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.
In October the Booker prize was awarded jointly to two books; Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments and Bernadine Avaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. There’s been a bit of a brouhaha with some people saying that the judges should not have broken their own rules and awarded the prize to two books, and others that they should have awarded the prize to Avaristo, because she is black and a woman. However, everyone should win on merit, so we celebrate that two women each wrote such a good book they had to share the prize. We can’t comment on either of the books because we haven’t read either of them – yet.
At the book group meeting, the attending members had all read previous works by Atwood, but we had not read any of Avaristo’s work. Her book, Girl, Woman, Other is 464 pages, and – sorry to be so lightweight- but previous experience tells us that our members are too busy to read such a long book.* However, we would very much like to learn more about this author, so our next book will be Blonde Roots by Bernadine Avaristo. In this book she imagines an alternative future where black Africans enslaved the white Europeans. It is not a straightforward parallel of the 18th-century landscape of the slave trade’s heyday. Rather, it is a slightly surreal, alternative reality, embracing multiple historical epochs, in which every instance of racial and colonial prejudice is inverted. The England of Doris (our main protagonist)’s childhood is medieval and feudal, but Great Ambossa, the small but wealthy island off the main continent of Aphrika, with its capital of Londolo, shares features of our age with aspects of a futuristic dystopia. It got mixed reviews, but mostly highly praised.
So we shall be meeting in the de Beauvoir Arms at 8 o’clock on 26th November. Dogs are welcome .
* This could be a subject for one of our discussions; we do not have enough time to read all the books we would like to – books seem to be getting longer – why? – do we have so much more to say nowadays?
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.