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

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.

Thanks Ruth for hosting a fine January book club.

Sweet Caress had positives and negatives — the voice of Amory was very immediate and distinctive, drawing you straight into her world and life as a photographer.  The incident with her father, which shaped her life, was very well done and really did set the scene for the rest of her life.  However the predominance of Amory’s voice was less good if you didn’t like Amory much or care what happened to her.  Another section which seemed badly done was her trip to Vietnam, which stood out as very unbelievable, in a book which otherwise rang pretty true.  Debate as to whether the inclusion of photos added to the book or not, on the whole we weren’t too fussed about them.  All agreed he is a very good writer and there was lots to like.  Other William Boyd recommendations for fans are: Brazzaville Beach about primate research, and An Ice Cream War, set in East Africa at the end of WW1.

Details for next time:

Friday 10 Feb — Ubik by Philip K Dick

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

February is the anniversary so don’t forget £2 for the raffle!  And there will be other anniversary activity including review of the year, 2017 quiz, and a musical interlude.

looking forward to it!

Thanks for coming round on the 9th for a cosy evening of chat and books.

Altai started off well – with spies running around Dubrovnik and Constantinople, a fire in the Venetian Arsenale, and a baddie with a hidden heart of gold.  Sounds good so far?  And it was, a lot of plot, short chapters, made it quite a breathless page turner.  A story of the persecution of Jews in various parts of Europe, and a powerful family who wanted to create a Jewish homeland, intertwined with the personal story of Manuel Cardoso, alias Emanuel de Zante, converted Jew and spy.  However the last third or so of the book, which told of an alliance with the Ottoman empire to attack and capture Cyprus from their Venetian rivals, degenerated into an orgy of violence and nastiness.  Whilst it was probably quite accurate about the absolute horror of a bloody and long battle, it made for disturbing and difficult reading.  Emma thought it was a male book, but I’m not sure our peace loving men of book club would have liked it either.  Some interesting parallels with the Israel/Palestine conflict today, the book was based on real events, and perhaps a warning from history.

Details for next months:

Friday 13th January — Sweet Caress by William Boyd

Friday 10th February — Ubik by Philip K Dick

February is also the anniversary meeting, we are 14, sulky teenager phase.  I am planning the quiz for this year – as a teaser, I’ll just say it will have similarities to last year, so everyone should be able to get at least a few right, but it won’t be easy to get them all!  No more clues for now, but get swotting, only about 6 weeks before everyone tries to beat reigning champ Emma.  We will also have another raffle – don’t forget to bring £2 – and a review of our year of reading.

Last thing, there is an upcoming production of The Heart of a Dog, which we read a couple of years ago.  Its on at the Arcola in February , I suggest going on Thursday 9th February.  If anyone is interested I’m happy to book tickets, they’re a bargain £10, so let me know.

Thanks Gillian for well organised hosting on the 11th!

Most of us had really enjoyed New Finnish Grammar, the story of a man found injured and with amnesia in Italy during WWII, and his attempt to rebuild his life and rediscover his language in Finland.  The book was beautifully and poetically written, and Sampo’s isolation and struggle with his identity was wonderfully described, with the theme of language running through every page.  His meeting with the parents of the dead sailor was very moving, and a reminder that there would have been thousands if not millions of people in the same situation across the whole of Europe.  Whilst the beginning of the book gave away that this would not be a straightforward narrative, the ending still came as a devastating shock.  I liked the doctor’s interruptions of the story and technique of ‘cleaning up’ the narrative, but this wasn’t enjoyed by everyone and some saw it as a forced way into the story.  Overall though, excellent choice Gillian and a big hit.

Details for next months:

Friday 9th December — Altai by Wu Ming

Friday 13th January 2017 — Sweet Caress by William Boyd

See you at Christmas lunch!

Thanks Emma for a cosy meeting on 14th.

Things were not looking good for Wings of the Dove when Emma’s first words were an apology for burdening us all with it….. the story itself was quite interesting and showed the societal restrictions of the time, and the schemes and tricks some people used to try desperately to get what they wanted.  It was also very sad, with Milly’s illness killing her at a young age (something which may have been treatable now?).  However the language and techniques used in the story did make it quite impenetrable, and at times very hard to work out what was going on.  I empathised very much with Merton when he completely failed to understand what Kate was trying to say, and she had to tell him bluntly to get Milly to fall in love with him and marry him.  The Venice sections were a bit more entertaining, or maybe we had got more used to the style at that point, and the ending was nicely ambiguous — did Kate take the money or Merton?  But overall its probably best described as one of this year’s more challenging reads.

Details for next months:

Friday 11 November —   New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani

Friday 9 December —  Altai by Wu Ming

Finally, in keeping with the usual book club tradition of books on stage, I really want to see a stage version of Beware of Pity at the Barbican.  It’s in February 2017 which seems ridiculously organised to book tickets now, but there are only a few dates so I think it will get booked up quickly.  Thursday 9th or Saturday 11th Feb anyone??



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