Archive for December, 2008

A little light extra reading!

Thanks to everyone who found time in the busy run-up to Christmas to come to the December book group – and according to Ann, who kindly hosted the meeting when I couldn’t make it,  there was a very lively discussion on Pat Barker’s Life Class.   Seems everyone had a similar experience of finishing the book in something of a rush – which made things very interesting,  as the thoughts and comments were very fresh and immediate.  In a way, it meant readers were developing their thoughts on the book as the meeting went along.  As Ann said, this is another of the great things about being in a reading group – I know when I finished the novel I really wanted to hear what other people had to say, which always helps me get more out of a book. 

Most people liked the book, although some perhaps felt it wasn’t as good as Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, which covered the similar subject matter of the First World War.  The author’s knowledge of this period of history is outstanding and people felt they could trust her accuracy.  The first half of the book, set in London, seemed to be less engaging than the second, and it was interesting to see how the wartime experiences developed the characters. For me, one of the most well-drawn characters was Lewis, who didn’t say so much about himself yet seemed to be someone who the reader felt they knew and cared about. 

As I said in the last blog, New Writing North has come up with an interesting list of books to read in the coming months, but the group also came up with their own ideas!  So I’m listing these suggestions here so that anyone who gets the time can dip into these too. They’re a really interesting set of books, so I know I’m going to try to read them! They are:

Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels

Oyster by Janet Turner Hospital

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Schriver

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

So these are not compulsory -but given what a discerning group the Berwick bunch is, I think all of them will be well worth a try if you’re stuck for a good read.  Kim at Doolallys is always happy to order in books and she has of course promised to get in the ones on our list ‘proper’ for January to April.

Looking forward to seeing everyone again at the January meeting  – and in the mean time, have a brilliant Christmas and may all your stockings be bulging with books!

Next meeting: Tuesday January 27th at 6.30pm. Doolally’s in Marygate, Berwick.  Constitutional by Helen Simpson.


New Year, New Books, New Dates!

As I write, the last book group of the year has yet to meet, but family circumstances mean I won’t be able to get along to it.  It’ll go ahead as usual, however, kindly hosted by Ann Coburn.  I’m looking forward to hearing how Pat Barker’s Life Class went down with everyone.

This entry is to let everyone know the dates and book choices for the next four months.

The meetings will be held as usual in the very hospitable venue of Doolally’s in Marygate and the dates/books are as follows:

Tues January 27th: Constitutional by Helen Simpson

Tues Feb 24th: Things Fall Apart  by Chinua Achebe

Tues March 24th: God’s Own Country by  Ross Raisin

Tues April 28th: Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen

Get them on your Christmas list if it’s not too late – otherwise do order them from Kim at Doolally’s and remember to ask for your 5% discount as a member of the Berwick Book Group.

They’re also linked to some events in the region.  Helen Simpson is participating in an event in Newcastle on 31st January and Things Fall Apart is celebrated in an event planned for 14th March.

There are some suggestions for books in May and June, linked to a planned promotion of North-East writers, but these are yet to be confirmed. And – a long way in the distance! – plans for a summer reading party for July (thoughts and ideas welcome on this!).

Have a good meeting on December 16th!

Teapots and time travelling

Hi to all the brave souls who came to the November meeting! And of course to those who were there in spirit. There was a smaller number than usual for this month’s book group at Berwick – but lots of regulars were away and of course it is a busy time of the year. Once again I think Kim’s teas, coffees and cherry and almond shortbread were good enough reasons to come!

We were reading the much-hyped The Time Traveller’s Wife, the highly accomplished first novel by Audrey Niffenegger. What an interesting reponse we had. I think it’s fair to say that there was a distinct gender split! Four of the women were pretty positive about it, whereas the two chaps couldn’t get into it at all.  I’d be really interested to know if there’s been a similar gender-related demarcation in other book groups that have read this novel.

Although I think we agreed we wouldn’t classify it under science fiction, those who loved the book were impressed by the author’s very thorough examination of the possibilities and the ramifications of time travel – and how she even managed to make it funny. The boys wondered whether the time travel “worked out” although we decided against getting out the pen and paper to draw up a timeline!

But the time travel was really secondary to the love story. For me and some of the others who were taken with it, it was a very hopeful book concentrating on the potential for love to conquer all.  I felt that although the book was called The Time Traveller’s Wife, Henry was the more rounded and better realised character.  A reader who shall remain nameless admitted to being a bit in love with Henry on a first reading – although a second reading flagged up more of his flaws!  One reader who much prefers sci-fi and would never usually read a romantic novel absolutely loved it, so that was one of those happenings that makes a reading group well worthwhile!

We all had slight reservations about the frequent time-travelling by Henry to Clare as a child. It wasn’t helped by the rather unpleasant front cover, which did have a look of one of those child-abuse misery memoirs that seem to fill the shop shelves these days. But perhaps that discomfort says a lot about our culture today – I wonder, if the book had come out 10 or 15 years ago, whether we would have felt this way.

As we consign that novel to the past, we have a slightly earlier meeting next month to take account of Christmas. We’ll be reading Pat Barker’s Life Class.  Looking forward to seeing everyone then!

Next meeting: Tuesday December 16th, 6.30pm. Doolally’s on Marygate, Berwick. Life Class by Pat Barker.

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

December 2008
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