A Readers Group is a special kind of U3A group, though they also exist in some Universities. It is not a book group. Each group consists of people who have learned to read well, usually a long time ago, and who want to be even better readers. We think that the only way we can do that is to read carefully, perhaps more slowly than usual, and discuss the way the words affect us and our states of mind; it is important to read what are regarded as especially good examples of writing. Our aim is not to ‘read the classics’ (sometimes they were ruined for us because we had to take an exam) but to enjoy books for their own sakes while we improve our skill as readers. I have been practising reading for a long time and although I am now in my eighties there is plenty of room for improvement. The Readers Group has helped a lot.
As Readers we are people who read and are interested in the effects that books and in fact all words have on us. For example, how can we trust any statement of fact that we read or hear? Can we always judge whether it is true? And when we look at a book that has been in print for over two hundred years we can ask ourselves, What is it about this particular book that has kept it going for so long when millions of books have vanished from memory? We are hoping to find out more about these things as we read and study.
The Group always chooses its own book. Our only rules are that the book must be well known, and that we have at least heard of the author; preferably it should be a book we have read and ought to read again, or one that we know we ought to have read. That is how we came to choose Emma by Jane Austen after we had read The Rainbow by DH Lawrence.
What follows is a report of the discussions at the last Readers Group meeting on Thursday 26 September, when we had our opening discussion on Jane Austen’s Emma. There were only five of us present but we had an entertaining meeting, partly about the first sentence of the novel, partly about the book as a whole, but probably mainly about the sort of life the characters would lead in the early nineteenth century, and inevitably about their toilet habits, especially the use of commodes. Naturally also we spoke about people for whom ‘Jane’ can do no wrong and those who hate everything about her.
In future sessions we shall continue looking at the first chapter of Emma, partly to establish for all of us the background of place and family which Jane Austen has created, and partly to see if we can identify her point of view and her attitude towards her characters. We shall continue by looking at the first twelve chapters as a whole, from 24 October onwards. Individual members can choose a character or a place in that part of the story and open a discussion on it. I shall try to make some notes for myself and I am happy to share them.
The next meeting will be on Thursday 24 October at 2 pm at the White House, 8 Woodcock Lane, Stonehouse, GL10 2EE. Provisionally we have arranged further meetings for 14 and 28 November. If you would like to come along as a visitor – or two or more may like to come together – and see how we learn you will be most welcome. There is no obligation to join the Group. You must of course be a fully paid up member of Stroud U3A.
If you are interested in joining the group, or in visiting us for the sake of Jane Austen, or for the sake of reading, please contact John on 01453 824459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.