So after all those weeks of waiting, the new book group finally got started in Berwick!
I was really delighted that so many people turned up on a chilly, drizzly evening – and I thought we had a fascinating discussion about the first book, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Lots of us loved it – but the great thing about book groups is listening to a range of views and it was interesting to hear what some readers didn’t like about it. One complaint was that the central characters were too middle-class and that one or two of the characters weren’t credible. The character of Olanna seemed to particularly get up people’s noses because she was much a martyr and there was also a suggestion that Kainene was something of a caricature! Others felt she was a fascinating character who readers wanted to know more about. Some people also felt that the author had almost followed a formula for writing a best-seller. But a number of us who didn’t know the background to the Biafran conflict before found it informative and others found the relationships, particularly between the sisters, very powerful.
We talked about the strong suggestion in the book that the story of a conflict like Biafra should only be told by those directly involved, not by those coming from a white Western perspective. Such an interesting debate. Some readers had visited a number of African countries and others had read journalistic accounts of some of the conflicts, so made some very informed comments about the different cultures and how they were reflected in the book.
We also talked about the forthcoming visit of the author to Newcastle and how much value there can be to listening to an author talk about their work. Some of the questions that came up about her writing were answered in the Q and A section at the back of more recent editions of the book, but that wasn’t in the older versions. Perhaps this says something about the way authors are now marketed – or about the rise and rise of book groups and the need to have these kinds of questions answered!
I have to confess one of my favourite moments was when someone confessed to always peeling the “Richard and Judy” stickers off their books. I’ve found a kindred spirit there!
I think we all agreed that Doolally’s was a perfect choice of a venue (and thanks to Kim for the teas and coffees!).
So – here’s to next month’s meeting , which I’m now really looking forward to. The choice is Jonathan Coe’s The Rain Before It Falls, a very touching novel about family secrets and taboo relationships.
As I said last time, I’m new to writing a blog and it does feel a bit like muttering to myself – so do post your comments!
Next Book Group: Tuesday October 21st at 6.30pm. Venue: Doolally’s (at the Town House in Marygate). Book: The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe. Remember to register for the book group at the shop – you’ll get a card which entitles you to 5% off the book choices!