Thanks Alice for fine hosting of your first book club on the 8th, it was a lovely evening!

A mixed response to Oliver Sacks telling of his life.  We all agreed the subject matter was really interesting and he had a good way of making complicated scientific subjects accessible, including the sleeping sickness work, which made his name.  His obvious love for his work was also evident, and his desire to help people, and give them a better quality of life.  However the style of the book could be disjointed and hard to follow, but maybe he just ran out of time to edit the book to his usual obsessive high standards as it was written as he had terminal cancer.  But overall what a fascinating man and life, and lots to discuss.

Up next:

Friday 12th August — Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Friday 9th September — Silas Marner by George Eliot

And Emma will be choosing the book for October.

Thanks all for coming round for a fine book club, and special thanks to those of you who had commuted a bit further than usual for book club – it was great to see you again and like you’d never left!

So Jesse’s choice turned out to be rather a hit with almost everyone (yes, I know!).  The short stories were an absurd satire on a whole range of subjects, including war, diversity and relationships.  Some worked better than others – the title story, The 400 pound CEO, and the story about downloadable memories were all particularly good.  There was a grotesque and painful truth in a lot of the writing, which was really well done and managed to make even the shortest of stories a satisfying read.  The last story was liked least, perhaps because of the unremitting pain and bleakness, but still a wonderful book with many many jokes.  One dissenting book clubber really disliked it and struggled to get very far – but the rest of us were big fans.  Nice one George.

Next time your reading has been chosen by Alice:  On the Move by Oliver Sacks, we meet again Friday 8th July.

Then August’s reading is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


It’s the Stoke Newington Literary festival this weekend:

I’m going to see Thomas Keneally on Saturday @4pm and David Mitchell on Sunday @6pm if anyone fancies joining me.

Thanks Steve for hosting a fine evening the other week.

We had a whole range of views on Sheila’s ponderings on how she should be – loved it, hated it, and everything in between.

Although some of the book could be a bit hard going reading about the self-obsessed youth of Toronto, Sheila’s self-reflection and desire to try and change herself ultimately proved successful as she left an unhappy marriage and got herself into but also out of a very controlling and destructive relationship.  Some of the writing could be moving, passages we particularly enjoyed were the letter from her mother in law following the breakdown of her marriage, and the section set in a Jewish shop in New York.  It was something completely different to any other recent reads, nice to have a contemporary change. I thought I would hate it but in fact did not, and definitely found some interest and literary merit in there.

Next times:

Friday 17th June – Civilwarland in bad decline by George Saunders

Friday 8th July – On the move by Oliver Sacks

And a reminder that Rachel is starring in Romeo and Juliet at Theatro Technis this week, or in Paris in June – let her or Ruth know if you want a ticket!

Thanks Ruth for hosting a lovely book club last Friday.

Impatience of the Heart or Beware of Pity was a fabulous read, on first glance it seemed like a dense and overly detailed account of an army officer in 19th century Austro-Hungary, probably not a topic any of us would have thought we would have enjoyed — but as soon as you started reading you were quickly drawn into this world and it turned into a totally compelling story.  Hofmillers thoughts and actions were described wonderfully, and his sense of honour and the theme of pity ran consistently through the whole story.  Edith was also a fabulous, if difficult character, given the totally limiting nature of her life, and Hofmillers burning shame when he realised her feelings for him was one of the stand out passages, in a book full of wonderful writing.  Once into the book it was very hard to put down, as the descriptions and writing were so rich and textured, and whilst the action described took place over quite a short period of time, it was emotionally exhausting to read.  Within the room we had 3 different translations, but our reactions to the book were very similar, and after reading the same passage from each, the translations didn’t seem too different — so perhaps the original text is so good, that it always translates well.  Totally recommended bookers — if you skipped this one you’ve missed out on what is already one of the books of the year, and that’s a challenge to you all to choose something better!

Next month we have a complete contrast from Steve: How should a person be? By Sheila Heti.  Meeting on Friday 13th May at Steve’s.

Then in June we have a change of date, we meet on the third Friday — 17th June — for a reunion book club with some Special Guests, who have chosen our next book: Civilwarland in bad decline by George Saunders.

see you all there!

Thanks all for coming round last Friday for a slightly chaotic book club, and welcome back to some members not spotted at book club for many a month.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle was a dark gothic comedy which sparked a lot of discussion and questions which were hotly debated.  Was Constance quite as innocent in the family’s deaths as we thought, or did she encourage or even conspire with Merricat?  Was Uncle Julian talking more sense than it seemed?  Was Constance really planning to marry Charles?  And had Merricat in fact died during the trial and come back as a ghost?  Lots of lovely writing, wonderful focus on food and the kitchen, and a fabulous description of the house and atmosphere.  Also, an interesting interlude with the ‘riot’ and mob on the night of the fire, and the villagers’ apologies in the aftermath.  Overall, really interesting, especially as the author had a very troubled life herself but could still write such an intriguing book.

Ruth also advertised the play she is in: Frozen at Theatro Technis in Camden, towards the end of April.  Please note this is not about Disney princesses.  Some of us are planning to go on Saturday 23rd so let us know if you want to come too.

Details for next time:

Friday 8th April — Impatience of the Heart or Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig (same book, different title)

Friday 13th May — How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

Thanks John for hosting an excellent 13th anniversary meeting.

Starting with the book, we had generally all enjoyed The Little Prince, the gentle delightful fable of a prince arriving in the desert from another planet and meeting a pilot whose plane had crashed.  The prince taught the pilot to appreciate small things and we liked his meetings with the fox, and talking about taking care of his rose, saying the time he spent taking care of it made it important.  Some debate on whether using the word tamed, in relation to others, was the right one or a translation anomaly, but as Steve said the book left you the space to use your own imagination and didn’t necessarily spell everything out.  We also enjoyed seeing the Arcola production of the show to coincide with our reading — the ending in particular, was very moving.  Apparently an animated film of the book will also be released later this year, book club is very much on trend.

On with other anniversary business and congratulations Rachel for wining the raffle — enjoy your £16 book token.

The quiz turned into a major upset as the Serena Williams of book club quizzes, Gillian, was beaten!  Yes it can be done!  Congratulations Emma for claiming the title of book club champion 2016 following an excellent performance in the tie break.  Although the prize may not be the biggest in world sport, the glory of holding that title is surely beyond price.  Emma is the one to beat next year everyone.

Moving onto review of the year, and Emma triumphed again with Ethan Frome crowned as book of the year, and Stoner in the runner up spot.  Gillian’s books didn’t fare quite so well, with The Twin and Instructions for a Heatwave at the bottom of the list.

Finally your details for next time.  Unfortunately Rachel’s dad is not well so she won’t be coming in March, so for now we are putting aside QB VII and Leon Uris and instead will be reading my choice for March:  We have always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson.  There’s only  couple of weeks, but it is very short, so I hope people can give it go before then.  We may return to Leon later in the year when Rachel is back.

For April reading Ruth has chosen:  Impatience of the heart by Stefan Zweig.  This is also published under the title Beware of Pity, but Ruth would like you to read the recent translation if you can.

And Steve will be choosing next time for our reading for May.


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