Archive for July, 2010

New books for autumn and winter

I know, it’s only July – but if you’re reaching that point when you’re lining the bottom of your suitcase with books, then this is just the list you need!
There are some really interesting choices to take us through the dark nights of autumn and winter.
They are:
September: Blind Side of the Heart by Julia Franck.
This won last year’s German Book Prize (and is said to have been beautifully translated). It follows a family during the rise of Hitler.
October: Small Wars by Sadie Jones.
This coincides with an event the author is doing at the Durham Book Festival and is one that all the groups will be reading at the same time. You may have read The Outcast, which was very good. This one is set in the Mediterranean during the 1950s.
November: The Rapture by Liz Jensen.
A kind of global warming thriller! (I’m pretty sure Doolally’s already has these in stock).
December: The Children’s Book by AS Byatt.
(I warned you about this – in the sense that it’s quite a lengthy tome! Maybe one to start early rather than try to get through it in the run-up to Christmas!)
January: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
Another quite lengthy one – the Orange prizewinner. This is one of my favourite books of the year and I think there is potential for a great discussion, so I hope you like this choice.
Looking forward to seeing everyone on on the first Tuesday of September, which is the 7th.
Next meeting: Tuesday 7th September, Doolally’s, Marygate, Berwick upon Tweed. The Blind Side of the Heart by Julia Franck.


Sounds of summer bring lyrical end to the Book Group’s year

There’s a famous quote that goes: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” – in other words, a rather pointless thing to do. There’s an ongoing controversy on the Internet about who said this line. But whoever they were, they were witty but they were wrong, as the Berwick Book Group proved when they came up with a wide range of readings on that very subject, all of them illuminating and entertaining. There was so much to talk about and listen to that the evening turned into something of a marathon – good job there was plenty of food and wine to keep us going (thanks everyone!).
Mike provided a great start to the evening with a recording of Jack Kerouac reading from On The Road. He ended Kerouac’s vivid description of a band playing with a track from Charlie Parker and we all felt we could envisage the hot, sweaty, Saturday night scene from the novel. Paula turned to Shakespeare’s famous sonnet Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day and played Cleo Laine and John Dankworth’s haunting jazz interpretation of it. Margaret treated us to a rare recording of John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk live at Carnegie Hall 50 years ago, which also inspired Michael Connolly’s American detective hero Hieronymus Bosch in the novel Echo Park.
Fictional detectives and music often pair up well and crime fan Janet gave us a few insights into their tastes. We may be familiar with Morse and Rebus, but Janet explained how jazz featured in John Harvey’s Resnick novels and Mark Billingham’s DI Tom Thorne is a big fan of Johnny Cash. Peter Robinson’s character DCI Alan Banks is so firmly linked to a soundtrack that the author’s website has a playlist to go with the novels. So much to choose from – but Janet went for Maria Muldaur’s perfect summer track, Midnight at the Oasis, mentioned in Friend of the Devil.
Hannah introduced us to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series and chose a track by Florence and the Machine which matched its mood. She also read from Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife and chose two lovely tracks from Beyonce (Ave Maria) and The Kinks (Days) which she felt represented the two main characters.
Another unusual choice came from Ann, who read from Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and played some stirring bluegrass music, which brought the text even more alive. Maisie read a section of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and illustrated it with Chris Barber playing Beale Street Blues (which she’d gone to great lengths to track down). Again, it was easy to imagine the dancers and their shiny shoes shuffling to this very sound.
Jill read from Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music which features musicians as central characters and in the first classical piece of the night, chose an extract from Schubert’s Trout Quintet.
I also went for a classical piece – the overture from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, which forms the structure and plot elements for one of my favourite books, Barbara Trapido’s Temples of Delight.
So no shortage of inspiration there. Last month, in the absence of any set reading, we also swapped around some of our own favourite books and so the group gave their verdicts on the choices. I struck lucky because I read Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca and realised that although I thought I knew the story, the film and TV adaptations have rather sold it short and there is much more to the novel. Paula read and enjoyed Marcus Zusak’s excellent The Book Thief, which employs Death as a narrator for a tale set in wartime Germany. Her teenage son read The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, but although he enjoyed it, he couldn’t be persuaded to provide her with a full review! Maisie, however, was not taken with Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and her description of the subject matter didn’t entice the rest of us to read it either. Ann enjoyed Richard Matheson’s cult novel of the 1950s, I Am Legend, which she recommends far above the film. Mike had already read Christopher Brookmyre’s Quite Ugly One Morning but felt it merited a second reading. Janet has started Cormac McCarthy’s The Road but Margaret could not finish Carolina de Robertis’ saga Invisible Mountain.
As usual, we don’t have a meeting in August but if you’re stuck for literary inspiration, Maisie has discovered two brilliant websites: for recommendations and for reviews, interviews etc. We’ll be back in September (our third year!) with a new autumn reading list – watch this space for details. Meanwhile – deck chairs and paperbacks at the ready!

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

July 2010
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