South Manchester Book Group

If you enjoy talking about books over a quiet drink, then please join us — new members are very welcome. We normally meet at the Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury around 8 pm but whilst the contagion lasts and we REMAIN INDOORS we'll become a virtual  bookgroup and meet online.

Contact Us to be added to the mailing list and receive the online meeting invitations.

There's a meeting 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 all very informal, and we're quite a friendly bunch. We can usually be found on the table with the books and flirtinis.

Our reading list, past, present, and future, appears here and there's a shorter version of upcoming books here.

* Do not turn up — REMAIN INDOORS !

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Nothing Lasts Forever — Roderick Thorpe

Book cover for Roderick Thorpe's Nothing Lasts Forever in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group The novel that became Die Hard !

Retired New York Police detective Joe Leland is visiting the 40-story office headquarters of the Klaxon Oil Corporation in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve, where his daughter Stephanie Leland Gennaro works. While he is waiting for his daughter's Christmas party to end, a group of German Autumn–era terrorists take over the skyscraper.

This week's book is Roderick Thorpe's Nothing Lasts Forever and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Milkman — Anna Burns

Book cover for Anna Burns's Milkman in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group A teenager — whose only means of escape is literature — is slowly ground down by the unwanted attentions and creeping psychopathy of a paramilitary many years her senior. This is the secret state, a place where gossip and hearsay are weaponised methods of control, contained in a novel written with both a sad humour and a certain kind of fury.

This week's book is Anna Burns's Milkman and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

The Amber Spyglass — Philip Pullman

Book cover for Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group Will and Lyra, whose fates are bound together by powers beyond their own worlds, have been violently separated. But they must find each other, for ahead of them lies the greatest war that has ever been — and a journey to a dark place from which no one has ever returned ...

This is the third and final part of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.
This week's book is Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Bloody Chamber — Angela Carter

Book cover for Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group Angela Carter's fairy tales: ‘The Bloody Chamber’, ‘The Courtship of Mr Lyon’, ‘The Tiger's Bride’, ‘Puss-in-Boots’, ‘The Erl-King’, ‘The Snow Child’, ‘The Lady of the House of Love’, ‘The Werewolf’, ‘The Company of Wolves’, and ‘Wolf-Alice’.

This week's book is Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Master and Margarita — Mikhail Bulgakov

Book cover for Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group In Soviet Moscow, God is dead, but the devil — to say nothing of his retinue of demons, from a loudmouthed, gun-toting tomcat, to the fanged fallen angel Koroviev — is very much alive. As death and destruction spread through the city like wildfire, condemning Moscow's cultural elite to prison cells and body bags, only a madman, the Master, and Margarita, his beautiful, courageous lover, can hope to end the chaos.

Written in secret during the darkest days of Stalin's reign and circulated in samizdat form for decades, when The Master and the Margarita was finally published it became an overnight literary phenomenon, signalling artistic freedom for Russians everywhere.

This week's book is Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Tangerine — Christine Mangan

Book cover for Christine Mangan's Tangerine in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the horrific accident at Bennington, the two friends — once inseparable roommates — haven't spoken in over a year. But Lucy is standing there, trying to make things right.

Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy, always fearless and independent, helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice — she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice's husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

This week's book is Christine Mangan's Tangerine and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Master and Commander — Patrick O'Brian

Book cover for Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group 1800s. Britain's Nelson leads Navy against Napoleon's France. Captain Jack Aubrey, newly promoted to old, slow HMS Sophie, is a brave and gifted seaman, his thirst for adventure and victory immense. Aided by friend and skilled ship surgeon Stephen Maturin, Aubrey and crew win clashes, finally hopelessly outmatched by a mighty Spanish frigate.

‘ ... the best historical novels ever written. On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.’

This week's book is Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The House of the Spirits — Isabel Allende

Book cover for Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group Spanning four generations, Isabel Allende's magnificent family saga is populated by a memorable, often eccentric cast of characters. Together, men and women, spirits, the forces of nature, and of history, converge in an unforgettable, wholly absorbing and brilliantly realised novel that is as richly entertaining as it is a masterpiece of modern literature.

This week's book is Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

A Month in the Country — J L Carr

Book cover for J L Carr's A Month in the Country in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group A veteran of the Great War arrives in Oxgodby, Yorkshire, to strip the whitewash off the chancel arch to reveal the medieval masterpiece underneath. He lives in the bell tower. Tom Birkin is a damaged veteran, his face twitching as he speaks, one whose wife, Vinny, has run off with someone else.

It is one of those summers you can only experience once and which live with you forever as an icon of contentment.

Nothing much happens, but what does happen seems important. A lovely book.

This week's book is J L Carr's A Month in the Country and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Player of Games — Iain M Banks

Book cover for Iain M Banks's The Player of Games in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group The Culture — a human/machine symbiotic society — has thrown up many great Game Players, and one of the greatest is Gurgeh. Jernau Morat Gurgeh. The Player of Games. Master of every board, computer and strategy.

Bored with success, Gurgeh travels to the Empire of Azad, cruel and incredibly wealthy, to try their fabulous game ... a game so complex, so like life itself, that the winner becomes emperor. Mocked, blackmailed, almost murdered, Gurgeh accepts the game, and with it the challenge of his life — and very possibly his death.

This week's book is Iain M Banks's The Player of Games and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

The Reluctant Fundamentalist — Mohsin Hamid

Book cover for Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group 'Excuse me, sir, but may I be of assistance ? Ah, I see I have alarmed you. Do not be frightened by my beard. I am a lover of America ... '

So speaks the mysterious stranger at a Lahore cafe as dusk settles. Invited to join him for tea, you learn his name and what led this speaker of immaculate English to seek you out. For he is more worldy than you might expect; better travelled and better educated. He knows the West better than you do. And as he tells you his story, of how he embraced the Western dream — and a Western woman — and how both betrayed him, so the night darkens. Then the true reason for your meeting becomes abundantly clear ...

This week's book is Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Engelby — Sebastian Faulks

Book cover for Sebastian Faulks' Engelby in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group My name is Mike Engleby, and I'm in my second year at an ancient university.

Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think. When the novel opens in the 1970s, he is a university student, having survived a 'traditional' school. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, Engleby provides a disarmingly frank account of English education. Yet beneath the disturbing surface of his observations lies an unfolding mystery of gripping power. One of his contemporaries unaccountably disappears, and as we follow Engleby's career, which brings us up to the present day, the reader has to ask: is Engleby capable of telling the whole truth ?
This week's book is Sebastian Faulks' Engelby and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Endless Night — Agatha Christie

Book cover for Agatha Christie's Endless Night in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book group Gipsy’s Acre was a truly beautiful upland site with views out to sea — and in Michael Rogers it stirred a child-like fantasy. There, amongst the dark fir trees, he planned to build a house, find a girl and live happily ever after. Yet, as he left the village, a shadow of menace hung over the land. For this was the place where accidents happened. Perhaps Michael should have heeded the locals' warnings: ‘There’s no luck for them as meddles with Gipsy’s Acre’. Michael Rogers is a man who is about to learn the true meaning of the old saying ‘In my end is my beginning’.
This week's book is Agatha Christie's Endless Night and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Strangers On A Train — Patricia Highsmith

Book cover for Patricia Highsmith's Strangers On A Train in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupStrangers on a Train is a psychological thriller novel about two men whose lives become entangled after one of them proposes they trade murders. He then goes ahead and fulfills his end of the imaginary bargain, and then tries to force the other to complete his side of the bargain ...

This week's book is Patricia Highsmith's Strangers On A Train and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Slow Horses — Mick Herron

Book cover for Mick Herron's Slow Horses in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupYou don't stop being a spook just because you're no longer in the game. Banished to Slough House from the ranks of achievers at Regent's Park for various crimes of drugs and drunkenness, lechery and failure, politics and betrayal, Jackson Lamb's misfit crew of highly trained joes don't run ops, they push paper. But not one of them joined the Intelligence Service to be a ‘slow horse’. A boy is kidnapped and held hostage. His beheading is scheduled for live broadcast on the net. And whatever the instructions of the Service, the slow horses aren't going to just sit quiet and watch ...

This week's book is Mick Herron's Slow Horses and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

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, 16 May 2019

Annihilation — Jeff VanderMeer

Book cover for Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupFor thirty years, Area X has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border — an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. The Southern Reach, a secretive government agency, has sent eleven expeditions to investigate Area X. One has ended in mass suicide, another in a hail of gunfire, the eleventh in a fatal cancer epidemic. Now four women embark on the twelfth expedition into the unknown.

This week's book is Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

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. We'll also be choosing books at the next meeting.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Sophie's Choice — William Styron

Book cover for William Styron's Sophie's Choice in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupStingo, an inexperienced twenty-two year old Southerner, takes us back to the summer of 1947 and a boarding house in a leafy Brooklyn suburb. There he meets Nathan, a fiery Jewish intellectual; and Sophie, a beautiful and fragile Polish Catholic. Stingo is drawn into the heart of their passionate and destructive relationship as witness, confidant, and supplicant. Ultimately, he arrives at the dark core of Sophie's past: her memories of pre-war Poland, the concentration camp and — the essence of her terrible secret — her choice.

This week's book is William Styron's Sophie's Choice and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Lady Chatterley's Lover — D H Lawrence

Book cover for D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupWould you approve of your young sons, young daughters — because girls can read as well as boys — reading this book ? Is it a book you would have lying around your own house ? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read ?
This week's book is D H Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Please note the change of book. We'll be reading the previous choice, The Immortalists on 21 February 2019.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Days Without End — Sebastian Barry

Book cover for Sebastian Barry's Days Without End in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupAfter signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely seventeen, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Having fled terrible hardships they find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both see and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and imperilled when a young Indian girl crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges, if only they can survive.

This week's book is Sebastian Barry's Days Without End and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Neuromancer — William Gibson

Book cover for William Gibson's Neuromancer in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupThings aren't different. Things are things.

Case had been the sharpest data-thief in the business, until vengeful former employers crippled his nervous system. But now a new and very mysterious employer recruits him for a last-chance run. The target: an unthinkably powerful artificial intelligence orbiting Earth in service of the sinister Tessier-Ashpool business clan. With a dead man riding shotgun and Molly, mirror-eyed street-samurai, to watch his back, Case embarks on his last job.

This week's book is William Gibson's Neuromancer and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Sorcerer to the Crown — Zen Cho

Book cover for Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupIn Regency London, Zacharias Wythe is England's first African Sorcerer Royal. He leads the eminent Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, but a malicious faction seeks to remove him by fair means or foul. Meanwhile, the Society is failing its vital duty — to keep stable the levels of magic within His Majesty's lands. The Fairy Court is blocking its supply, straining England's dangerously declining magical stores. And now the government is demanding to use this scarce resource in its war with France. Ambitious orphan Prunella Gentleman is desperate to escape the school where she's drudged all her life, and a visit by the beleaguered Sorcerer Royal seems the perfect opportunity. For Prunella has just stumbled upon English magic's greatest discovery in centuries — and she intends to make the most of it.

This week's book is Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Immortalists — Chloe Benjamin

Book cover for Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupIt's 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The four Gold children, too young for what they're about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes. The prophecies could be dismissed as trickery and nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat, and defy the knowledge given to them that day — but it will shape the course of their lives forever.
This week's book is Chloe Benjamin's The Immortalists and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Please note the change of book. We'll be reading the previous choice, Lady Chatterley's Lover on 18 April 2019.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Americanah — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book cover for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupAs teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face ?

This week's book is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

The Magician's Nephew — C S Lewis

Book cover for C S Lewis's The Magician's Nephew in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupThe Magician's Nephew is a prequel to the Narnia series and is set a thousand years before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The frame story is set in England and features two children ensnared in experimental travel via ‘the wood between the worlds’. Thus, the novel shows Narnia and our middle-age world to be only two of many in a multiverse, which changes as some worlds begin and others end. It also explains the origin of foreign elements in Narnia, not only the lamp-post but also the White Witch and a human king and queen.

This week's book is C S Lewis's The Magician's Nephew and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

The Terror — Dan Simmons

Book cover for Dan Simmons's The Terror in the South Manchester, Chorlton, and Didsbury book groupA fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to locate the Northwest Passage. In the novel, while Franklin and his crew are plagued by starvation and illness, and forced to contend with mutiny and cannibalism, they are stalked across the bleak Arctic landscape by a monster.

This week's book is Dan Simmons's The Terror and we'll be meeting at The Fletcher Moss on William Street in Didsbury.

The Franklin Expedition is well worth reading about, and you may like to consider Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by John G. Geiger and Owen Beattie, or Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson.