Archive for September, 2008

Book Group under way!

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!


Countdown to a new reading group

Barbara Henderson

OK, so I have never blogged before and I’ve never run a reading group either (although I used to tag along to one).  So I’m probably hugely unqualified to do this – but I’m really hoping that it’ll work anyway!

Berwick’s a brilliant place but, it has to be said, it’s also a bit on the quirky side – so I have no way of predicting how many readers are going to turn up to the first meeting on Sept 23rd.  Just hoping for a few people with a bit of enthusiasm.

Who the heck am I to run a book group? Well – I’m a keen reader. My day job is as a BBC journalist, but no, that does not mean I’ll be taping anyone’s comments and broadcasting them somewhere! I’m also doing a part-time course in Creative Writing at Newcastle University and that’s sometimes led me to read books with a slightly different eye.

On to the book. Anyone got through Half of a Yellow Sun yet?  I read it on holiday a week or so ago and thought it was stunning – but far from an easy read. It taught me a lot about the Biafran conflict – I was a child at the time and can remember images on the news but to my shame I wasn’t too aware of the issues behind it. Can’t wait to hear what other people thought of the book!  If you’re in Berwick  – please come along and get the group going! Tuesday Sept 23rd at Doolally’s cafe, at the Town House in Marygate. 6.30pm – 8pm (cafe open for coffee/cakes until 7pm).  If you sign up for the group at Doolally’s, you can get 5 per cent off the price of the books!

About the book group

The Berwick Book Group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at the First Class Passenger Lounge on the platform of Berwick Train Station at 6.30pm.

If you would like more information about what the group is reading, please visit

September 2008
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