Monday, 11 January 2010

Bookclub Books and Dates Feb-July 2010

To update you on the bookclub and let you know about the books we have chosen for the next 6 months (yes we are getting organised)!

People seem to be picking and choosing which months they attend based on which books they feel like reading. We are getting about 7 each time (although not the same 7 people). It feels cosy to meet on a late Saturday afternoon at The Blue Moon. We all get our cups of tea or whatever and greet each other and then sit down, make our introductions and then begin to discuss the book. It usually goes on until 5:30.

Discussions have ranged from cultural tourism/imperialism, how do/should we separate authors from their semi-autobiographical characters, why does Jewish culture hold such an attraction for so many of us, how do we create ritual in our lives, can literally crucifying your mother in art be a tender image/apology or is it always inherently blasphemous?

Some attend regardless of whether they have read the book or not. This is also fine as our discussions are rarely of a specifically literary nature and touch on broader and more personal themes that the stories bring up. Everyone is invited to come along, to participate in whatever way they feel appropriate and make suggestions for books they would like to read with us. We hope you can join us one day. You are most welcome.

February 6
Sepharad by Antonio Munoz Molina and Margaret Sayers Peden (translator): Considered by some one of the best books in Spanish ever written: a lyrical and “tender and terrible” book. It is a book that weaves fiction and non-fiction together in a most beautiful way. I have just started reading this book and it has me nodding my head and going, "Ah hmm, yes, this is the kind of book you hope for with book groups. A thing of beauty but something I most probably would have never otherwise come across." It is another book about the Jewish diaspora but one that approaches Jewish identity in a very different way than My Name is Asher Lev.

March 6
A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler. Chronicler of “the foibles and frailties of the ordinary human heart” looks here at guardian angels and black sheep. She is sort of like a female Iain Banks in some ways I suppose. I love the tiny details of her writing: she sees and writes in the most wonderful fashion about the almost imperceptible moments that change relationships forever. She is a bit of a "kitchen sink" writer like Alice Munro and Carol Shields. Her subject matter are families and relationships and how people deal with growing up and becoming less than they thought they might be and then what happens when they also become sometimes more as well.

April 17
The Famished Road by Ben Okri. The 1991 Booker Prize winner and magic realist book about spirit child Azaro from Nigeria is not an easy read. It is very abstract and deals with difficult themes, but many promise it is worth reading for the last line alone (supposedly the best ever written, but don’t skip ahead as it supposedly needs to be understood in context). It also proposes that in a difficult world, "It is more difficult to love than to die". An interesting concept.

May 15
The Settler’s Cookbook by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. "Woven around the people, places and dishes that have shaped Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's life, it follows an emotional and culinary journey from childhood in pre-independence Uganda to London in the 21st century. Her own migration is intimately bound up with the fate of other East African Asians." It is a book told through recipes that also includes recipes. Methinks we might need to make some of these recipes for our next meeting....

June 19 Place and time to be decided
Midsummer's Eve Read:
Suggestion that we meet with food and drink and bring our favourite poems/books to read to each other on the longest night of the year. To discuss and share what these words have meant to us then and now and perhaps choose some books for the next 6 months.

July 3
Gilead by by Marilynne Robinson
And now for a very Quaker-ly novel..."Notionally, 'Gilead' is a letter from a father to a son, a testament to the hopes and fears that the father, now in the twilight of his life, will never be able to share with his son. It is an account of the troublesome relationship between the narrator's father, a pacifist, and his grandfather, a militant abolitionist who fought (apparently with vigour and with valour) in the American Civil War; it is a deep reflection on the meaning and purpose of faith (the narrator, in common with both his father and grandfather, is the Pastor in the eponymous town of the title); and it is a commentary on the fears evoked within him by the sudden reappearance of the long lost son of a friend, a ne'r-do-well whom he instinctively, yet irrationally fears."

"There is a lot of Christian theology, and yet because of the main focus of the narrative, this is interesting and pertinent, and should not put off those who have no interest in religion - odd to have so much theology at the centre of a novel, but it's a very human take on theology, and the open-mindedness of the narrator gives a richness and thought-provoking depth to ideas about belief in God and practical issues of being human. I found it a very subtle book, and one that slowly enthralled me. There is very little dialogue, because of the nature of the narrative, but it never becomes monotonous. It is like a meditation on the nature of father and son relationships, yet written by a woman - I found it quite extraordinary, and definitely to be recommended to anyone looking for a slower, more thoughtful read."

If you would like to suggest any novels for us to read in the are especially invited to comment on this post or to give suggestions to Nadine at Meeting (if you do not know what she looks like, look at her picture on this on the lefthand side of this blog as a "Follower" of this blog). Or, you are specifically invited to come to the June 19 Midsummer's Read. On that night we will simply read aloud to each other (this is a suggestion that came out of discussions with Linda Hoy about this bookgroup and an idea of reading poetry/Rumi that Craid Barnett made in a reply to one of the earliest posts on this blog). There we could also discuss how we want this to continue and what books we (possibly including you in this "we" as well) would like for the future.


Nadine Wills said...

If interested in reading or finding out more about Jewish culture (as our last 2 books have been on this subject so has come up in recent conversations for me) have two great recommendations recently that I hope to check out soon, so thought I'd share them:
-The film Shoah

This stunning documentary sheds light on one of the darkest hours in the history of mankind - the Holocaust. The entire program relies solely on the filmed testimony of Holocaust witnesses. Produced and directed by Claude Lanzmann. Portions of the program are subtitled. Acclaimed as the best Holocaust film, and one of the greatest films ever made.

-The book Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald:

In 1967, the narrator bumps into a man in the salle de pas perdus of Antwerp's Central Station. Thus begins a long if intermittent acquaintance, during which he learns the life story of this stranger, retired architectural historian Jacques Austerlitz. Raised as Dafydd Elias by a strict Welsh Calvinist ministry family, it is only at school that Austerlitz learns his true name--and only years later, by a series of chance encounters, that he allows himself to discover the truth of his origins, as a Czech child spirited away from his mother and out of Nazi territory on the Kindertransport. He returns to confront the childhood traumas that have made him feel that "I must have made a mistake, and now I am living the wrong life."

Lucy said...


I was in Waterstones yesterday and noticed the reading for July - Gilead, is in the 3 for 2 offer that Waterstones are running at the moment.