2010 Books in Translation Richard and Judy Book Club YA

No and Me – Delphine de Vigan

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

Translated from the French by George Miller

No and Me is a simple story about a 13-year-old girl who has an intelligence that isolates her from her peers. Difficulties at home make her life even harder, but everything changes when she befriends No, a homeless girl a few years older than her.

The book is very quick to read and contains a nice, heartwarming story, but I found it too straightforward to satisfy me. It felt like a children’s book and the teenage protagonist emphasised this classification.

Several serious issues were raised, but although it contained some emotional scenes I thought the book lacked subtlety. Everything was explained in easy to understand terms – perfect you teenagers, but a little patronising for intelligent adults.

Before I met No I thought that violence meant shouting and hitting and war and blood. Now I know that there can also be violence in silence and that it’s sometimes invisible to the naked eye. There’s violence in the time that conceals wounds, the relentless succession of days, the impossibility of turning back the clock. Violence is what escapes us. It’s silent and hidden. Violence is what remains inexplicable, what stays forever opaque.

I also thought that some of the story line was a bit far fetched, or at the very least over simplified. I don’t want to give anything away (although you can probably guess what happens!) but I have serious doubts about whether the events in this book could happen in real life, especially in the given time frame.

If you are interested in books about teenagers coming to terms with difficult situations then I recommend that you read Luke and Jon instead. The writing quality is far higher and I guarantee that you’ll find it more emotional.

Recommended to those who like simple, sentimental books.

The thoughts of other bloggers:

…its simplicity is part of its charm. Lovely Treez Reads

Beautifully written, touching and original…. Steph Bowe

No and Me is a very powerful book and I think that it is perfect for young adult readers…. Dot Scribbles

2010 Orange Prize Richard and Judy Book Club

The Wilding – Maria McCann

 Long listed for 2010 Orange Prize

Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

The Wilding is an atmospheric piece of historical fiction set in 17th century England. The book follows Jonathan Dymond, a young man who makes a living from helping neighbouring villagers to make cider. He leads a simple, happy life until one day his world is shattered by a mysterious note from his dying uncle. It suggests that secrets are hidden within the family and so Jonathan decides to investigate. Everyone is keen to guard their own secrets, but the truth is slowly revealed as the characters battle to claim the inheritance.

The Wilding was quick and easy to read, but the writing gave the book a period atmosphere that you don’t normally find in books this readable.

The book was well researched and I especially loved the details of the cider pressing. 

I loved the heady stink of fermentation – ‘apples and a little rot’, as the cottagers said – and the bright brown sweat that dripped from the murk  even before the screw was turned, the generous spirit of the apple that made the best cider of all. The villagers said ‘Good cider cures anything,’ and I agreed.

The mystery compelled me to read on, but when I finally discovered the twist I was quite disappointed. It wasn’t that I had already guessed the outcome, more that I found I didn’t really care about it. It wasn’t particularly clever and it gave an unfulfilling ending.

It also made me realise that I didn’t care about the characters. The more I analysed the book the more disappointed I became. I had been so distracted by the fast-paced plot that I hadn’t noticed that all the characters lacked depth.

Despite my criticisms I think this book will have wide appeal. Fans of The Thirteenth Tale or The Little Stranger will probably love it. It was an entertaining read, but I don’t think I’ll remember much about it in 6 months time.

Opinion is divided on this one:

It’s an utter mystery to me why this book has been longlisted for the Orange Prize. Vulpes Libres

 This isn’t a book for learning about the period so much as a book for those who want to live it themselves. The Worm Hole

…a plot that is made rather dull by the flat main character who delivers the story. Book Gazing

2010 Crime Richard and Judy Book Club

Sister – Rosamund Lupton

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Read

Sister is a fast paced mystery in which Beatrice tries to discover why her younger sister Tess has disappeared. The police think they’ve discovered what happened to Tess, but Beatrice knows her sister too well to believe their solution and sets out on her own dangerous hunt for the truth.

The majority of the book is written in the form of a letter from Beatrice to Tess. I found this writing style to be quite annoying – it didn’t flow very well in places and the continual ‘you’ and ‘your’ references felt odd, distancing me from the story.

I got into your bed. The polythene was flapping in the icy wind, the irregular inhuman noise as disturbing as the cold. Under your pillow were your pyjamas. They had the same smell as your dress. I hugged them, too cold and anxious to sleep. Somehow I must have done.

The pacing was very good and I was compelled to read on, but as the book progressed the plot became increasingly unrealistic. I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone, but the scientist in me didn’t like it.

I think that the book tried to combine too many elements (court case, police procedures, sibling psychology, scientific research, hospital procedures and a complex structure) and it didn’t quite work. As so many elements didn’t ring true the book as a whole was unsatisfying to read.

The structure of the book and the numerous talking points make this great for a book club discussion, but I think more people will be talking about the bits that irritated them than the parts they love.

Others seem to have enjoyed it more than I did:

The story is emotional, clever and extremely absorbing.  Bookstove

I really loved this book, and would urge anyone to read it. Petrona
Lupton hooks you by creating a creepy and unsettling atmosphere. Katie’s Book Blog
2010 Richard and Judy Book Club

The Crying Tree – Naseem Rakha

 Richard and Judy Winter Reads 2010

The Crying Tree is all about forgiveness. The book follows an American family as they come to terms with the murder of their teenage son. The murderer, Daniel Robbins, is on death row and the family exhibit a range of different reactions to his imminent execution. Set over several decades, we see the family before and after their son’s murder and the difficult spectrum of emotions they go through in trying to continue life without him.

I loved the first half of the book – it was fast paced and totally gripping. There were several touching sections and I did find myself genuinely sad about Shep’s death.

Shep was rolling a ball back and forth between his legs. He was crying because up beyond the trees the moon was all broken. He was tucked beside her as she read and laughing as she sang. He was riding his bike, and going to his first day of school, and playing the piano and the horn. Shep was smiling and laughing. Shep was her boy, he was just her little boy….

Unfortunately the book became increasingly sentimental and the theme of forgiveness became overbearing. By the half way point I was bored.

The characters were stereotypical and as I learned more about them I became increasingly annoyed by them. The twist in the end was the final straw. I won’t give anything away, but it ruined the entire book for me. The twist was unnecessary and took away from the message that the book was trying to deliver.

Recommended to those who like light, sentimental reads. 

Literary fiction lovers seem to have the biggest problem with this book:

Rakha is a bit heavyhanded with the message at times…. The Book Lady’s Blog

Naseem Rakha writes beautifully and with such depth of emotion at times I felt the suffocation that such pain and grief brings. The Eclectic Reader

The writing was so vivid that I felt as though this family was going through a real trauma, that this novel was in fact a true story. Book Addiction

I couldn’t quite bring myself to care about the people in this book because they felt less like people and more like representatives of various points of view. Shelf Love

2010 Non Fiction Richard and Judy Book Club

Operation Mincemeat – Ben Macintyre

 Richard and Judy Winter Read 2010

I don’t have any interest in military history or spy stories so when I saw that Richard and Judy had selected this as one of their Winter Reads I decided to challenge my preconceptions and give it a try. I’m afraid that it hasn’t converted me to into a lover of the genre, but I’m pleased that I gave it a chance.

Operation Mincemeat is a non fiction account of the planning that went into the invasion of Sicily during WWII. It details the deceptions that the British created to persuade German forces that an invasion would take place elsewhere – the plot centring on dropping a dead body into the sea off the coast of Spain with fake invasion plans.

The main problem I had with this book was that the plot was very simple. I was expecting a complex plan with lots of negotiations, spies and double-crossing, but I didn’t find Operation Mincemeat to be particularly cunning or original. It was interesting to see the massive amount of planning that went into this operation, but if this is the most exciting plot in WWII then I definitely don’t want to read any more military history.

This 400 page book was incredibly well researched, but I found many of the details boring. We were told the complete history of every person who was introduced and while some of it was relevant I didn’t care where they went to school or who their parents were.

I’m far more interested in the human side of war and this book lacked emotion. It was well written and readable, but I’d only recommend it to people who have an interest in military history.

Have you enjoyed any military history?

Can you recommend any that I might enjoy more than this one?

2009 Richard and Judy Book Club

Waiting for Columbus – Thomas Trofimuk

 Richard and Judy 2010 Winter Reads

I had seen several people raving about this book and so when I saw Richard and Judy’s new book club selection it was the title that appealed to me most. Unfortunately I seem to be one of the few people who didn’t fall in love with Waiting for Columbus – it irritated me so much that I failed to finish it.

Waiting for Columbus is set in a mental asylum in Seville. It focuses on a man who was found floating on a plank of wood in the Straits of Gibraltar; claiming to be Christopher Columbus this man has an amazing knowledge of Columbus’s life, but also an awareness of modern day technology. Through an increasingly romantic relationship with his nurse, Consuela, the truth about this confused man is slowly revealed.

I’m afraid that this book irritated me from the very beginning. This passage from page 9 illustrates several of my problems:

“Get me a phone,” he snaps. “I want to make a call.”


“A phone damnit. Look, I am Columbus. Christopher Columbus. I know the queen, the queen and the king. They can vouch for me. I am to lead three ships across the Western Sea. We’ve got a deal, damnit! Just get them on the phone.”

I hated the way in which new technologies were combined with historical information. It just didn’t feel right to me. The book frequently described events in Columbus’s life, but constant references to the future meant that I never became immersed in the past. We learned snippets about life 500 years ago, but these were so brief and vague that they failed to hold my attention.

Columbus was a rude, unlikable character. There were many points in the book that I wanted to slap him, but as his relationship with Consuela developed I found it increasingly hard to read his words without throwing the book across the room.

“I have feelings for you, Mr. Columbus. Very strong feelings. Feelings so strong that if I let them out you would perhaps be frightened.”

“Nothing much scares me,” he says.

There was nothing romantic or subtle about this relationship and it drove me nuts. I just couldn’t bear to read any more and so I gave up at about the 100 page mark.

Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, @bookladysblog (who LOVED the book) explained the ending to me and while it made sense, I’m quite pleased that I gave up when I did as it isn’t the type of ending that excites me.

I seem to be in the minority in not enjoying this book, so please read all the other reviews before deciding whether or not this book is for you.


Everyone else seems to love this book:

…. a read that will keep you breathless and leave you gasping for more. The Book Ladys Blog

…..a unique book that was enjoyable to read. S. Krishna’s Books

I did not want to stop reading. Sophisticated Dorkiness

 A unconventional, multi tiered tale of love, loss and redemption that will grab you and not let you go until the final pages…… A Bookworm’s World

Did you enjoy Waiting for Columbus?