Category Archives: Book Club

LBC 3 Reads – Dates for 2018 – New members very welcome!

(I know. I KNOW. It’s not even Halloween yet and here I am, plotting dates for next year.)

LBC3 is our quarterly book club. We meet every three months on a Saturday morning to book club, drink lots of hot chocolate and – naturally – set the world to rights.

Originally, we started out with no fixed theme, just a desire to tackle longer reads (quickly abandoned), though in the past few years we have very tentatively stuck to a few loose threads to help us make our choices.

One year we focused on Great American Novels; another on reading minority or marginalised (or less often regarded) viewpoints; centenary reads (oooh – and LBC-er pointed out to me that Frankenstein is 200 next year!); the occasional tribute to a favourite author who recently passed away and this year we read we prioritized authors from each country within the United Kingdom.

Our most consistent feature is that we have always alternated between female and male authors.

We meet on the third Saturday, from 11am – 1pm for coffee, cake and a totally coherent, sensible and focused chat. If you’d like to join us, please feel free to pop down to our next meeting in January (or drop me a link on leedsbookclub @ gmail.com or on twitter @LeedsBookClub

20th January 2018 – One by One in the Darkness – Deirdre Madden

21st April 2018 – TBA

21st July 2018 – TBA

20th October 2018 – TBA

VENUE

Cafe 164 – City Centre

Unit 2 Munro House, 
Duke St, 
Leeds LS9 8AG  
 
Tweet: @Cafe164 
Web: Here!
 
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Upcoming book clubs

We have our next few months choices in, taking us up to the end of the year…if you can believe it. I think I’m in denial. It’s really like…May?

Anyway, for your reading pleasure!

LBC 3 Reads (#LBC3Reads)

  • 21st October – Matilda by Roald Dahl
  • 20th January – TBA

LBC Horsforth (#LBCHorsforth)

  • 11th October – Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
  • 8th November – Autumn – Ali Smith
  • 10th January – TBA

LBC White Swan (#LBCWSwan)

  • 12th November – The Fishermen – Chigozie Obioma
  • 14th January – TBA

LBC 3 Reads – Book 15 – All Quiet on the Western Front

#LBC3Reads

Date:  16th of April 2016
Time:  11am – 1pm
Address: Unit 2
Munro House,
Duke St,
Leeds LS9 8AG

DISCUSSED – 

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT 
ERICH MARIA REMARQUE

BLURB

One by one the boys begin to fall…

In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the ‘glorious war’. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young ‘unknown soldier’ experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (AMAZON)

Erich Maria Remarque was a German author and veteran of the First World War. He was born 1898 in Osnabrück, Germany. At the age of 18 he was conscripted into the German army. During his service he was wounded by shrapnel in the left leg, right arm and neck. Following the war he worked as a primary school teacher, and later as a librarian, a journalist and a technical writer.
Among Remarque’s published novels were All Quiet on the Western Front, The Road Back, Three Comrades and Arch of Triumph. His works were publicly burned by the Nazi German government, and in 1947 he and his first wife became naturalised citizens of the United States. Four years earlier, his sister had been executed at the behest of Hitler’s ‘People’s Court’.
Remarque adapted the book Ten Days to Die, about Hitler’s final days, as a screenplay, and he also wrote for the stage. His last novel was The Night in Lisbon, published in 1962. During his lifetime Remarque married twice and had love affairs with the actresses Hedy Lamarr, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo.

 

Thanks very much to the wonderful Karoline for hosting and writing up this book club – find her here @KarolineAKemp!

It was good to welcome two new faces to our discussion, Jane and Katy who also come to White Swan.

We had a discussion about the translation, some of the group had a more recent translation from the mid 1990’s and it was generally felt to be much more accessible than the earlier one.  We also discussed the translation of the title, the note on the new translation states that a direct translation from the German is ‘Nothing New on the Western Front’

The book was fairly easy to read in the modern translation and it was noted that that the tense changed from the singular to the plural during the scenes at the front. It was noted that nowadays we expect to have strong characterisation and narrative drive from contemporary fiction but that there is no narrative drive in War.  As the book went on it became more and more detached as Paul became more detached from his own life.

AQOTWF is written from the point of view of a German private Paul. It was felt that the language used  was chosen to emphasise the commonality and gruelling of experience of trench warfare regardless of side. Emphasised particularly in the scene in the shell hole with the solider that he killed.  It is also something that has been brought out recently by historians of the First World War (see the History Hit podcast with @gerarmyresearch).

It was felt that the language used effectively conveyed vivid  imagery of the experiences of being in the front line as well as the banality of being behind the lines when comic interludes such as Kat getting the food were used to good effect. The emphasis on the food (or lack) of it conveyed its importance to the troops, most effectively that when they suddenly get good food they realise that it means they are heading to the front line.

We felt that the characterisation was kept deliberately vague, the concentration was on passages dealing with Paul’s interior life such as when he was on leave and felt totally alienated from his previous life, We felt that Paul represented the everyman, he grew but never lost his humanity.

We felt that the strong bond between the school friends was shown well.  We all felt the horror of the scenes with the rats and felt that the scenes in the mists where very lyrical which intensified the horror.

The book also pointed out how much harder it was going to be for the younger men who had become soldiers straight from school to readjust and/or keep going as they didn’t have families/jobs to go back to.  It was also very scathing about the generation who were too old to fight themselves but where very vocal at making the younger generations go.

We decided that we  would have preferred the end to have been left more open than it was and felt that it packed a lot into quite a slim book.

 

Trailer for the 1979 film

[youtube https://youtu.be/DX1PW2n8POg]

 

SCORE –

8/10

Find fellow members on twitter by searching for #LBC3Reads.
Follow @Cafe164 for details on the deliciousables!
Let me know your thoughts by either tweeting me @LeedsBookClub, commenting below or emailing me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com

BOOK CLUB MEET UP PAGE

August and September Book Choices!

We have our next few months choices in!

LBC 3 Reads (#LBC3Reads)

  • NOTE – moved to August – venue TBA
  • High Rising – Angela Thirkell

LBC Horsforth (#LBCHorsforth)

  • 9 August – The Good Immigrant – Nikesh Shukla
  • 13 September – The Lemon Table – Julian Barnes

LBC White Swan (#LBCWSwan)

  • 13 August – The last condo board of the Apocalypse – Nina Post
  • 10 September – Pirate Cinema – Cory Doctorow

Oscar Wilde – on priorities

I’m not actually entirely convinces that it *was* Oscar Wilde who said this – I’ve been caught before by google’s propensity to link all quotable phrases as his or Churchill!

 

Still, love the sentiment!!

March Book Choices!

Hi all,

 

A quick update on what our next few reads shall be! As always, if you spot any corrections, don’t hesitate to let me know!

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – The Three Body Problem – Cixin Liu

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – Hagseed by Margaret Atwood (if available) or The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula L Guin
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

i-wish-to-go-home-and-read-a-book

Quick Update on The Kite Runner

Just wanted to let anyone heading down south know that the superb production of The Kite Runner is currently running in the West End!

Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE to get all the details on how to catch this very impressive production.

 ‘For you…a thousand times over…’

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

the kite runner

This should be an impossible book to adapt. Afghanistan is a changing place in 1975. Religion and politics are evolving the landscape further. It is in this background that two boys attempt to navigate their path, which happens to be an emerging family tragedy. The book covers a span of 30 years. That Matthew Spangler succeeds and succeeds beautifully  in distilling the essence of this tale into a mere two acts – well it ought to be an impossible feat.

On a sparse stage, populated only by a musicians mat; a flowing backdrop and a carpet with a thousand interpretations; an intensely emotional story unfolds. The lack of clutter, heck, the near disdain of props merely served to emphasis the interpersonal focus of this play.

The hero of this production has to be Ben Turner. Aside from being the only constant presence on the stage; he manages to pull off a difficult task with aplomb. At no point is he ever in denial that he is portraying Amir as a deeply flawed person – indeed for much of the play the character appears to be cowardly, unlikeable with few redeeming features. He flies a kite, embodying enthusiastically a 12 year old and brings equal weight to his reflection as an older narrator. However, as time passes, Ben makes the audience aware of something that Amir never quite realises. He is as much a victim (albeit to a far lesser degree) of Assef’s violence as Hassan and certainly of his father’s coldness and – as becomes apparent – lies.

In a stellar cast of consummate professionals – it is impossible to understate the menace that Nicholas Karimi brings to the bully Assef. From the second he appears, spitting out insults and swaggering a la John Wayne; he dominates and intimidates. His interactions with Andrei Costin (in the dual role of Hassan and Sohrah) in particular are just harrowing.

One of the most lovely and touching aspects of a play that confirms, defies and compounds expectations (frequently in the same passage of dialogue!) is a character that emerges intact from the pages of the book. The sole (significant) speaking female role is that of Soraya, portrayed by Lisa Zahra. Though she only appears in the later sections of the play; she is the most honest and brave character – following her heart and owning her mistakes. On a male dominated stage; her every interaction with Amir is refreshing and cleansing – not necessarily what one is led to expect from a story set mostly in Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

The music throughout the play plays a powerful role and is primarily provided by Hanif Khan; an internationally renowned classically trained Indian musician and performer, who – like Ben Turner – remains on stage for the bulk of the performance. The melodies he provides both inform the story and provide emotional context. The music and sounds created by the cast provide an atmospheric backdrop; at once unobtrusive yet pervasive. A constant and haunting refrain throughout that serves as a reminder that while the story may be set in lands far away; the ultimate search for redemption is a universal one. That the sheer act of being human makes us strive to better ourselves, to make up for those things that we have done wrong, to seek to make amends…even when it is too late.

Adapted by Matthew Spangler from the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Music: Jonathan Girling
Director: Giles Croft

WYP_red_greyThe Kite Runner at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Buy tickets HERE

Visit the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre website HERE

Visit the Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse website HERE

Visit the Wyndham’s Theatre website HERE

Theatre Reviews

February and March Choices

Hi all,

As I’ve been a bit out of things, I’m only just getting around to finding out what books are when. Please do let me know if I get the books in the wrong order, the dates muddled and so on!

Shall be aiming to catch up with emails and admin over the next fortnight – apologies if you’ve been waiting ages!!

February

  • 8th – Horsforth – The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
  • 12th – White Swan – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

March

  • 8th – Horsforth – God help the child – Toni Morrison
  • 12th – White Swan – TBA

April

  • 12th – Horsforth – TBA
  • 9th – White Swan – TBA
  • 22nd – LBC3 Reads – Whit by Iain Banks

happy-reading

Support the Puffin’ Puffin – Run for Cystic Fibrosis

11

As many of you know, Leeds Book Club just wouldn’t work without the effervescent Helen – she runs LBC Puffins, co-hosts LBC White Swan and is up for each and every reading challenge (that orientates around books for younger people). Frankly I don’t know how she does it – she’s a tireless wonder and source of inspiration and joy.

So it comes as no surprise to find that she has taken on a new challenge and will be completing a 10km run next month to raise money for a great cause.

VISIT THE CROWDFUNDING PAGE HERE!

If you can, have a read below and send any and all support to Helen (from virtual hugs to actual pennies).

There is still 4 weeks to go before the big run! All encouragement is greatly appreciated. 

Read the rest of this entry

LBC White Swan review: Americanah

LBC White Swan

Venue: White Swan Leeds

Date: Sunday 10th of April 2016

Time:  6:00pm

Address: Swan Street, Leeds

 Discussing:
Americanah

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah book coverA powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Half of a Yellow Sun.

Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.

About the author:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novelsPurple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book, and a People and Black Issues Book Review Best Book of the Year; and the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her latest novel Americanah, was published around the world in 2013, and has received numerous accolades, including winning the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction; and being named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year.

A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.

******SPOILERS******

******SPOILERS******

******SPOILERS******

As a group, most of us had really enjoyed this book – some of us more than we’d expected to, as from the blurb the plot looked very slight.

The real strength of this book is in the characters. All were very relatable, well-drawn and sympathetic. There was particular affection for Ifemelu’s Aunty Uju. For a book with such a large cast of characters, it would have been easy for some to have felt like stereotypes, but this never felt the case. Even characters that only appeared briefly were well-rounded and believable. There weren’t really any dislikeable characters, with the possible exception of Blaine’s sister Shan, but we felt this was because the characters didn’t like her either!

Some of us felt the plot was almost incidental – that this was more a novel of ideas than plot – but that this wasn’t a negative thing. Someone had quoted the author as saying she was more interested in substance than structure, and this felt very true of this book. Having said that, we also thought that it was structurally very clever, and well-crafted. The word “unputdownable” was used! Apparently the author spent 5 years writing this book, and the craft and care taken are apparent.

The narrative is interspersed throughout with excerpts from Ifem’s blog, these are thematic rather than chronological. Although this can sometimes be a slightly irritating device in books, here we all thought it worked really well. We all really enjoyed the style of Ifem’s blog – if it were a real blog, we would have followed it!

Our only small criticism of the book’s structure was that it would have been nice to see more of Obinze – although some in the group would have preferred to do without his sections at all and just focus on Ifemelu! We all agreed though that the divide between the two characters was rather uneven. For example, Obinze’s journey from being deported from the UK and returning, broke, to Nigeria, to becoming a wealthy but corrupt businessman, was glossed over. Some of us would have liked to see more of how he had made this journey, but we thought it was probably glossed over as it reflects Ifem’s view of him, as she would also have perceived this change as jarring.

There was lots in this book that made for slightly uncomfortable reading, in particular the portrayal of Ifem’s white, liberal friends in the US, and their varying discomfort and cluelessness around race. It also raised a lot of issues that some of us hadn’t been familiar with (although some had come across them before), for example the politicisation of black women’s hair. We thought it was notable that Ifem’s starts wearing her hair naturally around the same time she stops faking an American accent – we saw this as her realisation that being accepted as American isn’t what she needs or wants.

Most of the story is fairly timeless, with limited details that fix it to a particular time period. The exception to this is of course the sections detailing Barack Obama’s election as US President, which we had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it was felt that this took us out of the story somewhat, grounding it in a specific time and place, which was a little jarring. On the other hand, in a book about an African woman living in the US and blogging about race, such a significant event in US racial history could hardly have been ignored! We also wondered if, without the context of Obama’s election placing the narrative in a specific time period, it would have been easier for readers to have dismissed the racism Ifem experiences as a thing of the past.

We had mixed feelings about the ending. Some of us felt it was unrealistic for Ifem and Obinze to have ended up together, with them having grown apart so much. We wondered if perhaps Ifem was clinging on to her memories of the Obinze she had known and been in love with in the past. The ending was the only real let down for some of us, the romantic “happy ending” felt a bit shoehorned in.

Other than that minor note, we all rated this book very highly, and would definitely read more of this author’s work.

Score

9/10

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