Book on Beach

Welcome to the May update from our friendly reading group!

We are now entering a busy time of year, so there were three apologies from our regulars due to sport and family commitments. The rest of the group really enjoyed meeting up, and we were chattering as soon as we arrived. The problem? So many good books out there and we all wanted to share our good reading experiences!

‘Puffball Paradox’ by Chip Tolson∫

This month we were privileged to read one of our group’s own novels. Chip Tolson has just published his third novel – ‘Puffball Paradox‘ – and we all agreed it was a really good read. There was some very kind critiquing and in general we thought some judicious editing would have made it a little crisper. That is a nit-pick because we all really enjoyed it.

Liz loved the fact that Chip knew Exmoor and Kyoto and it showed in this story. His descriptions were so good that we all said we loved that aspect of his writing. From London to a derelict cottage – with history – in the depths of Exmoor, the reader was immersed as the story grew with relationships and circumstances. Then there were such good characters – although Angus the dog seemed to steal everyone’s heart! Everyone agreed this was a good read.

Faye loved Angus and the whole story, especially seeing how Franklyn’s art developed over time and sold so well. She loved the cottage and the surroundings but felt the strength of their relationship a little unlikely. She could hear Chip’s voice and enjoyed it more and more as the story unfolded. No spoilers given here!

Sandra also liked the story but was puzzled that Angus didn’t seem to age, and then sadly he was gone. What happened to the second puffball? She thought it very good overall.

Carol thought some sentences needed pruning with a coma or a fresh paragraph to tighten the flow but once the story took over it became an excellent read. The relationship seemed a little cool but felt it a good story.

Theresa has bought two of Chip’s books. ‘Pebbles’, his collection of winning short stories, and has now arrived at ‘Puffball Paradox’. She can’t wait to start reading after all our good comments. Siobhan, likewise, will now read this as she missed our last get-together.

‘The House of Doors’ by Tan Twan Eng

Liz really enjoyed this second of Tan Twan Eng’s books; this one set in Malaya amid the British Colonial community. We met a lonely wife who hardly understood her husband’s secret predilection, and she welcomed his friend Willie Somerset Maughan with his ‘secretary’, Gerald, into their lives for a while. At the heart of this mix of fact and fiction are two characters: the British author Willie Somerset Maugham, now pretty much forgotten but once one of the most successful novelists and playwrights of the last century, and Lesley Hamlyn, born and raised among the British colonials in Malaysia and married to a colonial lawyer. Willie finds himself financially embarrassed and after listening to Lesley’s story, he writes another novel to save his reputation. We mingle with some Chinese unrest and history which was at the heart of this novel. Liz enjoyed it but thought Tan Twan Eng’s earlier novel, ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’, was a hard book to follow as it was so memorable.

Siobhan thought this book was excellent. She gave us a full overview of Tan’s novel. A lonely woman in a marriage of convenience living a life of colonial grandeur. When temptation arrived, she took advantage knowing her husband would be otherwise engaged. She loved the beautiful style of his writing and also, having studied Somerset Maugham, will re-read some more of those classic novels.

Carol reminded us that women had to marry at that time in history to have a secure life. Even if it was not stimulating. She enjoyed it, finding it interesting with good characters. sad and not uplifting, but intellectually very good.

Theresa at first was disappointed and definitely would have liked a bibliography to show the author’s sources for this ‘faction’. This is a wonderful way to widen our horizons by weaving fiction among historical facts.

Sandra had lived in nearby Dubai and gave us an insight into life, even in recent years, of ex-pats living, through work situations, in that part of the world. The women had to fill their days with sport, their children and it was all centred around ‘the Club’. So, has life changed?

Faye did not enjoy this one at all, and Mark wrote to say he really enjoyed ‘The House of Doors’.

Other Books We’ve Read This Month

  • ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne. Highly recommended by Liz.
  • ‘The Covenant of Water’ by Abraham Verghese. Read and enjoyed by Carol who also read ‘The Last English King’ by Julian Rathbone.
  • ‘Wondering Souls’ by Cecil Piu, ‘Homecoming’ by Kate Morton, and ‘The Cloisters’ by Katy Hayes were all enjoyed and recommended as good reads by Siobhan.
  • Theresa read ‘Mistress of the Art of Death’ by Ariana Franklin.

Coming Next Month…

Our books for the meeting on 11th June are:

NEXT MEETING: Tuesday 11th June at 12 noon in the Lounge of Westlands Entertainment Venue.

New readers are welcome!  See you there,