I'm planning the next one and thought I might as well post some info here as anywhere. Several people have picked up on an earlier announcement and this is what I've circulated to date:
As yet, no one has booked and it’s not my intention to rush anyone into doing so. Instead, to help you get a feel for what you might expect, I thought I would start the ball rolling on the kind of books we might discuss by championing my favourites from 2012.
Both were shortlisted for this year’s Orange prize but lost out at the final hurdle. You could say I’m playing safe but both of the groups I belong to here in Winchester chose to read and discuss them which made for four super evenings.
Room by Emma Donoghue
I have to admit Ms Donoghue had slipped under my radar, even though she has a substantial backlist. However, I suspect Room will take some beating and it will be interesting to see how her next book does. (I mention this because we have a combination of Room and The Sealed Letter as a featured book in the next issue ofnewbooks.) To me the slight inconsistencies in how she represented the child’s view of the world in Room were massively forgivable for the story she unravelled. It will stay with me for a long time and while I fully anticipate going to the – inevitable - film when it’s released, I know already that it can’t live up to the ‘screening’ that took place inside my head as I read faster and faster to reach the end.
Grace Williams says it Loud by Emma Henderson
Unlike some of my group colleagues, I don’t research the books we’re going to read (finishing the books in time is an achievement in itself!) So to find that Grace Williams . . . was not only a debut but also had a strong autobiographical element came as something of a jolt. Black humour isn’t to everyone’s taste but here it had me laughing out loud at how Grace and her friends made a life out of daunting circumstances. There was also extremely clever use of language to convey the limitations but imagination of Grace’s thought processes. The spectre of ‘difficult second book syndrome’ now rears its head for Ms Henderson but I think there’s a really talented writer here and I may be tempted to pinch the review copy when the next book comes in.
Both of these books were so ‘refreshing’. Perhaps a strange word to use but both authors found something new to say that I haven’t come across elsewhere in recent reading.
For me there seemed to be a kind of closure at the end of each but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to undergo what the protagonist of each went through. In fact, each seemed to be exactly the kind of book you join a reading group to read. That is to say, something outside your comfort zone that helps you to understand – or at least appreciate – another viewpoint of the world.
So, there you have it – two unsettling books! What a way to encourage you to come along! However, I suspect that some/most of you will have read one or both already – which is the whole point of this exercise. Few of us can find time to plough through 8 new books by next May so recycling some old favourites would ease the load. And if you wanted to opt for a picture book or poetry – both of which we very successfully included last time – or a book of short stories then choose away.
In fact, it doesn’t matter if you don’t manage to read all the books – last time two ‘accompanying’ gentlemen tried our first session and didn’t miss one thereafter, offering interesting opinions and joining in the discussions.
And if last time is anything to go by, we will have a really fun time - War was our theme then and we had many, many laughs during that week.
So please feel free to send me a paragraph or three about the book or books you’d consider championing and I’ll circulate them for general consumption. Who knows, by the time we hopefully meet in Normandy we may well know each other far better than we expect.
And if this is enough to whet your appetite then simply email me at email@example.com and I'll add you to the cc list for future emails so you can see how the reading list develops and perhaps decided to join us in France next spring. Now there's a thought to chase away these dark nights!