Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Monday, July 24, 2006

August's suggestion

Well, I can't promise there are no lurking violent child deaths, but August's suggestion comes from Kirsty: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. (Next month will be a choice from Valerie.) I mean - one picks books as wildly different as one can contrive, and they end up having some common themes. But this one is set in Afghanistan and looks pretty different... Let's see!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

White by Marie Darrieussecq

For a book of only 145 pages, this seemed a very long read. I managed to read two thirds and then skimmed the rest. I’m afraid I found following this story very hard work. It did not seem to flow at all as a comprehendible narrative. The story had several strands that should have made an interesting whole, but I fear these were submerged by all the extraneous bits and pieces of information and removed all hope of clarity. I agree with others that the ghosts added a further dimension and read quite well. Dripping information into a story has been effective in other books, but I’m afraid this obviously requires skill and here rather misses the boat.

Written by Valerie but posted by Emily

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Too many words

I agree with all that has been said. I'm afraid I got bored with 'White'. I thought she was possibly trying to be Virginia Wolf in a sort of stream-of-consciousness-sort-of-way but lacked the sublety and instead just ended up losing me in too many words.

There were all sorts of exciting possibilities. The environment of the Antartica was fascinating and so much more could have been done with the symbolism it afforded (parallels with Mars were interesting). Equally the ghosts were a wonderful device and reminded me a bit of a Greek chorus in their prompts and were about the only thing that gave the book any pace.

I agree with Val that it would have been best as a short story. There were lots of characters that made a walk-on appearances and could have been explored in a great deal more depth, in both Peter and Edmee's past and their companions at the base. What I wanted to know was what was going on with Edmee's marriage that she had to escape to the Antartica? How did hubby react to the killing and help her deal with it or not? Was getting pregnant via a stranger her solution to this?

Overall, too many words and not enough plot.

P.S. Emily, might it be possible for the next choice of book NOT to have a protagonist dealing with a terrible killing that lurks in the background?!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Yes Emily, a disappointment. I thought I was really going to enjoy it for the first 40 pages – the location, the role of the ghosts (cleverly conceived), the details (seasickness injections; etc) even the style. But it and I ran out of steam. I think she has a good short story here, but the ideas are not developed enough for even a novella. We get no more on the promising ghosts than we had at the beginning and the style becomes tedious after a while. Interesting that in the somewhat gratuitous sex scene the writing changes and becomes quite standard – looks to me like a passage the publisher introduced. I’ve no idea what happened to Clara, which is asymmetrical given the backstory on Imelda Higgins. Certainly won’t bother with anymore of hers. What’s next?

(Written by Val but posted by Emily, due to technical issues.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Hi. Thought I might as well start the ball rolling on White, and take the opportunity to warn anyone who hasn't started it yet that I'm not sure it's as good as it should be, and not to make reading it a priority if you're having to be very selective about which choices you read...

Will be (very) glad to be disagreed with, but I found it rather disappointing, in that the parts didn't add up to the whole I was hoping for. As in, I thought the language good, the Antarctica setting fascinating, and the narrative voice a neat idea. But I felt a bit more plot would be good (or, as Uncle Richard would say, "shape, Emily, shape").

I liked some touches - the information (eg the ice cream - yum!), the humour (eg the unspoken responses to Edmee's arrival) and the ideas (eg: "We ghosts never tire of such obvious facts: that before knowing each other, Peter and Edmee did not know each other at all... such innocence about the curves of time"). But the story itself didn't do as much with them as I'd hoped. And I certainly wanted more insight into Antarctica, which I find fascinating.

My main query is: what do you think happened to Clara, and why?

I will be SO interested to hear what the rest of you thought.