  becomes aware. 

This little book really packs a punch & provoked a most interesting & lengthy exchange of views  about the hardship experienced by so many in the past ( several members felt it could have been  set in 50’s or 60’s Ireland ) as well as the role of the Church, State, families and the general  population in the tragedy of the Mother and Baby Homes. We also shared stories of our own  experiences growing up and stories we had heard about those homes. 

We all agreed Bill Furlong was a true hero who followed his conscience knowing how much he  had to lose. He is definitely someone we would be privileged to meet. Eileen is another interesting  character as is the Mother Superior and the Protestant lady Mrs Wilson and Ned, both from Bill’s  early life. 

It’s a shame the book was so short. 114 pages read in one sitting by most of us, we were all left  wanting more!  

Rated out of 5* by 10 readers 
6 gave 4.5* 
2 gave 4* 
1 gave 3.5* 

For March we will read The Maid by Nita Prose 

An optional extra which could be read before the Joycean celebrations in April is the One City One Book choice Nora by Nuala O’Connor . Jean Hartin  

Book Club Meeting January 2022 

Our first meeting of 2022 was held on January 20th with 7 members connecting via Zoom to  review Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library. Via our WhatsApp group, 3 others sent their ratings  and comments. 

‘Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every  book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if  you had made other choices…Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to  undo your regrets?’ 

This is the situation in which Nora Seed finds herself as she hovers between life and death after  attempting to take her own life, believing she is worthless.  

The library could represent limbo or a modern version of purgatory but the difference is that it is  possible to come back from the library to real life. 

The librarian in this in-between world is Mrs Elm who was the librarian at Nora’s school .  She had befriended Nora when she was a lonely child who felt she didn’t fit in anywhere .  The first book she comes on is ‘The Book of Regrets’ documenting all the regrets of her life.  Then she finds the book entitled ‘My Life’ which describes all the ways her life could have turned  out differently based on alternative decisions she might have made . We get a good insight into  those scenarios as Nora “experiences” those lives. 

Ultimately Nora survives her suicide attempt & comes to realise the value of the life she has been  living…a message to those who might be feeling suicidal.  

This book covers several genres including Fantasy , Philosophy & Self Help, with a deep insight  into depression. Unsurprisingly we discovered Matt Haig suffers from depression, hence his  understanding & advice. 

While this is a very popular book, it didn’t appeal to the majority of us. 

We felt it was geared towards those in the 20 to 30 age group , particularly useful for those with  friends who suffer from depression and who lack the crutch that religion gave older generations. Those of us who finished the book liked the early parts but generally felt it became too repetitive  as it described so many possible lives. 

2 members unusually gave up on it after several attempts . 

One reader who enjoys Fantasy , feels it is very imaginative & enjoyed how it looked at things in a  different way even bringing in Quantum Physics to explain different scenarios occurring at the  same time. She gave it 4* out of 5* and recommended it to her daughter who is in her 20’s.  ( I couldn’t find my own copy for our meeting but have discovered that the 23 year old in my life  had taken it & is engrossed! ) 

10 readers rated the book out of a possible 5*:
– 6 gave 2* or under,  
– 3 gave 3* to 3.5* ,  
– 1 gave 4*  

Blueprint Pictures who were responsible for ‘Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri’ have  bought the film option. 

For February we have chosen Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan 

Dublin One City, One Book choice for 2022 to mark the centenary of the publication of Ulysses is  Nora by Nuala O’Connor is also recommended for February. 

Jean Hartin

November meeting

7 members connected via Zoom on Nov 18th to review Apples Never Fall, the latest novel by the Australian writer Liane Moriarty. ( thanks to Clare for organising)

This is a tale of a marriage, family dynamics & buried resentments in the Delaney family. The story spans 2 different timelines, beginning in the present with the disappearance of the mother Joy Delaney & going back months beforehand to when a young distressed girl called Savannah arrives at Delaney’s front door seeking refuge.

Chapters move back & forth between the two timelines.

Joy & Stan Delaney, both tennis champions, had recently retired having owned & run a successful tennis school . The adjustment is a major one for both of them as life has lost all its excitement. Joy embarks on a creative writing course on how to write your memoirs while Stan mopes & moans about his ailments.

Their four adult children were all accomplished tennis players as children but for various reasons had never been interested in pursuing tennis as a career. Stan had been obsessed with his talented pupil Harry Hadad who abruptly left after choosing another coach . Stan never got over this defection. As the story unfolds we find out the true reason Harry left. The adult children are all somewhat dysfunctional & we gradually come to know how competitive tennis had negatively affected them & created unhealthy rivalry between them.

As police begin to investigate Joy’s disappearance, suspicion falls on Stan , largely due to a series of coincidences. This causes further rifts between the siblings whose loyalty is divided.

And then there is Savannah who had become such an integral part of Joy’s life & to lesser extent Stan’s. Where has she gone & is she involved in some way with Joy going missing?

This novel certainly reveals how much parents are prepared to sacrifice so their talented children can reach the height of their potential & how much those children sacrifice too. For some the sacrifice is just too much.

A story of domestic life, rivalries & mystery where all is gradually revealed , Apples Never Fall is well worth a read but most of us felt it was a bit drawn out & could have done without the mention of Covid !

We all agreed it would make a great TV series as did two previous Liane Moriarty novels Big Little Lies & Nine Perfect Strangers.

We scored 4 out of 5 , with one 3 out of 5.

Our next book The Midnight Library by Matt Haig will be reviewed via Zoom on January 20th 2022.

Any other recommendations from readers are always welcome.

A couple mentioned were:

  • Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys
  • Four Lives by Myles Dungan
  • Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeeton

Jean Hartin

Oct ’21 Marlay Book-Club Meeting

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

This book is inspired by the woman who became India’s 1st Female lawyer in early 1920s. It is basically a legal mystery. Perveen Mistry reviews the will of a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left behind 3 widows and several children who all live in strict seclusion.

Our Members found it a fascinating book which held our interest. You feel you are immersed in India’s culture and its complicated religious and cultural norms. Its vivid descriptions of places and smells transport you into the Indian environment. The numerous conversations keep the story moving along and keep it light-hearted despite the strict conventions concerning   women’s  affairs, particularly in relation to menstruation, which were in force at the time.

Members felt there was a huge sense of culture permeating the novel which made for fascinating reading. Perveen wages an uphill battle in a man’s world. She is a sympathetic heroine who is strong-willed but also compassionate. She recognizes she must stay within the rules to achieve her ends. Generally, the group agreed all the characters are well-drawn and engaging in this mystery novel.

One criticism from two of the group was that they found it hard to get into the story quickly as there was so much description of Bombay and its households, particularly its culinary cuisine. The story also moves between two five year time periods (1916 and 1921) which is highlighted by the author. Some see it as building up the mystery while others viewed it as holding the story back. One Member would not have read the novel, if it had not been the Book-Club choice,  but she actually really enjoyed the book.

A Glossary is supplied at the end of the novel as many Indian language words are used. Some felt this was a downside to reading the novel.                           

The Widows of Malabar Hill was awarded 4 marks out of 5 by our Book=Club.

Book chosen for November is:

Apples Never Fall by Leanne Moriarty

Next Book-Club Meeting:

Thurs 18th Nov at 2pm outdoors in Marlay Park at Picnic Tables near Marlay House.  All Welcome.

Rachel Gillen

Sept ‘21 Marlay Book Club Meeting

Our Book Club met outdoors in Marlay Park, once again, for our September Meeting. This time, at a picnic table, in front of Marlay House where we enjoyed lively discussion on the books we had read over the Summer.

THE 7 SISTERS by Lucinda Riley were loved by all despite their large number of pages. Each book is about the life story of each Sister, who happens to live in a different country. The Author, aged 56, died recently of cancer. The final book is due for release next year.

Other books, like the latest from Sarah Pearse , THE SANATORIUM, proved disappointing to one of our Readers. Suspense thrillers, like R P Bolton’s , THE PERFECT HOUSE  was well liked. AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins is hugely popular, as is AFTER THE SILENCE by Louise O’Neill.

A few Members particularly like the books associated with the VERA series on TV which is based on books by Ann Cleeves.  Members also praised A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW by Amor Towles. THE CHOICE by Edith Egar is also highly recommended. This Memoir published in 1917, became an Internet Bestseller. Its Author, an US Psychologist, is an Holocaust Survivor. She was swnt to Auschwitz in 1944 at age 16.

We discussed the advantages of listening to books being read aloud. It has proved to be a popular option with the Library App  providing a super service. The Library still has its stocks of CDs of spoken books, if anyone prefers to use their CD player to listen to stories.

Novel chosen for our October  Bookclub Read is:

THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL by SUJATA MASSEY

Next Bookclub is Thursday 21st Oct in Marlay Park, at a picnic table in front of Marlay House.

Do join us for a convivial afternoon. Plenty of chat and bonhomie!

Rachel Gillen