Orange Prize Richard and Judy Book Club

Half of a Yellow Sun – Thoughts at the half way point

Winner of the Orange Prize 2007




On reflection the half way point is a terrible place to stop and write notes on this book. I should have chosen a place about a third of the way in, when the characters had just been introduced, before the horrific events start to take place. Having not read the book I wasn’t to know this, and so I’ll have to make the most of it, and try to form some opinions, despite being in the middle of the fast paced devastation taking place in the book at the moment.

The book did not progress as I expected it too. The writing style was different to Purple Hibiscus, in that it seemed more complex, and instead of focusing on one central character we are introduced to lots of different ones, who don’t seem to have anything in common. The build up was very slow, and I was beginning to wonder why people rave about this book so much, as it didn’t have much appeal initially.

The female characters don’t appear to be as strong as the male ones at this half way point. Perhaps this is just a reflection of the African nation, where men take a more dominant role in society, but the female characters are coming across as quite vague and hard to relate to at this stage.

My favourite character is Ugwu. He is a boy from a poor village, who goes to work as a houseboy for a university lecturer. I especially loved the scene at the start of the book where he goes to his Master’s house for the first time, and is excited by the food and running water he finds there:

Ugwu turned off the tap, turned it on again, then off. On and off and on and off until he was laughing at the magic of the  running water and the chicken and bread that lay balmy in his stomach.

Scenes like this remind us of how lucky we are in the west to have basic luxuries like running water in our homes.

The pace of the book has picked up a lot in the last few chapters. The scenes of violence are disturbing, and my heart is often in my mouth as I read the words. I can only imagine that it is going to get much worse in the final half of the book. My only wish is that Ugwu survives to the end, and has a promising future predicted.

What are your thoughts on the first half of the book?

Is it how you expected it to be? Are you enjoying it?

Who is your favourite character?

Other Richard and Judy Book Club

Richard and Judy Book Club Winners Announced.

The winner of the Richard and Judy Book Club 2009  is:

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

The result was announced at the Galaxy British Book Awards last week. The Gargoyle came in second, with December taking the prize for third place.

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

December by Elizabeth H Winthrop

I have to admit that I don’t agree with the result at all, only The Gargoyle would have made my top three, along with The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. I’m not surprised to see When Will There Be Good News at the top of the list, as Kate Atkinson has a large following, and her book was an enjoyable read, but I didn’t expect to see December in the top three. All the reviews I’ve seen of it have been mixed at best, and I haven’t seen anyone raving about it.

I think that the main problem with this prize is that anyone can vote, whether they have read all the books or not. This means that it often goes down to how good people imagine the book will be, or how impressive the cover is. This means that amazing books like The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite get over looked, as the cover doesn’t reveal how great the content is.

Do you agree with this result?

Do you think members of the public should be allowed to vote for book prizes if they haven’t read all the books?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Remember the Comment of the Week Competition! I’m looking forward to reading your comments!

Other Richard and Judy Book Club

Richard and Judy 2009 Book Club – Complete!

Richard and Judy host a TV programme, here in the UK. Every year they chose a selection of books, and then review them on their show. I have been following their book club for a few years, and have read some great books thanks to them.

This year’s Richard and Judy selection didn’t seem as strong as in previous years. I was disappointed with many of the books; the majority were average, or worse, and contained many flaws. I’m not sure that I will read the entire list in future years, especially as I am unable to watch the TV programme now that it has moved onto a satallite channel.

There were a few great reads though. I was very pleased to discover The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher both were rich, informative reads that I highly recommend.

Have you read this years R&J selection? If so, I’d love to know your opinion. Do you think the standard has dropped this year? Will you be reading the list in future years?

 Richard and Judy’s 2009 Book Club Choices

Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman

Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

The Bolter by Frances Osborne

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill



The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

December by Elizabeth H Winthrop

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite/The Glimmer Palace – Beatrice Colin

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite is one of the best books I have read this year. The blurb on the back cover describes a very different book to the one it actually contains. I’m not very interested in the film industry, and the life of an orphaned cabaret dancer doesn’t sound like a great basis for a novel, but luckily the book bears little resemblance to it’s description.

The book is set in Berlin during the early part of the twentieth century. The central character, Lilly, is brought up in an orphanage, and faces many hardships. When the orphanage closes, Lilly is thrown onto the streets, and has to learn to live independently. WWI plays a big part in the story line. Lilly has to cope with food shortages, disease and death. The suffering of the German people is described vividly, but sensitively. Lilly is one of the best characters I have come across in a while. She is flawed, but her strength shines though – I loved her!  By coincidence I am also reading Gone With the Wind at the moment, and noticed a lot of similarities between Lilly and Scarlett O’Hara. I’d love to ask the author if  this was just coincidence!

It is very well researched, and I learnt a lot about German history. My only criticism is that the historical facts became too densely packed towards the end. There was a point when I began to wonder if the book was non-fiction, and actually went to check! For three-quarters of the book it was a rich, well written, novel about one woman’s struggle against adversity, but the last part of the book was a bit disappointing, as Lilly’s character seemed to get drowned in historical facts, and the famous people began to dominate the plot. This is only a very minor criticism though, so please do not let it stop you from reading this book.

The book was well paced, informative, and entertaining, and I agree with Simon –  the writing style is very reminiscent of Sarah Waters. I’m sure that anyone who loves Sarah Water’s books will love this one too.

Highly recommended.

NB:  This book is called The Glimmer Palace in America.

Richard and Judy Book Club

Netherland – Joseph O’Neill

I’m afraid that life is too short to persevere with boring books, and this one succumbed very quickly. By page two I was wondering why I was reading it (the answer is that Richard and Judy made me do it!) I managed to get through to page fifty with a bit of effort, and then skim read the next 100 pages, before giving up entirely.

I’m not a fan of watching sport, and cricket has to be one of the dullest there is. A book about trying to build a cricket stadium in New York is going to have a very tough job exciting me, and I’m afraid it didn’t. The book is also supposed to be a reflection on the post 9/11 life of New Yorkers, but the little I read didn’t engage me.

I’m afraid this book just wasn’t for me. It was as exciting as a five day cricket test match!


Audio Book Richard and Judy Book Club

Getting Rid of Matthew – Jane Fallon (Audio Book)

Getting Rid of Matthew is typical ‘chick lit’. I don’t think I’d have ever read beyond the first couple of pages under normal circumstances, but I happened to have a copy of the audio book, and as I didn’t have anything else to listen to at the time, I decided to give it a try.

Getting Rid of Matthew is about Helen’s affair with Matthew. Helen spends years trying to persuade him to leave his wife, Sophie, and move in with her. When Matthew finally leaves his family to be with his mistress, Helen realises that the reality is not quite how she imagined it, and decides she doesn’t want to be with him any more. She desperately plots ways to get rid of Matthew, and ends up befriending Sophie, in disguise, to try to push the couple back together.

The characters were reasonably realistic, but only Sophie was remotely likable. Most of the time I was wondering if people really are as stupid as them! The book emphasises the destructiveness of affairs, and the hurt they cause both the family and friends of everyone involved.

The narration was excellent, and I think it made a world of difference to the experience of reading the book. It was really funny, and time spent listening to the story flew by. It’s a light book, which doesn’t require your full attention, so is a good choice if you may be distracted.

I’m not normally offended by strong language, but perhaps because it was an audio book, and I have young children, I was very aware of the amount of swearing it contained. I found that I couldn’t listen to it when my children were around, and so this was a major drawback.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend the book, but it was entertaining to listen to.