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Thanks Candida for hosting a fine anniversary meeting on Friday 13th, lots to pack in so straight on with business…..

Kicking off with the book, we had all enjoyed A Study in Scarlet and the introduction to Sherlock Holmes, as seen through Watson’s eyes, showing how the two met and his first impressions of the famous detective.  Holmes’ techniques were very clever, and it was interesting to read how he came to his conclusions about people and cases through his different observations and way of looking at the world.  Some of the techniques used, whilst commonplace nowadays, would have been novel in their day.  The second part of the book was at first confusing, switching the action quickly to Utah, but was interesting in its depictions of Mormons (evil villains) and to explain the conclusion, and how Jefferson Hope came to kill Drebber and Stangerson.  It was also an interesting and experimental technique to use for a first novel.  The language was a bit over excitable at points with lots of exclaiming and cries, but overall a thrilling and very entertaining read, which enticed us to read more of Sherlock’s adventures.

Those of you interested in the man himself may like the TV adaptation of another book club read Arthur and George, coming soon to ITV, and starring Candida’s mum!

There is also a Sherlock Holmes exhibition on at the Museum of London until April, if anyone is interested in a school trip at some point, let me know.

Next was the all exciting raffle draw, this year won by Geoff — congratulations on your £14 book token win.

And new for 2015, another quiz. I have to congratulate Gillian on her hat trick victory (can anyone else ever win…..?) and scoring a very impressive 9/10.  Clues and answers will be up on the blog soon for anyone who wants to see if they can match that.

Finally, review of the year, it was noted that generally the standard this year had been pretty high, with some good reads, and no standout duds.  A close vote in the first round ended in a 4-way tie for best read, between The Goldfinch, House of Sand and Fog, The Boys from Brazil and A Study in Scarlet.  A second round of votes narrowed this down to The Goldfinch and A Study in Scarlet as joint winners.  At the other end, Nana won the wooden spoon, with Youth in 11th place.

And not forgetting your books for next time:

13th March – Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

10th April – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig

Choosing next for May’s book club:  Gillian

Thanks all for coming round on Friday, nice to see members old and new at book club!

The Boys from Brazil was a page turning thriller with a scarily believable storyline about ageing Nazis and their new plan for world domination, and an equally ageing Nazi hunter determined to stop them.  The story had lots of twists and turns as you weren’t sure why certain men were being singled out for assassination, or what the outcome would be, and whilst the conclusion was mostly satisfying, there was also a small chilling element of ambiguity at the end.

Minor flaws included a bit of difficulty getting into the book, as the writing style took a bit of getting used to, and it was also unclear what was happening initially and even where they all were (a Japanese restaurant in Brazil, obviously…), however the action soon got moving and from then on it was difficult to put down.

Good choice me!  There is a film starring Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier which might be worth a watch.  I can also highly recommend A Kiss before Dying for anyone who would like more Ira Levin.

Candida has chosen next month’s reading: A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.  Meeting on Friday 13th February.  This will be our exciting anniversary meeting with a review of our year’s reading, vote on the best and worst books of the year and the book token raffle – please bring £2!  I may also try another quiz.

For March’s meeting, Emma’s choice is Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.

And Geoff will be choosing for April.

Thanks Steve for hosting a most lovely book club on Friday, and special mention to Steve and Gillian for finishing the epic book for this month.

The Idiot, despite its length, was highly enjoyable, full of interesting characters and set pieces.  The Prince himself was mostly sympathetic, and apparently partly based on the author himself, who was also epileptic.  His journey through life with his trusting, innocent manner contrasted well with many of the other characters who were calculating, manipulative and much more worldly wise than the poor prince.  Best moments included the party game, where everyone had to reveal the worst thing they’d ever done, leading to some crafty interpretations of the game by the older and wiser members of the party, and Ippolit’s frightening and strange dream (maybe drug induced due to his illness?).

Major downsides were the length (as Sean pointed out, it may well have been severely edited had it been published today) and also the confusing Russian names, where the same person could be called several different names within the course of a page — a list of characters was very helpful.

Overall, a lot in it felt very contemporary, despite being published 150 years ago, we thought it could be made into a film set now — the psychological insights, how the characters behaved towards one another, Russian oligarchs, cult of celebrity — would all be very relevant today.

Details for next time:

Book:  The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin

Date:  Friday 9th January 2015

Then for February, Candida has chosen:  A Study in Scarlet by her great uncle Arthur.

Choosing next for March reading:  Emma.

November book club – thanks Sean!

Well, four brave pilgrims made the trek over the rail lines to the open Northwold wetlands (Alison sent her comments from Venice) and were kind enough to leave me with most of the cake which made it easier to cope with the miserable and damp weekend we experienced – word to the wise: lemon cheesecake goes well with lemsip!

Netherland was well received by all although with reservations, some relating to the dampness of Hans’ personality, others were deeply affected by the uncaring character of his wife (apparently a trait not necessarily shared by others with the same name!) and wanted him to tell her to go f#ck herself – those same souls found the ending to be incredibly sad because Hans (the drip!) got back with his missus.

A particularly juvenile reader of the book was fixated on how poor the bit about the twin towers and posh pencils on the final page was and that it ruined the ending for him.

The quality of the descriptive writing was unanimously praised. However, most had reservations about the credibility of Chuck, although all enjoyed the stuff he dished up.

The author managed to make the cricket bits quite interesting to non cricket fans and appeared to use cricket as a stabilising backdrop to a story about an uncertainly world pervaded by melancholy.

The line of the book most commented on: ‘Everyone disappoints in the end’ or words to that effect.

That’s it for November rain!

Next up we have Steve’s choice: The Idiot by Dostoevsky, and the meeting date will be on 12 December.

For January, Alison has chosen The Boys from Brazil by Ira Levin.

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!

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