Category Archives: Book Group

The Lady in the Van – Alan Bennett

I have been somewhat berating myself of late over the fact that I seem to be reading more shiny new books than I do the backlists of authors that I am either big fans of or think I could be big fans of. (I have mentioned my thoughts on an author binge of late who I have been meaning to read much more of.) I was therefore delighted when my lovely friend Barbs chose Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van, both as it was short and I have been prize judging (she’s very considerate) and because Bennett is a writer I love who I haven’t read enough of. Shockingly though I have read it twice I don’t have a review of The Uncommon Reader on the blog which is a HUGE favourite here as it is with most readers. Anyway, I was excited to read this and chat about it with three ladies in a restaurant…

Profile Books, paperback, 1989 (1999 edition), non fiction, 96 pages, bought by myself for myself

‘I ran into a snake this afternoon,’ Miss Shepherd said. ‘It was coming up Parkway. It was a long, grey snake – a boa constrictor possibly. It looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I’ve a feeling it may have been heading for the van.’ I was relieved that on this occasion she didn’t demand that I ring the police, as she regularly did if anything out of the ordinary occurred. Perhaps this was too out of the ordinary (though it turned out the pet shop in Parkway had been broken into the previous night so she may have seen a snake). She brought her mug over and I made her a drink, which she took back to the van. ‘I thought I’d better tell you,’ she said, ‘just to be on the safe side. I’ve had some close shaves with snakes.’

And so The Lady in the Van starts as it means to go on and throws us straight into the (very much true) story of Alan Bennett and his neighbour Miss Shepherd. Well, when I say neighbour, I actually mean the woman who lived in a van on his road until some people complained to the council and Bennett kindly offered her the space on his drive/front garden in front of the garage. What Mr Bennett didn’t realise was that the invite to stay there for a couple of weeks turned into the small time of a mere fifteen years. Through short sharp diary entries he lets the reader into a relationship and friendship of sorts which he never expected.

It is almost too obvious to say that what I loved most about The Lady in the Van was Alan Bennett’s writing, yet it is true – I just love his writing. The way he captures people’s characteristics is wonderful and Miss Shepherd’s full (or full on) personality comes loud and clear, what a character she was. Some people might have made me more of a figure of fun, some might have made her a tragic case, Bennett brings all of her sides and intricacies to life; at times she is witty, difficult, frustrating, upsetting, a villain and a victim. Bennett is also very good at writing honestly (or as honestly as one can) about himself. He isn’t some hero in shining armour who befriended an old lady and made her life wonderful, he is a man who did something very kind and sometimes wondered why on earth he had bothered yet at the same time he made as much a difference to her life as she did to his. It is deftly done.

October 1984. Some new staircarpet fitted today. Spotting the old carpet being thrown out, Miss S. says it would be just the thing to put on the roof of the van to deaden the sound of rain. This exchange comes just as I am leaving for work, but I say that I do not want the van festooned with bits of old carpet – it looks bad enough as it is. When I come back in the evening I find half the carpet remnants slung over the roof. I ask Miss S. who has put them there, as she can’t have done it herself. ‘A friend,’ she says mysteriously. ‘A well wisher.’ Enraged, I pull down a token piece but the majority stays put.

As much as it made me laugh at times, especially when Miss S decides to become a member of parliament or hints at moving in or pretends the utter mess she lives in is merely blown from all over the road, I was also very much moved by The Lady in the Van. As whilst it is a tale of a crazy lady who ended up in Bennett’s garden, it is also the story of a woman with no family or friends to speak of who has been spending the most of her last decades alone and seen as ‘a character’ which may be the case on the outside but what about on the inside and why she ended up surrounded by cake crumbs, papers and a spotless cutlery set in a van and clothes in a robin reliant. You chuckle, then you think a little deeper.

Through Alan’s observations and thoughts we ponder old age and how no matter how old we get there is still the same person and personality within that body that looks somewhat different than it once did. It also looks at care for the elderly and the benefits (and pitalls) that independence can bring. It also highlights the fact that we tend to forget that elderly people have lived a full life, possibly full of all sorts of secrets and lessons we could learn, yet all we see is the result of those years and sadly sometimes judge them. In fact I would say judging people is probably one of the biggest themes of the book along with kindness, after all how many of us would have done what Bennett did if we found ourselves in that position?

So for me Alan Bennett triumphed once again with The Lady in the Van. As with his fictional writings such as Smut, The Uncommon Reader and his Talking Heads series (which I used to have on tape and listened to religiously before bed in my teens) and with memoir like A Life Like Other People’s he hits us just at the spot where humour and poignancy meet. He is a lover of character and characters and celebrates them with their flaws and all. I must read more of his work and I must see this when the movie comes out in November…

What about all of you? Have you read, or seen the play of, The Lady in the Van? Which of Alan Bennett’s other works have you seen or read and should I head to Untold Stories, Writing Home or Telling Tales next?

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Filed under Alan Bennett, Book Group, Books of 2015, Non Fiction, Profile Books, Review

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

There are many, many books out there that are on my periphery ‘to read one day’ yet that often need a nudge to actually get them into my hands. Sophie’s World, has been one such book – as is Sophie’s Choice which I often confuse one for the other. Not now though, as after the lovely Rita chose Sophie’s World for book club and so, after initially having been very excited and run to the bookshop to buy it, I have read it. All I can say initially was that it was definitely a reading experience unlike any other I have had.

Phoenix Books, 1991 (1996 edition), paperback, 448 pages, bought by myself for book group

Fourteen year old Sophie Amundsen never gets any post. However one day on the way back from school she finds something for her when she collects the latest items from the mail box. She has two notes, one which asks her ‘Who are you?’ and another which asks ‘Where does the world come from?’ This creates several puzzles for Sophie, firstly who on earth is suddenly sending her post and secondly what on earth are the answers to all of these questions which in turn create even more questions. Soon enough more parcels arrive and it seems someone wants to teach Sophie all about philosophy and its history. Yet why suddenly is she also receiving postcards addresses to Hilde care of her? Who is this Hilde girl and how are all these mysteries linked?

There are a lot of questions there before we even really come to any of the actually philosophy that is intertwined within the book. I have been known, on a good day, to be sat looking at the sky and suddenly realising/remembering that I am on a big spinning piece of rock that is spinning through space and time and really we have no idea why it does this or what the point of it all is. I will think about it, possibly contemplating what it might be like to visit the moon, see the earth from space or if there may be aliens out there, and then my head hurts or feels it may implode and so I have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit and pick up a book. This book was making my head hurt a little bit by page eight…

Where does the world come from?
She hadn’t the faintest idea. Sophie knew that the world was only a small planet in space. But where did space come from?
It was possible that space had always existed, in which case she would not need to figure out where it came from. But could something have always existed? Something deep down inside her protested the idea. Surely everything that exists must have a beginning? So space must sometime have been created out of something else.
But if space had come from something else, then that something else must also have come from something. Sophie felt she was only deferring the problem. At some point, something must have come from nothing. But was that possible? Wasn’t that just as impossible as the idea that the world has always existed?

I have no issue with a book making me think hard, or about things I have never thought about before. Indeed this is what I often really like about books. Nor do I have issues with books informing me of things that I might not have known before. From the premise of the book I thought I was going to find a really clever twisting and turning mystery, a sort of tale of adventure that would also teach/inform me of philosophy, its ideas and the philosophers behind it at the same time. Instead, overall, I got a book which was a rather clumsily and clunkily (is that a word?) written text book of the history of philosophy which was padded out by an initially rather repetitive and thinly constructed story. A very thinly veiled text book too.

You see for the first hundred or so pages all we get is Sophie walking to and from the letterbox to her house, or two and from the letterbox to some bushes where she has her hide out. In between this riveting (yes, that’s sarcasm) storyline we get chunks of text book like quotes (I actually thought these were either from a very dry text book or that Gaarder had written a text book which was turned away from publishers so added a sprinkling of story and kerching) about philosophers since the beginning of time. Here, had it not been a book club choice, I would have easily given up. Bad prose, dull academic non-fiction, no thank you very much.

Interestingly the book did then take on a very strange and unexpected twist which did in fact save it for me, albeit briefly. I can’t say what the twist is as there may be many of you mad people out there who want to give Sophie’s World a try. What I can say is that it made me think about fiction, writing, books and characters plus the boundaries between the real and the imaginary that was for a while rather fascinating and diverting. Then the book goes all out bonkers, seriously the comparison to Alice in Wonderland is slightly understandable as Gaarder seems to suddenly go off on some ‘trip’ into the utterly bizarre. Ruining the good, if short lived, high point of the book. Well for me at least, though most of the people at book group (who actually managed to finish it, several didn’t) agreed.

Odd then that by the end of it, though I had pretty much loathed or been bored to tears by 80% of it, I was quite pleased I had conquered Sophie’s World, even if only because it was over and I could say I had indeed managed to survive it. It did also do what I guess all philosophical books aim for, it made me ask lots of questions. Sadly these were; how on earth was this a classic, how can people say it is a novel, how would I ever get that time spent reading it back again, how on earth was it a book for teenagers and young adults and could I ever believe anyone who said they ‘loved it when I was 12/13’, how did they even understand it or not get bored out their minds? Food for thought though, ha – and at least I can laugh about it now.

Note – I am joking about people who loved it when they were younger. You are just cleverer than me and I am bitter! Ha!

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Filed under Book Group, Jostein Gaarder, Orion Publishing, Review

May We Be Forgiven – A.M. Homes

A while back I asked you about the Great American novel and how I would like to read more of them be they classic or modern (indeed so much so I asked you about them not once but twice, oops). One of the reasons for this was that I had been discussing it on The Readers, with my new guest American co-host, and also because I had not long finished May We Be Forgiven, A. M. Homes Women’s Prize winning novel, as October’s book club choice. I have taken this long to write about it because I have had to really mull over my rather mixed thoughts on it. Plus as the book starts and finishes on a thanksgiving I thought it might be apt to discuss today, after yesterday.

Granta Books, 2012, hardback, fiction, 368 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

May We Be Forgiven takes place from one thanksgiving to another as Harry Silver’s life is turned completely upside down in the space of a single year. All it takes is a single kiss to set the ‘chaos ball’ rolling in Harry’s life after his sister-in-law Jane kisses him between washing up the remains of the turkey dinner. A few weeks later when his brother, George, is arrested after a fatal motor incident and promptly has a breakdown (that seems may have been looming for a while) and Harry and Jane start an affair. This is soon followed by a murder, a divorce and suddenly Harry is left as the guardian of his brother’s children. You are left feeling rather breathless after just fifty pages, yes that is right we are only fifty pages in here and all this has already happened, what could possibly follow?

Drenched in her scent, but too shaken to shower or fall asleep in their bed, I wait until she is asleep and then go downstairs, to the kitchen, and wash myself with dish soap. I am in my brother’s kitchen at three in the morning, soaping my cock in his sink, drying myself with a towel that says “Home Sweet Home.” It happens again in the morning, when she finds me on the sofa, and then again in the afternoon, after we visit George. “What’s the story with your hand?” George asks Jane the next day, noticing her bandages. He’s back in his room, with no memory of the night before.
Jane starts to cry.

That was the question I found myself asking as I read on, where on earth will Homes take me next? The answer is that, pretty much, anything you could think imaginable may well be on the cards. We watch as Harry tries to cope with enforced parenthood, divorce, becoming addicted to random sexual encounters through the internet with frustrated (and occasionally crazy) housewives, children with disabilities, even American’s political past via Harry’s obsession with Nixon. Anything it seems that Homes can use to create a satire of the American dream and how delicate it really is and how easily it can all fall apart.

There are some wonderful set pieces here; an unwanted dog who doesn’t want to be walked for good reason, the bumping into a previous casual sexual encounter who now wants to date, a holiday away with three children who aren’t yours and all get violently ill. I could go on, in fact on occasion I was thinking this was a series of short stories (which is how this book started in Granta in 2007) that had all been interlinked to make a tapestry of American life. The problem for me with this was that it what held it together seemed to be less tightly knitted as I went on and the loose threads started to show. There is almost too much going on and too much happening to one man, and the background and fibre of the piece seems to be missing.

As Harry’s ‘new life’ developed the less I started to believe in him. How could so much stuff happen to one man? Seriously, Harry can barely garden without some tool almost decapitating him of inadvertently getting cat poo in his eye. He is really rather an ineffectual character, everything happens to him and he began to feel less and less like a character and more and more like a plot device and one which was simply there to hold the story together and give us some belly laughs along the way. Yet as with all good things – yes, even doughnuts – too much of a good thing can leave you feeling a little queasy. I wanted less of Harry’s antics (I also wanted the whole Nixon stuff to be taken out; I didn’t see the need for it personally) and more of a look at why Harry and his brother George were the way they were which is only ever hinted at on the odd occasion.

The soup warms me, reminding me that I’ve not eaten since last night. A man with two black eyes passes, lunch tray in hand, and I think of how my father once knocked my brother out, flattened him, for not much of a reason. “Don’t be confused who’s the boss.”  

The thing that vexed me the most was that I loved (and I mean really loved) Homes’ writing. I think she is a genius. Every paragraph has some form of genius in it or simply ‘a moment’, every character has some essence of the familiar and real whilst flawed. Every dark moment has some light and laughter to it. Brilliant. Yet it gets too much. A book which is constantly on ‘max power’ doesn’t seem to know where to stop. The clever satire becomes an overdone farce, as I read on I started to find I was getting annoyed by how brilliant it was, because I felt it knew how brilliant it was and was showing off. Not the intention I am sure but there was something in the delivery (and a big edit/shortening would have helped) that jarred and it lost me through the middle. Like with Zoe Venditozzi’s  Anywhere’s Better Than Here after it changed tempo in the second half, I found myself wanting to say to Homes too as the author ‘it’s alright you have me, I think you are a genius, just stop with all the bells and whistles you don’t need it’.

However May We Be Forgiven’s main theme was what won me round again towards the end as it is less a book about the American dream and how it can crack and actually all about what the word ‘family’ means and what a family is. At the start we have the stereotypical ‘blood linked’ family which is clearly fractured and falling apart, quite probably because of the generation above, unwittingly. By the end of the novel we have a very different family, one by no means ‘the norm’ yet one that feels like a true family all the same and I think that is what is at the heart of May We Be Forgiven and is what resonated with me and so its soul saved it. I am certainly left wanting to read much more of Homes work because as I mention, she is a stunning writer.

Who else has read May We Be Forgiven and what did you make of it? I am expecting some interesting mixed responses as we had quite the debate at book group (over whether it depicted a real true America or was a farce, I was in the latter camp), with some of the Green Carnation judges and also recently on the phone to my mother! Have any of you ever found a book where the authors writing is so brilliant and so full on that as it doesn’t let up you find you struggle, or is that just me? Which of Homes’ previous novels should I give a whirl?

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Filed under A. M. Homes, Book Group, Granta Books, Review

The Quiet Savidge…

There are a lot of should have’s going through my mind today. I should have responded to all the lovely comments you have left. I should have written lots of reviews, one of which should have been of ‘The Quiet American’, and scheduled lots of posts. Shoulda, woulda, coulda… I haven’t! Sorry.

In fact I have been struggling to get through ‘The Quiet American’ as I have been reading it on my e-reader which I have noticed I zone out of quite a lot, possibly because I am spending too many hours staring at a screen at the moment. It has now arrived, along with the other three Greene For Gran titles, so I can get back to the ‘actual’ book. Two copies actually arrived so I will do a giveaway when I review it, finally.

Greene For Gran

Things have been c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-c-razy with work as we get to the last week before Liverpool International Music Festival launches and I have been spending most of my time sat in front of a computer and so to then sit and type anything has seemed like the last thing I have wanted to be doing. In fact my reading has slowed down again because I am spending most of my free time either running (don’t laugh, I am training for a marathon – more on that soon) or just chilling out in front of some appallingly trashy telly that I simply won’t mention because even if you swore you wouldn’t you would judge me.

One of the other things I have been also been doing is going to book groups. Not one book group, but two! One of which I mentioned earlier in the week because it meant I had the utter joy of reading ‘The Princess Bride’ for the first time, I have seen the film umpteen times (it is one of my mother’s favourites) but never touched the book. It was an interesting, and rather large, group though the book didn’t get that much air time. I think most of the people felt it was a fairly entertaining romp but nothing more, which made me stay quiet from declaring my love for it. They are reading a lot of books I have read already, which is not their fault, so I will probably go back and see how they discuss ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ and decide if I stay or go. Does that make me sound like a bit of a pompous/fussy/arrogant twat? I don’t mean it to.

I went to another one today (Gran would be so proud being a book group addict herself) where they were discussing ‘Little Hands Clapping’, by one of my favourite authors Dan Rhodes. It is an LGBT group and much smaller than the other one but blow me down we were nattering about the book over a coffee for 2 hours (well with several tangents) which flew by. They meet less regularly but the books they have read are lots I have missed, including the next one which is ‘May We Be Forgiven’ by A.M. Homes which I came home to dig out and discovered this…

AM Holmes

Yes another book I have two copies of! I think I am going to keep the hardback over the paperback, it’s heavier but the type is bigger and it’s a first edition – oh and I like hardback cover sooooo much. It has reminded me though that I am in dire need of a book sort out, and I need to be ruthless, really ruthless. I am going to start on the shelves below soon and really ask myself ‘did I buy it or ever ask for it, do I think I might read it anytime soon, would someone probably like a copy more than me, etc.’

ShelvesI am going to really go for it tomorrow and I shall report back. What is news with you? What have you been reading? How are you getting on with your Graham Greene’s if you have been reading them? What else do you have to report?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Back into Book Groups…

Thank you for all your nice thoughts when you popped round for tea and biscuits last week , lovely to catch up with some of you, even though I proceeded to vanish again I did read all your comments. Now that I have actually managed to be at home for a few days on the trot, though I am back off to Derbyshire to see Gran this weekend, and have actually managed a few days of no work and just ‘being’ I have to say I am feeling slightly more normal and caught up with myself a bit – not quite fully but not far off.

Anyway, today I am going to talk to you about book groups because back at the end of last year I said that I wasn’t going to join any more. In fact I think I said I would just stick to doing The Readers Book Club with the lovely Gavin every month, and we have. Oddly we had to have a small crisis meeting about this the other week as over the last few months we’ve been having a bit of a nightmare. Authors have vanished meaning we couldn’t record with them, three publishers promised us books then withdrew last minute making us look a bit stoopid and we thought ‘right, let’s sort this out’. So, we have decided to go seasonal and from now on every three months we will announce three books in advance so people have more of a change to read along and get involved. The summer selection was announced yesterday and here they are…

  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (14th of June 2013)
  • Snake Ropes by Jess Richards (12th of July 2013)
  • The Last Banquet by Jonathan Grimwood (8th of August 2013)

So hopefully this will entice some of you to read along, have discussions on our blogs on the same day and even (fingers crossed) get questions to us and possibly appear on the shows when they go live. What say you?

Thinking about book groups then made me realise how much I have actually missed being in one. To be fair when Gran has been lucid we are still talking about books but as she can’t read I haven’t been able to introduce the idea of an ‘End of Your Life Book Club’ ala Will Schwalbe which we had thought to, though as we are listening to the same audiobooks when together maybe that counts? Regardless of that I decided it might be nice to join one, something I am actually rather nervous about as I have tended to start (and then leave the city within months/a year) book groups in the past rather than join one with friendships already running through it.

Yet the lovely Rosario lives in Liverpool and had invited me to join the book group she is in when I moved over here and I initially said yes but then got too busy with everything. However now, after a slightly humble email from me, I have asked to rejoin and if I can get a copy of ‘Watchmen’ from the library in time I will be joining them next week. If not I will be joining the month after for ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’. From Alan Moore to Agatha Christie, that sounds like my kind of book group! I also caught up with one of my best friends from secondary school, who I hadn’t seen for sixteen – yes SIXTEEN – years but now live two miles from, yesterday and we joked about one on the Wirral. Could I handle two? Well Gran was in three, so maybe it is in the genes?

So what are your thoughts on the Readers Book Club Summer Selection 2013? Have you read any and what did you think? Also do you have any tips for me as someone joining a book group that has been going a while? Are you in a book group and how are you finding it, and what are you reading, what have been your groups highlight reads? Any of you love books but can’t think of anything worse than a book club, just out of interest?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Can a Book Group Be Bad For a Book?

Both whilst recording the latest episode of The Readers Summer Book Club and then compiling my post on the book, ‘Bleakly Hall’ by Emlaine Di Rollo, itself afterwards has raised a question in my head… Can a book group be a bad thing for certain books and the reading experience around them?

One of the things I love most about a book group is the discussion, the gossip; chatting and wine afterwards is all a bonus. I have found with book groups in the past that discussing a book I didn’t like and hearing everyone else’s thoughts on it can sometimes make me d a complete 180 with my opinion. It can also be an utter joy, and rather bonding as I found with ‘Mary Barton’, if you all loathe a book and can sit and pick it apart. Yet what if you really enjoyed reading a book and others pick it apart, can it kill it for you?

This has very rarely happened to me before in any book groups that I can think of. Why is this so? Well I think it is because I tend to be more critical about books I am reading with my ‘book group’ brain on, yes even more so than when I am reading a book to review. With reviews I analyse the way a book made me feel and the questions it raises itself of makes me ask myself, yet with a book group book I tend to pick it apart all the more. Or maybe I do this all the time and yet am only aware of it when prepping for a book club – yes indeed, I prep.

It is this very reason why I have never suggested reading a Daphne Du Maurier book as a choice of my own to any group I have been part of, other members have and I have always been quite fearful that my favourite authors work will be picked to death and my love of Daphers altered. Fortunately Daphne tends to be so wonderful that this rarely happens.

Yet for the first time ever recently as I read a book I was thoroughly enjoying, the aforementioned ‘Bleakly Hall’, I found that as I knew I would be discussing it in detail I started to pick it apart as I read not afterwards. Normally I always do this afterwards, not during, and I am not sure why it changed with this book but I ended up almost sabotaging reading it because I was pre-empting the questions/reactions/subjects that the book would raise. It had a house of cards effect/loose thread effect and I started picking.

This then made me wonder if some books are just not book group books. For example, and I am not comparing ‘Bleakly Hall’ to this series it is just an example, I would never take an Agatha Raisin mystery to a book group. It and I would be annihilated and those, for me, are just books I read for pleasure, no more no less and there is nothing wrong with books that you simply read and are entertained by the whole way through. I think ‘Bleakly Hall’ would have been just such a book if I wasn’t reading it in the context I did.

So I wondered if any of you had found that there are some books that simply should be avoided as book group choices. Obviously with book group books the idea is no one has read them and so there is always the risk it won’t work I suppose but maybe some experiences/titles stick out in particular? Do you agree some books should simply be read and enjoyed, not picked apart or should all books be treated with the same analytical internal eye of a reader?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

The Day I Infiltrated The W.I.

Seeing as the last few days have been all about the Queen in the UK, and of course in various other parts of the world, I thought I would carry on with the quintessentially British theme by talking about the W.I. If any of you are wondering just what the W.I. is, it is the Women’s Institute and having run since 1914, when it was formed “to revitalize rural communities and to encourage women to become more involved in producing food during the First World War”, it has become something of a British Institution, but also something of a mystery to many. Well thanks to books, and indeed this blog, I got invited to a meeting, so I thought I would report back…

How did books get me, with my beard too, sneaked into a Women’s Institute meeting? Well, since you asked so nicely, it was actually an invite from Louise (one of the lovely new members of The Manchester Book Group – who I will not be seeing at the meeting tonight as I am still ill with this stomach thing, made all the more vexing by the fact tonight is my blinking choice too) who wanted myself and Lucy of Literary Relish to come and talk as “book experts”, which we both thought was debatable, and as people who have set up a book group or two and might have advice. Plus there was the offer of a grand old building to roam around and lots of tea and cake. I was sold on the simple idea of seeing just what happened at a meeting, the cake was just an added bonus. How could we refuse?

So a few weeks ago, a little nervous but very eager, myself and Lucy rocked up at Chetham’s School of Music which is a wonderful old building in the heart of Manchester where the new Manchester W.I. group has been set up.

The lovely Lucy outside Chatham’s School of Music

Well it wasn’t what I expected at all. I thought it would be a) filled soley with some very old ladies who would look at us over their glasses with utter disdain b) filled with a few Kirsty Allsop wannabes c) possibly a group of women chanting how much they hated their husbands. Instead was a wonderfully eclectic group of women of all ages and walks of life (though with a common passion for a floral design on their personage, lovely) who were all very welcoming, though I think the sixth time someone came up and winked ‘you shouldn’t be here should you’ at me it started to lose its charm. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming and excited to be there, it was most contagious.

Lovely ladies of Manchester’s W.I.

 The meeting was designed to set up some sub groups for people within the Manchester W.I. for members who also had the same interests to join. Each one was introduced; there was a ‘fine dining group’, a fitness group, a charity group, a baking group and many more which of course included the book, cinema and theatre group (which was run by Louise and which myself and Lucy were there to offer tips and bookish recommendations too)…

Manchester Women’s Institute Book, Cinema and Theatre Group

 Frankly I wanted to join them all. Particularly the ones involving books, chocolate, tea, cake or all four combined – the fitness one I might possibly not even have looked at. People seemed to mill about and have a gander at everything and then suddenly it was time for tea (in a wonderfully old room)…

The tea-room…

Followed by homemade cakes…

Cakes; please note one of these was for Lucy, they weren’t both for me…

 And then we were all deluged suddenly by people wanting to know how a book group should be set up, what books people should recommend for a group read, what had we loved and read lately etc? It was ace! I don’t think Lucy will mind me saying we were rather in our element. Louise too seemed to have lots and lots of people signing up for the sub-group and people wanting to join her book group AND ours, who says the love of a good book is dead?

The lovely Louise getting deluged in requests for her W.I. sub-group

Well it was lovely. Did I learn any of their secret rituals, well yes I did, but if I told you I would have to hunt you down, if that is ok with you all, do you all agree? (Members will know why that is so apt.)

On a serious note am quite jealous I am not allowed to join one. I was talking to my Gran about this and I can’t even use the gay card, apparently someone tried at the one local to her, which she isn’t a part of, and they said no. In fairness I am not a woman, I think it might be the beard that gives it away, but I would so love to find a group of men and women near me who like books, baking and the like and who I could meet up with at random times to indulge in it all with. I guess I will have to make do with The Beard for now, though I think he may have over exaggerated his love of books in the early days, that’s by the by though (and he has started building a library and getting bookshelves sorted here there and everywhere – swings and roundabouts, you can’t have everything hahaha) back to today’s post…

Do any of you know, or have started and so could give tips, groups of both sexes who bake and the like together anywhere? Is there an online directory you might have heard of? Should, when I am a little better, I start my own? Are any of you members of the W.I. or something similar?

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Filed under Book Group, Random Savidgeness

The Readers Summer Book Club 2012

One of the projects I have been working on while away from the blogosphere for some time is The Readers Summer Book Club. I am really rather excited about this particular book based project because it is one that myself and the lovely Gavin have designed to be able to include all of you, no matter where in the world you are.

I try not to mention The Readers too much on here. I worry you will either think it’s using the blog for self promotion or come across as being a bit smug. My intention is never to be either of those things, if I bang on and on about something it is no doubt simply because I am bloody excited about it… so there! Anyway, as I say only too often on the show, ‘moving swiftly on…’

Recording the readers over the last six months has become one of my favourite parts of every week. Whilst I have only met Gavin in the flesh once, briefly, through endless hours of recording he has become a true friend. Recording a show takes roughly 2 – 3 hours and lots of editing afterwards (though if you are a subscriber and got an early version of Mondays episode you will notice there was an editing slip up and me saying ‘I couldn’t be a****d to say goodbye’ – how rude, many apologies). I can guarantee in that two hours of recording I will laugh the most I do at any point during the week, with the exception of Sarah Millican’s TV show maybe, for as well as the bookish banter that makes the show there is at least one hour of gossip and general madness that we cut but which adds to my week. So a little bit of thanks and a shout out to Gavin there, he’s ace, erm shall I get back on track and stop with the schmaltz?

Back to The Readers Summer Book Club 2012 though. A few episodes ago we were waffling on about Richard and Judy’s Book Club and the TV Book Club. We like both, don’t get us wrong, but when we were talking about it I was thinking ‘why don’t we do a book club?’ After all we have listeners all over the world, thanks to the joy of the internet, and what an interesting way of bringing a real mix of people together as we could have some of them on Skype with us to discuss the books and send in mp3 reviews etc. So the idea was born, the publishers contacted for submissions, and blow me down we got 146 suggested titles! Now, a good few weeks later, we have the final eight…

I am a little in love with this selection of books, if I say so myself. I think they show exactly where myself and Gavin’s taste for books merge and also reflects the fact that not everyone wants a throwaway read on their holiday. Reactions have been interesting both on GoodReads and on blogs like Curiosity Killed The Bookworm, Dog Ear Discs and Alex in Leeds, and part of what we wanted was to get people talking about the list, we are all about book based banter after all, but we didn’t make them calculatedly or to particularly surprise anyone (apparently I said this, but don’t remember doing so) because we haven’t read any of them. In fact scrap that, we have now both read ‘Pure’ as we are interviewing Andrew Miller tonight as he is a very busy man, but we hadn’t read any books on the list before we announced it, we may have dipped in but it was all done on what we fancied reading and might test us both a little (the fact I chose Ernest Cline, for example), I would say, and not as a plug, that if you want to hear why we chose them have a listen to the latest episode and you will see.

So how can you get involved (and I really would love you all to)? Well, the way the show will work is that Gavin and I will interview the author for the first part of the show, asking any questions you have sent in (thanks for those of you who have sent in some for Andrew Miller later, keep them coming) the second part requires three guests who will join Gavin and I on Skype to talk about the book like a real book group, only recorded for 30 minutes. We need volunteers for this bit!!! We would also love mp3 reviews, or written ones we can pop on The Readers website which you can email to me savidgereads@gmail.com or bookbasedbanter@gmail.com  and discussion points too. So get involved!!!

For more info you can visit The Readers website, where you can listen to the special Readers Summer Book Club show (dates for each shows ‘airing’ will be up next week, we may swap some around due to international release dates). But while you are here, before you whizz over there, what do you think of the list? Have you read any? Keen to? Oh, and please spread the word, lets get lots of people joining in!!

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Filed under Book Group, Book Podcasts, The Readers Podcast

Before You Go To Sleep, The TV Book Club Returns Tonight

Just a quick post to remind you book lovers that The TV Book Club is back tonight on More4, I think it is also repeated on Channel 4 tomorrow (I could be wrong but it will be on 4od either way which is normally how I catch up with it). The list is quite an exciting one I think, there are only a few in the mix that I am not that bothered about , I won’t say which, and I have already read a few of them too. The book that starts the series off tonight is one such book, its ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ By S.J Watson and I really enjoyed it when I read it last year, and who came to the first Bookmarked Salon.

The lovely people at the TV Book Club have sent me the whole list, so you might even get to hear a Savidge Reads mention on the show as they have asked me if I will review some of them, though this we have agreed will be based on whim reading and which ones I fancy. I have just finished ‘The Somnambulist’ by Essie Fox, which is one of the choices and was rather good in a sensational way, as she will be a guest host on The Readers Episode 19 (a Victoriana special) which we are recording tomorrow night. If you have any questions for her please feel free to leave some below and I will ask her on your behalf.

Here is the list of titles in full…

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
The Somnambulist by Essie Fox
Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
Girl Reading by Katie Ward
The Report by Jessica Francis Kane
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Half the Human Race by Anthony Quinn
You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

Have you read any of them? I have heard Caroline Quentin is joining as a host this series (why so many comedians?) which I am thrilled about as she reminds me of my Mum (who is young and very funny, when she wants to be, so that’s meant in a nice way to both parties) interestingly and I just have a feeling she will be a great judge of a good book – yet I am not sure why. I did suggest to Cactus Productions that Gav and I would make good hosts, they didn’t comment…

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

Apartment 16 – Adam Nevill

Every now and again I like to try something a bit off the beaten track with my reading. One genre I have never really gone for, but always thought I might like, is horror – especially as I used to devour Point Horror’s as a kid/teenager. I think I liked the thrill of feeling scared. So I decided that for my second choice at my book group with ‘The Ladies of Levenshulme and Paul’ I would choose something scary, but not a traditional ghost story, and so ‘Apartment 16’ seemed to fit the bill. I was really getting excited about being scared out of my wits, and also thrilled that several lovely ladies, and Paul, down the road might be in reading in bed scared out of theirs too.

Pan Books, paperback, 2010, fiction, 368 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

The basic premise of ‘Apartment 16’ centres on a converted mansion block in London’s Kensington. The tale is told from the perspectives of two people there and how the building they are in starts to slowly take over their lives.

Seth seems to be stuck in life; he wants to paint but has instead ended up making ends meet as a security guard in the mansion block. He has also started to see things such as a hooded child figure that keeps following him, could this be his imagination working overtime as he is bored or could there be something more sinister going on? The second story was that of Apryl (the fact Apryl was spelt such I admitted at book group got on my nerves and off on the wrong foot) who inherits an apartment from her long lost aunt, not apartment number 16 which threw me, in the same block and moves over from America to sort the place out and discover more about her aunt, the discoveries of course being a lot darker than Apryl expects.

It’s very rare for me to be negative about a book, in part because I have stopped making the effort to finish books I don’t like, sadly though ‘Apartment 16’ was a book group choice (mine too, I was mortified) and so I had to finish it, and it just fell completely flat (no pun intended) for me. I think from the cover, which I loved, I expected that there would be chills and spills galore; instead what I got was a book that had some moments of chills, promptly ruined by scenes that in my head were like a very bad and cheaply made horror b-movie. So bad in fact I occasionally laughed, for the wrong reasons. In the books defence it was my imagination that turned them that way, but then I guess the writing led me there.

That makes it sound like Adam Nevill’s writing isn’t any good, and that isn’t true and wouldn’t be fair to say. His descriptions are vivid, sometimes disturbingly so, but I think I am more of the show less let the readers mind scare you more school of reading horror than the out and out gore kind of reader. The problem was when Seth started seeing some of the inhabitants crawling about on their backs like cockroaches I laughed instead of getting freaked out, then when he went into some of their rooms and the scenes of utter horror-gore were described I just started to feel a bit sick. That is where this book and I just didn’t click. I am the same with films, I laughed through all the Saw films because it was just so far fetched, and actually I did read ‘Apartment 16’ as a film, so it shows Nevill’s writing has a certain cinematic quality to it.  It did also feel like it was trying very hard to be American, yet stay British if you know what I mean?

I genuinely wanted to like ‘Apartment 16’, and the story of Apryl and her aunt (who through the diary entries of hers Apryl finds seems to be a bit of a nutter, which I liked a lot) was an interesting strand and one that I would have preferred on its own without Seth’s. But then I guess the book wouldn’t have worked in some ways. There were some rather scary parts with Apryl and also a brilliantly bizarre visit to a very, very weird and dark book group, it’s just a shame the rest of the book and its storyline just left me cold. I am sure for horror buffs, and I have seen several reviews by them, this is a great tale and so if you love your horror and haven’t read this then do. Me, I think I might leave this sort of ‘modern horror’ and go back to my old Victorian-esque ghost stories filled with things that go bump in the night, off stage. I think my book group felt the same.

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Filed under Adam Nevill, Book Group, Pan MacMillan, Review

How Many Book Groups Make Too Many?

I love books. I know that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say with a book blog, but sometimes my love of books gets me into trouble. For example at the moment I am in the midst of reading the Green Carnation Prize submissions, of which we have easily had double or maybe treble what we did last year and there are more to come. I also have a big pile of books on the bedside table which I keep ‘meaning to read next’, some advance reading to do for ‘Discovering Daphne’ and another project for the blog which starts in August. Phew! So you might think considering I am part of two book groups the very thought of joining another would seem idiotic… and yet I think I have.

It’s not the fault of the other two book groups that have made my eyes wander. It’s definitely me.

You see with the book group I first joined (that in my own head I call ‘the lovely ladies of Levenshulme book group’ because it is lots of lovely women and me and Paul Magrs) I love the banter and I love the people but until this month a lot of the choices have been re-reads for me. This is of course my fault for reading too much frankly and not theirs at all. However this month, though I have no idea what day it’s happening, we are reading ‘The Lost Daughter’ by Diane Chamberlain which is a book I have never read and would go as far as to say from the cover looks like a book I would possibly avoid. It looks a bit Jodi Piccoult. However this is the very point of a book group isn’t it?

Sadly at the moment the book seems to be avoiding me. I ordered it from the library, they went and loaned it after I ordered it. I have tried book shops and no avail. I could go online, but I feel all funny about online sales after the latest Book Depository news. So if I get it and if I find out when the meeting is I shall of course be going.

The next book group I joined in part because it was organised by one of my lovely new friends up in the north and secondly because I hadn’t read the book, which was ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one I had wanted to read for ages and ages but not quite got around to. The only issue is that I have read the next book that’s been chosen (again my fault not theirs) but I really don’t want to read it again. What is it? ‘The God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy. This seems odd, especially as you can see from a review of it back in 2008, when I had read it for a book group too, I came away confused but overall liking it. So wouldn’t this be just the sort of book that could do with a re-read? After all this was a few years ago. The answer screaming at me is no. I don’t want to be confused by it again, and one thing I missed in that review was how long that book took to read. I have it by the bed in case but I will see, I did love the people who went so much – a really lovely mixture. Can I not go without having to re-read it and see if I can remember it fully? I admit I remember one horrid scene in a cinema all too well.

Fate seemed to extend a hand when I found a new book group in Manchester through twitter completely randomly. I think Waterstones Deansgate retweeted them, they are the @NQbookclub. This group are a little specific with what books they choose, which is what attracts me so much – as well as meeting new book lovers that is, as they only read post war classics it seems… Classics such as ‘Revolutionary Road’ by Richard Yates, ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and next up to read is ‘Rabbit, Run’ by John Updike. Many of you will of course have read these, but I haven’t and yet they have always been books I have fancied (I did read Updike’s ‘Couples’ for a book group and was impressed with the read and the discussion was great) so should I add another book group to my reading schedule?

I am torn, especially as with ‘Bookmarked’ starting soon (exciting announcement about that soon) and the reading I will need to do for that… maybe it is too much? Do I need to give up one? I don’t really want to. How many book groups are too many? Has anyone else found that they go to a book group and each month it’s a book they have read? Does it matter if you pick and choose which meetings you attend, what are your thoughts on etiquette?

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts

Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

‘Purple Hibiscus’, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s debut novel, is one I have been meaning to read ever since I was completely blown away by her Orange Prize Winning ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. That book really took me by surprise, I knew nothing of Biafra and the war there, I knew nothing of the author and the book (which has since become a favourite and was the title I gave away for World Book Night) before it became a choice for a book group I was in. I couldn’t put it down; it was an amazing reading experience. So funny then that it was a book group that made me finally pick up ‘Purple Hibiscus’.

With her debut novel ‘Purple Hibiscus’ Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes us into the heart of a family in Nigeria not long after its colonisation, though this not the focus that the book takes, though it’s always bubbling away in the background. Instead Adichie tells us a story of religion as we follow Kambili a fifteen year old girl whose father is an extremist catholic. As the book opens Kambili witnesses her brother Jaja’s defiance of her father as he refuses to take communion in church, something utterly unthinkable, enraging her father and changing the dynamics of the house hold forever.

I did think after the first initial sixteen pages that make part one of the book ‘where is the story here, we’ve got the climax of it all at the beginning haven’t we?’ Well Adichie then proceeded to remind me that to every momentous moment there is a something that triggers it off. In the case of ‘Purple Hibiscus’ Adichie hints in the opening pages that things are pretty fragile for Kambili, Jaja, and their mother, what she does in part two is take us to how things have gotten to that point. For we all know that there is a lead up to every momentous moment. In this case it is their father’s sister Aunty Ifeoma.

The household that Kambili grows up in is, for the reader, an oppressive and claustrophobic one, dominated by a father so obsessed with god and the workings of the devil that he becomes abusive at any turn. Even small things like Kambili coming second in her class leads to some form of abuse based punishment, not sexual but often painful and humiliating. For Kambili this is simply life, its as normal as the schedule, which allows for a few toilet breaks, that her daily life must follow that is until she and Jaja go and stay in her Aunties house. Only this house, whilst with a catholic belief, is one of encouragement, progression and freedom. While they may be poor compared to Kambili’s fathers mass of wealth, they are richer in many other ways. Once Kambili and Jaja have their minds opened and allowed to roam free they begin to question things and so starts unravellings of powers and beliefs.

“I lay in bed after Mama left and let my mind rake through the past, through the years when Jaja and Mama and I spoke more with our spirits than with our lips. Until Nsukka. Nsukka started it all; Aunty Ifeoma’s little garden next to the verandah of her flat in Nsukka began to lift the silence. Jaja’s defiance seemed to me now like Aunty Ifeoma’s experimental purple hibiscus: rare, fragrant with undertones of freedom, a different kind of freedom from the one the crowds waving green leaves chanted at Government Square after the coup. A freedom to be, to do.
But my memories did not start at Nsukka. They started before, when all the hibiscuses in our front yard were a startling red.”

What I found startling, and probably the most effective part of Adichie’s writing and aspect of the book which hit me the hardest, was Kambili’s acceptance of the situation at home. Yet the more I thought about it the more I realised of course she would be, she had been groomed that her fathers form of godliness and the punishment that comes if you don’t come up to those standards are the norm.

“We did that often, asking each other questions whose answers we already knew. Perhaps it was so that we would not ask the other questions, the ones whose answers we did not want to know.”

It also proves an effective device by Adichie, the initial distance she places between the reactions of Kambili and the reaction of a reader gives a reader the room to put there own emotions, shock and horror in there, while this young girl just goes on accepting it. This rather reminded me of the way Margaret Atwood writes Cat’s Eye’ actually, getting the reader to put their emotion into a void purposefully left. Will Kambili go on accepting her fathers ways for good, well of course you will have to find out, you will also have to read on to see that the climatic event you think the book will end with doesn’t at all.

‘Purple Hibiscus’ isn’t a perfect book, it could have either done with being a little shorter and some of the small tangent tales cutting out, or having those tales developed further and been much longer and more epic, the latter I think I would have loved as Adichie is immensely readable. In fact how she fitted all of this and its themes into just over 300 pages is impressive. It is a book that makes you think and one that will leave its narrator with you for some time after. 8.5/10

This is a book I have had in Mount TBR for ages.

It was hard for me not to compare this book to ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ though I did try my hardest. I was worried I had been harder on it slightly because of my subconscious comparisons. This is where reading it for a book group was great because there were other readers who had read them in the same order as me and felt the same, and people for who ‘Purple Hibiscus’ was their first Adichie novel. The latter also felt the same, everyone seemed to like it a lot, yet they sort of wanted either less or more which I found really interesting. It proved a great book for discussion. What are your thoughts have you read ‘Purple Hibiscus’ or ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’? Who has read her short stories?

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Filed under Book Group, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Harper Collins, Review

Savidge Reads and the RNIB

I am a big fan of doing as much for charity as I can, in fact the best non media job I have ever had was working for Breast Cancer Care, so when I had an email from Melanie at the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) asking if I would like to be involved in a new initiative, as a guest speaker, of people talking to book groups for blind and partially sighted people… I didn’t need any persuading.

So in the next few months I will be taking part in Special Interest telephone book groups. This is the chance for people who already have regular book groups via the phone, also through RNIB, get the chance to ask people in varying parts of the ‘book world’ any questions that they have. I also get the chance to ask them about their reading habits and the pro’s and con’s of the audio book industry. I have already got a list of questions about how the industry is doing, be it good or bad, in terms of resources for those people who might not be able to read a book in its traditional form. I think its going to be an interesting set of discussions.

As always, with any new exciting thing I get to do via Savidge Reads, I like to put out there to all of you for your thoughts and comments. So I was wondering if you had any questions that you would like me to ask these lovely readers in advance? I also know they are very keen to hear about great audio books, which aren’t so much my forte – though I have been really enjoying listening to Sarah Winman reading her own novel ‘When God Was A Rabbit’ since I finished the book – yet I am sure you will all know of some fantastic audio reads. Do let me know.

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Filed under Book Group, Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Cat’s Eye – Margaret Atwood

When I chose ‘Cat’s Eye’ by Margaret Atwood for one of my book groups I had no idea that it would become a book that would cause such a reaction in me. I have mentioned a few times on Savidge Reads how sometimes reading a book can become and experience, you live it. Sometimes books can become more than that, they seem to become the subconscious focus of all your thoughts and they bring back emotions and feelings you thought you had long forgotten, and not always the most comfortable ones.

Before I talk about the effect that ‘Cat’s Eye’ has had on me, and the emotional reaction I had, I think that’s its best to set the scene and tell you more about the book itself. When Elaine Risley finds herself back in Toronto after many years, for a retrospective of her paintings and work in one of the galleries, she starts to look back to her childhood there. These are not the sweetest of nostalgic notions, in fact the more we learn about Elaine’s past and her friendship with a trio of girls the more we realise memory lane was a very painful road indeed.

After spending most of her time living a rather secluded life as her parents escape the big towns and cities during the Second World War, moving to Toronto is a whole new lifestyle and adjustment and one made harder by the fact that Elaine has never really felt like a girl (in fact discussing having her own two daughters she admits she wanted sons as she thought she would relate to them better) so when she befriends Grace and Carol it is with relief. That is until after a summer trip away a new girl has arrived in town called Cordelia, and from the moment she joins this group the dynamic changes and the line between friends and foes is no longer black and white.

I could talk more about where the story leads you, how it evokes the difference between the metropolitan and wild parts of Canada, how it looks at the countries history between WWII and the 1980’s and the changes for women in that period – these all linger in the background of ‘Cat’s Eye’ making it a multi-layered read and even more of a masterpiece in some ways. I think it would also give too much away and this is a book you need to go into a little blindly for it to really take hold. At heart though this is a tale of childhood bullying, much worse when done by friends, and how those actions and events can scar us far more than we ever know. It was this part of the book that really got to me and was for me what the book was all about.

“Cordelia and Grace and Carol take me to the deep hole in Cordelia’s backyard. I’m wearing a black dress and a cloak from the dress-up cupboard. I’m supposed to be Mary Queen of Scots, headless already. They pick me up by the underarms and feet and lower me into the hole. Then they arrange the boards over the top. The daylight air disappears, and there’s the sound of dirt hitting the boards, shovelful after shovelful. Inside the hole it’s dim and cold and damp and smells like toad burrows.
    Up above, outside, I can hear their voices, and then I can’t hear them. I lie there wondering when it will be time to come out. Nothing happens. When I was put into the hole I knew it was a game; now I know it is not one. I feel sadness, a sense of betrayal. Then I feel the darkness pressing down on me; then terror.”

From the initial little jibes and retorts, sometimes the smallest of incidents can be the most damaging, to larger more threatening events like burying Elaine in the garden as ‘a game’ (which was one of the most vivid moments of the first third of the book but not the worst that they do) Atwood makes the acts of bullying come to life in a way that really takes you back to your own childhood and those awkward moments where friends can be enemies and where someone must become the head of the gang.

I myself was bullied at school, I think most kids are at some point, so maybe that’s why this rang so true with me, but I simply couldn’t shake the feeling of it and it really, really got to me. To me, though rather uncomfortable, that is the sign of a wonderful book and a wonderful writer. Through Elaine’s often distant and removed narrative I was projecting my own experiences and emotions and it, along with Atwood’s creation of course, drove ‘Cat’s Eye’ and hit home. I can feel the emotions again just writing about the book, it’s the strangest and most emotive reading experience I have had in a long time, possibly ever.

If you haven’t read ‘Cat’s Eye’ then you really must. I have ummed and ahhed about whether this is my favourite Atwood so far, despite it disturbing me and my memories quite a lot because it was so powerful, and I think it’s too close to reading it to call. I need to let it stay and settle (or unsettle me) further. It is a book which certainly further proves what an amazing and eclectic author she is and certainly a book I have lived through and should be commended for its many layers, most of all for being one of the most insightful books into bullying and the scars it leaves behind I have ever read. A brilliantly uncomfortable read all in all and one I have found rather personally haunting. 10/10

This is a book I have had for years and years and meant to read… I think I might need to turn to these books more often than I have been doing.

As you can imagine this was a great book group choice with lots to discuss. Who else has read ‘Cat’s Eye’? I would be really interested to see if anyone else who has read it was left feeling like their childhood had been brought right back to the forefront of their brains and if it left them feeling breathless (or even dreaming about it as I did)? I wonder if it is as autobiographical as they say it is. Which other books have you read that hit an emotional part of you really hard or brought an uncomfortable part of your life to the fore?

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Filed under Book Group, Books of 2011, Margaret Atwood, Review, Virago Books