London Book Club Blog

Stay with Me (Bailey’s Prize nominee)

imagesLondon Book Club was very excited to be chosen to shadow the Bailey’s Prize for a second time. We were even more excited to be given Stay with Me, by Ayobami Adebayo, as our book as it was already on a number of our TBR lists but none of us had read it yet.

We were universal in enjoying the book and it was a great book club option, provoking lots of discussion (we sometimes find this rare when we all like the book!).  As is our tradition, we started by sharing our ‘one word descriptions’ for the book. These included: pressure, introspective, unexpected, compelling, turmoil, patriarchy, and ‘surprisingly funny’  (ok, not one word, but still a fair description).  We agreed that it was warm, evocative and accessible, and had an interesting side-discussion about the politics of the book having been written in English.

The centre of our conversation was, naturally, the twist in the plot (warning: slight spoilers ahead) and our feelings about the actions and responses of the Yejide, Akin, and Dotun s they dealt with Yejide and Akin’s childlessness and the solution that Akin devised to it. Was it believable? Why wouldn’t he have told her what was going on with him?  Why would he be surprised that his plan went so off the rails? This kind of thing always goes off the rails and we know, after all, that he’s seen at least one film… We spent a good amount of time discussing the kind of communication that we expect between mutually loving partners – and the technicalities of sex – as we adjudicated betrayal and justification.

What we really appreciated is that no character is wholly unempathetic: although most of our sympathies were for Yejide we could understand, to some extent, why Akin would be unwilling to tell her about his problem. It was particularly interesting that it made us face into the reality of our own white anglo-saxon-ness as a group and how has an effect upon our ability to put ourselves into the world that Adebayo describes. A number of our members have been doing ‘Read Harder’ as a challenge this year so we’ve been trying to stretch ourselves in the diversity of book’s we’ve been reading. Stay with Me was a great book in helping us along that journey.

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London Book Club’s 2016 Reads

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So we’ve been incredibly slack about updating this website— but have continued to meet monthly with a great group of people.  The best place to find our updates is Facebook— where we are much more active.  But if you are curious as to what we’ve read this year- the list is as follows:

January: The Sea, The Sea
February: High Rise
March: Far From the Maddening Crowd
April: Girl at War
May: Picnic at Hanging Rock
June: Dolores Clairborne
July: Fates & Furies
August: Orphan Train
September: Among Ten Thousand Things
October: Do Not Say We Have Nothing

and November will be The Door by Magda Szabo on November 22nd.

Happy Reading.

 

 

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

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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 http://www.chiswickbookfestival.net