Sainsbury's Summer Book Club
Collect bonus Nectar points on our Summer Book Club selections
I Saw A Man
"This might be a film"
Owen Sheers’ I Saw a Man is a profound book that deals with loss, grief, and deception. But that’s not to say it is depressing, but rather it centres on the psychology of these emotions. It plumbs their depths so thoroughly and convincingly that you sympathise with each character completely.
The first half of the story follows Michael Turner as he walks up the stairs of his neighbour’s house in Hampstead. It’s a scorching hot day, which the author describes vividly. This is intercut with the sequence of events that led to him walking up those stairs. The second half looks at how lives can be changed forever from a single, seemingly simple, or non-consequential act.
The book makes you reflect on, and question, your own moral compass. All of the characters are flawed, I felt pity for them and contempt – at the same time! I can see how this could be turned into a film. It is brilliantly written, with equal attention to the minute details and the bigger picture.
Other Book Club Reads
"An very moving love story"
Beginning in teenage years and ending in old age, Where the River Parts is the story of two people and their families over 60 years. Telling of forced migration, refugees, and religious conflict, the book is remarkably topical. It also works as a plea for India-Pakistan harmony. Mostly though it’s a very moving love story that takes place over a life.
Asha is a young Hindu teenager in Punjab in 1947, her father is a prominent lawyer in the town they live in. Her best friend is Nargis, the daughter of the Muslim family who live next door. She is also in love with Firoze, Nargis’ brother. Because of their different faiths their relationship is forbidden; the partition of India into India and Pakistan will make it impossible.
Asha is a very believable and likeable character, her love, terror, and stoicism in face of horrific events are evoked convincingly; I really felt like I got to know her. Despite stretching from the 1940s to the 2000s, the story never loses its focus on the individual dramas at its heart. A few turns of events are a little too convenient, but overall I was drawn in by the characters and very touched their stories.
All These Perfect Strangers
"Pulled me in from the beginning and kept me guessing"
All These Perfect Strangers pulled me in from the beginning, despite its rather complicated time structure. It starts with young woman called Pen who has returned at the end of the first university semester, but hasn’t returned for the second. She starts to write down her story, telling us why she left university. The book finishes at the beginning of her story, so you can see why everything (possibly, at least) happened as it did.
As we go back into her past we learn why she wanted to leave the town where she grew up and about a terrible incident. As past and present meet she learns more about her parents, especially her mum, and why they ended up in the town she grew up in. The book finishes right at the beginning of her story and the ending is definitely unexpected.
I really believed in the characters, which were a key part in creating an interesting story. When Pen goes to uni she believes she is hiding her past from her new friends (the ‘perfect strangers’) but it turns out they were also creating different personas for themselves. Pen is a particularly sympathetic character as someone who lives with guilt and feelings of persecution because of the awful event in her teenage years and her general immaturity. The book always keeps you guessing about where it is heading – I really enjoyed it.
Fates and Furies
"The characters are fun to hang around with, and I have really enjoyed reading this book"
A complex read that some will love and some won’t. This is two books in one, and explores marriage from two perspectives like a swan swimming. Fates is the swan; the story of the gilded life and marriage from Lotto’s point of view. The all-American boy from a privileged upbringing, who enjoys life, worships his wife almost as much as himself, and eventually enjoys great success in his career. His story is written simply, full of the pleasures his life affords, but also his hopes, fears and thoughts which come through in his struggles and setbacks along the way.
Mathilde, the below water version of the Swan, has her side told in Furies, a far more complex read. From her early life in France, then in America her childhood is sad and lonely. Her viewpoint of her marriage was an interesting contrast to Lotto’s, as you might expect, but it also surprised my expectations after reading Fates through Lotto’s eyes. Furies dots around in time giving it a schizophrenic feel which really adds to the atmosphere while reading.
This is a very different book from anything else I’ve read recently. The style of language, especially in Furies is quite modern, and with references dotted throughout to Greek classics some may find this pretentious. Although I’m not sure I liked many of the characters, I’ve enjoyed looking in on their lives, love, friends, issues and exploits. They’ve been fun to hang around with through reading the book, and I have really enjoyed reading this book.
For The Most Beautiful
Elizabeth Buchan in The Daily Mail says:
Intensely described . . . there is no doubting Hauser's passionate involvement with, and knowledge of, her subject.
Somewhere Inside of Happy
Marian Keyes says:
The most beautiful book - compassionate, gritty, warm, authentic, uplifting.
"You're basically not going to be able to put it down"
Stella Magazine, Sunday Telegraph says:
A forbidden love. A serial killer on the loose. A huge moral dilemma... Put them together and you might as well bid your to-do list goodbye, because you're basically not going to be able to put down new thriller The Unforgotten.
Black Rabbit Hall
"A beautifully written book"
Black Rabbit Hall is a beautifully written book about family secrets and the effect they have on later generations. There are two storylines – in the present day Lorna is just about to get married and is looking for a wedding venue in the countryside when she stumbles across Black Rabbit Hall. Exploring the deserted mansion she feels a deep and strange connection to the place.
In the 1960s Amber goes to the family holiday home, Black Rabbit Hall, for the summer holidays. There disaster strikes and from this moment nothing is the same for Amber and her family… or it turns out Lorna, several decades later.
From the beginning there is an air of darkness and mystery surrounding the house that drew me, as well as Lorna, in. Eve Chase has a talent for creating stunning imagery around the characters and setting. The book has lots of twists and although I didn’t completely sympathise with the main character, that wasn’t enough to stop me enjoying the book.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
"A precision-crafted, highly enjoyable book."
Natasha Pulley's debut novel is an intriguing story involving intricate timepieces, mysterious occurrences, Irish republican bombs, Japanese ex-pats, and the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, all set against a backdrop of Victorian London.
Part detective story, part magic realism, part steampunk, the book has three engaging central characters in Thaniel Steepleton (his father had already taken "Nat"), the eponymous watchmaker Keita Mori, and a scene-stealing clockwork octopus named Katsu. Unfortunately I didn't warm to the novel's fourth main character, the Oxford scientist Grace Carrow – her pursuit of knowledge drives a wedge between the two men who both seem lonely and lost without each other.
This is a charming, quirky novel, full of unusual and entertaining scenes. Beautifully and evocatively written, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street contains lovely splashes of humour, as well as some genuinely poignant moments. Less pacy and more cerebral than a typical thriller, this is a precision-crafted, highly enjoyable book.Less pacy and more cerebral than a typical thriller, this is a precision-crafted, highly enjoyable book.
Louisa Young on LiteratureWorks.org says:
David Young has produced a remarkable plot with some remarkable characters that are no doubt, here to stay. Hopefully the next Karin Müller thriller won’t be too far behind or in any way a disappointment.
The Secrets of Wishtide
James Runcie, author of 'The Grantchester Mysteries' says:
A Dickensian glow pervades this immensely satisfying novel. Hugely enjoyable.
The Long Count
"It pulls you in..."
Ann Cleeves says:
I loved this book: it has such a subtle sense of place, the clear writing pulls you in right from the start, and its ingenious plot line is both shocking and inevitable.