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2020 Book Reviews

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - January 2020


At our January meeting we discussed A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  A Christmas Carol is a short novel, less than a hundred pages long, but it has had a very strong influence on our culture and on the way we celebrate Christmas today. 


We all knew the story and the characters, having seen many adaptions of the book, but surprisingly a significant number of us had never read Dicken’s original novel and most of the group who had read the novel read it a long time ago.


Almost uniquely for our group we were unanimous in enjoying A Christmas Carol, even the members who are not Dickens’ fans.  As one member said, “I very much enjoyed it, a darn good story well told.”


We had a very interesting discussion about the book.  Dickens wrote the novel in order highlight concerns about poverty and injustice in Victorian England but it was pointed out that though the novel was published in 1843 a number of the issues it is concerned with such as homelessness and poverty are still with us today.



Andy Moir

Upstairs at the party by Linda Grant - February 2020

At our February meeting we discussed Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant.  The novel is narrated by Adele, who was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool in the early 1950s. She goes to York University to study English and the novel tells the story of the friends she met there and how the dramatic events at Adele’s 21st birthday party affected her and her friends for the rest of their lives.


Most of the group enjoyed the novel and thought that it was very well written and vividly evoked the 1970s and it made some people nostalgic for their time at university. Whilst it was a novel, we thought that it was based loosely on Linda Grant’s own experience since she was born to a Jewish family in Liverpool in the early 1950s and went to York University to study English.


Some members were less keen on the book and felt that it lacked a strong plot and one member said “A bit too much name-dropping for me.  Lots of descriptions of clothes and personal appearance”.


It was an interesting meeting which lead to some discussion on how universities have changed since the 1960s and 70s.

The Girl Before by J P Delaney - March 2020


Unsurprisingly, given the current situation, there were only nine of us at the March meeting where we discussed The Girl Before by J P Delaney.


Whilst most readers appreciated the quality of the writing, no-one expressed whole-hearted satisfaction with the novel. Amongst the comments were that as each sequence of the unrolling of both the main characters narrative was revealed, they were too repetitive of each other.


There was a general feeling that all four main protagonists were too manipulative, too “creepy” and deeply unpleasant. What surprised this reader was the acceptance of most members as being technically quite plausible, were the bio-metrics functions that One Folgate Street possessed. There were also reservations concerning the way in which two main characters met identical deaths, which stretched credibility too far. Some readers complained of too much sex in the story, a complaint not shared by this reader!  


In summary, a well-written but flawed novel.


Harry Franklin





This page last edited on 29 March 2020