University of the Third Age 

Chelmsford


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2009 Book Reviews

“1984” by George Orwell  - June 2009

We discussed 1984 by George Orwell at our June meeting; the previous Monday being the 60th anniversary of the books publication.  

The group was divided on whether they “enjoyed” reading the book.  However we all agreed that it was a very important book and we had a fascinating and lively discussion.  

Andy Moir  


“The Purple Hibiscus” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - July 2009  

The Book Group met on Monday 20 July when we settled down to discuss our “Book of the Month”- “The Purple Hibiscus”.  This is the young Nigerian Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel. She shares her time between America where she has gained an intensive education and qualifications, and Nigeria , her place of birth.

The novel proved to be an insight into Nigerian homelife and conditions. It is well written and the characters well drawn.  The surroundings were extremely colourful as were the characters.  

The discussion was brisk and all members enjoyed the book so much that it was agreed to discuss the author’s next book in the future.

Sheena Fraser


“Last Orders” and “Tomorrow” by Graham Swift – August 2009  

The Book Group met on Monday 17 August to discuss two of Graham Swift’s books, ‘Last Orders’ and ‘Tomorrow’  

Both books are set in the south-east, covering a period from WWII to the 1990s and focus on family and close relationships. They generated a lively discussion about how well Swift had dealt with these issues.  It was generally felt that ‘Last Orders’, set in Bermondsey and the road journey to Margate, was the more successful, and of course has been made into a successful and star-studded film.  

Jenny Moir


“Mary Barton” by Elizabeth Gaskell – September 2009  

The Book Group met on Monday 21/9/09 to discuss Elizabeth Gaskell's book Mary Barton.

' Mary Barton ' is Gaskells first published work. Set in 1840's Manchester it is an excellent socio - economic history of the time. Through the eyes of the narrator and the main characters, we learn of the relationship, which existed between the employers and the workers. The lavish lifestyle of the former compared to the hard work and grinding poverty of the latter, which led to the Chartist Movement and the setting up of Trade Unionism in Britain.

The majority of the group enjoyed the book despite sore, tired eyes, owing to the small size of the text; however they did find it grim reading, particularly as there is little light heartedness in either the content or the style of writing.

Pauline Spratt.


“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini – October 2009

The Book Group met on Monday 19th October to discuss “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.

The group found it an interesting and worthwhile read, though not a comfortable one. The story gave us an insight into the modern history of Afghanistan , which we found very informative.

The story telling was very vivid and it encouraged one of our members to write the following poem:  

A Thousand Splendid Suns  

The book of life under Taliban rule

Is used as a reminder of just how cruel

The conditions, the poverty, the suffering they endure

We must remind ourselves and we must make sure

That the innocent survive, to live a good life

To enjoy the freedom to which we all strive

This book has opened my eyes

Let us be honest NO MORE LIES

WE DO NOT LIVE IN A HIVE OR COCOON

THIS WORLD IS FOR ALL RIGHT UP TO THE MOON

Edna Addy


“Winston’s War” by Michael Dobbs – November 2009  

The meeting of the Book Group on Monday 16 November produced what some members said was one of the best, if not the best, discussions that the Group had ever had!  The subject of this lively discussion was ‘Winston’s War’ by Michael Dobbs.  

The book is described by the author as “unashamedly a novel, not a work of history”. However, the author’s “novelisation” is based on certain factual events occurring during a very dramatic period of British, and world, history.  

This mixture of fact and fiction does leave the reader at times uncertain as to the accuracy of the ‘factual’ content. The period covered goes from   1st October 1938, when an “in the wilderness” Winston Churchill met  a young Guy Burgess ( then a BBC journalist but also a Russian spy) to 10th May 1940, when, with Britain now at war with Germany, Neville Chamberlain  was forced to step down as Prime Minister and Winston Churchill was appointed in his place.  

The author explores the relationship between Churchill, Chamberlain and Burgess with a blend of imagination and compelling facts, though, as the book’s title implies, his principal character and ‘hero’ is Churchill. Other familiar characters appear also, such as Lloyd George, Harold Macmillan and Clement Attlee, along with many others.  

Book Group members were able to make their own personal connections with this period of history and also made comparisons with political events of the present time.  Not all of us would, of our own volition, necessarily have chosen this book to read but, as was said, one of the advantages of belonging to a book club is that you are led to read books that you might not otherwise read but from which you nevertheless gain a great deal.  

Robert Charleston


"Minaret" by Lisa Aboulela – December 2009  

The book of the month for December was "Minaret" by Aboulela.  This book came highly recommended and was indeed short-listed for the Orange Prize. 

As usual, opinions were many and varied.  The majority of our group found it interesting, giving us an insight into the life of a Sudanese Muslim refugee young woman in Britain

The differences voiced were about the depth of the writing - some finding it rather shallow and passive, while others were more sympathetic.  On the whole it was considered an informative read.  



This page last edited on 01 November 2010