2021 Book Group News
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.
Amidst the current Pandemic we have had to postpone our usual format for our long running book group. However we are continuing to meet and discuss the written word via Zoom. Please see below for further details.
January – it;s gong to be Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
So, after we kinda freaked ourselves out by reading about fascism in Europe and Chile (The Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende) in November and the rise of popularism in the United States (It Can’t happen Here by Sinclair Lewis) in December, we thought we’d go for something a little less bleak. So we chose Shadowplay!
This is a hugely entertaining book about friendship and love – it is also a story of transience, loss and true loyalty.
It’s about the real-life relationship between Bram Stoker and the two greatest stars of Victorian theatre, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.
Stoker leaves Dublin for London to run Irving’s theatre, the Lyceum, taking his new wife, Flo, with him. He soon discovers that the actor is a drunk and a narcissist, wild-tempered, generous and vain. It is impossible not to fall in love with him, just as it is impossible not to fall for the divinely charismatic Terry. The friendship between the three, their fallings-out and reunions, are the heart of the book – poor “noble” Flo can’t compete.
There is much discussion of the self and identity in Shadowplay: good selves, shadow selves, hidden selves, Jekyll and Hyde selves. Sexuality and gender are shapeshifting, and there could be no better place to explore them than O’Connor’s vagabond world of theatre. (I’m quoting the Guardian here.)
If you are interested in reading and discussing books, please do come along to our virtual book group. We do ask that if you are going to come along you really should have read the book.
For our October book group we readBoy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyememi.
During the summer we read The Dutch House by Ann Pratchett, which everyone liked! And admired. We even all agreed on our amateur psychological slants in the book. And we would all recommend it. A good story told in a lucid and accessible style. Other people said that her other books are also good, but I have to confess this is the only one of hers I have read.
And more recently My Duck Is Your Duck by Deborah Eisenberg, which we found in the Guardian Review selection of the best recent collections (of short stories). A collection of short stories seemed to suit our mood well, so maybe it’s a readerly thing – lockdown has affected our concentration times; short stories are well ordered and concise, so an antidote to real life
Julie said her favourite short story was The Mark on the Wall by Virginia Woolf.
And my favourite short story is either The 9 Billion Names of God or The Star both by Arthur C Clarke. I think that the short story is a particularly good platform for science fiction. [It may be that I read them at an impressionable age, so I just reread them and they both still pack a punch.]
If you have a favourite, let us know – we could do a book group on them.
For April, the book group were planning to read Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, which was a co-winner of the Booker prize last year. Much to our shame none of the members of the book group had read any of Evaristo’s previous work, so we eventually read Blonde Roots, because Girl, Woman, Other was not available in paperback. Blonde Roots was very good; it inverted the black white power ratio in the transatlantic slave trade to challenge the perceptions of the reader. Sort of like a more nuanced Noughts and Crosses, (BBC). Evaristo is an amusing writer with a wry outlook, an appreciation of the truth in cliché and an accessible style. And GWO was more upbeat than the previous two choices – actually The Wall (January’s choice) wasn’t very happy either – so was probably more in keeping with our needs at the moment. And it is now out in paperback.
In January we read The Wall, a dystopian science fiction about Great Britain with a wall built all around it, guarded by Keepers, to keep out The Others. If a patrol of Keepers let in any Others, they are thrown out over the Wall into the sea to replace the Others they had allowed in. Written by John Lanchester in his easily accessible style, it is a well thought through, readable and highly believable story projected only a short while into the future. Bear in mind, the American President is talking of building a wall and the Greeks announced at the end of January they were thinking about building a barrier at sea. It’s only thirty years since the Berlin Wall came down. Recommended – even without the prescience.
What with half term and everything, we held our March meeting was on 3rd March. And because it was a long break between sessions, we attempted to read two books.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
A novel about mishaps, misunderstandings and the depths of the human heart. Also supposed to be funny. Winner of the Pulitzer 2018
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Surprisingly wise – a novel to be reread and remembered, recalling some of the master of Indian fiction with a deft comic touch. And it won the Man Booker in 2006.