The ladies in The Reading Group meet once a month to catch up on each other's lives, to drink red wine, and to discuss the latest gossip - oops, I mean to discuss the latest novel they've read! I've never been in a Reading Group myself, but I do have some very lovely friends who read lots. Maybe we should start one.
Below are my top ten Books for a Reading Group - just in case we ever do!
In Reverse Order
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Apparently lots of readers didn't rate this as much as her first novel, The Time Traveller's Wife. I loved her debut too, but for me this one was better. A superbly beautiful ghost story, full of what ifs and mystery. It really made me want to visit Highgate Cemetery, which features heavily.
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
This is a very funny novel about two sisters, who don't usually get on, joining forces against the common enemy. Voluptuous gold digger, Valentina, is trying to ensnare their ageing father. The characters are brilliant. Warm and entertaining.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Can I call this a cosy crime? It's so much more than this. The central character has one of the strongest voices I have ever read. ' He knows a very great deal about maths and very little about human beings. He loves lists, patterns and the truth. He hates the colours yellow and brown and being touched.' A beautifully written, funny and poignant novel.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
This novel needs no introduction. I loved this book so much because I was in love with the main character by the end of Chapter One. It breaks so many rules. A plain Jane of a heroine, (I think that expression comes from this novel) a not particularly handsome hero! This is a story about overcoming adversity, about the strength of one woman, and about love.
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
An author best known for 101 Dalmatians possibly? The main character is fabulous. What a strong voice. A beautiful novel, exquisitely written. I read in the foreword that it took her years to write it, which stopped me feeling quite so jealous. A lovely novel to curl up with on a winter afternoon.
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
Here is a writer who can make me laugh - even when I'm sitting at the dentist waiting to have a root canal filling. I love all of her books, but for me Twenties Girl is the best. Poignant as well as funny. A tender, rather beautiful ghost story.
Any book by P G Wodehouse
I'm currently reading The World of Wodehouse Clergy, which is actually a collection of linked short stories. It's hilarious. It's stopping me from sleeping. In a very good way.
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty.
A legal thriller that actually stands or falls on its emotion. This book divides opinion. There are some reviewers who say a woman would never act like the main character. Never say never! This was a word of mouth recommendation to me which I think is always good. One of the reason I loved it so much was because it was controversial.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I loved everything about this novel. The language, the characterisation, the story, the humour, the poignancy. I especially loved the character of Hans Uberman. I wish I'd had a father like Hans.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
I was told to persevere with this book. You could certainly have managed without the first 30,000 or so words and for me, (I can abandon a book after three pages) it was a miracle I read it. But wow. I can't remember who said it was a masterpiece but I agree with them. A wonderful novel. I grieved when I came to the end.
The Reading Group is a new ebook series by Della Parker. The first three instalments are published by Quercus on 1st December.