Great Book Suggestions for Book Clubs

shelves

Thank you so much for all of your excellent feedback and suggestions for book club books. I haven’t yet decided what I’m going to choose for our May discussion, but now I have a fantastic list to select from and also have a surplus of titles to consider for future months. I’m going to share this list with the rest of my book club members in case they need suggestions as well. It’s always easier to decide on a book when the field is already narrowed to a list of reputable titles. Below, I’ve compiled the titles into an alphabetical list and also included recommended authors – hopefully, this will help others looking for good discussion books or just a good read for themselves. Thanks again!

Specific Titles

Coral Glynn – Peter Cameron

The Cutting Season – Attica Locke

Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather

Excellent Women – Barbara Pym

Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

The Hollow Land – Jane Gardam

Jim the Boy – Tony Earley

Listening Valley – D.E. Stevenson

Little Century – Anna Keesey

A Lost Lady – Willa Cather

A Month in the Country – J.L. Carr

Murder Past Due – Miranda James

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

The Rosemary Tree – Elizabeth Goudge

The Scent of Water – Elizabeth Goudge

Secret Daughter – Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Silas Marner – George Eliot

The Solitary Summer – Elizabeth Von Arnim

Someone – Alice McDermott (Twitter suggestion)

The Soul of Kindness – Elizabeth Taylor

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis

Vanessa and Her Sister  – Priya Parmar

The Young Clementina – D.E. Stevenson

Authors

Tove Jansson

Penelope Lively

Emily St. John Mandel

Edith Wharton

Dorothy Whipple

I Need Your Suggestions

random books

This year my book club decided to choose our books a different way than we have in the past. Each month a different member gets to pick the book with no arguments or vetoing. There are only two rules: it must be 400 or less pages and available at several different libraries in the area. The unspoken rules: nothing too dark, violent, sexy or sweary. The first three months of the year we read non-fiction and this month we’ll discuss Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers.

May is my month. And I am having a tough time deciding what we should read. I’ve decided on then quickly discarded about five titles now and am starting to panic. Our meeting isn’t until next week so I have a bit of time to make up my mind, but I’d really love some suggestions. Have you read anything lately that fits our criteria and would be great for a discussion group? Of course, you wouldn’t know about library availability but discounting that do you have any brilliant recommendations? I want to choose a novel and something somewhat shortish. Classic or contemporary. Male or female author. Literary or genre fiction. I just need ideas!

Thanks in advance!

Cover Collection: Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth

1. Virago Press // 2. Virago // 3. Weidenfeld & Nicholson //

4. Penguin Classics // 5. Phoenix //6. Penguin Books Ltd.

I’m in the midst of a small reading slump – I just haven’t found anything lately that ticks all of my boxes or even makes my heart race with pleasure. Thank goodness I still have Testament of Youth in my life. I took a break from it over the last week because I thought I should try to get into a novel, but I think I just need to stick with this until I finish. It’s the only book that feels right at the moment.

I own no. 4, but I really like the combination of Vera Brittain’s photo and the poppy on no.2. Which cover would you want to own?

 

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

 

paying guests

I consider Sarah Waters to be one of my favorite authors so of course I started reading The Paying Guests back when it was released last fall with much excitement. However, I didn’t finish it before I went to London and had to return it to the library before I left. While walking around Windsor after visiting the castle I saw a copy for sale in a bookshop and bought it with the idea of reading it on the plane home. Yet I didn’t finish it then either. Finally a few weeks ago I started it again and this time I was riveted. I couldn’t stop reading and finished the novel with that wonderful sense of satisfaction you feel after living in a truly wonderful story.

The book is set in London in 1922 when the aftermath of the war is still radiating through society. Frances Wray and her mother are left alone in a big, demanding house with little money and no servants. To make ends meet they take in ‘paying guests’, Len and Lily Barber, a young couple who come from a different world, a different class, a different social status.  Inevitable awkwardness and discomfort accompany their arrival to the Wray’s home, especially as Len is a bit slick and there is an odd undercurrent of bitterness in his relationship with Lily. As the weeks go by they all try to adjust to the strained situation and Waters brilliantly creates that feeling of unease for the reader that sits at the heart of all of her novels.

Frances and Lily are eventually drawn together – out of mutual loneliness and dissatisfaction – and their relationship takes a dramatic and erotic path that leads to murder. The plot then turns from a simmering love story to a tense police investigation and courtroom drama that only made the novel more interesting and complex. Waters is so good at examining the shifting state of relationships when they’re put under pressure and how her characters react to tragedy and anxiety felt so right to me.

I love the domestic details in this book – the descriptions of the cleaning, the meals, the everyday chores that bring the novel to life and transport us into the post-war society that was so rapidly evolving. These details ground the novel in reality when the characters and the plot take unfamiliar paths and helps to ratchet up the suspense and sense of terror that would plague anyone involved in a forbidden romance or a murder investigation.

I wasn’t disappointed with this latest novel by Sarah Waters and it seems to be the book that will earn her the huge readership that she deserves. She is really gaining a following here in the States – I’ve had conversations with two different patrons this week at my library about how they can’t believe they just discovered her writing. One of the patrons was sad to learn that Waters doesn’t crank the novels out and there was a five year gap between The Paying Guests and The Little Stranger. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another five years for her next novel.