Thanks all for making the long trek around the corner last Friday, it was lovely to see you for the first book club in the new flat.

As a Man Grows Older received a mixed response – the internal viewpoint gave a very narrow picture of the world – the whole book was concerned with Emilio and his relationship with Angiolina, with no external or environmental aspect at all.  Whilst it was claustrophobic and annoying to be inside his head in this way (as he was generally an idiot), it also felt true in his indecision over the relationship, resolving to tell Ange he never wanted to see her again, but unable to articulate that when he actually saw her.  Was he an unreliable narrator and painting Ange in a bad light, or was she in fact a little minx who knew exactly what she was doing?  Some stylistic resemblance to Henry James did make the first half of the book go around in circles – but it definitely picked up when it moved on to his sister’s story and her sad end.  Parts of it were a bit of a struggle, but definitely some interest, subject matter which might have been shocking in the 1890s, and an interior perspective which influenced his mate James Joyce and others made it worth reading.

Following the initial failure of this novel Svevo gave up writing for about 20 years, only going back to it when encouraged by Joyce, and the book which followed that break is regarded as his best novel: Confessions of Zeno.

Next months details:

Sunday 22 April – Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead.  PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF DATE!

Friday 11 May – The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan


Thanks Gillian for hosting another excellent anniversary meeting, and thanks so much again everyone for the cake!  Most delicious and a lovely celebration.  Busy night of activity so let’s crack on…..

First up, the book, The Bridge of San Luis Rey was a great choice which most of us had really enjoyed.  A monk sees a bridge collapse and several people fall to their death.  As he is anyway questioning and testing his faith, he researches their backgrounds to see if he can understand why this happened to them and why they in particular were chosen.  The book is his story of the people, who they are and what they’ve done.  Its told all the way through in lovely language but with a spareness about it which puts a lot of long books to shame – this is how to tell a great story in a short book.  Fantastically vivid characters, all interlinked, ending with no conclusions but a sort of closure.  Brother Juniper himself didn’t come to a happy end either, but overall I think it finds a peaceful ending.  Top choice Gillian.

Next up was the raffle and congrats to Candida, winner of the book token this year, WHEN IS IT MY TURN, so pleased you’ve won.  Let us know what you buy!

Next it was the hotly anticipated quiz, and John proved himself to be king of anagrams, just beating everyone else with 9 correct.  I thought this would be an easy quiz and worried about most people getting them all right!  But it turned out to be fiendishly difficult.  Anyway, hope you enjoyed your prize John!  Although the glory of being champion is surely more than enough.

Review of the year was as usual hotly debated with tactical voting / non-readers all adding to the fun.  Overall winner was 1984, with The Bridge of San Luis Rey and The Golden Notebook in joint second.  In 12th place was I was Amelia Earhart, disappointing book about an incredible woman, and My Animals and Other Family came 11th, it was just a bit slight.

Finally just time to look at next month’s books before we all headed home:

Friday 9th March — As a Man Grows Older by Italo Svevo

Friday 13th April — Village of Secrets by Caroline Moorehead

Thanks Ruth for fabulous hosting on 15th, and also thanks for excellent book choice!  1984 was dark but had some scarily believable elements in this world of fake news and history revision.  We felt sorry for and frustrated by Winston who seemed to accept his fate in the end, and wondered if Julia had known more than she was letting on?  Although futuristic, the book also felt like a product of its time, written just after WWII with echoes of the German state and its network of informers, and reflecting the everyday hardships and poverty affecting most ordinary people.  This also contrasted with the wealth and comfort enjoyed by O’Brien and the ‘establishment’.  Room 101 was indeed pretty scary, although some of the worst elements were only hinted at rather than spelled out, perhaps making it even more chilling?  Overall great choice, and looking forward to seeing it on stage next year!

Next months:

Sunday 12th November – please note change of date!!

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes


Friday 8th December

The Bell by Iris Murdoch


See you all there!

Thanks Emma for hosting a cosy August book club!

We had mixed feelings about Agnes Grey — whilst it told of the lot of women of the time very well, it was a bit slow to get going, and didn’t really come alive until Agnes went to work for the Murrays, the second family she governesses for.  At that house the children seemed to be rounded people in themselves, and a bit more real, with all of their flaws (and some redeeming features).  Interesting comments on the times as none of the women had many choices, even the wealthy ones.  Rosalie was pushed, in fact encouraged, into a miserable marriage by her mother, who knew full well what it would be like, and Matilda struggled to find her place, as she liked dogs and hunting rather than needlework and dresses.  And Agnes was just miserable as she thought her students weren’t very nice and wasn’t near her own family.  Over sweet happy ending for me, but I guess it had to be!  Interesting social commentary, and worth sticking with, but I would recommend Anne’s other book The Tenant of Wildfell Hall as a better read.

Details for next month:

Thursday 7th September — please note change of date!!

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Friday 13th October

1984 by George Orwell

I will also attempt to find a date for those of us interested in the stage version of Slaves of Solitude at Hampstead Theatre, if anyone else wants to come let me know and I’ll include you.

see you all on 7th — potentially the last book club at number 130 so hope you can make it!

Thanks Gillian for hosting book club last Friday, and welcome Chris!  It was lovely to meet you and hope to see you at book club again soon.

We really enjoyed The Golden Age, set in a rehabilitation home for children with polio in 1950s Australia, telling of the initial meeting of two patients, Frank and Elsa.  This was the starting place for lots of other stories, including of Frank’s family, Jewish Hungarian refugees, dealing with a new country and some pretty terrible times during the war.  Also Elsa’s typical Australian life and family (Nance! and mean sister Sally), and the nurses and the care they showed for their patients, but in particular Nurse Penny, and the way she had chosen to make a life for herself.

The book was really well written, and got across the atmosphere and sense of place brilliantly, as well as a real portrait of many of the characters, including their ‘onset stories’ which they all told of how the disease first affected them.  A lot of real stand out moments including Frank’s encounters with the poet Sullivan which shaped his life, the images of people inside iron lungs, and the nearby netting factory always present and operating in the background day and night.  The only point which jarred with us was the final chapter, and in particular, the description of Frank looking after a friend’s child.  This seemed a strange passage to include, but as Joan didn’t waste words it was obviously there on purpose.  Was it just showing Frank could have shared his life with someone?  That he empathised with a child being on their own?  Or something a bit more sinister?  It was left ambiguous, but perhaps its ok for a good read to leave us with some questions.

Joan fans might also like her previous novel Gilgamesh, set during WWII in Australia and Armenia.

Next months reading:

Friday 11th August — Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Thursday 7th September (CHANGE OF DATE!) – Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

Plus a theatre alert:  The Slaves of Solitude is on at Hampstead Theatre in October/November – any takers?

Thanks Candida for hosting a small and perfectly formed book club in June.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running was a memoir by Haruki Murakami musing on his hobby / obsession of marathon running.  It was a light read, with lots of detail about his training regime and how his worlds of running and fiction writing sat together.  Not being interested in him or running I didn’t find a lot to like, and he came across as obsessive, quite boring, and blatantly idiotic in some places, eg running a marathon to Marathon in Greece in summer heat, and taking part in an extreme ultra marathon, where it seemed like he was about to collapse. Not much of a hit I’m afraid!  We hope for better next month:

Book:  The Golden Age by Joan London

Date:  Friday 14th July

Time:  8:30pm

Venue:  Gillian’s flat

Emma’s choice for August:  Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Thanks Alice for hosting a fine book club last Friday, lovely to see you back !

We had found Amelia Earhart a bit of a disappointment and a missed opportunity — she seems to be such a fascinating character that the sentimental romantic story she ended up in with Noonan, and the overblown language (‘the sky is flesh’ ??) didn’t do justice to her life story which had potential to be turned into so much more.  Some good bits including the flying scenes inside the aircraft, and a brief acknowledgement of her actual achievements sadly didn’t make the book into the classic it could have been.  The theories around her actual disappearance are interesting, including that they did land on a deserted island, and sent radio messages which were dismissed as a hoax, they ditched into the sea or were captured by the Japanese!  Either way, the reality seems to be better than the fiction.

Reading for next time:

Friday 12 May — Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene

Friday 9 June – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Choosing next for July meeting :  Emma

May meeting is Rachel’s farewell to Gibson Gardens and will be at Ruth’s flat (76).  Sorry I won’t be able to make it as am off on holiday, but hope you have a great book club!