Unashamedly bragging…

…about the fact that the inimitable blogger behind the ‘Surviving in Italy‘ scenes has allowed me to place words that came out of my head, onto her little patch of cyberspace.

Grazie mille, and I hope you all like it. Click here for my flash fiction memoir called Spoonful of Sugar. Below is a little sample.

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April Meetup 2016- Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

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(yes, that is my astoundingly impressive question book above)

The books…

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.

The book chooser gave us a perfect introduction to why she chose this book for us. She read this years ago and re-read it recently to see why she liked it so much. The central premise appealed to her, that is, the power of Literature to transfer people’s lives. It is told in simple language, which increases the shock the reader feels towards the end when the violence is described. She was touched and moved by the theme of what Literature does to people’s life. We can compare people in our own lives to those in Literature, and it chimed in to what Literature means to her.

We loved….

…how it was an interesting and true portrait of a child. It was never patronising and didn’t talk down to them. Instead it was simply a great portrayal of childhood. Often it was difficult to believe it was a middle-aged New Zealand bloke writing it.
…the theme of cross pollination, and how the boundaries between truth and fiction are blurred.
…that is shows the importance of a good teacher, and how a good teacher harnesses the power of storytelling. Regardless of a child’s talent or interest in a particular topic, a good storyteller has the power to influence a child.

We didn’t love….

…that the ending was slightly weak, and that it was possibly tying too hard to tie up loose ends.
…that the violence came across less strongly in the audio version than when reading the novel, and lost its impact.

By the time one reader reached the point where the soldiers arrived they no longer cared about the characters that much. This reader hadn’t read Great Expectations and consequently got fed up of constant references to the novel.

We disagreed….

…about the audio narration. One reader felt that the audio narration left them uninspired, whereas another aid book user thought the narration was beautiful.

…about the importance of the setting – some thought that it was set in the Caribbean. Some thought that ultimately it wasn’t about the exact place. Others were emotionally disengaged with the characters so wanted to know more about the specific location and to learn exactly what it was like for a child growing up in Papua New Guinea. Most of us thought that it didn’t matter where it was, and that it was a true portrayal of how all over the world there are small pockets of population who aren’t involved in but are hugely affected by civil war.

…about the narrator. There was a split down the group about this. Some of us thought that it was a young boy narrating, possibly because of the discussion of Mister Pip, and some said that they kept forgetting that it was a male author because of how well he wrote in the voice of a young girl.

We digressed….  

 

…And talked about how people can get jealous of characters in books, and that books can make people feel excluded like the mother in the novel. There was no narrative around the relatives in Matilda’s family – just facts that she had to learn.

…And talked about how listening to an audio version versus reading a paper copy results in very different reading experiences.

…And talked about the abridged version on Audible was more true to Judy D than the real one became because it was the first one they listened to.

Reviewed by:
Paul, Drew, Carol, Anne, Judy J, Judy D, and me J

Next month…
God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In May, 2016, 7:30pm.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

(Sept 2014 Meetup)

The book
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which is an epic story following the lives of some very interesting characters, and revolves around the painting of the same name.

We loved….
…her storytelling, and we all, well nearly all, persevered to the end, and wanted to find out what happened.
…the after party where Mansel, Paul, and Sam joined us and we had Michelle, who hadn’t read the book, asking her questions to these three, who hadn’t read the book. Their answers were remarkably realistic however, and I’m wondering whether there is much point in reading the books at all in the future.

We didn’t love….
…the length of the book, and a few of us weren’t that taken in by the characters. One person didn’t even start the book because they were put off by the cover. We also didn’t love that the Kindle edition doesn’t show the full painting, only the small section through ripped paper.
…One person chose not to read the book based on the cover, one person got to chapter 2 and wasn’t hooked enough to continue, and others felt the characters weren’t believable.

We agreed…
…that she can tell a great story, and that it was worth continuing to the end.

We disagreed….
…about Tartt’s descriptive writing. Some of us felt that she put in too much padding in parts, and that her philosophies were a bit too prescribed to us. Others felt that the amount of detail that she put in really made the story, and that her ‘drip, drip’ way of adding detail effectively built up the whole picture.

We digressed….
… and talked about art as therapy, right/left wing brain, a form of meditation.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer and The Boy with the Top Knot by Sathnam Sanghera

(June 2014 Meetup)

The books:
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer.
The Boy with the Top Knot  by Sathnam Sanghera.

Both books tackle the topic of Schizophrenia. The first is a fictional account of a young boy, Matt, coming to terms with the death of his brother, and his journey into adulthood while suffering from this illness. The latter is a non fictional memoir of a Punjabi boy growing up with his family in Wolverhampton, and his account of finding out that his father and sister both suffer from Schizophrenia but were unaware of this due to lack of English and awareness.

We loved….
How both books complimented each other; one was the experience of living with Schizophrenia, one was the experience of living with others who have Schizophrenia. We loved how much we learned about the subtleties of this illness and how much we learned of the struggles of immigration and living in Wolverhampton at that time. Both books were difficult to put down, and the consensus was that we were happy to have persevered with them. We liked how both books played with the timelines, and used lists, and letters. Oh, and we loved being outside and having Sarah all the way over from Australia for it, and also welcoming a new member, Chris.

We didn’t love….
…Drew’s Australian accent! and Lucy’s substandard ‘question tree’ in Michelle’s absence, and how the photos in The Boy with Top Knot didn’t show up well on the Kindle. We also thought this book was lightly self indulgent in the beginning, and how some bits dragged on a bit too much.

We disagreed….
While the vast majority loved The Shock of the Fall, there were a few members of the group who raised the interesting point that the dystopia created in the book was negated by the fact that the author used narrative techniques such as withholding information for suspense, thus rendering the troubled character a bit unrealistic in their eyes. However, someone explained the possible use of these techniques by quoting Richard Burton who says “When I played drunks I had to remain sober because I didn’t know how to play them when I was drunk”. While some enjoyed the range of fonts and styles which emulated the darting around of Matt’s mind, others found it distracting and that it made it difficult to follow.

We digressed….
…and talked about labels, and how they can inhibit and also help people with disabilities and mental heath problems. We talked about our own personal experiences of how labels have affected our lives. We talked about whether books like these will help to educate people on mental health, and also racial integration, and although we would like to think that they will, the valid point was made that these books will sadly only reach the people who want to be reached.

A Character Based on Possessions (a freewrite)

I always thought his chair looked strange without him sat in it. You had to sit in the room a long time to get a glimpse of it empty. When you did you couldn’t help but notice the difference in colour of material where the sun rarely had a chance to reach the places masked by his body. On the rare occasion that he left the confines of the chair it would be because he needed a new, sharper pencil for his crosswords. He kept a healthy supply of orange coloured 2H pencils in an old coffee jar. This lead stained old jar was always wedged into the corner of the windowsill, tucked behind the curtain and more often than not next to a red poinsettia, the pointy tips of the freshly sharpened pencils contrasting with the withered pale red tips of yet another unwanted gift from his daughter who offered endless plants instead of her time.

It always confused me how someone who couldn’t go to bed on a blunt pencil was not affected at all by the noticeable layer of light-coloured dust on the dark red radio next to their bed. I had heard the radio several times on a Sunday morning, so I knew he used it, but it was so old that even the sound coming from it sounded thick with dust. I think he was focused on the things that would keep his mind from wandering, and this was his crossword competitions, so the only things that warranted his time outside of this pursuit, was the sharpening of his pencils and the hole-punching of his competition entry forms so that he could store them and keep on track of his lack of success.  The only reason he kept the poinsettia on the windowsill for so long was for his neighbours to see that someone had been there to see him. The plant itself was just one more unnecessary object around him.