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A list of books read by the CDSS book club.

I joined a couple of years ago and have enjoyed the experience. It's been a great way to stumble upon different books that I probably would have overlooked otherwise. Quite a few have surprised me and I feel that it has helped me move away from a tendency to prejudge and reject new things before giving them a chance.

I hope to write reviews for each of the books over time (I may have to re-read a couple to jog my memory).

Shadow Year, The

On a sultry summer's day in 1980, five friends stumble upon an abandoned lakeside cottage hidden deep in the English countryside. For Kat and her housemates, it offers an escape, a chance to drop out for a while. But as the seasons change, tensions begin to rise and when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again. Three decades later, Lila arrives at the same remote cottage. With her marriage in crisis, she finds solace in renovating the tumbledown house. Little by little she wonders about the previous inhabitants. How did they manage in such isolation? And why did they leave in such a hurry, with their belongings still strewn about? Most disturbing of all, why can't she shake the feeling that someone might be watching her? The Shadow Year is a mesmerising story of tragedy, lies and betrayal.

Secrets of the Tides

Every family has a secret: a dramatic family saga with a dark thread of suspense lurking at its heart. The Tides are a family with dark secrets. Haunted by the events of one tragic day ten years ago, they are each, in their own way, struggling to move forwards with their lives. Dora, the youngest daughter, lives in a ramshackle East End warehouse with her artist boyfriend Dan. Dora is doing a good job of skating across the surface of her life - but when she discovers she is pregnant the news leaves her shaken and staring back at the darkness of a long-held guilt. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house perched high on the Dorset coastline, Dora must confront her past. Clifftops hasn't changed in years and moving through its rooms and gardens, Dora can still feel the echo of that terrible summer's day when life changed forever for the Tides. As Dora begins her search for clues surrounding the events of that fateful day, she comes to realise that the path to redemption may rest with her troubled sister, Cassie. If Dora can unlock the secrets Cassie swore she would take to her grave, just maybe she will have a shot at salvation. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you do manage to forgive and forget, how do you ever allow yourself to truly love again?

Foal's Bread

Set in hardscrabble farming country around the show jumping circuit that flourished in Australia prior to the Second World War, Foal's Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land. When Noah Childs meets Roley Nancarrow at a country show, a union is forged which will last the length of their lives. Their love finds its greatest expression in their lucky charm, a heart-shaped foal's bread which hangs from a string in their doorway, reminding them to 'hope on, hope ever.' Their story is one of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams turned inside out and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard. Written in luminous prose and with an aching affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal's Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers.

The Happiest Refugee

Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing - not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days - could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about. Life in Australia was hard, an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh, his brother Khoa and their sister Tram. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was only nine - they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own. His mother's sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate high school and then university. Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour a week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. 'Four,' the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian! The Happiest Refugee tells the incredible, uplifting and inspiring life story of one of our favourite personalities. Tragedy, humour, heartache and unswerving determination - a big life with big dreams. Anh's story will move and amuse all who read it.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever. By turn moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the top-selling book in France in 2007 with sales of over 900,000 copies to-date.

The Boy Who Fell To Earth

Meet Merlin. He's Lucy's bright, beautiful son - who just happens to be autistic. Since Merlin's father left them in the lurch, Lucy has made Merlin the centre of her world. Struggling with the joys and tribulations of raising her adorable yet challenging child (if only Merlin came with operating instructions), Lucy doesn't have room for any other man in her life. By the time Merlin turns ten, Lucy is seriously worried that the Pope might start ringing her up for tips on celibacy, so resolves to dip a toe back into the world of dating. Thanks to Merlin's candour and quirkiness, things don't go quite to plan... Then, just when Lucy's resigned to singledom once more, Archie - the most imperfectly perfect man for her and her son - lands on her doorstep. But then, so does Merlin's father, begging for a second chance. Does Lucy need a real father for Merlin - or a real partner for herself?

Bay of Fires

Deep in a national park on the east coast of Tasmania, the Bay of Fires is an idyllic holiday community. There are no more than a dozen shacks beside the lagoon - and secrets are hard to keep; the intimacy of other people's lives is their nourishment. The fact that Sarah Avery has returned, having left her boyfriend and her job, is cause for gossip in itself. Then, the bikini-clad body of a young girl is found washed up on the beach; a year after another teenage girl went missing. Journalist Hall Flynn is sent to the coast to investigate, and all too quickly the close-knit community turns in on itself. As he uncovers long-buried secrets, the delicate balance of their fragile lives is threatened...

The Catcher in the Rye

Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

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