Book Reviews

New Book Review

Brian Holliday reviews
Cassini’s Vision by Brian Lavery, a longtime
stalwart of U3A Sunshine.

Latest Book Review

The Bonfire of the Vanities
by Tom Wolfe
reviewed by Steve Reilly
and Julie Peake

Latest Book Review

The Lying Life of Adults
by Elena Ferrante

Book Review – Pompeii

Pompeii, rated 9
by Steve Reilly

Book Review – The Dust That Falls from Dreams

   The Dust that Falls from Dreams

       by Louis de Bernieres

Reviewed by Lindsay Robertson, Julie Peake and John Peake


A delight to read.  Bernieres is an author who really has a feeling for words and people with all their foibles and insecurities. The war descriptions are lucid without bring overpowering and the occasional lapses into French greatly enhanced the tale.  My schoolboy French allowed me to read on and did not interrupt the flow.  Sophie with her deliberate malapropism and nonsensical words raised many a chuckle.  The description of life and construction of characters is superb and I would willingly read more of this author’s work

For once I agree with the book reviews, A richly rewarding read. A feast of a novel It is pure escapism of the highest quality

 Lindsay Robertson   My Rating 7.5


I delightful tale of families and friends. Their passions and hopes, love and despair all set around the horrors of the first world war. They were part of the new elite where money, rather than breeding, secured status.

The development of the characters, from the carefree early days of childhood through the struggles and aftermath of the war were well depicted.

The lovely Mr McCosh with his passion for golf and inventions was a wonderful father. His four daughters each developed quite differently.

Pious, but beautiful Rosie was the central character in the book. Her passionate love of Ash dominated all her life from childhood and well into her marriage to Daniel and the tragedy if his death was very moving. Tall Cristobel happily formed a close relationship with Gaskill, a female war artist., Ottilie remained a spinster and gentle Sophie had a wonderful marriage to the Reverend Fairhead.

Much of the excellent depiction of life in the trenches is from the letters sent home by the boys as well as Ash’ diary. A graphic picture emerges of the mud, cold, deprivation and death of so many of their comrade but also of courage and mateship that develops in such circumstance. I did wonder how they found the time and energy to write such long letters while up their knees in mud.

I found Mrs McCosh’s infatuation with the Royal family very tiresome and I cannot imagine Buckingham Palace would bother to reply her frequent letters. Her dreadful experience in Folkstone when an unexpected air strike killed her best friend, Myrtle in front of her eyes was truly a truly awful affair. No wonder she was never the same again.

There were several moments of humour throughout the book. Daniel and Archie’s audacious display at the coronation party. The Pitt boys’ aeronautical exploits over France. The Seance at Madame Valentine’s and the advice from the Squadron Leader when he heard of Daniels forthcoming nuptials. “why on earth would you marry an English girl”

His predictions almost came true as Rosie, who still yearned for the long-dead Ash, turned out to be a very cold wife. Fortunately, a change of scene saw Rosie, Daniel and their young daughter Esther move to Ceylon where she at last she realised that she loved him. Louis painted a wonderful, idealist picture of Ceylon at that time.

A nice touch at the end when Rosie started to write a love poem entitled’ For Daniel’

My only complaint is that the book is too long, but I did enjoy it and gave it 7

Julie Peake


A delightful story of a small group of neighbours spanning a couple of decades at the beginning of the 20th century. In the middle is the Great War which has drastic effects on them.

Apart from the relationships with the principal characters, a number of thymes are addressed.

The horror of war, class differences, social mores, how to deal with delusional people [the mother] even flirting with the supernatural.

The expression style is very much in keeping with the period [pre post-modernism].

I found it very enjoyable, but a little long. I give it a rating of 7.

John Peake.

 Page notes:

103- ‘the trouble with them was that they were half English & half Scottish, respectable, & imbued with the powerful emotional restraint that those races have inherited … from the Spartans.

106- ‘I want to go and nurse the wounded … Your mother would never allow it. Soldiers get wounded in all sorts of places…’

108- ‘’A mother can never be wrong, and a daughter’s duty is always to be in agreement with her.’ … ‘A wife’s duty is to agree with her husband’

195- ‘The servants are the concern of the lady of the house’ she replied, to which he responded, ‘and the lady of the house is the concern of its master.’

219- ‘An heroic clergyman!’ exclaimed Sophie. ‘how marvellously anonymous!’ … ‘I’m always getting them muddled up.’ … ‘Anomalous?’

282- ‘Every woman needs a man to torment. She needs someone to upset her, someone to disapprove of, someone 301whose pleasures she can prevent’

301- ‘What on earth did we do in the days before telegrams?’

341- ‘… unveiling the statue to Edith Cavell’ – play about her at Lind Lane last month.

413- ‘Are you by any chance Bertrand Russell?’

Book Review – Open by Andre Agassi

Lindsay Robertson rates this book as 8 as it appears to be a warts and all expose of one sportsman’s journey through an unusual lifestyle. Click  to read Lindsay’s review of the book.



Book Review – Nine Perfect Strangers

“Nine Perfect Strangers” by Liane Moriarty – 8

I have watched the first season of “Big Little Lies” and found it absorbing. I think Liane Moriarty handles characters and character relationships very well and this book backs that up. It didn’t take me long to realise she is quite a wordsmith, but I did think the book was going to be a whole lot of navel gazing and characters bouncing off each other, albeit well written. But I was wrong; story took some surprising turns and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.

Liane is one of those rare writers who have an appreciation of the fact that, while she knows her characters intimately, knows who each one is and their names, the reader struggles in the early part of the story to put a face to all the names being thrown at them and so she deftly and unobtrusively lets us know who is who until we get to know them.  

I was impressed with the way Liane progressed the self-blame for Zach’s suicide from one character to two characters and then to three characters. She also skilfully introduced humour into character’s actions and thoughts. And she hit on some great insights into the way we think about ourselves and others – page 202 for instance. I was impressed with her ability to use analogies to efficiently give the reader a vision of what something or someone or a group looked like in the scene – page 399 for instance.  

After what could have been the denouement in many works – the cop turning up and Masha being hauled away – there was still quite a few pages to go and I thought: Oh, oh, danger – this could be a ‘and they all lived happily ever after ending’ and could become very cheesy. But I think Liane handled it very well with credible realism.

I will be seeking out more of her work.

Steve Reilly


Book Review – Hand Me Down World

Hand Me Down World

By Lloyd Jones

Enraptured from the first page. This author will be on my must read list as his style paints word pictures that are clear and yet the tale is opaque enough to add a little mystery.

Story telling by the third person we expect but this is just the second remove and the development of the main character is superb.

Just a touch from each of the influencers in this remarkable journey through life has painted a personality rather than just a physical being. The reader still has no idea what this attractive woman looks like or what her given name is and yet she lives and breathes and is real.

The author paints each of the participants clearly as personalities rather than people and the story hold together extremely well

I hesitate between an all-time high of 8 and 7.5 so take your pick

Page reference Chapter 8 Page 59 is one of many

Par B ‘In this park” to the end of that paragraph.

Lindsay Robertson

Book Review – Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

Robicheaux (you know my name) is James Lee Burke’s latest book.  It is a crime novel with many twists and turns, with echoes of the old South and an unfavourable view of politics in the area. James Lee Burke writes beautifully.  No wonder he is a best-selling author. Dave Robicheaux is a detective in a Parish near New Orleans, and the narrator of the novel.

Joan’s “A Walkabout Life” Book Launch

Many U3A Sunny Coasters will know Joan Benbow from the U3A Lecture she gave about her life nursing in remote communities. She recently released a book about it, A Walkabout Life, launched at Coast Life Midwifery on 22 September 2018. for photos and the notes of Jan Johnston’s speech launching the book.

Book Review – Ragtime by EL Doctorow

This has to be a favorite book by a favorite author for Steve Reilly. On his fourth reading, this time in critique mode, he has marked it down a little. for his full review.

Book Review – Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Steve Reilly thought this book was way longer than it needed to be, with way too much padding etc. He rated it 4. for his full review.

Never stop learning!