Astons Book Club

Suggested titles for Covid reading:

Apeirogon, by Colum McCann

Rami Elhanan's license plate is yellow. Bassam Aramin's license plate is green. It takes Rami fifteen minutes to drive to the West Bank. The same journey for Bassam, down the same streets, takes an hour and a half.

Dear Life, by Rachel Clarke

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable. Rachel's training was put to the test in 2017 when her GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing - even the best palliative care - can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love. 

Tidelands, by Phillips Gregory

England 1648. A dangerous time for a woman to be different ... Midsummer's Eve, 1648, and England is in the grip of civil war between renegade King and rebellious Parliament. The struggle reaches every corner of the kingdom, even to the remote Tidelands - the marshy landscape of the south coast. This is the time of witch-mania, and Alinor, a woman without a husband, skilled with herbs, suddenly enriched, arouses envy in her rivals and fear among the villagers.

The Second Sleep, by Robert Harris 

All civilisations think they are invulnerable. History warns us none is. 1468. A young priest, Christopher Fairfax, arrives in a remote Exmoor village to conduct the funeral of his predecessor. The land around is strewn with ancient artefacts - coins, fragments of glass, human bones - which the old parson used to collect. Guardian Fiction Book of the Year.

The Familiars, by Stacey Halls

Fleetwood Shuttleworth is 17 years old, married, and pregnant for the fourth time. But as the mistress at Gawthorpe Hall, she still has no living child, and her husband Richard is anxious for an heir. When Fleetwood finds a letter she isn't supposed to read from the doctor who delivered her third stillbirth, she is dealt the crushing blow that she will not survive another pregnancy. Then she crosses paths by chance with Alice Gray, a young midwife. Alice promises to help her give birth to a healthy baby, and to prove the physician wrong. As Alice is drawn into the witchcraft accusations that are sweeping the north-west, Fleetwood risks everything by trying to help her.  In a time of suspicion and accusation, to be a woman is the greatest risk of all.

The Woman in the White Kimono, by Anna Johns

Narrated by Laurence Bouvard.Japan, 1957. Seventeen-year-old Naoko Nakamura's prearranged marriage secures her family's status in their traditional Japanese community. However, Naoko has fallen for an American sailor and to marry him would bring great shame upon her entire family. When it's learned Naoko carries the sailor's child, she's cast out in disgrace and forced to make unimaginable choices with consequences that will ripple across generations. America, present day. Tori Kovac, caring for her dying father, finds a letter containing a shocking revelation. Setting out to learn the truth, Tori's journey leads her to a remote seaside village in Japan where she must confront the demons of the past to pave a way for redemption.

The Vanishing Half, by Britt Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' story lines intersect?

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

How long can you protect your heart? For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens.

Rivers of London, by Ben Aaronovitch

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just another probationary constable in the Metropolitan Police Service. My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit and finding a way to climb into the panties of WPC Leslie May. Then one night, I tried to take a statement from a man who was already dead.

Moonlight into Marzipan, by Sunetra Gupta 

The title of this novel derives from the mysterious nature of the narrator's scientific discovery - a discovery which has brought him from Calcutta to London. In a crumbling garage laboratory, Promothesh has strayed perilously close to the meaning of life. Sunetra Gupta is an acclaimed novelist, essayist and scientist. In October 2012 her fifth novel, So Good in Black, was long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. In 2009 she was named as the winner of the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific achievements.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

In a jazz bar on the last night of 1937, watching a quartet because she couldn't afford to see the whole ensemble, there were certain things Katey Kontent knew. By the end of the year she'd learned - how to launch a paper airplane high over Park Avenue, how to live like a redhead, and how to insist upon the very best.

I give it to you, by Valerie Martin

Jan Vidor seems like the ideal houseguest for a long summer holiday in a Tuscan villa. Unobtrusive but not antisocial, the quiet American academic can be relied upon to entertain herself - but her aristocratic hostess Beatrice has made a terrible mistake. An offhand remark about a violent death at Villa Chiara one night during the War piques Jan's writerly interest and sends her digging into the tragic past of the Salviati family. Does it matter if Jan just fills in the gaps? After all, Beatrice told Jan she could have the story to do as she liked with, she even said 'I give it to you'.

Images and Shadows, by Iris Orega

Images and Shadows is the story of those affections: for a loving, shy father who died when his daughter was very young; for for a vital, headstrong mother; for friends and family, alive and dead; and for the places Origo lived: Ireland, America, England, the childhood home in the hills above Florence, and her own beloved La Foce - the desolate, deforested estate which she and her Italian husband bought, and into which they poured the energy and patience of their best years. Iris Origo (1902-1988) is best known as a biographer and war diarist. But in Images and Shadows, she writes with characteristic grace, wit and humility, almost reluctantly, about herself. Reissued with newly discovered photographs, it is both a moving insight into a lost age.