Book Club: 20th March 2013 – The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Two mouthfuls of titles and two very different books. We started with The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, by Kate Summerscale a book that polarised views within the group. A non-fiction book detailing the true life crime of a murder in Wiltshire in 1860. The author had obviously done a huge amount of research into the subject, and none of the detail was left out. Some felt that it was like reading a thesis rather than a book for pleasure.

The blurb: “It is a summer’s night in 1860. In an elegant detached Georgian house in the village of Road, Wiltshire, all is quiet. Behind shuttered windows the Kent family lies sound asleep. At some point after midnight a dog barks. The family wakes the next morning to a horrific discovery: an unimaginably gruesome murder has taken place in their home. The household reverberates with shock, not least because the guilty party is surely still among them. Jack Whicher of Scotland Yard, the most celebrated detective of his day, reaches Road Hill House a fortnight later. He faces an unenviable task: to solve a case in which the grieving family are the suspects. The murder provokes national hysteria. The thought of what might be festering behind the closed doors of respectable middle-class homes – scheming servants, rebellious children, insanity, jealousy, loneliness and loathing – arouses fear and a kind of excitement. But when Whicher reaches his shocking conclusion there is uproar and bewilderment. A true story that inspired a generation of writers such as Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle, this has all the hallmarks of the classic murder mystery – a body; a detective; a country house steeped in secrets. In The Suspicions of Mr Whicher Kate Summerscale untangles the facts behind this notorious case, bringing it back to vivid, extraordinary life.”

Here’s what we thought:

An unusual book that started off well but became frustrating. I really wanted to know “who did it” but even at the end there was no satisfying answer. 2/5 – Val

Enjoyed the basic storyline, but too much attention into other crimes. 2/5 – Pam

An interesting read depicting the era of the day. Went off at a “tangent” in several places but overall enjoyable. Something that I would not normally read. A real ‘mystery’. 4/5 – Mary

I hated this book! So difficult to get trough. A few good quotes in it, but not worth a read. 1/5 – Rhona

Greatly detailed book, containing researched scenarios around a devastating murder of a child. I wouldn’t call it an enjoyable read but can respect and admire the authors skilled writing and ability to weave fact and fiction. 3/5 – Anne

Very detailed and factual. Too hard going and unfortunately didn’t want to finish it – and I didn’t! 1/5 – Morven

The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce had a much more positive review from the majority of the group. A sometimes sad, but oftenuplifting account of recently retired Harold on his mission to walk the length of the country to be reunited with an ex work colleague who paid him an act of kindness before she dies.

The blurb: “When Harold Fry leaves home one morning to post a letter, with his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other.

He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. 

All he knows is that he must keep walking.

To save someone else’s life.”

Here’s what we thought:

An easy read, and an unusual idea with a good ending. 4/5 – Mary

A gentle read. Really enjoyable, got to know the characters well.  4/5 – Helen

This gets better as the story goes on. A ‘nice’ story, worth a read.  3/5 – Rhona

A really lovely book, although it is a bit of hard work at the beginning, but definitely worth persevering with. Well written characters that draw you into the story. 4/5 – Morven

Our next reading choices are Stay Closeby Harlan Coben and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby Mary Ann Shaffer. We will be meeting on Wednesday 15th May, 7.30pm at the Pavillion Bar, Ruskin to discuss. All welcome, if you have read both, one or none of them.

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