Archive for October, 2008

Berwick’s October meeting

So we had our second meeting – and perhaps rather like the typical second novel/second album, it was going to be a hard job to follow the excellent first one! A hard core of us turned out on a very nippy evening and Kim’s cakes made it worth the trip, if nothing else.

I think we all enjoyed chatting about Jonathan Coe’s The Rain Before It Falls – even if we didn’t find reading it such an enjoyable experience.  I had to take personal responsibility for this choice.  As a big fan of Coe’s earlier works, including The House of Sleep, What a Carve-up! and The Rotters Club,  I expected to be on safe territory with his latest novel. But it turned, for many of us, into an example of how not to write a book!

I have to say the dislike was not unanimous. There was admiration for the subjects tackled in the book (cycles of abuse, dysfunctional relationships) and for Coe’s descriptions of landscape. But no prizes for his geography!  Quite how the suggestion that “the North East coast” includes “Lincolnshire” got past the proof-readers, I’m not sure! 

But many of use didn’t find the characters credible – even the main voice of Rosamund was hard to believe in and even harder to care about.  It meant that even when we reached the sad conclusions of the novel, few of us were very moved.  We felt that Coe seemed to be locked into a slightly contrived structure, using the photographs, and it just didn’t work.

I hope I’ve convinced some of the group to try some other Jonathan Coe before giving up on him entirely!

Another great thing about book groups is that you can pick up recommendations for other works that you might not have considered before.  When the conversation strayed back to last month’s choice, Half of a Yellow Sun,  we were recommended to try some harrowing but gripping short stories about different parts of Africa and another member gave us her thoughts on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s first novel, Purple Hibiscus

So the choice for November is that Richard-and-Judy, Book-Group-stalwart, The Time Traveller’s Wife (yes, I do know that on the book cover “traveller” is spelled with one “l”  – but the foggy old pedant inside me couldn’t bear to write it that way, sorry!).  I do think it may be one of those books that some will find mind-blowing and others will lose patience with very quickly, so I think next month’s will be a fascinating meeting.  Looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Tuesday 25th November 2008, 6.30pm – 8pm. Doolally’s at Marygate in Berwick. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  Read it before the film comes out!


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

October 2008
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