The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Do No Harm by Dr. Henry Marsh

(April 2014 Meetup)

The books…
This month had a medicinal theme.

  • The Fault in Our Stars is a fictional novel about two young people who have cancer, and the book follows their lives and their love story.
  • Do No Harm is the non-fiction account of a top neurosurgeon who lays bare the trials and tribulations of his profession with admirable honesty.

We loved….
…everything about The Fault in Our Stars from the characters to the plot to the writing. It is moving and had a strong impact on us all. We loved most things about Do No Harm, especially the fact that Anne features in one of the chapters. We loved learning more about the intricacies of the surgery, and the refreshing honesty of the author who explains how one can only become an expert at anything by making mistakes, but that unfortunately the mistakes in brain surgery are often fatal.

We didn’t love….
…the trailer to the film of The Fault in Our Stars which we fear will not do justice to the writing. Some of us didn’t like the arrogance of Dr. Marsh in Do No Harm.

We disagreed….
…on quite a lot this month actually! There were conflicting thoughts from the Arts and Sciences. Some thought that Scientists are generally the ones who make the effort to cross over into the Arts, whereas others felt as though Scientists gave the impression of being superior. The attitude of Dr Marsh was seen by some as a necessary confidence and arrogance for the type of profession, but by others as sheer egotism. There was a difference of opinion in the quality of the writing, with most people finding it creative and enjoyable but others feeling like it was too scientific.

We digressed….  
and talked about how cancer has touched our own lives, and how much this book is spot on with a lot of what it says about the support groups and attitudes of others. We agreed how it is a real shame that this is marketed as teenage fiction and therefore may not be picked off the shelves by enough adults.

February Meetup 2016 – Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The book..IMG_0793
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

This novel portrays the tension between illusions and material reality. Gives different perspectives

My 2nd reading of this book showed me a huge amount of stuff I’d forgotten.

We liked…
some of the humorous writing, such as the parrot episodes, and the surrealism.

We didn’t like…

  • How Marquez suggests that all women have carnal appetites.
  • How uncomfortable it was to read about the relationship with the 14yr old girl.
  • How difficult it was to empathise with some of the characters.

We agreed…

  • that the book would maybe not be able to be written now, with it’s discussion of rape and the underage relationship.
  • that it was interesting magic surrealism, a bit like some of Salman Rushdie’s works.
  • that it would have been good to have a sample of some letters. Guernsey Potato Peel book was so effective with the letters that some would have been so interesting.

We discussed…

whether ‘perverts are allowed to be in love’?

We digressed….
..and talked about whether two people in a couple can ever always want the same things, and that there seem to be 3 options:
1 – Be like elastic bands, going away from each other then bouncing back
2 – Take turns to do what you want
3 – One person tends to dominate the other
…and talked about how ‘Cholera’ means ‘Passion’ in Spanish and how whether knowing this affects the story. Passion is discussed like an illness throughout the book.

Other talk about marriage included a discussion about what is most important. We arrived at the conclusion that it was when you can be the best person you know you can be with that other person, the most yourself and most true to yourself.

Reviewed by:
Chris A, Judy D, Carol, Judy J, Nadia , and me J

Next month…
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In March, 2016, 7:30pm.


January 2016 Meetup – Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

 drew pratchett

The book.. Maskerade by Terry Pratchett.

Not all of us in the group had ever been drawn to read Terry Pratchett as he seems to write in such a specific way. However Kath, a very welcome newcomer to the group, made such a compelling case that we all voted this as the first book to kick off 2016. This novel forms part of the Discworld series, but also stands alone as quite separate to anything else he wrote. There are at least 3 layers to this book. He uses the sci-fi world to mirror our society and each book is a social commentary.

We loved… – That it was a standalone book in a large series. – How he allows his characters to change to suit the particular novel in the series. – Kath’s reading out of the chocolate sauce passage – Anne’s mask which we all had the joy of wearing – How Judy J said it didn’t make her laugh once, just before she burst into laughter re-reading one of his paragraphs.

We didn’t love… Some of us debated the quality of ‘fantasy’ as a genre, with a few thinking that it is just an easy way to say anything you want to.

We agreed… …that his similes were astounding and that the work needs to be read aloud to be fully appreciated. …that his female characters tend to be more rounded as a whole, than the male. They don’t back away from difficult situations. Whereas the men all seem to have some sort of weakness. …that there is something intrinsically English about Terry Pratchett.

We discussed… …how he didn’t want his books to be made into films. Perhaps the changing characters would not work so well in films. …how Tony Robinson is by far the best narrator to listen to if you want to listen to the audio version. …how Pratchett enjoyed talking to people and that there is a gentle yet deflating way about how he satirises something or someone. … the rumour that this book was written as a dig at his previous agents about fraud, because he changed agents straight after this book. …the very serious couple of pages around chapter 5/6 which looks at a cow and baby’s death which could be interpreted to be about his own child.

We disagreed… …about whether his writing made us laugh out loud or not. …and some thought that this was perhaps his weakest novel in the series because it was more domestic than others. Some of his other novels tackle politics and larger questions. The book chooser pointed out that this tackles the subject of equal rights. It is believed to have been written in response to Pratchett’s daughter being bullied. She was very into her gaming but this was considered to be something that girl’s just didn’t do. So he wrote this book.

We digressed…. ..and considered whether there were any strong female characters in Lord of the Rings.

Reviewed by:
 Zuhal, Chris A, Judy D, Anne, Drew, Paul, Karen, Julie, Chris G, Judy J, JB, Kath, and me.

Next month… Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In Feb, 2016, 7:30pm.

May 2015 Meetup – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

cat tail

The book..

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

We loved…
…the style of writing in general
…the sections on the war
… learning about the minutiae of Japanese life in general


We didn’t love…
…how quickly it wound down at the end.
…how sometimes we would be reading a passage with infinitesimal detail about something then realise you we have missed that crucial sentence which explains why the character has moved from A to B.

We agreed…
…that despite the length and occasional tedium, the language was enjoyable enough to keep going. Someone said that the sentences were lovely, and they turned into good paragraphs, which turned into great chapters, and it just made you want to keep reading.
…that the surreal nature to the writing is probably something much more prevalent in Japanese culture.
We disagreed…
…about whether the bit about stroking someone’s bum to see if it is your lost cat’s tail is the best thing we have ever read or not.
We digressed….
…and talked about how it seemed to remind people of a computer game, where there are different levels to reach, and seemingly unrelated surroundings are all placed together.

Reviewed by:
Zuhal, Chris A, Judy D, Anne, Drew, Paul, Karen, Jackie, Carol, and me J

Next month…
SKyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In June, 2015, 7:30pm.

April 2015 Meetup – Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The book..

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. This is a book about a woman’s journey by foot on the PCT trail in America, which she undertakes as a response to her mother’s illness and various other triggers in her life. She describes physical suffering as a way to combat the emotional suffering at the time.

We loved…

…that we had the book club’s first ever film night, and nearly all of us went to the Riverfront, Newport, to watch Wild the day before discussing it.
…how raw and real the writing was
…Michelle’s question boot
…Judy and Drew’s discussion:

Judy J: <some comment about the book>
Drew: ‘you would say that.’
Judy J: ‘I would, and I have.’
We didn’t love….
…that there was a lack of good description of the countryside at times and often we didn’t feel as though we were in the scenery with her.
…that it could be a little too self-indulgent at times.

We agreed…
…that there seems to be more of a rebellion involved in a woman taking off and going on a long journey just because it is not something that was as easy for them to do in the past with gender stereotypes and different roles.
We disagreed….
…about the first chapter. Some of us thought it was the best part of the book, and that it didn’t go on to live up to expectations, others thought that the opening was a little cheesy and that the writing got better over time.

…about whether she used her sexuality to get help along way.

We digressed….
…and talked about whether we would have thrown the second boot over the side of the cliff or not. Some of us were adamant that we would not have done that as it’s not very green, but others would have lost their temper and thrown it without a second thought.

Reviewed by:
Chris A, Judy D, Carol, Anne, Drew, Julie, Nadia, Michelle, Karen, Jackie, Judy J, and me J

Next month…
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In May, 2015, 7:30pm.

January 2015 Meetup – Autobiography Month

jan photo

The books…

This Boy by Alan Johnson and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

We loved…
…how Alan Johnson tells his story in such an ordinary way, and that he is very likeable.
…some of the language in I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings

We didn’t love….
…some of the flat bits in This Boy and felt that there wasn’t as much depth to the people he was describing as there could have been.
…some of the embellished style in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

We agreed…
…that This Boy was often awe-inspiring, as it is inconceivable how certain characters could have done what they did. People found it jaw-dropping what the sister managed to do.
…that they were two books to read in parallel, as they offer stark contrasts of writing style.

We disagreed….
…about whether the style of Maya Angelou’s writing distanced the reader or not.

We digressed….
… and talked about how some of us grew up just 4 miles from Alan Johnson and were in shock about realising what was happening just down the road.

Reviewed by:
Judy J, Jackie, Karen, Carol, Paul, Zuhal, Drew, Anne, Chris G, Robin, and me J

Next month…
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien – White Hart, Llangybi, last Weds In February, 2015, 7:30pm.