Book Group 1
Group Coordinator: Gloria Arthur
4th Tuesday pm
The Tuesday afternoon book group continues meeting with much enthusiasm. It is held on the 4th Tuesday of each month. In normal times we meet in members' houses.
Our books show a variety of tastes and genres and have generated much discussion and laughter.
2020 Book Choices included a a variety of reads from the popular and recently published works, to Costa and Booker prize winners and nominees as well as non fiction works. Read our reviews below.
Corona Virus has not stopped us reading. We are now meeting on Zoom
OUR NEXT BOOK
December 2020:This Mournable Body by Tsitsi Dangarembga
A Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
The gap of time by Jeanette Winterson a re telling of the winters tale ..a story of love ..loss.. jealousy and redemption
Dispute the thumbs up from many reviews,most of our group did not find it an enjoyable read.
Which made it a very lively discussion Some felt this modern adaptation did not deliver...too graphic and in your face with many loose ends ,whereas the original was more in the style of a parable ,/fairy tale,
Verdict.. would recommend
Golden Child by Claire Adam
Set in Trinidad, Peter and Paul are identical twins. Peter is educationally bright and is the 'Golden Child'. Paul due to problems at birth is considered, as stated in the novel, 'retarded'. After a burglary in the family home, Paul disappears. He is kidnapped mistakenly by a gang under the instigation of his uncle (Romesh) who is trying to get hold of the money Clyde (the twins father) has inherited from a relative which he has invested abroad to provide for Peter's education. The book has many different strands and was discussed at length. Amongst the topics were: Parental choice and sibling preference, jealousy, how decisions effect the lives of others.
A very interesting book which is simple on the surface with deep implications.
Verdict .. another good read
The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore
This book a gentle, easy story. The sort of novel you would take on holiday. Not at all taxing and very predictable.
The two parallel stories. The first about Miranda, David and their two unruly children who move to the country from London. Miranda depicted as a stereotypical Chelsea type city dweller and David the successful business man who can't wait to ship his wife out of the way so he can safely continue his affair with her best friend. Surprise, surprise! Miranda during the novel becomes enchanted with the country due to the arrival of the very handsome Jean Paul. He single handedly tames the children with his love of nature, and converts the gardens back to their former glory. A bit to good to be true (?).
Underlying this novel is the journal that Miranda finds written by Ava in the parallel story.
This about Jean Paul's relationship with Ava. She is the original occupant of Hartington Hall together with her older husband Philip and their three children. Philip travels a lot Handsome Jean Paul arrives.He has come to learn about gardening. Anyway, predictably Ava and Jean Paul have an affair which only ends because Ava feels loyalty to her husband. This leaves Jean Paul so bereft forevermore that he can't ever forge another relationship with another woman despite being so very young and handsome.
The ending is not 'happy ever after' as we find out Ava died. However all is not lost as Jean Paul is introduced to a daughter he never knew he had by Miranda, who took a long time to click on to the fact that the story in the journal related to Jean Paul's past affair.
The story was in all sense of the word predictable. The characters I felt lacked much depth and were quite sterotypical. The ending was also true to the genre. Not a favourite read amongst our members!
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
We all have heard about the tragedy that is Syria and it's consequences for it's refugees. This book reinforces this journey not only the physical one, but the mental one as well, of one fictional couple. Though simply written, the book is very, very thought provoking. The 'flashbacks' to the couples previous happy lives combined with the description of the beauty of the Syrian countryside compared to their ongoing situation in the novel adds to the trauma. I found it a hard read.
Nuri and Afra lead a 'normal' successful life with their son and family in Aleppo. How quickly this degenerates. When their son is tragically killed by a bomb in their back garden, Afra is blinded physically. She blames herself for her son's death, leaving is a desertion of his life.
At this point Nuri is the stronger pragmatist encouraged by his cousin Mustafa who has made the journey already, he insists they must go or stay and be killed. The journey they make I found harrowing to the extreme. What they saw and endured. Two incidents stuck in my mind. The two brothers pimped in the camp. and Afra's rape towards the end of the book 'in part payment' for their onward journey.
Another theme that runs through the book is Nuri and Afra suffering from PTSD. Afra's blindness is psychological. Nuri's imagined small boy, who looks and dresses in the same way as his son but disappears. As Afra becomes stronger so Nuri becomes weaker.
This is a very deep multi faceted book. It warrants much more discussion. We all found it a profound read which we will remember for a long time. Hopefully we can meet the author at some point to discuss different aspects of the story
A Gentleman in Moscow Amos Towles
The novel begins in 1922 with the trial of aristocrat Count Rostov by a Bolshevik tribunal, where he is sentenced to house arrest indefinitely in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Instead of his usual suite, the Count must now live in a small attic room at the hotel, without many of the trappings of his former life.
The story details Rostov’s life, adapting to the changes in Russia — and shows some endearing friendships — with a chef, an actress, and a nine-year-old girl. The count has lost his family; his possessions; and his social standing, and more importantly, he is about to watch as everything he loves about Russian life is going to be uprooted systematically by the new regime. "But he has two things going for him; his upbringing as a gentleman and ingrained optimism. "It is this — being a person of honour, that allows him to navigate the three decades in the hotel.” (Irish Examiner)
Unbeknown to me when I picked this book was its relevance to the situation we find ourselves in today – as we are almost in a kind of house arrest at the moment. I think the book puts a very glossy sheen on the harsh and difficult times experienced by many of the population of the USSR post revolution. The millions who starved in the Ukraine in the early thirties and the suffering of the Second World War glossed over in a few sentences. But it is a book of fantasy, and if we can accept that, it is a light and very enjoyable read. It is beautifully written with a satisfying if unexpected ending.
In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
This timely novel is set in the present London of tower blocks and social deprivation, and is told by five interlinked voices – three of young men from immigrant backgrounds and two of their older relatives. Lots of contemporary issues are raised – radicalisation, political violence, social exclusion, etc. But despite the seriousness of the subject matter, this is a very compelling read – we see a world which we are aware of - which many of us live alongside - from the inside, through the words of these young men. And although their youth culture and some of their vocabulary might be alien to us, there is an energy to their language which carries the reader along. The stories of the two older relatives are poignant accounts of earlier immigrant struggles. Underlying the whole is a plot which comes to an exciting and tragic conclusion. So this is not a particularly easy read, but provoked a very sympathetic and thoughtful response from our Group.
Girl, Woman Other, Bernadine Evaristo
Bernadine Evaristo is a Anglo-Nigerian award winning author of 7 books and verse fiction that explore aspects of African life past, present, real and fiction. Girl, Woman, was joint winner of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 2019. Bernadine Evaristo is Professor of Creative writing at Brunnel University and Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. She was made an MBE in 2009.
Initially I wondered about the fact that there was little punctuation and no full stops but this didn’t matter once I got reading. The author said in an interview that she wanted the prose to be free flowing.
It is a book about racism and sexism. The book is divided into 4 chapters with three characters in each section. The 12 women have connections to others in the story. It is a story of pain, joy and friendship from a wide range of backgrounds and heritage. I did wonder about the symbols at the beginning of each chapter. Apparently, it is a West African Adinkra drawing symbolising a salient quality of that section’s protagonist.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen
Opinions about this book were mixed and varied.
General consensus was that the murder mystery element kept one's interest but that some of the story lines were unbelievable, such as a lone child living and surviving in the swamps and marshlands of Carolina, from the age of 6,after being deserted by her parents and siblings. We wondered why the locals kept away and ignored her.
The book is well written, with the author using her knowledge of the natural world of the area to weave the flora and fauna into the story. The author now lives on a remote ranch 25miles from the Canadian border and is a bit of a recluse herself.
We could not really understand why the book has been so successful both in the USA, over 52 weeks in the bestseller list, and 23 weeks in the Top 10 paperback charts here.
We thought the book was very cinematic and the film rights were snapped up straight away. It is an easy read and in spite of our criticisms worth a read. A bit of escapism in these Covid times.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Most people enjoyed this book more than they thought they would, knowing that Plath based it on her own life experiences and decline into depression. We found it an easy read, not a classic but 'of it's time' in the way it is written. Published eleven months after Plath's suicide, it has added power. It is a book that could be discussed on many levels. E.g. Why it was banned in the USA?
Esther's experiences as a 19/ 20 year old resonate soundly today. Mental health issues abound. When you first meet Esther she is successful, academically bright, has a supportive parent and outstanding career prospects, In fact everything going for her. However she is fragile, questions her worth, feels she is a fraud. It is a book that is easy to relate to and questions, if 50+ years on do we have a better understanding of mental health issues and how to treat them. I felt the analogy of the 'Bell Jar' descending was apt.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
This book examine the 24 yr marriage of Lotto and Mathilde.
The novel start with their quickie marriage and then moves around in a quite disjointed timeline to chronicle their lives from childhood to their meeting in college shortly before they graduate, through to Mathilde life as a widow.
The majority of events circle around the two working as a pair to cultivate Lottos career as a Broadway playwright, having failed to establish the glittering acting career he was destined for.
Th first section of the book) is primarily about Lotto, golden boy from a wealthy family bright , much loved and seemed destined for a great future until the sudden death of his much-loved father, etc. pretty mundane dialogue at times, However, having persevered, the 2nd section as told from Mathilde perspective, is much more interesting, from a complex and troubled early childhood in France to moving to America as a young girl to live with an uncle who had his own issues.
It is only then that we begin to understand some of her actions.
Not an easy read but surprisingly good enough for a lively and informative discussion, as the title implies ...it had all the hallmark of a Greek tragedy: Love.Lust. Jealousy. Revenge. ? Murder, Controlling behaviour and leaves us to ponder how well do you ever know another person
Would we recommend? Answers varied from, mmm to maybe to yes
10 minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak
At the beginning of this book Leila, the main character, is dead. She has been murdered and dumped in a dustbin. Set in Istanbul, 10 minutes and 38 seconds refers to how long a body takes to shut down after death. The first half of the book each minute and second is a memory of family events, evocative descriptions of food and smells. Through this we learn of Leila's tragic life from birth to her death. During this time Leila makes five worthy friends all who, like Leila, live in the background of society as being unacceptable.
The second half of the book describes what the friends do after Leila's death. They come together to abduct her body from the Cemetery of the Companionless ostensibly to bury her in a more suitable spot. It was felt that this half of the book though lighter in humour, was somewhat farcical and a bit disappointing.
Generally this was felt a worthy read and led to an interesting discussion about the rights of women and human rights in Turkey. The question was asked if things have changed since the book was written. Sadly we felt things were getting worse.