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THE VERDICT


The book in the dock is Split Second bt Cath Staincliffe and our jury with Chris Shepherd in the chair, comprises the Book Groupies book club of Anston, near Sheffield.

 

 


Dramatis Personae


Book Groupies is a relatively new book group founded just over a year ago and based in South Yorkshire which meets in members’ homes on the last Monday of each month. We have a list of book-group sets of books from which we take turns to choose and these are sent to us from the central library in Rotherham to our local library in Dinnington and I collect them to take to the group. Our group numbers are increasing; we currently have nine members. 

PHOTO OF THE GROUP COMING SOON

Chris

I have just become a pensioner but retired from teaching at a local primary school twelve years ago so one would think I have plenty of time for reading – but I have three grandchildren (say no more!). However, I do still manage to read an average of more than a hundred books a year. 

Kate

has spent the last seven years as a Regional Director for a pharmaceutical company, (but has just retired this month). To the amusement, or possibly dismay, of her fellow Book Groupies if she doesn’t love a book by the end of chapter three she won’t read any further! And she’s a self-confessed chick-lit reader. 

Margaret S

is also recently retired, from working as a nurse for many years. She is currently caring for her younger brother and elderly motherwho have both suffered severe strokes recently and so does not have the quality reading time she would like. Her favourite genre is ‘crime without the gore’. 

Joan

currently works in Worksop’s Bassetlaw hospital offices. She is a dedicated lifelong Blade (Sheffield United) supporter buying her season ticket comes before anything else – even a book! 

Margaret W

doesn’t manage to attend every meeting as she and her husband spend as much time as possible in their villa in Spain where she keeps a large selection of books and adds to them each visit. She recently revealed her love of poetry and so we are now going to look at the works of a poet of her choice in a future meeting. 

Lucy

has just celebrated her 21st birthday and is the youngest and newest member. She works in the Student Services department at the University of Sheffield. She likes a book which makes her think, and questions
a certain idea or moral, but similarly she can enjoy an easy page-turner. 

Hilary

is a hard-working mum and housewife. She has two children and a very well-loved dog.Recently she hosted 'a biggest coffee morning in the world’ where there was a great selection of books for us to browse through and buy. 

Bev

is Hilary’s sister, and works as a nurse visiting patients in their homes. She bakes the most fantastic cakes and we frequently request her legendary lemon drizzle. (I was going to ask her for the recipe to send to newbooks but saw someone had beaten me to it.) 

Sarah

looks for a ‘good’ story’ in a book. She enjoys books that are not difficult to get into, but doesn’t mind an occasional read that challenges and takes her out of her comfort zone. A good emotional roller-

coaster ride with a ‘box of tissues’ ending is acceptable or a poetry book which offers her endless possibilities such as Oscar Wilde’s 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. 

THE VERDICT

 

 

Chris .................................. 

 

Hilary.................................  

 

Sarah..................................

 

Kate.....................................

 

Lucy.....................................

 

Margaret W.......................... 

 

split secondSplit Second

by Cath Staincliffe

is published by Robinson

After rushing around the members’ homes distributing copies of Cath Staincliffe’s Split Second, I then made a mug of coffee and began reading. I was hooked immediately but began wondering, when was the action going to start? After a few chapters I began to realise that this was a book about morals.

At our meeting in Hilary’s home everyone – from a 21-year-old to some almost 70-year-olds – asked the same question, ‘What if?’

Taking a sip of wine Lucy said, ‘Emma’s character is portrayed well at the beginning, but after years of abuse by her father a holiday and the incident on the bus give her the courage to stand up to him – that’s simply too idealistic for me! And other events are questionable too, appearing fabricated and contrived.’ This statement led to the opening of another bottle of wine and another heated and exhilarating debate.

Margaret W. felt that the court case raised many issues. ‘The conflicting accounts around the events of the crime lead to some confusion and I wasn’t sure what the verdict would be and this initially elicited strong feelings of “what about the victim?” for me.’

Then self-confessed chick-lit lover Kate sat back and gave her offering, ‘There is no doubt the book’s well written with beautifully crafted and believable characterisation. However, it’s too graphic to allow the escapism I love to get from reading so I’m ashamed to say I didn’t finish it!’ This comment took us by surprise as the book had up until that point definitely been given the thumbs up by all despite the various ‘how comes’ that the storyline generated.

Lucy then summed up her position, ‘I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the book, due to the dark atmosphere and quite disturbing themes, but I would recommend it as an interesting read especially for book groups. I think the most important message portrayed for individuals and groups to ponder is, “What would you do?” What made the story flow for me was Staincliffe’s use of deconstructed chapters, swapping from character to character made it an easy read.’

‘Yes it was an easy read in that you wanted to know what happened and the author kept you wondering,’ responded both Hilary and Bev, but both agreed that the themes were disturbing.

Sarah declared she would definitely recommend this book and it is one which will stay in her mind for a long time, leaving an impact on her as only a well-written novel can. Whilst Margaret W. felt there were issues unresolved and the ending was rushed. 

 

 


This comment took us by surprise as the book had up until that point definitely been given the thumbs up by all despite the various ‘how comes’ that the storyline generated.

 

 


 

 

After further discussion, we all agreed with Margaret that the author could have expanded on more of the issues which may have helped draw the conclusion out for a more satisfying read.

Sadly time was running out – we do try to keep our round-ups to two hours but we often run over and this time the discussion kept expanding because of that initial question, ‘What if?’ And there were also many others crowding in, such as ‘what would I have done?’ ‘Why didn’t he/she do/not do...?’ We were very late despite being low on numbers that night – which is just as well or we may have still been there.

Although Kate announced, ‘Life is too short to read a book you’re not enjoying and which disturbs you. If it doesn’t uplift and heart-warm, steer clear!’ most of us enjoyed it. We did find some ‘weaknesses’ in the structure of the novel but there are so many discussion points in this book that most of us would thoroughly recommend it, especially to book groups. 


cath staincliffe

 

THE PLOT

 

Emma, a young passenger on a bus, witnesses two youths threatening to harm another passenger, Luke. The girl feels both guilt and shame – and even justification – for not intervening when she finds out about the disastrous outcome.

Val and Andrew are devastated and overwhelmed by the death/murder of their only son, Jason. We see their marriage begin to disintegrate as both react to the tragedy in different ways. Val wants justice and revenge whilst Andrew is desperate to find some meaning in Jason’s death and some understanding of what could have led to such a horrific incident.

The other suffering parent, Louise, cannot accept accept the fate of her son and puts it out of her mind for the majority of the book.