What we read in February

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, heads for occupied France on a dual mission – officially, to run a simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman missing in action. She travels to the village of Lavaurette, dyeing her hair and changing her name to conceal her identity. As the people in the small town prepare to meet their terrible destiny, Charlotte comes face-to-face with the harrowing truth of what took place in Europe’s darkest years, and confronts a terrifying secret that threatens to cast its shadow over the remainder of her days. A great story-line that takes you right into the war- showing just how dangerous life was. It rekindled our fury at the fact that the holocaust took place.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

 A girl walks through the slums of Kolkata holding an armful of books. She returns home smelling of smoke, and checks her most prized possession: a brand-new smartphone, purchased in instalments. On Facebook, there is only one conversation: #KolabaganTrainAttack On the small, glowing screen, she types a dangerous thing… ‘If the police didn’t help ordinary people like you and me, if the police watched them die, doesn’t that mean that the government is also a terrorist?’ Set in contemporary India, A Burning is the story of three unforgettable characters, all dreaming of a better future, whose lives are changed forever when they become caught up in the devastating aftermath of a terrorist attack. A fierce condemnation of modern India – the corruption, racism, misogyny, the feverish obsession with celebrity. The inevitability of the ending is very powerful and heartbreaking.

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris

Dusk is gathering as a young priest, Christopher Fairfax, rides across a silent land. It’s a crime to be out after dark, and Fairfax knows he must arrive at his destination – a remote village in the wilds of Exmoor – before night falls and curfew is imposed. He’s lost and he’s becoming anxious as he slowly picks his way across a countryside strewn with the ancient artefacts of a civilisation that seems to have ended in cataclysm. What Fairfax cannot know is that, in the days and weeks to come, everything he believes in will be tested to destruction, as he uncovers a secret that is as dangerous as it is terrifying. Fantastically exciting to read – the pages couldn’t turn quick enough – however, the ending – with it’s limited answers – made us VERY angry!!!

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Choo Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 is the life story of one young woman born in South Korea at the end of the twentieth century. It raises questions about endemic misogyny and institutional oppression that are relevant to us all. Riveting, original and uncompromising. A very powerful book that re-opened our eyes to gender inequality and reminded us that these issues are still going strong today. Everyone should read this book. It’s important.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a novel that epitomises the spirit of the sixties. Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electroshock therapy. Her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. It’s an exuberant, ribald, and devastatingly honest portrayal of the boundaries between sanity and madness. Skilfully written, fantastically well observed, and beautifully tragic. Every single word counts.

The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

The story of Nat Davy, who in 1625, is sold by his father for being of no use. He’s taken off to London, where he’s hidden in a pie, and then given as a gift to the new queen of England. They called him the queen’s dwarf, but he was more than that. A book about being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together. A lighthearted yarn that rattles along pleasantly enough but perhaps a little too simplistic for our taste.

Nighthawking by Russ Thomas, will be published 29th of April.

Sheffield’s beautiful Botanical Gardens – an oasis of peace in a world filled with sorrow, confusion and pain. One morning, a body is found there; a young woman, dead from a stab wound, buried in a quiet corner. Police quickly determine that the body’s been there for months. It would have gone undiscovered for years – but someone just sneaked into the Gardens and dug it up. Who is the victim? Who killed her and hid her body? Who dug her up? And who left a macabre marker on the body? In his quest to find her murderer, DS Adam Tyler will find himself drawn into the secretive world of nighthawkers: treasure-hunters who operate under cover of darkness, seeking the lost and valuable and willing to kill to keep what they find. A gripping story-line with lots of back-story and great characterisation. However, it sometimes feels a bit muddled due to the fact that there are so many characters and people involved. A very enjoyable read none-the-less.

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