2002 - Setting up the group
It was quite hard to set up a book group.
I met Don in the village, hurrying off the bus, and stopped him
and suggested it. He said he'd wanted to be in a reading group for
years, but the last thing he fancied was being outnumbered by a
load of women, which as far as he knew was what book groups were
So, frankly, John and I set about scouting for men, and though we
thought we'd never find any, in the end they outnumbered the women.
By the time we'd found enough members, Don had his diary heavily
Mark was keen, but he's a long-haul flight attendant, and kept being
off on trips. Trevor was quite mad on the idea, but was so busy
fixing someone's kitchen and making someone else's sideboard he
forgot and missed the planning meeting.
In the end, we got it together, and decided on our first book: Jonathan
Franzen's The Corrections.
November 2002 - The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen (2002)
We met at mine and John's. We had to bring chairs down from upstairs.
Everyone brought red wine.
Mark didn't turn up; he was on a flight to Hong Kong.
I introduced the book. Trevor hadn't read it (because he'd only
just remembered about the group), so I recapped the story: an elderly
couple try to get their family together for one last Christmas,
while the history of the fraught family relations is unpicked.
I said I thought it was brilliantly written, with amazing empathy
for all of the characters, and that as a writer I was dead jealous
of it, and Jeanne, who is a fiction writer too, agreed.
Everyone liked it, nearly all loved it. Don thought Jonathan Franzen
was exceptionally clever, and was very impressed by the depth of
his knowledge about so many subjects, finance, railway engineering,
Jeanne then said that, actually, she wasn't so impressed by that,
she could have done without all those technical details, and in
fact found herself skipping them.
Sarah then said that she'd skipped, too (she's a doctor and doesn't
have a lot of time) and that basically she found the book too long.
She also said that she wished the characters' different stories
had been more intertwined, and not presented in discrete clumps
as they are.
All in all, though, we gave it a big thumbs-up.
Then Don and Jeanne, who are married and live some way from the
rest of us and like to get up early to write, went home.
We opened another bottle and Trevor said that though he hadn't read
it he was very impressed by the book from our discussion, especially
the old-bloke father character. He said there are people like that,
and told us about a guy he knew who was.
Then Sarah said how nervous she had been about joining a reading
group with literary types like me and John and Don and Jeanne, and
Doug who is an accountant agreed with her, and they both said it
had turned out fine after all.
Click here to
add your comments
December 2002 - True History of the
by Peter Carey (2000)
We met at Sarah's. Her house is very neat and tidy, unlike mine
and John's. She had a huge Christmas tree with lights that faded
and brightened and some very classy baubles and also some gaudier
ones she's had since she was a child. She had made mulled wine and
little mince pies with leaf-shaped pastry on top. We ate them all.
Mark didn't make it to the meeting, he was still on his way back
I am sorry to say that none of us liked the book except Trevor,
who only did so by changing his mind for the sake of argument.
Doug, who had chosen it, said he wished he hadn't.
I turned up late, because I'd been trying to finish it first, which
I hadn't been able to make myself do beforehand.
We all agreed that the narrative voice was brilliantly and consistently
done, but we were all bored by its one-dimensionality, and didn't
have the same romantic interest in Ned Kelly which we suspected
would override the problem for Australians.
We didn't find a lot more to say (and we couldn't remember the book
well enough to refer to it in detail), so it was a fairly boring
discussion, until Trevor changed his own mind by pointing out that,
actually, life is like that for immigrants, and got us onto a more
general discussion about that.
Don and Jeanne went home even earlier.
We had another bottle and then the rest of us left together.
We stood outside and looked up at the huge ash tree in Trevor's
garden where an owl sits and hoots every night just before it goes
dark. There was a big moon. The pavements were icy. Trevor followed
us down the road in the wrong direction, away from the tree, still
talking about immigrants' problems.
Then Sarah came out and called that Jeanne had left her glasses,
and came and joined us, and we all stood in the middle of the road
looking up at the tree again.
List of all books discussed (alphabetically