The Hitchiker

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams ( 1979) read in March 2010


This month the group held differing views about this book. Opinions aired were “certainly not my sort of book”, “I laughed so much”, “ my reaction was not the same as when I read it 25 years ago” and “I didn’t think I would enjoy this book but I did”. Having said this most of us felt we would not read the five other books in the series.

This book is a fantasy merging into science fiction. On the day Earth is demolished by the Vogans to build a hyperspace bypass, Arthur Dent, a typical British man, is transported into space by his friend Ford Prefect. Until that moment Arthur was completely unaware that Prefect was an alien researcher stranded on Earth.Aided by “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” they travel in space meeting incredible characters – the two headed Beeblebrox, the humanoid Trillion, the evil Vogans, Startibartfast, a native philosopher of Magrathea and best of all Marvin the depressed robot.

The book is highly imaginative, funny and almost plausible. Much time and ingenuity is spent in trying to find the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, Everything. The reader learns that the answer is 42 but the question remains unknown!!

This was a different book from any yet tackled by our group. Few of us had previously read it although we all knew it was considered a classic of its type. We decided we might read a science fiction book in the future but would choose something truly Sci-Fi rather than fantasy.

Suite Francaise

SUITE FRANCAISE by Nemirovsky 2004) read Jan 2010


It is difficult to write a review of this book as it comprises two novellas of a sequence intended to be five. All we can say is READ IT!!
Irene Nemirovsky escaped with her Jewish parents from the revolution in Russia to live in France. Here she witnessed what occured at the time of the German invasion
in W.W.2.

The first book in Suite Francaise is “Storm in June” and depicts the flight of the citizens of Paris at the time of the German advance. We follow the plight of several families – the wealthy Pericands whose son’s lives are changed by the war ; the artistic Langelet, writer Corte and his mistress and Maurice and Jeanne Michaud, minor bank employees. The events depict how these people react in an effort to survive and only fleetingly do their paths cross.

The second book is “Sweet” and here the lives of the people in a small town occupied by the German troops, is described. The major story concerns Lucile Angellier. She lives uneasily with her mother-in-law as her unfaithful husband is a prisoner of war. When Bruno von Falk is billeted with them Lucille unwillingly falls in love with him. The story spreads to involve the local townsfolk and farmers in a time when, despite the occupation, life assumes a surprisingly “sweet” interlude.

This book was rated highly by the group. It is not anti war or horrific in its descriptions and is beautifully written. Both books look at the response of individuals to loss, love, death, disappointment, intrigue and survival. Suite Francaise is powerful and recommended by most of our group.

It is important to state that this series was never completed. Irene Nemorovsky was arrested as a Jew in 1942 and sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz . Her manuscripts for “Storm in June“ and “Sweet” were preserved by her daughters but not examined until 1998. The single volume “Suite Francaise” was then published and highly acclaimed. The book is full of beauty, pain, insight, humour and truth and is writing of quality which stands alone regardless of the knowledge a reader may have of the story behind the work.

Jamaica Inn

JAMAICA INN by Daphne Du Maurier (1936)- read in December 2009


We all enjoyed reading this novel.
The book grips the reader from the opening chapter. On a winters night Mary Yelland travels by stage coach across the blea , hostile Bodmin Moor to live with her aunt and the frightening ,cruel drunkard, Joss Merlin at the isolated Jamaica Inn. The book is set in Victorian times which suits the dark, oppressive gothic style.

Slowly the story unfolds – deceit, murder, smuggling, mystery,romance all set against wind, rain, darkness and the secrets of the Moor. This is good story telling with an ever optimistic heroin captivating the reader.It was an excellent winter time read for our group.

Daphne du Maurier wrote this book early in her career and went on to be much acclaimed particularly for “Rebecca”. Many of her books are set in Cornwall where she lived for many years. The Du Maurier Festival is held annually at Fowey.

Empire of the Sun

EMPIRE OF THE SUN by J.G.Ballard ( 1984) read in Dec. 2009


This is a semi- autobiographical book telling the story of Jim in Shanghai during W.W.1. Ballard was himself interred in a Japanese Camp during the war and this adds
poignancy and authenticity to the story.

The book is written from the boy’s point of view and is not judgemental of what occurs. Discussing this, the group thought it made the prose somewhat “matter of
fact” and devoid of emotion. However we felt this would be how a 12 year old would interpret what was going on in a camp in order to survive. Ballard never attempts any
adult interpretation in the book.

Jim comes from a privileged background but soon develops an eye for danger and self preservation. He meets Basie and Dr. Ransome in the camp who help him maintain
his identity although he never relys on them.
The book portrays the cruelty, starvation and death marches always from Jim’s perspective. It is not gory or violent but allows the reader to know what is happening
in reality.

At the end of the book Jim is somewhat bewildered . He has been three years in the camp and sees it as his only security. The war ends and he goes back to his life and family again.

Overall there was a mixed reaction to this book. In parts it was repetitive and it was easy to skip sections - it was not a book to “enjoy”. However it was cleverly written and gave a touching insight into this aspect of the war.

The Daughters of Cain

THE DAUGHTERS OF CAIN (1988) by Colin Dexter –read November 2


Lewis thinks that many murder investigations are “ bizarre and bewildering”and this proves correct as this story progresses forcing Morse to show his vulnerable nature and
find problems difficult to solve.

This is a classic murder mystery with many red herrings but it is thought provoking. In fact, the group became more concerned with the lives of the suspects than in finding out
“who dun it” It explores the lives of abused women and is often sad when it portrays Morse as an ageing alcoholic bewitched by one of the young suspects.

All in all this is perhaps not the best “Morse” but it was enjoyed by most of the group though for some this genre is not to their taste.