Thanks Gillian for hosting a mellow book club on Friday night.

Lots to say abut House of Sand and Fog which turned out to be an excellent, gripping page turner, completely different from previous reads.  The story was told from 3 different perspectives, each of whom was well developed as their characters and back stories were revealed slowly, making you sympathise with each of them in turn.  Kathy in particular was really well written and a totally believable woman written by a man.  Lester started off as mild and reasonably sympathetic, but was much more complex, and possibly the most screwed up of all of them (quite an achievement).  We loved the build up to the final, dramatic scenes, and the slow disintegration of each of the protagonists, who had their own reasons for acting as they did.  The ending was a little ambiguous as Kathy seemed to be settling into a long stretch in prison, against the advice of her lawyer who thought she could get off, but maybe she felt safe and rooted inside, as she hadn’t for a long time.  Overall excellent read, highly recommended to those of you who didn’t get round to it.  There is also a film of the book, starring Ben Kingsley as Colonel Behrani, which was nominated for 3 Oscars.  I also saw that Andre Dubus III wrote the story on which the film In the Bedroom (with even more Oscar nominations) was based.

For next month Ruth has chosen The Circle by Dave Eggers.

Then for November Sean has chosen Netherland by Joseph O’Neill.  November’s meeting will be a week later than normal on Friday 21st November — note change of date!!

And Steve will be choosing next for the December meeting.

Thanks Emma for a fabulous BBQ book club last week, excellent food and company, and nice to see some old faces too.

We’d all really enjoyed The Rainbow – written 100 years ago, some of the scenes may not be so shocking today but certainly would have been at the time.  The female characters were more interesting and probably better developed than the male characters, and he wrote very well from a female perspective.  The atmosphere and Midlands mining community setting were wonderfully described in very lush and rich language, and the social history of the period was brought to life vividly through the characters’ lives.  Overall excellent read, and I’m looking forward to the sequel, Women in Love, to see what happens next for Ursula and Gudrun.

Your reading for September has been chosen by Gillian:  House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III.

October’s book, chosen by Ruth, is:  The Circle by Dave Eggers, writer of previous book club choice, Zeitoun.

Sean is next to choose for November.

Thanks Candida for hosting our smallest ever book club last Friday – leading us to conclude we need some new members, as some of the old ones are a bit rubbish.  If you know anyone you think would be interested, then do invite them, otherwise we may put a notice on the board.

We’d found Nana quite tough going in places, and couldn’t quite work out whether the author was sympathetic or disapproving of Nana and her world. Some of the scenes described were very evocative of the time and place, including the horse race and the theatre scenes, and the Paris of late 19th century did come alive in all its glory/squalor. However the large cast of characters was a bit confusing, with not much to differentiate one gold digger/aristocratic dissolute gentleman from another, and it was hard to like Nana, who was such a big part of the book, making it not a totally enjoyable read.

Next month our reading takes us to Nottingham (Ruth – are you in a show there?!) with The Rainbow by DH Lawrence. Emma will be hosting a BBQ Book club on Friday 15th August – please note this is a week later than normal!  We may also start a bit earlier to allow time for sausage eating before the book discussion.

September reading has been chosen by Gillian:  House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III.

Hoping for a better turn out next month!

Thanks for coming round on Friday for what was possibly Sian’s final book club – we’ll miss you!

Praying Mantis was a harsh but atmospheric account of one man’s life in 18th Century South Africa, full of folklore elements, including the praying mantis of the title.  The second section of the book, narrated by the missionary Brother Read, was probably the least successful as his prose was more formal and less vibrant than the parts of the story told in Cupido’s voice.  The first section, and devastating final section, felt much more alive and descriptive of the life in South Africa at the time, and the behaviour of the European settlers and missionaries.  Interesting to read at the end how the author had manipulated the truth to make a better story, but really fascinating that it was based on real people and accounts of the time, I had thought it was all fiction.  Also interesting to read about a part of history most of us were very unfamiliar with.

Next time your reading has been chosen by Candida:  Nana by Emile Zola.  We meet at Candida’s on Friday 11th July.

And following that, Emma has gone for another classic for August:  The Rainbow by DH Lawrence.  This will be a BBQ book club (weather permitting), and will be a week later than normal on Friday 15th August – please note change of date!

Finally, Ruth is out in Aix-en-Provence at the moment starring in The Magic Flute and some of us thought we might go and see her, around 17th/18th July for a week or so.  If you think you might be interested let us know ASAP so we can get it booked.

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


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