Group Read Number 1

So here we go with the first ever Bury Libraries Group Read. Please feel welcome to read along and add to the discussion.


1540437The title that I have chosen is ‘The Memory Stones’ by Kate O’Riordan. I chose this book in the manner that I choose most of my books – I liked the cover! This is always the thing that grabs me first; it would take a very strong recommendation for me to pick up a book with a boring cover! I also thought that the author’s style sounded promising as a quote by Fay Weldon suggests:

‘She has the capacity to tell it how it is, not how we think it ought to be, and to tell it passionately’.

The synopsis on the back cover reads:

‘Mothers and daughters are not so entirely different from lovers. Both have the capacity to destroy and both to reconstruct once more.’

Nell Hennessy left rural Ireland at sixteen to have her daughter Ali. In over thirty years, she has never returned. Now she lives an uncluttered, elegant life in Paris, enjoying her independence, only broken from time to time by her lover Henri.

Until a phone all shatters the peace of her carefully constructed world…Her daughter and granddaughter may be in grave danger and Nell can no longer avoid the inevitable. She must return to her childhood home. But what prevented Nell making that journey before? What really came between her mother and herself? And how has the unspoken impinged on the lives of four generations of women?

A poignant and gripping exploration of love, loss and the nature of memory itself, THE MEMORY STONES is a study of the intricacies of mother / daughter relationships, observed with razor-sharp precision and great tenderness.’

Fingers crossed that this will be a great first Group Read and that it prompts everyone who reads along to join in with the discussion. Please submit any comments using the box below. If you are a Bury Libraries member and would like to borrow a copy please contact Unsworth Library directly. If you’re not already a member of our libraries joining us couldn’t be easier!

Best Wishes

Nic (Reader Development Team)



13 thoughts on “Group Read Number 1

  1. The cover and title did make me want to read “The Memory Stones” but, to be perfectly honest, the first page was so full of overblown, depressing description that I was tempted to stop reading.
    I persevered and, I will admit, there were a few segments to which I could relate; unfortunately these were few and far between and I was glad when it was finished.

    Some people might enjoy this type of literature but it was not for me and I will not be looking for any other books by Kate O’Riordan.


    1. Hi Sue,

      Firstly a big thank you for being the first person to contribute to the first ever group read! Secondly well done for keeping going with the book when it looks like it didn’t grab you from the off! We are looking forward to hearing more comments about this title. I (Nic) am going to submit my comments as myself rather than on behalf of the Reader Development Team as all of the other members are reading along with the Group Read too. Thanks again Sue and I hope we can tempt you to join in with our book choice for February.
      Best Wishes,
      The Reader Development Team.


  2. This is exactly why I love a reading group; the fact that each person’s interaction with a book is totally unique – it is such a personal thing – even down to the way we pronounce names and places (Hermione had me foxed for years!)
    I agree totally with Sue about the first chapter as it is full of descriptions that are bleak and harsh. I too thought that I wasn’t going to enjoy the book but as it was the first group read I stuck with it – and I am so glad that I did!

    The hard, emotionless descriptions at the beginning seem more and more appropriate as you learn about Nell and where she is in her life. She truly is a character who is battling the past as well as the present and I totally fell in love with her as the book progressed. I cared about all of the characters – everyone was trying their best, in their own ways, to get though life and the events that were thrown at them.

    There are large sections of descriptive text but I found them relevant to either the story line or the characters – I didn’t feel there was a word wasted or any over embellishment. In fact the descriptions of wines and wine tasting were so good they really tested my ‘Dry January’ resolve! There is humour too; Nell’s relationship with her adopted dog is beautifully observed.

    I closed the book and jumped straight on to the catalogue to order another title by this author!


    1. Well this review has encouraged me to stick at the book! I do enjoy descriptive writing and this author’s descriptions are very vivid, but I had an unusually strog reaction to the first few, bleak pages. I put the book down and wasn’t sure I’d carry on, but I’ve been convinced now to give it a bit longer.


  3. This is the first time I have ever been part of a reading group and, as such, the first time since school (a very long time ago) I have ever read something that I haven’t chosen.
    I did love the cover, however the story and the style of writing just wasn’t for me. I found the book indulgently descriptive, which for me distracted me from the story line as I found myself skipping bits to get on with the story. The story itself is good, with many twists and turns and plausible characters.
    Although I didn’t like the book, I am very much looking forward to the challenge of reading the next book chosen for the group read


    1. Thanks Dawn,
      Surely it is only moments since your school days! Thank you for submitting your comments and that you are looking forward to the next read. I agree totally that it is a benefit to be exposed to reading choices that you perhaps wouldn’t take usually.
      The Reader Development Team.


  4. First of all I would like to thank the Reader Development Team in choosing this first excellent group read. From the opening chapter it reminded me that ‘escapism’ isn’t the only reason why I pick up a book! Another more important reason for me is to find an author who describes a sensation, a feeling, a moment or situation which I may have experienced but never seem to conjure up words that might convey what it ‘really’ feels like: O’Riordan’s descriptions (often quite graphic) of middle-age and the menopause were just so staggeringly accurate! Was I pleased to ‘meet’ Nell – whose face flushes ‘with heat issuing from every pore enough to sear birds from their branches.’

    Through flashbacks – woven effortlessly into the narrative – we also catch a glimpse of what Nell was like as a child and then as a young woman; we learn her story gradually but with enough suspense to keep us reading. The last few pages hold some wonderful reflections on the nature of memory and reveal why the ‘memory stones’ themselves are such an important component of the narrative. While this novel deals with family relationships, the dazzling prose and insightful exploration into female emotions raises it above your average domestic drama. I will certainly read more by Kate O’Riordan.


  5. Well I’m glad I persevered with this; the beginning was very hard work, but it became much easier to read once Nell got to Ireland and started to interact with her family.
    The writing style develops with the changes in Nell’s life; starting with short, staccato sentences echoing her pent up, compartmentalised life. Then in Ireland the talking starts – they are not comfortable or easy conversations, but the language begins to loosen up along with Nell’s attempts to get along with her family. At the end of the novel the prose becomes more fluid and almost euphoric as Nell realises what’s important in her life and comes to terms with the events of the past.
    It’s not a cosy read; it examines the awkward relationships between three generations of Nell’s family (four if you include her late mother and the difficulties between them, which Nell revisits). I loved the memory stones themselves, both the idea of these beautiful objects and their significance and impact on Nell. The story is shocking, upsetting and embarrassing in places, but also wonderfully descriptive and vividly told. It also carries a message worth remembering; clean perfection does not make us happy; it’s “the shabby, scabby stuff of life that makes perfection more bearable.”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done for persevering and we are glad that you found it an enjoyable read. I think there will be a few of us starting our own memory stone collections the next time we are at the coast. Would you be tempted by this author again? Some book sites compare her work to Helen Dunmore does anyone agree?


  7. This is the first time I’ve had a book chosen for me so bear with me on this! I’m finding it hard to warm to Nell, the 46 year old mother who returns home to find out what’s happening with her daughter, she seems quite harsh and cold, but maybe the reason will become clear later on. I’ve read a few memoirs/travel books about Paris and I am liking the descriptions of the city, although these descriptions don’t tell me much about Nell herself. I am determined to finish the memory stones and now the action has moved to Ireland the mystery of her strange attitude towards her own mother and daughter is making things a bit more interesting!


    1. Thank you Julie for being part of the group read. I agree totally that it is tough having a book chosen for us; I often approach them like a truculent teenager avoiding homework! I hope it proves to be worth the effort and thanks again for joining in. Nic ( Reader Development Team)


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