We’ve been trying to get a new feature off the ground but
early attempts have plunged head first back to earth. The Verdict is meant to recount the discussion a group has about a
soon to be published book. So, not a review – although there would be a synopsis
to start the spread and it would end with the participants comments with thumbs
up, down or in the middle. And not
a readers’ guide – although there may well be a list of discussion questions (but
not the Open University style beloved of publishers that I’ve railed against so
No, the heart of The
Verdict is the conversation that ensued about the book and the issues it
raised – in other words what you probably do at your meetings (without the
extraneous information and gossip).
This is a blatant attempt by us and the publisher to give a
new author – both we’ve tried so far have been first novels - a boost to stand out from the crowd
and, through our pages, catch the attention of reading groups.
We pitched the idea to a couple of our favourite publishers
who, not surprisingly, jumped at it swearing on their mother’s graves that they
had the absolute perfect book/author. Which just goes to show how much
publishers know about their own books. In what follows the titles of the books
and the names of the authors must remain secret.
Debbie Davies, now of this parish, asked her group if they
would be up for it, as did I with one of the groups I belong to. Debbie’s group
were in complete agreement on one thing – this was the worst book they had ever read together. Quite an achievement
for a title that the publisher plans to aim fair and square at you! The only
other positive outcome was that they now have the book on their media radar to
see if they or the publisher were right. Oh, and they had a fun evening trying to be polite about the book.
Last night, a small but representative group gathered here
and we too had a really good evening. The
only drawback was that every time we came back to the book it was only to damn
it with faint praise. We learnt some of Toni’s back story and I am intrigued
(read: nosey) enough to want to know more. She’s not one who holds the floor to
declaim her opinions – more of a thoughtfully perceptive sentence or two that
makes you reappraise what you were thinking.
By coincidence, each of us last night have two sons and we
debated the point at which children become adults and how much you tell them
about the mistakes you made when you were their age. Reunions and revisiting
old haunts also brought interesting revelations. All of these sprang from
issues in the book but you’d never spot which it was from these ‘clues’.
So, a veil has been drawn over our first two attempts but
we’re keen to keep trying – all we need now is a publisher who genuinely
understands what engages a reading group. And if your group are up for a future
project then do let me know.