Archive for the ‘Meetings’ Category

Thanks Ruth for hosting on 22nd, and a lovely evening of book chat.

Village of Secrets turned out to be mistitled, being about a whole area and several towns, villages and settlements on a plateau high in the mountains, but I suppose that doesn’t work well as a title….

First off, the story itself, set in France and about Jewish families during WWII is of course devastating and horrific in parts, and that can never change no matter how many times you read something about it.

This book told the true story of the plateau where a number of Jewish children were kept and hidden with other families, particularly Darbyist and Ravenist families, strict sects linked to the Plymouth Brethren.  There was quite a community of these in the area and this was one of the more interesting parts of the book, as the religions were new to us.  To begin with, the story follows a few individual children as they head for the plateau and safety, and their individual stories are interesting, moving and involving.  Before too long though, hundreds of  other people are introduced to the story, making it very hard to remember who is who or get any sort of understanding of who they are, although there are amazing individual acts of bravery and heroism described.  Some of us found her writing style quite awkward and hard to read, with odd sentence structures, and we were surprised the book was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize.  However the author has written a lot of books on various aspects of WWII, so she is obviously a respected historian/author, and there are plenty more titles to check out if you liked this.

Next month’s details:

Friday 11 May – The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

Friday 8 June – The Evenings by Gerard Reve

And Candida is next to choose for July book club.

Finally, you might be interested in listening to a few of our book club reads which have been dramatised and are currently available on iPlayer:

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

The Idiot

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


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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!

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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?

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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

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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!

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Thanks Steve for excellent hosting (crisps in a bowl!) and a great book club last Friday.

We enjoyed Julia’s stories of episodes from her life, introduced using the animals and pets she had over the years.  It was a good technique to give you a glimpse into her difficult childhood and family life but without directly telling the story as misery-lit.  Most of us found it a light touch way to show her relationships with her parents and their chaotic sounding lives, although the shortness of the book, whilst appreciated, did mean a lot was missed out.  Steve tells us that following this, JB wrote a full memoir of her life with her parents, The Three of Us,  so this was perhaps her introduction and way into writing more about her family.

This book shouldn’t be confused with Claire Balding’s memoir with the same title.  One nameless booker may have read and not enjoyed that by mistake…..

Details for next time:

Thursday 13 April – I was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

Friday 12 May – Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene

Choosing next – Candida

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Thanks all for coming round for a fab anniversary book club last week.  It’s a long post this month but we had a lot to get through…..

First up, the book of choice.  We’d all been left in the dark by Ubik and tried to work out between us exactly what had been going on.  It was a mishmash of lots of ideas and characters which arrived but didn’t go anywhere, and seemed like the product of a lot of drugs.  Some fun bits, including descriptions of the amazing outfits everyone would be wearing in 1992, and some of his predictions of technology, but overall it was confused and odd, and probably not Phil’s best.  Anyone who thinks he is worth trying again could go with Sian’s recommendation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? on which Bladerunner was based, or The Man in the High Castle, currently a TV series.

Next up, the raffle, which was won by Emma this year — congratulations and pleased to hear it’s been put to good use already on some poetry books.

Then on to the much anticipated quiz, and it was congratulations to Emma again, the reigning champion got an excellent 23/25 to make it 2 winning years in a row.  Highly commended to Ruth in second, Candida in third, and Steve and Sian for some good guesses.

Review of the year turned contentious with everyone allowed a vote, even those who hadn’t read any of the books… despite that I think the right books still came out on top, with the final results::  1. New Finnish Grammar, 2. Beware of Pity, 3. Fahrenheit 451.  Rotten tomato of the year to Wings of the Dove, closely followed by Ubik.

Just time for a reveal of the next book:

Friday 10 March — My Animals and Other Family by Julia Blackburn

Thursday 13 April — I was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

Please note change of date in April as it’s Easter weekend!

We then moved on to Brian’s hummus and innuendos which will be turned into a song for the March meeting 😁

Finally finally — Rachel will be choosing next for May book club.

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