Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Booking Mamas' November Meeting

Summary: International sensation Santa Montefiore presents the first book in a trilogy that follows three Irish women through the decades of the twentieth century—perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Hazel Gaynor.

Born on the ninth day of the ninth month in the year 1900, Kitty Deverill is special as her grandmother has always told her. Built on the stunning green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill is Kitty’s beloved home, where many generations of Deverills have also resided. Although she’s Anglo-Irish, Kitty’s heart completely belongs to the wild countryside of the Emerald Isle, and her devotion to her Irish-Catholic friends Bridie Doyle, the daughter of the castle’s cook, and Jack O’Leary, the vet’s son, is unmatched—even if Jack is always reminding her that she isn’t fully Irish. Still, Jack and Kitty can’t help falling in love although they both know their union faces the greatest obstacles since they are from different worlds.

Bridie cherishes her friendship with Kitty, who makes her feel more like her equal than a servant. Yet she can’t help dreaming of someday having all the wealth and glamour Kitty’s station in life affords her. But when she discovers a secret that Kitty has been keeping from her, Bridie finds herself growing resentful toward the girl in the castle who seems to have it all.

When the Irish revolt to throw over British rule in Southern Ireland, Jack enlists to fight. Worried for her safety, Jack warns Kitty to keep her distance, but she refuses and throws herself into the cause for Irish liberty, running messages and ammunition between the rebels. But as Kitty soon discovers, her allegiance to her family and her friends will be tested—and when Castle Deverill comes under attack, the only home and life she’s ever known are threatened.

A powerful story of love, loyalty, and friendship, The Girl in the Castle is an exquisitely written novel set against the magical, captivating landscape of Ireland. -- William Morrow

Last night we met to discuss THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE by Santa Montefiore. We actually had a small group (just about half of us), but it was nice to have a more intimate setting to discuss the book. Our hostess outdid herself and I'm still smiling from her selection of goodies. She served tons of homemade spring rolls (both shrimp and chicken) as well as a beautiful cheese plate. However, her desserts were unbelievable. She made a traditional Australian dessert called a lamington which is a light cake coated in chocolate and covered in coconut, and my favorite -- homemade scones with strawberry preserves and fresh clotted cream. Oh my!!!! I almost want to head over this morning to have leftovers with my coffee!

Enough about the food! But honestly I think the food and visiting with friends was probably the highlight of our meeting. None of us loved THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE, although none of us hated it either. I will speak more to my feelings about the novel later when I review it, but I will try to summarize a few of our general thoughts now.

Quite a few of us enjoyed the book but we did have a few issues. The ending was definitely a problem for some. THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE is the first of a trilogy and the ending was left open-ended -- of course. However, I think a few of us wanted a bit more closure. I guess it will be up to each of us to decide whether we want to find out what happens to the characters in the next novel, and I do think a few of us will continue with the series.

Another member commented on how much she enjoyed the descriptions of the locations and the characters  -- they made her want to travel to Ireland! She also appreciated the historical narrative and learning more about the early moments of the IRA. Personally, I loved the details about the Irish countryside. I visited Ireland two years ago and it definitely brought back memories of the country's beauty.

One thing most of us agreed on was that the novel was fairly predictable... until it wasn't. The ending did have a bit of a surprise which leads nicely into the next book; however, we felt as if the rest of the novel didn't have many surprises. In fact, there were quite a few times when we all agreed that we knew exactly what was going to happen to a few of the characters.

All in all, I'd say we had a great time at our November meeting!

Next month, we will be reading FORTY AUTUMNS: A FAMILY'S STORY OF COURAGE AND SURVIVAL ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BERLIN WALL by Nina Willner. I am really looking forward to reading a nonfiction book. I think we all too often get into the habit of picking a fiction title, and don't get me wrong, I love fiction. However, this story sounds pretty amazing. Truth can be stranger than fiction!

It's hard to believe that December is right around the corner! I am hosting our next meeting and we will have our traditional book swap. It's a fun way to get a new-to-us book (or steal one from another member), and we can celebrate another successful year as a book club!

Summary: In this illuminating and deeply moving memoir, a former American military intelligence officer goes beyond traditional Cold War espionage tales to tell the true story of her family—of five women separated by the Iron Curtain for more than forty years, and their miraculous reunion after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Forty Autumns makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two. At twenty, Hanna escaped from East to West Germany. But the price of freedom—leaving behind her parents, eight siblings, and family home—was heartbreaking. Uprooted, Hanna eventually moved to America, where she settled down with her husband and had children of her own.

Growing up near Washington, D.C., Hanna’s daughter, Nina Willner became the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Though only a few miles separated American Nina and her German relatives—grandmother Oma, Aunt Heidi, and cousin, Cordula, a member of the East German Olympic training team—a bitter political war kept them apart.

In Forty Autumns, Nina recounts her family’s story—five ordinary lives buffeted by circumstances beyond their control. She takes us deep into the tumultuous and terrifying world of East Germany under Communist rule, revealing both the cruel reality her relatives endured and her own experiences as an intelligence officer, running secret operations behind the Berlin Wall that put her life at risk.

A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation, and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love—of five women whose spirits could not be broken, and who fought to preserve what matters most: family.

Forty Autumns is illustrated with dozens of black-and-white and color photographs. -- William Morrow


bermudaonion said...

It's hard to have a good discussion when everyone feels the same way about a book. It still sounds like it was a good meeting!

Elizabeth said...

Sounds like a good book club meeting.

I enjoyed the book, but do agree about the ending.