Category Archives: LBC Arcadia

All good things…

thank you

It’s hard to believe that Leeds Book Club has been going for over 4 years now.

We started off small, earnest and enthused and it was in Arcadia Bar in Headingley that we found our Mothership.

 

This month will be our last meeting at Arcadia for the time being. As time moves on, people have left the area, the book club focus has shifted more towards the city centre and north west and…well…it’s been 4 years.

Time to let a new lot take over our spot upstairs.

For the moment anyway.

 

Our book choice is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

We will meet on Sunday the 21st of September at 5:30pm as usual, have our normal book conversation and then, from about 6:30pm

PAAAARRTTTY!

Everyone who has even the most obscure link to LBC is invited. Ideally, we’ll have a massive, messy and amazing send off!!

 

I can’t thank the staff and regulars enough.

Throughout the years they have been consistently welcoming, friendly and interested in our book choices (something an avid reader knows is a rare and precious kindness). Whatever the future brings, Arcadia will always be our first and beloved home and I look forward to one day re-colonising our corner upstairs!

 

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Book choice June! ARCADIA – 15th June 2014 – Intimacy – Hanif Kureishi

Image

18 Jan 1999

‘It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.’

Jay is leaving his partner and their two sons. As the long night before his departure unfolds he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with Susan. In an unforgettable, and often pitiless, reflection of their time together he analyses the agonies and the joys of trying to make a life with another person. -Amazon

Amazon Review

Hanif Kureishi’s latest novel made many reviewers uneasy on its first appearance, because it cuts so painfully near to the bone. If a novelist’s first duty is to tell the truth, then Kureishi has done his duty with unflinching courage. Intimacy gives us the thoughts and memories of a middle-aged writer on the night before he walks out on his wife and two young sons, in favour of a younger woman. A very modern man, without political convictions or religious beliefs, he vaguely hopes to find fulfilment in sexual love. No-one is spared Kureishi’s cold, penetrating gaze or lacerating pen. “She thinks she’s feminist, but she’s just bad- tempered,” he says of his abandoned wife. A male friend advises him, “Marriage is a battle, a terrible journey, a season in hell and a reason for living.”At the heart of the novel is this terrible paradox: “You don’t stop loving someone just because you hate them.” Male readers will wince with recognition at the narrator’s hatred of entrapment and domesticity, and his implacable urge towards freedom, escape, even loneliness. Female readers may find it a truly horrific revelation. Kureishi is only telling it like it is, in staccato sentences of pinpoint accuracy. By far the author’s best yet: a brilliant, devastating work. —Christopher Hart

Book Description

An unsettling and emotionally charged look at the end of a relationship, from the acclaimed author of The Buddha of Suburbia.

Product Description

‘It is the saddest night, for I am leaving and not coming back.’

Jay is leaving his partner and their two sons. As the long night before his departure unfolds he remembers the ups and downs of his relationship with Susan. In an unforgettable, and often pitiless, reflection of their time together he analyses the agonies and the joys of trying to make a life with another person.

About the Author

Hanif Kureishi was born and brought up in Kent. He read philosophy at King’s College, London. In 1981 he won the George Devine Award for his plays Outskirts and Borderline, and in 1982 he was appointed Writer-in-Residence at the Royal Court Theatre. In 1984 he wrote My Beautiful Laundrette, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay. His second screenplay Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987) was followed by London Kills Me (1991) which he also directed. The Buddha of Suburbia won the Whitbread Prize for Best First Novel in 1990 and was made into a four-part drama series by the BBC in 1993. His version of Brecht’s Mother Courage has been produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. His second novel, The Black Album, was published in 1995. With Jon Savage he edited The Faber Book of Pop (1995). His first collection of short stories, Love in a Blue Time, was published in 1997. His story My Son the Fanatic, from that collection, was adapted for film and released in 1998. Intimacy, his third novel, was published in 1998, and a film of the same title, based on the novel and other stories by the author, was released in 2001 and won the Golden Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. His play Sleep With Me premièred at the Royal National Theatre in 1999. His second collection of stories, Midnight All Day, was published in 2000. Gabriel’s Gift, his fourth novel, was published in 2001. The Body and Seven Stories and Dreaming and Scheming, a collection of essays, were published in 2002. His screenplay The Mother was directed by Roger Michell and released in 2003. In 2004 he published his play When The Night Begins and a memoir, My Ear At His Heart. A second collection of essays, The Word and the Bomb, followed in 2005. His screenplay Venus was directed by Roger Michell in 2006. His novel Something to Tell You was published in 2008. In July 2009 his adaptation of his novel, The Black Album, opened at the National Theatre, prior to a nation-wide tour. In 2010 his Collected Stories were published. He has been awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

WSwan LBC – The Eyre Affair – GUEST

White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 12th of May 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds
 
Discussing:
THE EYRE AFFAIR
JASPER FFORDE
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 
Thanks to Helen for this epic write up! She’s been contributing so much, I think we’ll have to create her own book shelf page!  

About the book
By Lurazeda, found on Deviant Art.
Ain’t it awesome?

Pirouetting on the boundaries between sci-fi, the crime thriller and intertextual whimsy, Jasper Fforde’s outrageous The Eyre Affair puts you on the wrong footing even on its dedication page, which proudly announces that the book conforms to Crimean War economy standard.

Fforde’s heroine, Thursday Next, lives in a world where time and reality are endlessly mutable–someone has ensured that the Crimean War never ended for example–a world policed by men like her disgraced father, whose name has been edited out of existence. She herself polices text–against men like the Moriarty-like Acheron Styx, whose current scam is to hold the minor characters of Dickens’ novels to ransom, entering the manuscript and abducting them for execution and extinction one by one. When that caper goes sour, Styx moves on to the nation’s most beloved novel–an oddly truncated version of Jane Eyre–and kidnaps its heroine. 

The phlegmatic and resourceful Thursday pursues Acheron across the border into a Leninist Wales and further to Mr Rochester’s Thornfield Hall, where both books find their climax on the roof amid flames.

Meet Thursday Next, literary detective without equal, fear or boyfriend. There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s MR Big. Acheron Hades has been kidnapping certain characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again …

About the Author

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring out of the window and chewing the end of a pencil. He lives and works in Wales and has a passion for aviation.

From the Author

Welcome to the inside of my head. Apart from a few panicked memories about getting lost in a department store aged five, my imagination is a pleasant enough place to be – if you’re me. If you’re not me then you can do the next best thing and order up ‘The Eyre Affair’ and have a read. There should be something to appeal to most readers as the plot visits, at one time or another, most genres – thriller, crime, romance, humour, sci-fi, literary – a veritable Swiss army knife in fact; if you don’t like a subplot then wait awhile – another is sure to pop up soon. 

Over here at the Fforde Ffiction Ffactory we have many more novels bubbling away in our cauldron as well as a Thursday Next website and much else besides.

But for now I wish you health and happiness – and trust you have as much fun reading ‘The Eyre Affair’ as I did


Helen’s Review

It’s been a year since I went to my first LBC meeting and felt it would be fitting to write this review. However at the time I hadn’t read it. It took just over a day to finish it and, boy am I glad I did. This book blew me away and I didn’t know it was part of a series and can’t wait to get my hands on the next one. This was chosen by Alison to read and was LeedsBookClub’s choice to give away at World Book night this year.

It was on a sunny Sunday evening sat in the cosy settings of The White Swan that our story begins, talk of Dodo’s as pets (actually happens in the book), Twitter identities, the story from monsters made of bubble wrap to a scary impression of Kate Bush and the fact that when you bite heads off jelly babies, they know!

To the book and here we meet Thursday Next, our heroine, Lover of books and a literary detective. Her job/role is to deal with illegal traders, fraudsters and copyright infringements. Living alone with only her regenerated pet dodo named Pickwick. An ambitious young lady wanting to further her career but unable to do so until she meets with Hades, A criminal ,mastermind out to bring characters into our world or banish them forever! 

From gothic fiction (Jane Eyre) to mention of Shakespeare and meeting characters from Charles Dickens this book dips in and out of different worlds yet keeping us firmly on our feet.  This book introduces us to so many worlds and with so much going on you would think the story and characters would be watered down, but they’re not. You’re sucked into another dimension without realising until you come back down with a thump on your sofa when the story ends.

I loved the fact that this book was based in England, there sometimes seem very few and the fact it used classic stories and twisted them into a sci-fi/ mystery adventure. It is probably only in books and in films where the impossible can become the possible. The fact that there is a magic machine which can extract characters from books into the real world, to be able to meet our heroes and heroines of our favourite stories, in Thursday Next’s case it was Rochester from Jane Eyre, who appears a few times to save her and in return she brings Jane back to him.

During the discussion a question was asked about the problem where we find what happens we fall in love with books, bringing the story to life in our minds is that sometimes we find to have someone else make it into a tv series or film may spoil the feeling of the book, spoil the journey you made with the characters like in the book, people were in uproar as the story changed in front of the eyes, demanding it be returned to it’s original form, however drab it was. Today TV & filmmakers do the same as it is their vision of the story, and especially if their 
idea comes from a book, sometimes they can make it how we see it or improve it, sometimes they can destroy it. But in the end stories are to be told and shared in whatever form.

And finally for people who have not read Jane Eyre but have read this would you go to the original now? Just food for thought. 

Best line – ‘Wotcha, Doofus!’

Reason to read it – The Dodo still exists and you can have it as a pet!

Score –  

8/10

 
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub
 
The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

 

OUR WRITE UPs

WSwan LBC – Write Up of The Book Thief – GUEST

White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 10th of March 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds
 
Discussing:
THE BOOK THIEF
MARCUS ZUSAK
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 
THE BLURB (from Amazon)
 

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

LeedsBookClub is delighted to welcome back our epic Literary Guru @AlisonNeale who has kindly written up our most recent #WSwanLBC discussion. I particularly enjoy our (frequent) distractions being included!

 

To parallel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I’ll begin at the end: re-readers commented when giving their scores that while all had greatly enjoyed the book on first reading, when reading the book for a second time they recognised how manipulated they had been. Scores reflected this.

One manifestation of this manipulation was in the form of Death, which some readers felt to be a device, and not a terribly original one. More than one person had been reminded of Pratchett’s Discworld Death character. Some book clubbers said that Death’s parts of the story interrupted the flow and were outside of the reader’s perspective; however, others felt that the ‘gimmick’ of this character added to the story.

Another plot device was the interjections by the author, clarifying foreign words or filling in bits of history. It was pointed out that these were like the text cards during a silent movie.

~ Likes ~
 
The relationship between Liesel and Hans
 
The book-within-a-book structure
 
The poetic imagery


A number of book clubbers agreed that the characters felt very real: one could imagine them off living their lives while they weren’t on the page. The mayor’s wife, for example, rarely appeared in the story, but was essential to the plot even when not the focus. The baddies, too, were realistic rather than sketches.

Liesel was felt to be a sad character: a little girl far stronger and more independent than she should have had to be, taking care of herself and untrusting of adults. It was amazing that this child should have managed to keep such a big secret even from her best friend.

~ Easily distracted as always ~
 
The book clubbers at this point went off into a conversation about:
 
Sweet Valley High
 
cliff-hangers
 
various TV series


The ending was inevitable, someone pointed out – we know our history – but this book offered a different perspective. Someone else commented that it wasn’t really about the Holocaust, but
instead about those outside of it – why they didn’t speak out or rebel. It was a tale of the universal human experience rather than focused on one nationality or side. However, the bombing in the latter part of the book was unusual in that criticism and questioning of the actions of the winning side are still fairly rare.

While such a serious subject being treated in a light-hearted way could have been seen as callous and ‘a tough sell’, fortunately it was very well handled: ‘whimsical without being twee’, someone
commented. One reader had issue with the book not picking up on the true horror of the situation, but it was pointed out that it was a YA book (news to some readers including yours truly), which
might account for this to some extent. An example of this lack of seriousness was the comment after the street was bombed that Death had ‘a busy day’. Some readers thus expressed a preference for non-fiction books on this subject, rather than fiction.

~ Another aside ~
 
A rant about The Titanic became relevant to this discussion
 
when readers expressed their dislike of the manipulation
 
of more modern historical events. Anything documented
 
on film felt more personal, more reliable and thus less acceptable
 
for re-telling, it was decided. Someone then went off on one
 
about conspiracy theories: I have no idea how that fitted in.
(LBC – I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU GUYS, BUT I READ THAT LAST LINE IN THE DRIEST TONE *EVER*)


There was some discussion of precisely what we were reading: was it Liesel’s book, or Death’s extra-interpretation of her book, or some mash-up of different books and characters’ stories? Some
readers thus felt the narrator(s) to be trustworthy, others unreliable. Conflicting views gave the reader a choice.

The story also fixated on the format of the book: the themes of propaganda and the book-burning destruction of information were inverted by a book being wiped to create ‘more than a book’. The
descriptions of this were very physical.

On the illustrations, the question was if they added to the story. Some readers loved that the book contained them and pointed out that they hinted at what would happen. Others suggested that they were yet another device – interesting and unusual, but in the end pointless.

~ Righteous indignation ~
 
An incensed reader cut in at this point and we all had to look
 
at the most appalling front covers of Anne of Green Gables,
 
The Princess Bride and The Bell Jar. A new round of drinks
 
was then bought before we set to on scores.


Some of those who read The Book Thief for the first time mentioned hesitation before beginning, and confusion with the shifts of characters, narrators and formats. However, most were desperate to finish the story once started, and very few expressed a dislike of the book. Re-readers were glad to do so, with positive recollections of the tale, but found that they separated the individual storylines more easily this time through – to its detriment, as explained earlier.

Score –  8/10
 
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub
 
The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

OUR WRITE UPs

WSwan LBC and Canongate Book 08 – Weight Write Up – GUEST

White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 10th of February 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds
 
Discussing:
WEIGHT
JEANETTE WINTERSON
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 
THE BLURB (from Amazon)

Canongate Books, together with thirty great international publishing houses, is proud to announce a new series – “The Myths”. 

In ancient Greek mythology Atlas, a member of the original race of gods called Titans, leads a rebellion against the new deities, the Olympians. For this he incurs divine wrath: the victorious Olympians force Atlas, guardian of the Garden of Hesperides and its golden apples of life, to bear the weight of the earth 
and the heavens for eternity.

When the hero Heracles, as one of his famous twelve labours, is tasked with stealing these apples, he seeks out Atlas, offering to shoulder the world temporarily if the Titan will bring him the fruit. Knowing that Heracles is the only person with the strength to take this burden, and enticed by the prospect of even a short-lived freedom, Atlas agrees and an uneasy partnership is born.

With her typical wit and verve, Jeanette Winterson brings Atlas into the twenty-first century. Simultaneously, she asks her own difficult questions about the nature of choice and coercion, and how we forge our own destiny, Visionary and inventive, yet completely believable and relevant to our lives today, Winterson’s skill in turning the familiar on its head and showing us a different truth is once more put to dazzling effect.

 
 
About the Author

JEANETTE WINTERSON’S first novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit won the Whitbread prize for Best First Novel. Since then she has published seven other novels, including The Passion, Written on the Body and The Powerbook, a collection of short stories, The World and Other Place: A Book of Essays, Art Objects and most recently a children’s picture book, The King of Capri. She has adapted her work for TV, film and stage. Her books are published in 32 countries. She lives in Oxfordshire and London.

 
This month’s write up has been (ever-so-speedily) provided by +Helen Carr @isfromupnorth – one of the spectacularly awesome Leeds Book Club Guest Star Super Stars. 

Thanks so much!

This is also one of the Canongate Challenge books, so is structured more like one of those write ups. 

FOREWORD TO WEIGHT 

“When I was asked to choose a myth to write about, I realized I had chosen already. The story of Atlas holding up the world was in my mind before the telephone call had ended. If the call had not come, perhaps I would never have written the story, but when the call did come, that story was waiting to be written. Rewritten. The recurring language motif of Weight is ‘I want to tell the story again.’ My work is full of cover versions. I like to take stories we think we know and record them differently. In the retelling comes a new emphasis or bias, and the new arrangement of the key elements demands that fresh material be injected into the existing text. Weight moves far away from the simple story of Atlas’s punishment and his temporary relief when Heracles takes the world off his shoulders. I wanted to explore loneliness, isolation, responsibility, burden, and freedom, too, because my version has a very particular end not found elsewhere.” 

Jeanette Winterson 

Jeanette Winterson is one of those writers you either love or hate. Best known for her novel Oranges are not the only fruit, she takes a well known myth and creates a story about life’s journey, betrayal, greed, freedom, responsibilities, rejection and our search for our own identities.

We started this discussion while munching on some fabulous homemade mint brownies made by regular bookclubber Kirsty aka @kayelle5, (recipe should be on LBC website shortly) and one of the first things to be brought up was the fact this book, although beautifully written, is split in to thirds which didn’t sit well with the story although almost everyone agreed the  favourite part of the story was the introduction of the space dog, Laika. 

As mentioned below the story is a retelling of the famous Greek myth Atlas and Heracles (also known as Hercules in Rome and the modern west). As punishment for going against Zeus, Atlas is 
forced to carry the weight of the world on his back. As stated in the book the two characters are very different we have Atlas who is a powerful man who doesn’t notice much. He doesn’t need to. Other people notice things for him’ and then there’s Heracles ‘His strength covers up his weaknesses, as he was born with rocks for muscles and rocks between his ears’. Two totally different characters yet in a way the same. 

As humans we all want to be the best, to be important, to strive for power, and sometimes will do anything to get it. In this story Heracles is on a task and requires the Golden Apples of Hesperides which only Atlas can collect with no harm coming to him.  

So Hercules offers to take Atlas’s burden for a short while to get what he requires. On Atlas’s return Heracles realises he is not going to take by his burden and so tricks him by saying that he needs to adjust his cloak. Atlas is then left once again holding up the world.  Heracles then goes off on his adventures, finds ‘love’ and gets killed. It then jumps to many years later and Atlas isn’t aware of time or the Gods demise and then the story jumps forward to 1957 and Laika, the dog who was blasted into space by the Russians as a prelude to manned space flight. This piece was for everyone the most beautiful part of the story and how Atlas rescued her and in a way she rescued him when he finally realised he could be freed of his burden, because the reason he was carrying it didn’t exist anymore.This comes from two quotes in the book ‘No hero can be destroyed by the world. His reward is to destroy himself. Not what you meet on the way, but what you are will destroy you.’ 

In the end Heracles destroyed himself due to greed, Atlas came close but realised that he didn’t need to carry his burden anymore because the people who expected him to carry it were not there anymore and it is only when we realise what is expected from others and ourselves can we then let go of our worries and we can free ourselves.

The unfortunate thing about this book that we discussed that no one seemed to like was the sudden interruption of the auto-biography piece about Jeannette being given away. It didn’t seem to fit and distracted from the main story. Nor did the short piece on Hera being a sexualised object for Heracles, for me almost turning into Fifty Shades of Gray and blushing.  Along with the need for Heracles’ wife to do an infidelity spell. And I quote ‘Had She not read Harry Potter? These things don’t end well?’

One thing from this book was to understand the stories created from these myths and try to get an idea about it’s characters, (perhaps we should have read up on them first) to know our heroes, that superheroes and Gods are only powerful because of the belief/ideas we put into and  to know that actually Thor ‘god of war’ is ‘Kim’ from Home and Away who used to date a teacher. Oh and his friend Vinnie became a vampire in True Blood – obviously needed to change the day job. 


Obviously in any book all the characters have different personalities, but all are alike in a way because they want the same thing. We didn’t like Hera we thought she came across as a bad character, but is perhaps hard done by. 
Then there’s Atlas who went against his father and then coming to realise after being punished and shouldering the world, listening to all what was going on with the world that he didn’t want to be a part of that was able to release his ‘burden’. 

And then there’s Heracles who through pure greed and desire for being a typical bloke gets himself killed. Silly begger.

To sum up this book is about life, lesson and the burdens we carry, and how we are a ‘self pollutant’ and it is only ourselves that can realise that we have the power to know when to let go of these things we carry around us. We are always searching for more, for better, we take ourselves too seriously and we don’t realise what we have is actually good enough and can make us happy until it’s too late.

Note for Readers – Story of Atlas – Myth Encyclopedia

In Greek mythology, Atlas was usually responsible for holding up the heavens. This marble relief from a Greek temple shows Hercules holding up the world for Atlas so that Atlas can bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Another story concerns Hercules (Heracles)!, the grandson of Perseus. One of the labors of Hercules was to obtain some of the golden apples that were guarded by the Hesperides. Hercules asked Atlas to help him get the apples. Seeing an opportunity to escape from the burden of holding up the heavens, Atlas asked Hercules to take over the task while he obtained the apples. Hercules agreed. When Atlas returned with the apples, he told Hercules that he would deliver them for him. His intention was to leave Hercules to support the heavens. However, Hercules asked Atlas to take back the heavens for just a moment so that he could adjust his burden. When Atlas did this, Hercules walked away with the apples.

Score –  

7/10

 
A story to relate to the myths 

Bagenders – legend becomes myth.
We also mentioned Tom Holt and Jasper Fforde.
 


If this book were a cake…

We didn’t get round to discussing this really. We were too busy munching on the mint-cookies!
 
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub
 
The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

 

Canongate

Write Ups

Arcadia LBC – Hard Times Write Up

Arcadia LBC


Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday, 18th of November 2012
Time:  5pm – 7pm

Discussed:

HARD TIMES
CHARLES DICKENS
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
 * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 
Due to the length of this novel, it is frequently regarded as the ‘easy’ Dickens option. In our opinion – this is a mistake.
Despite its brevity, we found this to be a dense read, one that took considerably more time than expected and felt even longer as there were few of us that were enthusiastic to complete it!*
It had all started so well though. As a whole, we tended to quite enjoy the opening volley – especially as the educational models were broken down. FACT and FANCY – or practical versus creative – as ideals for child rearing fascinated us and had the book continued in this vein – we might have had a very different conversation about it!
Those familiar with other Dickens stories immediately noticed that this novel contains very few of the recognisable Dickensian motifs. It’s far less gothic in tone – though this is at least in part down to the storyline. Flashes of gothic would indicate creativity, not a feature of the society created here. The action is set in a fictitious northern town – not in London. There is a strong industrial setting, rather than the social focus that we have come to expect. As noted previously, the length of novel is also a break from his norm; considerably shorter than one might expect. Finally, love does not redeem or restore or improve anything throughout this book – a very unusual feature for Dickens.
This might be the angriest book that Dickens ever wrote. It’s a shame that it inspired so little emotion from any of us.
More importantly, we missed passion. We didn’t care about the characters – whose structured, practical and emotionless lives left us cold. We felt pity for Stephen – but more for his ‘lunatic’ wife. Rachel seemed decent enough but her piety turned us off. The use of phonetic dialect was just painful to read throughout – particularly for the character with a speech impediment (and for those who know I hate this writing affection particularly – this was something more than one person raised!! Honest!!). Many of us had copies with blurbs on the back labelling this as an uplifting read – a description that we couldn’t understand at all!!
We also speculated on the state of the authors romantic life at the time as the book is near pathologically anti-wedlock. As is typical of the author, the wealthy are depicted as less moral than their poverty stricken counterparts and have opportunities available denied to others (as demonstrated in Stephen’s inability to divorce, but Louise being able to separate from Josiah).
We discussed whether politics was the most meaningful element of the novel, especially as a commentary of the time. While we acknowledged that we are less well informed of it today; we couldn’t help but think of other Dickens novels that introduced concepts less familiar today that just gripped us. A Christmas carol and A Tale of Two Cities can be read and enjoyed by a wide swathe of society regardless of the century that the readers lives in. Dickens was usually excels at creating that near unobtainable writing goal – timeless fiction – however he missed the mark here for us.**
We chatted for a bit about how this is a moral tale yet how we felt it utterly failed as one. None of the characters end up happy by the end of the book – regardless of their upbringing, philosophical beliefs or the social structures that they were raised in. So, what exactly was the message supposed to be? A life without creativity is one without spark, but even if you have a tiny bit of a spark or a good heart; you’ll still end up miserable? It felt a little bit like the author was furious at the world around him and wrote this as a sulky rant – if you take on board these elements, society is doomed. No one can be redeemed during it. Such pessimism was very off-putting for us.  We pondered on whether he was trying to pull the ultimate reverse psychological argument on an epic scale, however not enough counter to normal viewpoints were included to allow us to think of this as a serious option.
Many of us thought that this might work better in a visual medium and were surprised to realise how few adaptations there are of this book as opposed to of Dickens other works. This appears to sit uneasily with the rest of his tremendous output. We tried to visualise the action as a BBC drama (yes, others do period dramas, however rarely ever so well!), wondering if the details would stick better; the characters appeal more; the ending jar less. If anyone does watch a version – do let us know how you got on with it!
Those of us who have read and enjoyed Dickens previously have been inspired to seek out old favourites or other unread novels to give them a try after reading this book – even though we didn’t wholly enjoy it. So the Dickens appeal lives on!
However, those amongst us who read this as their first Dickens novel felt no great need to ever try one of his books again. Don’t worry – we totally tried to talk them round! There is far too much goodness oozing out of Dahl’s Chickens to not encourage people to try the rest and The Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations came highly recommended.
And that was that! Our final Arcadia LBC meeting of the year!
* Three of our regulars who LOVED the book were unable to attend the meeting at Arcadia for various reasons. Each has spoken to me briefly about what they loved about the book – from the political intrigue to the philosophical underpinnings, to important social observations to the near dystopian elements especially towards the end of the novel.
We really missed having an enthusiastic defender or two for the book – always leads to a more rounded discussion than when only one opinion holds sway – and wanted to reflect that there were those amongst us who enjoyed this immensely! 
**A member did express the view that in their opinion, Charles Dickens did not seem to have fully grasped the political concepts that he was writing about – especially obvious in this treatment of trade unions as depicted by the entirely vicious and wholly unrealistic Slackbridge. However, as the rest of the group were less interested in the political element, this wasn’t really explored in too much detail.
Other Books Mentioned
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskill

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte 

Score  
5/10
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @ArcadiaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #ArcadiaLBC!

WSwan LBC – American Gods Write Up

White Swan LBC

Date:  Sunday 8th of July 2012
Time:  6:00pm
Address: Swan Street, Leeds
 
Discussing:
AMERICAN GODS
NEIL GAIMAN
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 
THE BLURB (from Amazon)
 

Shadow is a man with a past. But now he wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife and stay out of trouble. Until he learns that she’s been killed in a terrible accident.
Flying home for the funeral, as a violent storm rocks the plane, a strange man in the seat next to him introduces himself. The man calls himself Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Shadow than is possible.
He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing will ever he the same…

 
This is a terrifically hard book to summarise – on the page or in a discussion! Even taking away the books mammoth size; we agreed that it is less a story than a mosaic of tales woven into one. 
For most of us, this was an overdue read – one that we had long heard lauded to the skies by friends and online. For others, this was a return to a book first read many moons ago or during the brilliant – albeit short lived – One Book One Twitter read-a-long project. 
We loved the concept of America as the natural home and graveyard for the Gods – a simple premise that allowed for a pseudo-academic discussion on atheism, new lands, evolving belief structures and the like; which was immensely gratifying. 
 
The gods and their largely impotent lives are also very quickly established within the books – the initial chapters, littered with cameo appearances of day to day encounters that emphasize their integration within ‘our’ society while simultaneously highlighting their ‘other’ status. This otherness is demonstrated by power and a moral basis unlike anything we mere mortals could get away with. The former fertility goddess – who physically absorbed her ‘ worshipers’ during copulation – was a particular high point for many of us; it certainly sent shivers down my spine.
The use of dream sequences, whole pages of italics and the view we get behind the scenes set us in vastly differing landscapes across the book, providing avenue to introduce even more strange and odd magical creatures that couldn’t occupy the same world as ours.
Here we sidetracked for a few moment and reflected on the effective way that Gaiman creates a rich and diverse tapestry of characters, without ever coming across as overtly striving for inclusion. He creates a raft of characters, all differing genders, ages, sexual and ethnic origin – and it’s never self consciously PC. Indeed it reads just as though Gaiman is himself surrounded by a rich and diverse tapestry of humanity to work from, not restricting himself to one racial or social identity in his writing.
Thematically, this book doesn’t shy away from difficult and often emotive topics. Rather it utilized the wild and weird sense of possibility to explore themes including race, religion, identity and isolation with a fresh perspective.
Additionally, we found the varying responses of the gods to their – for the most part – dwindling worship and influence to be fascinating. That there are new gods emerging out of new technology and belief systems made perfect sense to us. As a species, humanity has demonstrated time and again a need for an external deity to worship or revere and this generation is no less vigilant. As the form and appearance of acceptable gods have also changed, we had a lovely ten minutes or so speculating on new gods, what they would look like and whether these would prove more enduring than the gods of old. 
Which led to this whole other discussion about the eradication of the gods power base – given that the English language still has names for days of the week, months and so based on these ancient immortals – how dead are they really? And off we went on another tangent based on the potential re-emergence of those deities in the here and now. Seriously good giggles.
Structuring the book as a road trip was very effective, though I think we were all of us interested in Shadow’s prison years at the start of the book as well. The primary storyline was only hinted at during the initial sections of the book, which gave the author – Neil Gaiman – scope to create a detailed world; including characters with fully realised and explored back stories before divulging the ‘meat and spuds’ of the book. By the time the proper storyline kicked in, we were all of us invested and believed in the universe created.
This use of worlds within worlds is a technique that Gaiman has used before in many of his other books. We compared and contrasted Stardust and the town of Wall, a border mark between the ‘real’ world and the magical with his (so very very good, if a touch dated now) television series Neverwhere, where people fade into the shadows of London and find an underground alternative city that compares beautifully with the going behind the curtain of the world featured in this book. And that’s only looking at Gaiman. We dragged in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, Cloud Atlas, Gods behaving Badly and Tom Holt’s many works dealing with gods in unexpected places before returning to Gaiman and the closest thing this book has to a brother – Anazazi Boys. Personally, I was very glad that I had read that book first – it’s a gentler introduction to the same world and knowing the personality of a few of the peripheral characters enhanced my reading experience. For those discovering Gaiman for the first time, it was thrilling to know that there was more to read. And we read the special edition one – with the 200 million added in pages!
We also looked at the changing formats used – the discussion moving away slightly from the book for a while and resting on the author. His short stories are perfectly crafted yet utterly different to his full length novels. Here is a man with equal grasp of both mediums. A few of the geekier amongst us were also familiar with his comic book offerings and enjoyed those tremendously too! Across the room, there was a near universal desire to read more of his works with most of us happy to recommend him to certain friends and family in the future…though perhaps one of his shorter works to begin with. This book, though easy to read is huge and that can be off putting for many people. It’s also really weird, though it transpired that most of us saw that as great.
Score –  8/10
 
Soundtrack

During this epic read, we were listening to the following:
Lindi Ortega – Little Red Boots
American Roadtrip – songs like Hotel California and Karma Hotel were mentioned
Paul Simons – Gracelands – particularly good for Shadow’s descriptions
 


If this book were a cake…

We agreed that whatever else the cake needed to be BIG. We eventually settled on a large layer cake, with each layer totally unique.
Triple chocolate slab.
Then strawberry sponge.
Followed by a layer of cheese cake.
Then something really creamy.
Then a hot fudge Sunday type of thing with nuts and sauces and oh dear gods, I’m starving now.
 
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub
 
The Pub can be contacted on @WhiteSwanLeeds
And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #WSwanLBC!

 

Arcadia LBC – Heat Wave Write Up

Arcadia LBC


Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday, 19th of February 2012
Time:  5pm – 7pm

Discussed:

HEAT WAVE
RICHARD CASTLE
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
 * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 

BLURB (from Amazon)

A New York real estate tycoon plunges to his death on a Manhattan sidewalk. A trophy wife with a past survives a narrow escape from a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with no shortage of reasons to kill trot out their alibis. And then, in the suffocating grip of a record heat wave, comes another shocking murder and a sharp turn in a tense journey into the dirty little secrets of the wealthy. Secrets that prove to be fatal. Secrets that lay hidden in the dark until one NYPD detective shines a light.

Mystery sensation Richard Castle, blockbuster author of the wildly best-selling Derrick Storm novels, introduces his newest character, NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat. Tough, sexy, professional, Nikki Heat carries a passion for justice as she leads one of New York City’s top homicide squads. She’s hit with an unexpected challenge when the commissioner assigns superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook to ride along with her to research an article on New York’s Finest. Pulitzer Prize-winning Rook is as much a handful as he is handsome. His wise-cracking and meddling aren’t her only problems. As she works to unravel the secrets of the murdered real estate tycoon, she must also confront the spark between them. The one called heat.
It’s getting meta in here…
Heat Wave is our first book choice written by a fictional character.
New Yorker Richard Castle is a best selling mystery fiction author – most notable for the Derrick Storm series. He plays poker with some of the finest crime writers of the age including James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane and Stephen J Cannell* He takes his inspiration from the real world, frequently collaborating with actual crime fighters to ensure that his books drip authenticity as well as (metaphorical) blood.
Immediately impressed with Kate Beckett – an NYPD detective that he encounters after two bodies are found murdered imitating some scenes from his books – he uses his connections in the Mayor’s office to force her to take her on as a civilian partner. Using her as his muse, he has created Nikki Heat – a passionate crime fighter. He also appears in the Nikki Heat books as Rook – the primary protagonist’s romantic foil.
Castle is a charming, fun loving single father, who lives with his mother and daughter. His every book goes straight to the top of the best seller lists and his imagination is child like and grotesque in equal measure. Despite his casual demeanour, he takes his writing seriously and is known to have criticised his early efforts publically.
At least, all this is true – according to the tv show – Castle.
Castle is a show I happen to be a huge fan of. Having said that; I personally approached this book with something closer to trepidation than excitement – I tend to be hugely sceptical of tie in novels. To my mind, they exist in a weird sort of limbo – most seem incapable of moving away from the source material and are therefore forced to rehash incidents and events seen in previous episodes. The ones that do veer off in unexpected directions risk moving too far away from the canon plot to be believable.  They are compromises – yes you get to interact with characters that you love, but it’s annoying that they can’t create a new playing field (unless the series has been cancelled. That brings with it a whole different set of rules!). 
Though this book is wholly steeped in the pulp fiction tradition, it delights in subverting the genera – we particularly like the inclusion of gadgets and toys that served to progress the plot forward but also ensured a contemporary New York.  
In general, we found it to be better written than expected – though it was jarring reading a book written in the style of an episode.  Certainly the written form revealed some of the weaknesses of a procedural show – the detective Heat lacks the depth and out of work life that allows her visual counterpart to shine as a credible person. Within this book, Nikki Heat is more of a stereotype of a particular type of woman than anyone you could imagine meeting.
(For the record, while Kate Beckett was disappointed at the name Castle gave her, she was a little bit thrilled to see the passion and sexuality that he ascribed to her.)
In fact all of the characterisation suffered as a result of the writing style. Those of us who were familiar with the show enjoyed matching the fictional (book) characters to their actual (tele-visual) counterparts. Due to the pace and the necessity to keep forward momentum (at all costs), there were a large number of suspects that resulted in potential fan favourites being neglected – particularly Detectives Javier Esposito and Kevin Ryan and Dr Lanie Parish – or the thinly veiled versions of them. It was lovely having characters no longer in the series pop up too, though these appearances felt equivalent to a movie stars cameo due to the aforementioned lack of character development. We all had a proper chuckle at Castle becoming Rook – a lovely little moment, celebrating word play and geek culture – very much in line with the show, though the sexual tension between Rook and Heat felt a touch forced in places.
Of course, not everyone agreed. Those that were totally unfamiliar with the show had free reign in imagining the characters any way they liked, with one visualising Nikki Heat as Sarah Lund from the Killing. That reader felt that they were better able to enjoy the book without all the ‘baggage’ from the tv show getting in the way. She also argued – successfully in my case – that the name Nikki Heat predisposes a reader to picture her as a sexual object. Had she been called Nora Dearheart, or Maggie Row or something neutral; we might have enjoyed her more and felt less critical of her decision making – especially when it comes to suspects. This was one of the few moments that someone who hadn’t seen the show defended the books!
Then we quoted Shakespeare for a bit – always rather satisfying.
The plot did not inspire as much enthusiasm at all. For the majority of us, the mystery was not particularly striking. While I only guessed the identity of the killer towards the end of the novel, a few readers clocked in almost from their first appearance as they were the only suspect to really interact with Nikki. As one book clubber phrased it ‘It’s not a good sign when you can tell who the killer is because they’re the only person that the lead character has flirted with!!’
Towards the end of our chat, we temporarily became sidetracked by the idea of imitating the writing style ourselves. A number of the group are creative’s and have in the past put pen to page to create their own fictional worlds. They found the style here to be very specific and surprisingly hard to replicate.
It is a very definite homage to crime scripts, with a noir tinge to both the crimes and the characters. Each person is written with deliberately over the top pointers to their visual counterparts, to ensure that even the least observant fan would be able to figure out who the originating character was. For many of us the gimmick of reading this style wore off quickly. The characters in particular suffered, with many ending up as stiff as cardboard.
I was challenged to do the write up in the same style…but – trust me – I lack the flair necessary for such an attempt.
A book club member made a note of saying that while she only found the book to be so-so, above average but only just – she was delighted to read a book that she would NEVER have picked up for herself, finding it to be hilarious in parts. Nikki Heat seemed to her to be an incredible stereotype and totally unbelievable but still someone you could route for. However, the style of writing maintained momentum throughout and she was swept up in the plot right up until the last page.
We concluded that the Nikki Heat series has been written primarily for fans of the TV series Castle; the book serves as both a stand alone crime thriller (just!) and a fan-treat, packed full of in-references and characters that you’re meant to link to their TV counterparts. However, those who didn’t know about the show scored the book considerably lower than the fans and – as with most tie in’s – found it a less than satisfying read.
Fans of the show will likely read more of these – they are easy reads that you can sink into without much effort. However, those without affection for the show won’t be seeking out more of these.

*Until his untimely death in 2010. The show dedicated an episode to his memory.

Score  
6/10
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @ArcadiaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #ArcadiaLBC!

Arcadia LBC – The Princess Bride – Write Up

Arcadia LBC


Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday, 19th of August 2012
Time:  5pm – 7pm

Discussed:

THE PRINCESS BRIDE
WILLIAM GOLDMAN
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
 * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 

BLURB (from Amazon)

Once upon a time came a story so full of high adventure and true love that it became an instant classic and won the hearts of millions.

What reader can forget or resist such colorful characters as

  • Westley . . . handsome farm boy who risks death and much, much worse for the woman he loves
  • Inigo . . . the Spanish swordsman who lives only to avenge his father’s death
  • Fezzik . . . the Turk, the gentlest giant ever to have uprooted a tree with his bare hands
  • Vizzini . . . the evil Sicilian, with a mind so keen he’s foiled by his own perfect logic
  • Prince Humperdinck . . . the eviler ruler of Guilder, who has an equally insatiable thirst for war and the beauteous Buttercup
  • Count Rugen . . . the evilest man of all, who thrives on the excruciating pain of others
  • Miracle Max. . . the King’s ex-Miracle Man, who can raise the dead (kind of)
  • The Dread Pirate Roberts . . . supreme looter and plunderer of the high seas and, of course,
  • Buttercup . . . the princess bride, the most perfect, beautiful woman in the history of the world.

S. Morgenstern’s timeless tale–discovered and wonderfully abridged by William Goldman–pits country against country, good against evil, love against hate. From the Cliffs of Insanity through the Fire Swamp and down into the Zoo of Death, this incredible journey and brilliant tale is peppered with strange beasties monstrous and gentle, and memorable surprises both terrible and sublime.

Well, this was the most affable discussion we’ve ever had as a book club – across any of the clubs.
It was also the shortest.
I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a perverse attachment for books that polarise the book club. Where there are huge variances in the reading of a scene; the behaviour of particular characters; or overarching themes; it practically guarantees a good meaty discussion.*
We might retrace our steps a time or two, but it’s a very satisfying process overall. Usually there are one or two people pointing out a particular viewpoint that totally contrasts with what the majority of the group think; sometimes the club is divided squarely down the middle with both sides wondering how the other could possibly get it so wrong. We get a bit loud, our humour becomes a touch risqué and our language tends to find the gutter and start digging to new lows.
It’s highly entertaining stuff and you’re all more than welcome to join in!
However, every now and again, we’ve experience rare moments of perfect unity during a meet up. Every single person agrees on almost every particular point.
True, it’s a beautiful thing to behold; but it terrifies me to my core!
It’s like a romance with no inevitable obstacle to be overcome or a thriller with no resolution.
There’s just no story when everyone agrees. No passion. No challenges that send us off on weird random tangents. Just…nods. Smiles. And the realisation that you might just make it home for a bath before Downton Abbey after all.
*shudder*
Our chat about The Princess Bride was one such meeting.
 
It all started off so well.
We were divided into two camps – those who had seen/were aware of The Princess Bride film and those who’d never heard of it before.
Those who had seen it, found it to be a more detailed version of the film – enhancing details here, adding a touch there. One or two ever found that they had to re-read sections in order to overcome their visual knowledge of the tale.
We agreed that reading a book styled after a TV series or film can also be an odd experience as you can’t help but visualise everyone and everything as they are depicted on the screen. For that reason, I tend to prefer to read a book before I see an adaptation of it, to allow my mind free reign with the images and concepts. Here however, we had all enjoyed the film so much that it was a welcome enhancement to the story.
Obviously, it’s a very visual read that lends itself to the screen. In fact, someone pointed that the text is perhaps overtly concerned with making visual links. Tying in to the film so utterly might have impaired the writing slightly. Certainly those scenes or character backstory that were unique to the book were most enjoyable for us. 
Most importantly – each of our familiar and beloved characters gets an extended back story. I particularly enjoyed reading about Fezzik. While I loved Andre the Giant’s portrayal in the film; Fezzic becomes a more meaningful character when you understand why he plays his rhyme games, or why his friendship with Inigo Montoya is such an important point of stability for him.
Upon mentioning Inigo, a few of us began to chant ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die’ over and over again while the uninitiated stared at us, indulgently at first, then with something approaching concern.
Those who had never seen the film or had never heard of it should have had a far trickier time during the book, surely?
 
One or two of the group actually weren’t aware that this was going to be a comedy read. They started it as a ‘straight’ book and it wasn’t until they spotted something really daft – like naming countries Guilder and Florin – that they realized the spoof element. 
 
The whole ‘fake’ author thing also greatly amused us as a whole. Even those who had watched the film found it daft beyond measure and hilarious. 
“Once I realised it was nonsense I got on much better with it!”
For the most part, everyone responded favourably. The plot is deceptively simple and time is taken to ensure that each character – whether a primary protagonist or someone we only meet once – has a unique voice and perspective.
So is it a spoof book? Or can it be stand alone, be regarded as independent from the film?
We say yes!
 
Those who hadn’t watched the film all (if I’m remembering properly) planned on doing so but enjoyed the book itself as an entertaining distraction from the world. Summer didn’t exactly over-awe this year, so it was lovely to have somewhere sunny and shiny and fun to escape to on grey days. 
   
*Fortunately we’re all grown ups – despite ourselves it sometimes feels – so we can offer differing opinions without falling out or making anyone feel diminished or foolish!
 

Thanks very much to Becky for the Banana cake – deeelish!!  

Score  
8/10
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @ArcadiaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #ArcadiaLBC!

Arcadia LBC – The New York Trilogy Write Up – GUEST

Arcadia LBC


Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday, 21st of October 2012
Time:  5pm – 7pm

Discussed:

THE NEW YORK TRILOGY
PAUL AUSTER
 
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
* * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * *
 * * * * * S P O I L E R S * * * * * 

BLURB

Paul Auster’s signature work, The New York Trilogy, consists of three interlocking novels: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room; haunting and mysterious tales that move at the breathless pace of a thriller.

This is definitely one of the more outlandish books we’ve read since I started coming to book club. The three ‘connected’ storylines seemed to fuel a very disconnected discussion – I’ve tried to give it some coherence but we spent a lot of time jumping around from topic to topic, looping and backtracking and generally nattering away to our heart’s content.

As a very general rule, most of the group seemed fairly apathetic about the first book, City of Glass, either loved or hated Ghosts, number two, and felt the most engaged by the third book, The Locked Room. We felt that overall, whilst we could appreciate the ways in which the books were connected, we wanted a little more information and a more satisfying resolution at the end to bring everything together even more. However, please bear in mind that for every such statement I make in this review, there was always at least one person who disagreed vehemently!

One of the themes of the book seems to be names and identity. We saw some characters with the same names, and others that went by a series of different names. One character had a little discussion with himself about umbrellas, and whether a broken umbrella, which doesn’t fulfil the function of an umbrella, could still be called an umbrella. (The general consensus at book club was, yes, it would be called a broken umbrella. Duh.) The last few pages of the book state that these three stories are essentially the same story at different levels of awareness/understanding (or something like that) which would
imply that various characters in each story should have equivalents in the other stories, but we didn’t really get into that beyond identifying the fact that in each story there
was a detached puppet master with shady or unclear motives. (On the topic of identity, several people stated that having the author appear in his own book once came across as
egotistical and arrogant. Having four characters named Paul Auster was just beyond a joke.)

One thing that most people seemed to like about the book was the regular asides, telling little stories apparently unconnected to the narrative read by the characters in books or newspapers. We found them diverting and often intriguing, and one in particular (about a man who leaves his wife, essentially as a practical joke, and doesn’t return until many years later after she has held his funeral) caught our attention – it foreshadowed the
overarching narrative of the third book quite neatly and served as a nice example of the way the stories intertwined in so many ways. Another such interesting story concerned the building of the Brooklyn Bridge – we had all wondered whether that was true when we read it.(LBC – TURNS OUT IT WAS)

Other things which we felt were features of all three books were the unreliable passage of time, characters losing themselves in obsession, writing – including notebooks and reports – and men abandoning women. We didn’t feel keen on Auster’s portrayal of
women in general, actually, and noticed a few offensive phrases. Although some found this quite organic, and in keeping with the stylistic play on the detective novel, others felt certain words jarred a little. Most of us agreed that the women featuring in the book felt quite unrealistic and idealised, in particular Sophie, who despite a three month old child and a missing husband has a body to die for, along with being graceful, kind and understanding.

We didn’t seem to discuss City of Glass too much, confirming initial impressions that people weren’t really too fussed about it. We wondered whether there had ever actually been a case, or whether it was wishful thinking on behalf of Daniel Quinn, the unfulfilled protagonist. Although the plot was quite interesting, we didn’t feel that the characters particularly engaged us, and we didn’t think this first book was very memorable.

Ghosts was a lot more polarising. Some found it fascinating, with an interesting concept and a clever way of playing on the detective novel archetypes; it had a very visual New York detective genre feel, and maintained a mystery successfully, but the mystery ended up to be something completely pointless. Others, however, thought the colours as names were a bit gimmicky and had trouble assigning any significance to the various colours.

We weren’t sure in the end whether Black and White were the same person – had Black, masquerading as White, hired Blue to watch him so that he could feel he had a purpose to his life?

The Locked Room seemed to be received quite well. We felt it had much more in the way of plot, and that the characters (particularly the unnamed narrator and the absent Fanshawe) were developed really well. We universally cringed at the hugely
inappropriate and unbelievable sex scene between the narrator and Fanshawe’s mother, but we were definitely intrigued by developments and we really wanted to know what happened to Fanshawe. We did agree though that there was a lack of resolution within the story and that desire to know what happened was left unsatisfied!

We agreed that the three books could stand alone quite easily, although possibly Ghosts would feel a little thin. Some even thought they would enjoy the stories better had they
read them in separate volumes a few months apart. Because most of us had read them in a single book, we thought of it as a book with three parts; perhaps thinking of it as three separate books that interlink would have helped us to consider them separately.
This might have got the book some higher ratings, as it seemed like the majority of the frustration with this book came from the lack of resolution and connection between the stories.  

Score  
5/10

 


Book the Next:
 

HARD TIMES
CHARLES DICKENS
Venue: Arcadia Bar
Date:  Sunday 18th of November 2012
Time:  5:00pm – 7:00pm
For further details, please email me at leedsbookclub@gmail.com or tweet me @LeedsBookClub!

Contact the bar on @ArcadiaBar

And feel free to let us know your thoughts using #ArcadiaLBC!
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