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.

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The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch

july(June 2014 meetup)

The book:
The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch
This book is a semi-autobiographical account of the protagonist’s coming of age, following his journey as he gets sacked from a number of jobs from working in a kebab house where he didn’t realise he had to take the skewer out of the chicken before putting it in a pitta, and various others, including macdonalds, and a stint with a builder. As funny as it is to read about his blaze of glory exits from the workplace, there is the undercurrent of him dealing with the bereavement following the death of his mother, and the consequently tumultuous relationship with his father who is the Head of BBC 2 and desperately trying to get his son to hold down a job.  Another main theme is his rejection of the corporate world and his inability to embrace maturity, so when the ending sees him being accepted onto a journalism course the reader is relieved to witness this first step towards some stability in his life and his entrance into adulthood.

We loved….
The humour and change in style from some of the ‘heavier’ books we have been reading, and the way that the book managed to tackle some really heavy issues such as bereavement, the deterioration of someone before death, while making us laugh out loud. There was a refreshing mix of humour, honesty, and seriousness. We also loved the al fresco setting, and michelle’s epic diary style question tree (see photo!), complete with Welsh cakes! A hard act to follow for next month but I’m sure she will.

We didn’t love….
that Michelle got stuck in traffic and was late and that we were actually going to have to think of something to say unprompted! Also, a few of us thought that perhaps the humour was a little forced in places, especially the beginning, until it became a bit meatier.

We disagreed….
about very much this time. On the whole we all enjoyed it, and everyone who finished it said that they did not expect the ending.

We digressed….
and talked about the difference between bronchitis and pleurisy. We obviously missed the last couple of months’ medicinal themes and wanted to give our brains a workout. Thanks to Robin, our resident microbiologist, we learnt a lot about lungs. We also talked about the possibility of branching out and going to the cinema to watch the film adaptations of books we have read. This led to a discussion about the release of 50 Shades of Grey as a film, and there seems to be more demand for Mansel to reinstate his weekly readings from the book.

 

Life Class by Pat Barker and The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriaty

(Aug 2014 Meetup)

The books:

  • Life Class  by Pat Barker
  • The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriaty.

We loved….
…both books in their own way. They were quite different in a number of ways. Life Class is a heavier piece of work, and the only book that has ever made Chloe cry! and The Husband’s Secret is more of a lighter page turner which makes you ask yourself how you would react if in the same position of discovering the secret.  Most of us agreed that we would read other titles by the same authors, and not many of us had a clue what the secret was until we got to it.

We didn’t love….
…some of Moriaty’s ‘easy’ writing style in places, where she tended to fill in too much information, losing some subtlety even though the plot was gripping. Some of us weren’t that keen on the title either. As for Life Class, some found the scene where Elinor sneaks to the Front completely unbelievable. It was noted that all the characters change over the course of the war apart from Elinor who claims all the way through that she wants to stay true to her art and nothing else, but one of the artists of the bookclub group felt that you cannot be a true artist if you do not embrace change. Interestingly, those reading it on an ereader  who were unable to get information from the cover and the blurb, found it difficult to work out which era it was set in for quite a while.

We disagreed….
…quite strongly about whether the number and type of events that occur to the people The Husband’s Secret were realistic. Some believed that it was unrealistic to have so many dramatic instances in the lives of the group of characters and that the book would have benefitted from fewer dramas. Others firmly believed that a lot of bad things can happen to people in short spaces of time. Some felt that the dramas were just added to make it like a soap opera, whereas others felt that it portrayed the real lives of real people and how they deal with such events.

We digressed….
and talked about the recently released film, Lucy, which discusses the idea of primal instincts in relation to the mother’s in The Husband’s Secret doing whatever necessary to protect their families. We also discussed whether we would have read the letter in the attic and I believe it was a unanimous yes!

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.

May 2015 Meetup – The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

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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.

January 2015 Meetup – Autobiography Month

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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.