Rolleston's Book Clubs News 2014

Winter 2014 News

Chapter & Verse

After the long summer break we met at the beginning of September to discuss Ann Tyler's 'The Amateur Marriage' . A typical Tyler story, centred around Baltimore and following the fortunes of a couple who met when America was entering WW2. Swept up in the excitement, they married in haste before he was taken off to fight, although - he was injured in training and never saw action! There was plenty of irony and humour in the book as it followed these two lives right through to the end, carefully updating the jargon and fashion from the 40's to the 60's and making you look closely at the human condition and everyday concerns. Many complained about the lack of plot but others felt the clever writing charting this mismatched couple and their offspring deserved a read.

Our next book for October - 'Black Diamonds' by Catherine Bailey is essentially a history book but the story that unfolds is so fast paced and fascinating it could almost be fiction. The fabulous wealth of the Fitzwilliams' at Wentworth was due to the coal found beneath their land in Yorkshire however even by the turn of the 20th century demand was falling. The conditions in the pit villages are well portrayed along with the ground swell for social revolution after WWI when wealth in the hands of a minority could no longer be tolerated.The social history of the time is told through the fortunes of this aristocratic family and makes for a fascinating read.

The next book on the list is 'Merivel - A Man of his Time' by Rose Tremain and we meet in November for discussion.

This year is the 10th anniversary since the formation of our Rolleston Book Clubs! We started with Chapter and Verse which attracted more and more readers so we 'split in two' and started Second Chapter to run alongside. In December our two groups will come together to celebrate with a meal in the village.

For further information please contact Maggie - 812621

2nd Chapter

A novel by Doris Lessing, award winning writer, recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature, was the choice for September. “The Golden Notebook” was a challenging read structured in a very different way from any of the novels this group has read before and containing a wide range of themes. ‘The two women were alone in the London flat.’ So begins Doris Lessing’s most famous novel, published in 1962, and now considered one of the major works of twentieth-century literature. It is the story of Anna Wulf, a writer and single woman, who lives with her daughter in a flat, occasionally renting out a room, less for income than out of a reflex of social obligation. Labouring against a writing block, following the immense success of her autobiographical debut novel about a group of Communists in colonial Africa, Anna struggles to find a way to integrate the multiple selves that fragment her personality and make her life unbearably painful. Out of fear of chaos and breakdown she decides to keep four notebooks, one for each component of her life: black for her experiences in Africa, red for current politics, yellow for a fictionalised version of herself, and blue for a diary. Although framed by a conventional novel called Free Women, the point of the novel, according to the writer, is the relation of the parts to each other. By viewing her life from these different angles, and carefully probing her intertwined layers of consciousness, Anna eventually manages to unify her identify in one notebook: “The Golden Notebook”. Our discussion ranged around politics, sexuality, and women’s struggles with the conflicts of work, sex, love and maternity. Our next choice is J.K Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy”.

If you would like to know more about this Book Club contact: Margaret Clarke on 01283 813709

Autumn 2014 News

2nd Chapter

Jodie Picoult’s novel, Sing You Home, was chosen for our meeting in June because it contained so many different issues. As with many Jodi Picoult novels this was a compelling blend of ethical dilemmas, gritty drama, moral issues and a cliff hanging ending which remained hidden to the last. As such it made for a lively evening of debate and discussion. The story is told from the perspective of three characters whose lives are somehow enmeshed in a battle over three frozen embryos which were left in storage after a series of IVF attempts which leads to the breakdown of the marriage of two of them. Topics as diverse as infertility, gay rights, Christian beliefs, the role of the family, discrimination, and relationship choices emerge. The novel was thought provoking and enjoyable.

Our second read was The Farm by Tom Rob Smith, a psychological thriller set, for the most part, in Sweden. In this compelling story the main character, Daniel, has to choose whether his mother, Tilde, who claims that her husband and other men in their community are involved in a terrible crime or whether Chris, his father, who declares his wife is imagining everything which she claims has happened, is telling the truth. The story is a gripping emotional drama which cleverly keeps the reader guessing which parent to believe until the very end.

We are to read Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook next time on 11th September followed by JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. If you would like to know more about this Book Club contact: Margaret Clarke on 01283813709

Chapter & Verse

'Diary of a Nobody' by George & Weedon Grossmith was chosen as a light-hearted read for our meeting in May. The book was originally serialised in Punch in 1892 and follows the life of a small-minded and neurotic London clerk, George Pooter, his long-suffering wife Carrie and their troublesome son Lupin. Pretentious and hopelessly aspirational, George documents his continual struggles with social advancement, oblivious to the fact that he is an object of ridicule and humour to his colleagues and friends.

Although written 122 years ago it is still possible to empathise with George's frustrations in dealing with tradesmen, his less than successful attempts at DIY, the exasperations and challenges typically associated with bringing up a family and the general irritations that life continues to throw at us today.

It was unanimously agreed that the book was a cheery and uplifting read!

Our next book was very different in content. In early July we discussed Louisa Young's 'My dear I Wanted to Tell You', a gruelling but gripping account of the devastating consequences, both mental and physical, of WW1 on a diverse group of soldiers. We felt that it was the empathetic portrayal of the main character, Riley Purefoy, and the fascinating insights into the pioneering work of the groundbreaking plastic surgeons of the day as well as the strong love story which kept us turning the page. So much so in fact that several of us are keen to read on in Young's recently published sequel 'The Hero's Return'.

Two very different books - but that's the beauty of a book club!

Our future books are:-

The Amateur Marriage Anne Tyler
Weds. 3rd September

Black Diamonds Catherine Bailey
Mon. 20th October

Merivel – A Man of his Time Rose Tremain
Weds. 26th November

For further information or to join please contact Maggie - 812621

Summer 2014 News

Chapter & Verse met in March to discuss ‘The Importance of being Seven” by Alexander McCall Smith. Written in the author’s usual style of each chapter featuring a character and then cycling through their stores the real hero is a most engaging boy called Bertie. Being six not seven is most important to him as then he will be able to be freer and have his opinions considered more. He charmed us all with his wise sayings and actions including dealing with his overbearing pushy mother. Gentle humour is present throughout with a neat tidying of loose ends at its conclusion – all agreed it was a light hearted entertaining read with lively character portrayals and a “feel good factor” that made us smile.

Our next book in April was a complete change as we read “'Knowledge of Angels' by Jill Paton Walsh which is a most thought provoking philosophical novel set in the middle Ages. Set in a “fablised” landscape the story explores woven strands of how a child raised by wolves fares when she encounters an atheist prince on an island where all inhabitants must have belief in the Roman Catholic faith. Acceptance of the differences is possible until the Inquisitor arrives with tragic consequences. Told with truth and simplicity, through lots of philosophical and religious discussions the group all agreed it was a most engaging, as well as at times disturbing read.

Our future books are:-
'Diary of a Nobody' by George and Weedon Grossmith Thurs 22 May
'My Dear I wanted to Tell You' by Louisa Young Wed 2 July

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

2nd Chapter began the year by reading a remarkable book: Black Diamonds – The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty by Catherine Bailey which told the story of the Fitzwilliam family who for centuries had owned the Wentworth Estate and become increasingly wealthy through the ownership of coal mines and mineral rights. Wentworth, the ancestral home – the largest privately owned house in Britain – is now a crumbling and forgotten palace in Yorkshire. Black Diamonds tells of the Fitzwilliam’s spectacular decline. We learn of inheritance fights, rumours of a changeling and of lunacy, philandering earls, illicit love, war heroism, a tragic connection to the Kennedy clan, violent death, mining poverty and squalor, and a class war that literally ripped apart the local landscape. The book reads like an epic novel but it isn’t; it’s fact.

Dear Life by Alice Munro is a book of short stories by this award winning Canadian writer and was our choice for April. Perhaps short stories are a mixed blessing for book clubs as they were never meant to be read back to back as we had to do in order to be able to discuss them. In the event despite Munro’s reputation as a Nobel Prize for Literature winner Dear Life was not well received. The stories were in many cases dark with references to women who were easily led by their menfolk. Some stories began in the middle and ended there too – as life is wont to do - but without the ability to hold the reader’s attention. Undoubtedly the quality of the writing style and the pacey narrative was not in question but the content of the stories was not to everyone’s taste.

We will meet again in early June to talk about Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home. But before that we will be having our second-hand bookstall as part of the Love Rolleston celebrations. Come and see us on The Croft on 24th May and stock up on your holiday reading.

If you would like to know more about this Book Club contact: Margaret Clarke on 01283813709

Spring 2014 News

Chapter & Verse

The two book clubs joined forces for our Christmas event in December. So Chapter and Verse together with Second Chapter met and enjoyed a selection of literary-themed games, poetry readings and a chapter of Thomas Hardy. With a range of delicious nibbles and beverages plus lively discussion on the books we had read during 2013, a thoroughly good evening was had by all.

In January we met to discuss 'The Garden of Evening Mists' by Tan Twan Eng. Set in Malaysia during and after the war this tells the story of Yun Ling and her relationship with Aritomo a famous Japanese gardener who once worked for the Emperor. Due to a diagnosis of Aphasia which will lead to loss of memory, Yun Ling retires from her work as a judge in Kuala Lumpur and returns to the tea-growing area of the Cameron Highlands where, in her twenties, she was apprenticed to Aritomo, to record the story of that significant time before her memories are lost. The story gradually unfolds, almost like peeling an onion, although the jumps from early life to present day along with her experiences in WW2 mean you have to have your wits about you. We all agreed the tale is beautifully and often poetically told. Not only is it a wonderful history lesson showing differing cultures and politics but also gives an insight into Japanese attitudes to art and philosophy together with kindness and cruelty.

A good read!

Our future titles are:-

The Importance of Being Seven
Alexander McCall Smith Wednesday 5 March

Knowledge of Angels
Jill Paton Walsh Monday 7 April

If you wish to find out more ring Maggie 812621

Second Chapter

Second Chapter also enjoyed the joint party with Chapter and Verse It was good to get both groups together for some convivial mingling in such friendly circumstances. Thank you, Helen, for your hospitality.

Second Chapter recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. Set in 1946, the novel is written as a series of letters between the main character, Julia, and, among others, members of the Guernsey Literary Society and it is through this correspondence that the story of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey during WW2 is told. Suppression of the population, evacuation of children to mainland Britain without contact with their parents for five years, starvation for both islanders and occupational forces alike, as food supplies ran out. We not only learned much about this period of history but also were able to explore the book’s themes such as the enduring hope and resilience of people under duress, love, friendship and family and the redemptive power of literature.

We will meet again in early March to talk about the short stories in Alice Munro’s book: Dear Life. If you would like to know more about this Book Club contact: Margaret Clarke on 01283813709

Last updated: 2 March 2015