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Book Club 2022-2023 : The List

September 18, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

I’m a little late with my usual Book Club list but, here we go!

Our reading year starts in September with The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (UK, 1990)

This is the first volume of the Cazalet Chronicles, the story of an English family from 1937 to the 1950s. It’s our September read and I’ve finished it now and won’t write a full billet about it. I know it is a beloved series but I was very disappointed and terribly bored.

I expected something between Christmas Pudding by Nancy Mitford and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson and ended up in a plain soap opera full of clichés.

An eccentric couple as patriarch and matriarch of the family. A woman who left her career to marry and ends up stuck with a womanizer. A closeted lesbian spinster. A would-be painter, a widower remarried to a beautiful but vapid young woman who doesn’t like her step-children. An affectionate couple who can’t seem to speak to each other. A sister married to a scoundrel and struggling with money, until a dear old aunt dies. An ugly and poor governess. An army of children with the expected dreams and angst: being an actress, fleeing from home, fighting with each other…And servants as side characters.

All this in a style I found very plain. Tedious and lifeless descriptions of the countryside, the different homes or the cook’s culinary wonders. I expected a bit of humor and found none. I couldn’t find any interest in the characters’ fate and struggled to finish The Light Years. Needless to say, I won’t be reading the next one.

I couldn’t immerse myself in Downtown Abbey either, that should have clued me in. At this time, I don’t know if the other members of our Book Club enjoyed it more than me. I’m looking forward to hear their take.

Since several bloggers I respect and share literary interests with really loved this series, I wonder what I missed. A British cultural background?

October will bring another historical novel with Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown (USA, 2014)

Like The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, Flight of the Sparrow is based upon the real life of a woman who feels stifled by the restricted status of women in her time and who starts questioning the vision of the world she was born in.

Set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1676, Flight of the Sparrow is based upon the real life of Mary Rowlandson who lives in a Puritan community and is captured by Indians. Sharing the Indians’ quotidian, she’ll discover another way of living, another kind of civilization.

I’m looking forward to it.

November will be totally different with Animal Souls by Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos (Portugal, 2020).

It is the eleventh volume of a crime fiction series featuring a recurring character, Tomás Noronha. I’ve never heard of this writer, specialized in scientific crime fiction and who bases his books on true scientific research.

Animal Souls explores the topic of the intelligence and the consciousness of animals as Tomás Noronha investigates a murder at the Oceanarium in Lisbon.

It sounds fascinating. December will take us to India with Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga. (2011)

Set in Mumbai, it’s the story of a man who refuses to leave his apartment and sell to a property developer. On principle.

I like him already.

I hope to learn a bit more about India through this book even if it’s already eleven years old and many things have happened since.

January will bring us back to Europe and in the 19th century with The Waltz of the Trees and the Sky by Jean-Michel Guenassia (2016).

I don’t think it’s been translated into English and the original French title of the book is La valse des arbres et du ciel.

The beautfiful cover is spot on as this book relates the last days of Van Gogh’s life with the Gachet family in Auvers-sur-Oise. It’s based upon the latest research on Van Gogh’s life and his work.

February will see us back in the 21st century with Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov. (Ukraine)

Lots of reviews of this book have blossomed on our literary blogosphere since the war in Ukraine started.

I’m looking forward to understanding better the background of the war in Ukraine through Kurkov’s eyes.

I still have his other book, The Chameleon, on the shelf.

In March, we’ll go to Atlanta and read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018)

According to the blurb, it sounds like the little brother of If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin.

A young couple with a promising future is set apart when the husband is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.

How will their couple survive this?

Then it’s back to France and crime fiction in April.

We’ll read Boccanera by Michèle Pedinielli, a crime fiction book set in Nice. Boccanera is a woman PI who will investigate a murder in the gay community. She sounds like a great character, a maverick in a men’s world.

On the cover it says : “If Montale and Corbucci had a daughter, she’d look like Boccanera.”

Doesn’t it sound great?

We’ll fly back to America in May, to New-York and his Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead. (2021)

According to the blurb, it is a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

It sounds more playful than the very serious Underground Railroad and Nickel Boys.

Let’s go to Harlem in the 1960s!

June will have a totally different vibe with L’Autre by Andrée Chedid (2005).

I don’t think that this one is translated into English. Andrée Chedid is a poetess and a novelist. In this novella, an old man sees someone at the window of a hotel just before an earthquake. He’ll do his best to steer the rescue teams towards this stranger and save him.

And July will be a reread, Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. No description needed. I’m curious to read it as an adult.

That’s all for the coming year. I’m happy with our choices, it’s a good mix of historical, crime and literary fiction. Did you read any of them and did you like them?

  1. September 18, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Ive been curious about The Light Years for some time having seen so many bloggers comment on how good it is. Your reaction gives me pause for thought.
    Am American Marriage was poor I thought, not hard hitting enough about the injustice.


    • September 18, 2022 at 8:44 pm

      I’m on my own regarding The Light Years: all the reviews and ratings were good.
      I hope I’ll like An American Marriage better than you but I understand your point.


      • September 19, 2022 at 6:18 pm

        The American Marriage is like so many modern novels – they get talked up about their “message” but when you get to read it, it’s actually very superficial


        • September 20, 2022 at 9:09 pm

          I see what you mean. Or the message gets in the way of the plot and literature.


  2. September 18, 2022 at 1:02 pm

    A nicely varied list – will look forward to your thoughts on them all!


    • September 18, 2022 at 8:45 pm

      Thanks! Let’s hope it’ll be a fun and interesting reading year.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. September 18, 2022 at 1:46 pm

    A really interesting list Emma! I’ll look forward to hearing how you get in with Catcher in the Rye. I read it as a teenager and I suspect I’d have a lot less patience with the Holden now!


    • September 18, 2022 at 8:46 pm

      I’m curious about The Catcher in the Rye. I’ll read it in English this time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. September 18, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Sounds like a great voyage around the world, but I’ll be hanging out for your view of Catcher in the Rye which I read for the first time just a couple of years ago.


    • September 18, 2022 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks, Bill.
      What did you think of Catcher in the Rye?


      • September 19, 2022 at 1:35 am

        Lots of people who had to read Catcher as school kids just see it as an entitled kid complaining. But it is actually (IMO!) a beautifully written cry for help.


        • September 20, 2022 at 9:10 pm

          We’ll see. This is not a school read memory for me, which probably helps.


  5. September 19, 2022 at 12:18 am

    Last Man in Tower will break your heart. The first time, I had it as an audiobook, and I took it back to the library without hearing the last chapter because I could not bear what I thought was going to happen to the stubborn old man whose home is wanted by developers. I did read it all in the end, in a paperback. It’s exceptional. Happy reading!


    • September 20, 2022 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks for the glowing recommendation for Last Man in Tower. Will stock up on tissues! 🙂
      More seriously, it is an interesting topic, the way old towns get destroyed in order to build condos.


      • September 21, 2022 at 12:11 am

        Yes, it puts a human face on it.
        Here in Melbourne, a while ago now, there was an old lady who lived in a small timber cottage that was right where they wanted to put a big commercial development. They bought up everything around her and demolished it, but she wouldn’t budge. The tabloid papers were (lucky for her) were on her side and they would run stories about what a hero she was and so on. I thought of her when I was reading the book, because these days the media wouldn’t let sentiment get in the way of commercial ambitions, and they would have made her life miserable.


        • September 21, 2022 at 8:59 pm

          What a story bout this old lady in Melbourne!

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Vishy
    September 20, 2022 at 12:11 am

    Wonderful books, Emma! I loved Andrey Kurkov’s Grey Bees! It is a wonderful book! Happy reading 😊 Will look forward to your billets.


    • September 20, 2022 at 9:12 pm

      Thanks Vishy! I’m sure Grey Bees will be great. I loved The Penguin, so…


      • Vishy
        September 28, 2022 at 5:52 pm

        Glad you loved Death and the Penguin, Emma! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Grey Bees! Happy reading!


        • October 2, 2022 at 10:52 am

          Thank you! 🙂


  7. September 20, 2022 at 4:13 am

    Really nice diverse list!
    I have only read the last one, which I hated totally!
    I have read Th White Tiger (I liked it), by Aravind Adiga, but not this one.
    And I haven’t read anything yet by Andrée Chedid!!


    • September 20, 2022 at 9:13 pm

      Thanks! I’m glad we have such a mix of genres and countries.
      I’ve never read anything by Andrée Chedid either.


  8. October 5, 2022 at 11:15 am

    I love seeing these book club lists! It looks like a good selection. The only one I’ve read is Catcher in the Rye, but I’ve read other books by some of them, like Adiga’s White Tiger, which was excellent.

    I haven’t read The Light Years, but I think maybe you’re right about needing a British cultural background. It sounds horribly clichéd, but a lot of British people seem to love rehashing this era of stock characters rattling around in country houses behaving in predictably eccentric ways. Switch on the TV any evening in Britain and you’ll find a period drama with more or less this exact setup on at least one channel. It’s a kind of national comfort food, like mushy peas or spotted dick.

    It’s odd that these stories have so much appeal when most of our ancestors would have been the bit-part servants and governesses, not the masters and mistresses, but then it’s hard to explain the appeal of mushy peas too.


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