London Book Club Blog

Welcome to 2016…

(Gosh, we’ve not been great at updating our blog recently have we)

And welcome to London Bookclub, if you’re new here.  We’re still going strong, and just getting started on reading our book for January’s meeting, which is Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea


We’re happily taking in new members, so do drop us a line or join our facebook group to find out the details of our next meeting.  Over the last few months we’ve read:

  • Outline – Rachel Cusk
  • The Code of the Woosters – PG Wodehouse
  • The Blazing World – Siri Hustvedt
  • Why be happy when you could be normal – Jeanette Winterson
  • Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – Muriel Spark
  • The Coward’s Tale – Vanessa Gebbie
  • Carol – Patricia Highsmith

(and a large number of the Booker Shortlist between us)

May Choice: Station’s Eleven – Emily St John Mandel



One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again. Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened. If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

Station’s Eleven was longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize 2015, and a finalist for the 2014 National Book Awards and the 2015 PEN/Faulkner Award, as well as a New York Times Bestseller




March: The Carhullan Army


We had a good sized group for the last session for the Carhullan Army.  It was a decent discussion that descended in to the usual chaos.  Mostly it seemed that people thought that as a re-hash of The Handmaid’s Tale it was lacking in the foresight that Atwood had.  The lack of any reference to technology was odd— as was the idea that as soon as men aren’t present, lesbianism is immediately the next best thing.  There was talk of women’s colleges and unis, where plenty of women were gay pre, during and post, but that being surrounded by women isn’t an insta- lesbian cause and treating it as such was a bit lazy.

I’m leaving a ton out, and there was lots of discussion on the hierarchy of the camp and the structure— and how knowing that we only have X number of pages left effects how you read a book knowing that they need to wrap it up.  And also— as always— no book club book is complete without discussing the past books and our weird inability to choose books without rape in it.  (this isn’t meant to scare off people new to the club— it’s just ridiculous)

December’s book: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the year after Didion’s husband’s death is our book for December.



From one of America’s iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life – in good times and bad – that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later – the night before New Year’s Eve –the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of 40 years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LA airport, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Centre to relieve a massive hematoma.

This powerful book is Didion’s ‘attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself’. The result is an exploration of an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad.

Happy (that’s possibly the wrong word) reading.

Date for the Diary: Chiswick Book Festival

We wouldn’t be doing our job as a London Book Club if we didn’t tell you about bookish events happening in London. And lo! We bring you the Chiswick Book Festival.

The book bonanza is happening in, well, Chiswick, from 11 – 15 September, and there’s all sorts of good stuff happening: Charles Spencer (yup, the late Princess Di’s brother. Or, at least, if it’s not him, a very good lookalike), Toby Young, and Bryony Gordon are just some of the authors speaking, and there are special events for children too.

Our picks of the week include:

– Elisa Segrave talking about her mother’s experiences at Bletchley Park in a session called Real Heroines: Experiences of Women during the Second World War. Saturday 13 September, 2.45pm, St Michael and All Angels Church

– Sasha Wilkins of LibertyLondonGirl fame, in a The Books That Built Me salon, talking about some of her favourite books as well as her new cookery book, Friends Food Family: Recipes and Secrets from LibertyLondonGirl. Saturday 13 September, 7pm, St Michael and All Angels Church

– Creative Workshop: Getting Started on a Novel. Does what it says on the tin, really. Have you ever thought you’d like to write a novel, or are you curious to learn about the processes involved? Bring paper and pencil and come and find out one writer’s approach. Sunday 14 September, ArtsEd

For a full programme and more info, go to


The London Magazine’s Short Story Competition 2014

It’s not an enormous leap to suggest those who love books and reading quite often love writing too. And just in case that applies to any of you, let me tell you about a competition you might like to enter.

The London Magazine has previously run short stories from some of the best-known authors in the world – Raymond Carver, Alison MacLeod, Hilary Mantel and William Boyd. And now you’ve a chance to have your name on that list, as their short story competition will be returning for its third year in September.

There are a few rules (you can check out a full list here), but the important bits are:

  • All entries must never have been published, self-published, published on any website, blog or online forum, broadcast, nor have won or placed (as in 2nd, 3rd,, runner up etc) in any other competition.
  • Submissions can be written on any subject or theme.
  • Short stories can be up to 4,000 words in length (no flash fiction). The title is NOT included in the word count.
  • Entry fee is £10 per short story.

The opening date for entries is 1st September, and you have until 31st October to get your entries in.  The winner is published in a future issue of The London Magazine. The runners up will be published on the magazine’s site. 1st Prize: £500, 2nd Prize: £300, 3rd Prize: £200.

To read more about the competition, the judges, and to download an entry form, please visit the site here. Good luck!

September’s book: Polo by Jilly Cooper

No, really. Much to Jamie’s chagrin, the 80s MASTERPIECE by JCoops is our read for September. I imagine a few of LBC’s boys are thanking the heavens for their Kindles: the cover of this one is none too subtle.



In Jilly Cooper’s third Rutshire chronicle we meet Ricky France-Lynch, who is moody, macho, and magnificent. He had a large crumbling estate, a nine-goal polo handicap, and a beautiful wife who was fair game for anyone with a cheque book. He also had the adoration of fourteen-year-old Perdita MacLeod. Perdita couldn’t wait to leave her dreary school and become a polo player. The polo set were ritzy, wild, and gloriously promiscuous.Perdita thought she’d get along with them very well. 

But before she had time to grow up, Ricky’s life exploded into tragedy, and Perdita turned into a brat who loved only her horses – and Ricky France-Lynch. Ricky’s obsession to win back his wife, and Perdita’s to win both Ricky and a place as a top class polo player, take the reader on a wildly exciting journey – to the estancias of Argentina, to Palm Beach and Deauville, and on to the royal polo fields of England and the glamorous pitches of California where the most heroic battle of all is destined to be fought – a match that is about far more than just the winning of a huge silver cup… 

Enjoy. How could you not?