Rolleston's Book Clubs News 2013

Winter 2013 News

Chapter & Verse met in

September to discuss ‘The Cellist of Sarajevo’ by Steven Galloway which is set during the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s. The story explores the dilemmas of ordinary people caught in the crisis in particular those of 3 ordinary people who struggle to survive and maintain their humanity in the chaos. The title is a reference to the true story of Vedran Smailovic, a cellist who played Albinoni's Adagio dressed in evening tails every day at 4:00 pm for 22 days, to honour the 22 people killed by a mortar bomb while they queued for bread on May 26, 1992. All the group felt it made them think about how they would have hoped to react and cope if we had been trapped in this situation

Our next book in October was ‘Blott on the Landscape’ by Tom Sharpe – a very different type of story somewhat akin to a farce. This drew mixed reactions within the group as some found it completely “laugh out loud” hilarious whilst others found it barely raised a smile! All agreed that if you had seen the TV series the characters were hard to visualize as any other than those on the screen

Our future books are:-

4th Dec’ber Christmas gathering with both groups
27th January ‘The Garden of Evening Mists’
by Twan Tan Eng
5th March The Importance of Being Seven
by Alexander McCall Smith

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

Second Chapter read “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness” by Alexandra Fuller in August. What an incredible life Nicola Fuller lived. Thank God for the tree of forgetfulness or any other means of help to fade harrowing memories of death and violence in Africa during the 1970s. Alexandra Fuller’s admiration for her mother, Nicola, who is the subject of the book, is never in doubt and she conveys that to us through warm and descriptive prose of her and of the places she lived in Africa. The writer has been criticised for turning a life so tragic into a subject for humour in places. However, her style touched the right note as the burden of suffering should be lightened as often as possible to make it bearable. The loss of the children was sad as Fuller reveals how her siblings died needlessly in the chaotic lifestyle of her parents. Fuller’s insight into how people felt about the war in Rhodesia is very moving. She has described the life in Rhodesia as hedonistic for some – being in Africa living the high-life was just one long jolly for some – but points out people should have realised this life was all too likely to end in defeat and heartbreak. Most people, she says, are not made to pay so dearly for their prejudices as were her parents and family.

At the October meeting we read the poetry of John Betjeman choosing different poems to share with others. Betjeman is a bit like Marmite; you like him a lot or don’t like him at all. The poetry wasn’t to everyone’s taste but, nevertheless, provoked lively debate. As with our reading of Dylan Thomas’s “Under Milk Wood” a few months ago, we had a multi-media approach being able to read the text of the poems whilst hearing some of them being read. Some members of the group had conducted research on the life of the poet which served to provide a fuller meaning to the poems. Betjeman evokes a period long gone in Britain but the majority of us could remember the life he presents and enjoyed his humorous, ironic and wistful approach.

Next month we are reading “The Daughter of Time”, a novel by Josephine Tay.

If you would like to contact the group phone Margaret Clarke on 813709.

Autumn 2013 News

Chapter & Verse met in June to discuss ‘Shadow Child' by Libby Purves. Written by the author who has suffered her own loss of a child, this was a very moving story describing how a couple tries to build a new life after their own loss. Many of the group found the descriptions of how they feel and react similar to their own experiences after losing a loved one. Offset by some wonderful character portrayals and a wry sense of humour, the group voted it a very worthwhile read.

Our next book in July was completely different and took us back in time to ancient Greece to the world of gods, kings, mortals and the Trojan Wars .‘Song of Achilles' by Madeline Miller evoked a strong feeling for many of being there and a part of the long war with its many battles, as she richly described these and how Achilles, with his companion Patroclus, might have felt and acted. All voted it to be a good re-telling (with an interesting twist) of the old myths.

Our future books are:-

3 September - The Cellist of Sarajevo Stephen Galloway
21 October - Blott on the Landscape Tom Sharpe
December - Christmas gathering with both groups

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

2nd Chapter were treated to the delights of Sathnam Sanghera’s Boy with the Topknot on recommendation from members of Chapter & Verse. It was a well deserved recommendation. His style of writing, intelligent, informative and heart-warming, is revealed, as Sanghera describes life as an Indian child growing up in Wolverhampton amongst a community of mainly Indian immigrants. His parents, whilst caring, could not speak English; the book explains how disadvantaged they were especially when Sanghera’s father and sister were diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is clear and analytical about their trials in receiving treatment whilst being astounded he was kept unaware of the condition until he began researching his family. Despite harrowing accounts of his father’s life before diagnosis – trials of an arranged marriage, violent behaviour – Sanghera’s humour shines out.

Our second book written as a diary in an account of a very different life was A Woman in Berlin by an anonymous German woman. Living in Berlin at the close of WW2 she tells of the arrival of the Russian forces and the atrocities performed on defenceless women who were trapped in the city as Hitler and his retinue committed suicide. She is courageous and resourceful and manages to survive despite being raped on many occasions. Her account led us to discuss the misfortunes of women in wartime that continues to this day – witness more recently atrocities committed in Serbia – and the nature of rape as a weapon of war for revenge, crushing humiliation and for sexual satisfaction after long campaigns. Starvation and deprivation in all aspects were themes in the book but above all we were heartened by the ability of human beings to triumph over extreme adversity.

As at the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations last year, we are once more joining with Chapter & Verse to run a book stall for the Horticultural Show on 26th August and hope as many people as possible come along to buy our wide selection of books. Should you want to know more about our book club please contact Margaret Clarke on 813709

Summer 2013 News

Chapter & Verse

Chapter and Verse met in February to discuss ‘The Boy with the Topknot' by Sathnam Sangera. This describes his memories of growing up in Wolverhampton in the eighties which was a somewhat confusing business for him. He describes the many contrasts of his life then, ranging from listening avidly to George Michael mix-tapes and watching Dallas on TV whilst at the same time being dressed in tartan smocks, earning 30p-an-hour job at the local sewing factory and managing the daily challenge of how to tie the perfect top-knot as a Sikh boy. Add to this his family, whose strange and often difficult behaviour he had taken for granted until his discovery in his twenties that changed everything he thought he knew about them. A thought provoking, moving and at times very humorous account trying to make sense of the mental illness that affected his father and sister, which the group thoroughly recommends for a good read.

Our next book, in April, was ‘Clochemerle' by Gabriel Chevalier which had been chosen as a number of the group remembered fondly the television series of this in the Seventies. A satirical novel set in a French village in Beaujolais, the story takes us through the small town politics and ramifications of the mayor’s decision to install a new urinal in the village square next to the church. Secular and religious sides in the village are well depicted through the author’s interesting and humourous “village types”. The plot gathers momentum which the mayor sits back and watches with until it explodes in a most undignified brawl in the church. With its vivid descriptions the reader is transported to sleepy rural France and can almost smell the Beaujolais.

Our future books are:-
Shadow Child Libby Purves
Weds 5 June
The Song of Achilles Madeline Miller
Mon 22 July
The Cellist of Sarajevo Steven Galloway
Tues 3 September

If you have any thoughts, suggestions or wish to ask about joining please contact Maggie (812621)

2nd Chapter

Spring, leaving behind a freezing cold winter, brought us two fascinating reads. We began in March with Dylan Thomas’s Under Mild Wood. We had quite a multi-media experience as we listened first to a recording of Thomas talking about his radio play. Then as we began to discuss the play and in what ways we had enjoyed it or remembered it from our past experiences, we listened to readings of various scenes first in the deep and mellifluous tones of Richard Burton and then from the warm and wonderful voice of Anthony Hopkins both of whose rich Welsh tones brought Milk Wood to life. We examined the humour, the pathos and the subtlety of Thomas’s writing and discussed the ways in which he presented his characters. April brought us Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Redolent of Dickens, being a tale of Victorian England among cut purses and petty thieves, Sarah Waters evokes the period with well-written descriptions and characters who, it must be said, all of us found hard to like. However, the quality of the story, the intricate twists and turns of the plot made up for this. Although some found the twists in the plot convoluted or at times unconvincing many found they were taken completely by surprise and were compelled to read on. The plot takes place in three settings, a house in a London back street adjacent to a pawn brokers’ shop, where we first get the impression of a Dickensian setting, a country house made sordid by a character both cruel and obsessed with pornographic literature and paintings and an Victorian asylum where cruelty and humiliation is the order of the day for those incarcerated within its walls. This description makes the novel sound grim but it certainly isn’t. Instead, it is a tale of intrigue and provoked excellent discussion.

We look forward to reading The Boy with the Topknot by Sathnam Sanghera followed by A Woman in Berlin by anon.
If you would like to contact the group phone Margaret Clarke on 813709.

Spring 2013 News

Chapter & Verse

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss provoked much discussion in November. As the title suggests it is concerned with love, but on many levels and at many times, from wartime Poland to present day Manhattan.

The two narrators, a 15yr old girl and an elderly Polish man living in New York, offer seemingly different views on life and love, and the intricate story they tell tests the most attentive reader to keep up. Whereas some may find the story contrived, it is beautifully written, leaving lasting memories of the loneliness of Jewish survivors and the importance of all types of love within the human condition.

Our Christmas gathering at Helen's in the company of 'Second Chapter' was great fun with much chatter interspersed with food and a few quiz questions to keep us on our literary toes!

Reviewing our latest book - Chocolate Cake with Hitler by Emma Craigie led to a discussion of WW2 in general and Joseph Goebbels in particular. The book is written through the eyes of his 12 year old daughter who called Hitler 'Uncle Adie' and finds herself taking tea with the Leader in his final days in the Berlin bunker. Gradually, through flashbacks, her life unfolds giving almost inadvertently an inside view of the German top brass before and during the war and her own father's chilling commitment to the Nazi cause.

Coming up we have:-

The Boy with the Topknot, Sathnam Sangeera, Mon 25 February
Clochemerle, Gabriel Chevalier, Mon 15 April
Shadow Child, Libby Purves, Weds 5 june
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, July

To find out more ring Maggie Gawthorpe on 812621

2nd Chapter

What a good time we had at Christmas. Not surprising really bearing in mind the two Book Clubs are made up of members of like minds! This year as well as delicious food and good wine we played a game based on truth and lies which allowed the groups’ members to share time with each other to discuss likelihoods – is one of our group really wearing pink frilly underwear? Apparently so. Or did another find herself in the presence of royalty? Well, yes. And later we had a literary quiz – just up our street, of course.

As for the reading, we began the year with Patrick Gale’s A Perfectly Good Man, a novel which is written from the point of view of over half a dozen characters, each chapter being the character at a particular age allowing the narrative to build from person to person. What proved particularly interesting (or irritating depending on one’s point of view) is that the character studies were not chronological so understanding of history or motivation is released only gradually. The theme of the novel is that any one person has dark and light in their personality and that both nature and nurture has a part to play in making us what we are.

Quite different is the book chosen for our latest discussion: The One Hundred Year Old man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It is a novel translated from Swedish and has many moments of hilarity as the character of Allan, escaping his retirement home moments before his birthday celebrations meets up with criminals and begins, despite his age, a new chapter in his life. As the story of his present adventures unfolds we learn about his encounters throughout his life with famous politicians and world leaders. His earlier adventures had taken him all over the world, hopping from the frying pan of one major world event and into the fire of the next. Because all of Allan's adventures are entirely accidental, and because he rarely recognises the significance of what he is doing, it's just bizarre enough to be more or less, almost credible. The unlikely truth of one scatter brained, apolitical chap ambling across the globe, causing everything of relevance over the last one hundred years simply adds to the book's unique charm.

We are to read Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood for our next meeting in March.

If you would like to contact the group phone Margaret Clarke on 813709.

Last updated: 26 January 2014