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.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Next book: which one?

Hi. Just to give us time to get books ordered from libraries etc, I thought we might settle on our next book (after The Earth Hums). Valerie suggested "The diving bell and the butterfly" by Jean-Dominique Bauby or "Death in Venice" by Thomas Mann. I think both would be good to do, but which shall we do next? Any votes gratefully received!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Earth Hums in B flat

This was very enjoyable book. I loved the writing style, with Gwennie as the narrator and felt I knew her by the end. It was very fluent and visual but spare. It drew you in and carried you along giving you a sense of the small community with all its mysteries. The drip feed of the family secrets and the unfolding of the murder of Ifans kept the tension although there were no surprises in the story.

The anthropomorphising of the Toby jugs and peeling paint faces were very effective and the dislike of blood, the family stomach and the fox fur all draw Gwennie as highly sensitive. She was obviously bright which Magda was unable to cope with and used put downs continuously. Was her rather neurotic behaviour and obsession with flying reaction to her mother's treatment or more sinisterly genetic mental disease?

We were on a journey with Gwennie while she discovered that there was more to the people around her than she understood as she unravelled her family history and some of the history of her neighbours, growing up all the while.

A satisfying read with characters that live on in the imagination.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Notes and queries

Well, Alan Bennet has certainly got us all thinking and I think that’s because he’s talking about reading itself – that’s where our musings seem to congregate, rather than about the Queen. As most of you know I’m not on Broadband so have to read your blogs and then write my responses off line which means they are rather random and inexact – please excuse this. Even if I were on-line I wouldn’t know the answer to Pella’s query about commonwealth vs republic and I note no-one else has jumped in here. I do agree with Helen that loving reading and needing to write are two different entities, but don’t remember him actually saying that as such? (And by the way Helen, please don’t bother to send Elsewhere back – you can as easily put it in a charity shop as I, unless Emily wants it for renewed encouragement?)

I thinks the comments that intrigue me the most, following on from Sue’s blog, is just why we do or don’t read fiction. Like Sue, I can’t imagine not, though neither my father nor my husband did/do. David is even more puzzling because he used to, and then stopped! I follow my mother in this, and wonder if she, like me, did it to be transported to somewhere else – time, place, circumstance - where one would never otherwise be able to go. But as regular readers know, that is not enough if the writing isn’t good in itself – so that is a second, though prerequisite, joy. No surprise then that AB scored so highly. And yes Sue, I do think reading leads to more empathy (at least in me): the image that immediately springs to my mind comes from Haddon’s Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime where the Asperger’s lad is curled up on the luggage rack of the train, to try to cope with the experience of travelling in a crowd. I felt, after reading this book, that I would be more understanding of this condition and of lads curled in luggage racks. And surely some of the best books are those which can manipulate your empathy and make you sympathise with unsympathetic characters. I first came across this in my teens when reading Gone With The Wind and finding myself rooting for the Klu Klux Klan – though even at that age I was fanatically anti-racist and reasonably well informed on these issues (through reading…)

Hopefully we’ll all be into The Earth Hums by the 28th Nov and can rattle that round over lunch – unless we all hate it in which case we can return to AB.