Book Group
Book Group
Book Group
Book Group

Book Group

Rodmell Book Group is friendly and informal and anyone interested is welcome to come along. We meet to talk about books, mostly novels but sometimes memoirs or biographies, old and new. Meetings are held from September to July inclusive on the last Wednesday of the month (except in November and December 2022). We meet at the Abergavenny Arms at 6.30pm. Not everyone will like (or finish) every book, but that doesn’t matter as it makes for a more interesting and lively evening. If you’re not able to attend a meeting but would like to contribute to the discussion, please feel free to circulate your thoughts in advance using the email address list at the top of the most recent message sent to the group.

See below for a list of the books we’ve chosen for the year beginning September 2022. Books can usually be found at the Lewes Library. Otherwise, copies can be bought online (second hand or new) at discounted prices from Amazon, Abe Books, The Book Depository, World of Books, Marketplace Books and Ebay.

If you’d like to be on the book group email list, please contact Catherine Crisham (

RODMELL BOOK GROUP:  BOOK LIST for September 2023 – July 2024 (issued 24 July 2023)


NOTES:  Meetings are on the last WEDNESDAY of the month EXCEPT in December 2023 or when notified.

               We meet at the Abergavenny Arms pub at 6.30pm – unless otherwise notified in monthly emails. 




All Wednesdays

Book Titles, who chose it and Comments


27th September 2023



FOOLS OF FORTUNE by William Trevor (1983)

and SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE by Claire Keegan (2021)                                                                               Nicki Myers


In a new departure, we’ll be looking back-to-back at two novels, both by Irish authors and set in Ireland in the 1920s and 1980s respectively. In William Trevor’s book, an Anglo-Irish Protestant family pays a high price for its sympathy for the cause of Irish independence from Britain in the War of Independence (1919-21), with the reverberations of violence and trauma continuing down the generations. Claire Keegan’s very short novel focuses on another tragic legacy of Irish history, the continuing stranglehold of the Church on Irish society. In her book, set in 1985, a coal merchant makes a chilling discovery when making a delivery to a local convent and has to decide whether to risk his own family’s security and happiness by confronting the complicit silence of the local community in order to expose a cruel injustice.

William Trevor, who died in 2016, won the Booker Prize 4 times, and Colm Toibin has described Claire Keegan’s book as “the best novel I read this year”.




25th October



JAZZ by Toni Morrison (1992)                                                                                                                                     Barbara Adderley


This novel is the second part of Morrison’s trilogy of African-American novels which begins with the better- known Beloved. Set in Harlem in the 1920s, it tells the story of the troubled marriage of Violet and Joe Trace.  But it is also about jazz itself, and Morrison tries to reflect its special character in the complex and jagged style of writing. Barbara chose it above all because she loves jazz.





29th November



THE BOOKSHOP by Penelope Fitzgerald (1978/2010)                                                                                                Caroline Archer



This short early novel by Fitzgerald (shortlisted for the 1978 Booker Prize) deals with the tribulations of a newcomer to a

small East Anglian town in the 1950s who seeks to open a bookshop in premises coveted by an influential insider. It takes a

humorous and satirical look at provincial life at the time, but there is bleakness too. A Guardian critic in 2023 described

it as “a memorable tragicomedy of stifling, small-town English cruelty”.





20th December



THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James (1898)                                                                                                         Jill Goldman                                                                                                      


This short book (with traits of the Gothic and horror novel and nods to Jane Eyre), is narrated by a young governess, who is sent to care for a young boy and girl on a remote estate by their absentee uncle and guardian, who gives her explicit instructions not to bother him. The governess becomes increasingly concerned that the grounds are haunted by the ghosts of a previous governess and an estate employee with whom she had a relationship and that the couple intend harm to the children. It is a highly ambiguous text and its meaning has been much debated: is there truth in her fears, or are these the fantasies of a lonely, neurotic young woman?





31st January 2024



BAD RELATIONS by Cressida Connolly (2022)                                                                                                                   Judith Barnes


An historical novel in 3 parts, tracing several generations of a single family from the Crimean War of the 1850s, via a Cornish farm in the 1970s, to the present day. Described by one critic as “an absorbing and affecting saga that uses one family’s story to anatomise the

Different stages of grief.”





28th February



SLIPSTREAM: A MEMOIR by Elizabeth Jane Howard (2002)                                                                  Jenny Keating


Raised in the 1930s and 40s in an upper-middle class family, Howard had little formal education and in early adulthood had spells as a model and an actress. But she moved in literary circles and achieved success in her own writing, especially with the Cazalet Chronicles (a family saga) and was a regular contributor to the TV series Upstairs and Downstairs. She was married three times, the last time to the writer Kingsley Amis, and she nurtured and encouraged the young Martin Amis. Her memoir gives a memorable view of the British literary world in the second half of the twentieth century.             





27th March



MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout (2016)                                                                               Catherine Crisham


This short novel, focusing on the relationship between a daughter and mother, is the first in a series concerning Lucy Barton.

Recovering in a hospital after an operation, Lucy wakes to find her estranged mother sitting by her bedside. They have not seen each other since, years before, Lucy put rural poverty and family dysfunction behind her to escape to the big city where she has married, had children and begun to establish herself as a writer. As her mother continues to visit, Lucy is forced to revise her unreliable memories of the past and they reach a fragile accommodation.

We read Strout’s Olive Kittering and Olive Again in the Book Group a couple of years ago and they were well received. This new series is very much up to standard. I particularly warm to her accessible and truthful writing style.





24th April



LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE by Nancy Mitford (1949)                                                                                         Jane Dugdale


This is one of a series of semi-autobiographical romantic novels drawing on Nancy Mitford’s own family and acquaintances and depicting country house life between the wars. It focuses on the love life of Polly Montdore, a beautiful and strong-willed debutante, who rejects a number of suitors because of her love for her uncle by marriage, whom she eventually marries herself. The novel is notable for its relaxed attitude (for the period) to sexually ambiguous characters, including the uncle. 






29th May



THE LAST SUPPER: A SUMMER IN ITALY by Rachel Cusk (2009/2019)                                                        Pauline Ford


In 2008 the writer Rachel Cusk and her husband decided to sell up and escape to Italy for the summer with their young children.

This memoir recounts their peripatetic existence in Tuscany, following the well-known art trail while living as frugally as possible and encountering an eclectic number of other culture pilgrims. Pauline chose this book because she has always hankered after a 3-month sabbatical in Italy herself.

(The first edition of this book (2009) was pulped following a libel suit. If anyone is able to get hold of it, and compare it with the 2019 re-print, it would be interesting to reflect on who the aggrieved person was.)






26th June



LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY by Bonnie Garmus (2022)                                                                                        Deirdre Parkes


This light and quirky debut novel, set in the early 1960s, concerns Elizabeth, a research chemist and single mother who, after losing her job because of the suspicion and misogyny of her male colleagues, takes up a new role presenting a TV cookery show for housewives. She uses her show as a platform to initiate a quiet revolution, not just teaching other women how to cook, but daring them to make changes in their own lives.






31st July



A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY BY JL CARR (1980)                                                                                             Catriona Grant


This Booker-shortlisted novel tells the story of Tom Birkin who, near- destitute and still shaken by his experiences in WWI and by the painful breakdown of his marriage, is assigned the task of restoring a medieval mural hidden beneath whitewash on the wall of a village church. Immersed in the peace and beauty of the countryside and the unchanging rhythms of village life, he experiences a sense of renewal. Now an old man, he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art and finds in his memories some consolation for all he has lost.






Contact us here:
Other groups
The Rodmell Book Group usually meets on the last Wednesday of the month in the Abergavenny Arms, at 6.30pm. Anyone who would like to come along is welcome.
The Rodmell Book Group usually meets on the last Wednesday of the month in the Abergavenny Arms, at 6.30pm. Anyone who would like to come along is welcome.
Botanical Painting Classes in the Village Hall by Vicky Mappin, an established botanical painter and Rodmell resident
Botanical Painting Classes in the Village Hall by Vicky Mappin, an established botanical painter and Rodmell resident
Catch up with coffee and a cake! Rodmell Coffee Club events are held on the third Wednesday of each month, and are open to all local residents.
Catch up with coffee and a cake! Rodmell Coffee Club events are held on the third Wednesday of each month, and are open to all local residents.