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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 12:45 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

For our December meeting we went to a local restaurant and over an excellent meal (it is making my mouth water just remembering it) we discussed Jill Dawson's "The Great Lover."  It had a mixed response.  Although most found this fictionalised account of Rupert Brooke's life interesting in parts, there were doubts about the benefit of describing an affair Brooke is supposed to have had with an invented character.  Several became irritated by the real-life Bloomsbury Group characters who appear in the book and who exude snobbery and entitlement.

We also voted on our favourite book of the year.  The winner was "Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier, with "Notes on an Exhibition" by Patrick Gale 2nd and Arnold Bennett's "The Old Wives' Tale" (my personal favourite) 3rd.

The wooden spoon went to Melvyn Bragg's "The Maid of Buttermere."




Last edited by Sandraseahorse on Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, the Bloomsbury Group have suffered in reputation over the years, haven't they?  Maybe they were always thought of as exuding snobbery and entitlement. And I don't quite understand why the need to invent a character for Rupert Brooke's lover, either.  

You have made me want to read The Old Wives' Tale, a copy of which I think I own.


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The theme this year for our book group is Europe.  The first choice was Leah Fleming's "The Girl Under The Olive Tree".  It describes a girl from an English upper class background defying her parents to go out to Greece to study archaeology just before WWII and then getting caught up in the conflict in Crete.

The group was divided between the half who really loved the book and those (including me) who found the subject matter interesting, but the style very Mills and Boon.

One woman in the group left us open mouthed with shock by saying that she found it an enjoyable read with have with a glass of wine and "although terrible things were happening in the background with the Nazis, at least in Crete the weather is nice and warm."


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I chose this month's book and, on the Europe theme, I selected Markus Zusak's "The Book Thief."

This is a book I have been meaning to read for some time but as soon as we agreed on this book, I started to have doubts.  First, I discovered that the author was Australian rather than European and second, it is about the Nazis yet again.  

All of us liked the idea of Death as the narrator.  I started to google to see if he features as a narrator in other novels but I could only find that some sci-fi novels (plus "Paradise Lost") feature Death as a person.

I enjoyed the character of Papa.  When he starts to come into Liesel's bed at night, I thought:  "Oh, no.  Not another child sex abuse theme."  But Papa wants to encourage Liesel in her reading and I like how their relationship developed.  (Papa is her foster father)  

There were times when to me the book  seemed rather deja vu.  When they were sheltering the Jew in the basement, it reminded me of Anne Frank, except the basement rather than the attic.  When Liesel emerges from the basement to see the whole area around reduced to rubble, it reminded me of "Slaughterhouse-5", except that book described Dresden rather than the suburb of Munich in "The Book Thief."

I was expecting Liesel's desire to steal books to  trigger a major plot twist; I thought she would steal a book that was subversive and this would be discovered by the Nazis.  However, this didn't happen.

Of all the people in the group, I was possibly the least enthusiastic.  Possibly this was because it was a book I had been meaning to read for so long that my expectations of it weer too high.

I remember it being discussed on this board but I can't find any of the references.


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Chibiabos83
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Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thread devoted to it is here: http://bigreaders.myfastforum.org/about137.html


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 13, 2017 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for that.  I feel Evie gave a far better critique than I did.


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Sandraseahorse



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 12, 2017 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rarely has there been such unanimity as at our book group this week.  Everyone struggled with Elena Ferrante's "My Brilliant Friend."  This depictions of two girls, Lila and Elena, growing up in Naples in the 1950s has won rave reviews but it didn't get a warm response from any of us.

All of us found it difficult to follow who was who among the myriad characters (especially if you read it on a Kindle which made it difficult to turn back to the character list at the beginning).  We all became confused with the family relationships in the various large extended families.  All of us found the section on the two girls' childhood a hard slog as it just seemed to consists of lots of incidents in great detail but not necessarily in chronological order.  Everyone said they would have given up if it hadn't been a book club read (some said they would have stopped at about page 100 while others said they would have gone on to around page 150).

We all agree that the book improved in the last quarter and it even started to become interesting when it suddenly came to an abrupt stop.  Despite the way it improved towards the end, none of us felt like reading the other three books in the series.

I don't think I am giving away any spoilers by revealing that the book starts with Lila's son telling Elena that her friend has disappeared and Elena speculates on why Lila might have gone missing.  At the end of the book we still don't know why she has gone (the book only goes up to when the girls are 16) and I presume you have to read the series to find out.

None of us liked the main characters; one woman said she felt Lila was a "spoilt little madam" and even though I sympathised with Elena's desire to achieve good academic results, the reader has to endure so many continuous references to what grades she got for Latin, etc,. that I just became bored with the irritating swot.  

The only things there were disagreements about in my group were minor issues; one person felt it was a good translation but three of us said the translation was poor as the many Americanisms jarred and it gave little flavour of the Neapolitan dialect.

One person pointed out something I had noted - that there was little reference to food which is surprising given that food is such a key part of Italian life.  One member of the group said they were probably too poor to live on anything except bread and jam.  However, afterwards I thought that pride in putting a tasty meal on the table is such a part of the Italian psyche that I was sure that the women would be able to produce something tasty from basic ingredients of tomatoes, pasta, rice, onions, beans  etc.


What made the experience so infuriating was that so many of us had really been looking forward to this read.  All the ingredients were there; it is set in Italy ( a country I love), it is a coming-of-age novel (which usually I find interesting) and the theme of people trying to make something of their lives from an impoverished background and in an area where the criminal organisation the Camora is all-pervasive is a fascinating one.  But despite these ingredients, for me the mixture failed to rise (like various cakes I've baked in the past).

I note that a two-part adaptation of this series of books has just opened at the Rose Theatre, Kingston-upon-Thames.  I won't be going.




Last edited by Sandraseahorse on Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mikeharvey



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
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Location: Lancashire

PostPosted: Mon Mar 13, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Death is a prominent presence in the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett.


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Caro



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 2917


Location: Owaka, New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Mar 16, 2017 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was about to put this on the January thread but then thought I would put it here.  I belong to a little book club held monthly at our library, where we just bring along a sample of the books we have read/are reading.  I lent Nevil Shute's Pastoral to a friend there, and she gave it back to me with a note on it (she usually writes quite a bit about any book she is talking about) which says:

It was a delight - love the language and how N. Shute paints the picture.  He conveyed the horror without graphic descriptions.  Got a bit mad with hero expecting the poor girl to want to marry him on 3rd date!  Really enjoyed the bok and going to more N. Shute.



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