Published 7 January 2010
Here’s something to fire everyone up in these chilly days! It’s the new book choices for the next few months. I think they look really interesting.
As you know, in February we will be reading Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows.
March: New Writing North is planning to do a retrospective event for the Newcastle writer, Gordon Burn, who died of cancer last year. To tie in with this ,we will read his final book : Born Yesterday, the News as a Novel, which took topical news stories and fictionalized them.
April: The Shadow of a Smile by Kachi Ozumba
Kachi Ozumba teaches creative writing at Newcastle University and this is his first novel. It is about a Nigerian student who is imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit.
‘Ozumba has written a tragic story exploring the powerlessness of the law, and the ease with which it can be abused by those appointed its custodians.’ -The Independent.
May: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. You can’t have escaped the recent publicity after this won the Costa Book Award!
June: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
`A gripping story, with beguiling characters . . . As well as being a supernatural tale, it is a meditation on the nature of the British and class, and how things are rarely what they seem. Chilling.’ – Kate Mosse, The Times, Summer Read
July: Over to You. Choose a summer party, a barbeque on the beach, a book swap, book quiz, have a list of favorites in June and then vote on them for July. July is the month for you and your book group to decide what you would like to do. Can we top last year’s literary picnic?
Hope this inspires everyone to keep reading – after all, once you’ve built a snowman, there’s not much else to do at the moment!
Kim at Doolally’s is away at the moment but I’ll contact her as soon as possible to get the books in stock.
See you all next month!
Published 6 January 2010
How many readers does it take to form a Book group? This was the question I found myself asking last night as I sat for a few minutes on my ownsome in Doolally’s. Fortunately, this sorry state did not last long and two more hardy members turned up in defiance of the snow. Any date in January in Northumberland has to be prone to the vagaries of the weather but I think by now we would all be happy to send this snow and ice back to the pages of Child 44!
This month’s book was the fascinating novel by Linda Grant, The Clothes on Their Backs. It was a real shame that so many members couldn’t make it, because if the e-mails are anything to go by, then this Booker shortlisted novel was a popular choice with much to discuss.
The narrator, Vivien, is the only child of fearful refugee parents who keep her protected and isolated in their crumbling London flat. When she is ten, she discovers she has a relative – an uncle who turns up at her door in a brightly-coloured suit wielding a huge bar of Toblerone. But Sandor is chased by her angry father and eventually Vivien finds out why. Her uncle, dubbed ‘The Face of Evil’ in the tabloid newspapers, was a slum landlord (the character, according to Grant, was based on Peter Rachman). Vivien is a very passive character but this makes her a fascinating filter for Sandor’s story; we soon become aware of how much she is prepared to overlook in order to gain closeness with her exotic uncle. The novel’s events – which are small in scale, as this is definitely character-led rather than plot-led – lead up to the excruciating birthday party Sandor holds for Vivien. For me, this was a brilliant scene in that it was very vivid, funny and also utterly cringe-making.
We agreed that some of the characters in this novel are beautifully drawn – Eunice, for instance, and Sandor himself. The references to clothing which run through the book work very well and Ann particularly loved the ending: ‘A new dress. Is this all it takes to make a new beginning, this shred of dyed cloth, shaped into the form of a woman’s body? The crowd hurried past, their faces lit with anxiety and excitement. Our vulnerability suddenly touched me, all our terrible, moving weaknesses contained in a jacket, a skirt, a pair of shoes.’ (P. 293).
The discussion was great but because of the small number, necessarily shorter than it would otherwise have been. Which brings me back to my question: how many readers does it take to form a book group? Definitely more than one… two is a little awkward … three is probably quorate! But the more the merrier – so let’s hope the weather unfreezes by February, when we’re reading the Orange Prize shortlised novel Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie.
Next meeting: Tuesday 2nd February, 2010. 6.30pm at Doolally’s, Marygate, Berwick upon Tweed. Discussing Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie.