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Reading Group

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This Reading Group meets at MittelhofKIEZladen, Onkel-Toms-Hütte

(U-Banhof).  Always on the third Monday in the month.

10 Kiezladen Mittelhof

Inh. Stadtteilzentrum Mittelhof e.V.
Ladenstraße 27/28, 14169 Berlin


People attending the meetings – always on the third Monday in the month – will pay 3,00 to the Mittelhof for the use of the facilities.

On the other side of the tracks in the Onkel-Toms-Hütte-Underground station is

BUCHHANDLUNG BORN. Inh. Juliane Kaiser Ladenstraße 17-18, 14169 Berlin Telefon: 030.31 86 91 60.

It is an independent bookshop – with friedly, helpful service where can pre-order books and pick them up a month in advance – or ask me to pre-order them.

Our running diary:

October 16th 2017 – Laden 9 Ladenstraße, Onkel-Toms-Hütte-U-Bahnhof:

Groff: Fates and Furies. fates and furies three reviews

November 20th 2017: McEwen: Nutshell

Here he is talking about it: http://www.ianmcewan.com/books/nutshell.html Unfortunately it is too ‘big’ to upload it here.


December 18th 2017  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson


January 15th 2018    Winterston – The Gap of Time (2015)     Hogarth Shakespeare        (about 8.50 but also available second hand)

Don’t be put off by the beginning, as I was initially – keep going!

Here is 1) some information and below is 2) a summary of Shakespeare’s plot

and 3)  pdf containing a whole lot of reviews

1.The Winter’s Tale is one of Shakespeare’s “late plays.” It tells the story of a king whose jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter and the death of his beautiful wife. His daughter is found and brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of extraordinary events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited.

In The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale, we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crisis, to a storm-ravaged American city called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, technology and the elliptical nature of time. Written with energy and wit, this is a story of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and redemption and the enduring love of a lost child on the other.  (GoodReads)

Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, has been visiting his old friend King Leontes in Sicily for nearly nine months but is ready to return to Bohemia. Leontes begs him to stay longer but Polixenes is anxious to go, and declines. When Leontes’ pregnant wife, Hermione, succeeds in persuading Polixenes to stay, Leontes becomes obsessed with the thought that his wife has been unfaithful with his friend. He asks his servant, Camillo, to poison Polixenes, Camilla warns Polixenes instead and they flee leaving Hermione and her little boy, Mamillius, to face the King’s displeasure.

Leontes imprisons Hermione and she delivers a baby girl there. A lady in waiting, Paulina, takes the baby to Leontes to try and persuade him to accept her. Instead. Leontes instructs Paulina’s husband, Antigonus, to take the baby into exile. Leonte’s puts Hermione on trial and she is vindicated by a message from the Delphic oracle to which Leontes had appealed. Her son Mamillius dies from heartbreak at his mother’s imprisonment and Hermione collapses and appears to die. The news of Mamillius’ death shocks Leontes back to reality and he becomes remorseful.

Antigonus places the baby on a beach in Bohemia but he is killed by a bear and the baby is left there. A shepherd and his son discover the child and take her to their home.

Sixteen years pass, during which time Leontes mourns the loss of his wife and children. In Bohemia, Polixenes’ son, Florizel, has met and fallen in love with a shepherd’s daughter, Perdita, while she’s organising a sheepshearing feast. Polixenes and Camillo, in disguise, attend the feast where they are entertained by dancers and by the rogue Autolycus, who has previously tricked the young Shepherd and stolen his purse to provide himself with knick-knacks to sell at the feast. Polixenes reveals himself, reprimands his son, and threatens the shepherds for promoting Perdita’s friendship with the Prince.

Camillo and Autolycus help Florizel and Perdita to run away to Sicily. They are followed by the shepherds, who in turn are pursued by Polixenes and Camillo. At Leontes’ court Florizel introduces Perdita then, as Polixenes arrives, the revelations of the shepherds show Perdita to be the banished daughter of Leontes. Everyone goes with Paulina to see a newly completed statue of Hermione and the statue moves. Hermione has lived in seclusion in the belief that her daughter will be found. Florizel and Perdita are united. Leontes and Hermione are also united and, as a reward, Paulina is given Camillo as her new husband.

(from https://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/play-summary/winters-tale/)

3.  gap of time reviews

Feb 19th 2018

Colson Whitehead: Underground Railroad  (6,99)

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor – engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven – but the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. Even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share. (GoodReads)


March 19th 2018 : Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift (8,99)

A luminous, intensely moving tale that begins with a secret lovers’ assignation in the spring of 1924, then unfolds to reveal the whole of a remarkable life.

Twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild has worked as a maid at an English country house since she was sixteen. For almost all of those years she has been the clandestine lover to Paul Sheringham, young heir of a neighboring house. The two now meet on an unseasonably warm March day—Mothering Sunday—a day that will change Jane’s life forever.

As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane—about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, remembers—expands with every vividly captured moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery, and through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring, deeply affecting work of fiction (GoodReads)

April 16th 2018
: Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

No meeting in May – the third Monday is Whit Monday

June 18th  2018
– Julian Barnes, Noise of Time (It is now out in paperback and there should be plenty of copies in libraries).

July 16th 2018
“Stay with Me” by Ayobami Adebyo

August 20th  2018
A Gentleman in Moscow (Towles)

September 17th 2018
:   Reservoir 13 (Jon McGregor)

October 2018
: Carr: A Month in the COuntry

November 2018
: Days without End (Sebastian Barry)

December 2018
:   Winter (Ali Smith)


Feb:  Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders)



May be: Another Brooklyn  (Jaqueline Woodson) (2016)

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.(Goodreads)

Who knows Jennifer Egan’s ‘Manhattan Beach’ (2017)

The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.  (Goodreads)

Who knows:The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015)

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain,

Who knows:The Sea by John Banville       

The Sea is the fifteenth book by Irish writer John Banville. It won the 2005 Man Booker Prize.

In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.” (Goodreads)

Later, may be: The Broken Shore  ( Peter Temple, 2005) The Broken SHore: Broken by his last case, homicide detective Joe Cashin has fled the city and returned to his hometown to run its one-man police station while his wounds heal and the nightmares fade. He lives a quiet life with his two dogs in the tumbledown wreck his family home has become. It’s a peaceful existence – ideal for the rehabilitating man. But his recovery is rudely interrupted by a brutal attack on Charles Bourgoyne, a prominent member of the local community. Suspicion falls on three young men from the local Aboriginal community. But Cashin’s not so sure and as the case unfolds amid simmering corruption and prejudice, he finds himself holding on to something that it might be better to let go.  (Goodreads)

See below for what we have already covered


1) First meeting (was) : November: Ian McEwen: The Children Act

You might enjoy  Excerpts from reviews – Children Act                        re children act links, text of Salley Gardnes

rights at 16 and 18 UK                          Things I looked up in wikipedia re Children Act

McEwen my notes including idioms and choice phrases

2) End of January :: The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society von Barrows/Schaffer

Image result for the guernsey literary and potato peel pie society Monday January 25th 2016

Here is a  review: Bright and Dark Guardian reveiw of Guernsey Literary and…..

and here is my compendium of other reviews – it could be the basis of discussion: Guernsey reviews editied

If you have read and enjoyed the book you might be interested in the fate of Jersey within the British economy.

Here is a Guardian araticle: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/08/fall-of-jersey-how-tax-haven-goes-bust

3) Jan Bild’s daughter’s novel, The Versions of Us, has come out in paper back so we will  read that in February (on Feb 29th!)

  Image result for the versions of us

Here is a recent review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Here is more general information: :Laura Barnett links

Here is a link to Laura Barnett talking about the book:


(You can download it as a podcast – right click – or listen ‘live’. It’s from BBC Radio 4, Open Book)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02tknkv Laura Barnett open book bbc

http://www.foyles.co.uk/laura-barnett Laura Barnett Foyles Interview

Here is my (!) summary of  reviews: excerpts from reviews the versions of us

 Here are my notes, but BEWARE – there are spoilers :

characters and connections in The Versions of Us.

Here is what I’ve prepared for 29th 29.2. 2016       ;      Talking about The Versions

4) We’ll meet on Monday 25th April. 

Anne Enright’s The Green Road  Anne Enright review points for discussion new

A really stimulating article by Anne Enright aboutherself and giving insightinto the backlground to the novel:


or: A return to the western shore Ann Enright 2015


5) Then not in May because I’m taking a group of Over-Sixties to Scotland,

so our fifth meeting will be on Monday June 27th, talking about Jo MacMillan’s Motherland

We’ve already spoken about it in the group – and hope to invite the author to talk to us in January. The book is also out in German and Paradeis Ost (!)

There is not very much to be found about the book in English or German, so here is what I’ve got – a bit unsorted at the moment:re Jo McMillan Guardian 2015                  Motherland reviews – Good Reads and others

Review Girl with her head in a book                           Revuew Bookbag co

Tamworth never forgets McMillan at Foyles                           jo macmillan in granta

                  Quotes and Thoughts for Reading Group re Motherland

If you have time, re-read some of the book starting in the middle. I enjoyed it much better second time round and didn’t start at the beginning!

See you on 25th June


What else? We will spend summer talking about Berlin:

Jo MacMillan, Motherland;

6) Gail Jones: A Guide to Berlin –  July  25th;

Here is what I have collated from reviews – not very thrilling:  Guide to Berlin reviews and Nabokov

7) Joseph Kanon, Leaving Berlin – August 29th.

This is a short video with Kanon himself showing Berlin now – and then:


Here is what I was able to find in the way of respectable reviews (There are far more but many quote from these).   Leaving Berlin reviews

You still want to read more novels about Berlin?   10 best books set in Berlin


8)    ‘Reader, I married him’ on September 26th

It is a volume of short stories edited by Tracy Chevalier – referring to Jane Eyre. I enjoyed it.

There are over twenty very varied stories!                  

Here is the BBC Book Club discussion oft’Jane Eyre’  but also with references to thisw volume and with Tracy Our Souls reviewsChevalier:     : WorldBookClub-20160507-CharlotteBrontJaneEyre

Here is the table of contents if you want to print it out and write down your own comments: Contents of Reader, I married himn, ed Chevalier

I’d like you to decide which story or stories in ‘Reader I married Him’ you prefer and to be prepared to elucidate your reasons.  I don’t know if you prefer to have this warning!

If you know abit about Charlotte Bronte then try this quiiz:


9) For October 31st     Kent Haruf: Our Souls at Night.   (under 10 euros for a change)

Here are some reviews: Our Souls reviews


10) November_  Bill Clegg’s : Did you ever have a family

Here is the NYT review: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/06/books/review/did-you-ever-have-a-family-by-bill-clegg.html?_r=0

This costs 8,99 at Thalia and amazon which is also reccommendation!

This book of dark secrets opens with a blaze. On the morning of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s house goes up in flames, destroying her entire family – her present, her past and her future. Fleeing from the carnage, stricken and alone, June finds herself in a motel room by the ocean, hundreds of miles from her Connecticut home, held captive by memories and the mistakes she has made with her only child, Lolly, and her partner, Luke.
In the turbulence of grief and gossip left in June’s wake we slowly make sense of the unimaginable. The novel is a gathering of voices, and each testimony has a new revelation about what led to the catastrophe – Luke’s alienated mother Lydia, the watchful motel owners, their cleaner Cissy, the teenage pothead who lives nearby – everyone touched by the tragedy finds themselves caught in the undertow, as their secret histories finally come to light.
Lit by the clarity of understanding that true sadness brings, Did You Ever Have a Family is an elegant, unforgettable story that reveals humanity at its worst and best, through loss and love, fracture and forgiveness. At the book’s heart is the idea of family – the ones we are born with and the ones we create – and the desire, in the face of everything, to go on living.(Thalia website)

11) No meeting in December and in January we talked about Colim Toibin’s ‘Nora Webster’         Here are some excerpts from the reviews and links to interviews:

nora webster reviews reduced

Nora Webster Reviews reduced to 4 pages for discussion


12) February:  Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann (Bloomsbury Publishing

There are reviews at






Here is the latter:    Thirteen Ways…..

13) March:Tyler: Vinegar Girl  (paperback 11,99)  and the discussion about the point of re-writing Shakespeare. Then we can decide if we want to read any others. (This is also an ‘easy’ one following McCann which could be seen to be tougher. )


In April we can’t meet.  

14) May:  Zadie Smith: Swing Time. Here’s an interesting article about her:


and some reviews and more:swing time new yorker

swing time review nyt kakutani

Swing time review NYT Bass

Zadie Smith By the Book NYT

swing time review guardian Arminatta Forna

swing time review book of the day guardian

15) June: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan. 

Here are two reviews: The spinning heart

And here is Vera Padberg’s summary of the characters: spinning heart – characters – Vera Padberg

16)  July: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout – Reading Group – 31.07.17

Last meeting in the library

I’ll be bringing more books that I’ve read – some of the above are your suggestions. Thank you!

Please let me know of any more suggestions you have!

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