2008 Memoirs Richard and Judy Book Club

The Bolter – Frances Osbourne

The Bolter is a non-fiction biography of Idina Sackville, a woman who scandalised 1920s society by marrying five times and having numerous love affairs.

Idina had a really interesting life, but this book fails to capture the essence of the woman. The writing is quite dry, and at times very boring. I think this book would have benefited from being written as a piece of historical fiction, so that some life could be breathed into each of the characters. I would have loved to have had a greater insight into the thoughts and feelings of Idina, instead of a list of two-dimensional people she met.

The reader also wasn’t credited with much intelligence, and I found myself being irritated by over-explanation of many things. I think the worst offender was this:

“He hadn’t seen him for five months, almost half a year.”

Overall, I was very disappointed by this book. The back cover makes it sound so interesting, but ultimately it failed to live up to my expectations.

2008 Crime

The Ghost – Robert Harris

This is the second book I have read by Robert Harris. The first, Fatherland, was a great idea for a story, and was cleverly written, but lacked the special spark of a great book. Unfortunately The Ghost  wasn’t an improvement.

The narrator of Robert Harris’s latest book, Adam, is assigned the task of becoming a ghostwriter for an ex-Prime Minister’s autobiography. The person he replaces in this job has recently died in suspicious circumstances. Adam travels to America to interview the former Prime Minister and begins to uncover some dangerous secrets.

The Ghost comes across as an attack on various political polices rather than as a thriller. The plot is slow, and lacks the intelligence of Fatherland. If you are interested in British politics then it might be worth reading, as I’m sure there are many politicians parodied in this book, but I’m just after a decent plot, and failed to find one. 

The characters were flat, and the plot was highly improbable. By the end of the book I was so bored that I didn’t really care about the twist, I was just glad to have finished it.

Very disappointing.

2008 Crime Richard and Judy Book Club

The Brutal Art – Jesse Kellerman

The Brutal Art begins when art dealer, Ethan Muller discovers a large number of pictures in an abandoned New York apartment. The pictures were the discovery of a lifetime:

Electrified, unnerved, I stared for six or seven minutes, a long time to look at a sheet of 8 1/2-by-11 paper; and before I could censor myself, I decided that whoever had drawn this was sick. Because the composition had a psychotic quality, the fever of action taken to warm oneself from the chill of solitude.

Ethan soon realises that he has stumbled across the work of a murderer, and tries to use the pictures to solve the 40-year-old crime.

The first third of the book was OK, as although the characters failed to engage me, the plot was interesting enough to pull me onwards. As the book progressed, I began to lose interest; the plot petered out to a virtual standstill, and chapters about Ethan’s past made the book seem dis-jointed.

There seemed to be too much arguing over how much everyone was going to pay for these paintings, and not enough crime-solving action.

I was really disappointed.

2008 Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

Mudbound – Hillary Jordan

Mudbound won the Bellwether Prize in 2008, for addressing issues of social injustice, and was the first book selected for Richard and Judy’s New Writers Book Club.

Hillary Joran makes writing a novel seem really easy. Everything is written simply, but beautifully. She shows amazing writing skill by taking a relatively simple story, then structuring it in such a way that makes it into a real page turner.

The story begins in the Deep South of America, just after the end of World War II, with a family struggling to bury their father in thick mud, during a storm. The story then progresses through the eyes of several characters, until we finally find the cause of his death. I loved the way that small hints as to what was to come were dropped into each chapter. Seeing everything from each character’s perspective meant that you develop an empathy for them all, and begin to understand the reasons for their actions.

The book is very well researched, with the segragation and racism of post-slavery America coming across very vividly.

My only critism is that the book was a little short for me. I wish that some of the sections, which were skimmed over, could have been filled in. Adding a bit more meat to the bones of this story would have made it into an iconic book, instead of just a great read.

Despite this tiny flaw, it was very well written, and I’m sure that Hillary Jordan will win many more prizes for her writing in future.

Highly recommended.

2008 Books for Children Recommended books

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick


I bought this book after seeing it recommended by 3M. It is beautiful! Everything from the gold page edges, to the amazing illustrations inside, makes you want to read at this book.


‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret’ tells the story of a twelve year old boy living in the walls of a Paris railway station. His secret life is put under threat when he meets the owner of a toy shop. The mystery of Hugo’s mechanical man, a stolen key and a strange notebook are solved through both sequences of illustrations and text. The plot is quite simple, but it is such a page turner that this doesn’t matter.


The book is aimed at 9 – 12 year olds, but my three year old boy loves it too. He asks me to read it again and again. He’s still a bit young for the full story, but he really enjoys looking at all the pictures and listening too a more basic version of the plot. I think it will be perfect for him in a few years time.


If you have, or know any children, particularly ones that like mechanical things, then you should get this book for them now. If you haven’t got any children, then this book is still worth a read – the mixture of images and text will mean that you remember this book for a long time.


Highly recommended.