12 years a slave by Solomon Northup

About the book

Born a free man in New York State in 1808, Solomon Northup was kidnapped in Washington, D.C., in 1841. He spent the next 12 years as a slave on a Louisiana cotton plantation, and during this time he was frequently abused and often afraid for his life. This is his detailed description of slave life and plantation society.

Reviewed by The Benches

Interesting and almost a horror story. Too much detail in some parts but an easy read and it uncovers slavery from the inside. Most of our readers rated it 3 stars and the rest 2 stars.

Star rating: ***

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 
 
 

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

About the book

This is a vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belonging to a now distant past.

Reviewed by Between the Leaves

Our group was split 50/50. Half thought it was a delightful, evocative picture of a time gone by, never to be again, warts and all! The other half thought it dragged, bordering on boring with nothing of substance. Personally I thought it was WONDERFUL.

Star rating: ***

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 
 

Toast by Nigel Slater

About the book

This is Nigel Slater‘s truly extraordinary story of his childhood remembered through food. Nigel’s likes and dislikes, aversions and sweet-toothed weaknesses form a fascinating and often amusing backdrop to this incredibly moving and evocative memoir of childhood, adolescence and sexual awakening.

Reviewed by Eastleigh Library Wed Afternoon

Mixed reviews within the group. Generally readers thought it was sad and that slater was obsessive about food and that the book was a release for emotions. Some thought it humorous and entertaining, other were irritated by the lack of chronological order of events.

Star rating: ***

Read this book

Request to borrow a reading group set
 
 
 
 

A Short walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby

About the book

The view was colossal. Below us on every side mountain surged away it seemed forever; we looked down on glaciers and snow-covered peaks that perhaps no one has ever seen before, except from the air.’
Feeling restless in the world of London’s high-fashion industry, Eric Newby asked a friend to accompany him on a mountain-climbing expedition in the wild and remote Hindu Kush, in north-eastern Afghanistan. And so they went – although they did stop first for four days of climbing lessons in Wales – becoming the first Englishmen to visit this spectacular region for more than half a century. Newby’s frank and funny account of their expedition to what is still amongst the world’s most isolated areas is one of the classics of travel writing.

Reviewed by Kingsclere Reading Group:

A mixed response: some loved it, others found it a bit dull. Good discussion about the attitudes shown by writer to ethnic groups he met. Quality of his writing enjoyed. All pleased that we read a book we might otherwise have rejected.

Star rating: ***

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set

Family Secrets by Derek Malcolm

About the book

Hidden under some papers in his father’s bureau, the sixteen-year-old Derek Malcolm finds a book by the famous criminologist, Edgar Lustgarten called “The Judges and the Damned”. Browsing through the Contents pages Derek reads, ‘Mr. Justice McCardie tries Lieutenant Malcolm – page 33.’ But there is no page 33. The whole chapter has been ripped out of the book. Derek’s father, it emerges, shot his wife’s lover and was acquitted at a famous trial at the Old Bailey. The trial was unique in British legal history as the first case of a crime passionel, where a guilty man is set free, on the grounds of self-defence. Husband and wife lived together unhappily ever after. After his father’s death, Derek received an open postcard from his Aunt Phyllis, which baldly informed him that his real father was the Italian Ambassador to London…By turns laconic and affectionate, Derek Malcolm has written a richly evocative memoir of a family sinking into hopeless disrepair.

Reviewed by Everton Reading Group:

A varied response from love to hate. Those who enjoyed it appreciated the way it was written and the account of the trial. Discussion focused on the ‘class’ aspects in terms of emotion and control. Was this a feature of the times or society?

Star rating: **+

Read the book

Request to borrow a reading group set