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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


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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

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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!

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Mark Harvey (@Mwharvey)
Amelia Earhart Social Worker oh and pioneer, role model, world renowned pilot & explorer. #foundationsofSW #IWD2017 pic.twitter.com/heCED7BIDY

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Thanks Candida for a lovely meeting on Friday to discuss Silas Marner

we really enjoyed the book and found a lot to like in Silas’ story, but also the interlinked stories of Godfrey and Dunsey, and the appearance of Eppie in Silas’ otherwise small and insular life.  The villagers were brilliantly described, particularly in The Rainbow when they talked of the same things night after night, and all knew what cues to give to hear the stories they were expecting.  The story also included some interesting social history, the relative wealth given the price of grain during the Napoleonic wars, and the beginning of industrialisation, as well as containing some themes which would have been shocking at the time such as Molly’s opium addiction. We were all happy that Dunsey got what was coming to him, and that Silas stood up for himself to Godfrey, and if the ending was a bit over happy and neat for some of us, perhaps that’s just our jaded 2016 view of the world.

As I’ve been a bit tardy on this I’ll also say that Fahrenheit 451 was another hit with us all, a breathless immediate story with some amazingly accurate depictions of a future world, the rise of reality TV, ear shells and over size advertising and screens, all foreseen from 60 years ago!  The human elements were also really well done, with Montags wife’s depression due to the emptiness of her life feeling very real.  A shame that Clarisse disappeared from the story so soon, and later adaptations such as the film in fact bring her back at the end .  But absolutely fascinating and a really compelling and interesting story.

Details for next time:

Friday 14 October — The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

Friday 11 November — New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani


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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


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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.

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