Thanks Sean for hosting last Friday, hope we didn’t wake Molly up on the way out.

Youth received mixed reviews, not loved, but not hated. He had some interesting comments on the feelings of being an immigrant to England in the 1960s, possibly still relevant today, and we also enjoyed being introduced to a number of different poets through his musings on writing. But he was quite an annoying character and pretty unpleasant towards all the women he met so not a great deal of sympathy for his loneliness. Towards the end he did seem to become a bit more of a human being, even possibly caring about another person apart from himself, but our overall verdict was that it wasn’t one of our best reads.

Next month I’ve chosen Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara for the meeting on 11th April.

Then Steve’s first choice is The Goldfinch by the excellent Donna Tartt, for the meeting on 9th May.

And Sian is choosing next for the June meeting.

Thanks Ruth for hosting a lovely and very busy anniversary meeting on Friday.

Review of the book first: we had all enjoyed The Hare with Amber Eyes, a really fascinating slice of 19th/20th century history told through the collection of netsuke, and Edmund’s family, the Ephrussi banking dynasty.

The first section was probably enjoyed least as it told the story of Charles, art collector and man about town in Paris. A lot of detail about the art and objects he collected which, whilst less interesting than the following section of the book, set the scene well. The book was at its best in the second part in Vienna, as it headed towards the dark days of the late 1930s and the inevitable outcome for the Jewish Ephrussis. Very moving, and with lots of interesting information about what happened in Vienna in those times, this section was gripping and very emotional. The ending was probably a little less successful, but Edmund himself says that he needed to stop his research and writing, so perhaps didn’t find the best way to end the book. But overall what a wonderful story, told in a simple style and fresh voice, and full of wonderful, real people like Elisabeth and Iggy. If you didn’t get round to reading it, highly recommended! And thanks to Ruth for photos of the Palais Ephrussi in Vienna.

Lots of other business to get on with, firstly congratulations to Candida, raffle winner, and recipient of a £12 book token.

Review of the year was interesting to see that this year we had not read a lot of fiction — poetry, short stories and non-fiction all featuring. Best book of the year was the very deserving The Hare with Amber Eyes, with A Severed Head and The Slaves of Solitude in joint second place. At the other end, the wooden spoon winner was Paying for it, with Underground, Overground in (a slightly harsh) 11th place.

Finally the all new picture quiz — Gillian retains her title as GGBC quiz champion with a worthy win, enjoy your prize. Anyone who wants to have a go, the quiz and answers are here.

And reading for next time was revealed, I have swapped with Sian as she is away in Namibia for the next few months, look forward to hearing all about it on your return!

March 14th – Youth by JM Coetzee, chosen by Sean.

April 11th – Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara, chosen by me.

Choosing next — Steve – your first choice….

Couple of recent programmes you might be interested in featuring previous book club authors ……

Seamus Heaney

Khaled Hosseini

Thanks Kathleen for hosting book club last night.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek divided us down the middle, half liked it and half didn’t. She had some interesting things to say (although mostly taken from other people’s writing) on the life cycles and habits of animals and plants, and spoke about the violence and brutality as well as the beauty of nature, but some of us couldn’t get on with her very individual writing style, or the increasingly spiritual undercurrents. Not one for lovers of character or plot, but if you’re interested in nature then you might enjoy it.

Next month we have more non-fiction with The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. We meet on Friday 21st February please note change of date!

For March, Sean has chosen Youth by JM Coetzee.

As next month is our anniversary we will be having the usual excitement of the book token raffle, review of the year in reading and an all new quiz.

I also attach a link to Green Metropolis, a second hand book site mentioned last night which some of you might be interested in.

Thanks John for hosting book club and shared Christmas dinner last Friday, nice to see nearly a full house.

The book generated a lot of discussion about the subject matter, he didn’t come across particularly well and was in fact pretty horrible at points (although honest about some things), but I think Sian summed it up best – ultimately its very sad that he thinks everything is a commodity. The appendices, whilst hard to read, added a further insight into his mind, as he attempted to justify what he does and push his own views, whilst glossing over a lot of the worst issues. Lots to discuss, and a neat segue into the next book on how we value (or not) things which may not have a monetary value placed on them, such as nature.

Coincidentally, today I saw this news story about prostitution laws in Canada, for the latest on whether Chester got his way on decriminalisation.

Christmas reading, chosen by Kathleen, is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. We meet on Friday 17th January at Kathleen’s flat.

For February, Ruth has chosen The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, for the meeting on Friday 21st February.

Please note two changes of date! We meet on the 3rd Friday and not the second in both January and February.

Next to choose for March book club is Sean.

Unfortunately I can’t make the Christmas lunch on Sunday but hope those of you who are going have a wonderfully festive time.

Happy Christmas!

Thanks Gillian for hosting book club / Florence reunion on Friday night.

Seamus’ poems generally had a positive reaction, although some of them were quite challenging, and, as Gillian admitted, perhaps not his most accessible collection. But his use of language was great, and the physicality of his poems had a real impact, and there were many lines and entire poems which stuck in the memory. Probably a collection that repays several reads over a long period of time.

Particular favourites were:: Mycenae Lookout (reminding us of The Songs of the Kings), A Call, The Thimble, The Flight Path, Weighing In, Keeping Going and Two lorries.

Controversial book for December, chosen by John, is Paying for It by Chester Brown. We meet on Friday 13th December at John’s flat.

And there’s a complete contrast for January with Kathleen’s choice: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.

We also discussed the GGBC Christmas do and decided that Sunday lunch on 22nd December would be the perfect way to celebrate, so save the date.

Thanks Emma for hosting a lovely book club.

The Beautiful and Damned was a fascinating portrait of a couple living to excess and slowly disintegrating as their lifestyles catch up with them — a cautionary tale about the evils of alcohol and under-employment. Fitzgerald’s language was extremely rich throughout (sometimes perhaps a bit too much?) but the story was totally compelling, and the ending a surprise. Did Anthony really kill Dot? I’m not so sure, as on the boat, even though he is in a wheelchair, he still seems capable of thinking back over his life, and hasn’t had a total breakdown.

The ending was also very sad as Anthony and Gloria travel to Italy following their inheritance, presumably to continue their dissolute lifestyle and drink themselves into early graves. Overall, wonderfully evocative of its time and place, and a great choice!

Next month we are back to poetry with our homage to Seamus Heaney — The Spirit Level.

For December we have a graphic novel — Paying for it by Chester Brown.

And Kathleen is choosing next for the January book club.


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