Genre: Gentle Reads

June 24, 2014
Jones Library, Amherst

Benchmark: Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

Gentle Reads Resources:

 Adult Reading Round Table Gentle Reads notes

Notes on Discussion

19 in attendance

WMLA Author Talk on June 19 was successful but is morning a better time for attendance?

Characteristics of Gentle Reads as reported by attendees:

  • Gentle pacing
  • No sex/violence
  • No unsettling incidents
  • Break from stress
  • Safer place
  • Mental vacation
  • Relationship focus rather than suspense
  • Laughter, wit
  • Small town
  • Not simple story
  • Complex relationships
  • Mellow tone
  • Timeless
  • Close knit community
  • Safe books
  • Easy to follow
  • Gives a sense of time and place
  • Not always light, tragedy does occur
  • Lack of complicated storyline

Important to work together as a staff to know books to recommend.  Jot down details that might bother certain readers.

Thoughts of attendees after reading book choice Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani

  • Nothing seemed to be happening
  • Able to see events in advance
  • Nostalgic detail/time period
  • Hated
  • Enjoyed better that romance
  • Details of fashion/dressmaking
  • More realistic
  • Feel good book
  • Good escape
  • Audio brought out emotion
  • Frustrating
  • No angst
  • Level of intensity

Other books read

  • Woman’s Place by Lynn Hall-relationships of women; “Rosie the riveter”
  • At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon-small town with eccentric characters
  • The Inn at Rose Harbor by Debbie Macomber- small town; comfortable; moving through past life events
  • Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer-interesting setting and male characters; written through letters
  • Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin-good setting; book seller
  • Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett- queen; talk of books; bookmobile
  • Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah-fairly tragic; perhaps not a gentle read
  • Trains and Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith-lovely brief read; stories of romance connected to trains; safe passing glimpse at characters
  • Bell Canto by Ann Patchett-literary; peaceful; leisurely pace; relationship driven; gentle read?
  • 22 Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber-too sweet; group of women; concentrated on past events
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen-good setting; eccentric characters; magical realism; little more complex
  • Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray-middle aged women; literary fiction; empowering; metaphorical; societal issues
  • Susannah’s Garden by Debbie Macomber-character driven; realistic; “sandwich generation” issues
  • Marley and Me by John Grogan-book about bad dog; nonfiction
  • Anything by Katherine Hall Page-gentle mystery
  • Emily Dickinson is Dead by Jane Langton-Emily Dickinson; centered in Amherst; local author
  • Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn-family memories; poignant; kindness of strangers; charming, not boring; good character development
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson-widower; slow pace; relationships; multicultural
  • Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast by Bill Richardson-snarky; clever; eccentric but unique; humorous
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith-young adult novel can be read by adults

Point to remember-not every book by an author is the same tone or genre.

Maeve Binchy, EF Benson, Miss Read, Elizabeth Cadell are usually sure bets for gentle reads.  Green Light Teen Reads is good source for YA books.  For children, try American Girl books or the Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.  Ideas for “new adults”?

Remember to post to the Blog (  Please enter information for the second title you read.
Check out this Blog-

Next meeting-October 28, 2014 9:45-noon at the MLSWhately

Notes taken by Betty Johnson

Second Titles

Name: Mary Bell

  • Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
  • Author: Gabrielle Zevin
  • Appeal Factors: Pacing – steady, not the main appeal; Characterization – Quirky, relatable characters; Language – Standard;  Story – character-driven and of great appeal to book lovers; Tone – fun, gentle; Frame – current-day, island (fictional) off the coast of Massachusetts
  • Summary/Thoughts: A.J. Fikry, the proprietor of Island Books, is newly widowed and rather prickly when the new publisher rep from Knightley Press, Amelia, shows up to sell him the winter line. Then his prize possession, a first edition of Tamerlane by Edgar Allan Poe is stolen, and a baby is left on his doorstep. A.J. has no way of knowing the tremendous impact these events will have on his life.
    This is a love story to the power of books and reading that has strong appeal readers, librarians, and – of course – booksellers. It’s a sweet story that kind of puts me in mind of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the way the story unfolds slowly, drawing you in with the characters, and dealing with sadder elements of life (in this case, the baby is left at the bookstore by a young single mother who drowns herself) in a gentle and ultimately uplifting way.

Name: Laurie Cavanaugh

  • Title: Calling Invisible Women
  • Author: Jeanne Ray
  • Appeal Factors: Main character is a mother in her 50s with 20-something children, theme of women’s empowerment, humor
  • Summary/Thoughts: Found this title on a list of Gentle Reads from Hennepin County Library(, but it didn’t quite fit with my idea of a gentle read with its theme of the metaphorical “invisibility” of the middle-aged woman in society. The f-word makes one appearance, but otherwise, I didn’t notice any other language that would disqualify the book. I guess it was more the fantastical and provocative plot device — having the main character literally turn invisible and her husband and children not notice — that I thought made the book more literary fiction than gentle read. Should a “gentle read” make you think that much? (I don’t know!)

Name: Jan Resnick

  • Title: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
  • Author: William Kuhn
  • Appeal Factors: Leisurely paced; Characterization – unusual, but very engaging, secondary characters; Language – engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – charming, poignant; Frame – contemporary, Great Britain
  • Summary/Thoughts: Elizabeth II, alone and slightly depressed, finds herself outside the palace and on her own, unrecognized, for the first time since her girlhood.  The Queen decides to take advantage of her freedom to visit the royal yacht Britannia, the scene of many happy memories.  The yacht is in Scotland.  A mixed bag of palace staff and attendants realize she is missing and sets out to find her before a scandal ensues.
    Wonderful characters with a lot of depth and interesting back stories.
  • Red flag – Not really red flags, but there is a gay relationship, and the Iraq War is background to some of the characters.
  • Similar authors:  Alexander McCall Smith, Mameve Medwed, P.G. Wodehouse, Jasper Fforde; Alan Bennett – The Uncommon Reader

Name: Faith Kaufmann

  • Title: The Inn at Rose Harbor
  • Author: Debbie Macomber
  • Appeal Factors: small town atmosphere, nonviolent, predictable resolution
  • Summary/Thoughts: A young(ish) widow starts a new life running a bed & breakfast in Cedar Cove, a small town the Pacific Northwest. Her first two guests are returning to Cedar Cove where they face unresolved problems from their past. Each person’s story unfolds both separately and through their interactions with each other, which have a healing effect on the characters.

Name: Molly Moss

  • Title: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
  • Author: Helen Simonson
  • Appeal Factors: English country life, gentle pacing, interesting characters, gentle romance, funny
  • Summary/Thoughts: Major Pettigrew leads a quiet unassuming life in the village of Edgecombe St. Mary. A widower, he looks forward to his weekly golf game. When his brother dies, he finds himself more shaken than expected, and leans for help on another widow, Mrs. Ali, the shopkeeper. Theirs is an unlikely friendship, which is a delight to follow, as are the secondary characters of her stern nephew, his obnoxious and social-climbing son, and the other villagers. Changes come to Edgecombe St. Mary in several ways throughout this engaging story.

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