2019 Book Group News
Hello and welcome to the Book Group Page
If you are interested in reading and discussing books, please do come along to our book group. We do ask that if you are going to come along you really should have read the book.
The De Beauvoir WI Book Group
We meet once a month and discuss the book we chose between us at the previous meeting. We try not to stick to a particular genre or type, and suggestions from all members are welcome – and more importantly – acted upon.
For October we shall be reading Middle England by Jonathan Coe. This is the third book in the Rotter’s Club trilogy?/ series? And is written with Coe’s usual wit and brio. Penguin have managed to get an extraordinary and diverse number of positive reviews. “A comedy for our times,” The Guardian. “Excellent superb, always uplifting,” The Times. “Very funny. Exceptionally good. Delightful,” BBC Radio 4. Lots more.
It is about Brexit – the Daily Telegraph describes it as “the book about Brexit we need”. Coe traces the fracturing of Britain from April 2010 to September 2018 (a date bravely some months after early reading copies were circulated). An obvious problem for an author of fiction set in the recent past is calculating how much memory-nudging detail readers need. For instance, Coe is surely shamingly right to calculate that the 2011 riots will be forgotten.
We are where we, so discovering what one of our foremost satirical novelists has to say about our divided country should be worthwhile. And Coe always entertains and provokes.
So, do come along on 22nd October at 8 o’clock to the (dog friendly) de Beauvoir Arms, in Southgate Road. You really should have read the book. We’ll have a copy of the book on the table. Or email us beforehand.
If you have any questions please do contact us through the De Beauvoir WI email and one of us will get back to you.
And do bring along your own recommendations for future reads for the group. It should be out in paperback, you shouldn’t have read it already and if you want to come to the meeting, you really should read the book we chose.
Previous 2019 reads
For our September meeting we chose Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey.
This debut novel comes garlanded with the heavy weight of both expectation and recommendation. It was the subject of a bidding war between nine publishers, the TV rights have already been sold and you can almost hear the calls being placed to Dame Judi and/or Dame Maggie.
It’s a very good novel and highly impressive for a debut. It’s a rare imagining of a character pushing 90 years of age who has either severe Alzheimer’s or just everyday senility (we never quite know) and there is something pleasing – I’m sure, especially to television companies – about an elderly female protagonist, even if she is highly unreliable and constantly repeating herself.
This book is an interesting exercise in genre, not quite crime, not quite literary fiction, a “hybrid” work. There’s a suggestion of psychological interplay between the “Elizabeth” information in Maud’s brain and the “what happened 70 years ago” information. Perhaps she is suppressing one because she cannot face the other. There’s a lot here to praise, admire and enjoy. But ultimately this is a novel for readers who love unreliable narrators instead of being infuriated by them. The consensus was that it was an enjoyable read, but slight. Opinion was divided as to the accuracy of the depiction of the main character’s dementia, which some felt was accurate and others thought was not realistic. But we all felt that the loose ends got sewn up a little bit quickly and neatly at the end.
Some of our 2018 reads
Jagua Nana by Cyprion Edwensi. This was republished in 1975 as part of the Heinemann African Writers Series. Although Edwensi has been compared to Dickens, the book was not a richly textured interweaving of many stories and it got a thumbs down from us, mainly for its two dimensional depiction of its main character – and the other characters too. And far too many mentions of buttocks.
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which is a loose contemporary reworking of Sophocles’ Antigone, without the incest. Sophocles’ simplest message was that older generations do not always know better than their children and that natural law is more important than man-made law. It has had excellent reviews … “elegant and evocative prose” and “pulls off a fine balancing act; it is a powerful exploration of the clash between society family and faith in the modern world, whilst acknowledging the same dilemma in the ancient one”. It was shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award last year.