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Haven't They Grown: January Book Club

(63 Posts)
SarahCGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 02-Jan-20 15:32:34

Hi everyone,

Our January book club pick is Haven't They Grown by Sophie Hannah.

The books should be with our winners now. If you get a free copy, make sure you leave your questions and comments for Sophie on this thread by the end of January.

Feel free to join in the discussion even if you didn't get your hands on one of our giveaway copies but are reading it nonetheless - be sure to add your questions for Sophie too.

Happy reading!

Inthepink06 Thu 02-Jan-20 22:56:29

I quite liked this book and read it all in virtually one sitting. I did think the characters lacked research knowledge. In these days of access to records (births, marriages, deaths, local newspapers, FB etc). Did Flora and Beth not have other friends from Uni?

Liska Fri 03-Jan-20 07:55:08

I posted some comments on the other, unofficial thread so I thought I would transfer them over to this one.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I thought I would. It felt a bit too far-fetched and long-winded for my liking and I struggled to motivate myself to finish it. I found it hard to believe in the characters and their motives but I did quite enjoy the ending.

In terms of questions for the author, I'd like to know how long it took her to write the book and which character she got most attached to while writing the book.

Granniesunite Fri 03-Jan-20 09:33:04

I enjoyed this book and kept in mind that poetic license was at play.

Domestic abuse is a hidden crime and can be " managed" by the victims as well as the perpetrators which makes it difficult for others to understand.

In this story Beth alway felt guilty about her part in ending the friendship with Flora and when an opportunity is presented to her she begins to investigate her ex friends lifestyle.

Beth's determination to support her friend wins out in the end but at a cost to herself and to Flora and will have repercussions throughout their lifetime.

My question to Sophie is

Did you choose that ending because it mirrors real life?? Leaving victims no choice but to be violent themselves to escape their violent husbands/ partners.

Greenfinch Fri 03-Jan-20 10:04:25

This is a brilliant and skilfully written book.The plot although complex was not difficult to follow and I was left guessing until the end.I personally did not really enjoy the book and did not get into it until near the end but that is because I am not one for that genre and could not empathise with any of the characters. It would probably be good as a film.
I have two questions for Sophie.
Do you write a rough version of the plot or do you let it develop as you write? Or maybe you work backwards from the outcome?
Why did you include the incident of Murat and his panini? It seemed a bit OTT and not how a school would react.
I am sure this novel is going to be very popular with Sophie's readers as it is a real tour de force .Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read it.

Miriam Fri 03-Jan-20 16:11:29

I really enjoyed this book, it was very well written and easy to read, in fact I found it hard to put down. I can certainly see it being made into a film. I like to read for escapism not because it mirrors real life as long as the plot and characters are believable. Nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors and I am sure plenty families have their secrets. I was pleased to see it had a good ending and I was not left disappointed.
My question for Sophie is would she like to see this book made into a film and if so would she like to have plenty say in the production?

Gr4nny Fri 03-Jan-20 18:18:51

Here we are, in the wrong place: . . 7 words that made me wonder why I’ve not come across Sophie Hannah’s books.

I read the book in two or three sittings and found myself thinking about the story between reads! Far fetched? Maybe. Nonetheless, a thought provoking piece of literary escapism.

I’ll look out for other works by the author and would pose her the question: Which characters would you like to have explored in more detail?

granfromafar Fri 03-Jan-20 20:22:01

My review is on the other thread but would like to ask Sophie whether she has been approached by a TV or film company to make a TV drama or film out of this or any other of her books.

annemac101 Sat 04-Jan-20 21:34:29

I did enjoy this book. It was a page turner and I thought I'd scream if it didn't have a good ending but it did. Beth annoyed me during the first half of this book as I thought she was just being nosey. I wanted her to get on with her own life but she wouldn't give up. I really didn't know what way the story was going. Maybe it was supernatural ? Why would children not have aged? Sophie Hannah knows how to keep the reader on edge right to the last chapter and what more can you ask for. It would make a great film.
My question is, Sophie, I have no idea what must go on in your head. How do you start a book ? What gives you the ideas?

hulahoop Sun 05-Jan-20 16:55:58

Just finished reading book in the beginning I thought Beth was mistaken ,then I thought was it all an experiment ,I must admit I found it hard going at times but never felt I couldn't be bothered to read it it had me needing to know like Beth needed to know the answers to everything .
My question to Sophie is where did the idea come from and does she feel it would make a good film ?

silverdragon Mon 06-Jan-20 22:26:51

I found this an intriguing read but thought the Beth in the beginning was a very different one from the Beth at the end. She was somewhat irritating with the intensity of her thought process as regards the unaged children and the strange behaviour of Flora, her reactions are highly emotional, yet once having made the decision to go to America she becomes a stronger almost different character. I loved the character of Zannah, but totally puzzled as to the incident at school with the racism accusation at the teacher. I can't work out why that was included. I thought at first that Lewis had kidnapped Zannah!
I got a little lost with the characters now and then, marriage partner confusion, people pretending to be someone else. To me it just needs a little tightening, a little more clarification.
I did enjoy it though - it was an unusual start. Not the fantasy I thought it would be!
Question to Sophie - how easy or hard was it to create and include the situations that caused Beth to believe something was wrong? Did you have scenes/conversations you didn't use in the final version?

rocketstop Tue 07-Jan-20 14:38:34

Thanks for my copy of the book which I have just finished.
I really enjoyed the suspense and tension in the story and kept wondering what the actual crime was for it to be of the crime 'Genre' of books. However as it got further and further into the story it created a really uncomfortable atmosphere.Something was very wrong, or was it that Beth was going slightly mad ? No spoilers here but I like the way the story unfolded, and coercive control can make the strangest things happen by and to people who appear to be perfectly normal.
If we could ask questions to Sophie I'd ask what inspired the story? Was it something in the news? I too think it would make a good screenplay or TV drama serial, it had plenty of tension and I think Sophie will please crime readers with her latest book.

rocketstop Tue 07-Jan-20 14:42:08

Message for Gransnet : Once books are sent out, can you launch the OFFICIAL thread straight away ?As sometimes I read a book quickly and want to comment before I forget what I was going to say !
Then I see a thread about it, leave my comments, not realising that it isn't the correct thread !
Anyone else care to comment ?

granfromafar Wed 08-Jan-20 11:23:59

I agree with rocketstop as I wrote my comments on the other thread before this one started. Once I've finished one book and started another I get so engrossed with the new book that all thoughts of the previous one disappear rapidly. There are now 2 threads on this book so maybe they could be combined?

Crocky Wed 08-Jan-20 18:51:30

Weird was a word that frequently appeared and to begin with it could have been applied to most of the characters in the book and the plot. As the ‘listener’ to the narrator and conversations between characters I was not sure exactly where it was going but gradually I began to understand the who, what and why. It was well written and worth reading.
My question to Sophie is:- it was a clever move to use the same names for both sets of children as it made me imagine even more weird options, was that her intention?

Nanna58 Thu 09-Jan-20 14:47:46

Have read Sophie Hannah’s books before, and liked them. This one? Not so much. Felt the twists and turns were a little too forced , but my real issue was that I found the characters quite unlike able , particularly Beth, and if you can’t rustle up any liking for even the central character it’s hard to feel ‘ invested’ in the story.

barboofa Thu 09-Jan-20 19:41:01

I was intrigued by the idea that the children hadn't grown. The start of the story was a bit slow for me, but once Sophie Hannah, exposed the controlling behaviour of Lewis towards Flora and all the characters of their 'household' I became hooked to find out if what would happen. Would Flora escape Lewis's depth of depravity? Would Beth be murdered. What would happen to all the children. I enjoyed the faster pace of the later part of the book.
My question to Sophie Hannah is, did you write the book with the intention of exposing the potential impact and dynamics of domestic violence, specifically the offence of coercive control?

Sophie highlighted the depths of depravity

Mapleleaf Fri 10-Jan-20 23:12:50

I'm sorry to say I wasn't convinced by this book and found it laughably implausible in many places, and at times, quite irritating. There were times when I was going to give up because of this - the role of Kevin and Yanika - to me their part was totally bizarre. Also, for only the receptionist at Thomas's school to have concerns about the child and no other staff members, especially the class teacher, is also totally wrong - schools don't operate like that, and as for the receptionist giving confidential information to Beth, well that just beggars belief. I also didn't find the role of the police officer Beth saw at the station convincing. The other part I found odd was the racism incident at Zannah's school. I'm not really sure of the relevance this had to the main story, and that situation would have been dealt with in the way the author described it! To me, that scene was so far fetched as to be ridiculous. I got the feeling this incident was added to pad the book out, and wasn't needed. I'm not sure the author has much idea of how schools have to operate.
I think the theme of the novel, coercive control, was a good theme to choose, but I think the story got lost along the way with too many unlikely events. It needed tightening up, in my view. A shame, as it had the potential to be so much better.

Mapleleaf Sat 11-Jan-20 12:25:54

Regarding my comment about Zannahs school, it should say "and that situation would not have been dealt with in the way the author described it".

joannapiano Sat 11-Jan-20 14:38:58

I really wanted to enjoy this book, and for the first few chapters it was very intriguing. I then began to feel it was long-winded, and felt Beth should have just got on with her life and her family. I found her quite annoying.

Buddie Sat 11-Jan-20 16:34:14

Having finished this book I can now see how it qualifies as a crime novel but the opening chapters had me wondering. It seemed more likely to be exploring mental health or even science fiction. The slow start almost made me give up but as more detail emerged and the pace increased so did my interest in finding out what happened and perhaps, more importantly, how. I think I realised quite early on who the victims and villains of the piece were so it was the resolution I was seeking. In the end I found I did care about it and I had enjoyed the book.

I should like to ask Sophie what the starting point for this novel was. Did she set out to explore the relationships and problems within them or was the start the idea of the children not growing up? I would also be interested to know how she thinks Beth would cope with her part in the final drama given that the sight of the children apparently remaining the same age for twelve years had unsettled her so much.

emmasnan Sat 11-Jan-20 16:59:39

I found this a bit far fetched and felt it lost its way a little at times but I did enjoy it.
I would like to ask Sophie if she had the complete plot worked out, including the ending of the story before she wrote the book or did she start with a general idea and built on that as she wrote.

GrannyBear Sat 11-Jan-20 17:07:27

I have just finished reading “Haven’t They Grown”, and I am not sure what to make of it! I didn’t really enjoy the book, although at times I was totally gripped by the storyline.

Overall, the book is simply not plausible, in my opinion. The plot is convoluted and I did not find the characters very believable.

For me, the main character Beth simply was not credible. Throughout the story, she was impulsive, dogged and determined to get to the root of the reason why her friend’s two children had apparently not grown up over the course of the twelve-year period since she had last seen them. However, the lengths to which she went in pursuit of the truth could not be interpreted as realistic or even feasible.

Beth’s daughter, Suzannah (Zan), plays a central role in the story and, for me, she was more believable. Zan supports her mother’s endeavours, although at times I feel she is more interested in meddling and keeping the action going, than in really helping resolve the mystery of the two children who seemingly didn’t grow up. However, there is a totally bizarre incident in the midst of the storyline where Zan becomes embroiled in an incident at school involving accusations of racism against a teacher. The incident is explored in some detail and seems totally out of context with the rest of the storyline.

Beth’s husband vacillates between being supportive of Beth’s pursuit of the truth and giving the impression of being fed up with the whole thing! Beth’s son, Ben, gets little mention in the book and is largely absent from the storyline.

I enjoyed the style of writing, whereby Beth narrates the story in the first person and, obviously, from her perspective. However, at times she is irritatingly repetitive as she goes over in her mind what has happened and tries to make sense of it.

Prior to reading “Haven’t they Grown” I was not familiar with the work of Sophie Hannah. Having read this book, I don’t think I will rush to read another by this Author (sorry, Sophie!)

I would like to ask Sophie why she introduced Ben to the story, and then then gave him virtually no further role as the events unfolded. What did she feel were the underlying dynamics within this family?

Flossieflyby Tue 14-Jan-20 13:46:10

First Sophie Hannah book I have read. Certainly curious and bizarre. Did grip my attention after a slowish start.
Would like to ask Sophie what was the initial spark for the book.?

eGJ Wed 15-Jan-20 16:21:10

Like many of the others I put my comments and a question on the other thread as soon as I had read it!

I am glad I persisted reading this book as it did not appear in the first chapter to be the sort of book I would usually read. Once I got into it I read it in one session abandoning everything else!!

However it was well worth continuing and I want to ask Sophie there will be a sequel.