Book reviews 2019 (Part 2)

These are the latest books to be tackled by Book Group 1 and, as you will see, not all of them have been popular. However, we all agree that is good to be taken out of our comfort zones and sometimes an unpopular book produces the best discussions.

tracy rees  book

Amy Snow by Tracy Rees

This book tells the story of a newborn baby found in the snow by a young heiress who, despite her parents’ distaste for the child, insists that she be brought up in the well to do family mansion. The child, Amy Snow, is treated very badly by the lord and lady of the house but finds friendship in her rescuer, Aurelia, until her early demise. Amy then embarks upon a voyage of discovery, in the form of a treasure hunt, to find secrets from the past.

The story gave some feeling for early Victorian Society, the role of women and etiquette of the upper classes of the time. The account of travel and the development of the railways was an interesting sideline.Unfortunately, that’s as far as it went. The plot became too sickly sweet and unrealistic to be taken seriously. It was little more than a fairy story or Mills and Boon romance. Perhaps, given Amy’s background we were expecting something darker than flouncy ball dresses and fancy society. We became overwhelmed by unnecessary detail, the characters were uninspiring and the end was completely predictable. This was a book that promised much but, unfortunately, delivered little.

joanna cannon book

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon

When a new resident joins the inmates at Cherry Tree retirement home Florence, Elsie and Jack set out on a mission to expose a dark truth. Or do they? There is more than one mystery in this book and the fact that Florence can only remember two of the three things about Elsie, is all part of it. She is her best friend and she always knows the right things to say to make her feel better. So, what is the third?

This is a poignant, sad and sometimes funny book that reveals the hopes and fears of an elderly lady struggling with having given up her home, the onset of dementia and the dread that she will be sent to ‘Greenbanks’. We assume, correctly, that this is a place for those with severe dementia, where there is no hope of an independent life and all choices and decisions are made by others.

This book was enjoyed by most but maybe came a little too close to home for those who have experienced caring for elderly relatives. However, it was a worthwhile read which brought home to all of us that old age can be cruel, and we all need to make the most of what we have while we still have it.

gervase phinn book

The Other Side of the Vale by Gervase Phinn

This book is an account of a successful teacher who applies for and gets the job of a school inspector in The Dales. He tells of his early initiation into the job and the progress he makes meeting all kinds of people and children, along the way
All of the teachers in our group wished they had met such an amenable school inspector and felt it would have been nice to have taught such perfect children but, unfortunately, this book appears to have been set in a little bubble somewhere on another planet.

It was an easy read with a feel-good factor but couldn’t be taken too seriously.
Although Gervaise Phinn’s ‘Little Village School’ books are written in the same, somewhat idealistic and repetitive style, they are far more appealing than this account of being a school inspector. At least they have a minimal plot to them and some endearing and quirky characters to add more interest. Unfortunately, the perfect schools, perfect teachers, perfect pupils and perfect views, ultimately, became boring. It was all too perfect!

simon reeve book

Step by Step by Simon Reeves

This was another book that divided opinion. Several group members really enjoyed the tale but a number of others were unable to complete reading it. Those who had enjoyed his TV travel documentaries felt that he came across well in these programmes, revealing the terrible plights of people in previously unknown countries with insight and empathy. However, this was sadly lacking in his autobiography, which got off to a tortuous start. He recounted his ‘so called’ disadvantaged start in life but, unfortunately, came across as an arrogant teenager with a chip on his shoulder. Not everyone agreed with this statement but it appeared to be the consensus. The stories of his travels were more interesting but overly long and the constant references to morning hangovers became tedious. Online reviews of this book are excellent but many of us felt he would be well advised to stick to broadcasting.