South Manchester Book Group

We're a friendly and open reading group, and we share a love of books and discussing them with other people. We meet every fortnight, but you don't have to come to them all. It's dead simple; choose a book you like the sound of, read it (or even part of it) beforehand and turn up with a few ideas and money for beer / wine / flirtinis. It's very informal, and we're quite a friendly bunch.

We now meet at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury around 8 pm. We can usually be found on the table with the books and flirtinis.

If you enjoy talking about books over a quiet drink, then please join us — new members are very welcome.

Our reading list, past, present, and future, appears here and a short version of what we’re reading next is here.

Thursday, 5 January 2023

The Manningtree Witches — A K Blakemore

Book cover for The Manningtree Witches by A K Blakemore The Manningtree Witches in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group In Manningtree, depleted of men since the Civil War began, the women are left to their own devices and Rebecca West chafes against the drudgery of her days. But when Matthew Hopkins arrives, asking bladed questions and casting damning accusations, mistrust and unease seep into the lives of the women.

Caught between betrayal and persecution, what must Rebecca West do to survive ?

This week's book is The Manningtree Witches by A K Blakemore and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 22 December 2022

The Absolutist — John Boyne

Book cover for The Absolutist by John Boyne The Absolutist in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group September 1919: Twenty-year-old Tristan Sadler takes a train from London to Norwich to deliver a clutch of letters to Marian Bancroft. Tristan fought alongside Marian's brother Will during the Great War. They trained together. They fought together.

But in 1917, Will laid down his guns on the battlefield and declared himself a conscientious objector, an act which has brought shame and dishonour on the Bancroft family.

The letters, however, are not the real reason for Tristan's visit. He holds a secret deep within him. One that he is desperate to unburden himself of to Marian, if he can only find the courage. Whatever happens, this meeting will change his life — forever.

This week's book is The Absolutist by John Boyne and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

As we're coming to the end of our reading list, we'll be choosing books at the meeting. You may like to consider the unread books list and the unreadable books list.

Thursday, 8 December 2022

A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian — Marina Lewycka

Book cover for A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their widowed, tractor-obsessed Ukrainian father from the voluptuous, wealth-obsessed Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she outmanoeuvres the sisters at every turn.

But their campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of European and Ukrainian history, and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget ...

This week's book is A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

As we're coming to the end of our reading list, we'll be choosing books at the meeting. You may like to consider the unread books list and the unreadable books list.

Thursday, 24 November 2022

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man — James Joyce

Book cover for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group The portrayal of Stephen Dedalus's Dublin childhood and youth, his quest for identity through art and his gradual emancipation from the claims of family, religion and Ireland itself ...

This week's book is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Before and After — Andrew Shanahan

Book cover for Before and After by Andrew Shanahan Before and After in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Ben Stone is terrified. He's terrified because he weighs 601 pounds and needs his right leg amputating. He's terrified because a crane will shortly lift him from his fourth-floor flat and lower him 44 feet to an ambulance waiting below. He's terrified because he hasn't been outside in nine years and he doesn't know who will look after his beautiful dog.

He needn't worry though, because the world is about to end.

This week's book is Before and After by Andrew Shanahan and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

God's Own Country — Ross Raisin

Book cover for God's Own Country by Ross Raisin God's Own Country in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Expelled from school and cut off from the town, mistrusted by his parents and avoided by city incomers, Marsdyke is a loner until he meets rebellious new neighbour Josephine. But what begins as a friendship and leads to thoughts of escape across the moors turns to something much, much darker with every step.

This week's book is God's Own Country by Ross Raisin and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 13 October 2022

Portrait in Sepia — Isabel Allende

Book cover for Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende Portrait in Sepia in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group As a young girl, Aurora del Valle suffered a brutal trauma that has shaped her character and erased from her mind all recollection of the first five years of her life. Raised by her ambitious grandmother, the regal and commanding Paulina del Valle, she grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by terrible nightmares. When she finds herself alone at the end of an unhappy love affair, she decides to explore the mystery of her past, to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life.

This week's book is Portrait in Sepia by Isabel Allende and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 29 September 2022

The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead

Book cover for The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead The Underground Railroad in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North.

As censored by the University of Essex !

This week's book is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Death and the Penguin — Andrey Kurkov

Book cover for Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov Death and the Penguin in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group All that stands between one man and murder by the mafia is a penguin.

Viktor is an aspiring writer in Ukraine with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.

This week's book is Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 1 September 2022

Little Fires Everywhere — Celeste Ng

Book cover for Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons.

Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town — and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost ...

This week's book is Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

A Time of Gifts — Patrick Leigh Fermor

Book cover for A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor A Time of Gifts in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group In 1933, at the age of 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on an extraordinary journey by foot — from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. A Time of Gifts is the first volume in a trilogy recounting the trip, and takes the reader with him as far as Hungary.

It is a book of compelling glimpses — not only of the events which were curdling Europe at that time, but also of its resplendent domes and monasteries, its great rivers, the sun on the Bavarian snow, the storks and frogs, the hospitable burgomasters who welcomed him, and that world's grandeurs and courtesies. His powers of recollection have astonishing sweep and verve, and the scope is majestic.

This week's book is A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

The Last Policeman — Ben Winters

Book cover for The Last Policeman by Ben Winters The Last Policeman in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group What’s the point in solving murders if we’re all going to die soon, anyway ? Detective Hank Palace has faced this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. There’s no chance left. No hope. Just six precious months until impact. The economy spirals downward while crops rot in the fields. Churches and synagogues are packed. People all over the world are walking off the job—but not Hank Palace. He’s investigating a death by hanging in a city that sees a dozen suicides every week—except this one feels suspicious, and Palace is the only cop who cares.

This week's book is The Last Policeman by Ben Winters and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Bridgerton: The Duke and I — Julia Quinn

Book cover for Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn Bridgerton: The Duke and I in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince — while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable ... but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. T he fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society — just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend's sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm — at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London's elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule ...

This week's book is Bridgerton: The Duke and I by Julia Quinn and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

The Catcher in the Rye — J D Salinger

Book cover for The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger The Catcher in the Rye in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group It's Christmas time and Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from yet another school. Fleeing the crooks at Pencey Prep, he pinballs around New York City seeking solace in fleeting encounters — shooting the bull with strangers in dive hotels, wandering alone round Central Park, getting beaten up by pimps and cut down by erstwhile girlfriends. The city is beautiful and terrible, in all its neon loneliness and seedy glamour, its mingled sense of possibility and emptiness. Holden passes through it like a ghost, thinking always of his kid sister Phoebe, the only person who really understands him, and his determination to escape the phonies and find a life of true meaning.

This week's book is The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger and we'll be meeting at Ye Olde Cocke on Wilmslow Road in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Around the World in Eighty Days — Jules Verne

Book cover for Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne Around the World in Eighty Days in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Phileas Fogg is a rich English gentleman living in solitude. Despite his wealth, Fogg lives a modest life of mathematical precision. He dismissed his former valet, James Foster, for bringing him shaving water at 84°F instead of 86°F and hired a Frenchman by the name of Jean Passepartout as a replacement.

At his club, Fogg gets involved in an argument over a newspaper article stating that with the opening of a new railway in India, it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days. He accepts a wager for £20,000 from his fellow club members, which he will receive if he makes it around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by Passepartout, he leaves London by train at 8:45 PM on Wednesday, 2nd October, 1872, and is due backat the Reform Club at the same time 80 days later, Saturday, 21st December, 1872.

This week's book is Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne and we'll not be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle — Stuart Turton

Book cover for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden — one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party — can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath ...

This week's book is The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton and we'll not be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

The Animals in that Country — Laura Jean McKay

Book cover for The Animals in that Country by Laura Jean McKay The Animals in that Country in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Out on the road, no one speaks, everything talks.

Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, Jean is not your usual grandma. She's never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. And although Jean talks to all her charges, she has a particular soft spot for a young dingo called Sue.

As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean's infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.

Setting off on their trail, with Sue the dingo riding shotgun, they find themselves in a stark, strange world in which the animal apocalypse has only further isolated people from other species.

This week's book is The Animals in that Country by Laura Jean McKay and we'll not be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury — contact us for details.

As we're coming to the end of our reading list, we'll be choosing books at the meeting. You may like to consider the unread books list and the unreadable books list.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic — Alison Bechdel

Book cover for Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Meet Alison's father, a historic preservation expert and obsessive restorer of the family's Victorian home, a third-generation funeral home director, a high-school English teacher, an icily distant parent, and a closeted homosexual who, as it turns out, is involved with his male students and the family babysitter. When Alison comes out as homosexual herself in late adolescence, the denouement is swift, graphic, and redemptive.

This week's book is Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel and we'll not be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury — contact us for details.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

The Power and the Glory — Graham Green

Book cover for The Power and the Glory by Graham Green The Power and the Glory in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group “When you visualized a man or a woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity ... that was a quality God's image carried with it ... when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.”

During a vicious persecution of the clergy in Mexico, a worldly priest, the ‘whisky priest’, is on the run. With the police closing in, his routes of escape are being shut off, his chances getting fewer. But compassion and humanity force him along the road to his destiny, reluctant to abandon those who need him, and those he cares for.

This week's book is The Power and the Glory by Graham Green and we'll not be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury but will be meeting online — contact us for details.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning — Laurie Lee

Book cover for As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning in the South Manchester, Chorlton, Cheadle, Fallowfield, Burnage, Levenshulme, Heaton Moor, Heaton Mersey, Heaton Norris, Heaton Chapel, Northenden, and Didsbury book group Abandoning the Cotswolds village that raised him, the young Laurie Lee walks to London. There he makes a living labouring and playing the violin. But, deciding to travel further a field and knowing only the Spanish phrase for ‘Will you please give me a glass of water ?’, he heads for Spain. With just a blanket to sleep under and his trusty violin, he spends a year crossing Spain, from Vigo in the north to the southern coast. Only the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War puts an end to his extraordinary peregrinations ...

This week's book is As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee