Book Group

20 May 2021:

Please Note that, for the foreseeable future, we will use email to discuss the books we read each month on the dates given below for our meetings.  This avoids meeting physically during the current Covid-19 crisis. 

Rodmell Book Group is a friendly and informal way to read and chat about books. We generally meet on the last Monday of the month, at 8pm in the Abergavenny Arms. However, please note the different dates for our meetings at Christmas and the May Bank Holiday

The books we read can usually be found at Lewes Library. Otherwise, copies can be bought online (new or secondhand) at discounted prices from Amazon, Abe Books, The Book Depository, Waterstones Market Place, and Ebay.

Anyone interested in joining the Rodmell Book Group is very welcome – just come along to a meetings at the pub (and you don’t even need to have read the book of the month, although it helps!).

We generally publish a list of books we’ve chosen over the Summer and it’s a great way to read books you might not otherwise have thought about.  Our discussions are very relaxed, over a drink, and not everyone will like (or finish reading) every book, but that’s fine as it makes for a more interesting and lively evening.

Sometimes we also organise a group walk, usually ending up somewhere locally for a cup of tea or coffee.  At our December meeting, we try to combine our Book Group meeting with a small Christmas get-together for drinks & nibbles.

If you’d like to be on the Rodmell Book Group’s email list, please contact Catriona:


Rodmell Book Group – Book List for September 2020-July 2021 (list dated 01/09/20)

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we don’t meet in person at present, but have an email exchange on the dates given below.


All Mondays

Book Titles and Comments
28 September 2020


Chosen by Catherine Crisham
This is the first book of hers I’ve read and is the first of a semi-autobiographical trilogy.  It concerns a woman author who travels to Athens to conduct a writing workshop. Each chapter presents a revealing conversation or encounter with another person – a fellow traveller, a class participant, a reunion with a Greek friend in a café or restaurant, and finally the woman who arrives to conduct the next class. The narrator herself remains largely invisible. The fragmented structure makes the book very easy to read, like a series of short stories, and overall it is blessedly short. But there are I think intriguing common themes which will be interesting to discuss.


26 October


Chosen by Madeleine Harvey
I was drawn to this book initially because it is set in Kew Gardens which I have known and loved for many years. It is a hymn to a garden and to lost things. I like the way the book slowly unfolds to reveal the connections between the five protagonists, through finely observed details.  But it does not have appeal for everyone, so I expect it will evoke a good discussion!


23 November


THE PLAGUE (LA PESTE)   by Albert Camus
Chosen by Liz King
A plague is spreading. People are dying. Everyone is ordered to quarantine at home as the local doctor works around the clock to save victims. There are acts of heroism and acts of shame; there are those who think only of themselves, and those who are engaged for the greater good. The human condition is absurd and precarious. First published in French in 1947.

This was by far my favourite book at University and it is a book I have read and re-read. It transcends time as it is always relevant and more so than ever now.


14 December




BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD  by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
Chosen by Catriona Grant
In a small back alley in Tokyo a cafe has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than 100 years, but this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.  Any journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the cafe, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold … (translated from Japanese)


25 January 2021


Chosen by Barbara Adderley
A thriller in an unusual setting, by a Danish author.  This first appeared in 1992 and was translated into many languages. I hugely enjoyed it at the time and would like to revisit it, particularly as it also has a connection with Greenland, which I visited last year.


22 February


A SINGLE THREAD  by Tracy Chevalier
Chosen by Judith Barnes
Penelope Lively writes:  ‘wonderfully evokes the social climate of the nineteen thirties – this is the intriguing story of a young woman facing the conventions and prejudices of the day, told with a wealth of detail and narrative intensity’.


29 March


GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER  by Bernadine Evaristo
Chosen by Celia Edmonds
It may not be so topical by the time we are meeting again, coming in the middle of the BLM moment, but as 2019 joint Booker winner with the fabulous Margaret Attwood, it must be worth a look.  I have not read it yet and am holding back on it as my treat to myself.


26 April


SMALL G: A SUMMER IDYLL  by Patricia Highsmith
Chosen by Jane Garden
At the ‘small g’, a Zurich bar known for its not exclusively gay clientele, the lives of a small community are played out one summer.  Patricia Highsmith’s final novel is an intricate exploration of love and sexuality, the depths of spite and the triumph of human kindness.

I read this about a year ago, it’s a thriller-type book by the author of The Talented Mr Ripley.


24 May

(31 is the May Bank Holiday)

MUM AND DAD   by Joanna Trollope 

It’s been 25 years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a successful vineyard and wine business.  However, when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in.

Aga saga variety, not challenging in a literary sense, but easy reading and quite entertaining, might be just the thing for now!

28 June


OLIVE, AGAIN  by  Elizabeth Strout                                                           Chosen by Mary Anne Francis 

Following the blunt, contradictory yet deeply loveable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes – sometimes welcome, sometimes not – in her own existence and in those around her.  With extraordinary economy of prose – few writers can pack so much emotion and so much detail into a single paragraph – Strout immerses us in the lives of her characters, each so authentically drawn as to be deserving of an entire novel themselves.  Compassionate, masterly and profound, this is a writer at the height of her powers.

Back in 2017, Rodmell Book Group read Olive Kitteridge and it provoked a good discussion.  Reviewers say you don’t have to have read Olive Kitteridge to appreciate Olive, Again, although you may want to.  ‘Like a base coat of paint, it adds depth and helps the finished colours pop!’

26 July


Paperback to be released 24 June 2021

THE VANISHING HALF  by Brit Bennett                                                   Chosen by Jenny Wight

It is set in fictional town in Louisiana inhabited by light-skinned African Americans “who would never be white but refused to be treated like Negroes”.  Those within the community marry to maintain the lightness of bloodline and to ensure that “the darkest ones are no swarthier than a Greek.” This regulating of racial purity apparently comes ‘with no small measure of emotional cruelty which encourages the twin protagonists to run away to the relative freedoms of 1950’s New Orleans’. The narrative subsequently follows the twins and their offspring from the 50’s to the 80’s.  Reviewing the novel, Michael Donkor states ‘this generous, humane novel has many merits, not least its engrossing plot and richly detailed settings from smoky small-town diners to gleaming laboratories’. He concludes that it is ‘a timely testament to the redemptive powers of community, connection and looking beyond the self’, all of which would seem to me to be especially important during this Covid period while the currently high profile of racism also adds to the novel’s relevance.



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