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From Publishers Weekly Perfect indulgence for the eponymous set—or pandering to an anticipated audience? Or maybe both? As the London Evening Standard put it, “The blurb has [the author] down as a simple Surrey housewife who knocked this out between the Hoovering and the hot sex, but further investigation reveals her to be a veteran of book marketing married to the head of Time Warner UK.” Go figure! Well, either way, this U.K. bestseller is a frothy page-turner that dissects the relationships, desires and discoveries of five English women, all members of a book club. Over the course of a year, the women read 12 novels (including Atonement, Rebecca and The Alchemist) and, through their playful but intimate discussions (few of which revolve around the books), they bond closely while coping with such matters as a philandering husband, a mother with dementia, a pregnant but unmarried daughter, an infertility crisis, a wedding and a funeral. It’s a testament to Noble’s characterizations and plotting that the novel is not overwhelming, despite its numerous (perhaps too many) points of view, complicated backstories and interweaving contemporary crises. Light but never flip, this is funny, contemplative and touching reading, and the group’s familiar book choices allow readers to feel as if they’re part of the gang, too, as they race to the end, eager to find out what happens, why it does and what it all means. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. From Women’s reading groups form, dissolve, reform. Some have the lives of mayflies, while others boast many years’ existence. Nicole and Harriet, with lives and husbands that are very different (Nicole’s is a womanizer), are cofounders of their group, which includes single-mom Polly, Polly’s pal Susan, and Clare, a midwife. These Englishwomen come together for literary discussions but, as bonds form over the years, stay for friendship. Once-bitten Polly is still ambivalent about Jack’s marriage proposal, despite Susan’s reminder that, at 15 years, it has endured three times longer than Polly’s erstwhile marriage. Though married to rock-solid Roger, Susan has her hands full because her mom seems to be suffering memory lapses. And certainly Harriet loves her husband, Tim, but now the love of her life, Charles, is marrying another. Meanwhile, infertile Clare bathes and rocks newborns, only to have their rightful mothers claim them. Noble keeps engagement high as her characters connect and interconnect. Since the Briticisms are usually decipherable in context, this entertaining read is very accessible for Americans. Whitney ScottCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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