Book Reviews

On this page our members review books they have read and found inspirational in some way.

The following two books have been reviewed by Jan Pike:

APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty

The Delaneys, Joy and Stan, and their four adult children seem to be the ideal family. Joy and Stan met as young tennis champions and even in retirement are still winning tournaments after selling the infamous Delaney’s Tennis Academy. Their aspirations that at least one of their four children would play at Wimbledon never came to fruition.

Now, Joy Delany has disappeared and as each of the children re-examine their parents’ marriage, it’s revealed that each family member holds a secret. All is not rosy in the Delaney household. The climax is reached when one night a stranger appears at the front door. Set in Australia, there are scenarios which are familiar to the reader.

This book is 496 pages which are turned so quickly you don’t notice the length of the book.

I have read many books by Liane Moriarty, and this is possibly her best yet.

THE ONE HUNRED YEARS OF LENNI AND MARGOT by Marianne Cronin

When Lenni first hears the word terminal, she’s not sure whether it’s the airport terminal or bus terminal but it’s neither; it’s the terminal ward in a hospital.

This wonderful book tells the story of Lenni aged 17 years and Margot aged 83 years, hence the name of the book.

An unlikely friendship is formed between the two dying patients after meeting at the Art Class in the hospital. Lenni can’t paint but she is a bit of a rebel and prefers to be in the group of octogenarians rather than the adolescents. Together they decide to paint the stories of their combined 100 years.

Each chapter is either present or past as they work their way through their history. Other characters come into their lives but it’s really about the two of them.

It is sad and humorous as well as showing that sometimes life just isn’t fair.

This is the author’s debut novel and her style and content make you want the book to never end. I hope she writes many more.

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig   Review by Judy Norris

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have the opportunity to re-visit parts of your life and do things differently?  As Nora Seed contemplates leaving this mortal coil, she finds herself in the purgatorial Midnight Library. Assisted by her school librarian she is given a second chance at life and, what’s more, she can choose how she wants to live it. In this thought-provoking, fascinating novel author, Matt Haig, sends a strong message ‘to be careful what you wish for’.

THE LAST ANNIVERSARY by Liane Moriarty

Peopled with a large cast of characters who can be confusing at first until you get to know them. There is Sophie who is everybody’s friend, Connie the matriarch now deceased but whose influence still holds sway. The beautiful, moody Grace; a new mother with undiagnosed post-natal depression, her husband Callum who had the perfect marriage and is the perfect father but has no idea his wife has problems. A host of supporting characters live on the idyllic Scribbly Gum Island in the Hawksbury river where the Munro Baby Mystery is the principle tourist attraction so is perpetuated by the family who profit magnificently. All operated under Connies firm hand.

But Connie dies and leaves her house to Sophie. Not yet a member of the family. She was engaged to grandson Thomas but famously changed her mind when he had organised a trip to Fiji in order to propose. Sophie moves to Scribbly Gum Island and we meet the full cast of ordinary people with ordinary lives whose story is so extraordinary.

Liane Moriarty has an ability to tell page turning stories using the lady next door or the man in the street we all know but she gives them a secret and therein lies the tale.

Another fascinating read from a master storyteller.

Review by Ken Morrell

The Zookeeper of Belfast, S. Kirk Walsh (Hodder & Stoughton, 324pp).

The central character in this novel is Hettie Quin who in the early days of the Second World War obtains the position as the first female zookeeper at the Belfast Zoo. In particular, we see Hetty’s love for the young elephant, Violet, which she cares for and saves from being put down in the confusion of the blitz. However, it is a novel of much wider scope than the conventional story of a girl and her animal companion.

While it touches on human responsibility for captive animals, other matters are of greater significance: the impact of the war, especially the blitz; the politics of the IRA as embodied in Hettie’s brother-in-law, Liam, who naively perceives Hitler as a liberator who will free Northern Ireland from the British; the common and decent humanity of both Protestants and Catholics in the face of apocalyptic destruction; the consequences of family breakdown; and Hettie’s sexual awakening.

Central to the story is the blitz bombing of the Belfast docklands by the Luftwaffe, which is described in powerful and horrifying detail as the waves of bombers flatten the suburbs, and its aftermath.

Walsh presents all her characters with great compassion, from Liam who loves Hettie but betrays her, to Samuel Greene, the young Royal Ulster Constable, who is matured by suffering from a young smart-alec to one who will risk all to protect Hettie, and Mr. Wright, the chief keeper whose heart is broken when he is required to destroy his animals.

To manage such complexity Walsh is obliged to engage in, perhaps, excessive contrivance to manage her plot, but this is a small failure in such a fine novel.

Review by Gary Ireland

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