Saturday, 23 February 2013

Group Read - HEAT WAVE - Penelope Lively


Pauline is spending the summer at World's End, a cottage somewhere in the middle of England. This year the adjoining cottage is occupied by her daughter Teresa and baby grandson Luke; and, of course, Maurice, the man
Teresa married. As the hot months unfold, Maurice grows ever more involved in the book he is writing - and with his female copy editor - and Pauline can only watch in dismay and anger as her daughter repeats her own mistakes in love. The heat and tension will lead to a violent, startling climax.

In Heat Wave, Penelope Lively gives us a moving portrayal of a fragile family damaged and defined by adultery, and the lengths to which a mother will go to protect the ones she loves.

65 comments:

  1. Hullo there, Jaywalker.... is this an over reaction? My book has arrived and is so slim (184 pages)it shouldn't take long tpo read!

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  2. LOL! Perhaps! No, not really. Her books are all fairly slim but give you plenty of food for thought. It should be an interesting contrast to King.

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  3. I'm looking forward to it. My copy is ready to download. Moi, have you your copy yet?

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  4. Just borrowed a copy from the library.

    Interesting. My local library in the Redlands District ( three branches : Cleveland, Capalaba , and Victoria Point) did not have a copy.

    So, they have organized an Inter Library loan. Another library has loaned the book to my Library for the four week period.What a great service and one of which I was not previously aware !

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    1. Yes, Brisbane libraries offer the same service, which I use quite a bit. Be careful to make sure of the fee. Some libraries can charge $10 to $30+, probably more than the retail price. I've been caught.

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  5. Lively's way of writing is unusual to me - in the present... her charactor 'speaks' rathere than 'spoke'
    I am finding it a little difficult to become entralled in the story as this is distracting.... any comments anyone?

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  6. You may want to wait and read this long list of short reviews until you've finished - or you may like to read them now. They definitely demonstrate that everyone has such different responses to books. The reviews are American (and some of them have clearly not related to the British setting) and range from one star to five.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/202875.Heat_Wave

    I didn't find the first person narrative at all distracting but certainly others might.

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    1. Thanks for the link to the reviews, Jaywalker. I've read some of them. They are a mixed bag, aren't they? It would be interesting to know more about the reviewers. I doubt that this story would appeal to young unmarrieds. There'd be no point of reference.

      Didn't you mean third person narrative? Neither did I find it distracting. It enables Lively to explore the thoughts and motivations of other characters, although we were still presented with them from Pauline's perspective. Cleverly handled, I thought.

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  7. I had planned to ration myself to 2 or 3 chapters a day so I could comment as I read. But that's like rationing booze to an alcoholic. It ain't gonna happen!

    I loved the book - the story and the writing. I much preferred it to the other Lively I've read - Moon Tiger.

    Oh how I would like to be as objective and clear-sighted as Pauline. Even her memories seem neatly filed, whereas mine are a jumble.

    I thought the imagery was perfect - clever and interesting. The first page tells what is to come: seeing Teresa with "double vision"..... which
    "hitch[es] them both to other days and different places". I also liked the image of the isolated old farmhouse being a "spaceship" because of the modern electronics and technology.

    I'm interested to know what you think.

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  8. I think its first person narrative - but its so long since I have been in school I am uncertain...please clarify one of you well educated readers

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    1. Interesting point. We have to determine who is speaking. If it is Pauline herself, then it is first person. A narrator speaks in the third person. Even though the story is mostly concerned with Pauline, her thoughts and feelings, it seems to me that there is a narrator. Other than in dialogue, Pauline is referred to as 'she' rather than 'I', thus 3rd person.

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  9. An interesting book and one that contrasts nicely with our previous read,11.22.1963.Whereas Mr King went on and on and on and wasted numerous trees on 200 pages of nothingness, Ms Lively's words are concise and used sparingly.Yet, this does not diminish the imagery. I too enjoyed the description of all the technology within Worlds End, as well as other shorther descriptive phrases such as Luke being surrounded by adult conversation as "the white noise of language", or a "spiderweb of tension"

    Pauline's conversations with her daughter however, did not resonate with me, especially when sharing Chris' unicorn story.It is not authentic, it lacks any conversational tone whatsoever, and just did not sit well with me.Who says things like "mercifully his next opus appears to be " .......?Yes, its clever writing and a joy to read, but is it a bit over the top in some areas ?

    The question I would have to ask is about the main character, Pauline. Is she anti men and a tad bitter and twisted ?

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  10. One of the disadvantages of ebooks is that one can't easily flip backwards and forwards looking for a particular passage. This conversation didn't strike me as awkward but I would like to reread it before commenting. If you have not yet returned the book, can you tell me the page number?

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    1. It's okay, I found it. (Clever little device this, it has a search function!) No, it didn't jar with me. Pauline is an editor of sorts and would have a wide vocab. She'd probably speak 'Oxford' English. lol Anyway, I was too engrossed in Chris' story. It mirrored Pauline's and perhaps served as a warning to Teresa. Or was it a way of sounding her out? Would this be why Pauline sounds a bit stilted?

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    2. I might be wrong but I think we're confusing voice with tense. It's written in the third person but in the present tense which an unusual combination. There is an omniscient narrator but it is being told almost entirely from Pauline's viewpoint but as though it is actually happening as it is told.

      It may be a tad too "British" for some Australian readers. The vocab, as sanmac says, is that of southern England middle class professionals in a somewhat rarified profession. I guess they are using the jargon and the phraseology of authors and editors in that world.

      Like madeleine, I just love Lively's prose - which I guess is why she is an award winner and a Dame of the Empire! It is, as you say, concise, spare, but somehow loaded with subtleties and nuances. The sentences take you far past the actual individual words used.

      I love her creation of a miniature world, almost suspended in a time bubble, inside of which people are playing out parts that humans have played our since time began and then the outside world always encroaching. I don't think Pauline is bitter and twisted and anti-men - after all she is happy to have a relationship on her own terms. I think she learned a hard lesson earlier in life, that has perhaps clouded her view of men - that handsome, charismatic philandering men never change their spots and are capable of amazing deviousness and manipulation. In fact, it's something I have personal knowledge of and it brought back some strong memories!

      She has written many more just as good or better and I can recommend them all.


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    3. She certainly knows her craft. I'm tempted to revisit Moon Tiger.
      I liked the way she notes the passage of time by the changes in the wheat field.

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  11. Pauline is more of a philosopher do you think?

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    1. And a psychologist - she seems to understand all the other characters' motivation. Omniscience?

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  12. I'd really like to discuss the ending but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Please advise us, Madeleinea & Moi, when you have finished reading.

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  13. If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?

    Steven Wright

    This was a 'Cheeky Quote' today. I thought it was appropriate. lol

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  14. Another thing that struck a chord with me is how you sometimes have to watch your children make the same mistakes you did and have to stand back and not interfere. We only really learn from our own experiences.

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  15. Yes, fellow readers, I have finshed the book................

    I would have to agree with Jaywalker in that it was interesting that Pauline watched her daughter's drama evolve, having been down that same track herself.And yes, as a parent Pauline watched was happening but took a step back and did not interfere.

    But Pauline didn't miss a beat either.I felt she was constantly lurking, almost spying, on the most trivial occurrances in her daughter's life. I think that this in part may have led to my belief that Pauline is anti men in that she was anticipating the very worst from Maurice.And the very worst from the very start!

    Her relationships with Hugh and Chris are an interesting contrast. She gets on well with both these men on different levels but it's all on her terms.

    I also understand that Theresa's marriage breakdown has rekindled memories and feelings within Pauline, which are cleverly dealt with, but my advice to Pauline, if she was a girlfriend with whom I shared a cup of tea with on the odd occassion , would be, move on...let it go....build a bridge......I repeat : let it go. Another indicator in my mind that Pauline still has "issues".

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    1. Do you think the "issue" is that she is still in love with Harry but knows that she can't live with his infidelities? Which means she isn't "free" emotionally to really love anyone else? That seems to be a not uncommon situation for women, more than men.

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    2. Jaywalker, I think you have about nailed it with this comment. Although I don't believe Pauline necessarily loves Harry, there remains an emotional attachment of some sort. This can mean that her take on things can be a little skewiff, and thus my anti male suggestion.

      This book does provide food for thought.

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    3. I think it's also about things not being what they seem and what lies below the surface. The idyllic countryside is not really what it seems and neither are relationships. She is also very good at describing the agonies of suspicion and jealousy and the fact that the serial philanderer never suffers those pains but inflicts them on others.

      if you want to read another Lively, can I suggest 'Consequences' - it's meatier - 304 pages - and covers three generation of women from 1935 onwards. It's often considered her best work.

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    4. Thank you for the recommendation. I would enjoy another Lively.

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  16. Never, thru out the book did I think Pauline had a healthy relationship with her daughter - or anyone else for that matter....

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    1. That didn't strike me at all. I think most of us have relationships which other people consider odd or unhealthy but that to ourselves are quite normal. What did you think was unhealthy?

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  17. Having finished the book I am disappointed. Pauline has rejected Harry and Hugh, and done away with Maurice! What is she left with? Her daughter and grandson - I suspect all she ever wanted! Anyone agree with that?

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  18. May I also say that the book reminded me of "to The Lighthouse'. I know its a classic but I absolutely hated it when at school, and didn't like this one much either. I am a bit of a pleb!
    I thought Pauline as twisted as Virginia Wolfe!

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  19. Have I put a damper on the read? If so, sorry.

    When do we start another?

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  20. I was waiting to hear from sanmac before saying anything else. Sorry you didn't enjoy it, madeleine. We're all different. Penelope Lively is one of my favourite authors and I love all her book while I really can't stand any of Stephen King's.

    Didn't make any connections with Virginia Woolf for me or thought that Pauline was in any way twisted - just a complex human being with flaws and faults just like all of us but with redeeming qualities as well, but as I say we're all different in out tastes and our interpretations. In fact I saw a lot of myself in Pauline having gone through a similar experience and also having to watch one of my sons go through similar but in reverse.

    I can understand that the very British background may not have appealed to all Australians but I guess I am about as much British as Australian and relate to British society equally. I've met people just like these characters!

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  21. My apologies also Madeleinea. Have been away for a few days....Had hoped to add a few notes via the new ipad, but have had major issues. Am not sure if it is the operator or the operation.....

    First things first.

    Madeleinea, what do you mean by questioning what Pauline is left with ?Are you inferring that Pauline did the wrong thing by rejecting both Harry and Hugh? Surely what she gets out of living the life that she does is the personal satisfaction of retaining her independence and dignity. Hope you are not suggesting that a woman cannot function without a man ( gentle tease)

    I don't think Pauline comes across as the cloying matriach at all. It isn't until nearly half way through the book that she puts her work (career) aside in order to provide additional practical support to her daughter .Although they live side by side, Pauline relishes her own space. I believe that as a parent she is simply does not enjoy watching history repeat itself

    Do I think Pauline is twisted ? Not at all. If anything she is attempting not to nehave as her own mother did during the relationship breakdown with Harry.She is making all the moves for this history not to repeat itself. ie lack of communication and support.

    No, Pauline is not twisted. Lively has created a character whom is human, with strengths, weaknesses, warts and all.And she can be a bit anti men. Aren't we all ,at times ?

    And yes Jaywalker, some of the converstaional tones lost it for me.Little too British which pushed me out of my comfort zone.However, this is not a bad thing.

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  22. Look, OK I get your point, Moi..... but I have never been one for reading light novels. I started on Enid Blyton at a very early age and was fascinated by the plots and adventure. Before I took 30 years off to read books only relevant to my work (lots of them) I was engrossed by Jean Plaidy and other historical novelists, and biographries/autobiographies of various people, my favourite being - and always will be, I think - The Moon is a Balloon by David Niven. Joan Collins also a favourite....Georgette Heyer was an early favourite for her historical novels. A different world
    At school I did well in literature, but my chosen books were Great Expectations and others by Dickens. Didn't like Jane Austen (soppy) or as I have said, Virginia Wolfe.
    Mills and Boon? I read a few but they ended at the Bedroom Door, and thrown away,not beyond it which I then wanted to know about. Agatha Christie? Too similar and I grew to dislike Hercule...
    We all have different tastes in books and that is why this book club is so valuable to me. You are introducing me to new authors.. Thea Anstey, Ruth Rendall - authors whose work I enjoyed reading
    Sorry but I still think Pauline should put her nose elsewhere and not interfere in her daughter's relationships
    what's next? And I cannot promise to like it - but I can promise to read it fully...
    Now this stuffy old lady is about to out her books behaind her and have her afternoon nap

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    1. Madeleinea, isn't it great that we all have different tastes in reading material ? And isn't this site a terrific opportunity for us to sample genres that we may generally avoid ?

      Oh, and I would have to agree with you, The Moon is A Balloon is a fantastic read.

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  23. Madeleine, you a stuffy old woman? LOL It's good that our opinions differ; it makes for an interesting discussion.
    I doubt that I, especially living under the same roof as a daughter, could see her about to suffer the same heartache as I did, and not interfere. I think Pauline showed restraint. Maybe I'm a meddling old biddy.
    Did you like Lively's style? She does write realistically, doesn't she? The flashbacks were seamless.
    I didn't think that Pauline was anti men. She had a good relationship with Hugh, just didn't want to marry him and also seemed to get along with Chris the writer, who made her his confidante (or agony aunt). I think she saw too much of Harry in Maurice. What is it about girls marrying their father?
    What did you all think of the ending? Did he fall or was he pushed? And how do you think this will affect her relationship with Teresa?

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  24. If I were her, I'd have pushed him!

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  25. Haha. Maybe Pauline did. She certainly didn't try to save him. None of the characters were really likeable, were they? But then, we only see them through Pauline's eyes and she is quite judgmental. It's almost as if she is an observer of her own life. Was there a theme?

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    1. None of the characters were likeable ?

      Not so sure about that. Teresa seemed ok. Young mother and in love with her husband. Can't stone her for that. ( And hey, it doesn't last , does it ? She will "grow up")


      Pauline's character seems very true to life to me. She is human. She has been hurt. Has her weaknesses and strengths. If her life experiences have tainted her somewhat, hey, isn't that what happens ?

      Maurice is a slug. Bit disappointed by this character portrayal as it seemed to be too sterotypical.

      Midway through the book, I had the thought that with a ratty baby and a child centric wife I'd be looking elsewhere for a little comfort also.This was strange because although I wasn't impressed by Maurice's actions, and did not like him one iota, I did empathise with him.

      Considering this book is based upon complex pschological circumstances Lively has presented the tale in an easy read format, with layers which make the reader question their own moral
      position

      Thank you for nominating this read!

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  26. Theme, yes. Plot no - unless she set Maurice up to die

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  27. Let's face it! I like my books long, involved, engrossing, well researched, realistic - and plain ribald!
    Do I fit in this Book Club?
    What's next? So I can order it whilst I have a few pence in the bank!

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  28. Sanmac - I thought the ending was interesting. My first reaction was that it was a banal and unimaginative way to end it but then I sat back and thought, hang on, Lively has written over 20 novels and won literary awards, this is not just a means of her finishing the novel. Her novels may be brief and easy to read but they are never "light". There could have been lots of other endings at her disposal, so why this one? I think had Maurice lived, Teresa would have forgiven him, the marriage would have continued on his terms and she would have ended in the same role as Pauline. This way she gets a whole new start, as Pauline didn't. Just my odd opinion.

    I'm one of those people who, if staying in a multi-storey hotel, looks out at night at all the lighted apartments and the distant figures in them and always wonders what is going on in their lives. Lively's novels are a bit like that....she lets every reader see what they see and leaves them to make their own conclusions which we have all done based on our personal backgrounds and experiences and prejudices just as we do in real life and for me that is an art form in itself. That for me is also why it is not light reading in the sense that Mills and Boon et al, tell one single faceted story, not open to multiple interpretations and with basically cardboard characters who do not have the complexities of real people. Mind you, I once knew a woman doctor whose bedroom was lined with them.....can still remember the shock of seeing them so openly displayed. They obviously served a purpose in her life.

    It's the same reason I am slightly obsessed with the novels of Anita Brookner but have never come across anyone else quite as obsessed!! I do like long, complex novels as well but like to intersperse them with tightly compressed little gems of foresight into the human condition. Jane Gardam and Kate Atkinson have a similar affect on me.

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  29. Isn't it time we had another read?
    Sanmac or Moi - its the turn of one of you.
    And I find it heartening we all finished the book, and were prepared to voice different opinions about it.
    I can now say 'yes, I have read Lively, but her work did not appeal to me as much as some other authors.
    Horrors - I am now reading factual books, the latest by my teacher in Social History at Uni. Get me out of this......or I'll be back sitting on those hard benches...

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  30. Suggestion only.

    For easy to access. and easy on the pockets, should we be looking at one of the Penguin Classics for $9.95?

    They seem to have a varied selection . Please refer to :

    http://www.popularpenguins.com.au/

    My three recommendations from the list, as I know absolutely zilch about any of them, would be :

    * Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome
    * The Trail by Frank Kafka
    * The Well by Elizabeth Jolley

    As I said, suggestion only.

    Your thoughts would be much appreciated........................

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  31. This might help:

    The Well
    Driving one night along the deserted track that leads to the farm, Miss Hester Harper and Katherine run into a mysterious creature. They dump the body into the farm's deep well but the voice of the injured intruder will not be stilled and the closer Katherine is drawn to the edge of the well, the farther away she gets from Hester. A twentieth-century Australian classic, The Well is a haunting and wryly humorous tale of memory, desire and loneliness.

    The Trial
    In a letter to his friend Oskar Pollack, Franz Kafka wrote, "What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us" (source). Kafka's Trial has to be up there as one of the biggest literary ice axes of all time. The Trial follows the incredible ill fortune of one Josef K., who wakes up one morning to discover that he's been arrested on unnamed charges. Throughout the novel, K. struggles futilely against a secretive and tyrannical court system, only to be abruptly executed at the end with a knife to the heart.


    Three Men in a Boat, published in 1889, is a humorous account by English writer Jerome K. Jerome of a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.

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  32. Any One! Any One! Any One!
    Like the sound of 'The Trail' or is it 'Trial'?

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    1. The Trial. We had to do it at Uni. It was written in 1912 and first translated from German in 1915.

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    2. PS Meant to add that you can get a free e-book of both The Trial and Three Men in a Boat on the Gutenberg site.

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    3. Well, Moi, you've suggested 3 very different novels: an Australian female gothic with racial overtones in The Well, Kafka's dark satire of bureaucracy and a humorous (and very witty) account of a boating holiday on the Thames. Such great suggestions,how can we choose? Over to you........

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  33. An Australian female gothic with racial overtones? Now doesn't that make Ms Jolley sound interesting !

    As Jaywalker has done The Trial to death at Uni lets scratch that one.

    Both Sanmac and Jaywalker are up on their reading - of the two remaining books is there a title you haven't read girls ? ( And Sanmac, sounds like you enjoyed Three Men in A Boat ...)

    I think it more fun if we can find a read that is a total suprise to all of us, don't you ?Regardless of whether or not we enjoy the book a major part of the enjoyment of the joint read is the exchange of our views.

    So put your thinking caps on . I will nominate two newer titles also that may whet the appetites of our scholars.

    Back in ten


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  34. As promised two newer novels for your consideration. Fingers crossed that we can agree on a title that nobody has read ( although looking at Sanmac and Jaywalkers history I have some major doubts)

    Please list a preference each......

    And people, we would LOVE more input. Please join us on our reading journey.


    The Secret Keeper

    by Kate Morton


    During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

    Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

    Wolf Hall
    by Hilary Mantel
    England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn.
    The pope and most of Europe oppose him. The quest for the petulant king’s freedom destroys his advisor, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum and a deadlock.
    Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is prepared to break some more. Rising from the ashes of personal disaster - the loss of his young family and of Wolsley, his beloved patron - he picks his way deftly through a court where ‘man is wolf to man’. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry’s desires.

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    1. Wow! You certainly offer contrasts. I have read Wolf Hall and I think that Jaywalker has too. Mantel certainly deserves all the plaudits; it's brilliant. I have the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies waiting to be read. I'm waiting for some quiet time when my life gets back to normal. (Mind you, I've been waiting a while. lol)
      Morton's specialty seems to be 'historical mystery' using flashbacks for dual time lines and this latest sounds like the same successful formula. Her first two, I enjoyed ( The House at Riverton aka The Shifting Fog and The Forgotten Garden but was disappointed in her third, The Distant Hours. Of the five contenders, The Secret Keeper is the only one which is new to me.

      And I second Moi's invitation. We would love for you to join us.

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  35. I haven't read Wolf Hall yet- I downloaded it to my e-reader for when we go overseas in July thinking I would have the time to devote to it then. I haven't read The Secret Keeper either and like the sound of it.

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    1. Jaywalker, this book looks fascinating but I too will await a time when the head is clear and I don't have to study a watch......

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  36. How about 'Three Crooked Kings'
    or 'Deadly Australian Women'
    I've been reading them both whilst you are making up your mind!

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  37. Kate Morton's "The Secret Keeper" wins the toss.

    Readers, arm yourself and prepare for some lively discussion!

    Madeleinea, perhaps you would like to be the facilitator for the next read ?
    I did have a good look at Three Crooked Kings and was a little concerned that it would be of little interest to non Queenslanders.....

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  38. Not sure what role a facilitator plays, Moi. Agree 'Crooked Kings' could be a no starter over the Border......
    Happy with what you have chosen.
    Tell me what a facilitator has to do and I will do it (to the best of my ability)

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  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  40. Fine with me. Looks like it is only available in hardback for $28 until May but available as an e-book for $18 - anyone seen it any cheaper?

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    1. Kobo has it in ebook for $14.99

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  41. Can't even get it in Hardback - although I saw it on the shelves very recently. 'Out of Stock' says QBD - and both QBD and A&R say available from 1.5.2013
    Looks like I'll have to wait.... although I have an E-reader I haven't had time to frequent (haunt) the library until I learn how!

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    1. You can order it from the Bookworld website with free delivery. Here:

      http://www.bookworld.com.au/search/kate+morton#stock_status=InStock%7CPreOrder

      I'll get it as an e-pub for my e-reader.

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    2. I've downloaded it OK to my ipad and my Sony e-reader. Now to get time to actually read it.

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