Other Richard and Judy Book Club

Richard and Judy Book Club 2009

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, including The Time Traveler’s Wife, Cloud Atlas and Random Acts of Heroic Love (one of my favourite reads of 2008)

This year Richard and Judy have moved to a new programme on a satellite channel called Watch. I don’t have satellite TV, so I can’t watch the show any more, but I’m still going to read the books, as most of their choices turn out to be great reads. So for the next few weeks, I will mainly be reading Richard and Judy’s 2009 selection, listed below. If you’re a follower of their book club please leave a comment below, as although I know there are 1000s of us out there, I haven’t come across any yet!


Richard and Judy’s 2009 Book Club Choices

Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman

Sucked into an investigation four decades cold, Ethan will uncover a secret legacy of shame and death, one that will touch horrifyingly close to home – and leave him fearing for his own life.

Reviewed on Wednesday 21st January



Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

This true story has all the hallmarks of a classic gripping murder mystery. A body, a detective, a country house steeped in secrets and a whole family of suspects – it is the original Victorian whodunnit.

Reviewed on Wednesday 28th January



The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

As she spins her tale, Scheherazade fashion, and relates equally mesmerising stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy and England, he finds himself drawn back to life – and, finally, to love.

Reviewed on Wednesday 4th February



When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

In rural Devon, six-year-old Joanna witnesses an appalling crime. 30 years later the man convicted of the crime gets out of prison. In Edinburgh, 16-year-old Reggie works as a nanny for a doctor. But Dr Hunter has gone missing & Reggie seems to be the only person who is worried. DCI Louise Monroe is also looking for a missing person.

Reviewed on Wednesday 11th February



The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Jordan returns to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family & community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been shot dead & one of his wives is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the 19th wife of prophet & leader of the Mormon Church, tells her story.

Reviewed on Wednesday 18th February

The Bolter by Frances Osborne

Idina Sackville first met scandal when she left her very rich husband and two small children for a penniless army officer in 1918. She went on to marry and divorce a total of five times and be the founder and ‘high priestess’ of White Mischief’s scandalous Happy Valley of Kenyan settlers. Here, her great- granddaughter tells her story.

Reviewed on Wednesday 25th February



Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

In early 2006, Chuck Ramkissoon is found dead at the bottom of a New York canal. In London, a Dutch banker named Hans van den Broekhears the news, and remembers his unlikely friendship with Chuck and the off-kilter New York in which it flourished: the New York of 9/11, the powercut and the Iraq war.

Reviewed on Wednesday 4th March



The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

This novel tells the story of an orphaned daughter of a cabaret dancer and her rise from poverty and anonymity to film stardom, all set against the rise and fall of Berlin, the background of WWI, the debauchery of the Weimar era, the run-up to WWII, and the innovations in art and industry that accompanied it all.

Reviewed on Wednesday 11th March



December by Elizabeth H Winthrop

11-year-old Isabelle hasn’t spoken in nine months, and as December begins the situation is getting desperate. As her parents spiral around Isabelle’s impenetrable silence, she herself emerges, in a fascinating portrait of an exceptional child, as a bright young girl in need of help yet too terrified to ask for it.

Reviewed on Wednesday 18th March


The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Tense and heartbreaking to its last page, ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’ shows how life under seige creates impossible moral choices. When the everyday act of crossing the street can risk lives, the human spirit is revealed in all its fortitude – and frailty.

Reviewed on Wednesday 25th March

Richard and Judy Book Club

December – Elizabeth Winthrop

December is set in New England, and follows the Carter family through the wintery month, as they try to find ways to encourage their eleven-year-old daughter to speak. A long line of psychiatrists have given up on Isabelle, declaring that there is nothing medically wrong with her, and therefore nothing that can be done. Isabelle has now been locked in a world of self-imposed silence for several months, and her parents are struggling to cope with their daughter’s problem.

It is a well observed look at a typical American family, but ultimately nothing happens. It is a very gentle novel, with light touches of humour. If you like books by Anne Tyler, then you’ll probably love this, but I like a bit more action in my novels.

2000 - 2007 Recommended books Richard and Judy Book Club

The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson

I had heard lots of good things about The Gargoyle, and seen it on several people’s “Best of 2008” list, so was expecting great things. Perhaps I built my expectations up too much, as I was slightly disappointed.

The book follows the nameless narrator, as he recovers from severe burns after a car crash. His life is enriched when Marianne Engel, a mysterious sculptress of gargoyles, begins to visit him in the burns unit. Marianne claims to be a 700-year-old Medieval scribe, and she slowly reveals some of the events that she has witnessed over her long life.

I really enjoyed all the modern sections of the book. The thoughts of the burns victim were incredibly vivid, but were described in an almost comic way, so I was not disgusted by them:

Even when the skin did take, the absence of oil glands in the transplanted tissue resulted in extreme dryness. “Ants beneath the skin” is not only too cliched a description of how it felt, but also not graphic enough. Lumberjack termites brandishing little chainsaws, maybe; or a legion of fiddler crabs wearing hairshirts and fiberglass shoes; or a legion of baby rats dragging tiny barbed-wire plows. Tap-dancing, subepidermal cockroaches wearing soccer cleats and cowbuy spurs? Perhaps.

The book was very well researched, and I learnt a lot about the treatment of burns, schizophrenia and Medieval Germany. I also found Marianne’s character very interesting. I loved trying to work out whether or not she was schizophrenic, but I found that many of her tales seemed to drag on a bit. Although I realise their purpose in the story, I think that many of them could have been reduced in length, or removed completely. They interfered with the flow of the book, and made it overly long.

I enjoyed the ending of the book, it brought everything together, and rounded it all off nicely. Andrew Davidson is clearly a very skilled writer, and this is a great debut novel, but I think he tried to fit too many things into this book. I look forward to reading future books by him, as his imagination is wonderful!

Recommended for the vivid descriptions of life as a burns victim, and for re-enforcing the message that a person’s real beauty is underneath the skin, but be aware that fifty percent of the book is fairly average.

Also reviewed by Fresh Ink Books