Book Reviews: Our Favourite reads during lockdown 

Book Reviews during Lockdown 2.0 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (review by Cheryl Stockman)

Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks donated her cells to science without Knowledge of doing so. The doctor took a sample of her tumor and some of the tissue around it to study but didn‘t ask her consent nor that of her husband. The saddest part of this story is the affect her death had on her newborn daughter. The rest of the family had their memories but Deborah would search for her mother th rest of her life. The story is well written as it realistically portrays each family member and how they dealt with the events while also giving a fair account of historical facts. I highly recommend this book for the humane perspective the author was capable of portraying.

American Dirt (review by Anne Stubley)

Jeannine Cummins

When I read the reviews of this book , I said to myself that it was definitely not for me - The story of the ordeal of a mother and her son trying to escape from Acapulco, Mexico and get into the USA as undocumented illegal immigrants; no thank you .

The Author, a white middle class American woman, was hounded by some sections of the media and public for writing this book . They asked the question "How can a woman with the background she has, write a book like this , she has no experiences of this kind?" She had death threats against her for showing sympathy for illegal immigrants and putting over their side of the story.

How wrong could I be about not reading it . I eventually downloaded it , but never did read it . About a month ago Brian found the book on his Kindle and started to read it . He never shut up about it , raving on and on . So last week I decided I must read it .

I was seriously impressed . It is a well written book, very sad . You find yourself there with the characters , in Mexico ; mostly decent people forced to flee their homes and families because of circumstances beyond their control.

The 2 main characters are Lydia and her son Luca, forced to flee Acapulco after they witness a massacre by one of the many drug cartels operating in Mexico. Lydia's aim is to get her son to safety in the USA . The book tells their story and the stories of other migrants they meet on their jouney. Harrowing book which really makes you think. I certainly learnt a lot , even about myself.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this book.

The Silence of the Girls (review by Kate Icke)

Pat Barker

The ancient city of Troy has withstood a decade under siege of the powerful Greek army, which continues to wage bloody war over a stolen woman—Helen. Briseis, queen of one of Troy's neighbouring kingdoms, is captured by Achilles and becomes his concubine, a prize of battle, and must adjust quickly in order to survive a radically different life, as one of the many conquered women who serve the Greek army. Agamemnon, the brutal political leader of the Greek forces, demands Briseis for himself, and she finds herself caught between the two most powerful of the Greeks, able to observe the two men driving the Greek army in what will become their final confrontation, deciding the fate not only of Briseis's people but also of the ancient world at large. Author Pat Barker brings this fascinating story to vivid life, painting portraits of characters and stories familiar from mythology with surprising historical detail, together with very readable prose. I had not read anything by Barker before but have vowed to search for more books by her. A very good read and one which will take you from today’s problems to a very different world.

10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (review by Meltem Tagliabue)

Elif Shafak

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2019.

Another good one from Elif Shafak. Enjoyed reading it ! Blending the real with unreal, she brings out into our awareness, the uncomfortable and unspoken realities about the history and traditions and takes the reader to the extreme worlds of people living at the edges of Turkish society.

The Levant Trilogy : Fortunes of War (review by Kate Icke)

Olivia Manning

The book which most made me forget my surroundings and general depressing situation during lockdown. A volume picked from my top shelves at home which tells of  WW II in Egypt and the Levant as seen through the eyes of two very different British people.  It is the second part of an opus entitled The Fortunes of War, the first part is entitled The Balkan Trilogy and is worth reading first if possible.  It has been described by Anthony Burgess as the finest fictional record of the war produced by a British writer.  All I can say is that it took my mind off Covid 19 et al and is a jolly good read! 


Killer's of the Flower Moon (review by Frances Gironi)

David Grann

Informative non fiction detailing the founding of the FBI by Edgar Hoover. Recounts the long, complicated investigation, and subsequent trial into how the Red Indian Osage tribe were being killed off by a scheming man, intent to gain possession of the oil deposits (the first discovered in N. America) in Oklahoma, the rights to which belonged to the Osage Tribe.

Agent Sonja (review by Kate Icke)

Ben MacIntyre

If you like a spy story you will love this – and it is all true!

Ben MacIntyre’s book about Ursula Kuczynski (codename Sonya) is fascinating, excellently researched and beautifully written – it is difficult to put down! She was a housewife, mother, dedicated Communist, expert radio technician, spymaster, courier saboteur, secret agent, etc. etc. – her life takes her from Germany to the USA, Indonesia, China, Russia, Europe and the UK. It is interesting also from the point of view of world events which underlie the whole story, from 1920’s Berlin up to the end of the century after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The author has painstakingly pieced together numerous documents and testimonials about Sonya, yet the book reads as an exciting spy novel too. If you have not read it yet, also to be recommended is The Spy and The Traitor, by the same author.


Book Reviews during first Lockdown 

Lady in Waiting : Autobiography (review by Frances Gironi)

Anne Glenconner

I am always interested in inside stories regarding the Royals.  This is the life of Anne Glencomer, daughter of an earl,  married to an eccentric lord.  She grew up in the family stately home, next door to the Royal Family's Sandringham residence, the children were close friends as well as neighbours. Anne's life is full of interesting episodes:   maid of honour at the Coronation, appointed as lady in waiting

 to Princess Margaret, the purchase and development of Mustique into a luxury exclusive paradise island, among other events.

She was disinherited on the death of her husband,  in favour of an employee.

The Hoarder (review by Patricia Macnamara)

Jess Kidd

I’ve read a couple that were ok plus a couple by an author called Jess Kidd, one in particular called The Hoarder, which I think I especially enjoyed as I also have those tendencies .

The Women in the White Kimono (review by Elda Elvedese)

Ana Johns 

It's the portrait of a woman torn between her Japanese culture and her love for an American sailor . I liked this exploration of the cultural divide, set in a remote seaside Japanese village at the end of the World War II.

A Single Thread (review by Ingrid Benvenuti)

Tracy Chevalier

I loved "A Single Thread" very much . I think it is very sensitive and feminine. Beautiful.

An American Marriage (review by Ingrid Benvenuti)

Tayari Jones

Now I am reading  An American Marriage and like it, it is profound. I like the protagonists, it helps me know directly from the people involved, the situations that I know exist in America. Very interesting. In both books the art of sewing has an important role, I love it.

The Heart's invisible Furies (review by Ingrid Benvenuti)

John Boyne

A very interesting and sad book about  what harm that religion can do. Now I am reading a Swedish book, a biography about the first female journalist in Sweden and at the same time an easy reading book in Italian of Lucinda Riley.

Down Under (review by Anne Stubley)

Bill Bryson


Makes me want to visit the place despite the devastating heat in certain places and tiny if deadly creatures. 

Then she was gone (review by Anne Stubley)

Lisa Jewell

Intriguing story

Keeps you glued 

A mixture of love, and distorted views that lead to devastating results

New Boy (review by Anne Stubley)

Tracy Chevalier

Touched so many points about racism subtle and otherwise 

Love and destruction caused by hate and cruelty

Brought me back to my school days in the States. 

Olive Kitteridge (review by Anne Stubley)

Elizabeth Strout

Basically a book of short stories of different people in a small town in Maine USA.   Usually I don’t like short stories , but I quickly fell in love , or hate, with these characters. All the stories have , either as centre stage or as a supporting role, Olive Ketteridge. Love her or hate her , she is certainly an interesting character. In “normal times” I don’t know if I would have bought this book , but I did and I loved it. 

The Remains of the Day (review by Anne Stubley)

Kazuo Ishiguro

I have had this book on my shelf for about ten years , but never got round to reading it. I was missing a masterpiece of a book . Subtle, as are all this master author’s works, and very much a book which  makes you think . I read one review which said” it calms down one’s soul” – not sure about that but it certainly makes you think . For me it is very much a book about a way of life and politics . Others may see it as a love story. Not the same emphasis on life  as in the film .