Rolleston's Book Clubs News 2011

Winter 2011 News

Chapter & Verse

In September the group discussed “Dancing with Darkness” by Magsie Hamilton-Little. The evocatively written story reveals how the author, a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies, felt compelled to travel to Kabul in a search for understanding, after witnessing the carnage caused by a suicide bomber on a London bus. As a somewhat naïve, single non-Muslim woman in Afghanistan, Magsie faces many dangers, whilst experiencing the warmth and humanity of the Afghan people in their desperate struggle to live ordinary lives. Travelling under cover of a burqua gave her the opportunity, and ironically the freedom, to see much of the country that otherwise would have been impossible to visit. The book prompted a long debate over the role and fate of women in Afghanistan, and whether Magsie’s decision to go there was purely a selfish or a worthwhile one.

In Oct our choice was “To Kill a Mocking Bird” by Harper Lee which was a new read for some members and a old favourite of others. Harper Lee tells the story of the trial of a black man, the symbolic 'mockingbird' of the title, through the eyes of the eight year old white girl called 'Scout'. It is set in the 1930s in a little town in the state of Alabama and its messages about prejudice and injustice are still as powerful today as when it was first published. The group felt it was a well written absorbing story written from the girl’s point of view and there was much discussion of the story’s affirmation that human goodness can withstand the assault of evil.

Future meetings are -

Christmas event 8 December

'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield 16 January 2012

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

2nd Chapter

In August we met to discuss 'Arthur and George' by Julian Barnes. This book was very much enjoyed by all and led to a good discussion on the many topics it raised. For those of us new to this author it was an excellent introduction. Julian Barnes writes superbly well and chose a fascinating true life incident on which to base his fictionalised version of it - The Great Wyreley Outrages. It is set in S Staffs, so quite close to home, and deals with an horrific series of horse mutililations which took place in this small village in Edwardian England. The book is a protrait of the two main characters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, and George Edalji, a mixed race young man of a Parsee father and Scots mother. The two men could not be more different but come together as Sir Arthur is persuaded to turn detective and help defend George who is wrongly accused of the crimes by a very racist police force. In November our book was 'The Return' by Victoria Hislop. This book was chosen after we had read 'The Island' by the same author in June, and on the whole most readers found it disappointing. We felt it is not well written and the time sequence used by the author is confusing, starting as she does in modern day 21st century, then going back to Spain in the Civil War period for the most part. There are some very vibrant images of Andalucia and Flamenco dancing and she certainly captures the atmosphere of Spain. The accounts of the war are pretty horrifying and inspired many of us to decide to read more about it.

Our next two books will be 'The Room' by Emma Donoghue and then Middlemarch by George Eliot, for a long winter read!

At the beginning of December we have planned a Christmas get together for both groups so we will probably be over 20 altogether. This will be a good opportunity for newer members to meet the other group and the plan is to have some festive fun and games. Watch this space!


Almost one year ago, a book entitled ‘Are You Averill?’ was published much to the delight of local writer, Margaret Clarke. The book is about Margaret’s search for her birth-parents. An adopted child in 1946, she was brought up by loving parents and all her life felt loved and specially chosen. Yet at the age of almost sixty she felt a strong desire to find out who she really was. After a diligent search using the tools of genealogy and the support of social workers, Margaret met her birth mother for the first time. She quickly discovered she had two half-brothers. On learning from her birth-mother that her father had been a Polish airman who had flown Lancaster bombers in the Second World War she set about tracing him. Sadly, she discovered he had died in 1969. However, living in Los Angeles was a half-brother. He made contact with Margaret and they arranged to meet as he was on holiday in the UK. Losing his way in Rolleston despite clear instructions to the village once leaving the A38, he phoned Margaret to tell her he was standing outside a butcher’s shop in Chapel Lane. Did she know where it was? Their first meeting took place on the pavement outside Ian Barker’s butcher’s shop. The relationship has flourished and Margaret and her husband went to LA last year to visit a new-found family.

Several people, in particular members of the Second Chapter reading group of which Margaret is a member, and friends in the village have read ‘Are You Averill?’ (available from publishers Austin and Macauley at and from Amazon) and along with many other readers have remarked ‘I couldn’t put it down!’

Autumn 2011 News

Chapter & Verse

In May we discussed 'The Bonfire of the Vanities' by Tom Wolfe. Originally written in serial form the novel is lengthy and packed with detail. (Apparently Wolfe admired Dickens and chose on this occasion to write in the same style). The portrayal of 1980's New York is fascinating and the author lifts the lid on racism, social class, politics and greed by way of a story linking high society Manhattan with down at heel Bronx and many points in between. The characters are extremely well drawn and the forthright style makes for humour and shock in equal measure. Although the pace is intense, sitting back and reviewing it now, perhaps the overall message is that we are all victims of circumstance. We had a good discussion as there were so many characters to pick apart - some regarded the book too long and complicated and all agreed a second reading would be beneficial.

In July our choice was Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which was a complete contrast to the previous book. Set in Nigeria in the 1960s the author weaves together the lives of three very different characters swept up in the turbulence of the decade of Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, and the chilling violence that followed at the time of the Baifrun war. The group felt it was a well written evocative and absorbing portrayal about moral responsibility, the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances and the ways in which love can complicate all of these – all of which gave us much to discuss.

Future books are -

Dancing with Darkness by Magsie Hamilton-Little
7 September

To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
12 October

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

Chapter Two

The first of the latest books read by Chapter Two was the Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin; set in Ireland in the boom years of the 1990s it is the story of a group of people brought together by the need to care for a man who is dying of AIDS. The novel explores the effect on these people of th fraught relationships between mother and daughter and issues of sexual orientation. Good stuff for discussion!

Victoria Hislop’s novel, The Island, features a Greek Island where lepers were quarantined at the time of the second world war. Again, a story of family relationships and the impact of a serious medical condition, with often associated prejudice. The ambiance of a Greek island was appreciated by all and was enhanced by photographs of members’ own visits to Spinalonga.

Our next read will be Julian Barnes’ book Arthur and George, based on a real-life tale of Arthur Conan Doyle and his campaign for the rights of a wrongly convicted man.

Then another Victoria Hislop: The Return, with a background of the Spanish Civil war.

Please contact Heather on 812118 for details.

Summer 2011 News

Second Chapter

In January we had the first meeting of our new book club, 2nd Chapter. There are 12 of us in the group, 5 from our original club and 7 new members.

At our first meeting in January we discussed a very successfull best selling novel from America called 'The Help'. This is by Kathryn Stockett and it is her first book. It is set in Jackson, Mississipi, in 1962, at the height of the Civil Rights movement.

Our second choice, 'One Day' by David Nicholls, is also judged to be a best seller and very popular. The book follows every 15th July to near present day in the lives of 2 characters - Emma and Dexter - and their relationship with each other and others. This book was not enjoyed as much and the feedback comment was, ' a quick enjoyable read and very funny in parts, but it was generally felt it did not warrant the hype of some of the reviews.

The last book we discussed was 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak. We found it a most unusual look at at a very much written about theme - Hitler's Germany. However, unlike many books on this subject we didn't find it too depressing as it is told from a very unusual angle and the style is highly original, more like a scrapbook than a novel.

Both our clubs are now full, with a maximum number of 12 in each. However, if anyone is interested, the U3A has just started up in Burton, and there may be a group to join there. Please contact Heather on 812118 for details.

Chapter & Verse

The choice for February of ‘Beyond Black’ by Hilary Mantel proved to be one that promoted much debate over the subject of mediums and contact with “the other side” ,that the author explores within this dark and twisted story. Although the style of writing and characters created within the book were not to all members of the group’s taste, it proved to be an entertaining and interesting evening.

This was followed in April by ‘Incendiary’ written by Chris Cleave, which weaves a story exploring the consequences of a horrific terrorist attack on a small number of people. Again the group enjoyed a lengthy and mixed discussion which covered the author’s use of colloquial and strong language to emphasise the brutality of the event and its repercussions, the range of diverse characters he portrayed and the many twists of black humour used to lighten his choice of a difficult subject matter.

Future books for C & V are:

The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe 16 May

Half of a Yellow Sun
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 14 July

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

Spring 2011 News

As mentioned in the previous issue, due to a rush of enthusiasm from new and existing residents of Rolleston to come and join us, we have split into two groups of around twelve people in each. The new group will be called 'Second Chapter'.

By coincidence at the start of 2011 both groups chose the same book -'The Help' by Katherine Stockett which was universally approved of. Set in Jackson, Mississipi at the time of Kennedy and Martin Luther King it promoted lengthy and interesting discussion concerning the race problems, the beautifully drawn characters and the humour that kept bubbling through to lighten the tension. A fantastic history lesson for us all but most of all a very good story.

Our choices are now parting company and the future books for each group are listed below.

Chapter and Verse

Second Chapter

Beyond Black Hilary Mantel 24 Feb One Day David Nicholls 23 Feb
Incendiary Chris Cleave 6 April The Book Thief Markus Zusak 7 April
The Bonfire of the Vanities Tom Wolfe 16 May The Blackwater Lightship Colm Toibin 19 May

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to join us please contact Heather (812118) or Maggie (812621)

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Last updated: 30 December 2011