Book Club – The Second Meet Up!

Date: 20th March 2011
Time: 5pm – 7pm
Agreed on: Touching the Void by Joe Simpson  
Discussed: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


Right, once again, our little intrepid band of book lovers were fortunate enough to meet up in Arcadia Bar. As ever, huge thanks to the staff there who bent over backwards to ensure that we had everything we needed!
Sadly, we were without BOOKELF, who had to send in apologies due to major feeling-un-well-i-ness, which also meant that the Travelling Suitcase Library wasn’t available.
Rest assured book bringers, they all reached their destination and I believe there was much oo-ng and aa-ing when she found them!
Special thanks also to Lisa and Rhi who kept me grounded when I felt a bit overwhelmed!

Let The Discussion Lynching Begin…

From twitter I was aware that this book had not gone down well. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the depth of dislike expressed during the initial stages of the discussion. As the night progressed and the review became a multi-person conversation, the chatter became a little more balanced. Those that enjoyed the book, liked it. Those that didn’t, felt a bit more strongly about it.
Alas, but our club does attract some right natter-ers, and it became impossible to capture everything that was said. It’s even less likely that I’ll be able to describe the fun, random Matrix and Star Wars/Trek references [sidebar – IT IS WICKED BEYOND ALL BELIEF TO HAVE A FELLOW GEEK OR TWO IN THE BOOK CLUB] that were dropped in, the laughter, or the weird ewww-icck noise when we started to discuss the story within a story
Trust me – fun was had.
Please find below – in a very dry and distilled form – the content of our meeting.
The Pros

  • As I had actually been in Spain while reading it, I found the descriptions to to be very evocative, and while the political situation worsened, the landscape was never described in less than the most loving of ways.  The words vivid and visual were used.
  • The childlike part of me really enjoyed the fact that the ‘goodies’ all loved books, while the ‘baddies’ sought to destroy them.
  • Very much enjoyed the concept of the hidden library – the cemetery of forgotten books – love the idea that such things could exist almost outside of time.
  • Found the writing to be very humorous in places, though the translation was sometimes a little iffy and enjoyed the political context – particularly contrasting the dour harsh conditions of the present with the lush extravagance of the earlier described periods.
  • Fermin. He is awesome.  Well rounded, humorous, open and friendly. (It’s worth noting here that EVERYONE agreed on this point.) One of the members described him as a Spanish Tom Baker, and found his story to be very redemptive.
  • Liked the relationship between father and son, did NOT like the later relationships between the author and…that…sister/lover lady.
  • Very accessible book, ideal for entrance to ‘literary fiction’.
  • The fantasy was both understated and used to great effect. Whimsy was also good. Could have used a bit more whimsy.
  • Enjoyed the references to Victor Hugo – obviously an homage.
  • Loved the beginning for the descriptions throughout, thought that it faltered in the middle, but enjoyed the end sections of the book most – even when the subject matter was distasteful to me.
Others jumped in to cover the other aspect of the book. The bits that we were less impressed by.
The Cons
  • Ripped off Victor Hugo.
  • The biggest and most heartfelt complaint throughout those who enjoyed the book, and those who did not was the translation. The dialogue in particular felt far more British than Spanish. The language was also very unnatural in places.
  • Two of the readers could not forgive the lack of perspective within the novel. All these horrible things were going on politically and they were making such a fuss over a book? Such drama around something that would not have a huge scale outcome.
  • The same pair argued for some time as to whether this was better than Dan Brown or worse. Eventually, though there wasn’t much in it, they decided marginally better. (Others in the book club pointed out that they also enjoyed Dan Brown and his books were accessible and what’s wrong with that?)
  • Another found the use of 19th century devices to lack in subtlety and described the book as follows: Dracula and Woman In White had a baby, this was eaten, puked up, then handed to Dan Brown to write up.
  • Found the detective/thriller aspect of the book to be a little scooby doo-esque.
  • The letter was a total Deus Ex Machina.
  • Most of the ploy devices were deemed too obvious to work.
  • Found the end much easier to read, but also a bit of let down after all the build up.
  • Did not get the sense of being in Spain – thought the book could have been set anywhere.
  • Reminded of Inkheart. And this book loses the comparison.
  • At one point had been convinced that Daniel was going to turn out to be the mysterious author’s son.
  • Was not convinced by the relationships within the book, particularly with regards to women, who were idealised or loathed but not developed as individuals. Though this was a contested points – with other members indicating that they found the female characters to be very strong but objectified.
  • Disliked the fantastical aspects – meh – this is a win some lose some kind of thing!
  • Found Daniel to be very boring. In fact, too many of the characters were too similar to one another.
  • Too much exposition. (Then a totally epic reference to the architect character in the Matrix sequels.)
  • Felt to be a much longer read than it actually was.
The Verdict
Suggestions for Next Book Club!

Obviously ‘Touching the Void’ was the book pulled out of our tankard, but there were so many great stories put forward, I thought it only right to share!

Now, having survived the book club lynching, you might have thought that I’d be on safe ground. Not the case. Touching the Void was actually the second book picked. The first was … drum roll please… ‘The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon’, the sequel to this months discussion.
I nearly cried till we discovered that this was only included by a particular unnamed member as a method to test his luck, and was never intended as a valid book option.
The following day, he bought a lottery ticket and won £10. His luck, my heart failure…just the way the cookie crumbles huh?!?

Any spellink mistooks are members own…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s