It's always wonderful to have a book recommendation and discuss it with friends - and if a relaxed dinner is possible too then this sounds perfect! The Hong Kong Ladies Circle Book Club was launched in February 2018. It meets monthly - usually on the first Monday of every month. If you would like to be added to the mailing list then please register your interest below and you will be informed of the latest books to be reviewed and how to register your interest to attend.
Full members of the HK Ladies Circle are able to attend Book Circle at no additional charge above their monthly membership fee. For those who attend who are not full members of HK Ladies Circle, a guest fee of HK$100 will be payable each book club. Proceeds go to the HK Ladies Circle fundraising pool for allocation at each AGM.
The ladies of the HK Ladies Circle Book Circle will be meeting to discuss and review A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende on Monday 1st June.
If you would like to join them, please find full details on our Event Page and follow the link to register your interest. Their review will be posted here after they have met.
The books we have reviewed so far ....
May 2020 Synopsis: Bai Liusu comes from a large traditional Chinese family. Her divorce and refusal to attend her ex-husband's funeral brings shame to their household. In order to legitimize her social status once more a matchmaker is enlisted who introduces Liusu to the rich bachelor Fan Liuyan. Set between Shanghai and Hong Kong on the eve of the Japanese invasion in 1941 this is a story of the pursuit of love. Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: The majority of our reviewers enjoyed this book very much especially the complex hierarchical dynamics of a traditional Chinese family and the objectification of women in society at the time. Interspersed with beautiful descriptions of life in Hong Kong immediately prior to the Japanese invasion this book is an interesting interpretation of the challenges of change both cultural and personal.
April 2020 Synopsis: London, 1941. The bombs are dropping and Emmeline Lake dreams of becoming an intrepid war correspondent for one of the leading newspapers. When she answers an advertisement at The London Evening Chronicle she believes she has climbed the first rung on her journalistic ladder. However, due to an unfortunate misunderstanding she instead finds herself working for the formidable Mrs Bird who has a decidedly different career path in mind for her. Rating: 3 / 5 Review: This book received polarizing reviews. Some described it as a charmingly fun, easy to read story while others felt it was uninteresting and lacking depth. There was unanimous agreement however that the book instantly transports you to war torn London with it's Tremendous! use of language that is very much in keeping with the style of the time.
March 2020 **Ladies' Circle Hong Kong Recommendation** Synopsis: In 1922 Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to live the rest of his days under house arrest in one of the grand hotels of the world-The Metropol in Moscow. When fate puts the life of a young girl in his hands he must summon his reserves to ensure her safety, eduction and maturity. Set during some the most tumultuous times in Russian history this is a book full of colourful characters and genteel refinement. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: A beautifully written book that sweeps you up and transports you to a bygone era. Full of wonderful characters and rich in detail this book is a decadent indulgence to be savoured, If you enjoy a strong character driven story, this is the book for you!
February 2020 Synopsis: For most people Saudi Arabia is perceived as a secretive and mysterious society -but what is it really like to live there, especially as a woman? Nicola Sutcliff decided to spend 4 years in the Kingdom to find out. Interspersed with the authors own observations, this fascinating book catalogues the stories of the many women whose contributions are documented within.. Rating:2 / 5 Review: This book does offer some interesting insight into the lives of women living in Saudi Arabia and the illustrations that accompany each story are worthy of note. Unfortunately the stories suffer from a repetitiveness our reviewers found frustrating. It was felt that a possible reason for this may have been due to the way the women's stories had been translated. The overwhelming review was that the content lacked depth. Disappointing
January 2020 **Ladies' Circle Hong Kong Recommendation** Synopsis: Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho. One of five children born into a strict Mormon survivalist family she had no birth certificate, no school or medical records and no official identity. Tara realized that in order to change her life and escape her increasingly tyrannical father she needed to leave home. In doing so she discovers a ferocious quest for knowledge and a determination to change herself through the power of education. Rating:4 / 5 Review: Although slow to start this is a compelling read about one girl's quest for an education and the personal price she had to pay for it. Graphic descriptions of violence-both physical and verbal, pepper this memoir and make it an uncomfortable read at times however the reader is compelled to read on to determine the outcome. An understanding of Mormon ideology would be beneficial before undertaking this read as the author relies heavily on the presumption that the reader is familiar with it's beliefs. It is a remarkable memoir of triumph over adversity that will stay with you long after you have finished it.
December 2019 Synopsis: Don Tilman is a 39 year old geneticist who has never got beyond a first date. One day Don decides to apply his scientific brain into finding his life partner and devises an in depth questionnaire for any prospective candidate to complete titled 'The Wife Project'. Enter Rosie, probably the world's most incompatible woman who soon throws Don's well ordered life into chaos - could she be the one? Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: An enjoyable read that is both funny and touching in equal measure. Although some of our reviewers found the main character to be slightly annoying and the story contrived and unrealistic at times the overall opinion was that it was an entertaining read. This is a llight hearted and amusing take on romance and the art of cocktail making!!
November 2019 ** Ladies Circle Book Club Recommendation ** Synopsis: This is the memoir of Alexandra Fuller - the daughter of white settlers in 1970's war torn Africa. It is one girl's story detailing her formative years growing up in multiple African countries amid civil war and heartache. It is the story of one family's unbreakable bond with a continent that came to define, shape and scar them. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: There was almost unanimous admiration for this book. The writing completely transports you to Africa and immediately immerses you in the hot, dusty and at times downright dangerous situations in which the Fuller family find themselves. The story is powerful and highly emotive but is also humorous and sensitive. For those of us who have never visited this vast continent, this book is guaranteed to take you there. A fabulous insight into the incredible life and times of one little girl's African childhood.
October 2019 Synopsis: First published in 1945 but only recently republished, this is the wartime memoir of Francoise Frenkel. A lover of all things literary, in 1921 she opens the first french language book shop in Berlin. The business thrives but as the threat of war approaches life in Berlin for a Jewish woman and a foreigner soon becomes untenable. Francoise is soon forced to flee Paris and keep moving in an attempt to evade capture and deportation. This book tells her story of survival and the bravery of the French people who risked their own lives by offering her refuge. Rating: 3 / 5 Review: A fascinating insight into life in occupied France during the second world war. The writing style is strangely detached and the author fails to provide key details for which our reviewers would have liked more information. Whether this was intentional or proof of suppressed trauma is unclear and prevents the reader from truly connecting with the author. It is a fascinating account of one of histories darkest periods and a good historical reference for anyone wishing to learn more about life during the war under Nazi occupation.
Synopsis: This is a collection of short stories from Wessex's most famous son. The stories contain some of Hardy's most powerful portraits of women, beginning with the flawlessly written Distracted Preacher. This first story tells the tale of a conflicted man torn between his love for a feisty woman and his own sense of moral duty. Fans of Hardy's work will recognize the familiar creative writing style and atmospheric prose. Rating:3.5 / 5 Review: This is a beautifully written masterclass in descriptive writing. All of the stories within this collection contain Hardy's unique interpretation of love in all it's manifestations. It will transport you to a bygone era and sweep you away with it's undulating language. The short stories enable the reader to stretch the book over a protracted period-a definite plus if this is your first foray into a classic since those English Literature classes at school! An enjoyable read but it should be said that if comparing this book to Hardy's more well known novels the rating given would be lower. Although not recommended for a beach read this is a good starting point for anyone contemplating a classic
Synopsis: Adam Kay was a junior doctor in a UK NHS teaching hospital when he started writing this diary. It is the brutally honest account of life on and off a busy hospital ward. Be prepared to learn everything you ever wanted to know (and a little more) about life on the NHS front line. Welcome to the life of a junior doctor........ Rating:3.5 / 5 Review: Brutally honest, insightful, funny and incredibly touching this is a study of what it takes to be a doctor working for the UK National Health Service. Every reviewer had their own personal favourite passage however not everyone was comfortable with the content that at times feels like rhetoric. This book will resonate with anyone who has ever worked or interacted in a UK hospital environment.Prepare to be enlightened and horrified!
Synopsis: Imagine one day your government decides women are not permitted to work, girls are not taught to read or write and all females are only allowed to speak one hundred words a day. Imagine a country where females no longer have a voice. This is the new reality for Doctor Jean McClennan and her daughter. When fate intervenes and Jean is enlisted into a secret government programme the opportunity to reclaim much more than her voice becomes a tantalising possibility. Set in a dystopian America this is the ‘What If” novel of the moment....(this synopsis is 100 words!). Rating: 3 / 5 Review: A thought provoking, chillingly suspenseful novel that sadly degenerates into a hugely disappointing climax. The final 25% of the story was woefully lacking in depth leaving too many questions unanswered. A very promising start that failed to deliver. Would have scored much higher if not for the regrettable ending.
Synopsis: Melanie and Abi were inseparable at University until life got in the way and they lost touch. Melanie is now happily married to Ben. They live an ordinary life with their 3 children in an ordinary town. Abi married her university lover and followed him to Los Angeles for a life of glamour, parties and indulgence. After discovering his affair, her glamorous existence disappeared overnight. Distraught and friendless, Abi decides to reconnect with her old friend who doesn’t hesitate to “invite her in” to her home. A decision that causes a seismic shift in Melanie’s perceived domestic bliss..... Rating: 3 / 5 Review: Unfortunately this book did not hit the mark with our reviewers. Despite the simplistic and cliché'd plot this is a compelling story of wanting what you can't have, jealousy and revenge. An average read which is reflected in the average rating. Disappointingly predictable.
** Ladies Circle Book Club Recommendation ** Synopsis: Kit and Laura travel to Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. In the aftermath Laura witnesses a brutal attack that will have a life changing effect on all involved. Months later the woman they helped that night mysteriously turns up on Kit and Laura’s doorstep and things begin to take a sinister turn. As the truth begins to emerge, can the past remain in the past or is the truth about to catch up with all of them? Rating: 4 / 5 Review: A cleverly written, gripping story of truth and lies. Told predominantly from two different perspectives this book is packed with plot twists and tension. A well crafted story with a galloping plot-a real page turner
Synopsis: After accumulating tens of thousands of pounds of debt John and Anne Darwin were facing bankruptcy. In March 2002 John decides to fake his own death by taking his canoe out into the North Sea, never to return. With Anne's help this final canoe trip starts a chain of events that results in one of the UK’s most notorious fraud cases. This book is Anne’s remarkable account of a story that made headlines around the world for it’s sheer audacity and duplicity. Rating: 3 / 5 Review: This book evoked an unsurprisingly lively discussion. Little or no sympathy was felt for either of the protagonists. Were you not aware that it is a true story you would be forgiven for thinking it was conjured from an over active imagination. A light and easy read that provides a fascinating insight into the facts behind the headlines.
Synopsis: Stanley Huang lives with his second wife Mary in one of the wealthiest parts of California amongst the Silicon Valley elite. Stanley has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and as his death approaches his family start to become suspicious that they may stand to inherit a lot less than they were led to believe. Rating: 2 / 5 Review: This book was not a popular choice amongst our reviewers. The characterisation was felt to be shallow and stereotypical and the writing indulgent at times. The story does not begin to gather pace until the final third of the book by which time most of our reviewers had lost interest. This is a shame as the story had the potential to be an Asian American family drama to rival that of Crazy Rich Asians. Sadly this was not the case. Disappointing.
Synopsis: In 1862 a group of young artists descend on Birchwood Manor. By the time they leave, one of them has been shot another has disappeared and a priceless heirloom is missing. One hundred and fifty years later Elodie Winslow uncovers a leather satchel containing two items-a photograph of a Victorian lady and an artist’s sketchbook. Why does the house feel so familiar to Elodie? This is a story of murder, mystery, love and loss. Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: A cleverly woven story told by multiple voices across time. Readers of Kate Morton’s previous books will recognise the themes and prose that is her signature. The myriad of characters was overwhelming at times and at 580 pages, was felt to be 100 pages too long. However, this book was enjoyed by all our reviewers and with some clever ‘reveals’ manages to surprise and enlighten the reader in equal measure.
**Ladies Circle Hong Kong Book Circle Recommendation** Synopsis: For most people a terminal cancer diagnosis is devastating - Randy Pausch is not most people. When asked to give a ‘Last Lecture’ to his students at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University he did not want it to be about dying. Instead, the lecture he gave would become a phenomenon. Entitled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’ it was a reflection of some of the key moments that helped shape his life and the lessons he learnt along the way. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: The high overall score for this book is well deserved but does not fully reflect the mixed reviews it received. While some reviewers were full of praise for the book some felt the writing became a little safe and predictable, especially towards the end. There was however, a universal appreciation for the legacy this book leaves to the author’s children and all reviewers said they would highly recommend it to others. It is a truly inspirational account of one man’s life lessons, deftly counterbalanced with an acceptance of fate that is never morbid. An inspirational read.
Synopsis: Books by David Sedaris are famous for their dark humour and for injecting the ‘fun’ into the ‘dysfunctional’. This book is no exception. Using his own family and experiences, this book is a collection of twelve short stories relating to the spirit of Christmas. Rating: 1.5 / 5 Review: Not the most popular book to be reviewed. Reviewers were left feeling amused, uncomfortable, confused and annoyed in equal measure. The links to the festive season flit between the obvious and the tenuous but are cleverly crafted. Politically incorrect and unapologetic, this book is definitely not for anyone wanting a traditional warm and cuddly Christmas tale. Oh dear !
**Ladies Circle Hong Kong Book Circle Recommendation** Synopsis: It’s late 1960 and Jeremy Thorpe is the UK Liberal Party MP for North Devon when he meets Norman Josiffe. They embark upon an illegal homosexual relationship that the MP is desperate to keep secret. 15 years after that first meeting homosexuality is now legalised and Thorpe is the Leader of the party. Not wanting his secrets uncovered, a bizarre sequence of events results in Thorpe being sensationally tried for conspiracy and incitement to murder in a court showdown that was billed at the time as an Old Bailey ‘trial of the century’. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: A Very English Scandal is the hilariously witty account of lies, deceit and scandal at the heart of the British establishment. It is cleverly written and provides hilarious insight into the clandestine goings on within the corridors of power. It also provides historical facts and background into life in the U.K. during this tumultuous political era. It is a truly remarkable account of paranoia, betrayal and blind devotion. A real case of the truth being stranger than fiction!
Synopsis: Celie is a young black girl born into the harsh, segregated world of the American Deep South. Celie endures a horrendous childhood at the hands of the man she calls ‘father’ and is trapped in an ugly marriage until she meets the glamorous Shug Avery. Shug is a singer and a woman in charge of her own destiny. Their relationship results in Celie gradually discovering her own spirit, freeing herself from her past and reuniting with the ones she loves. Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a classic. Written in an epistolary style it is a very emotional read. The consensus was that it was very well written and enjoyable despite the harrowing events it depicts.
**Ladies Circle Hong Kong Book Circle Recommendation** Synopsis: Nikki is drifting. After dropping out of university she is now living and working at her local pub. A chance visit to a temple on the other side of London results in her taking on an additional job teaching English to elderly punjabi widows. The classes rapidly get out of control when the women begin to open up about womanhood, sexuality and the dark untold stories that exist within their community. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: There was a unanimous appreciation for this book. Told with sympathetic insight and humour this is an intricately woven story of family, culture and suppressed female sexuality. Laden with 'vegetable' references you will never look at a cucumber the same way again!
** Ladies Circle Hong Kong Book Circle Recommendation ** Synopsis: Eleanor Oliphant is quite a character. Eleanor Oliphant likes routine. Eleanor Oliphant likes wearing the same clothes to work everyday, eating the same meal deal for lunch and buying the same two bottles of vodka every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant's carefully timetabled existence ensures she is totally happy all of the time, or is she? A wickedly funny original tale of loneliness, courage and the power of kindness. Rating: 4.5 / 5 Review: A touching book that evoked much discussion and debate particularly surrounding the back story relating to Eleanor's mother. The highest rated book to be reviewed so far! A must read for anyone who appreciates a good 'one liner' or wants to improve their vocabulary. If you haven't done so already Read. This. Book.
Synopsis: The fictional account of the true life events surrounding The Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal. Told in story form this book is a disturbing insight into the devastating lifelong impact of these events, balanced by the resilience of the human psyche to overcome unimaginable suffering through the power of love. Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: Overall our reviewers enjoyed this thought provoking book. Although at times it was uncomfortably descriptive the majority felt it was a well written and surprisingly enjoyable read. Guaranteed to have you 'googling' the moment you finish it!
Synopsis: England, the 1930's. Christopher Banks has become the country's most celebrated detective yet one unsolved crime has always haunted him : the mysterious disappearance of his parents in Shanghai, when he was a small boy. The book is set between London and Shanghai and is a story of memory, intrigue and the need to return. Rating: 2.5 / 5 Review: Although this book is beautifully written all reviewers felt it lacked dynamic narrative. The plot was disorientated and meandering leaving the readers distinctly underwhelmed. Joint tied for bottom place so far!
Synopsis: One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally : a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband's just one month before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since. Now with a baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parent's deaths. But by digging up the past, she'll put her future in danger. Rating: 2.5 / 5 Review: This book polarised our reviewers with some loving it and others hating it. There was complete agreement however for the character of Murray who we determined deserves his own spin off novel / novels. An easy read for those who love a missing person crime drama.
Synopsis: Irene and Nate Stanley live on their Illinois family farm with their children Bliss and Shep until one day Nate announces he's been offered a job in Oregon. Although unhappy with the move the family pack up and move across the country. Soon after arriving the unthinkable happens and their son Shep is shot and killed. Shep's death leads Irene Stanley into an unlikely friendship with his murderer who is on death row. Rating: 3 / 5 Review: Generated interesting debate surrounding the capacity for forgiveness and the efficacy of capital punishment. Consensus was that the plot lost it's way at times however the story is compelling and keeps you guessing until the conclusion.
** Ladies Circle Hong Kong Book Circle Recommendation ** Synopsis: In Shaker Heights everything is planned-roads, colours of houses, even the lives the residents will lead. No one embodies this spirit more that Elena Richardson. Enter Mia Warren - artist and single Mum who rents a house from Mrs Richardson with her teenage daughter Pearl. Throw in teenage angst, a custody battle and a mysterious past and you have all the ingredients for a riveting read. Rating: 4 / 5 Review: A riveting read from start to finish. A multi faceted story that explores motherhood, cultural identity and the weights of expectation and secrets. Unputdownable!!
Synopsis: Beckford is the small British town and eerie setting for the second book by award winning writer Paula Hawkins. Beckford's river has a history of drowning women-but were they suicides or murders? Fifteen year old Lena's mother Nel, who has been researching the rivers mysterious past, is found drowned a few months later. Detectives descend on Beckford and slowly the clues to solving the case are revealed. Rating: 3.5 / 5 Review: After the praise received for the author's debut 'The Girl On The Train' the expectation for this book was high. However, the overall opinion at the discussion was 'disappointing'. The multitude of characters and lack of characterisation resulted in a failure to connect or care for any of the characters.