Last updated on December 21st, 2021
Featured image: Cordoba, Spain by Envato Elements
Books that expand our view of the world
By Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman
Since the re-launch of the JourneyWoman Book Club in June 2020, we’ve read 17 books (at least!) and travelled in spirit to countries around the world like Zimbabwe, Italy, Morocco, Portugal and Egypt, We’ve also been inspired by some incredible solo travel memoirs like Travels With My Hat by Christine Osbourne and Tales of Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman.
As my book club co-host Wendy Brooke and I optimistically looked to the future and a return to work and travel, we decided to make some adjustments to our book club, based on feedback from our members.
Book Club Plans for 2022
Book selection with TripFiction: There’s so much to learn in our world. We want our book club to inspire you to travel, expand your bucket list, and shift your perspective with a story’s authenticity. To help with the latest books, I asked Tina Hartas from TripFiction if she’d help us bring a fresh perspective to our books. As thanks for her generosity, I hope you’ll consider joining Tina’s mailing list at TripFiction.
Submit Your book recommendations: The JourneyWoman community has recommended hundreds of books and we want to make sure those recommendations are being broadly shared, so we’re adding a new form to our website that will allow us to publish your book recommendations live on our Book Club page. Please click here to submit and share your book recommendation and check back often for ideas!
Quarterly book club meetings: Wendy and I have been hosting monthly meetings since June 2020, and we’re grateful to our loyal group of book club enthusiasts, many of whom have been at every single meeting! We enjoy these too! It’s a lot of work for us as a small team to prepare, promote and facilitate these events, which is why we ask you to support us with a pay-what-you-can model. Going forward, we’re going to reduce our book club meetings from monthly to quarterly so that we can have deeper and longer discussions and perhaps even discuss all the themes across multiple books.
Introducing our 2022 Book of the Month Selections
- January: “All My Mothers” by Joanna Glen, Córdoba, Spain
- February: An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater, Alpes-Maritimes, France
- March: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, Cyprus
Check back soon for new Book of the Month selections!
January: “All My Mothers” by Joanna Glen, Córdoba, Spain
An uplifting and perceptive novel that will keep you hooked throughout. It is sad, too, and there is a really heartfelt story of loss and a search for roots.
Eva is growing up with parents, with whom she just doesn’t seem to bond – Dad is Spanish from Andalucía and Mum is a fragile, reclusive woman who has no motherly warmth. They simply don’t feel like her tribe and when she discovers a photo of herself as a child, with the head of the female caregiver removed, she decides that she really needs to understand more about her heritage. Dad then abandons his little family and returns to his home country of Spain, leaving the two females floundering.
She is driven to study in Córdoba, where she somehow feels she belongs. Her father, she knows, is in the vicinity and there is a good chance she might bump into him, of course. And it is there that she starts her search for her childhood history. It is a convoluted path to uncovering the secrets that have permeated her life and consciousness, a preoccupation that consumes her.
This is an exceptional novel and is gripping from start to finish. In many ways it is about the circle of life, about identity, relationships and about family. It is beautifully written.
February: An Act of Love by Carol Drinkwater, Alpes-Maritimes, France
“A moving story of love and friendship with a wonderful sense of place” (Kate Mosse)
Summer is coming in a small village in the Alpes-Maritimes, where a young Jewish woman, Sara, has arrived in 1943 with her parents. She is a mere 17 years old and the family has fled from Lódź in Poland. They are stationed in a house, owned by an English family and they know that this is only a temporary lodging until such time they are forced to move again. The Germans are moving steadily nearer and the summer idyll is fragile.
Sara is a resourceful young woman, who already has language skills and a capable disposition, in contrast to her mother who has suffered greatly after the long, terrifying journey.
Where will the remainder of the war years take her?
As always, the author is so good at setting her characters in an evocative location. The humming heat of the mountains and pastures, the food and plants all add extra texture to the poignant story. This is a coming-of-age story that will stay with you, heartened by the resilience of human nature in extreme conditions.
March: The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, Cyprus
If you haven’t read anything by Elif Shafak, then you are missing out. She is an extraordinary and unusual storyteller and can give a voice to people and in this case, a fig tree. It is in many ways a useful construct to examine history and life, and the author imbues the tree’s beguiling narrative with a strength and perception, forming an incisive part of the story.
The fig tree is situated in North London, and came from a cutting brought over by Kostas from Nicosia, and planted in its new home, where it observes the comings and goings of the people in the house. The tree shares timely reflections on history and the nature of belonging.
Kostas (a Greek Christian Cypriot) was courting a young woman, Defne (a Turkish Muslim Cypriot) back in the 1970s in Cyprus, and many of their dates were in a restaurant called the Happy Fig, which referred to a tree growing in the heart of the premises. As you might expect, there are glorious descriptions of the multicultural food throughout the novel which add a piquancy that left me salivating. There is, too, a real sense of the island in terms of setting.
On 24 July 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus, and then again in August, and the country became partitioned with a UN monitored Green Line, which still divides the country today. At that point, the lives of so many irrevocably changed and this is the story of one family and the impact of political division.