Book club – March 2016

We had a very lively discussion at the Seymour Arms this month, ranging across all kinds of literature from crime thrillers – Donna Léon a particular favourite with some – to brilliant first novels, to novels that involve cultural and historical travel, and back to Virginia Woolf. We reflected that some books, though worthy, can be a chore to read, while others are engaging on every level, so that one postpones and postpones those last ten or fifteen pages, reluctant to terminate what has become a thrilling, or delightful room in one’s life; an obsession, even …

Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home comes with a recommendation this month from Pauline White. It is a hefty book, but not a heavy read, that deals with the experience of the Second World War, not just in Europe but also in the Middle East and in Burma; a vivid and salutary reminder of what our parents’,grandparents’ and, for the younger readers, great-grandparents’ generation went through in the war. And what, after all that, does ‘coming home’ mean? For the heroine it means a large house in Cornwall, which she eventually inherits, and while the world is in disintegration all around her, with family members being lost and found, she does seem to fall on her feet at each stage.

Opinion is divided on Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins with some readers unconvinced by her account of the hippy years of communes and squats, others finding the reconstruction authentic. Most people loved the hero, Teddy. More opinions would be welcome.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton is on my list for the next month. It is a first novel, set in 17th-century Amsterdam, the story of a dynastic marriage among merchant families between a very young girl and her much older, burgher husband. He gives her, as a wedding present, a miniature version of their house. Then she begins to receive, anonymously, characters to put in the house, resembling actual inhabitants and reflecting something of their state or situation. These little figures unfold to the girl a story …

Elena Ferrante’s Naples quartet, about two friends, Elena and Lila, both bright girls, very different, but whose lives are intertwined through the academic success of one, through sheer hard work and determination, and the brilliance of the other, who is more constrained by social and familial circumstance. They grow up in a very poor area of Naples, and their relationship seems to remind many women of intense friendships they have had. The first book is called My Brilliant Friend. Intriguingly, as part of the message of these books is that no-one can escape their past, very little is known about their author. To read them, you have to be prepared to become obsessed. Some of us are, others are wary …

The wary are reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

Lindsey Shaw-Miller
01761 463,659
lindseysm8@gmail.com