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Between Friends Book Club: JULY

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The numbers for our in-store book club are obviously limited due to space, so for those of you who couldn’t be there in person, here’s some of the reactions to each of the four titles we read in July.

For more information and to put your name down on a waiting list for future book club evenings, check out our Book Club page.

Mark Brandi

Out now

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab’s dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben’s next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man’s shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab’s dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can’t ignore the past any more.

Book Clubbers Wrap Up

This book was well appreciated and recommended by its readers.  They noted that it deals with some pretty heavy and confronting subject matter (ask our staff before reading if you are concerned), but ultimately they described it as a wonderful coming of age story, full of 1980s rural Australia at its vivid best.  Opening with a mystery, the book had our readers gripped from the start all the way through to the end.  They found it challenging, but written with a simplicity that belied its heavy content, making it a very accessible read.  One of our book clubbers, Veronica, penned this short review:

A tale of growing up in a quiet Victorian country town, of innocence lost, mystery and the bonds of love and friendship that time cannot diminish.  If you like mystery and suspense wrapped in a story that feels entirely real this page turner is for you.

A must for fans of Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones or Jane Harper’s The Dry.  

DestroyersThe Destroyers
Christopher Bollen

Out now

When Charlie and I were young, we played a game called Destroyers . . . We were sharpening our instincts, jettisoning attachments. We were honing strategies for survival…

Ian Bledsoe is on the run, broke and humiliated, fleeing the emotional and financial fall-out of his father’s death. His childhood friend Charlie – rich, exuberant and basking in life on the Greek island of Patmos – is his last hope.

At first, Patmos is like a dream – sun-soaked days on Charlie’s yacht and the reappearance of a girlfriend from Ian’s past – and Charlie readily offers the lifeline he desperately needs. But, like Charlie himself, this beautiful island conceals a darkness beneath. When he vanishes leaving Ian to handle his murky business affairs, Ian finds himself caught in a terrifying labyrinth of deceptions. As boys, the pair played a game called Destroyers – a game, he now realizes, they may never have stopped playing. Expansive, vivid and suspenseful, The Destroyers is a mesmerizing drama of identity, power and fate, fathers and sons, self-invention and self-deception.

Book Clubbers’ Wrap Up

There was a bit of disappointment with this one – from a fantastic start to a very long middle followed by a face-paced climax and ending.  There was a general feeling that while the story was intriguing and readers wanted to find out what had happened, it didn’t quite hit its target as a ‘thriller’.  A bit too much of a slow burn and not enough action to keep you fully engaged.  Bollen spends a great deal of time on some story arcs developing parts of certain characters, while completely ignoring others at the risk of presenting quite one-dimensional personalities.  Readers felt that there was a missed opportunity here, but also wondered if it was a deliberate choice to build intrigue about the characters.  The book is beautifully written with great evocation of island life in Greece – very much transporting the reader to the pebbly beaches and tourist chaos of a summer in Patmos.  All in all our book clubbers felt this was more of a holiday read, but still an interesting and well written story – it won’t necessarily blow your socks off, but it will intrigue you.  


History of BeesThe History of Bees
Maya Lunde

Release Date: September 2017

England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive—one that will give both him and his children honour and fame.

United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper and fights an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident—and she is kept in the dark about his whereabouts and condition—she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought provoking story that is just as much about the powerful relationships between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity.

Book Clubbers Wrap Up

Evocative, well-paced and equally well imagined, our readers found the The History of Bees to be an accessible literary page-turner with an environmental conscience.  Several book clubbers said this was not a book they would normally choose, but this merely added to their reading enjoyment. With strong environmental themes, the readers appreciated the use of the bees and the issues they face as a metaphor for the human challenges also considered.  Despite three different narratives taking place across three separate and distinct time periods, the readers felt it was a very successful novel, particularly in considering the relationships between parents and children.  The group remarked on the unusual structure of the book, in that it contains a historical element and a speculative, futuristic element. This grim future was particularly powerful, having a certain Handmaid’s Tale quality.  Highly recommended by our readers.  


The PartyThe Party 
Robyn Harding

Out now

One invitation. A lifetime of regrets.

Sweet sixteen. It’s a coming of age, a milestone, a rite of passage. Of course Jeff and Kim Sanders would throw a party for their daughter, Hannah. She was a good kid with good grades and nice friends. And it wasn’t a big, indulgent affair. It was just four girls coming over for pizza and cake, movies and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?

But things did go wrong, horrifically wrong. When a tragic accident leaves one of the young guests disfigured, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb begins to unravel. The injured girl’s mother, Lisa, files a lawsuit that turns friends into enemies, reveals dark secrets in the Sanders’ marriage, and exposes the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah. Lisa’s determination to make the Sanders pay stems from a fierce love for her only child and Lisa’s own dark and damaged past.

At school, Hannah must deal with the ugly aftermath as her peers turn on the victim, and she struggles to maintain her social standing while heeding her moral compass. Her popular best friend, Lauren, is losing herself to drugs, alcohol, and a relationship with an inappropriate older man. Then a shocking, horrifying act of desperation rocks their upscale world and brings everything to a halt. And no one’s life will ever be the same.

In The Party, Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap meets Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, taking us behind the façade of the perfect family, exploring the secrets, betrayals, and moral lapses the neighbors don’t see.

The Party uncovers the lies and duplicities that children and parents tell each other. And tell themselves.

Book Clubbers’ Wrap Up

It’s probably safe to say that this was the least favourite of the titles read this month by our discerning book club members. Whilst there was significant interest in the premise of the story, our readers felt that it fell short of delivering on its potential. The characters were not especially likable, and this became a fatal flaw for this story. Ultimately, our readers felt it was too light on, despite the introduction of some big themes, and were disappointed at the lack of depth within the story. Good for an airplane or holiday read, but not a book which you feel will change your world.


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