Reviews

The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about the pull off the coup of his career. The collection of extraordinary 1920s paintings will not only secure his career but make a name for the gallery. But as his professional life is soaring, the world around him is crumbling. At the height of the AIDS epidemic, his friends are dying one by one. After his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles ever closer and soon the only person Yale has left is Nico’s younger sister Fiona.
Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris trying to reconnect with her estranged daughter Claire. Staying with a friend from Chicago, a famous photographer who captured the AIDS crisis in all of its raw details, Fiona can finally start to explore how much the epidemic affected her life. Read More »

City of the Beasts, by Isabel Allende

When his mother is taken seriously ill, fifteen-year-old Alexander Cold is sent to live with his forbidding grandmother. Kate is not your typical warm and cuddly grandmother, rather she is brusque, adventurous and no-nonsense. Kate is preparing to embark on an expedition into the Amazonian rainforest and, rather than change her plans, she takes Alexander along with her.
They set off with their team, including a local guide and his young daughter Nadia, deep into the rainforest. Their aim is to locate an isolated and potentially headhunting tribe, as well as a legendary marauding creature known only as “The Beast”. As they get further from civilisation, and expedition members start disappearing, they will discover much more than they bargained for about the mysteries of the jungle and its inhabitants. Read More »

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

From a very young age, Chris Hadfield wanted nothing more than to become an astronaut. But at a time when very few Canadians went to space, this was bound to be a difficult task. Through years of hard work and dedication, Chris finally realised his dream and has logged nearly 4000 hours in space.
During this time, he was the first Canadian to be Commander of the International Space Station, where he also recorded a music video to David Bowie’s Space Oddity. He also broke into a Space Station with a Swiss army knife and was temporarily blinded whilst clinging to the outside of an orbiting spacecraft. He has overcome many obstacles thanks to an unconventional philosophy learned at NASA: prepare for the worst, and enjoy every moment of it. Read More »

Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi

Three sisters, Mayya, Asma and Khawla live in the small Omani village of al-Awafi. Life is harsh in this tight-knit community, ruled by powerful slave-owning Shayks and centuries of tradition and superstitions. A young girl’s aspiration and purpose in life are only to get married and have children.
Mayya marries Abdallah after a heartbreak. Asma marries from a sense of duty and the desire to experience motherhood. And Khawla daringly refuses all marriage proposals, determined to wait for her beloved who has emigrated to Canada. The three young women and their families stand witnesses to the coming-of-age of Oman to its complex present. Read More »

Songbirds, by Christy Lefteri

Petra, newly widowed and struggling, hires Nisha to care for her daughter. Nisha left her own daughter behind in Sri Lanka to find work in Cyprus and has not seen her for many years. Yiannis rents the upstairs apartment in Petra’s house, has a secret relationship with Nisha and another secret: he is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds which migrate past the island each year.
When Nisha suddenly vanishes, nobody cares, she is only a domestic worker after all. The only people desperate to find her are Petra and Yiannis, although for different reasons. As they search for Nisha, both realise how little they actually knew her and what they uncover will change them all. Read More »

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier

The young heroine of Rebecca is working as a companion to a rich American woman summering in Monte Carlo. Her future looks bleak until a surprise meeting with Max de Winter changes everything. A handsome widower with a large estate in England would not seem a likely match. However, a relationship of sorts is formed, but his sudden proposal still takes her by surprise. Whisked from Monte Carlo to the brooding house of Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds herself out of her depth, and her new husband a changed man.
The memory of his dead wife is everywhere at Manderley, kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper. Will the new Mrs de Winter be able to find her place, both in the household and her new marriage, or will the constant presence of Rebecca prove too much? Read More »

Castile for Isabella, by Jean Plaidy

History remembers her as a legendary Queen of Spain, but what about Isabella’s life beforehand? Fifteenth-century Spain was a country at war with itself and rife with intrigue and manipulations. Isabella became the pawn of her half-mad mother and, alongside her young brother, a virtual prisoner in the debauched court of their half-brother, King Henry IV.
From a very young age, Isabella knew that one day she might be Queen of Spain and that she should always act accordingly. But her young life was marred by grief and fear, and surrounded by the ambitious and power-hungry, who could she trust? Through all of this, she remained strong and determined to marry Ferdinand, the young and handsome prince of neighbouring Aragon. Read More »

Bird Summons, by Leila Aboulela

Salma, Moni and Iman, friends and active members of their local Muslim Women’s Group, set out on a trip to the Scottish Highlands. Their destination is the grave of Lady Evelyn Cobbold, who was a Victorian convert to Islam and the first British woman to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca. The three women are each on a personal pilgrimage of sorts and each hope to gain something from this journey. When they are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird from Muslim and Celtic legends, all three women start to question their relationships to faith and femininity, love, loyalty and sacrifice. Read More »

Something To Hide, by Deborah Moggach

Petra’s love life has always been a bit of a disaster and now, in her sixties, she is becoming increasingly lonely. Until she falls in love with Jeremy that is. Jeremy is an old friend, visiting from abroad, and they quickly fall for one another. The only problem is that Jeremy is Petra’s best friend’s husband. Just as everything seems set for Petra’s happily-ever-after, tragedy strikes and she finds herself on a plane to West Africa, on her way to support Bev, who she has been betraying so terribly.
Meanwhile, on opposite sides of the world, two other women are struggling with their own secrets and betrayals. In Texas, Lorrie is desperate to hide her secret from her husband, and she is prepared to do anything to cover it up, including the biggest deception of her life. In China, Li-Jing is living in a golden cage and has no idea what her husband does in his business in Africa and what he is planning. Read More »

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

Just after midnight, somewhere in the Balkans, the Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a massive snowdrift. This famous train is unusually busy for the time of year, but by morning there will be one less passenger. A man is found dead in his compartment, stabbed twelve times in the chest. And his door was locked from the inside!
Luckily Detective Hercule Poirot happened to be travelling on the train, and must now put his remarkable talents to the test. Undoubtedly, the murderer was among the passengers and with the snow preventing any escape, they are certainly still in their midst. The remaining passengers present a real puzzle to Poirot, with many different nationalities, backgrounds and stories. Can he sort out the liars and identify the murderer before he or she strikes again? Read More »