Archive for September, 2010


My brain let me down and in my last blog I forgot to include our usual paragraph on what else we’ve all been reading. I know people like to read this part because it often has useful recommendations, so here goes:
Margaret recommends Janice Galloway’s biography of Clara Schumann, Clara, which tells the life story of the pianist prodigy who married the composer Robert Schumann. She also suggests Rose Tremain’s The Road Home, which I can join in recommending.
Gill raved about Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, which is a book which has been circulating the group since the summer – she was so enthusiastic that it does sound hard to resist but it does seem to be a “Marmite” book!
Paula’s been reading Salt and Honey by Candi Miller, which concerns South African apartheid in the 1950s; that 1990s cult classic Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (own up, lots of us bought this, started it and didn’t persist 🙂 ); and War Crimes for the Home which is by Liz Jensen, author of The Rapture which is a forthcoming book group choice.
Helen read Nella Last’s War, the biographical account of one woman’s war experiences as Housewife 49. And Janet, fresh from the Harrogate Crime Writers Festival, recommends Belinda Bauer’s Badlands. (Hope I’ve got this right as I can’t seem to Google it).
All intriguing suggestions – but don’t forget Sadie Jones’ Small Wars for next month’s meeting!


“Lumpy soup” of a novel doesn’t suit all tastes

Julia Franck’s award-winning novel wasn’t the easiest start to the autumn, but as usual the discussion around the September book choice was a fascinating one. The Blind Side of the Heart won the 2007 German Book Prize and we read Anthea Bell’s acclaimed translation. We all agreed that the opening of the novel, in which a little boy is abandoned by his mother at a railway station, was shocking and for most of us this compelled us to read on. The book is structured so that readers are then taken back to the mother’s earlier life and we follow her history to see what led to this final, terrible act.
I liked the way the events which led up to the Second World War were somewhat under-stated, giving a sense that not only were Helene and her sister unaware of what was really happening, so was most of German society. For others, though, the descriptions of Berlin were slightly cliched – perhaps too reminiscent of Cabaret? Margaret was the reader who rated the book highest – she enjoyed the description of the inter-war years and the way the novel was rounded off with a final act of rejection. At the other end of the spectrum was Janet, who was irritated by Helene’s muted reactions to all her life events, and cited a review which likened the novel to “a German lumpy soup with dumplings.” She added her own analogy: “It was like listening to Coldplay!”
Mike said he found the writing good but that the plot was not gripping, containing too much domestic detail. Several readers felt the character of Helene’s husband was a stereotype.
Paula also found the writing impressive. We had a long discussion about whether readers were given enough explanation for Helene’s drastic abandonment of her son. Smaller niggles included the Mills and Boon-ish cover and the lack of speech marks.
Paula and I both read it in the sunshine on holiday, so this may have been one reason why we felt  better disposed towards the novel – because the unrelenting bleakness of the events certainly can affect a sensitive reader’s mood!
On a lighter note – a big welcome to new member Helen. Don’t forget to read Sadie Jones’ Small Wars for the October meeting, when we will be back at our much-missed lovely venue of Doolally’s in Marygate.
Next meeting: Tuesday 5th October, 6.30pm. Doolally’s, Marygate, Berwick. Small Wars by Sadie Jones.

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 2010
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